Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rather Switch Than Fight 

By the way, bonus points if you "get" the pop-culture reference in the title. Nothing else, just bonus points!

We have 7 computers in our home. The one I'm composing this blog on is about the newest, a Dell Latitude E5400 laptop running Windows Vista. I have no complaints about it. I suppose I should mention that I usually buy refurbished Dell computers. The price is right, they do everything I need to do, and I just like them. Most of our computers in use currently were purchased from Discount Electronics though I do have one I got through Ebay and a couple that were gifted.

My wife's laptop, my desktop, and my "backup" laptop are all older Dells running Windows XP. Now, I've had a very good experience using XP so far, and I've been using it since it came out, more or less. My use of personal computers, as I think I've outlined elsewhere, runs back to the Radio Shack/Tandy Color Computer and some low number version of MSDOS. 

The quandary lately is concerning Microsoft and their dropping of support for Windows XP early next year. Of course, the software won't abruptly stop working, but security will be more and more compromised. It will be very risky to continue to use those computers online.  Rather than spend a small fortune (to me) to upgrade to newer computers or even newer Windows software which may or may not run on the older machines, I've been contemplating switching over the older machines to Ubuntu, which is a popular version of Linux. (Also, need I say "FREE")!

For the most part it's no big deal. I have put Ubuntu on a small Asus laptop that I have to check it out, as well as setting up my larger desktop PC for dual booting. I can boot it up as either XP or Ubuntu for a session of exploration. So far, however, a couple of things have stymied me. 

Much of the work with Ubuntu strongly relies on going online. I'm still not savvy enough on Ubuntu to figure out how to make it work with our Sierra Air card. It's supposed to be pretty easy, but it has foiled my attempts to make it work. That's one problem, we don't have any form of wi-fi available at home except for the aircard we have. Now, we may be able to affordably work something else out, now that we may not need the air card for other things. We originally got it to have the ability to run credit cards, etc. when we worked Sherwood Forest Faire, or other outside art fairs without access to wi-fi. Now, we're going to the Square on our iPhones and won't need the air card. Possibly we can find a local wi-fi service that will cost about the same as we were paying for the air card. However, that's another situation. Back to Ubuntu.

I can network the other laptops with my Vista laptop when it is on the air card. The wireless networking built into the laptops works with Ubuntu just fine, or appears to so far.  Getting the wireless USB adapter I have for the desktop to work with Ubuntu is another story apparently. Not exactly plug and play.

Most of the software packages we use regularly have replacements in Ubuntu that are also free and work quite well. However, I have a lot of time invested in one type of CAD package that only runs on Windows. I won't name it, but I'm reluctant to change. There is a very good alternative called Draftsight that I have been looking at that seems to work very well, but I am reluctant to switch horses on it unless I really have to. 

Another critical program is yWriter 5; a writing software that I am using for my novels currently. In this case there is no Linux version available. 

Theoretically these and many other Windows programs will run through another software called Wine that sort of acts as an interface to enable Windows software to run on Linux. I've been running into some snags getting that scenario to work.

The key seems to be solving the networking or the air card problem, since some of the installations are pretty automatic once you can get online. Otherwise you have to download things separately and jump through several hoops to install manually.


Maybe I just need a Linux tutor to guide me through some of it.

Once I get things working the way I want, I may even switch over the Vista laptop, though Windows will keep supporting Vista for quite a while longer. 

The last ditch option would be to just keep the desktop as my main CAD machine, leave it XP and just don't get online with it. That would work for quite awhile, probably. I don't make my living with the CAD anymore, but I still use it almost daily. I'm always helping my wife by drawing or copying patterns for intarsia woodworking or stained glass. I also prefer to use it for desktop publishing-type functions, since I'm accustomed to using the fonts and drawing capabilities. 

