Grumble (a.k.a.. google) now wants my Birthdate

When I tried to log into gmail account it told me I had to give my birthdate. It further stated it was the Law.
Well I declined. They already have my name, location and Lord knows what the h*ll else they’ve collected about me since 2004(?)*.

I verified this was actually a Grumble page then clicked on the link that would explain why they needed such info. It explained nothing to me regarding why I needed to provide my birthdate or what Law required them to collect this information.

I clicked that the page was Not Helpful and left a comment that:
there was no Law in Canada requiring me to provide my birthdate and furthermore as a Canadian citizen, living in Canada, there is no requirement for me to provide this info.

That’s enough PII Grumble! No More.

Listening to the Weather

I find the weather forecasts here to be somewhat lacking. To make up for this I usually grab my scanner and press the weather button but I am finding that too easy. (I do like make things difficult for myself.)

Yesterday my bride asked what the weather was going to be so having an RTL-SDR dongle and an OTG adaptor I first hooked up the antenna and connected it to my NESDR SMart SDR then plugged it into the OTG cable on my Kindle Fire to tune in and get the Environment Canada weather station nearest 46.5, -80.9.

This is the result with the software and driver (SDR Touch and it’s driver) I’ve installed.

Kindle screenshot

Can anyone top that for making things difficult for yourself? 😁 😁

Vivaldi Tabs…

As a Vivaldi Ambassador I have fielded a few questions regarding Tabs. Many new users seem to have difficulty when in the Tabs portion of the Settings. I may not clarify it fully but will give my take on Tabs and how I got to use them as I do.
For that we have have to jump into my Tardis and go back to when my Primary Browser was Opera (pre version 13). Onto my Tardis and back a few years.

Now that were here, I must explain I am a wee bit OCD and like all my tools in the same place. Just as my browser has always been a much used tool I wanted it to be the same every time I entered it. Also because I was Internet Paranoid I Cleared the Cache, Cookies and everything else I could each time I closed the browser.

Early Tab Preferences

At that time there weren’t too many options. To keep to my way of working I preferred only the following (from Opera > Tools > Preferences Tabs is the first item):
– Cycling in recently used order
– When closing a Tab, go to the Last Active Tab, or Speed Dial (Do Not Close the Browser)
– Open New Tab next to active tab
Additional Tab Options:
– Always Maximize
– Click to Minimize
– Always show Close Button

Opera also contained “about:config” with a Tabs section which added Preferences for the Mail Tab, for Persistent Storage and User Prefs.

Now to the subject at hand, Vivaldi

Back into my Tardis, flick a switch and return to the present using Vivaldi.
Below is sort of what a normal Tabbed Vivaldi page would look like today. Usually two windows open in different workspaces, one for email and search and the other for Speed Dial or Bookmarked pages I am reading. Even with only four tabs open I can see the value of Stacking some of my tabs and keeping my interests separate but organized in a fashion I can fathom.

Typical browsing session.

We can easily see that so far today I haven’t read CBC News yet by the wee “dog-ear” (Use Un-read Indicators option) at the top right of the Tab; that I am at a page for an RTL SDR Scanner Download and there are other Related Tabs (Always Activate Related Tab option) stacked above it; then the Vivaldi Forum Tab.
There is some method behind my madness (in my mind):
– I prefer the Horizontal Menu Bar; my fingers just know where they’re going if using mouse or trackpad (Keyboard Shortcuts are my usual method getting to what I want)
– (Optional) If you don’t use and want to try the Horizontal Menu Bar just click on the Vivaldi V icon, select View and Horizontal Menu Bar is at the top of the Menu items
– Although I do like the new Tab Stacking my preference is to use the Always Activate Related Tab option as it give me a tad more screen real estate with double stacking together with extra space used by the Menu Bar

Also I have a full series of Web Panels ranging from Open Street Map to Markdown help pages. If you don’t know it yet you can turn any of these into Tabs or Windows at any time by Right Clicking and choosing what you want.
Below are screenshots of my Tab options. I hope these may give a new user a Tab starting point and exploration from there is possible.

