Category Archives: Server Room


Category: Server Room

I am not one of those people that upgrade my computers and electronics at every opportunity. I tend to buy something and then use it until it becomes useless to me, either because it’s just that outdated or it breaks down. Just yesterday, I was using a ten year old computer. I can’t use it for much, but I set it up for my mother-in-law during her visit to check her email and yesterday it happened to be out when I wanted to check Twitter. That it can do.

This creates something of an electronic papal death watch, though, as I wait for certain things to die so that I can replace them. Sometimes I watch with excitement, though usually if it’s that bad it falls into the category of electronics to be replaced. So usually, it’s a pain. But at least when it’s dead, it’s dead. The worst is when a computer or device just lingers. It mostly works, except when it doesn’t, but it fails to work enough that it ceases to be useful in primary duty. So it needs to be demoted, if not replaced. Unless it starts working again.

I’ve had two such instances occur over the last couple of months. The first was my computer, which worked fine most of the time but five or ten seconds every two or three minutes when there would be some issue with hard drive data swapping. Which was not a big deal, except that I couldn’t use it for audio or video. Next to it is another computer that’s fine most of the time, except that it randomly reboots. The third computer at the console is from 2008 and is reaching the end of its lifecycle. This meant that, with the problems of the first machine most recently cropping up, I lost my only primary duty machine downstairs. So it was time to buy a new computer (put randomly reclycling computer on tertiary duty, and retire the oldest).

Kind of a bummer since, but for the aforementioned problem, I was satisfied with what I had.

But I started getting the parts in my online shopping cart. I was starting to get excited about finally having a new computer for the first time in five years. And then… suddenly the stuff started working again. I was doing some diagnostic stuff that I assumed would be fruitless. I don’t even know what fixed it. The diagnostic software couldn’t even find a problem with it. But when it was done, the problem was gone.

Now I feel cheated, almost, out of my new computer.

Then the same thing happened with the smartphone. I’ll spare you most of the details, but basically the battery life just collapsed to 2-3 hours. Worse, the battery monitor stopped working, so any time the battery was at less than 40% I had to worry about it going out at any minute. Further, it was chewing through batteries really quickly. I tried switching to my backup phone, but it kept trying to go into international roaming mode. So I went around shopping and finally decided on a brand and model to buy, was getting excited, and then as I was explaining the problem with the backup phone to my friend (who used to work with Verizon) the international roaming mode mysteriously went away. Meanwhile, the phone with the battery problems was fine as a backup (and as a backup was demonstrating much better battery life.

So no new phone. Meanwhile, every time I see an ad for an LG V20 I think to myself “I should have one of those!”

Dead electronics need to stay dead, in my opinion.

Category: Server Room

I was rather excited when my cousin and/or his wife (it was a dual account) added me as a friend on Facebook. I am not especially close to them, as we’re ten years apart in age and I’m square in between him and his son, but family is family and I was not not-close to them either, as far as cousins in that branch go.

Then I started getting the messages from them.

Evidently, my cousin and/or his wife has latched on to what appears to me to be a pyramid scheme of sorts. Well, if not a pyramid scheme, then a multi-level marketing program with a flimsy pretext. I like to think that I’m a relatively smart guy and even I had some difficulty with understanding what was being purchased and sold. It seemed like game credits of some sort. Everything about it, including my failure to understand it, was a red flag.

I ignored it, which worked for less than a day before I started getting more and more messages about how great this is. Including a link to some assistant football coach who was talking about it. I learned in subsequent messages that it was my cousin’s wife trying to sell me up, which made sense. It seems much more like the sort of thing that she would get into. My cousin is friendly enough, but not the most social person in the world. She’s very social and while not dumb a little bit on the gullible side sometimes. She forwards emails with some rather crazy (political) theories.

I didn’t watch the video, but I knew that I was going to have to say something. I told them while I appreciate the thought I was not interested. I haven’t heard from them since.

Facebook has become less pleasant as time goes by. I used to like it as a bit of an escape from the Will Truman part of my life, but weirdly enough Will Truman has taken it over. Which is to say that its algorithms so deeply favor my Ordinary Times friends that it feels like I never left. I’m not kidding. Though I only have about 10 OT-related friends on Facebook (out of 150 or so total), nine of the first ten items on my feed are from OT people, and twenty of the first thirty are. I just checked.

And weirdly enough, those that aren’t are people I rarely respond to for the most part. I simply don’t understand where it’s coming from on this. I don’t want to block my OT people because I am interested in what’s going on with them. I’m just not interested solely in them.

Category: Server Room

So this week, Linkluster hit #500. That is the point after which I will, at minimum, stop numbering them or using numbers as a basis for their name. I’m not sure what I’m going to do going forward in that regard, if anything.

As the words “at minimum” and “if anything” indicate, I am going to be re-evaluating what precisely I am going to do. I have added a new Espresso section to the right, which I will use as a cross between Linkage and OTC. I am hoping to spur myself to be less formal and scheduled here than I have been. I’ve been trying to have something new up every weekday morning, leaning on Linkluster and crossposts to do so. Instead of that, I may start doing more posting-things-as-they-come. Linkluster may be broken down into more bite-size items in Espresso, unless you guys really like it where and how it is.

Espresso is going to be a cross between OTC and Linkage, using CK Macleod‘s great plug-in for the latter. Basically, it’s for things where I have a thought, or want to share something, but is not a formal post. Most likely. I will have to hammer out the criteria as I go. But the main gallery is likely to be reserved for what I want people to see when they come to the site, even if that means that it’s not going to have something new every day. As you come to the site and see nothing new there, check under Espresso.

Somewhat relatedly, if you are receiving email alerts and have been for a while, I recommend considering unsubscribing and resubscribing here. The difference is that traditionally subscriptions have involved all content, and as I do more posts that are a neat 18th century painting… well you may not want an email for that. I’ve still got work to do to exclude them from RSS feeds (or create alternate ones).

Your input is welcome (such as what format, if any, you might prefer Linkluster to be in).

Category: Server Room

Hit Coffee has always gone “blog style” by showing most or usually all of posts, in succession. Ordinary Times goes more “magazine style” with an image and summary and you have to click on the item to read the content. I have always preferred the former (as a reader) because you can just keep reading without clicking. However, the latter makes it easier to navigate past posts you aren’t interested in (like Linkluster, or the tweetstorms).

Linkluster is about to go through a revision. Linkluster 500 may be the last one in this format. Even if it’s not, a change is probably coming. Likely, there will be a box sort of like Linkage on OT where a lot of these posts are handled. I’m still deciding how it’s going to go.

But with regard to blog style vs magazine style, do you all have a real preference one way or the other? Would you like me to switch over to a magazine style? Or would you like me to be more aggressive about clipping long articles so for them you have to click “more” but otherwise keeping it the way it is? Or are you fine with the way it is?

Category: Server Room

The Internet of Shit has an ominous message for us all:

Now the same is happening with your every day gadgets, but in a slightly more sinister, under the surface way. Companies want to internet-connect your entire house in order to collect more data on you.

The opportunities are delicious for bloated internet companies: now a software company could know how warm your home is, what times of day are noisy, whether you have a pet, when you turn on your lights or if you listen to music while having sex.

Smart devices are sold as a way to improve your life — and in many ways, they do to an extent — but it also means those gadgets are incredible troves of data that could eventually turn into Software-as-a-Service money makers, just like Nespresso did to coffee.

The problem with the Internet of Things is that the hardware is only one aspect. The makers need to keep servers running to support them, keep APIs up to date, keep security up to date and, well, pay employees.

That, eventually, costs more than it does to actually sell you the device. Probably in less than the first twelve months of you using it. That’s not sustainable, and no Internet of Things company has found a better way yet.

If Nest wanted to increase profits it could sell your home’s environment data to advertisers. Too cold? Amazon ads for blankets. Too hot? A banner ad for an air conditioner. Too humid? Dehumidifiers up in your Facebook.

To be clear, that hasn’t happened yet but Nest already shares “anonymous” data with “partners” and Google just happens to be in the business of showing you ads for things. It’s something that will eventuate.

I find myself somewhat less spooked than IoS does about the prospect of such “partners.” My main problem with targeted ads is that the targeting is usually pretty bad. I buy a mattress, suddenly every ad on every site is trying to sell me a mattress. Hey, guys, I just bought one. But when it works, it works. I purchased a couple t-shirts the other day, but there were a couple in the same column that I couldn’t find. Until, that is, a targeted ad just popped up on an unrelated site. Cool!

It’s commonly argued that we should worry more about corporations accumulating data than the government, but it’s just not something I really see for the most part. Corporations are usually trying to figure out the best way to offer me a product at a price that I am willing to pay. I do worry a little bit about increased discriminatory pricing, wherein the listed price is quietly dependent on stuff I’ve purchased and how cost-savvy I am. That seems mostly like an issue that can be addressed independently, though, and I sort of expect the blowback to be worse than any gains they have that over the current system (which price-discriminates based on sales, coupons, etc).

In any event, I found IoS’s comments here odd:

Ten years ago, if you had told people they could make millions off a specific coffee machine that would only take one type of pods, made by the creator of the machine, they might have laughed at you — but then Nespresso came along and ate the world of drink-at-home coffee.

They might have laughed at you… unless they owned a printer. You know, where you pay a pretty decent price for the printer and then have paid for it again two-times over the next five times you replace your ink cartridge? Seriously, such proprietary expenses are pretty old hat. Corporations have been taken to court over it. When I found out about the coffee thing, I didn’t bat an eye. Why would I?

One of the subjects of the piece, Nest, isn’t even doing all that well yet:

A few years ago, Nest was widely viewed as one of Silicon Valley’s brightest stars. Founded by Tony Fadell, a key figure in Apple’s iPod team, Nest aimed to produce a line of user-friendly, connected home appliances. Given Fadell’s Apple background and Nest’s focus on hardware, many people wondered if Nest would become the new Apple.

The company’s first product, the Nest Learning Thermostat, got rave reviews when it was introduced in 2011. Nest added a smoke detector to its product line in 2013. Google was so impressed by the company that it paid $3.2 billion for it in 2014.

But since then, Nest has struggled. It acquired Dropcam in 2014 and rebranded Dropcam’s flagship security camera as the Nest Cam in 2015. Beyond that, Nest hasn’t introduced a single new hardware product, and it looks increasingly unlikely that it can justify that lofty acquisition price. That’s less because of specific problems with the company’s management than because the entire category of internet-connected home devices doesn’t seem that promising.

Category: Server Room

I’ve hit the big time! There is a parody account of me on Twitter! Came about in a conversation where I was complaining about parody Twitter accounts on Twitter, and most specifically that they often use the same avatar as the real account.

Notably, the parody has over five times the number of followers I do.

Gotta figure out a way to make bank here.

Category: Server Room

In a recent post at the Blinded Trials sub-blog Over There, Tod Kelly offers his thoughts about what he calls “online people.”

Online People are men and women (but mostly men) who spend a significant amount of their work and personal time interacting with others online. As in the real world, some get along with people they disagree with better than others, but regardless, those disagreements greatly shape their online persona. Which is to say that while most people in the real world define and group themselves by what they are, Online People generally define and group themselves by what they are not. To take myself as an example: In the real world I am a father, a husband, a brother, a person lucky enough to be surrounded by scores of amazing friends, a Portlander, a writer and risk manger, etc. As an Online Person, however, I am someone who is not a movement conservative, not an ideologue, not a knee-jerk hack baiting for clicks, not a SJW, etc.

There are some apparent inconsistencies in his overall post. But it’s always easy to disagree and to find inconsistencies in what someone else has written. If it weren’t, all graduate history programs would evaporate immediately. And Tod is not trying to assert an a priori TRUTH about how the world must always and forever work. He states upfront that “Online People…are a figment of my imagination based on my own personal anecdotal experience.”

The best approach, I think, is to take his post as a hypothesis and to examine the ways and situations in which his hypothesis works and doesn’t work, and then to offer some thoughts on whether what the hypothesis describes is a good or bad thing.

His hypothesis does not describe a peculiarly “online” phenomenon. I find it hard to look at any political movement, large or small, in American history whose membership did not somehow define themselves by what they are not. Sometimes the negative self-definition was subtle and co-mingled with much positive self-identification. See 1890s Populism. Sometimes the negative outpaced the positive. See the Popular Front of the 1930s. Sometimes it wasn’t so much a question of identity, but of policy, and being opposed to a policy as a policy can actually mean being for a different policy. See Abolitionism.