Admittedly, some of this is just stubbornness.  Do I really need this many computers? Probably not. When I used previous laptops, they weren't fast enough to run the cad programs, nor did they have the storage I needed. It was necessary to have the "big, powerful desktop" to run the serious drafting software, while my lighter duty laptop could go with me to a hotspot and browse the web. The desktop is also easier to work on, of course. I can replace whatever part may be going bad. Laptops are almost made to be disposable. If something breaks, it's usually easier to replace the whole thing!

Times change. My current laptop doesn't really have the power problem, it runs everything just fine. With external hard drives and flash drives getting larger and cheaper all the time, the storage isn't so much a problem either. 

Having two working laptops all my own is a bit of a luxury I guess. I like having a backup. It's paid off a few times. However, we find ourselves doing more and more of our online stuff on our iPhones. I even posted one of these blogs directly from the phone awhile back. It was a challenge, I admit, but I did it. 

In fact, the lines between PC/laptop/phone/TV/stereo/radio are getting really blurry, aren't they? It is rapidly getting to where smart phones can do just about any "usual" computing task we want to do. I can now even view CAD files on my iPhone. 

And reference work? I think we've about reached Isaac Asimov's Encyclopedia Galactica. We have more and more reference resources available every day. I used to spend hours running down references in the library in dictionaries and encyclopedia. I called it hunting rabbits, since I easily got sidetracked and ended up finding information that had nothing to do with whatever I started on. Now I have the whole internet to get lost in. Pure joy!

Now if I can just get the Ubuntu to behave!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

And Sew On

I recently took this sewing machine out of mothballs and decided to put it to work. It's a Davis Model VF-2 machine from around 1900. It originally belonged to my great-grandmother, Martha Ora Tucker Seward and it was passed along to me long ago. I named the machine "Minnie" which was Martha Ora's nickname.

I actually put some mileage on this machine myself. When I was a Boy Scout, I used it to repair my surplus pup tent that had previously been used as a paint tarp. (Very colorful! The troop required me to pitch it in the very back of the campsite!)
When I was active in competition blackpowder shooting and reenactments, I sewed my own clothes on this machine. 

I've had it in storage for quite a while, though it now resides in my office. I opened it up not long ago and rebuilt the flip-over lid that covers it. Someone had broken the hinges loose and a wood veneered panel in the center of the lid had peeled away. Just a few days ago I installed a new belt, gave the machine a minor cleaning and oiling, and sewed a bit on it. Still works great!

It takes a slightly longer than standard needle which is no longer made, although I found a very close alternative on eBay and ordered a few. Standard needles can be made to work, with some fudging, but not reliably. 

Here's a closer look at the machine.
As you may be able to see from the first picture, two of the drawers on the cabinet are not quite a match. There is a more complete cleaning, oiling, and refinishing in the works when the weather cools off a bit. Not a radical refinish. Just a general re-tightening of the wood joints, cleaning and lemon oiling of the wood and so on. I want to keep as much of the original finish as is left, wherever it has any. 

I'll post a follow up when all that is done.

 A peek inside the mechanism. The long bullet shape is the shuttle that contains the bobbin, which is a long spool. It's a different design from the newer round bobbin that more modern machines use. The shuttle swings back and forth, sliding through the needle thread to capture the stitches.

A few of the original attachments and extras that came with the machine. Two hemmers, an edge guide, two shuttles, and a wrench. 

This item, that looks a bit like a mutated ninja throwing star, is actually a pretty cool multi-tool. The top and right arms were once different sized screwdrivers like the left arm. The bottom part fits the needle clamp nut to help tighten or loosen it.

A page from the Davis VF-2 owner's manual.
While I'm on the subject, here is another possible project for me. This rusty machine was found through Freecycle or Craigslist Freebies. It had sat in the previous owners yard as a piece of yard art for several years before she offered it. I took it and hope to make it operational again. Looks bad, but is really pretty sound. It looks a lot like the Davis and has a similar shuttle bobbin. However, this is a Singer Model 27 also from 1900.
 Here's one from the internet in slightly better condition!