Some Tab options available in Vivaldi.
Tab Options
Some more Tab options available in Vivaldi.
More Tab Options
More Tab options available in Vivaldi.
Even more options. You can get to all these options from the Gear or
( vivaldi://settings/tabs/ )

Keep in mind there are still many Tab options I have yet to explore. I just set things up with Vivaldi’s Alpha edition for my own preferences and to suit my workflow at the time… Things have changed greatly since then.
There was a suggestion about trying Tabs on the side. I did try it for a few days but my old brain couldn’t adjust to that style. Had to revert to the top again.

Also below are just a few of the Web Panels I have available. Some open easily to side but others need to be opened in a new Tab or Window. These options are available, just like the browser opening a New Tab, New Window or Private Window.

Vivaldi’s latest Community posts regarding their new Version 3.6 Explains a lot of the above but I thought I’d throw in my personal way of using this marvelous web browser.

As I finish this the barometer sits at 30.39 inHg, the Temp is -9° C. and the sun is shining here at 46.49, -80.99.

From the Shell, Upgrading Linux Mint 17.3 to 18

The Problem & the History Behind It

I have an old (2008) MacBook that was gifted to me long ago… It was already outdated and since I am not a fan of Macs in general, the OS in particular so I tried to find a way to at least dual boot to a Linux distro. Something easy as it was going to be used by my Bride when she needed something more powerful than her tablet. She just wants things to work and does not want to delving into configurations or set-ups of browsers or programmes.

I found I had to use a third party programme to edit the EFI (rEFIt I think it was called), then possibly I could do it. I followed the instructions (I thought) to be able dual boot Linux Mint, (something I knew to be quite user friendly). Well that didn’t work too well, or so I thought.

When I rebooted I got nothing but a grey screen seemingly forever and ever. Just as I was about to put in the apple utility disk again suddenly appeared the LM logo. But that was it. No dual boot, no apple OS.

Evidently, somehow I had set up Mint to take up the whole hard drive! No problem, in fact even better as far as I was concerned. I made sure everything worked and was up to date, created user profiles that were needed and away we went.

Now to that problem I mentioned… Linux Mint was only supported ’till 2019. No more updates to programmes or security updates available. As I am the type that likes to keep everything up to date I figured this was only OK for while as we both deal with our personal information and wanted a new(er) more secure OS.

The Solution

The Linux Mint site said one could only upgrade to Linux Mint 19.xx from Mint 18.xx and I was back on 17.3. So could I at least get to Mint 18.xx? Well I found I could!

(Those of you familiar with Linux probably have this solution at your fingertips. I started to learn Linux rebuilding an old Vista (remember that one?) machine until it died. I was forced to buy a new laptop so I do not have that level of expertise at the Shell.)

Since I did not have a blank DVD handy and the MacBook will not boot from USB I found an article on the the site TecMint that gave detailed instructions, though totally though the shell. I printed the page to PDF and put the file on a USB Drive so I could refer to it on my Windows laptop in case I mucked things up though it turned out I could folllow in the browser as I was doing this.

Especially handy was instruction:
2. “Launch a terminal, then click on Edit  Profile Preferences  Scrolling and select the unlimited checkbox and mark “scroll on output” option and finally click “Close”.

Although never fully explained as to why I was to do this I followed this, and all other instructions, to the letter and after I did the Update/Upgrade I found the reason. During the scrolling output I noticed a message saying something would not load and to run another command later. As the shell kept scrolling away I then realized that when finished I could Select All > Copy then paste the entire session to my Text Editor and save it to find out what had gone awry.

It turned out to be this message:

” It seems install-docs is not fully functional at the moment,
and it will try to recover from the error next time it is called.
Please run `install-docs –install-changed’ command
manually after the upgrade process is finished. “

Also searching for other codewords like “Error” and “Missing” I found no other issues. I did run the command above after finishing with no result showing and again this morning with the same result (perhaps Linux Mint is now at version 19.xx) so I just downloaded the official documentation from Linux Mint and put it in each profile.

