So after years of running various iterations of a home server and more than a year in a rack style case sitting on the floor…I finally have my server where it belongs.
Apple: Nobody wants a touchscreen laptop. It makes your arm tired.
Also Apple: Check out how the iPad is now basically a touchscreen laptop. It’s magical ™.
It’s not a slippery slope, it’s a water slide!
No really, having a real home server is not a slippery slope. Just because it started as my Plex and Nextcloud server and is now running 14 docker images and a VM hosting multiple services…just because I now host my own email, password manager, music streaming, movie streaming, TV show streaming, eBook reading, Minecraft, and network monitoring and management services on said server does not mean I have a problem. Really. I can stop whenever I want. Oh, and this blog is hosted on said server. I suppose I should have that in the list as well. My daughter’s blog is hosted on this server, too. I should not forget that one either.
My latest addition is the music management and streaming (based on this image). So I have Headphones in a docker for music management. It is connected with a local Musicbrainz mirror in another docker for artist, album, and track info. All of that ultimately puts my music in a file share that Plex and Airsonic can see. The latter I am now using to stream (Spotify style) to my phone when driving. Oh, and if for some reason Headphones is unable to identify an album, I have beets in another docker as a secondary identification system. Right now using beets is a manual process but I am currently working on a script that will monitor my ‘incoming’ folder for ‘[Unprocessed]’ at the end of a folder name. This indicates that Headphones was unable to match it. Those will be moved to a folder that beets will run against on a schedule. See? Totally not a slippery slope.
On an unrelated note, I’m probably about 2-3 months away from needing more RAM for that server.
The new home network
And it’s not even the final form
I’ve taken my time off to make a few upgrades to my home network. I’ve gone from an Asus AC68P that has been dying a slow death to a much more capable system. The Asus has served me well with the Merlin ROM on it but as time has gone on, it has started requiring a reboot every week or so to stay functional. Given that I run a number of web services myself, this is not acceptable. So I splurged.
I am now running a Ubiquiti Unifi setup. My modem feeds into a UniFi USG gateway that then feeds a UniFi Switch 8 POE-150W. The POE is needed because I’m currently installing two UniFi UAP-AC-PROs to cover the entire house with glorious high speed wifi. All of this is controlled by the UniFi Controller software. I did not bother with the Cloud Key which is basically a POE computer running the controller software. Instead I just installed the Docker image of the software on my home server.
So right now I have a single UAP-AC-PRO connected and sitting under my television in the living room while I run the cabling to what will be my new wiring “closet” (which is more of a corner in the bonus room). One AP will be in the living room near the side where the kids’ rooms are. The other will be in the hallway just outside the master bedroom, which is on the other side of the house.
I like the UniFi setup since the APs are meshed and because both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz networks can use the same SSID. So now I have a single SSID for all WiFi connectivity in my house. Each device will negotiate whatever speed and frequency it needs for optimal performance. Moving through the house will also allow devices to seamlessly switch between the APs as needed.
I managed all of this with only a 20 minute downtime of the network. It could have been less but I wanted to configure the gateway to use the old Asus IP address so I had to give it a temporary configuration for the initial switch then change it once I pulled the Asus from the network. That took a bit of finagling with a laptop connected via patch cord to the switch to pull off.
My next step is to pull the cabling through the attic to my patch panel then move the equipment to its final location in the bonus room. This will also allow me to put the server up there and get that noise maker out of the living room. Once everything is set, I will be ready to move to the next phase which will be getting some POE security cameras for the house.
Thank you, Steve Jobs
My mom got an Apple ][e when I was 9 years old. During these formative years she taught me BASIC programming on Apple DOS 3. I used that computer for games and learning and even as a presentation tool for my elementary school project that year. Over the years I played around with a huge number of personal computers in the fledgling home computer market. I used Windows because I had to and Linux because I wanted to.
Five years ago I finally got fed up with constantly having to fix my OS and reinstall all my software after a format to get things working again. I was tired of compiling packages and living in dependency hell. I could no longer stand the 11 fan beast I had built in the corner of my bedroom. So determined to change things, I looked around for an all-in-one and did my usual pricing comparison. The iMac came in hundreds of dollars cheaper than everything else I was looking at. So I ordered it with the intention of replacing OSX with either Linux or Windows. But when it came in, being a tinkerer and not having played with an Apple OS since the ][e days, I toyed with Leopard. Five years later I type this in memory of a visionary on my 2008 Macbook Unibody running Lion to be sent to you through my Airport Express that extends my wireless network from my Airport Extreme. My iPhone 4 is in my pocket letting me know that people are liking my remembrance post on Facebook. My iPad 2 will wake me in the morning so I can proudly wear my Apple shirt to work. In the mean time I will continue to watch streaming video covering the reactions of the world on my Mac Mini on my HDTV.
