Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master.

- Gretchen Rubin

We're still in the first minutes of the first day of the Internet revolution.

- Scott Cook

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by! This is just another little leaf floating on the very big lake of the interwebs, mostly dedicated to techie rambling :)

category: welcome
on 03.03.2016 at 13:24:00
90 words

latest posts

coding Modifying the Nucleus skins to be mobile-friendly turned out to be less of a headache than I thought it might be.

There are still a lot of lesser details to fine-tune, including all the old hard-coded font-sizes from the Good Ol' Ancient Days of the Web (remember that phase when everyone had to have fonts that were as tiny as possible so you needed a magnifying glass to make anything out? :), but I at least managed to get the general layout and slider images to be more responsive, and it didn't actually need a lot of editing.

1) Update to the latest version of Flexslider, which is the free slider script that I prefer to use. It installs very quickly and easily and you can pretty much use the default settings right out of the box without having to tweak anything much at all, unless you want something extra fancy.

This takes care of getting the old slider responsive. (The old slider script was technically *supposed* to be responsive, but it never did work properly for some reason, and I don't think it was the fault of the script but rather something I probably messed with long ago and forgot that I had changed :)

2) To the, add to the [head] section:

[meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1"]

(I'll just use square brackets here for convenience to denote the regular angle brackets, as Nucleus tends to convert entities to the actual characters and then it'll end up trying to process any code I put here!)

3) To the skin stylesheet, add the following:

a) for the img tag, add:

max-width: 100%; height: auto;

This takes care of responsive images so they'll shrink and grow as needed, but never exceed their actual size.

b) For the wrapper divs (this is my own setup so it may not apply to your stylesheet), change the old hard-coded widths to a percentage.

Most of my blogs seem to work out reasonably well with:

width: 80%;

This seems to match the average size of my sliders pretty well. Just adjust up or down as needed.

c) For the container div, change the hard-coded width to 100 percent:

width: 100%;

This will make sure it fills up the whole of the available 80% space of the wrapper div.

d) Now we come to the sidebar, which is one of the biggest headaches, as I always seem to have trouble getting to be in the right place. I've temporarily settled on a not-so-great compromise between absolute positioning and float (!) - someday I'll actually get around to getting this sorted out properly! :)

For now, the sidebar container should usually have something like the following:

position: absolute; margin-top: 10px; float: left; width: 200px;

On some blogs we do not use the margin-top.

The problem is getting it to not suddenly show up in the middle of the content body on the right hand side, and getting it to start at the right position from the top under the slider without being too high up or too low down.

The present compromise makes it stay in place on the left at a proper position below the slider, but of course because of the absolute position it will fail to gracefully reposition itself on a small screen to drop below the content part of the body.

At some point when I have time I'll have to go through all the code with a fine-tooth comb to see where the problem is that makes it need the absolute positioning in order to stay in the right place (trying all the usual solutions that *ought* to work has never helped, so I'm guessing it's something else somewhere else in the stylesheet or templates that's messing with this).

Voila! That's pretty much it! Everything else is basically just fixing the font sizes, which I haven't had time to do yet but will eventually.

Update, Sat, 6-09-2018, 5:55:43 PM

Ha! It turned out that I had already fixed most of the font sizes at some point in the past! So I didn't have much to do there either, except for a few tags which were still hard coded.

I don't really like the mobile-friendly large font. It looks terrible to me. But oh well :)

tags: , ,
category: coding , tips , troubleshooting
on 06.09.2018 at 17:36:31
708 words
troubleshooting Testing the NP Random plugin on Nucleus v. 3.71 with php 5.x, I could not get versions 1.3 and 1.4 to work.

However, when I resurrected a very old copy of NP Random (v1.1), it worked perfectly.

The newer versions require the quotes to be placed in a specific sub-folder in the plugins folder.
The old version requires the quotes to be placed where your index file is.

I finally found a clue in an error log today. All the webhosts nowadays seem to disable the error logs in cpanel, which is a pity since they were a great help for troubleshooting, but fortunately there are still the individual error logs that get saved in your account folders. The only problem with those is they are saved wherever the problem is, so you have to hunt them down because they could show up in any folder!

