Dual Boots

If you thought this post was going to be about hiking or outdoor sports, prepare to be disappointed!

I have recently renewed interest in some of the older computers I have lying around. Over the years I have accumulated computers that, for one reason or another, have reached the end of their usable life. Or so they say. Specifically, I have an Asus eeePC 900A – a “netbook” as they were popularly known then – and a 2004 Apple iBook G4, commonly referred to as an “iceBook” because of its white polycarbonate case. Both computers are diminutive by today’s standard: the Asus has an 8.9-inch screen and tiny keyboard, and the Mac has a 12-inch screen. The Asus is powered by an Intel Atom processor, and the Mac by a PowerPC (hence the G4 appellation).

More than anything, the processor is what is the limiting factor. The Atom is slow by today’s standards, and the PowerPC chip has been abandoned. A few years ago, I updated both of them by installing new operating systems – A fresh, lightweight Linux on the eeePC, and I turned the iBook into a dual-boot computer by partitioning the hard drive and installing Ubuntu Linux on the second partition.

But the Asus suffers from battery exhaustion, and replacement batteries are nearly impossible to find. The Mac is really a dead end, as neither Apple nor the Linux community offer modern OSes for the PowerPC chip. If all I wanted to do is play, I’d be set. But, I’m a geek…

Looking to the refurbished computer market, I found a small company named Operator Headgap that specialized in refurbishing and selling old Apple computers and peripherals. After conversing via email with the owner, I finally decided to purchase a late 2009 MacBook 13″ “unibody” (white polycarbonate) laptop. For under $300, it seemed it would make a great “project” computer for turning into a dual-boot Mac-Linux machine like my old iBook.

At the same time, I found a refurbished 11.6″ Macbook Air, circa 2014. My “working” MacBook Air is a 13-inch model from 2012, and it’s been nothing short of fabulous. I’m typing this on it!

I’m waiting for delivery on the MacBook, but I have received the MacBook Air, and have already made it a dual-boot computer. I updated it to macOS 10.14.6 (Mojave), partitioned its hard drive into roughly a 60-40% split, installed the rEFInd boot manager, and installed the popular MX Linux 18.3. Everything works well, and now it’s time to “personalize” it.

When the other Mac arrives, I’ll do something similar. I kind of like having the ability to travel around with a sub-compact notebook computer that, with two OSes, can seemingly handle anything I can throw at it.

A final note: I’d like to give a nod of appreciation to the sites EveryMac and LowEndMac. Both of these provide in-depth data on the entire line of Apple computers since the very first Mac, introduced in 1984! They are indispensable sites for researching older Macs. I’d also like to mention Other World Computing (OWC), a division of MacSales, for providing not only upgrade parts, but quality instructions for the do-it-yourself hobbyist.

What Is It That Attracts SPAMMERS?

Everyone receives unwanted email, commonly referred to as SPAM. This site is no exception. However, I find it interesting that one spammer, originating (supposedly) from IP address seems to get through my site’s plug-in, only to arrive at my administrative panel, where I promptly tag and bag the miscreant, who never gets published.

So, why is a single post of mine used as this person’s target, and why does my filtering software – my gatekeeper, so to speak – not capture him/her/it like it does 99.9% of the rest of the spam? I’ll probably never know. But I do find it curious…

An update, as I knew I would: this particular spammer isn’t too bright, and as a result, IP address is now blacklisted. I won’t even have to trash these messages, as the site will do it for me. Ain’t technology wonderful? 😀

The Year of Living. And Dying.

It occurred to me recently that 2019 was the year I started to die.

Now I need to explain that somewhat morose comment.

Throughout my life I’ve been blessed with extraordinary health. Oh, I’ve had the broken bone or two, and some residual effects from them, but I’ve never had an illness or internal problem. For 67 years, I’ve been invulnerable. Oh, I know no one lives forever, but I never considered dying.

Contrast that with my daughter, who’s had allergies and a variety of health issues, even resulting in the removal of her gall bladder. Her mother also, had thyroid problems and other odds-and-ends health problems through the years. But not me.

Until this year, that is.