I am not the typical fanboy. I love what Microsoft has done with Windows7. I love my old Dell laptop running openSuSE. But when I just want to get something done, I will always turn back to one of my Macs.
To take a concept from the X-Men movie: Every now and then a visionary appears that takes the world in a huge leap forward. For our lifetime that visionary was and is Steve Jobs. A person like this only comes along once every generation or two and today we have lost ours.
My heart goes out to his family and close friends because as much as he had an impact on our lives as a technology visionary, he was a man. He was a father and a husband and a friend. He will be mourned by millions and missed most dearly by those that knew him when he wasn’t on stage.
Dracula Is A Sparkly Vampire Compared To AT&T
So here’s the deal…Tuesday, June 15 I woke up early to pre-order my new iPhone 4. I had an iPhone 3g and being 2 1/2 years old, it was getting a bit long in the tooth. While the AT&T servers were committing seppuku for being unprepared for the onslaught of orders, I somehow managed to slip in my pre-order. This was followed a couple of days later by a reminder to be sure to show up the following Thursday, June 24 to pick up my shiny new toy from the local Apple store.
Thursday rolled around and I woke at 5am to get a shower and get to the line by 6am. I figured that they would have a separate line for those of us with pre-orders and an hour early should be good enough. The original single line wrapped around the corner and to the far side of the parking lot…with me right at the curb. A little free Chik-Fil-A and Krispy Kreme later (Apple stores know how to handle big launches) and they finally split us into the have and have-not lines. Fortunately the pre-order line was very short. Finally the doors open at 7am and people begin getting filed in. It only took 46 minutes from doors open until I was walking out with my fully activated iPhone4. I even made it to work on time. As I said, Apple knows how to handle things.
My daughter had a piece of junk prepaid mobile phone. I didn’t even know that Sanyo made phones…if that’s what you want to call it. In light of the stupid amount of expense for the incredible lack of service…I decided she needed to have my old iPhone 3g. We could switch to a family plan with more total minutes and data and unlimited messaging for a grand total of $5 more a month than I have already been spending. And all she really had was unlimited texting. It’s a winner of a plan. This should be pretty simple: I call them and change my plan, tell them I need to re-activate the old iPhone as the secondary line with a new number…and pick up a new SIM from the local store (since you cannot re-use a SIM that’s been cancelled).
But I failed to realize I was dealing with AT&T.
So the nice lady on the phone supposedly takes care of all this and hands me over to sales to finalize the whole deal of changes she’s made on my account. The nice lady in sales kindly informs me that there is no way to do what I want over the phone and I will just have to spend the hours in the store it will require to get service because the old iPhones require a special SIM card that can only be obtained by rescuing the princess going to an actual AT&T store. I kindly inform her that she must be mistaken since the SIM in my iPhone actually came from my AT&T Tilt. She argued. I hung up on her. I cannot abide idiocy and that was the kindest thing I could do at that moment. This was, of course after she checked my account at my request and told me unequivocally that there were absolutely no changes to my account despite what the first nice lady told me.
Later that night…texting becomes disabled on my phone. WTF have they done to my phone? Well, I can’t find out because the almighty AT&T doesn’t have a 24/7 call center. They’ve closed for the evening and now I’m stuck without my main medium of communication. Beauty. Anyone else notice that the AT&T emblem looks like the Death Star?
SO THE NEXT MORNING…
…on the way to work I ring them up yet again. The nice lady that took my call apologized profusely for the inconvenience that my outage had caused me. She then found the problem and fixed it. I haz txts againz!!!!!! And apparently my account is mysteriously on the Family Plan that I was unequivocally assured was not added. Curiouser and curiouser this becomes, no? All of this prompted me to launch into my tales of woe and betrayal on my previous call. The nice lady apologized again and helped make the necessary fixes to my account so I could go to the local store to get my new number and SIM card. She even gave me a $16 credit for my troubles. This call ends on a happy note.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL…
I head out on my one hour lunch break to the closest AT&T store to finish up this whole ordeal. I show up and have about a three minute wait until someone helps me. This should worry everyone. No AT&T store I’ve ever been in has ever had less than a 45 minute wait to get help. The nice man whips out a SIM card and begins getting my new number set up for the old phone. After a bit of typing and clicking he gets a perplexed look on his face and announces that it appears his terminal locked while finalizing the new number. He starts over. The perplexed look returns and he picks up the phone to call someone at AT&T’s fully armed and operational battlestation. He spends some time on the phone explaining things and asks the stormtrooper rep to see if they can finish it for him since his station is on the fritz. Another minute or two passes and he gets an apologetic look. We are now 32 minutes into my lunch hour.
