Back in 2007, when he retired from the Navy, we bought Jen’s Dad a shiny new PC laptop, traded his work email for Gmail, and basically have been providing tech support long-distance since then. It’s been a bumpy fifteen years; providing over-the-phone repair service on a PC is like describing a giraffe to someone in Japan via morse code.

To quote the Captain himself, recent events have overtaken us, and it became clear he needed an upgrade. I did some looking and some thinking, and decided we weren’t going to buy him another PC—there’s just too much distance between my ancient knowledge of PCs and where they are now, and as we all know they can get fucked up in a hurry by anybody with two fingers. He’s always been averse to Macs for reasons I won’t get into here, so the obvious answer was out.

However, Finley’s school computer has impressed me over the course of the last two years even though the software provided by the school has been utter dogshit. They issued Lenovo-produced Chromebooks to the kids before COVID, and hers has been pretty bombproof with hard daily usage. I figured an OS that’s easy enough for a teenager to not break use is perfect for a senior citizen to use; he’s only on there for email and the web anyway.

Looking around, I got a 14″ Lenovo Chromebook for a decent price at Best Buy and brought it with us to his house last weekend. Booting it up for the first time, I wound up fighting a weird verification problem that was only remedied by updating his OS. The problem there was that he’s has a DSL line and a 10-year-old wireless access point with 802.11X—limited to one connection. So the OS update took all day.

Back at home, and with his Google account information in hand, I got him up and running in minutes, and his account settings transferred over painlessly. I got into the ChromeOS settings and enlarged the fonts and screen for him, and reset the Gmail interface back to its old default—where it doesn’t try to sort what it considers “important” emails up front and hide everything else. I suspect they pushed that change, he didn’t know about it, and a lot of his email was hidden from view.

We have yet to put it down in front of him, but I’m already feeling better about this.

Date posted: April 15, 2022 | Filed under family, geek | Leave a Comment »

Oh good. The U.S. government will not be handing user authentication on all of its sites over to a closed-source private company relying on facial recognition software, but a platform based on open-source technology stack. Whether or not this second vendor is powered by the blood of infants or planning to sell our DNA records to the aliens remains unknown.

Date posted: February 22, 2022 | Filed under geek, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I read an interesting article from Nick Heer about how people are appending Reddit to Google queries for more organic search results, as a reaction to Google’s own bloated and gamed results. Reddit is…Reddit, but I guess I have to agree that there’s a better chance of finding an honest result there than there has been on Google for the last couple of years. I’ll have to try this today. Another alternative has been Duck Duck Go, which I’ve used as my default search engine for the past few months, and which does a decent job.

I’ll try adding site:reddit.com to the end of my Google queries today and see what happens.

Date posted: February 16, 2022 | Filed under geek, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I cannot remember what convoluted pathway brought me to this site, but Objective-See offers a suite of Mac malware-sniffing tools, things that remind me of the Old Days with Little Snitch and other handy utilities. Definitely worth checking out.

Date posted: February 8, 2022 | Filed under apple, geek, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »


620 South Lakewood Avenue, 2002

I spent all of my available time from Friday morning to after midnight on Monday working on a video project for WRI. Much of this was in direct communication with a remote video editing team, but there were sections of time where they were working and I needed to be on call near a computer. So I busied myself with some digital archaeology.

The path to the rabbit hole began with a simple question I had about my old 68K Macs, and I spent a fair bit of downtime on Sunday shuttling machines up and down the stairs to boot up and check out. At some point I’d wiped and formatted two of my legacy machines for looking through legacy files; it’s been so long since then that I forgot what I’d done. So a lot of this was a pleasant surprise. I made a list of all of the legacy machines, their specs, their OS condition, and any notes needed to make repairs or updates to each one.

