and then things got intense

OrlandoHealthIn the middle of putting the house back together from the lightening strike, my poor wife had to make a trip to the hospital Tuesday afternoon due to atypical pneumonia. Which turned out to be, after a culture from some infected sputum she coughed up that first night at the hospital, a MRSA infection in her lungs. I brought her home three days later that Friday afternoon. She’s home now taking a very powerful antibiotic that works against MRSA.

She’s recovering, if slowly.

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how i handled a lightening strike in florida

Lightning BoltOn Friday, 22 April, at 7pm, a bolt of lightening struck next to my home and blew out the main breaker (although I didn’t know that at the time). Using my cell phone I put in a call to my power provider, Duke Energy. They did’t show up until 10:30pm and all they did was to tell me that the power was still on on the meter side, and that my main breaker was fried. During that wait for Duke Energy I drove to a local Walmart where I spent $170 on LED lanterns and batteries for everything, along with a complete set of spare batteries.

When Duke Energy told me about the breaker I started to use the browser on my iPhone to look for 24 hour electrical service. I put in four calls to “legacy” electrical companies that advertised 24 hour service before stopping to wait for any call backs. No-one returned my calls. The weather was cool that evening, so the house wasn’t warm, and I kept the fridge and freezer doors closed the whole time. I then fell asleep.

I woke up Saturday around 6pm (or should I say the animals woke me up around 6pm). After feeding them I started looking again on the Internet for an electrician and stumbled upon a service called Thumbtack. To make a long story short, I found an electrician through them, and he was at my home by 7am. Before the day was done I would get three other quotes from different electricians through Thumbtack.

The electrician who answered the call first had his hands full with my electrical problem. The zapped breaker box was built in 1985 from Sylvania parts that aren’t made anymore. After getting the circuit specifications from the existing breakers in the old box he drove to the local Home Depot and bought a new breaker box and replacement GE breakers. He spent the rest of the day physically replacing the old box with the new one and then rewiring the panel. By 6:30PM the new box was wired back in and power restored to the entire house.

Over the next week I discovered the following zapped equipment:

  • Digital thermostat. That killed the A/C. I had my A/C guy in on Sunday to replace thermostat. Nothing else was damaged, but he checked it all out anyway just to be sure.
  • Garage door opener. I had a Genie Excelerator 1. I purchased a Genie Excelerator 2 at a local Home Depot (as that’s all they had). I spent Sunday from lunch until 9pm crawling around on a ladder, pulling down the old unit and putting in the new.
  • Mac Mini Server mid-2012. I’m on wait to go to a local Apple Store to have someone look at it and see if it’s repairable.
  • Wireless house phone. Replaced with a new unit from Best Buy.
  • Wireless hub. My TP-Link Archer C8 got zapped. Replaced with an ASUS RT-AC68P. Spent a few hours reading the manual and locking it all down.
  • Cable modem. That was replaced by Bright House. Unfortunately it took them three trips out to get it all right, replacing the cable modem twice in the process. They also had to come back and bury the cable that was lying above ground in my back yard. Although I can’t prove this, I believe the strike was in the back yard and that it traveled the above-ground cable into the house. The connector is right next to the power on the side of my house.
  • Various little things, such as a pair of Apple wall warts and the power supply to a La-Z-Boy electric lounger. That’s the same lounger I used when recovering from my full knee replacement.
  • The stove. That’s going to cost me a bit. It was a Kenmore purchased from Sears 21 years ago. I’ve found the updated equivalent, a GE model, which I’ll probably pick up in May. In the mean time I’m grilling and cooking in the crock pot and rice cooker.

One item that helped me get through all of this is my HooToo Tripmate Wireless Travel Router. Among its many amazing features is a built-in 6000ma battery, which I used to keep my iPhone 6S+ charged for the entire time the house was without power. In addition to that ability, the LED lanterns I purchased also had a single USB port built into them for the same purpose of charging cell phones and other devices.

I’d also like to say that Thumbtack was excellent at finding that electrician. I’d called the “legacy” electrical companies first, but it was Thumbtack that came through in finding Alvin Alexander. From my perspective he comes highly recommended. He was working hte entire time and did an excellent job. I’m so glad he answered my call first. You can reach him through Thumbtack or via his email at

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four months on, i like my apple watch

first generation apple watchI’ve had my Apple Watch since Christmas of 2015 when my wife gave it to me as a gift. I wasn’t sure if I wanted it, having been influenced unduly by the infinite echo chamber of the Internet about how bad it might be, or if not bad, then what good was it for anyway? But rather than be an ungrateful jerk, and considering how much my wife paid for it even on sale, I humbly and gratefully accepted it and learned how to work with it. I am, after all, a hard-core geek, and this device is a bona-fide wrist computer to entice the hardest of core geeks. How much a computer is it?

  • CPU – Apple S1, 32-bit ARMv7, 520MHz
  • Graphics – PowerVR SGX543
  • Memory – 512MB
  • Storage – 8GB

It is, in short, more capable than my AMD Athlon-based tower PC I built from parts purchased from NewEgg in the early 2000s. That machine had an Athlon 32-bit X86 processor, ATI 9700 graphics card, 16GB DRAM, and a pair of 520GB 7200RPM drives. The OS was Windows XP. This was considered a high-end gaming machine at the time. Now it sits over in the corner; I haven’t powered it up since before 2010.