He asks if I recently closed another account on my name. I confirm that I did…back in April. He tells me that there is a balance on that account which is preventing the completion of the line addition. –Backstory to this: My ex-girlfriend’s phone was on that account. She missed a payment and the phone was suspended. I called and had them permanently suspend it as it was out of contract so she could pay it off and I could cancel it. All of that happened…in person…at an AT&T store. I was personally guaranteed by the nice people at the store at that time that there were no pending charges and there would never be another balance on that account as long as I live.– NOW, there is a balance. I get a phone number to call and retire to the exterior of the store because I didn’t want the people that have been so nice to me to hear what was about to escape my lips.
The nice lady that answered my call checked and confirmed that there was no balance on the day I cancelled. She also confirmed that despite my assurances otherwise, there was a bill cycle 3 DAYS LATER that put a $104 balance on said account…part of which was a RECONNECT FEE. I tried to reason with her and she was very understanding. She was also willing to work with me in any way possible as long as that way involved me giving them the $104 dollars I was assured I would never be charged. We are now 54 minutes into my lunch hour. I go ahead and pay it because it isn’t worth the rest of my workday to fight it.
I get my confirmation number for the payment and return inside to the nice man that has been helping me. He tries again and fails to add the line. He again calls his cohort on the small moon. He then proceeds to argue with the disembodied voice on the phone that I did in fact pay that bill just now and it was completely fine to finish adding my line. The arguing continues for several minutes. We are now 1 hour and 7 minutes into my lunch hour. Eventually the soulless wretch on the phone gives in and pushes my new line through. HURRAH! Then the nice man looks at me and mentions in an off-hand manner that there will be a $25 fee for adding this new line.
So to recap, we are 1 hour and 15 minutes into my lunch hour. I have now spent $129 more than I was told I would have to spend. AT&T has now sucked my meager savings over the past few months dry. THEY CHARGED ME TO ADD A LINE THAT THEY WILL CHARGE ME FOR. Everyone was kind. Everyone was understanding. Everyone was apologetic. Only one made any effort to compensate me for being financially raped. AT&T is a death star vampire. They will suck your money and your soul and your will to live. I’ve been a customer of theirs for over 10 years with wireless and even longer with various land lines and internet connections.
I would gladly fire a pair of photon torpedoes up their thermal exhaust port.
Big Tobacco – Little Minds (an e-cig story)
Last year the FDA put out a report about how e-cigarettes (personal vaporizers) are toxic and dangerous. Their unbiased tests and fair results reflect a huge cross-section of – oh who am I kidding. They tested two brands that are generally regarded as crap and found faint traces of a couple of potentially harmful substances in some of the tested units. They failed to mention that these substances are found in much higher concentrations in real cigarettes and that the detected amounts on the tested units are well under the accepted “safe” levels. I have no proof and I’m not really a conspiracy theorist but the spin they put on it reeks like last week’s cigarette butts. Without proof, however, I will not speculate on whether or not Big Tobacco had fingers in this cookie jar.
Let’s go over a few things about e-cigs to clear the air and set a few things straight. These personal vaporizer devices typically come in either a two or three piece unit. Both styles have a battery which makes up the majority of the length or bulk of the device. You attach to that either a two piece atomizer/cartridge combo or a one piece cartomizer (which contains both of those in a single unit). The cartridge holds the liquid that fuels the atomizer which creates a vapor that resembles traditional cigarette (or ‘analog’) smoke. Thus this device mimics traditional smoking but without the poison cocktail of chemicals and carcinogens found in traditional smoking.
Well what is this liquid? It’s a base consisting of either vegetable glycerin (VG) or propylene glycol (PG). Now don’t let that scare you. Yes, PG is used in antifreeze…and many other things including food. It is a thickening agent and approved for human consumption by the FDA. I mention this because there was spin on some news reports about how the e-liquid is evil and punches kittens in the face when nobody is looking all because it contains an ingredient found in antifreeze. You know what else is in antifreeze? Water. That’s safe to consume, isn’t it? I wouldn’t suggest drinking antifreeze. But it does contain (besides toxic chemicals) ingredients deemed safe for humans to ingest. Please don’t let FUD fool you. Don’t let Mother Culture steer you to stupidity by believing everything that she and the tobacco companies say. Do a little research as I have done.
