working beyond familiar boundaries

The rubber ducky photo is courtesy of the iPhone 7 Plus, its dual lens camera, and the built-in Apple app. Using the app I selected the the short telephoto, square aspect ratio, HDR, and Instant live photo filter. 

That ducky has been in this house since my oldest adult daughter was two. Out of respect for her I won’t say how long I’ve had it.

I was attempting to write this entire post using the WordPress iOS app on the iPhone and the Microsoft folding portable Bluetooth keyboard. This isn’t the first time I’ve used or written about the keyboard. The problem is I’ve rarely used the keyboard/iPhone combination, far less than I originally intended. I bought that keyboard so that I could write just about any time, anywhere. We can all see how that turned out…

Unfortunately when I sat down tonight to try and use it, the WordPress app was rather uncooperative. It let me select my lovely rubber ducky photo and upload it to my blog, even associating it with the initial start of the entry. But when I attempted to try and write anything, the app seemed to think I wanted to modify the photo. In the end the entry just “went away” from me, and I couldn’t tell using the iOS app on the iPhone if the entry had gone to the draft side of things, or if it had just simply been deleted. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you view this, it had gone off to become a draft. The only way to continue to edit it was to open up my WordPress blog using the web-based view in Chrome on my MBP.

I have several entries using this combination, all successfully entered, so this isn’t something new for me. The only problem is I wrote them back when I had my iPhone 6S Plus, under iOS 9, and earlier releases of the WordPress app. Going forward I really do want to use my iPhone exclusively to create content for my blog. The iPhone is an incredibly powerful overall creative tool, the camera an excellent tool for documenting and providing supporting photography to my writing. The Microsoft keyboard syncs up quickly and flawlessly, and works quite well with other tools that need textual input. It’s just that when I mix everything together to write up an entry that the results are less than what I’ve experienced in the past.

I consider these minor challenges to be overcome. I want to “turn on” the writing so that I’m at least creating at least one post/day. I want to focus on the “web log” aspect of the blog. It’s not here for marketing, it’s here to log the next 365 days of 2017. I have a deep feeling there’s going to be a lot to cover. My rubber ducky seems to feel that as well.

powershell on a mac, part 2

Visual Studio Code in PowerShell Git Repository

Visual Studio Code in PowerShell Git Repository

While taking breaks during the day (and later this evening) I pulled the PowerShell source from Github. I got it to build, after a fashion, but the build process wants to run a series of tests, and the tests are failing a bit. Considering this is alpha code, I’m not that concerned, and consider this to be a learning opportunity.

I will clarify this about the build directions on OS X;

  1. install a PowerShell pre-built binary as Microsoft recommends and start that up;
  2. go down into the PowerShell top Git directory (in my case it was ~/Git/PowerShell);
  3. execute ‘Import-Module ./build.psm1’ within PowerShell.

That will define the PowerShell function Start-PSBootstrap that you need to execute in order to set up the PowerShell build environment. That little detail about sourcing build.psm1 is missing in the OS X directions, although it’s there in the Linux directions. Good thing I read around a bit…

GitHub Desktop with PowerShell Repository

GitHub Desktop with PowerShell Repository

I am pleased with the tools I have installed on the MBP. Visual Studio Code seems to be a rather decent editor (and debugger with the right extensions installed). I’m using it so far for Rust, Go and Python, and tonight I got it set up for C# editing. It comes with the ability to navigate a local Git repository copy out-of-the-box. All on a MBP under Mac OS X 10.11.6. I’m also pleased with GitHub Desktop. I can browse the repository metadata and the diff tool is again pretty decent. My only problem is I couldn’t use the Desktop to do the pull; I had to use the command line tool. I’m no git expert, and my understanding of the Desktop is even more limited. But again, it’s an opportunity to learn.

I’m something of a tool packrat, having installed a fair number of editors and IDEs over the years. For example I’ve purchased a license for Sublime Text, I’ve got Komodo Edit 9 installed, and I even have a copy of Atom installed. About the only editor I don’t have on OS X is Notepad++ (unfortunately, only available on Windows), an editor I use on Windows when I need to get serious about text and code editing without the bloat of a full-up IDE.

So, new tools, new code, a new(ish) shell to spark some interest. I’m looking for a full-up replacement for Java, so maybe I need to give C# another look. PowerShell is written in C#, so there’s that. I know that the cool kids look askance at C#, and I know that Java is still considered the #1 language for making a living. But Oracle has made using Java hellish, and I have no desire to use the language any more. C++, C#, Python, Rust, Go, Javascript; there are so many other good alternatives and what I listed doesn’t scratch the surface of computer languages. It’s such a rich development environment these days.

powershell on a mac

Powershell on a Mac

Powershell on a Mac

tl;dr – Microsoft open sourced Powershell. Source, installable packages, and instructions for installing it or building the repository are on Github.

In case you missed it, Microsoft has open sourced its Powershell “super” shell. Right now it’s an alpha release, with all that that implies. And for those who care about such things, it’s released with the MIT open source license, not GNU. You can either grab the sources via git and built it yourself or you can download pre-built installation binaries. I chose to the pre-built Mac installation package to quickly get something up and running. I don’t have a lot to add to the conversation at this point as I’m certainly no Powershell guru. But from what little I do know about Powershell, it all appears to work on my Mac. In the example shown here I’m running Powershell in iTerm2, a better alternative to Apple’s Terminal. Perhaps future releases will be able to create a shell without this intermediate step; it would be nice.