Still, I take Tod not to say that the internet causes negative self-definition. Instead, I take him to be saying one or both of two things. First, the internet and online communities are somehow more conducive to negative self-definition. Second, whether or not the internet is inherently more conducive to this way of self-identifying, online communities as a fact tend to self-identify negatively more than in-person communities.

If I read his hypothesis correctly, I think it’s at least even money that he’s right. If he is right, I think I have one way of demonstrating how and why it is correct. I offer a hypothesis of my own. I refer you to a distinction between what I call the “hot seat” and the “cheap seat.”

In the blogosphere, the “hot seat” is the position occupied by the author of a post or an article or a column. The “cheap seat” is occupied by the commenter, who usually enjoys pseudonymity and always enjoys the luxury of not having just created something that is now subject to critical examination.

I’ve found that writing posts–being in the hot seat–makes me feel vulnerable. I put an argument out there and it’s subject to review and comment. Even a friendly comment and one that agrees with me can feel like a disagreement, and a comment that disagrees with even just a portion of what I write can feel like an attack, no matter how well-reasoned or how politely put it is. I know better, but it still feels that way. While there are exceptions–e.g., if it’s about something I don’t feel strongly about–my inclination is to defend whatever point I was making as if I were defending myself.

In the cheap seat, however, I as a commenter often feel free to single out a portion of what someone else says in their post and critique or praise it. Well, it’s almost always a critique and not praise. Or if neither praise or critique, it’s a tangent. And tangents are usually hard to read as anything other than a critique or disagreement. I’m saying “critique” and not “criticism.” All criticisms are critiques, but not all critiques are criticism. Sometimes a critique is a qualification, or another way of agreeing, or an elaboration, or a suggestion.

There are variations on that theme. Sometimes people gang up on a commenter and that commenter is now in the hot seat. Sometimes a blog author will make a “comment rescue” that doesn’t rescue a comment so much as it uses the author’s bully pulpit to criticize what the commenter said. Sometimes, to quote Gandalf, we just have to ‘fess up that there’s such a thing as malice and revenge.

I’m suggesting that this on some level might be others’ experience, too. Perhaps not everyone’s experience, but most people’s. Perhaps not fully consciously, but at some, maybe visceral, level.

This hot seat and cheap seat distinction isn’t all there is. It doesn’t explain how and why some commenters tend to, for lack of a better word, “ally” with other commenters or continually criticize certain others not only for what they say but for how critcizer feels personally about the other. Both things I have been guilty of, by the way.

But if this distinction doesn’t explain everything, it might explain something. A blog moderately to heavily trafficked with comments–even ones like Over There, with its very liberal guest posting policy–evinces in any given thread this distinction between the person who has put themselves out there and the people who choose to comment. I think this is somehow related to the perception–and perhaps the reality–of “Online People” who define themselves by what they are not.

Category: Server Room

Samsung is giving physical keyboards on smartphones another chance… sort of:

Never content to sit on the sidelines, Samsung is now trying its hand at blending yesterday’s hardware keyboard with today’s modern, slab-style phones. A new accessory for the just-announced Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ brings back those tactile keys that so many people have long forgotten.

Unlike the Typo keyboard, which communicated with the iPhone over Bluetooth and extended the length of the device to unwieldy proportions, Samsung’s keyboard case snaps on top of the phone’s display, effectively blocking half of the screen. The phone recognizes the keyboard and adjusts its user interface accordingly, shrinking everything to the top half of the screen. Keypresses are sensed by the screen underneath, eliminating the need for any batteries or Bluetooth pairing hassles in the keyboard itself. You can pop the keyboard on and off pretty easily, and if you want the full glory of an unobstructed display, you can snap it to the backside of the phone for storage.

And not-unexpectedly, Blackberry:

Taking a look at the images attached below, we’re getting a good look at the Venice’s display and slide-out keyboard. Although we can’t be entirely certain of the display size, previous rumors have pointed to a 5.4-inch screen size. As for the software experience, this device seems to stick very closely to vanilla Android, with some added BlackBerry features thrown in. For instance, our anonymous tipster tells us there will be keyboard shortcuts available for creating quick tasks and a few others. As you can see from the third image below, there also looks to be some software shortcuts when swiping up from the home button. Aside from the normal Google Now shortcut, you’ll also be able to perform a quick local search and create a new message with ease.

Blackberry appears to be releasing the phone that might have been quite the splash five years ago. Today… I’d be surprised if they made a whole lot of progress. The brand loyalty is gone. As is the love affair with keyboards.

I do still miss the physical keyboards. I still don’t think the virtual keyboards are an adequate replacement for more serious use. But I have gotten at least moderately comfortable with the viboards and adequate is good enough. While Blackberry is releasing the phone I wanted a few years ago, the advantage of having a physical keyboard is no longer sufficient to completely outweigh other factors, such as memory, storage, and battery. If they are competitive on the other things, though, I will give them a look.

In part because I’m going to be in the market for something new next time around. Samsung has gone the Dark Side, and two of the big reasons I’ve been a repeat customer – replaceable batteries and storage cards – are going away. It seems like LG is the only hold out, making it more likely that LG will by next phone. But maybe not. I am addicted to the replaceable battery, but the storage cards don’t mean as much (in part because of Android’s new way of handling them). Maybe I’ll get over it. Due to Samsung’s betrayal, I will probably be holding on my Note 4 for a really long time. It’ll take a lot for a successor phone to compensate for everything the Note 4 has. If I stick with Samsung, I’ll lose the replaceable battery. If I switch to LG, I’ll lose the S-Pen.

I will be looking at both the Samsung tack-on and the Blackberry for Clancy’s replacement phone whenever that time comes. But there, too, physical keyboards are not the end-all, be-all. Her Stratosphere 2 disappeared for a while and she was using a Galaxy S3 and I think she’s become accustomed to the viboard. But she doesn’t need nearly as much screen space as I do (nor does she switch out batteries), making the Samsung option viable. And the Blackberry might be right up her alley. The S3 is becoming increasingly dated, so she will be in the market for a new phone sooner rather than later.

Category: Server Room

Ed note: This post was published with an earlier draft. I’ve updated it to include more information.

Foose asks the following:

Hi there. I read your blog almost daily and always enjoy your posts, especially your baby and the dog.

I notice you like Lenovo Thinkpads and post on them. I am hoping you can give me some advice. The lid on my 2006 R60 is twisting off the hinges and screws, and the computer technician I consulted says it can’t be fixed. Do you have any recommendations for a good replacement from the current models?

I really just use my laptop to email, write, surf the Web and, most importantly, log in my company’s virtual desktop so I can work from home. I know you had a bad experience with a recent Thinkpad and of course there was the scandal about bloatware earlier this year. I really liked my Thinkpad, so I would love to get another one but maybe it’s not a good option anymore.

Any suggestions you have would be appreciated.

If you really want something top of the line, then I have no advice for you. I am personally going to keep getting T520/W520 until I hear that Lenovo has gotten the new iteration right.

I do not have any recommendations among the current models, alas. I did have that 540p for about a week last year (or maybe it was the year before) and I was really disappointed with the direction that they took and the iffy execution of it (specifically relating to the right/left click buttons. There were some things that were kind of cool about it (mostly aesthetic, but if you like a numpad it actually has you covered). This is not uncommon when they change things up. The first iteration of a new design is almost never its best, but by #2 or #3 they’ve actually improved it.

Along those lines, the best conservative bet would be getting a used T420, T520, or W520, depending on the size of monitor you want. Getting a x30 (T530 etc) instead of a x20 is fine also. You’d be on iffier ground by getting a x10 (T510 etc) and you should absolutely not get a x00 (T500 etc) because… first iteration. Your existing power cables would even work with these models. I would not skimp, however, when it comes to the model you get when you get used. You want an i7 processor, 6-8gm or RAM or more, and I would make sure that your resolution is 1600×900 or better. If it seems sluggish, you may want to get an SSD hard drive, but I would wait and see on that.

If you’re really hot to trot to get the latest model, my advice is somewhat more limited. I haven’t heard a whole lot about the x50 models. In terms of performance, a higher-end (i7) T520 has more in common with the latest and greatest than it does with your T60. Most importantly, you can upgrade RAM as needed. But some people want the new machine and the new warranty. In which case, I would get the T550 and hope for the best.

Category: Server Room