So I learned something new yesterday. I tried it. It worked and I am a Happy Camper 🙂 😀 . Now I’ll take a break before proceeding with an upgrade to Mint 19.xx. But first I’ll check the hardware needed as this machine is now almost 12 years old and I’m not sure how much longer I can keep doing this although I have read of others using Pentium II machines with current versions of Linux.

Tim Berners-Lee worries the web becoming “Dysfunctional”

Since I first found the World Wide Web (some thirty odd years ago) I always believed its potential for the betterment of humanity. It has the ability to bring people together, offer a soapbox to express and debate ideas, to teach and provide information and to simply learn about the world around us (that some of us are unable to see) or simply to help one another.

When I read this morning on the BBC News site that the man who did a great deal to create the Web was worried that the Web was now on the decline, almost to the extent of becoming dysfunctional (there is a brief Video to go along with the article).

The rampant collection of personal data and more expressly poor collection and storage methods and blatant misuse of such data (by companies and unscrupulous app developers) are prime reasons for his worries. But also he mentions the widespread use of “Clickjacking” by companies/sites and also the civility of users.

To attempt to reverse this direction he has created A Contract For the Web which covers the (ideal) use of the Web by Governments, companies and we Users. This is something for which, I feel, the Vivaldi Community would be an ideal fit.

Yes, some the worst offenders have signed up (Microsoft, who Jon has called out more than once, Facebook and Google to name a few) but hopefully they have good intentions (who knows?) and will use their massive Web presence to help turn things around and make it a better place, a safer place to be.

So, to Jon and the principals at Vivaldi, should we not contribute?

This diverse, dynamic, respectful community could become a moving  force behind the contract. The Vivaldi Community already seems to be inline with the principles of this document and, I feel, we should sign up (if we have not already).

We could be a voice in improving the Web.

I say not that we each must sign up (I have) and if you agree to the contract’s principles please feel free to. If you do not, there should be no pressure to do so (even if the Vivaldi Community as as whole decides to join).

I truly believe this deserves consideration… What think you?

Gone, before its time…

It is unusual for me to toss something out that has not met its time (I have working computers from the 1990’s, I have had cars on which I’ve put on well over 400,000Km) but my barbeque went to the recyclers this morning.
It was only three years old 🙁 but it had some issues that I was not in a position to be able to repair.

The major one was rust. Yes I could buy the parts and put them on myself but I had issues there too. When I contacted the Canadian distributor regarding the rust issue they were only too pleased to quote me prices for the parts. As I pressed for why it be rusting out after only three years, the customer service rep was telling me that ‘well it is old and you should be getting a new barbeque’.
(Oddly enough my (10 year) old barbeque is just down the road as I gave it to a neighbour who could not afford one. He replaced the burner last year.)
The other major issue was the quality of construction of this unit. It was so poor that I was not willing to undertake any repairs on this product.

The fact that I paid zero dollars for this does not make me feel any better. It was won through a promotion at a local pub and at the time I thought it was a great thing. I checked it out at the store and it seemed like a good unit priced at $450.00. Only later did I realize what a piss-poor job of both design and manufacture this product was. For instance the front support bar was fastened to the legs with only one screw at each end resulting in it twisting out of alignment, becoming unstable and not allowing the doors to close. I was constantly having to tighten screws and bolts. The metal(?) heat shield seemed to be made of cardboard sprayed with metal paint. Not what I’d expect for something that is expected to protect the propane tank!

Now that I am shopping I have decided to stick to products manufactured here in Canada (we have some really good ones) or the U.S. (where they also make some quality products). I will have to pay a bit more but well worth it as the quality of parts and manufacture is far superior and Customer Service actually means Customer Service…

No names have been mentioned in the above post to protect the guilty.

A suitable Linux distribution for my aging desktop

Originally posted at myOpera Saturday, November 23, 2013 4:03:53 PM

(For some reason this piece, among some others did not make it through the export from myOpera.)

Well here I am finally finishing this project I’ve had going for several months…

As I mentioned previously, a Linux distro must have certain features. Did I find something that suits me and will run on my ancient machine.

In a word, Yes.

But it was quite a go’round to get there.