Since upgrading to Windows 10 it’s a tiny bit ironic that I’ve been spending a lot more time in Powershell than I have in prior versions of Windows. What probably pushed me towards Powershell was my eventual dissatisfaction with the Windows Linux Subsystem and its inclusion of bash. I am not a bash fan, and find little to like with any of the other Unix-like shells (csh, tcsh, ksh, zsh, etc, etc). I’ve used all those other shells because that’s all you’ve got. I haven’t gotten excited about a shell since my days of using 4Dos on MSDOS and OS/2. I personally would like a common powerful shell environment across all my various operating systems, but somehow bash and its ilk are not it for me. Since source and instructions for building the repository are available, I’m toying with the idea of building Powershell on Arch Linux ARM for the Raspberry Pi. More to come on that, perhaps…

nokia shenanigans

nokiaChatter around the web has Microsoft selling the feature phone side of Microsoft Nokia to a subsidiary of Foxconn for $350 million. Then Nokia is licensing its “strategic brand and intellectual property” to HMD global, one of the same participants with Foxconn buying the feature phone business. Looks like Nokia is looking to re-enter the mobile hardware business with feature and smart phones as well as tablets. And all of these new Nokia devices will be running Android.

Which begs the question of why Nokia sold its mobile phone business to Microsoft in the first place. The two executives responsible for this on-going tragedy, Stephen Elop (formerly of Microsoft, then formerly of Nokia, and then formerly of Microsoft again) and Steve Ballmer are no longer at Microsoft. Both left with considerable golden parachutes, while the tens of thousands of lower-level Nokia employees have been cut over time with far less rewards. An entire business destroyed because of Ballmer’s ego and gross mismanagement of mobile.

It will be interesting to see if Nokia can be truly resurrected. I know I personally will never buy another Nokia device, having long since left it for HTC, then Samsung, and finally (finally!) Apple. That’s not to say I won’t ever leave Apple, but if I did, I’d never go back to Nokia. I’d sooner do without than buy another Nokia mobile phone or other device.

windows fades from my view

I have tried for some time to be “fair and balanced” towards all operating systems, especially Windows. In particular Windows 10. I even started out liking Windows 10 back in late September 2015 when the main upgrade arrived. I’ve used Windows since the late 1980s starting with Windows 1, through Windows 2/286, then Windows 3, and then the golden release, Windows 3.1 at the start of the 1990s. From there I diverged to Windows NT 3.1, then 3.5, and finally 4. All along I looked askance at UNIX on the PC as well as Linux. I even stood by, silently, supporting Microsoft during its monopoly hearings during the late 1990s.

But something interesting happened along the way. While UNIX on the PC faded from view, Linux continued to grow until a then-new company, Redhat, came on the scene with a cleaned up and supported version of Linux. Others distributions came along as well, particularly SuSE (later OpenSUSE) and Ubuntu. By the time I’d finally gotten into the aughts and past the collapse of the Internet bubble of 1999, I’d switched from using Linux as a hobby system to using it as a practical day-to-day driver along side Windows XP.

I came to dislike Windows XP because of its security holes, along with I.E. 5 and 6, most intensely. I came to use Windows only because I had to, specifically because of the Office suite, preferring to use either Solaris at the time or Redhat 7. When Redhat 10 beta 1 bifurcated into Redhat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 3 and Fedora, I was ready. I began to use RHEL for my serious business needs everywhere I could, eventually switching to Ubuntu for my primary home and personal business needs. I’ve now reached the point that no matter what other OS I may have on a laptop, I still install VMs of Linux on both my Windows 10 notebook as well as my MBP. And in spite of what I might say, I still secretly pull out the “ancient” Samsung notebook with Ubuntu 16.04 running just fine on it.

All this long-winded lead-in is my way of saying I’m essentially done with Windows as an OS. Why? I have grown increasingly unhappy with how Windows 10 has had updates kicked down to my machine without release notes and very little way to control when, and if, an update will get installed. And because Microsoft has split out the one reason to have a Windows machine. Microsoft now sells a license to run the latest Office on my MBP. With that one real reason to have Windows kicked out of the way, my current Windows 10 notebook is sitting more and more in its bag, being pulled out to use my Lightroom license along with all my photos stretching back to 2009. And I’ve gone back on the hunt for a decent Linux machine, looking at System 76 as well as some of the Dell offerings. It’s notable that both come pre-installed with Ubuntu; that’s fine by me.

As for the need for Office, that may also go the way of all flesh. I can use Apple’s tools, or I can use Google’s tools, or even install and use the latest LibreOffice. Granted there are tremendous features in Office, and granted they don’t all transfer out of Office and into these alternatives, but a lot of core capabilities do. And I can always save to PDF and send those out to my customers.

In spite of my best hopes Microsoft really hasn’t changed since Steve Ballmer retired. It’s changed the paint job, but based on how I’ve been treated and talked to with regards to the updates for Windows 10 after the initial update from Windows 8.1, I’ve come away with a bad taste in my metaphorical mouth with regards to Microsoft. Microsoft had the perfect opportunity to show it had changed for the better with Nadella; it hasn’t. And with that I’m making my plans to move on. I have a rich computing environment to work with, far richer than even a decade ago when Microsoft still reigned supreme over all. It’s time to move on and drop Microsoft and Windows by the dusty side of the road and not look back.