Now where was I? Oh yes, the e-liquid ingredients. So you have VG or PG or maybe even a mix of the two. That’s about 80% of the liquid right there if not more. You may have some distilled water for adjusting the consistency as well. Oh, I think that’s in antifreeze…hrm. Anyway, there’s that and a food grade flavoring or mixture of flavorings. That’s it. If you get a liquid containing nicotine then the PG or VG was probably pre-mixed with the nicotine and then blended with some non-nicotine PG or VG for lowering the overall percentage of concentration. Then a few drops of a flavor and there you have it. Let’s compare that with the chemical compounds found in cigarettes. I believe at last test they discovered over 4000 chemical in an analog, many of which are poisonous or carcinogens (cancer-causing). Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?
So where does that put us? We have a battery, the atomizer, then this liquid filled cartridge. Put them together and get the look and feel of smoking without all of the nasty side effects. You don’t smell like a mule’s ass and you can actually smell and taste foods. There’s no second-hand smoke because there is no smoke. There’s nothing burning so you won’t have ashes or butts or burn marks anywhere. It’s only about 20% of the cost of analogs after you get past the initial investment for your PV equipment. I wonder why big tobacco is campaigning so hard to get the FDA to ban them? It just doesn’t make sense, does it? You’d think they would decide their market is declining and they would look to expand into this new realm. Do you have any idea how easy it would be to convince a life-long Camel smoker that if he wants to get away from all that he should get the Camel e-cigarette? And since you have to replace batteries and atomizers and buy new cartridges and/or e-liquid to refill…you would have a constant revenue stream from it.
But no, they want the FDA to crush the fledgling market.
Now I do concede that there hasn’t been enough independent testing done on the devices and having them completely unregulated means the quality of the products we can currently get may be nightmarish. So yes, there should be oversight. But there should not be banning nor should it be required to get a prescription to have one. That’s just dumb. They’re proposing more strict standards for the e-cigarette which can be used completely without nicotine than the standards set forth for nicotine patches and gum. Really? Are all politicians really that bought and paid for by Corporate America? Of course they are and I’d be surprised if there was an honest fiber in any one of those smug self-serving asses on Capital Hill. But I’m a cynic…too bad my views are more right than wrong.
Getting back to the point, people that get into “vaping”, the term used for people that enjoy PV’s, often find that they want an analog less and less. Usually this moves very quickly to “I think they taste nasty so I put them down altogether” realm. So while they haven’t been clinically tested as a smoking cessation device, they more often than not end up being the tool with which people quit. I mean, if you can get your “nic fix” without all that other crap that comes with burning leaves, why wouldn’t you?
And I would be doing a disservice if I failed to mention all of the medical professionals that express great concern over these devices being marketed to kids “as a gateway to smoking real cigarettes”. Get your heads out of Big Tobacco’s ass. Yes, I concede that the oversight and regulation of PV sales should include the same age restrictions as analogs. I don’t want my daughter on these things. But how do you justify that these would be a gateway to moving into the realm of doing something that tastes like crap, smells worse, and gives you all sorts of health problems? I even heard one say that because the juices come in fruit and candy-like flavors that there was no way such a thing could be marketed at adults. Sir, I respectfully call bullshit. I have a hookah. I am 35 years old. I enjoy my blueberry and cappuccino flavored hookah tobacco (shisha). I also enjoy my flavored juices for my e-cigarette. I’m not addicted to the awful flavor of Camel Lights, I’m addicted to the physical act of smoking and to the nicotine. I get to satisfy my addiction with something far more pleasurable to ingest with far less harm to my body and health. So get off my lawn.
To the FDA I say go forth and come up with fair legislation to regulate the manufacture and sale of PV products. Make sure there is a level of consistent quality in what we purchase. Make sure that our children cannot get their hands on these things easily (for nobody can stop someone determined enough). Do your health studies and effects studies. But do this without lining your pockets from Big Tobacco. If you let them get a word in, then you are likely going to be condemning Americans to a choice between proven failures like nicotine gum and inhalers or going back to the single most deadly legal substance in our country…cigarettes. Stop the spin. We know it’s not healthy because nicotine itself is a poison. But stop demonizing it as being worse that real cigarettes because it just ain’t so.
An e-Cigarette Story
I have a 13 year old daughter. She has been on my case for years for me to quit smoking. Now understand that I started smoking Marlboro Reds when I was 15. I’m 35 now and over the years my list of brands includes Marlboro Reds and Lights, Camel Filters, Wides, Lights, and No. 9’s, Vantage Ultra-Lights, Newport, and a host of others. I also like the occasional cigar and until I lost my pipe when I moved into my current house, I enjoyed the occasional puff on some cherry tobacco. I like my nicotine. I like blowing the smoke. I like the feeling of it as I inhale. Heck, I even own a hookah and will spend the 20 minutes setting it up just to have some of my blueberry shisha (no dummy…that’s tobacco designed for use in a hookah).