Firstly I decided on PCLinuxOS. Here’s why:

 – It is a Rolling Distribution – just the updates. I never have to download the entire OS again
 – Ease of installation – the Install Wizard was easy to follow and use
 – Ease of Configuration – nice easy to use Control Centre
 – Stability
 – Support (There is a large and friendly group of users who are more than willing and able to assist with any issues that crop up.)

I started with a KDE (mini) environment but KDE has advanced so much my poor old video card could not cope. Even with all the fancy graphics options turned off, it sputtered and stalled.

My research led me to the Mate Desktop Environment.
Sounded good, made to work with older technology so I installed PCLinuxOS (Mate).

As well as being pleasing to the eye, it seemed to work fairly well. That is until I started to add some applications.
WINE is a primary example. I had not really noticed as I was busy installing, but as I went to use WINE, I could not find it. Last effort took me to the shell were I found that it was indeed installed and it was from there that I had to launch it.

This is fine for me, but some of the software is not just for me and not having WINE available on the desktop or as a menu item is a almost deal breaker. There were also some display issues (my old Intel card). 

More research showed me I could add and remove “Desktop Environments” or “Windows Managers” at will. So I went to town…

Some were too minimal for other users, and others demanded too much of this aging system. (There is an option for OpenBox w/KDE, for instance which will not run at all. Though OpenBox itself runs fine.)

Final configuration is PCLinuxOS with LXDE as the default Desktop Environment.
It is stable, fast and not strange enough to threaten other (Windows) users.
I also have XFCE4 (my preference), and OpenBox to choose from.

Final result is a 10 year old machine that is faster now than the day it was delivered.

(Under 30 seconds from Power On to the login screen and and Under 20 seconds from there to my desktop!)

Support for my audio, video, printer/scanner, CD/DVD writer, trackball, cameras, SD Cards/Memory Sticks and odds and sods of mp3 players. Hopefully some programs for my radios… but that is another story.

So I am a happy camper.

The budget has room for a new computer next spring. Now I am debating whether or not to buy one without an OS? Hmm

Stay Tuned, there is more to come…

myOpera migration


There has been a bump in the road forcing me to find new space to publish random thoughts, ideas, comments and rants. Since the spaces at myOpera will cease to exist in early 2014 I’ll be selectively importing various topics and creating new ones… (Next, I now have linux installed on my desktop)

I am in the process of migrating my digital musings (few though they are) from myOpera to WP…

That space is Under Construction but Hard Hat and Safety Boots not required.

Although I am not a prolific poster, I have enjoyed being here. It iswas a good place.

Pet Sitting on the Farm

We were asked to look after my sister-in-law’s pets while she’s away working for three weeks. So, being retired with nothing particular on our dance cards, we said we’d do it. …

We were asked to look after my sister-in-law’s pets while she’s away working for three weeks. So, being retired with nothing particular on our dance cards, we said we’d do it.
The Farm is 300 Km north of our home but we figured we would take advantage of being somewhere else and explore the area. Also all of my bride’s family is all within about an hour’s drive. It becomes much easier to visit.
Although we are an hour away from any major city, there are numerous small communities in the area for day-trips and exploration.

The pets, two very active dogs and two cats. The cats require little but food, water, a clean litter box and attention when they want it.

The dogs need at least one good walk around the 215 acres (87 hectares) daily. We try to give them two (a full walkabout in the morning and a partial one in the afternoon) weather permitting.

There is also a “cabin” out in the back 40. A great place to bring a picnic lunch and spend the day. It is fairly isolated and we can enjoy all nature has to offer. It is very great to be able to have a shelter to relax after the hike and lunch with the breeze, birds and dogs (bears, wolves, skunks, foxes, snakes, etc. won’t be mentioned).
If everybody’s timing is right in the spring we get together and harvest maple sap here to to make syrup on the outdoor stove. It is agreat deal of work but the results are well worth the effort.

The only disadvantage to being here is the large population of mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies, and horse flies; all of whom seem to believe that my blood is their Champagne! I always tell my friends that I’m good to have around in the woods or at the farm. Insects ignore everyone else and come straight to me!
Even with a bug jacket I still get bit. Especially the hands (Yes I am now wearing gloves too). Hardly seems like summer when you need boots, pants, jackets and gloves!