[05-Jun-2018 23:44:08 UTC] PHP Warning: file(): https:// wrapper is disabled in the server configuration by allow_url_fopen=0 in /home/user/public_html/test/nucleus/plugins/NP_Random.php on line 70

[05-Jun-2018 23:44:08 UTC] PHP Warning: file(https://test.test/nucleus/plugins/random/quotes.txt): failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/user/public_html/test/nucleus/plugins/NP_Random.php on line 70

[05-Jun-2018 23:44:08 UTC] PHP Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/user/public_html/test/note/nucleus/plugins/NP_Random.php on line 75

I looked at the plugin file (v1.4 of NP Random) and could not find any lines in it that corresponded to http or https, so I couldn't change it to say https.

Line 70 actually just says:

$contents = file_get_contents($filename);

which I assume goes to the blog configuration and looks for the site url or path there.

(Ooh! I think I just found a possible reason! I did not change the config file when I upgraded the site from 3.70 to 3.71. The new config files are a little different from the old ones and sometimes they seemed to cause problems for my existing blogs, so this time I thought to just leave it as it was, especially as this particular installation was having problems with set up initially. I think I'll go potter around with that now and see if changing the config file makes a difference.)

Update, Sat, 6-09-2018, 4:10:56 PM:

Aha! It worked!

Still having problems with the new path requirements in the new config files - I seem to be getting them wrong somehow. But it seems to be ok to substitute the old path lines for the media and skin subfolders, you just need to have the new base directory line correct. Now I am able to use NP Random 1.4 without any problems. W00t!!!!!

tags: ,
on 06.09.2018 at 15:57:51
456 words
troubleshooting I have a very old Sandisk USB 2.0 card reader (it's so old it reads Memory Sticks and CF cards. In fact, it might be so old that it's USB 1.1, I'm not sure! :) which I can leave plugged in. It takes up a few device slots (sdb, sdc, etc) but works fine. Just plug in a card and the system picks up on it and mounts it immediately.

I have two newer Transcend USB 3.0 card readers which read multiple newer cards including microSD cards. MX Linux does not appear to be able to pick up on them. I've tried them on MX16 and MX17 and neither gets recognized if you leave the card readers plugged in to a hub all the time and then randomly insert a card. The inserted card is never noticed.

As a workaround, I detached the card reader from its cable and left the cable plugged in, but without the reader attached. I can only do this with one of the card readers - the other one is in a flash drive shape that plugs in directly and has no cable. I found that if I put a card into the reader slot, and then plugged the cable into the reader, the system would pick up on the added card and mount it automatically. But it will never do so if the reader is always left plugged in to the cable.

I have no idea why this is the case, but this is the only thing that has worked for me so far. Basically you have to plug it in fresh every time you want to read a card. Leaving the cable plugged in all the time is optional, I just do it that way because it's easier than constantly having to untangle a forest of cables and hunt for a free slot to plug the reader into. This way I can just have the cable end sitting on my desk and add the reader to it whenever I want.

Moral of the story is, buy the kind of card reader that comes with a detachable cable! :)

tags: ,
on 06.07.2018 at 15:40:51
357 words
coding Well damn. I've had an account on github for a while now, though I really only used it for posting bug reports. Recently I finally made a repo for the first time, just for fun, and was quite excited about it, but I haven't had time to go back and do much more since then.

Now I find out Github has sold out to Microcrap, so I guess it was a good thing I didn't have time to do much in github after all!

I'm not going to say much more about this as I may not be able to stop ranting otherwise. (Not a fan of Redmond, can you tell?!) (And now not a fan of Github, either!)

Anyway, I just deleted my one and only little repo. I'd close my account too, except that there are still a few coders with scripts there that I sometimes need to make bug reports on. If those developers decide to move to a different repo system before the takeover deadline, I'll be a happy camper.

Update, Fri, 6-08-2018, 5:02:55 PM:

Just closed all my open tickets in Github, as I don't want to leave any outstanding issues behind. I won't be going back to Github hereafter unless I have no other way to request support from a developer.

category: coding , thoughts
on 06.05.2018 at 21:11:49
217 words
troubleshooting Not sure what happened but my MX Updater icon suddenly disappeared from my tray bar a little while ago. I like having that little box there as it's a handy way to access Synaptic. Actually I also have a launcher for Synaptic already anyway, but it also provides several other useful shortcut links, so it's a good thing to keep around.

For some reason I had difficulty finding the program and running it again. It did not show up on my application menu launcher, for one thing, or at least I couldn't find it there.

Today I finally managed to find it using search in all categories in the MX launcher menu. I had searched for it before in the MX menu and it didn't show up, so I'm not sure what the difference was this time. Maybe because I specifically went to "ALL" categories first before searching (hadn't thought it would make a difference, silly me)?

Anyway, on re-launching the program I discovered that there was an option to not show the icon in the tray if there were no updates. I thought this might have been accidentally checked at some point, thus resulting in the disappearance of the icon, but no, it was still unchecked. So it's still a mystery. I did have a crash the other day when some runaway process locked up my system and I had to do a hard reboot, so maybe that messed something up.

At least this was a quick fix! The little green box is now back on my tray bar and I am happy :)

on 06.02.2018 at 14:46:10
268 words
linux I started trying to use MX Linux as my primary OS from v15 onwards. At the time I found I could not use MX15 due to certain issues - in particular, there was a heat problem which I couldn't get around (for some reason my computer always ran more than 10C hotter on MX15) and some features that I had difficulty getting to work (can't remember what those were now, but I think it might have been VPN or networking-related).

Each new version of MX has been much better than the previous one. I have been really impressed by how much this distro has improved. Also, I should mention that they have the best installer program I have come across to-date. (The installer for a certain other distro which shall remain unnamed is one of the worst, IMHO - I find it incredibly confusing and confused, and whenever I had to use it I always had my heart in my mouth worrying that I might accidentally overwrite the wrong drive or partition - thank goodness I never have to deal with that anymore now that I've moved to MX!)

The MX Linux installer is extremely clear and straightforward. You just can't get confused when you're using it. Except maybe for the part where they ask you about the MBR or ESP, which may be a bit confusing for some. Otherwise it is plain sailing all the way and works extremely well. It is also ridiculously fast compared to That Other Distro's installation process! :)

I was able to use MX Linux as my primary workhorse distro starting from MX16 onwards. There were a few minor issues but overall I found everything I needed was there and working pretty well. MX 17, however, is on a whole other level. I mean it has really improved by leaps and bounds. I am so impressed (I know, I'm repeating myself, but I say this every time I install MX :) I can't really put my finger on what's changed. It just seems to be better overall. Little things like how the menu has been categorized, the helper programs for tweaking your system and desktop, etc.

I also really like the fact that they give you both Synaptic and the MX Package Installer, and you can actually load Synaptic right from the MX package installer's tray icon. It's so nice that they don't force their package installer on you. I also really like the built-in repository manager. That is a brilliant and very useful idea, to have something like that where you can easily switch from one repo source to another with the click of a radio button. Awesome! :)

Wine works perfectly. VPN works perfectly. The tray icon for network connections works perfectly (on my previous OS it stopped working for me years ago and never got fixed as far as I knew). VLC is installed by default and works perfectly. I could wish Vivaldi were part of the repo, but I can understand why it's not (Vivaldi has its own repo). Firefox and Thunderbird are defaults - I don't use those so I usually remove them immediately after installation and replace them with Vivaldi and Claws Mail.

Chromium is in the repos and so is Midori - I usually install those too. The MX Package Installer also provides an easy, pre-packaged way to install KDE if you like. I usually do even though I actually use XFCE as my desktop - just for the sake of having Dolphin, which I can't live without! (How's this for indispensable: Dolphin is able to connect to file shares on Windows via Samba which Windows computers can't seem to connect to. Haaaa!!!!! :) The standard default file manager in MX is Thunar, but MX makes it very easy to change your default if you like. (I don't really bother, as I have Dolphin on my panel launcher and there is usually always one instance of it running in the background on my PCs anyway.)

