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…

Dakar, Missing It…

Why can’t I watch the Dakar Rally in Canada?
A Rant on not being able to watch one of my favourite sporting events… …

Dakar, Missing It…

Over the last few years no broadcaster in Canada has been able to step up to the plate and buy broadcast rights to the Dakar Rally. (Perhaps they can’t afford it?) This leaves me, a rally (and especially Dakar) fan, out of the loop unless I go to the website and watch the daily videos. Not, for me at least, the best of options.
This year, for a change, NBC (in the U.S.) has the rights, but I have yet to see or hear a mention of the Dakar on any of their news or sportscasts that I have made a point of watching. Also, the NBC Sports website has a total of three (3) mentions of the Dakar (and that is being generous, as of today). One of them is part of a compilation of events.

Coverage of the Dakar is seriously lacking here in North America and I do not know why. There numerous rally fans, clubs and events here in Canada. Even more in the U.S.
I have taken the trouble to write all of the Canadian networks (including the Specialty networks) to pick up the Dakar, to no avail.
I have also written to the folks that sponsor the Dakar. Perhaps they have done Something as they a new broadcaster for the U.S., but there is still little real Dakar coverage. There has never been a response or acknowledgment to my letters except that OLN (Outdoor Life Network Canada) admitted they had the rights but were not interested in broadcasting the Dakar.

There was a day when I could get an hour or two of highlights (admittedly late night or early morning) on TV. That day is long gone. I guess I will just have to be satisfied that I can get daily clips from the Dakar website.

Perhaps it is time to start thinking about ditching the cable TV and spending that money on an Unlimited internet connection and a dedicated device to run it through my TV.

GIMP, the first time


Well I am finally stating with a custom background image for for my header… I’ve had the idea for a few weeks but have been procrastinating. I finally decided to get on with it this morning.

A few hours later, with a slight interruption to shovel more snow, I had the above result. Right now this is good but you can be assured I’ll be making adjustments as I learn more about GIMP.

I have a mini Linux distro I use that is kept on an 8Gb thumb drive which includes GIMP, so I booted to Linux and started fooling around. I knew I wanted to use the Opera logo as a cursor, but had no idea how to make it transparent and overlay it on my image. After a couple of You-Tube tutorials and many false answers I “figured it out” and the above is the result. (Learning GIMP, something else for the To-Do List.)

The only photo editors I usually use are IrfanView and XnView. Both are great for many things (especially batch manipulation) but for creating layered images and manipulating them, I could not find a way to do what I wanted, so I figured I’d try GIMP.

I’ll give myself a pat on the shoulder for that.



A place where I can write about my hobbies, interests, current events, b%tch and complain and even post a few fotos I’ve taken. I’ve been taking photographs for, well let’s just say it’s a long time, perhaps it’s time I published a few…
Currently I am looking into taking some courses in creative writing and perhaps drawing. Also I’m studying more and more about computers, especially security issues, helping friends with computer problems (file restoration, virus/malware/spyware cleaning and investigating different flavours of Linux.