Bluetooth Speakers

I don’t remember if I touched on this before, but there are some really good Bluetooth speakers on the cheap these days. I found a $20 Polaroid Bluetooth speaker at Big Lots, and it sounds great. It’s not stereo, but then again for $20, I wouldn’t expect it to be. I picked up the blue one, because it was a nice shade of blue. The pink one was quite garish, to be honest. (They didn’t have any black ones or white ones in stock at the time, but they are apparently color choices for the speaker.) I wasn’t keen on the battery life, though it does take AA batteries (or a rechargeable one). It’s a bit bulky for portability, but it has a nice slot where you can set your tablet upright while listening. That’s a nice feature. The sound isn’t hollow (I expected it to be a bit muffled or a bit tinny) but the size and shape (a brick-like rectangle) make the music sound quite good. I am no audiophile, so more discerning tastes might hate the sound, but I found it very high quality for the price.

So I was roaming around the local Big Lots again (they have quite the assortment of knock-off batteries), and I ran across the Polaroid Bluetooth “corner” of the shelves over in electronics. I saw some new, smaller speakers (much like the larger one) for $10. I figured, it might be worse sounding, but for $10 I’ll take the chance. I was again, pleasantly surprised. It is a great speaker. It sounds better and more solid than the larger one. (I imagine there’s more empty space for resonance in the larger speaker.) My only complaint is that it won’t run on AC only power, and it doesn’t charge while it’s on. That’s not a big deal, but it’s still a bit annoying to not run on AC only. (The larger speaker ran without a battery in it if I plugged it in.)

It’s amazing what you can get for $10 these days.

Mechanical Keyboards Again

I do admit I talk too much about mechanical keyboards. I like them quite a bit, but my WASD keyboard (as awesome as it is) is too big for my tray. If I use it I have to put my mouse on the very edge of my tray. It’s not terrible when you’re just surfing the web, but playing a game requires more space for the mouse. I often toyed with the idea of going back to the trackball, but the only one that works well for me only has two buttons. I have to emulate the middle click (that I have come to rely on in Linux), which is less than ideal and very hard to accomplish with a finger trackball.  I am still on the fence about it. Because I have used a thumb-trackball and it really messes up my tendons in my hand. (And good luck finding a left-handed one for less than $300).

I used to think as a Nethack player, I needed to have a keypad. But I have found the best way to play is with the VIM keys (H-J-K-L) to move around the dungeon. I am still learning how not to die early in the game (I’ve made it to the 2nd floor once with my new MATE edition of Ubuntu. I forget how many times I died on the 1st floor with my other distro.)

I’d really like to have my character last a bit longer, but I’m not too worried. I love the game. It’s not going to give you any slack, so if you mess up, it might cost you your character. It’s a permadeath game too. Come to think of it, it’s the only permadeath game I like.:)

Ubuntu MATE 16.04

I am back with MATE again. I decided i liked the Gnome-2 style desktop after all. And seeing how awesome 16.04 was (I ran it in a VM for a while while it was still in beta), I nixed Mint-KDE.

 

When Mint hits 18, I’ll revisit Mint. I love Mint as a distro, and I think it’ll have some neat add-ons you can’t get with a spin of Ubuntu like Ubuntu MATE.  Time will tell, of course.:)

freekazoid

Clementine vs. Amarok

I’m still giving KDE the due diligence and not rage-quitting too soon. I know this is a desktop that has lots of customization. The one thing I decided early on was that my music library was too big for Amarok though. I’m sure if I gave it enough time, it’d fill in and scan all my music (all 840GB of it.) But I rather like Clementine’s quick study of my library. It was hilariously quick. I enjoy the interface (I am not always on board with the “KDE apps only” or “Gnome apps only” ideal.) I do like how they all interact with each other (the WM’s apps) but they inter-operate much more smoothly now.

After working with the two players, I have to say that if you have a large library like I do (decades upon decades of CDs ripped and mp3’s bought from places like Amazon, etc.) the best tool is Clementine. Nothing against the very capable Amarok, but it doesn’t like large (huge?) music libraries.

I’ve toyed with the idea of splitting up my library, but I never find the time to do it.  Heavy Metal is the best genre of music. I have 840GB to prove it. (99% of it is, of course metal.):)

 

Treblinka’s Last Witness

http://wlrn.org/treblinka

This is a powerful documentary. It’s a very sad documentary. It’s a sobering documentary. If you’re not changed after viewing it, you’ve no heart or soul. One thing that has haunted me (besides the archival footage and horrible recollections) was Samuel Willenberg’s angry diatribe against God. I can’t say I wouldn’t have lost my faith either, after what he went through, but it was so sad to hear, because he died this February. I think he died blaming God for the Nazis. We are to blame. All non-Jews are to blame. And we’ll never ever repay that debt. For that I’m sorry. I am at a loss for words.

I won’t censor assholes who are malevolent to Jews. I just will make sure they get perspective on what race they’re disparaging. I will do that until I die.

One other thing I got from this documentary was that the Russians tried to cover up Treblinka. I no longer admire the Russian people defending their homeland. I almost wished the Nazis screwed them harder. Soviets are the 2nd worst people on the planet.

 

May Adolf Hitler burn forever in a hell of his own creation. Seeing the Jews he killed every minute until the end of the Universe. And may all his Nazi collaborators rot in that same hell. Fuck Nazis.

My Quad Core PC is here.

I am now using my Quad Core Core 2 Processor (from 2009) with my “new” HP PC from eBay. I like it so far. It’s been quite good, except for the BIOS confusing the Linux kernel w/r/t ACPI (meaning I have to shut off the PC with the power switch, but that’s just a minor thing.) I still have my dual core athlon working hard, but it’s no longer my primary machine. I thought a bit about what version of Linux to put in my Quad, but I settled on the old standby “Mint 17.3”.  The funny bit is, I went for the KDE version. I don’t know why (well, I do, considering I was out of DVDs and I had a 17.3 KDE install sitting around from when I fiddled with another laptop problem someone was having). It’s been a slight learning curve, just not as much as I thought it’d be. Surprisingly, KDE still uses the standard paradigms, much more so than Gnome 3. I like them both now. No offense to Fluxbox and XFCE, but I’m doing the KDE/Gnome3 thing now. I love all of them, even Awesome, which I could barely use without multiple tutorials and the odd “aha!” moment.

KDE has some quirks, particularly with respect to the desktops and views.  I’ll get the hang of it eventually. And Amarok isn’t really quick with large (800GB) MP3 folders. But I figure the first time it gets through them, it’ll be okay. I really shouldn’t have so much music, but I guess I’ve got a short attention span.:)

I tried to share my music over the LAN with my dual core, but I couldn’t quite muster it. I have the HP plugged into the Lepai amp and speakers, with the subwoofer still on the Athlon. I don’t think I’ll ever swap them, and I have had better luck using my Windows machine with headphones.:) I only play games on it anyway.

I will never return to Windows, and when this one goes the way of the dodo, I won’t even put it on the lan, preferring to play the games “offline” (which is why I spend money on Gog and not steam….) I know that in the future, the games will become dependent upon my internet connection, but microsoft will kill of Windows 8 quicker than later, so like my XP machine, it’ll be off the lan (and in the case of my XP machine, off for good.)

So far, it’s a good fit. It’s fast enough and it’s not bogged down with copying and disk usage like the old dual core was. I enjoy it… and just remembered: I’m not 100% AMD anymore. Man, I feel like a traitor.:)

PC haggling and Core 2 Quads

Someone said something to me the other day that makes a heck of a lot of sense. The PC today is now “fast enough.”  Case in point, the gains made by PCs in the last few years have not been about speed but power and cooling. They are “fast enough.” The person also said that the sweet spot for speed/cost is actually a Core 2 Quad. I looked up some benchmarks and he’s got a great point. I’m using an AMD Athlon 64 4000+ as my main PC, and it’s not bad. It’s got lots going for it, and it runs very smoothly. It bogs down now and again when ripping/encoding music and playing godawful Youtube videos @ 720p. (Big deal, folks. I am not impressed even at 1080p). 

This AMD is an old Optiplex from Dell, so it’s a nice small form factor and most of all it’s quiet. It’s no speed demon, but it’s almost “fast enough.” (I keep putting that in quotes because it’s a good phrase to focus on, and I didn’t come up with the insight on this one.) I am not under any delusion my old PC is going to wow anyone rendering real-time wrinkles and human hair at 1080p. But considering the idea of that is pointless to me. I want worlds created that don’t exist in the real world. I don’t need “realism” in my games. I need fantasy worlds so awesome I want to live there. And by “awesome” I don’t mean 1080p realtime drop shadows and smoke effects. That’s for kids who don’t know better. I have more fun with a game that has 0 graphics (nethack) than I do with the Witcher 3 and all its shaded glory.

This wasn’t supposed to be about games and tech. It was supposed to be about my soon-to-be new (to me) $88 Intel Core 2 Quad PC with 8GB RAM and a mini tower case. Whatever Intel graphics it has, I’ll most likely use my GTX 750 video card, since it’s nice, PCIe and not doing anything right now (because my optiplex is too thin.)  If the PSU is weak, I’ll just use my GT 730. It works fine with nouveau driver and Debian 8 (my GT 610 is running right now, and it’s quite nice.)

Let’s dwell on that for a moment. I just paid $88 for a PC. Of course I’ve already said my $5 (plust $29 shipping) current PC has been wonderful (and will continue to be a main PC since I still have a nice KVM), so a recent PC with a Quad core processor for $88 is a steal. Most people want i7’s and whatnot. I want the “fast enough” PC. When you run Linux, fast enough is far far less powerful than you’d think. Even with Gnome 3 (something I’ve grown to like recently) my Athlon here is not hiccuping at all on the graphics. I turned off some of the stupider effects that just show the desktop off (and have no practical value), but for the most part I can switch between apps faster on Debian than my A10 Windows machine. That’s more an indictment of Windows than the A10 (a nice APU.)  I have no qualms about being cutting edge. Heck, my retired Dell Outlet Inspiron with Athlon Dual core 4300 with 6GB of RAM was a workhorse that I finally retired when I got my ill-advised Quad Core monster PC that is now as dead as Disco.

There’s “fast enough” and “better than good enough.” And as far as I can tell with the Core 2 Quad, you get both. I’m looking forward to my 2nd Debian machine running Gnome3.:) I think I’ll resurrect the name Nostromo, to go along with my Optiplex’s Sulaco. My AMD Athlon 1st gen is Binky, and my Windows game machine is Spiff.

I’m not that creative with names. I just like Nostromo and Sulaco. They are awesome names, from an awesome franchise (Alien), taken from an awesome author (Joseph Conrad.)

Miscellaneous Stuff

It’s April 20th and I don’t smoke pot. So, in lieu of laser-sharp focused insight and a craving for Cheetos, I will talk about something else. Keyboards? Nah, I have some more planned for that later. Let’s see…. the perfect office chair.

 

I have yet to find the perfect office chair. I know it’s a tall order, but I’m still looking. I have tried cheap ones, flat ones, tall ones, and ones that are supposed to be made by the Tempurpedic people. None of them have been all that great, but not many of them have been as terrible as you might think. I like a few of them, if only their cushions didn’t wimp out after only a couple of years of use. Supposedly, anyone over 180lbs is not going to like most (all?) office chairs. That’s the limit most of the Staples/Office Depot/etc. chairs put on their tags. It’s funny, because I see people well in excess of 300lbs buying those chairs. I guess my 237lb frame is just in the sweet spot for blowing out foam cushions over time. They don’t literally explode like an airbag, no. They simply flatten and I have to buy a cushion from Wal Mart or Khols. I like high-backed chairs so I can sit like Tony Montana reading my computer screen (usually playing a game.) I like to sit up when typing or working on code (like writing a blog entry.) It helps keep my shoulders from hurting and after all the literature and pamphlets from school about good posture, I think they may be onto something. So what’s a computer nerd to do when the perfect chair is elusive? Keep trying I guess. I’ll get another one when Staples sells off their mid-range junk for “Back to School” or something like that.