Then I got to thinking about files. I’ve got CD’s burned with working files that date back to 1997 containing work I did all the way back to 1995. When I organized the drives on the basement server I copied a lot of it to a new disk. But there are things I know I had that I couldn’t find, so I dug deeper. Buried within some of these disks I found more of what I was looking for:

  • Old backups of my original website, the first and second versions, which I’d thought were lost to time
  • Old pictures of the Scout, which I also thought were lost to time. I remember taking a lot of pictures back then; the number of good ones I have of that truck are strangely few
  • Work backups from Back In The Day—my first two pro jobs, to be exact
  • An archive of the Mad Puppy work I did with Robby, back in the day, which I thought was lost forever on a scratched CD drive
  • Email backups from 2002-2006 (gotta figure out how to save these in a viable format)
  • Pictures of my first house, many of which I only had small thumbnail versions of. Gonna find something good to do with those
  • Various writing projects, some of which make me cringe rereading them 20 years later; some of which make me feel good. I found something I wrote about driving up to Grandma’s funeral that I thought was lost forever
  • Backups of the old IHCDigest from 1998
  • Tons of my site archives from System Source, from the Wild West days of web development (I miss that time)

There’s more to sift through but for now I think I’m done.

Date posted: January 18, 2022 | Filed under geek, history | Leave a Comment »

Waaaay back in 2007 I traded an inoperable Powerbook 100 for a working Powerbook 160, which was a welcome upgrade allowing me to open and view legacy files from my early days of design. The 160 worked for a couple of years and then died around 2013. I did some reading at that point and replaced the PRAM battery, hoping that would fix things, but it had no effect so the unit went back in the box. At some point recently I learned that there are inexpensive power supplies available for early Powerbooks, so I got one on Amazon for $10 and tried it out. Amazingly, I was greeted by the comforting early Macintosh startup chime, and the screen lit up for a brief moment before going dark, and then all of the pixels on the display smushed over to the right side of the screen.

Clearly there’s something amiss with the display, and from what the Interwebs say it’s a pretty common thing for the capacitors on passive-matrix grayscale monitors to fail, leading to these issues. I contacted a guy who streamed a repair live to see what he’d charge to fix it; we’ll see if he gets back to me.

Update: there are several videos on how to disassemble and recap the display online; given that I don’t have a lot of winter projects lined up, this is something I’ll tackle myself. I’d need a sharper soldering iron and the proper solder, but this isn’t anything I’m particularly scared of. The problem is that several of the capacitors aren’t in stock at Mouser or Digikey, so I’ll have to revisit this project in the summertime.

I also think I’ve got an old Powerbook Display Adapter in my antique computer bin somewhere; I’ll have to dig it out today and see if I can hook the unit to a monitor for testing.

Date posted: January 14, 2022 | Filed under apple, geek | Leave a Comment »

I got a little burned out on playing the Division 2 last week, so I pulled the disc out of my Xbox and put Fallout 76 in, for the first time in months. It took a little time to get used to the controls again, and get my bearings for where I was and what I was doing. I looked around the map, did a little exploring, and shot some bad guys. And I was bored. I left the game when I realized my style of gameplay was holding me back and that if I wanted to advance further I’d have to go spend hours searching for stuff to build more powerful weapons and armor, running to and from areas on the map and completing missions I’d already done. Jumping back in, I quickly remembered why I’d stopped and it held even less interest for me now than it did before.

The Fallout series got me through chemo and some cold dark winter months last year, and for that I’m grateful, but I don’t think I need to go back again. It looks like I might be hunting for a new game to play soon.

Date posted: November 23, 2021 | Filed under geek | Leave a Comment »

This morning I drove over the Bay Bridge to meet up with my friend Brian at his new house, and from there we drove to a field behind an abandoned house to look at a short gray schoolbus that’s going to be the focus of much of my September. We crawled in, on top of, and underneath the whole thing, looking at what’s there and talking over what needs to happen in the next couple of weeks.

