The Wait

The problem with buying technology is that there is always something better on the horizon. I am about to build a new PC. I have been about to build it for over a year. I have been buying some parts that will stand the test of time case, fans, optical drive etc. Some of these parts are 12 months old, some 6, some a matter of weeks. But I need to get the important bits, the CPU, the Motherboard and the RAM.

In the past I simply look around picked compatible parts and built a system. The technological standards evolved slowly and many parts could be reused as I upgraded. Today everything is changing and quickly. I had delayed the build to be able to future proof the system by having newer ports, slots and sockets on the motherboard. But prices were too high and new competing products were announced that were coming down the pipeline. So I waited.

Having waiting for new parts to be release I first find that they are in short supply. So I wait. Then more parts are in short supply. Another wait. Just at the point of being able to get parts questions are raised about firmware and compatibility. More waiting. Then more low-level tuning is in the pipeline, just another 2-3 weeks. I’m being patient.

I’m waiting, patiently. I want to buy the right bits for my needs. I’m mostly decided on what I want. I just need that last little bit of information to allow me to choose the final parts. So what happens, more news. New product announcement in 30 days, release expected in a few months. Do I wait again? Do I buy now and regret not waiting? Do I build cheap and upgrade sooner?

A new system will be faster. But it could be even faster if I wait for it. How long do I wait?

A Cat Sitting Service

Today a flyer arrived in my letter box offering a cat sitting service. A helpful service to some and I can understand the need for it. Then I saw the price. £8.50 per day for a single visit, £15 for 2 visits. Quite a lot for opening a door and putting food in a dish.

A week of visits (discounted) is still £100. If that wasn’t enough there was an option to get a daily video call at an extra cost.

At those prices no wonder people ask friends and family to look after their pets.

Bookmarks

I use Firefox as my web browser. I’ve been using it for years. During that time I have accumulated a huge amount of bookmarks. In being able to migrate my Firefox profile by copying it between machines and between installs my bookmarks have migrated too.
Some I can’t remember why I even bookmarked them in the first place.

I took the step over the past few days of exporting all my bookmarks and deleting all the ones stored in my browser. I now have a new starting point for which to accumulate some more.

My bad idea has been to start trying to organise my old bookmarks into some sort of list. What struck me is what utter rubbish is stored along with the original bookmark. The useful bit is the URL, in most cases this is accompanied by the title to the article or the site I wanted to bookmark. The less useful entries have information about the author looking for job opportunities, great long strings of text about other subject matter the site covered or generally unhelpful titles that don’t actually tell you what you bookmarked.

I should have taken the time to edit the bookmark entries at the time of saving them. It is never something I want to do at the time as it breaks my train of thought. It a habit that I am unlikely to change.

Trying to sort the bookmarks by subject area I notice that quite a few span multiple areas. Looking through the bookmarks I find that I have often researched topics. I’m thinking that in future it would be easier to gather stored bookmarks around these topics. In this way I can dispense with certain collections of bookmarks once I no longer have need of the topic.

I am regretting starting this process as progress has been slow. I am working through the list, checking that the links still work, seeing if they are still relevant, renaming and finally storing under a suitable category. Once completed I should be left with a nice list of topics that I can easily refer back to.

So far I am not missing the historical bookmarks in the browser.

New Theme

Today I am going to start playing around with a modified version of the WordPress twenty-seventeen theme. I want to be able to write content in a nicer style and it is easier to do this with a clean slate. Some of the existing content will need reformatting and this will happen when I settle on my style. In the meantime be patient.

Aims for 2017

It's that time of year again when I look back over the goals I set myself over the previous year and decide on some new ones for the year ahead.

What I intended to do in 2016:

  • Contribute to some open source projects – Failed miserably.
  • Put more time into electronics projects – Plenty of time put in, much frustration and little fun :(.
  • Clear out Garage – It’s getting clearer.
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone – Fail – idea abandoned.
  • Build a new PC – Some parts have been sourced, waiting for AMD to release the Ryzen processors early in 2017.
  • Do something useful with a virtual machine - Fail, looked into 3D acceleration of a VM. It appears that it is best achieved with a separate graphics card. This requires hardware support which my current set-up lacks.
  • Finish Back Yard – Still need to put a slab in for a step.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – I still need one that matches, but it functions.
  • Cook a good Lamb Pathia from scratch – Failed – attempt next year.
  • Eat more fruit and veg – More cabbage has been eaten (along with pie & mash).
  • Perform more off-site data backups - More backups in general are needed. 2016 saw me attempt crypto-ransomware recovery. Luckily a success due to decryption program availability. Backup Now!!!
  • Read more books – Didn't get through many in 2015 or 2016.