In late January, spurred on by a comment made by my dental hygienist, I visited a doctor for a checkup and was given the bad new: My Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) was through the roof and my cholesterol was way high . HbA1c is a measure of glucose adhering to blood cells. A reading of 6.5 or higher denotes a diagnosis of diabetes. Mine was twice that: 13.0!

So now I had Type-2 – sometimes known as adult-onset – Diabetes. I knew little about the disease, and what I learned was twofold: #1 – It’s a “catchall” disease, causing a myriad of problems – neuropathy, kidney failure, heart attack, even cancer. #2 – It’s self-inflicted.

Well, okay, #2 is my take on it. In essence, I believe its cause is poor diet and lack of exercise. Put another way, as Dr. Jason Fung states (I’m paraphrasing), “Diabetes is a sugar disease. The cure is to stop putting sugar in, and to burn the sugar that’s there.”

Six months after my diagnosis, my HbA1c is down to 5.6, which is just a hair above being non-diabetic. I’m sure some of the credit goes to the medications given me, but I want off of them, and I’ve been altering my lifestyle. I’m eating whole foods, avoiding sugars and processed foods, and I’m running again. I lost 20 pounds (which was not in my plan, and which I didn’t want to lose. But now I’m kind of happy that I have).

But here’s the truth: Once diagnosed as a diabetic, you never stop being diabetic. It’s like being an alcoholic: You can stop drinking and live a happy, productive life, but you’re still an alcoholic. If you drink again, all bets are off. I will have to read labels, watch my diet and get plenty of exercise for the rest of my days. At least as long as I’m able.

And that’s not a bad thing.

Waltzes, Wurstl, and Wien

It seems that no sooner had I returned from my trip to Alaska then I turned right around and made plans for my next trip. That’s the way it goes with inveterate travelers, I guess.

When I returned to work, I had some busy times. So much so, that I wanted to find out how much vacation time I had coming to me. I’ve been with my current employer for nearly eight years, and a benefit I get is more vacation time once past the five year mark. I asked the woman in HR for my paid time off (PTO) time and she sent me a spreadsheet.

The way I read this is that at the beginning of the year I had a little over three weeks vacation time coming to me (based on a 40 hour work week). By the time I returned from Alaska, I had accrued more and burned 64, resulting in — a little over three weeks coming to me at the time of this writing (July 30). In effect, I burned down four hours since the beginning of the year. Yes, I know this is a creative way of looking at it, but since I can’t accrue more than 240 hours, It’s a bit of a wash.

So, I decided to start looking for other destinations. Lo, and behold! The good folks at Road Scholar had a trip to the city of my childhood, Vienna, Austria. Called a “City Walk: Exploring Vienna’s Neighborhoods,” I was touched with a sense of wistfulness. I also felt that Road Scholar was the best choice to go and learn things I never knew about a place I lived in for five years (albeit when I was a mere child – 18 months to 5 years of age). I have since visited several times, but each time was more of a “passing through” than an investigation.

This time, I’ll spend eight days and seven nights in the company of a native guide, learning about the history, the culture, the food and the natives of this central European country.

Late September and early October will be my travel days. That should be absolutely perfect weather for such a trip, not yet wintery cold, and mostly past the summer heat.

I’m looking forward to it!

Oh, when I return, I should have approximately three weeks of vacation time coming to me!

I Dunno. Alaska.

Starting out with a silly pun (“I don’t know, I’ll ask her”) is probably not the best form to use when writing an online blog, but hey, it’s my blog, and I’ll write the way I like!

Which is a less-than-clever way to introduce my latest missive: My vacation trip to Alaska.

I’m not sure how I came across the cruise deal, or what prompted me to look into it in the first place, but since Alaska was the only state I have never visited, I was interested for that reason if nothing else.

So, on March 29, I booked a stateroom, made flight reservations, and sat back and watched the days on the calendar pass.

I could make this post a lot longer, but I won’t go into the travel issues, so on June 12 I stepped aboard the MS Coral Princess, one of the Princess Cruise Lines ships. My first pleasant surprise was the stateroom. I think my package awarded me an automatic upgrade, so I found myself in a mini-suite, complete with separate seating area, large porthole/window and two TVs!

