And Then, No More PixelBook

So, when we were last here, I was talking about how I had been happily using my PixelBook for a year, and everything was just fine. Then, life happened, and things changed, and I found myself working out of the house for a while.

Why should this be a problem? Well, the program I use to remote into the office has a desktop client as well as a web-based one. Under Chrome OS, all I could figure out how to use was the HTML5 web based one. The HTML5 one is fine for the getting and checking email and doing web work. However, it leaves a lot to be desired for any development work.

So, I went back to the trusty HP R810 again. This time, I am trying out Ubuntu 18.10 with Gnome. I have been at it for about 6 weeks now, and I am still liking it. Even though this is an older laptop, the performance has been very good and it has handled everything I have thrown at it.

A look behind, and a look ahead

As 2018 draws to a close, it is the way of things to look at the year past, and then look ahead.

A look behind…

My main tech experience this year has been using the PixelBook as my main computing device. This for the most part has worked out well. Everything I needed to do I figured out a way to do it under ChromeOS, and most of the time it was as easy to do as under Linux.

The only place that I feel it was a struggle was with photo editing. If I chose to only use GApps, then it works well, but since I have 10+ years of photos not in the Google ecosystem, I need something else, and this is where ChromeOS currently hits a limit. While using AfterShot Pro, I notice that the Linux container struggles with both memory and disk IO. Given what I am planning on in the coming year, this may become bigger issue for me.

In playing around, I installed Ubuntu 18.10 on my HP R810 to have a look, and surprisingly, I liked what I saw. If I do move back to Linux over ChromeOS, then 18.10 is the answer. I doubt the R810 will be the platform, as while I love the size, the battery is only good for 3-4 hours at best, and the PixelBook will run 8-10 hours, and is about 1/2 as think as well.

Looking at news from the $JOB, due to a co-worker moving to a different group, I find myself back in a managers role again. This is in addition to my normal work. My new team is US based operations folks (I work in Engineering), who thankfully all sit near me. Their day-to-day will be managed by someone currently on the team who has a deep understanding of the operational concerns. I should be more of the HR manager approving time off, helping with reviews, and that sort of fun.

..and a look ahead

I have come up with a few areas I am planning to work on in the coming year.

Professionally, I want to take the team management and use it as a catalyst to learn what being a manager in the 21st century looks like. I plan to use both resources from the $JOB and from reading that I am planning to do. Traditionally, I only read fiction books in my down time, so this will be a big shift for me there.

I also have looked into what it would take for me to get a promotion at work, and there are many areas in pure tech, tech management, and people management for me to explore and learn.

Personally, I have two areas I want to focus on: Photography and my health.

In photography, I want to get back into the habit of taking pictures every day, and looking at the world in terms of light and textures. To do this, I am planning on doing what is called a ‘Project 52’ which is posting one photo per week for 52 weeks. I am planning on working 12 themes, one per month, to help me focus on what I am shooting.

For health, I want to train to run a 5K by Thanksgiving. This will help me in many areas, and seems to be a very doable goal. First step is to get up and get moving!

Keeping it (me) real

I will try to post check-ins on how I am doing on the various projects and goals. The $JOB ones will have to be vague, but the personal ones I should be able to give more details.

I also have plans to be more active here, and try to post at least monthly with something real to share.

Gemini PDA

Gemini PDA
Gemini PDA

Last year, I backed Planet Computer’s Indiegogo campaign for the Gemini PDA. Now, if I had this nice PixelBook, why would I need something like this?

Well, for one thing, I have always been a sucker for PDAs.  While I never had the original PDA, the Psions, I have owned a few over the years.  An Apple MessagePad, a Sharp Zarus, a WindowsCE device (forget which one), and many, many Palm devices (including a PalmPilot, Palm III, Palm IIIx, Palm V, Palm Vx, Palm m505, Tungsten C, and Tungsten T2 (which I still have)).

The main reason I liked them was the ability to carry my calendar, and have active reminders.  When I used a paper-based planner, I would miss things because I would be working on something and not notice the time.

However, with the advent of not dumb-phones (like a Sony Ericsson K series) which you could send an email to the phone, and have it show up as a text message let me only carry one device (the phone vs the phone and a PDA).  Then, about 10 years ago, the true smartphones hit the market with full integration into both work and personal email and calendars, and a fully functioning web browser, plus working turn-by-turn GPS based navigation.

Most of my employers in the last 20+ years provide me with a laptop for use both in the office, and on the road.  However, the current and former employers have a different model, and do not provide me with a laptop for travel.  So, I need to carry my own.

Now, while the PixelBook is thin and light, it still takes up space on a desk.  And, when I am visiting other offices for my current employer, desk space is at a premium, and the PixelBook does not really fit.  And, I have long made it a personal policy to not use my employer’s machines and network for personal emails and network use.

Enter the Gemini.  Why not use my phone  to read email and such?  The main reason is while I am pretty decent at using the on-screen keyboard, I find it lacking for long typing sessions.  That is where the Gemini is different.  It has a physical keyboard, and even though it is smaller than any laptop I have used before, I still find I can use it pretty well and type reasonably fast on it.  And the battery is pretty decent.

My last trip I ended up using the Gemini more than the PixelBook.  Things like Skype, uploading and editing photos, email, etc.  It worked pretty well.  I am thinking about the next trip, not bringing a laptop and just use the Gemini.  The display is nice, and when I am in the hotel room, I can hook it up to the TV over a HDMI cable.

On Smartphones and Two-Factor Auth

So, my trusty Nexus 5X gave up the ghost suddenly on me.  Given that it is an Android device, I was not worried about losing things like my contacts and photos, or even my apps as Google does a pretty decent job backing those things up.

However, there was one application I use which does not get its data backed up. FreeOTP which is a One-Time-Password application for Two Factor Auth.  This allows me to have another layer of protection on web sites past my password.

Most sites which have this option will allow you to either have a list of one-time use codes to get in to reset in case something happens to your phone (like me), or will let you set it up on multiple devices, like your phone and your tablet.

Then, there are those that do niether.  And those are a pain to recover from. 🙂

Always get the list of codes (if avalible) and store then somewhere that you can access if your phone ever dies or gets lost.  And, try to set up a second device if you can.

Quick nmcli notes

This is a quick post so I can remember these details.

So, on the R810, I am currently running ArchLinux, which uses by default NetworkManager, which I have a love/hate relationship with. At my last job, I recommended removing it from our servers, as under RHEL6, it does very odd things to the network and is hard to manage. I have heard that it is better under RHEL7. But, it does let you do some really cool things. On the R810, there is a cellular modem, and on previous installes, I have had it configured and scripted using nmcli to easily bring up and down the cellular connections.

The problem I am facing now is that my current DHCP server for the house does not let me provide two MAC Address for a single IP, so when I dock the R810, it gets a different IP address than when it is on WiFi. Very annoying. Also, for some reason, it would prefer to use WiFi when the ethernet connection was present, thus giving me a slower connection.

The documentation I found was a bit light in examples and/or dated (I am running version 1.6.2 of NetworkManager, and the examples were from 1.2.x or 1.4.x, which did not work). So, with a bit of expermenting, I finally got it fixed to:

  • Chose the ethernet connection over the Wifi when both are present
  • ‘Clone’ the MAC address of the Wifi NIC to the ethernet NIC

Here are the commands. local is what I called the local ethernet connection, and home-wifi is what I call the house Wifi Network.

  • To set the MAC adress:

nmcli connection modify local ethernet.cloned-mac-address aa:bb:cc:dd:ee:ff

  • To set the connection priorities:

nmcli connection modify local connection.autoconnect-priority 999
nmcli connection modify home-wifi connection.autoconnect-priority 999

Home Network Updates

So, in the last couple of weeks, I have had the following issues:

  • The CMOS battery dies on my file-server (a FreeNAS box), taking it, and the zpools down with it. I fought over a long weekend to recover the data, and in the end, got it mounted read-only, and copied it off. New hardware, and new zpools, and we seem to be going again. Recovering services is taking a bit of time.
  • There is a bug with the ZFS on Root for Antergos Linux. Seems that it does not put all the kernel drivers in the init image when you upgrade. Last time, I booted off the install media to fix it. I lost that USB stick, so I downloaded a new one. Guess what? They have turned that feature off ZFS, so there is no way to recover. Since FreeBSD still does not support suspend/resume on the Acer C720 that is my small travel laptop, I have to reinstall Antergos and reload my data.
  • My main laptop, the HP R810G1 seems to be having major battery issues. I bought a new battery in Novembers, and it died. I bought a new one a couple of weeks ago, and it at first did not seem to be holding a charge. Now, the OS does not see the battery. I think I might need a ‘new’ laptop.

I am torn between getting something one or two reves old with a solid record in the size I want (sub 13″, under 1″ thin, and good 6+ hours of battery) or the latest shiny.

Other news, I have the ownCloud server upgraded to nextcloud, and everything I have tried works out of the box, which is a lot more than I can say for ownCloud. Last major thing I need to recover it the Plex Server!

And the Firewall goes POP

For some reason, we have had a bit of power issues around the house recently. No big deal, just enough to cause non-UPS computers to reboot. Well, one of them was the firewall (the UPS on it pop a while back, and I just have not gotten around to replacing it). But, it would not come back the last time. Drag a it over to a monitor and have a look at the console. No HD. Nuts. On a backup solution until the new SSD to replace the dead (non)spinning rust shows up.

Goodbye 2014!

As 2014 draws to a close, I look back at the year.

Overall, it was a good year. The family staid reasonably health (just a case of the flu which every one of us caught).

Work slowed down a bit after only three trips, and the last one was in June, but I did get to spend two weeks in London which was cool. While the work has been not what I really want to be doing, it has been interesting, and next year promises to be very interesting. I have no clue if travel is in the cards or not, but I will keep the camera handy.

In the coming year, I plan to focus on health, photography, and technology. I want to get back to taking photos every day, and to bring the quality back up to art level over the snapshots and historical documentation that I have been doing.

Also, I want to revisit the 30 Day FreeBSD challenge again in January. I have the old HP R810 running PCBSD 10.1 already set up that I have been using for a couple of days working the kinks out of it, so I think I can do it this time. Normal caveat applies…I have a work laptop which dual boots Windows 8.1 and Fedora 21 for my work stuff. The home stuff should work nicely on the laptop.

Just to prove things, this post was written under FreeBSD.

I also need to fix up my virtual host farm. I have one too many, and do not need it, but of course, it is the one with the main mail and other services, so I need to hurry up and migrate things off of it.

I hope your 2015 is a great year.

FreeBSD Switch

I just noticed I have not updated this in a few weeks. Sorry about that.

I have my R810 running PCBSD 10.0.2, and I just patched and configured WiFi on it. I need to figure out how to submit a patch to see if I can get the Centrino supported in the main-line kernel so I do not have to compile a custom kernel just for that.

I almost have this working where I can switch to it full time. I need to deal with getting my killer apps installed and working. I had most (all?) of them working before, so I know I can do it again.

Currently, FireFox is not working for me for some reason, but Chromium is, so I will use that for now.

I have started a wiki to keep some notes for myself on this (what SA has not done that?), so I hope this process will be easier this time.

peace.