2016 hasn’t been the most productive year. I hoped to have progressed further with my electronics projects but difficulties along the way resulted in periodic loss of motivation. The PC build was researched and was close to being realised. The VM 3D investigation focused new build on needing 2 graphics cards. Intel’s platform offering made this set-up along with new and future hardware connectivity quite limiting. With AMD’s new CPU offering and Intel’s new chipsets on the horizon the decision was made to delay purchasing core build components until the new year. One thing has become clear, I need to plan my free time to achieve more.

What I aim to do in 2017:

  • Lose weight – I have slowly been gaining weight 🙁
  • Continue work on STM32 development – I’m slowly making progress.
  • Clear out Garage – A few large items need to go.
  • Build a new PC – This will happen, I can’t delay it any longer.
  • Finish Back Yard – The step will be installed at long last.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – It might happen.
  • Cook something new – I will break out of my routine dishes and try making something different.
  • Eat more healthily – Less chocolate, fat, carbs.
  • Perform more data backups – More off-site backups too.
  • Read more books – I have a shelf of unread books waiting to be read.
  • Plan Free time – Make time for things I want to do.

2017 has some achievable targets. I three I want to achieve are losing weight, building a new PC and finishing the back yard. I need a good excuse if I don’t manage these.

Where is winter?

As the year draws to a close I am left wondering when winter is going to begin. A few cold days here and there and the odd light frost is all we have received. Where is the snow lying on the ground? Where are the slippery pavements coated in ice? I am going to need to source Christmas cards for next year without the winter scene, if this is they way things are going.

Fedora 25

This evening I arrived home from work and began to update my machines to the latest version of Fedora. I am pleased to say the update has gone smoothly. This has been the easiest update I think I have had in recent years.

Now the bad. Wayland has become the default display server replacing X11. It works, by which I mean I have a usable display. The bad is that it has broken my workflow. I have a few simple scripts that tweak my environment. These have always loaded when the display server starts. Ok, how do I do this with Wayland? I did some reading. The issue has been known about for 2 years, Bug 736660. The workaround for the moment is to logout and then log in with an X11 session. Logging into the X11 session everything works again and I can continue. Hopefully issues like this will get resolved quickly.

Planning Ahead

I probably look at the front page of this site more than most. I am starting to wonder if it needs a good refresh. Earlier in the year I began writing up some notes on my experiments with ARM development. During this process I ran into a few formatting issues that I worked around. It is still my plan to write up some more of my notes in the future but rather than fight against the current system I might try something new. The next version of WordPress is due out in December, this is probably the best place to start from. Years ago I used a heavily customised site but as WordPress moved on I began to rely more on the templates generated by others. They are good building blocks as they handle the responsive design aspects. I think some more customisation from me might on the cards this time.

Alexa

This week I have taken delivery of an Amazon Echo, a voice controlled speaker. Why did I purchase it? One of my reasons is that I have wanted an entertainment device in the kitchen, the Echo is a hands free streaming radio. The audio quality is good enough for the environment and at half volume is plenty loud enough.

I wanted to time my cooking of a pizza, I set the timer with my voice. The Echo alerted me once the timer expired. This morning I walked in and asked for a weather report, I listened whilst I opened the curtains.

I’m still getting used to calling out to “Alexa” but its suprising how easily it is beginning to fit in to my life. It allows me to multitask in the moments where I have my hands full.

The only limitation so far has been the microphone. It doesn’t pick up well when the kettle is boiling. I’m guessing it generates too much white noise. Microphone pickup is generally good otherwise.

Water

The mains water supply has been off for a few hours. A minor inconvenience. What did please me was the text message I received from Severn Trent notifying me of the outage and giving me an estimated time for the resolution of the problem. The water appears to be on its way back an hour ahead of schedule. There is however a downside, I am now faced with the spluttering and gurgling of the pipework as everything re-pressurises and the air in the pipes escapes.