Now I have the equivalent processing power literally strapped to my wrist in the Apple Watch, running a far better OS than Windows XP ever was. I charge it up every evening when I take it off for the evening, although if I’m traveling or forgetful, it will easily run two days, and nearly three, between charges. When it does charge it does so quickly, usually back up to 100% in a little over an hour.

The Apple Watch doesn’t run any kind of video games like my old rid did; I don’t want it to. Instead it runs something a lot more useful to me, medical software in conjunction with my iPhone. It does it reliably, day in and day out. I’ve had this device strapped to my wrist nearly every day since I’ve unpacked it, and it has not yet failed. No reboot, no failures to perform. Everything has worked flawlessly, both standalone and in conjunction with my iPhone. It’s practically perfect in every way. What more could a rational person ask for?

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why intel deserves its current problems

ARM-powered-RGBThe news is out that Intel is abandoning the mobile segment and laying off 12,000 employees world-wide. The primary issues are ARM and it’s deeply entrenched hold on the mobile marketplace combined with a decline in the overall PC market, due in no small part to everyone moving to ARM-powered mobile computers called smartphones. Intel got into this position quite frankly because of its arrogant X86-only worldview.

Intel used to make ARM-based processors nearly 20 years ago. Intel got into ARM-based manufacturing when it purchased Digital Equipment Corporation’s (DEC) StrongARM division in 1997 as part of a lawsuit settlement. Intel manufactured StrongARM until around 2000, when it introduced XScale, a new at-that-time ARM-based series of chips. XScale production continued until around June of 2006 when the XScale line was sold to Marvel. Once that sale was consummated Intel turned back to its X86 chips and attempted to manufacture low-powered versions that would supposedly compete against ARM in the mobile processing market. Intel, unless they paid (bribed) a vendor to do so, never won any significant design wins.

This situation continued for nearly a decade, with Intel spending billions in R&D and marketing, trying to push into a market its prior leadership never took seriously until way too late. The biggest killer of the Atom SoCs has been Apple, with its A-series of ARM-based chips, especially A8 and now A9. Apple has pushed performance-wise to within a very short distance of Intel’s low-end i3 entry level X86 chips, and blown the Atom series of embedded chips out of the water in the process. It was Apple after all that helped develop ARM back in the early 1990s for use in the Newton hand-held device from that era. Apple got back into custom ARM design in a big way when it purchased P.A. Semi in 2008 and Intrinsity in 2010. Both those strategic purchases gave Apple a lean, mean design team that helped create a power stingy, yet computationally powerful family of processors for its line of products. While it’s doubtful that ARM will replace Intel in Macs, ARM is already in the majority of Apple products that make the lion’s share of Apple profits. And none of those processor profits flows back to Intel because there are no Intel processors in those mobile Apple products.

Intel could have been in a better position technologically and financially if they’d kept the XScale line. But they didn’t own ARM IP the way they owned and controlled X86 IP. Their focus on control coupled with short-term profitability blinded them to the long-term trends in mobile computing that were obvious even in the mid-2000s; away from anything X86 and towards ARM in general. Add in the Intel hubris about X86 and you have a nasty combination that’ll be studied in business schools for many years to come. Intel won’t go out of business any time soon, and they may yet evolve into something smaller that provides better long-term survivability, but their days of being bullying Chipzilla to the rest of the semiconductor world is over.

Long live ARM.

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ubuntu 16.04 with cat


I know I’ve written how I’m pretty much into using my Apple MBP as my primary driver. Which has meant that the old Samsung R580 running Ubuntu 15.10 has been sitting, forlorn and ignored in its bag. I hate wasting anything, especially a working computer, even the R580.

So I pulled the R580 out of its bag and updated its 15.10 installation. And then, on a whim, I ran the updater a second time and got the notice to upgrade to 16.04. I figured why not? After about an hour of downloads and installs, the R580 rebooted into 16.04. And following that whim, I downloaded the Vivaldi Browser 1.1 Debian package and installed it as well. Easy peasy using dpkg.

Since before its official 1.0 release Vivaldi had become my BFF browser, surpassing every other browser I’ve used (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, IE and Edge) across all my computers. And just like on Windows 10 and Mac OS X, it’s blazing fast. And I just like the way it works. Even the Gingersnaps, especially Luke, likes it. He’s also something of an Ubuntu fan cat, which is why he’s sitting next to the R580 above.

I don’t know that I’ll dust off the R580 and start using it again like I have in the past. But for the record, I am extremely impressed that the R580 is still usable, and that Ubuntu 16.04 runs on it without any issues that I can see. Even though the R580 was purchased in 2011 with Windows 7 installed, it’s run Ubuntu as long as it’s run Windows, and run Ubuntu with a lot less drama (Ubuntu went on when Windows 7 corrupted itself). For the record this is the last version of Ubuntu Long Term Support I’ll install on the R580. I know I said that with the last LTS (14.04) and when the next Ubuntu release (14.10) came out it went on over 14.04. But I have a sneaking suspicion I’ve pushed my luck with this machine and upgraded Ubuntu as far as I reasonably aught to. It’s still usable and from my brief tour of 16.04, it’s as polished a Linux distro as you could ever want. And Vivaldi is as polished a browser as you could ever want. Especially if you want a Linux computer.

Posted in Gingersnaps, Kittens, Ubuntu | Leave a comment