Here’s to Spring and New Beginnings

I haven’t been writing posts as I should be, as I want to be.  Finding the motivation and the inspiration to write is not always easy.  But I do want to write.  Writing is therapeutic for me and there’s a lot that I want to say, getting it out when it’s all waiting at the door, so to speak, isn’t an easy task.

In an effort to write more I want to strive to write and post every day.  The only way to be a writer is to write.  If you don’t write then you can’t call yourself a writer.  Truth be told, I’m not interested in being called a writer, but I do want to write.  Maybe for a little while I can write about finding inspiration?

Time to just let my mind wander on the page and to see where it takes me.  The more I write, hopefully the easier it will be.  Let’s see if I can make this a habit.

I’ve been trying to break myself of the habit of distro-hopping.  I have slackware installed on an old laptop (an 11 year old inspiron 9100 to be exact) and pclinuxos installed on another laptop (an inspiron 1545) and a tower (hp media center pc) I have.  I prefer the XFCE desktop more than any other, but KDE is a close second.  XFCE is a nice blend of being easy on resources and also being full featured and easy to set up.

At some point in the near future I need to take the inspiron 9100 apart and re-apply some thermal compound to the machine.  After 11 years it’s probably past time for a little maintenance.  I plan on writing a post about that task and will try to make a video of it as well.

Another project I have is to take apart my plasma TV and see if I can get that cleaned out and repaired.  It has two lines going down the center of the screen and I want to see if cleaning off some of the connectors will fix that or not.  That will be another post and video I’m sure.

I’m sitting here in my chair looking out at the 7 inches of snow that we just got on the first day of spring and am hoping that the warm weather will be here soon.  It’s been a long, cold winter and I am ready for spring!


Setting Up a Laptop To Be Used as an Alarm Clock

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I apologize for the absence, but things have been very busy and stressful at work.  My latest project involved a really old Compaq laptop that I was given.  It had windows XP on it as well as having a celeron processor so I of course proceeded to install linux on it.  I tried several distros: Mint, Fedora,  slackware… all of which ran nicely.  Fedora got quirky when it installed the 3.15 kernel.  The laptop started acting very weird, but the problems went away after going back to an older kernel.

I used linux mint 17 for a while, using the mate desktop as it really seemed to work well on that laptop.  One thing that I had done was install rhythmbox and a program called alarm clock applet.  I could then use my laptop as an alarm clock and it would play music in a random order.  I much prefer music to wake up to than loud and annoying noises.

Mint was nice enough though, but I wanted to find a way to do this all with slackware.  I could have compiled the alarm clock applet from source, but wanted to see if there was another way to get it done.  There was a slackbuild available for rhythmbox so that was easy enough to install.  I’m using xfce now on this laptop, which runs perfectly.  I chose xfce as I had discovered that on the xfce desktop the orage calendar had an alarm feature which looks to have all of the features I need to get the alarm clock function to work as I want.  It can start rhythmbox from the command line quite nicely and I can set it up to start on specific days.

Project completed.  Next project: using my laptop as a smart phone.

Pennsylvania High School Switches to Linux

The Penn Manor School District has switched over to Linux and have given 1700 students laptops loaded with Ubuntu 13.10.   They stated on their blog that they will save about $360,000 in licensing fees.

I’ve heard about town and even countries over in Europe switching Linux, but this is the first in the US that I’m aware of.

For more info check out their blog.

Thoughts on Ubuntu 14.04 and the Mate Desktop Environment

The next release of Ubuntu will be out in April of this year – version 14.04.  The 14.04 release (code named Trusty Tahr) will be a Long Term Support release, which will be supported for 5 years.  

One of the interesting things about this release is the inclusion of the Mate desktop environment in the Trusty Tahr repositories. Mate is a fork of the gnome 2 desktop environment, which was one of the most popular desktops for Ubuntu. When gnome came out with version 3 of their desktop environment and Ubuntu switched to Unity a lot of people got upset with those decisions and looked to other desktops like XFCE and KDE to name a few.

I like both Unity and Gnome 3 and think that they are maturing quite nicely with every release.  I tend to favor the XFCE desktop for being more lightweight than Unity and Gnome 3 and also like KDE for its customization. Gnome 3 now has extensions that you can install to make it more usable than it was and with a little work you can make it look more like the old gnome 2 desktop.  However it can seem a little bloated on my Dell 1545 laptop with 4 GB of ram.  The more my fans start to run the more I look for ways to make the distro lighter.  

The one thing I don’t like about Unity, Gnome 3, and even windows now is that they are trying to have one desktop experience for PCs, laptops, tablets, and phones.   With the popularity of tablets and smart phones computers are changing, but I think having one desktop to rule them all is the wrong way to go.   At least for right now anyway.   For now the traditional desktop isn’t dead.

It will be interesting to see what effect the inclusion of the Mate desktop will have on Ubuntu and Unity.

Will people switch from Unity to Mate? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below. 

