Thin is in again

Or at least it is when talking about laptops. Apparently according to the code on Facebook the Acer Swift 7 is all the rage because its so sleek and thin, but I cant help but wonder what possibly makes it any more desirable than my Asus UX305FA which is feature for feature a peer to the current generation Macbook but at a hefty discount by comparison. So far Acer themselves aren’t providing pricing however other places claim it will be 1000$ this fall, which would make it almost 200$ more expensive than the Asus. More than just the price I have in the past found the Acer support to be dodgy at best, at one point it was completely impossible to locate drivers on their website for an older system and that memory has stuck with me since and generally encouraged me to avoid their products where I can. It almost seems like these companies are making computers to be a fashion accessory now as opposed to a tool by sacrificing power, battery life and features just to create a smaller package which they can charge 2x the amount for compared to a more capable laptop which may not catch the eye.

A lot of fountain pen writing

20160827_114401

Thought I would share a picture of my personal obsession, namely fountain pens. I started writing a little bit each day with a normal pen (Zebra F-701) and realized I really enjoyed it and somehow fell into fountain pens while browsing Reddit at work. Next thing I know I have somehow amassed several hundred dollars in pens, ink and associated paper supplies. Just today I added the blue notebook to the pile which usually is stored inside the wooden chest, but that doesn’t make for a very good photograph at all. Probably my favorite pen so far is my TWSBI Eco Clear with a 1.1mm stub nib which has allowed me to lay down 78 pages since the 17th of May this year in a larger notebook and has helped to improve my writing significantly by encouraging me to write slower and think about what I want to put on the page.

This love of manual writing has even started a project which I think will push me to write better both in content and style; I am planning out a family history covering things that I already struggle to remember clearly even at my relatively young age. Surprisingly the planning of what to write is much easier than the part where I have to chose the ink, pen and notebook to commit the information to since there are so many options which seem quality but don’t hold up under proper scrutiny.

Nginx permalinks and search fixed!

So I realized the other day I couldn’t have nice permalinks for some reason so I set out to try to figure out why and/or fix it as it had all worked fine before I migrated from Apache to Nginx a month or so ago.  Unfortunately it seems like there were plenty of sites talking about a fix of changing the location block around a bit, however I quickly realized that while the suggested fixes would indeed let me change to non-default permalink styles it invariably broke the ability to search the website which kind of inhibits me using it for storing thoughts and fixed and things and being able to recall them with a quick search.  Finally I stumbled across the golden bullet for this problem and I will provide it so that hopefully nobody else spends an hour and a half of their Sunday messing with this when there are QSOs to be made!

Original location block

and now the updated one

 

And with a quick restart of nginx (that took a few tries because I’m too used to systemctl over service already) and ta-da I can search again and have the fancy pants permalinks that mean search engines can better index my ramblings.  Oddly enough as I was testing this I saw a spider doing its thing while I was looking at the access logs for the server, pretty interesting that a spider would be active on a sunday at like 1145 EST.

Network Manager and OpenVPN

It blows my mind that Network Manager is still as bad as ever, I just finished up getting my new phone aimed at the home VPN when I remembered that the laptop lost all the old settings in my switch to Fedora so I figured I would give it a spin and see if somehow NM had been fixed.  A few minutes and some profanity later and it seems it STILL is unable to properly load up .ovpn profiles and parse out the various bits into the fields they need to go.  Even when I manually split up the keys and certs and all that it only worked halfway, I could connect to the VPN but was unable to browse the internet over it or even access resources local to the VPN server itself.  Fortunately the command line comes to the rescue again, all I had to do was tell openvpn itself where the config was and it did all the legwork that the abomination known as Network Manager failed to do.  For those who might care the proper way to invoke it is as follows

Now I just have to make a handy way to suppress the output, give me a status indicator and kill off the connection when I am done with it…