The first thing that needs to happen is a lot of demolition; the previous owner had done some modifications to the interior that aren’t going to stay—a janky bed frame in the back, a sink and cabinet made from 2×4’s, a set of seats cobbled together from a couple of minivans and the original bus seats, etc. When that’s all out, I’m going to rip up the hastily installed laminate flooring and the rubber bus matting underneath until we get to the marine plywood at the base. When the interior is gutted, we need to build a rack for the roof from box steel to hold a platform for a 4-person tent made by a guy in Colorado who doesn’t return phone calls, install a rooftop A/C unit, mount a portable diesel generator behind the rear wheels, and source and mount three underside storage boxes around the chassis. I have no idea how we’re going to do half of this, but we’re going to have fun making it work.

* * *

For a good portion of the day yesterday, this site and my other two were down due to some form of DNS failure at my web host. I don’t know what happened but it all came back up sometime this afternoon. That’s the first hiccup I’ve experienced in the last ten years or so; I wonder what happened.

 

Date posted: September 2, 2021 | Filed under friends, geek | Leave a Comment »

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Here at the Lockardugan Estate, we’ve been getting along through COVID lockdown the best way we can. It’s been a challenge to be around each other all day every day without killing one another, and we’ve each been through the soul-crushing phases of denial and acceptance at least fifteen times. I used to think our house was big, but after having been shut in here like a biodome, I’m aware of just how cozy everything feels. The boom in the housing market makes a lot of sense in retrospect.

Last week, Finley had had enough of being trapped (been though she’s going to school two days a week) and asked if I could take her to the mall. Also monumentally bored, I immediately agreed and we decided to go right after finishing dinner. We got a late start out the door. Walking inside, I could immediately sense something was wrong: the security gates were coming down and people were headed to the exits. Turns out they close at 8 and not 9. So we went to Target so that we could walk around and look at things and just be out.

One of the things I found in a bargain game bin was a copy of The Division 2, a first-person shooter I’d read about last year. I picked that up along with some other small items and we headed home. After waiting a full day for the game files to copy and then update, I tried it for the first time the other night—and was immediately impressed. It’s set in Washington D.C. and the environment is breathtakingly detailed. The first missions were well-balanced and interesting, and I’m getting used to the game mechanics. Hopefully it’s got a lot more content to keep me involved; I see myself playing this one for a while. I’ve been getting tired of Fallout 76 for some time, and this game scratches the itch for action without having to deal with running from place to place or worry about picking up or crafting or fixing stuff.

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Jen has been organizing the piles of crap we’ve thrown up into the attic, and one of the things she came upon is an old chair I’ve had since college, something my roommate Pat gave me when he left town: a Scandinavian chair of unknown origin with ratty leather that we had to retire when the cats began tearing it apart and baby Finley was eating the foam. I decided we’d Freecycle it just to get it out of here. In order to find some information on it for the listing, I googled the sticker underneath and found that the brand is Westnofa, a Norwegian manufacturer of midcentury modern designs, usually featuring laminated wood framing with leather upholstery. Apparently this furniture is worth some money in good shape; I’m obviously rethinking my earlier decision to give it away. It’s a very comfortable chair that we both like, but we’d been quoted a lot of money to have it redone before it was retired. I think we need to do a little more digging before we make a decision.

Date posted: April 15, 2021 | Filed under family, geek | 1 Comment »

Finley played a game called Terraria this summer, and for a few weeks she got Jen and I to play with her. She loved it but we found it impossible to play with 50-year-old eyes on an iPhone. Anyway, the indie developer behind Terraria got his Google account shut down over a YouTube ban; I was only dimly aware of this, but

…a Google account ban means you lose access to your entire email account; all the pictures you’ve ever taken; your cell phone service; your ability to communicate with friends and family; all your 2FA accounts; anything that uses Google OAuth; your app development business; your YouTube business and all your followers; your purchased apps, games, movies, music, and books; and all your contacts, documents, bookmarks, and notes.

After three weeks of trying to get Google to help him (exacerbated by the fact that he couldn’t contact them because his Google accounts were all shut down) he announced that his company was withdrawing all support for Google platforms moving forward—no small peanuts when you consider his game has sold 30 million copies.

Date posted: February 10, 2021 | Filed under geek, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »