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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Wed, 24 Sep 2014

Sure we need to kill e-mail dead, but here's an article with some interesting alternatives

In a business context, e-mail is horrible, outdated and a time-waster. With that (and more) in mind, Thomas Knoll of Primeloop writes for Medium, I banned email at my company.

Sure his reasons for ditching e-mail make sense, but what makes the article value is that Knoll mentions more than a few services that Primeloop is using to replace e-mail and help his team collaborate and communicate.

Among them are:

I'm still trying to wrap my head around what these services do and how/why to use them, but so far Slack and Hackpad look extremely promising for "situations," I find myself in.

It's not lost on me that the context of this article is a startup company leveraging the work of other startup companies, with all of that work being proprietary and hosted by said companies and not available for self-hosting at all. Even if a service is web-based, it's nice to have the option of loading it up yourself, on your server (or rough equivalent), and controlling it without a company getting in the way.

But a compelling service that fulfills an acute business need (or three) is well worth looking into and possibly adopting if that need is real (and unfulfilled). If/when the startup responsible for the product is acquired and said product is Hoovered up into the mothership, that's another problem, I guess.

Mon, 15 Sep 2014

I started my personal Fedora Wiki page

With inspiration from Paul Mellors, I decided to start my personal Fedora Wiki page. Yes, I am a Fedora member, though I haven't yet blossomed into an active one. At this point I try to answer questions on Ask Fedora, and I'd like to start contributing to the Fedora Magazine.

So I'm mostly just a user of Fedora. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't be a Fedora member, or have a wiki page. So I am. And I do.

Fri, 12 Sep 2014

Ruby's 'insert' method is something I'm definitely going to use

It's not a secret that I'm starting to look into the Ruby programming language. I've got a mess of second-hand books, plus there are plenty of helpful web sites.

I was looking into the gsub method of search/replacing in Ruby when I stumbled across something very useful: the insert method.

I'm sure there are plenty of better ways to do this, but the fact that I can do this and understand it ... that's something.

Here is what I'm talking about. I did it all in the interactive Ruby shell (aka irb) and have revised it because it's even easier to type out than I thought:

irb(main):017:0> phrase = "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back"
=> "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back"

irb(main):020:0> phrase.insert 0, "<bold>"
=> "<bold>The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back"

irb(main):024:0> phrase.insert -1, "</bold>"
=> "<bold>The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back</bold>"
Sat, 23 Aug 2014

Why I don't distro-hop: Because work. And pain.

I still see people installing new Linux distributions, one after the other, on their "production" laptops and desktops. I don't.

Sure, I fire up live images via USB or old-timey CD/DVD fairly regularly.

But I almost never do full, bare-metal installs on hardware I'm actually using. And I got rid of most of my PC boneyard, though I still have a 1999-era Compaq laptop (running Debian Squeeze LTS) and now a recently returned (from my daughter) 2002-era Thinkpad R32 (choking on Lubuntu 14.04 and in need of something new).

As far as "modern," equipment goes, all I have is my "production" laptop, an early-2013 HP Pavilion g6-2210us. And ever since I had the time to set up a Windows-Linux dual-boot, I've been running the same Fedora installation, upgraded via Fedup from F18 through F20.

Given that this is new, cheap AMD hardware, it's been a bit bumpy along the way. But the speed of updates in Fedora means that new kernels and drivers (theoretically) provide the latest drivers that are the lifeblood of any new, not-yet-supported hardware.

Read the rest of this post

Thu, 21 Aug 2014

Another great experience in Fedora bug reporting: Wine font fix solves my web-browsing problem

Fedora's motto is "Freedom. Friends. Features. First." I'm here to tell you Fedora lives up to that billing. Why do I say this now? I've just had another positive experience with Fedora, this time in finding a bug in my system, adding my information to an existing bug report and now seeing updated packages pushed to the Fedora 20 stable repositories and onto my system, where the problem has been fixed.

This all started a few weeks ago. After an update of the wine software that allows Linux users to run many Windows programs, many of the fonts in both the Firefox and Chrome web browsers started to look horrible. I narrowed it down to anything resembling Arial and Helvetica.

After searching for information, I found a command that would tell me what the system was using when asked to display a certain font:

$ fc-match -v arial | grep file

Now that the problem has been fixed, the output is different, but at the time it clearly showed that a wine-installed Arial font had been installed in my system's decidedly non-wine (aka "normal") font path.

And that font was hideous.

Many web sites, including the Fedora Forum and Gmail, looked like hell with that horrible Arial font. When Gmail looks horrible, you know there's a problem.

I began searching for other Fedora users who might have this same problem and came across this bug report on wine-courier-fonts overriding the system Courier font. In that bug report was this Aug. 9, 2014 comment by Arun Raghavan:

This also seems to apply to the arial font which makes things in Firefox look weird as well.

I saw this on Aug. 13, and immediately got into the thread because I'm a Fedora member and already have a Bugzilla account:

I am seeing this same issue with Arial. The fonts look terrible in both Firefox and Google Chrome. I think this happened during the last Wine update.

Hours later, Peter Oliver confirmed the problem:

Indeed, wine-fonts-arial was first included in 1.7.22-2, pulled in automatically by wine-fonts.

http://pkgs.fedoraproject.org/cgit/wine.git/commit/?h=f20&id=a401ea3e98ebe63b2654e2680e2a166b80aefc9a.

I know there's disagreement about whether Wine fonts should be made available as system fonts, but, irrespective of that, this affects the existing user experience, so ideally shouldn't have been included in a stable update.

The next day Michael Cronenworth wrote that he was pushing an update to wine that would take the fonts out of the system path:

The Font SIG has allowed us to remove Wine fonts from the system path. I'll be pushing a 1.7.24 update shortly to address this.

https://lists.fedoraproject.org/pipermail/fonts/2014-August/001736.html

A few days after that, the update was available in the testing repository. I waited for it to make its way into Fedora 20 Stable, which it did today. In the course of today's Yum (in my case the GUI Yumex) update, new wine packages were installed on my system, and now everything looks great again in Firefox and Chrome.

As asked in the bug report, I did add karma after installing the update.

Things do break in Fedora every once in a while, but not as often as you might think.

Pretty much every time something like happens on my system, even with the kernel, I've been able to either start a new bug report or chime in on an existing one. Soon thereafter, the wonderful developers who build packages for Fedora have addressed my problems and provided fixes that made those problems go away.

Chalk it up as another great experience with Fedora, both the Linux operating system and the community behind it.