Successful Upgrade is Successful

I would say I can’t believe I’m typing this from a successful full upgrade from Fedora 23 to 24 but I’m not since I am at work and they frown upon me pecking away on my personal laptop, but I am still amazed that it was an absolutely painless process to upgrade from 23 to 24 with dnf.  In prior years it was almost always advisable to reinstall rather than attempt an upgrade from one major release to the next but the fine folks over at Fedora seem to have hit a home run on this one.  Sure it took a while to apply everything but the moment of truth (or reboot) came and passed and all I got was my normal login screen, no fancy explosions of failed video drivers, no corrupted profiles or missing files; it went so smooth I almost didn’t think it worked until I checked the redhat-release file and verified that it was in fact on the 24 release.

Crontab – Always Check your Environment Variables

So I have been running into this issue for like a month now where a script that I can run from the command line by hand executes fine, but when I try to run it via a crontab job it just goes absolutely pear shaped without any real explanation.  Finally I got some time at the beginning of a shift to sit with one of our senior guys to take a look at it as the script provides data the entire team uses and when it doesn’t run they get cranky.  It turns out that the environment my cron jobs run as is highly different, as indicated by the following which is obtained by adding adding a line to output env to a text file every time the crontab job ran.

Compare that against the results from env when run by hand

Notice the path statement is very sparse when cron outputs the environment variables, turns out that anemic path lacked access to fping which was integral to my script building out a list of live hosts within our lab environment. Once that was fixed the cron jobs hum along nicely and churn out an updated map of the lab every hour without me doing anything and now I know that crontabjobs run with fairly different environment variables than scripts manually ran and can cause all kinds of havoc if you don’t use full explicit path statements in your bash scripts that you plan to automate.

scripting: system-help

We have this handy script at work that pulls all kinds of useful details from a system and saves us a ton of time checking by hand, so I took a stab at making my own version for generic use. Its not very good at all but it kinda works and probably could be expanded upon to do something actually useful.

Repo on Github

Pure Win – Monitoring Comcast’s Failures

So this is the greatest thing I have read in ages; for those too lazy to click a person having lots of problems with Comcast took it upon themselves to create a python script that ran a speed test and if certain conditions were met would send a tweet to Comcast complaining about not getting what they paid for.  Unfortunately there are lots of people getting paid to fellate Comcast and they flocked to the r/technology thread on Reddit to remind OP that he should be grateful for paying a pile of cash for “up to 150 Mbit” like he is somehow blessed to have the absolute worst company in the US as his ISP.  Naturally I grabbed the code and set it up on my development box to run every 15 minutes so hopefully in like a week or so I can generate a fancy graph to see just how bad Comcast is boning me on my already high monthly bill.

Snowmageddon 2016

So most of the east coast is currently buried up to its nether-bits in snow in case you haven’t been keeping up with things.  I figured this would be an ideal time to slap my newly purchased GoPro up in the window and let it take time-lapse pictures of the snowfall as it started to come down yesterday.  Unfortunately I found out after I had filled up the 32gb memory card that it was only able to take pictures at half second intervals so I didn’t get anywhere near the amount of data I wanted to create a cool looking timelapse of the snowfall, however I did mange to cover the first maybe hour or two of it and process it to a video for the enjoyment of the masses.

Strange copy behavior?

So a friend hit me up today to let me know he had updated a sqlite database that we use in a project and I could go ahead and copy it over to my home directory to update things with.  Login to the box, sudo to root and cop the file with full paths and something bizarre happened, the file which he had ownership of changed over to my user level account.  Immediately he suggested that it might be the -a flag in an alias, however my alias was simply set to use -i so I deleted the file from my home directory and tried the copy again.  As far as I can tell this shouldn’t actually be happening because I didn’t specify the -a flag and the user moving the file is root, so if anything root should have ownership of the file once it hits the directory.  I doubt this is any kind of nefarious or exploitable situation but it does seem strange because I remember forgetting to chown files in the past after moving them as root and things not working until I went back and corrected the ownership of the files