What will I do with it if I get it going? I don't know for sure. I only know that I have always been fascinated by machinery in general and sewing machines in particular. My grandmother, Mildred Seward, did a lot of sewing when I was growing up and I helped her often.

Just an old sew-and-sew!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Someone Else's Deja Vu

A friend mentioned the other day that she was experiencing something that I also often experience. For lack of a better term I refer to it as "having someone else's deja vu".
It's like this: I'll be awake, doing whatever, and have what seems to be a vivid and complete memory flashback. However, the memory is absolutely not a "real" memory from my own life. 

I've been attempting to research this but it doesn't seem to correspond directly with anything currently being studied. It more closely resembles "false memory syndrome" perhaps , without the associated trauma or regression therapy. I don't  believe I have any of the history that would associate with that. 
It is exactly like flashbacks I have of true events from my past, often traumatic, such as injury or loss. The same intensity and vivid detail, although the false flashback is often of some really prosaic memory: say, coming home by taxi to my flat in London and bringing in the mail. (Never been there.)

A mystical explanation may be that everyone's memories and thoughts are "out there" somewhere in the cosmic stream and we sometimes "tap in to it" in a dream or daydream state. Another explanation could be an unconsciously remembered scene from page or screen that resurfaces at an odd moment.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's A Weird Spring

    It's been quite awhile since I've done an update on our place here at EarthSong Retreat. This is a pretty strange Spring season we're having this year. Temperatures swinging from near 90 degrees (F) to mid 30's and back again. We have had a few nice but light rains and I've been expanding the garden. 
    I've finally gotten another scythe from Ebay. I enjoyed my old one, but it was lost several moves ago. It works really well on the giant ragweed and other grasses that I need to cut here and there. We try not to mow at all, especially while we have wildflowers for the bees. 
    Speaking of the bees. We're looking forward to our first honey harvest.
    We also added some more chickens to our small flock. Six pullets were purchased a few weeks back, three Rhode Island Red and three Ameracauna. My personal favorite breed is the Rhode Islands, but we have some diversity. That will bring our flock to 18.
    The free-ranging chickens are a valuable part of pest control, as well as composting.
    The compost system is simple. I have a pair of bins made from pallets.
    We add kitchen scraps, garden and yard trimmings, to either bin. We also add newspaper from the macaws' cages and other compostable material. As you can see, the bins are open and accessible to our free-ranging chickens. They do an excellent job of further shredding the paper and mixing it all together. I rarely turn the piles, but do add water to help decompose the paper if needed. Before long, I have usable compost!
    I select a pile, it really doesn't matter much which one. I move the top layers over to the adjacent pile until I reach the good compost. It goes through a mesh screen into the wheelbarrow. Whatever doesn't go through the screen goes back on the pile.
   The compost goes straight to wherever it's needed. 
   I like this system!

I'll leave with a picture of Cooper the Wonder Dog and his footbaths. He likes our rainwater collection efforts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"I've got mind powers. You wouldn't understand."

I had an interesting experience the other day. 
I was messing around on Facebook and the name Moosie Drier came to mind out of nowhere. Now, I remember Moosie as the child actor back in the '70's on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh In", and countless other shows for a couple of years. 
Such is fame. 
Ever notice how every few years an actor will come along, even a bit player, and they will be in literally everything for awhile? It's even more obvious for child actors, I think. Anyway, Moosie Drier was the Haley Joel Osment, or Kurt Russel, of a few years in the early '70's. He's still around, by the way, acting now and then and directing. 
Moosie Drier, back in the day.

Back to me, though. Remember, this is all about me? Moosie's memory popped up, then a few hours later my step-son, Michael, brought his new girlfriend home for dinner. Surprise! She brought her new puppy. I saw it and asked its' name. Guess what! It's name is Moose! Small puppy, big name.

A little bit of precog maybe?

Mind powers, I tell you!