Programs in the repos include Clementine, Geany, Gimp, Remmina, CopyQ, CherryTree, etc. Rednotebook is not available on MX 17 at present, if I am not mistaken, but it's easy to just download a copy from the developer's site and install it yourself. The MX developers seem to be very fast and responsive to forum requests, though - I often see people requesting for programs to be added and they are usually granted within a day or three. (Can't say I've ever seen things happen that quickly on my previous OS, ever!?! :)

Upgrading to MX 17 from 16 was very fast and easy, especially since I already had a pre-existing home drive. The MX installer smartly asks you if you want to keep your data and it will tell you very clearly that it will NOT format your home drive if you want to keep it. I find this incredibly reassuring compared to the blind man's buff feeling you get during the installation process on some other distros (cough cough) :)

I re-did my partitions this time around, as I wasn't very happy with how I had them before on 16 (possibly one reason why I used to have various shutdown/booting issues on 16). It's now much cleaner and better arranged. My only regret is that I left way too much space on the Windows partition (didn't want it, but sadly have to keep one in case of work). I could have easily siphoned off another 100GB at least for the Linux side. However, I can still mount that Windows partition and write in it from Linux if I really want to, so technically I suppose that space is still "usable" :)

The actual installation of the OS is very fast. I always forget to time it but it's really fast. Probably less than 20 mins or something. After that comes the long process of downloading and installing all the programs you want for your daily needs. In my case I usually have quite a lot of stuff, but once again this time around I found the installation to be incredibly fast. I was done with the basics in about 3 hours or so (downloading plus installation of programs). Another hour or two of tweaking and configuring after that, but very minimal as most of the programs just picked up my pre-existing config files in my home drive (from the previous MX 16 install) and worked right out of the box, which was very convenient and saved me a lot of time.

Sometimes keeping your home drive is not a good idea if there are incompatibilities between your new OS and the previous one - it might cause a program to choke if the old config files aren't compatible with the newer updated versions of the programs, but in this case I was lucky and everything worked very well.

This was the first time I had ever managed to complete a full Linux upgrade (complete OS re-install from scratch) in only a few hours, and the whole experience was a breeze. No errors, nothing. I actually went and cooked and had dinner while the main batch of programs was being downloaded and installed, and got back just in time to see it report successful completion :)

Upon first bootup of the new OS, I noticed an error message just before MX 17 loads. Something like error no symbol table, press any key to continue. The first couple of times I pressed the space bar and the system continued to boot as per normal, so I didn't worry too much about it. The third or fourth time, I wasn't around to press a key, and when I came back I found that bootup had automatically continued by itself even though I wasn't there. So now I don't bother to press a key anymore since it actually resumes automatically. It just saves you a bit of time if you press the key, otherwise it waits for a while before continuing. But I'm usually off doing something else while the system boots, so it doesn't matter.

I haven't had time to look up this error yet, but I'm assuming it's not terribly fatal as nothing noticeable has happened other than this short pause at boot time. Other than that, MX 17 has been a real pleasure to use, and remarkably error free. Not only is it amazing how far MX Linux has come in a few short years, but it is also amazing how far Linux has come! :) Now I'm just waiting for UBports to finish polishing their mobile OS - which I really think they should change the name of, by the way ;) - and then I will be a happy camper :)

category: linux , software , thoughts , reviews
on 05.20.2018 at 17:49:57
1,444 words
tips I was looking for a quick and easy way to encrypt a file, mostly for very simple use cases - eg. your mom needs the password to something and you have to email it to her, or you want to send yourself a quick email with a note containing some financial information, that sort of thing.

I particularly wanted something with a GUI rather than a command line, and bonus points for something you could right-click in a file manager and choose to encrypt from the pop-up menu.

Happily, I found AES Crypt.

Basically you just download the program, untar the file, make sure it has executable perms, and double-click it. It will install itself very quickly. You can also use the terminal to install by command line if you like.

Then when you have any file you wish to encrypt, just right click the file in Thunar or whatever and use the "open with" dialog to choose "aescrypt-gui" as the "open with" program.

Make sure to choose aescrypt-gui and not plain aescrypt. Otherwise you won't see the password popup.

It will ask you for a password, you just enter the password, and an encrypted file is created.

To decrypt the file, right click the encrypted file and open with aescrypt-gui again. It will again ask for the password, and when you provide the password it will spit out a decrypted version of the file.

The encrypted file is always created with a file extension of .aes so you can easily associate it with aescrypt-gui for future use in file managers.

This is the fastest, easiest GUI solution I've found to date, so it's my current favorite method :)

tags: ,
category: tips , software
on 05.19.2018 at 15:21:08
283 words
wine So wine and PlayonLinux seem to be a little bit funky lately. I was having no problems with my wine and playonlinux installs up until maybe January or so this year. Any new OS installations I've made since then have been problematic, though, particularly for PlayonLinux, which prior to then has always worked smoothly and well for me.

As of this week, the following setup works for me on MX Linux 17:

1) Use the original release of MX 17, not the newer .1 release, to make your initial OS installation. The original release seems to have fewer wine-related issues for some reason.

2) Use MX Package Installer instead of Synaptic to install wine. Search for winehq and install winehq-staging, which is what the MX Linux team calls its supported wine package. Doing it piecemeal by yourself in Synaptic seems to have horrible results :) Then run winecfg from terminal to get wine set up the way you want it.

3) After that is done, you can add winetricks and Play on Linux if you like.
(As of my latest MX 17 installation this week, I have not managed to get Play on Linux working properly. With the 17.1 MX release, it can't even seem to create a drive - it looks like it does but nothing happens. With the original 17 release, it can at least create a drive (but it is taking much longer than it used to to download the needed components, YMMV) but it crashes on any attempt to install or run any programs at all. So it's pretty much useless for me at this point.)

4) System wine seems to work pretty well for me at present, using the above installation approach. It was able to install and run all the programs I threw at it without any problems - except for Magic Mail Monitor 3, which is a program I really can't live without. (Someday I should try to pay someone to port it to Linux and make it native...)

So this post is actually about how to get MMM3 working properly on MX Linux 17.

This should work with any of the three latest versions of MMM3. I haven't tried it on anything older than v2.94b1 or v2.95 at this time.

If you keep trying to run MMM3 in wine and it simply won't start, it is probably because it is missing a dll or two.

Previously, the dll it required was mfc42.dll. I seem to recall that it was a little picky about which mfc42.dll it would accept. I think I remember downloading a lot of different copies of mfc42.dll from various online websites before I found one that worked for it.

Now, it seems to be looking for a new dll named mfc100.dll. I believe the developer Grigsoft mentioned that they had updated the program so it now uses 2010 redistributables, so this could be why things changed. (My old copy of MMM v2.95 on MX 16 runs fine with just mfc42.dll and without mfc100.dll)

To obtain mfc100.dll if you don't have it, just download the appropriate redistributable pack. The 64 bit version is named vcredist_x64.exe and the 32 bit version is vcredist_x86.exe. MX17 seems to install 32bit wine by default, if I am not mistaken, so that's the version I used.

Just use wine program loader to install the vcredist exe file, and then go into the windows system 32 subfolder in your wine folder, and look for the file named mfc100.dll which should now have miraculously appeared there. Copy it over to the MMM3 folder, and you are good to go.

* For some reason, MMM3 doesn't pick up on dll files that are in the system 32 folder. You have to put the dll files actually in the same folder as the magic.exe program itself for it to work. I don't know if mfc42.dll is still needed to run the program, but I didn't bother to remove the copy that I already had. I just added the mfc100.dll file so there are now two dll files in the MMM3 folder. It now runs very smoothly and quickly on MX17.

Update, Sat, 5-19-2018, 3:07:18 PM

Just finished another MX17 install and this time around, I did NOT need to add the mfc100.dll file in order for MMM3 to work. It could be because there was a pre-existing home drive which was re-used from a previous MX16 install in this case, and the existing home drive already had fully configured PlayonLinux/wine folders with programs already installed on them. There must be something that was installed in previous versions of MX Linux which isn't being installed in the current version, but I have no idea what. Anyway, at least it's an easy fix in this case - if it doesn't work for you, just get that dll file and stick it in the MMM3 program folder! :)

tags: , ,
on 05.14.2018 at 16:10:51
821 words
gaming This odd little hand-drawn hidden object casual game was on sale so I picked it up, not thinking that I would like it all that much. It's just hand-drawn in black and white and I didn't quite understand what the commenters meant when they talked about clicking on things and funny noises. I thought it would be annoying or silly.

Now I get it. It's actually kind of pleasant in an odd, click-trancey sort of way.

It's a bit like a child's coloring book come to life. Pretty fun if you're feeling kid-like, actually :) Everything moves and wiggles in little animations. You can click on anything you like without penalties. There's always some kind of reaction when you click on a thing - it'll move or make a noise. Not annoying as I thought it would be. Oddly soothing sometimes, even!

I also thought it would be a bit overwhelming - some of the screens are quite huge and you drag the image around with your mouse in order to see the whole map. But I was surprised to find that I was able to find most of the hidden characters/items fairly quickly, at least for the first few maps. I finally came to a halt with one stubborn item which has so far resisted all my hunting :) I think it should really only be in one or two areas (by the logic of the game hint), but so far I have not managed to spot it. Gah!

[And wow. That tiny microscopic truffle on that giant campground map!!!!!!!!!! I can't believe I found it! Ok, actually, it was entirely accidental. I was clicking around just for fun to see all the various animations and noises, and somehow accidentally clicked on the right thing. Didn't even see it happen, LOL :)]

There seems to be at least some internal logic to the hidden objects. They show you a panel with a little drawing of the thing you're supposed to find (a person, an animal, an item, etc) and if you click on the panel drawing it pops up a little text balloon that gives you a hint about the thing you need to find. So for example on the giant campground, it tells you the black bunny is hiding in a burrow with its friends chewing on wheat. After examining the campground, you can see that it's not just one huge mess but is actually divided into distinct areas, each with a particular kind of activity going on. So there is an area where there appear to be several rabbit holes, and that helps you to zero in on the particular sub-section where you might be able to find that item. This is why it's not as overwhelming as it might initially appear to be.

The birds are also fun - they will sometimes fly up in the air. There are some tall grasses that sink down into the ground with funny noises when you click them - also oddly fun, like popping bubble wrap :) But I think my favorite so far is the water. There are a few ponds or lakes drawn in various maps and if you click on the water it makes a pleasant noise that I like to hear. In some scenes the leaves on the water will scoot around if you click on them and that is also very fun in a weird tactile sort of way. The boats in some scenes will also zip back and forth when you click on them.

I would definitely recommend this game, especially if it's on sale. Quite a good deal if you want a casual thing that you can fire up and play for a few minutes while you're taking a break, or at the end of a long day when you just want to relax for a while. The noises, incidentally, are also all human made and sometimes quite hilarious. (I found the crocodile noises very funny, I don't know why :) Also not annoying as I thought they would be.

Overall it was a very interesting take on the hidden object genre. Unusual, quirky and enjoyable - and quite fun and entertaining. I don't know about the replay value - presumably once you know where something is that's the end of it, as it doesn't seem to change as far as I can tell (haven't checked though). Except for the black bunny, which runs from hole to hole as you click, so it always changes location - that's quite fun too and you can amuse yourself idiotically for half a minute just clicking on the rabbit holes to watch them scamper :)

tags: , , ,
category: gaming , software , reviews
on 05.11.2018 at 13:03:52
786 words
software MX16 had a big batch of system updates recently after being quiet for some time. The next day I had all sorts of weird errors. Not sure if it had anything to do with the updates, as I had also been futzing about trying to install MX17 on a flash drive and messing with GRUB etc at the same time.

[Aside: As I think I've mentioned before, each succeeding version of MX Linux has been much better than the previous one. I've really been extremely impressed with this OS. MX15 was unusable for me for a few reasons. MX 16 worked well enough for me to use it as my primary. And MX 17 has been practically flawless - I enjoy it so much it's ridiculous!!! :)]

Anyway the computer was having difficulty shutting down and complaining about horrifying things like segfaults and mysqld refusing to stop. And swap not deactivating properly, which happens a lot. I think I borked the original partitioning and installation for this PC (MX 16) so its been weird ever since. Probably doesn't help that it has to share space with Windows, which keeps trying to take over and reset the BIOS to boot to Windows All The Time whenever I have to use it (fortunately not very often).

»

on 04.17.2018 at 12:54:27
899 words
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