Caribe Deck (10) Forward 201

For the next week, the ship cruised the “inside passage” making ports of call at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, followed by leisurely rounds of Glacier Bay and College Fjord, finally arriving at Whittier, Alaska. Along the way I visited Creek Street in Ketchikan, the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, rode the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad in Skagway (coupled with a bus trip to the Yukon Territory for lunch and photo ops) and roamed the decks as the ship navigated the glacial waters.

Smith (left) and Harvard (right) Glaciers in College Fjord

All in all, it was a very enjoyable trip. The food was great (and I gave myself permission to “cheat” — but still avoided sugary foods, breads, and the worst of the dietary “bombs”), the service was great, friendly and prompt, the weather was terrific (given it was Alaska, so a jacket was handy) and the scenery delightful.

Oddly enough, and I don’t mean this in a negative way, now that I’ve been to Alaska, I have no desire to return. It’s a big world, and there are other places I’d like to see!

Strike Three. Arghhhhh!!!

The God of the Universe apparently doesn’t want me to have a new mp3 player.

I rarely get upset about things, but this is one of those times when I’ve just about reached my limit.  

I’ve been around long enough to see technology replace technology.  Remember floppy disks? From 5-14″ to 3-1/2″ to CDs to DVDs and now to “cloud.”

As the late Paul Harvey used to say, “Not all that we call progress truly is.”

When I first started running a few decades ago, I liked to listen to music while outside, giving me some relief and distraction from the sometimes-boring miles I was putting down.  Believe it or not, I started with a Sony Walkman, a cassette player, strapped around my waist in a neoprene holder, earbud cable poking out of the back. When the cassette gave way to CD-ROM, I tried those, but the bouncing of the running movement made it impossible to track music smoothly. Then came mp3s.

Technically, mp3 is a shortened form of MPEG-3, the Motion Picture Experts Group standard (3) for coding digital audio (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MP3 ). It has become the ubiquitous format for audio files. Pretty much everywhere (there are other formats, but they aren’t the subject of this post). A whole new industry took off, with pocket-sized devices designed to store and play audio files. “Mp3 players” they were called.

Fast-forward (you can read my previous post if you want more background on my experience). The state of mp3 players is nothing short of an unmitigated disaster, in my opinion.

I am about to return the third — yes, third — mp3 player I bought to replace an iPod that finally gave up the ghost. All three were manufactured by different vendors (although they’re Chinese, so maybe not). This last one, a SanDisk Clip Sport Plus, I thought was going to be the winner. Each device I’ve bought has cost a bit more. The SanDisk tipped the scales at $50. And I didn’t buy it through Amazon. 16GB of storage, Bluetooth, and FM radio. All of the features I wanted in a portable music player. And I’ve been quite satisfied with other SanDisk products I’ve bought!

For the third time, I waited for delivery, then removed it from its shipping container, plugged it in to charge it, and then plugged it into my computer.


Well, even though the box and SanDisk’s web site claim it’s compatible with macOS X 10.3 and higher, I’m always a bit skeptical. However, I have two Macs, and neither would see the device, I decided to take it to work and plug it into a Windows PC.

That’s when it all went south. No device recognized there, either. Sigh.

I’ve sent an email to SanDisk and to Adorama, where I purchased it. SanDisk says they will “get back to me,” and Adorama says they’ll contact me regarding a return. This is where Amazon shines — they’ll take an item back without question. Yes, it’s going back.

And this is really the last time I’m trying this. I have an iPhone, I have an Apple Watch, and I have several iPod Shuffles. Neither the watch nor the Shuffles will hold 16GB, but I’m just going to have to play “swap the files” when I want to update the music on them.

I’m so disappointed in the state of manufacturing these days. I think the time of carrying a portable music player are going the way of the Dodo.

The World of Amazon Crap

Amazon‘s growth has been nothing short of spectacular. From its starting days as an online bookseller to the mega-behemoth it’s become today, Amazon is now everywhere. Trucks sporting the “Prime” logo are everywhere on the streets. Whole Foods is now an Amazon subsidiary, and Prime members supposedly get discounts others don’t (disclaimer: I’m a Prime member and I shop at Whole Foods. Whether I get a discount or not, I haven’t checked). The web site Woot! is now an Amazon subsidiary (so why shop at Woot! anymore?). Everywhere you turn these days, it seems Amazon’s got its fingers (tentacles?) in the pie.

Unfortunately, such unparalleled growth has its darker side, and for me, this comes in the form of “junk” products being sold on the site. It didn’t seem necessary to issue a warning — caveat emptor! — when shopping on Amazon as it did when shopping on eBay. Interestingly enough, eBay has become much more reliable and safe, whereas Amazon has gone the other way.

Several recent experiences are the basis for this post. The last was simply frustrating, disappointing, a waste of time, and a loss of confidence in Amazon’s offerings and policies. (For the record, Amazon is great when it comes to returning products. If it weren’t, I’d be long gone from ever shopping there again!)

My iPod died. Well, one of my iPods died. The one I clip onto the back of my running shorts. When I exercise, I don’t want to be carrying a phone or a device that’s as large as a brick. Just give me my music, and let the technology get out of the way!

Apple now only offers the iPod Touch, an iPhone-sized brick that’s loaded with features, but short on compactness. I have a phone; I don’t need another brick to carry with me.

Well, I don’t HAVE to have an Apple product, right? Any compact mp3 player should do. Or so I thought.

I searched Google. I tried a number of values, including “compact,” “bluetooth,” Every result presented me with Amazon results. Egads, are these two in cahoots? Sigh. Off I went to Amazon.

After searching a bit, I found something made in China by a company called KLANGTOP (seriously? Seriously!). 8GB capacity with clip, FM radio and Bluetooth. $29.99, with 199 customer reviews and a 4/5 star rating. Sounds ideal, right?

Well, not so fast. The product arrived, and when I pulled it from the box, I felt like the packing material was of better quality than the device it held!

I charged it up, and went about setting it up. First, none of my computers would recognize the device. Worse yet, its Bluetooth wouldn’t recognize any of the bluetooth speakers I have.

Back in the box it went, and off to the UPS store to return it.

So, I decided to find a better quality device. I found an “Amazon Choice” Soulcker (pronounced “soul seeker”) D16. Included arm band, earphones, USB cable and a 4.5/5 rating based on 279 customer reviews. It arrived, and I went through the same setup process. This time, with a little coaxing, I managed to get some music on it, and even got it to recognize a Bluetooth receiver. A promising start.

Not so fast there, buck-o! After finding the controls less-than-intuitive, I felt I would grow to learn them. After all, it was (relatively) inexpensive — can’t have everything, y’know?

Except that, when I went to add more music, the soul-killer absolutely refused to detect any computer it was connected to. I changed computers, I changed cables, I changed computers and cables. No joy.

I printed out another return label. I don’t feel I have to “live with” a device whose main purpose in life seems to be wanting to be a target downrange for a .45cal round!

Which brings me to the “Amazon trust” issue. There are reports of massive “fake reviews” appearing on Amazon. The company itself says it polices items and reviews, but now every Tom-Dick-and-Harry can be an Amazon “affiliate,” how can these sellers be monitored?

Say what you will — Apple seems to have mastered the ability to manufacture quality products in China. The rest of the world? Well, it appears on Amazon as crap, it seems.

The Ambient Zone

I first created this site in 1995 as a way to learn the concepts of this new medium called The Internet. What started as a way to self-teach myself HTML quickly became a way to store my favorite hyperlinks for quick and easy access. Of course, those links were to music sites and musicians, primarily. One day, the snowball affect occurred, and I started getting requests to have links added to my site. For a short while, this site was on the Google landing page when “new age music” was the search term. The dormant site still exists at the base URL, but I haven’t updated it in what, twelve years?!

My interest in music has never waned, and neither has my interest in things technological, so I simply transformed this site into a personal journal — a web log, or “blog” as the term has come into being..

Nowadays, there isn’t as much need to keep bookmarks of record companies, radio stations, artists and streaming audio sites, as those can be found by using one of the many search engine sites (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.). That doesn’t mean I don’t still have interest. I do! And that’s the reason for this post..

Some time in 2005 I came across a new offering. Something called “podcasts” had been introduced by Apple in their iTunes product, which made it possible for Mac users to subscribe to broadcasts, have them downloaded to their computer, and listened to at one’s leisure. One of those podcasts was hosted by a Dutchman who called himself “TC” (or, as I came later to find out: // TC //). The music was an astounding blend of mixes from artists whose names I had never heard before! I was hooked!

Enter Spacemusic.nl

For a number of years, TC podcasted under the title of his domain: spacemusic.nl (a full history of his early days is available through the link). Somewhere, on one of my computers or drives I have most of them still intact! Some of the older podcasts may still be available through iTunes, as well.

The podcasts ended after nine seasons. There was “radio silence” for a number of years, and then TC announced the arrival of “The Ambient Zone.” An extension of spacemusic.nl, the new shows featured all-new content, and offered a subscriber option, that let paid listeners download the programs (in several formats) for independent play.

The first means to do so was through the horrid (my opinion) Patreon site. Despite my reluctance, I signed up to pay TC for his shows. I like them that much! Earlier this year, TC embarked on creating his own member site, and The Ambient Zone was launched. I signed up as a premium member!

TC has moved to Cyprus, quit his job so he can be a full-time podcaster, and continues to present fresh, tonal peace for those like me who love listening. I realize few people come across this blog, but I’d like to support TC and The Ambient Zone by spreading the word. So, give it a try:

In Your Ears, Bud.

As long as I can remember, I’ve cruised through life with radio or music in my ears whenever the time and opportunity allowed it. As a child, I was in the forefront of the “transistor” era, where advances in electronics technology made miniaturization possible. I went from having a radio with a handle on it tucked into the newspaper bag I carried on my delivery route, to a pocket-sized device with a tiny speaker and (usually) a single, wired earpiece. We didn’t call them “buds” back then.

The single earpiece gave way to the stereo earpieces, and that technology has pretty well persisted to today. Equipment, on the other hand, has continued to evolve. The cassette tape made carrying prerecorded music around with you a reality. The compact disc (CD) was a boon to record-scratchers everywhere, but its playback mechanism (a laser light on a movable arm over a spinning platter) made it susceptible to jostling, so it didn’t work well for runners and exercise enthusiasts.

Computer technology brought to life sound files, such as mp3, wav, ogg, FLAC, and so on. This birthed the mp3 player industry. I owned a variety of music players, including the nifty, but confusing Digisette Duo, an mp3 player shaped like to cassette that could be played through tape machines as well as via the now-ubiquitous earphones.

Apple shook up the music industry when it introduced its iPod in 2001. I didn’t buy an original, but when Apple shipped the “2nd generation,” I became one of the converts.

Miniaturization continued, and Apple gave us the iPod Shuffle (in numerous incarnations), the Nano, the Touch, and so on. I particularly liked the Shuffle, even the one that received media brickbats.

Earpiece technology also improved, but not as radically, and not as fast. Only recently has wireless Bluetooth made to earphones, eliminating the need to plug the sound “emitters” into the sound producer. Apple own Airpods are now everywhere, recognizable by the “handles” that jut from the wearer’s ears.

Perhaps I’m out of step. Or perhaps I’m just not “woke” enough to enjoy the current state of the art. By this, I mean that I haven’t yet found a pair of Bluetooth ear buds that suit me. For the record, I have thoroughly enjoyed my wired earphones. The Bose QC (QuietComfort) 20 noise-cancelling earphones have been a boon for air travel.

The YurBuds Ironman earbuds have lived up to their guarantee: they do not fall out, even during the most strenuous exercise

However, I have yet to find a pair of Bluetooth earbuds I like. I bought a pair of crowdfunded “air by crazybaby” in-ear, totally wireless earbuds. Oh, did I want to love these buds! They fit perfectly, and the absence of even a connecting wire was so nice–they fit well, and were all but invisible. The only problem was, they didn’t work. Battery life was pathetic, and the right earbud would simply die a few minutes after heading out the door.

I threw them into the trash last night

I have a pair of Jaybird X3 wireless earbuds, but their quirky design makes them uncomfortable to wear.

Finally, I broke down and purchased a pair of Apple Airpods 2. These are perhaps the best I’ve had so far, but they aren’t perfect. The left Airpod always seems ready to slip out of my ear, even though it doesn’t. They are the easiest to pair with any device, and the sound is good, although not exceptional.

I’m getting closer to getting a pair of Bluetooth earbuds I like, but now the player device is becoming an issue. My iPod Nano just died, and Apple no longer makes a compact mp3 player. It seems the only small, portable clip-on players are cheap products from no-name companies in China that break the moment you remove them from the box.. I shipped such a device back to Amazon yesterday after only 15 minutes of trying to get it to recognize any of my Bluetooth earbuds. Sigh.

The quest goes on.

Two Viewpoints

Over the past several weeks I have been feeling like a ping-pong ball, bouncing back and forth between opposing viewpoints.

No, this is not a post about politics, although the same case for the same could be made: Two diametrically opposed points of view; each professing to be “right” and the “only way.”

When I was first diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), I knew precious little about the disease. Oh, I knew it had deadly consequences, and that it had to do with excessive sugar in one’s blood, but that’s about all I knew.

Life isn’t as simple as that, and neither is the human body. I found Understanding Type 2 Diabetes, a fact-filled web site written in a quirky manner by a man who, like me, had found himself diagnosed with no understanding of the meaning of that diagnosis. I have been reading it (and other sites) copiously, and my understanding of diabetes has grown enormously. Ken Stephens (the author of Understanding…) got me to thinking, and I had previously been drawn to the work of Joel Fuhrman, MD., so I began to explore. I joined a private Facebook group based on the writings of Dr. Jason Fung, and hints from Stephens.

So, I started following the diet regimen there, which consisted of eating a low carbohydrate, high-fat diet, excluding processed foods, added sugars, and “white food” (pastas, rices, breads, etc.). I thoroughly enjoyed having bacon and eggs for breakfast, although it saddened me a little to think I couldn’t eat fruits and some of the more “comfortable” foods. This is, essentially, a keto (short for “ketogenic”) diet.

Then came a webinar I joined, from a Fuhrman reference, I think. Here were two actual diabetics talking about reversing insulin resistance through eating whole, plant-based foods. They offered a year-long program and guaranteed that it would work. Well, I wasn’t born yesterday, so my belief in Internet guarantees is that they’re worth the paper they’re written on, but I made a decision: Here was a structured program, guaranteed to improve my diabetes condition. This was no time to play cheap with my health, so I took the plunge.

The program is called Mastering Diabetes (MD), and its co-hosts are Cyrus Khambatta, Ph.D. and Robby Barbaro. Theirs is an online course, Internet webinars, a private Facebook group, and lots of helpful printouts and tips.

But Mastering Diabetes is all about high carbohydrates and low fats. The similarities are the expulsion of “processed” foods, sugars, and “empty” white foods. Another similarity is that both Fung’s philosophy and this is the concept of intermittent fasting.

I’m on my second week of MD. I haven’t fasted on this plan yet, but I did several times on the “keto” diet. Water and green tea were all I needed to get me 18-20 hours of fasting.

What I’ve discovered in this short amount of time is that both programs have worked to lower my blood sugar. All of my readings for the past four days have been in the “green” zone (80-140 mg/dL (4.5-7.8 mmoL). This pleases me to no end, but I want to improve to the lower end still.

Mastering Diabetes gets my nod because their focus is less on the level of glucose in the blood, than on insulin resistance, and the causes behind it. High blood sugar is like the fever exhibited when one has an infection. You can either treat the fever or treat the infection. I choose to treat the infection!

Now, I may be a bit premature and/or presumptuous, but here’s my initial take on both programs: They both work. Maybe it isn’t so much in the details, but their similarities strike the right chord: Get rid of junk food, processed food, and sugars (hidden and otherwise), and things tend to straighten out. The epidemic of diabetes is such because too many people have taken the “easy” way, and eat junk food, fast food, and boxed food. I’ve gotten back to using my kitchen (which I actually enjoy) and I’m already healthier as a result!