 

Another issue that’s been bugging me is computer prices. They’re coming down, don’t get me wrong, but they are not like they used to be when eBay had lots of off-lease machines from Dell for $50 or so. I got lots of good PCs that way. In fact (as I’ve said in other blog posts) a $35 computer is indeed capable of running a Gnome 3 desktop distro like Debian 8. I turned off some of the eye candy (I do that no matter what PC I have. It’s a gimmick.) I use it daily and I’m totally impressed. But the problem is, those $5 computers (with $30 shipping) are getting harder to find. People are obviously getting older PCs for things, and the market’s getting scarce. I have to keep my eyes peeled. It was ridiculously easy before, but not now. It’s a new fad.:) I wonder if hipsters are buying up older desktop PCs to be ironic? Bleh.

 

I suspect one day, I’ll get a nice Xeon quad core because some company auctions off their old lease stock. I don’t really feel like building another one. I found out that I’m out of practice and things are way different today than they were when I put together my 286-12 PC on the kitchen floor when I was 16.:)

PC Gaming

I know people love their PCs for gaming, but I have had my fill of patches/updates to the Windows OS. I sat down at 7pm this evening intending to play a game or two, but as of now (1opm) I have not been able to because I haven’t turned on my Windows PC in two weeks. The sheer number of “patches” are astonishing. That wouldn’t be such a big deal, but apparently every patch these days requires a reboot. Sorry, Windows, I don’t have to do that when I patch my Debian machine. The only time I truly “need” to reboot is when the kernel changes (not the modules associated with it, but the actual kernel). It makes you wonder why people still use Windows. It’s certainly not because all you need to do is turn it on to play games.

This is how Microsoft’s consoles are too. “Please wait, you must update your Xbox to sign in to Live.” Blah blah blah. Yep, this is one of the reasons I use Linux as my main operating system today. Not because I hate Windows (I do, but for good reasons) but because I am tired of rebooting and resetting and installing “updates” every few days that require a reboot. If it didn’t require a reboot, it’d be fine. But Windows takes far too long to become responsive after a reboot for it to be something that reboots this often. I know there are plenty of people who will disagree, and I’m not going to try to change your mind how you feel about Linux, but give it a try. Just one time. You might be like me and become a full-time Linux user that keeps a Windows machine out of curiosity. When Microsoft quits supporting Windows 7, I’ll be turning that machine into a Linux box. It’s the right thing to do. I might simply turn it into a SteamOS machine.:)

WASD Keyboards are awesome

WASD keyboards are da bomb. There, I said it. I love the bloody thing. I have Cherry MX Green keys, with white and green keycaps (and blue Vim cursor keys, and orange WASD keys.) Soon to have a Debian logo for my ESC key and Navy Blue WASD with arrows. Neat, eh?

The thing about mechanical keyboards is either you don’t like the sound or you do. I do. I’ve always had that affinity (I wish I still had my Model M.) And it feels better while typing. It’s not ergonomic, but it’s also not spongy. It’s perfect for me. I make mistakes typing, so the feel of the keyboard is important, so I know where my hand needs to go to hit backspace, etc.

I used to use (daily) a Filco Tenkeyless Ninja keyboard (I’m munging up the name, but it’s a Filco Tenkeyless) with Cherry MX Black keys. It’s a bit harder to use, and good to use even for long marathon games of Zork. The only problem is (was) with it was the lack of a numeric keypad. The only reason I need a keypad is because I’m going to ascend in Nethack. By gum, I’m going to do it. I’m not going to die on the 3rd level. Not anymore.:)

Anyway, this has been a slow week (and it’s only Monday.)  I’ve got more junk to think about and spew, so it’ll show up soon. Otherwise…. NACHOS!!!

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