Just tried the Grand Cru!

I just opened the grand cru for the first time last night and had one and boy was it heavenly!  Definitely worth brewing and is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  I’ll have to make this again.  If you haven’t brewed this one yet, I highly recommend it.

We also tried one of the bottles of hard cider we fermented and bottled.   It kind of tastes like the rooster hooch we made not too long ago.  It needs some sweetening.  We just need to figure out how to do that without over priming the bottles.  We’re calling it a success, but it still needs more work.

Have any of you made hard cider?   How do you sweeten it?  Let me know in the comments below.

Bottling Time!

Last week was finally time to bottle the Grand Cru. It had been aging in a secondary fermenter for a could of months now.



We made some videos of everything to do to prepare to bottle the beer and I’ll be posting those in the near future.



There’s usually a bit of beer left over after the bottling is done so we tasted it and (aside from tasting like flat beer) it tasted like awesome flat beer. It’ll be worth the wait to finally open one of those and give it a proper taste test.



I’m not really sure what we’re going to brew next. It’s always fun to try new recipes and it’s also to try the ones we really liked.



We also did some bottling of the apple cider that we pressed and fermented. We only bottled about a gallon of it as more of a test to see how it would turn out. We’ll be doing more cider pressing in the future and plan on making more hard cider. We had a lot of fun with this and it turned out nicely.



On another note I think I found a new layout for the website to make it easier to leave comments. The previous layout was set up to send me messages instead so hopefully this will work out better. I apologize for not responding to the messages yet though. With any lick this layout will work out better for everyone.


Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor – My Thoughts

I finally saw The Day of the Doctor and loved it. It was more than a month late, but boy was it worth the wait. The writing and acting were good and it was an all around good story.

This one episode brought the new series to a close from the point of what one moment can do to someone. The whole episode was about “The Moment.” That moment when the Doctor made the decision to destroy Gallifrey to stop the Time War. Destroying the Time Lords and Daleks both. He could not choose whom to save and whom to destroy, so the result was the destruction of billions of innocent men, women, and children. That decision would haunt him for centuries to come.

We could plainly see the pain that decision caused him and how tortured he was. We know at least one reason why he has always been running, and at the end of the episode he finally stopped running and faced himself and his actions that day. When given a second chance he found another way to accomplish the same goal. Instead of Destroying Gallifrey, he hid it away, thus still stopping the Time War and saving billions of lives.

The Moment gave him the opportunity to see how that decision would affect him in the years that followed. He saw how he would regret the decision and ultimately try to forget it. He saw himself running away from what he did and that finally gave him the strength to come together and find another way to deal with the problem.

Now the Doctor will face a new challenge, how to bring back the Time Lords? Or should he? He has called the Time Lords corrupt and evil and as just as much a threat to the universe as the Daleks were so how can he justify bringing them back? Will the Time Lords know what transpired in their absence? Will they know what kind of effect they had on the universe and why the Doctor felt he was forced to destroy them? What will they do if/when they are brought back? Will they thank their destroyer and curse him? His history with the Time Lords has been tenuous at best.

Will he bring them back or let them stay away where they can not do any harm? Or will the Time Lords find their own way back on their own?

What are your thoughts?  Let me know in the comments.

April 8, 2014 is Coming!

That is the date when extended support for Windows XP and Office 2003 ends. That means no more updates from Microsoft. If you’re still using either of those after April 8th then your chances of getting a virus or malware will go up significantly.

Now is the time to decide what you’re going to do. Depending on your hardware specs you may need to buy a new computer if you continue with windows. Windows 7 is a good choice as far as windows is concerned. I use it at work and there’s not as much of a learning curve for 7 as there would be for Windows 8.

For you MS Office users out there you can visit to find out more about the latest versions of office.

If you do decide to go with the Microsoft route make sure you get a good anti-virus program and keep it updated.

Now would be the time to consider moving to Linux though. If you want to keep the computer that you are using now then there is probably a good distribution out there that would run nicely on the hardware that you have. Linux Mint XFCE is a good choice for new users and is a good choice for older computers. It comes with LibreOffice when is compatible with MS Office and Thunderbird, which is a good e-mail program to replace Outlook.

There are a lot of good Linux distributions out there to try, but Linux Mint is one of the best and easiest for beginners to install and set up. Once installed there is nothing else that you need to install, everything is ready to go out of the box and secure.

I just mentioned Windows and Linux here, I left out Mac products only because I don’t have any experience with them.

Whichever route you decide to take now is the time to start thinking about it. You don’t have to decide now, but this post is just to get you thinking about your options.  You don’t want to wait until the last minute to start thinking about this.

What are you planning on doing?  Let me know in the comments.


For those of you with the above HP printer click the link below to see how to take it apart and clean it.

We have the printer and it works great with Linux.  No drivers to download and I’ve had no problems printing to it, even when the windows PCs in the house had problems.  😉

Have any of you tried it?  Let me know in the comments below.