So to say I’m a bit reluctant to give up my smoking might be an understatement. Oh I’ve tried over the years. I’ve been able to put them down for a little while but when the stress gets up, I really really really want to have that little cylinder of death between my fingers and smoke billowing from me as I exhale. So I always end up going back to them. I know it makes me smell like an old ashtray and I know it does terrible things to my body. I don’t care because I have an addiction. It’s probably more to the act of smoking than to the actual nicotine but it’s no less powerful in my case.
You may be wondering where this is going. Simple. My mother recently had a heart-attack and she’s been a smoker all her life. She’s unapologetic about it. After the attack, her doctor told her that she cannot smoke if she intends to remain among us. I don’t know that she’ll ever forgive him for that statement. While we’re all thrilled that she’s given up the deadly habit, she’s resentful because she never wanted to stop. And then she found the world of e-cigarettes. She ordered one up and has been much more pleasant now that she can satisfy the habit without endangering her life like she did with regular cigarettes.
Having seen this and how effective it was for her I decided in my own little obsessive way to go research this little miracle product. Apparently this device was invented a few years ago over in China and is fairly booming as a market in other parts of the world. It showed up on our shores not that long ago and it’s been off to a good start so far. What is it exactly? Some call it a Personal Vaporizer (PV) which is a more accurate name than e-cigarette even if it still isn’t exactly right. What you have is typically a 2 or 3 piece unit consisting of a battery, a cartridge with the flavored liquid, and an atomizer. In the 2 piece model the latter two will be a single unit sometimes called a cartomizer. Basically the battery heats up a coil in the atomizer that evaporates the flavored liquid that you then inhale as if smoking a regular cigarette (or “analog” as they are referred to). The result is something that looks like smoke and feels much like smoking but contains none of the carcinogens found in an analog.
So I ordered one. Specifically the Gemini from Revolver. It’s a little more expensive than some but less than others and I really like the looks of it. I’ve had it nearly a month and I had my last analog about 3 days after it came in. I haven’t even wanted a real one. I play poker with a bunch of my friends each week and all of them smoke. I found to my surprise that I can sit at that table for hours around them and just puff on my Gemini with no craving for those smelly things. It’s been rather amazing. Add to that the ability to get liquids with different flavors much like I can with my shisha and I’ve now got a way to get my craves under control without going through a silly amount of work. I love this thing. And the people online that I have found over at e-cigarette-forum.com are truly kind and supportive of everyone that is interested in testing out the world of “vaping”.
My truck no longer stinks and neither do my hands or clothes. My daughter is actually willing to give me a hug…well not in front of friends because that isn’t “cool” 🙂 It’s a whole new world out there and I’ve already saved a good bit of money by not keeping up my pack a day habit. Of course, my daughter has decided it’s probably for the best if I spend that extra money on her so I can’t go back to regular smoking.
Hashtags to Cash Bags
The first I heard of this marketing method was with Squarespace. Now I had already heard of this hosting company because I listen to several of the TWiT (no relation to Twitter…besides, TWiT was first) podcasts and they are an advertiser there. But then I caught wind of a marketing campaign they were kicking off…using Twitter. See, in the world of tweets there are things known as hashtags. What you do is put a hash mark in front of some tag-like keyword in your tweet. This makes it easy to find tweets about a certain subject. It’s also where the trending topics list comes from. What Squarespace was doing is picking a random tweet with the #squarespace hashtag and awarding that person with a $199 Apple gift certificate. This was billed as the iPhone giveaway. They did one a day for the 30 days of June. It seemed to work pretty well.
This month it’s Moonfruit. They’re another hosting company, this time in the UK. They are giving away 10 13″ Macbook Pros. All you have to do is tweet with the #moonfruit hashtag during the contest duration. They are also giving away a couple of iPod Touches to the most creative tweets. Just like that, they’re all over the trending topics and getting face time with millions of users. Seems to me like this is smart marketing…but only for a short time. I cannot imagine it will take long for this to get really old with Twitter users and it will fall by the wayside. But I have to say, it does show some creative marketing and a brilliant way to leverage a new internet trend to your marketing advantage.
I won’t say this marketing technique is already dying, but I will say it has an extremely limited shelf-life. Things on the internet move fast. Marketing strategists have to move faster to keep up. Why? Because not all of their ideas are going to work. So they have to have time to try again before the crowds pass them by. I don’t know who first thought up the hashtag guerilla campaign, but he deserves a nice trip somewhere tropical for being ahead of the curve.