There are few chores we can do to help out as the garlic won’t be ready ’till after she gets back. I’ve found a couple of on-line courses I may try out to pass the time with and I am going to attempt writing more.
I also want to try to get more pictures to post (if the bugs will let me).

Linux(?) on My Old Computer(s)

Trying to find a Suitable Linux environment for an aging desktop and a netbook. …

Part 1

As a long time Windows user (though my introduction to computers was a UNIX box at work) I am considering switching OS to Linux.
Currently running XP SP3 on both machines, each has 1Gb of RAM. The desktop is running very slowly (there is No spyware/malware/virus on the machine) and the netbook runs just fine.
As MS will end support of XP soon I want to upgrade to a more modern OS where updates are still available.
Also I am one of those that does not believe in tossing aside perfectly good hardware. I am going to replace my desktop, but not immediately as I have household repairs to do and other priorities that come before a new(er) computer.

So with some spare time I have been trying versions of Linux that have attracted my interest. My results surprized me as I had come to believe that older computers could be have new life brought to them with Linux. Sadly this is not true for most of the Linux flavours I’ve tried. As Linux makes small inroads into the computing scene, it is also targeting newer more powerful machines.
There are a couple of options, but many just failed to work for me.

– Stable
– Multi-user
– Simple, everyone has to be able to use it and it must do what most families do with PCs (email, shop, research, games, YouTube, etc)
– good variety of available software
– Hopefully the same OS for both the Desktop and Netbook

I have been downloading various lightweight Live versions of Linux distros to test and have limited success. Also I’ve been to my friendly local library to get some material.

Issue Number One:
The Desktop is old enough it will not boot from USB, only CD so I have to create or buy a Live CD for each distro. The video card is the main culprit here. An on board Intel card from the about eight years ago.

Issue Number Two:
The netbook, although working well and pretty quick for an Atom processor, has a Broadcom Wireless card. I am finding that very few Linux Live CD distros support this and just getting the proper firmware is difficult and installing is no easy feat either.

What I’ve tried:

DSL (Damn Small Linux)
+ I love the idea of this
+ it actually works well except for wireless
– simply not practical for family use

+ quick, responsive and quite stable on the desktop
+ recognizes my Trackball!!
– more research indicates it is no longer supported!? very sad 🙁

+ look and feel is what I like
+ lots of available software
– no built in support for the Broadcom
– latest version no longer supports the video card on the desktop

Fedora (LXDE)
+ again look and feel
+ lots of available software
– no built in support for the Broadcom
– latest version no longer supports the video card on the desktop

+ nice looking and quick when working
– no built in support for the Broadcom
– not very stable on the desktop but seems OK on the Netbook

+ nice looking, quick
+ lots of available software
– again, not stable on my desktop
– unsure about this new arrangement with Amazon… so I’m gonna pass

+ nice looking, quick, stable on the netbook
+ one of the few distros I’ve been able to load With Persistence on a USB
+ lots of available software
– I am not a
fan of cloud apps (software)
– took a lot of work to get the wireless working (but it works!!)

+ nice looking, quick, stable on the netbook
+ Unix, much more stable than any Linux I’ve tried
+ plenty of applications out there
+ says it recognizes all my Netbook devices (video card, sound card and network) but I’ve had little luck with the wireless
– the Unix learning curve (there are GUIs to do most things, but the terminal quickest and is most powerful. I will have to re-learn vi or learn ‘Emacs’ as well as other command utilities.
I REALLY LIKE THIS ONE and I’m going to take the extra effort to try to make this one work.
– not a lot comes with the USB distro, not even a browser
– research into the Broadcom wireless card issue is telling that installing the recommended Broadcom drivers may “brick” my system. So it’s not for the netbook.

Having found I really liked the Unix, my next plan is to download FreeBSD. Indications, from the documentation, lead me to believe that it does support the Broadcom wireless card, and the old Intel video card…

More to come…