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2024-03-01 📌 Project Zebra: State of the tech address, nothing lollapalooza

Tags All Linux Tech Personal

This entry is part of my Project Zebra series covering migration to Linux for personal computing use.

Title reference: 'lollapalooza' and variants have been around since at least the late C19th.

10 years on from this I'm using...

Lenovo ThinkCentre M92p (2012) which is the same machine
Lenovo Yoga 300 (2016) that I intend to use for DVDs
Dell Mini Inspiron 1018 (2010) as a bit of archeotech that's generally more useful for minor projects than a Raspberry Pi
Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 (2019) and another one for CCTV
LG G6 retail demo unit (2017) for the camera
Various old e-readers, tablets and retail demo units
MP3 player... haven't used one in years, would probably use an Android device
Phone... Nokia 220 which is the same

Although I obviously tend to use MP3, MP4, stream, etc, DVD and CD are still where it's at. News items that Amazon have shafted Comixology customers or that streaming platforms are withdrawing titles come as no surprise.

For the DVD bit I got an NU netbook docking station and for twenty quid including a writer quite reasonable. It can take an SSD as well, although I'm just running the drive for read purposes using a compatible power cable in a USB 3 port and another for the data connection. Works okay, and the Yoga can drive a larger screen over HDMI if needed, or send sound to Bluetooth speakers using a more modern adaptor than the hardware in it. There's cable mess and it'd probably be better to get one of the 17" integrated players that are around, but it's still generally easier to rip discs to ISO or download/stream so this is largely theoretical. What I actually need is something to keep track of what things and parts of series I've watched, even if it's just a notes file.

Memo to self: charge LG G6 demo unit to 100% in recovery mode. From off, hold volume down then power, release power for a moment when logo shows, hold both until at recovery mode screen.

And as a bonus, updating a Garmin nĂ¼vi LM50 (2012) with lifetime maps:
- Windows 7 Home 32-bit still works fine in VirtualBox 7
- Install Chrome to get Garmin Express as the site doesn't work in IE
- Install VC redist, .Net 4.7.2, C216 USB 3.0 extensible host controller driver
- Then set VirtualBox to use USB 3 and plug in and pass-through the device
- Current UK maps seems to be 2025.10 and download is <1GB

Also I've claimed the Spectrum +2 from parents' loft. I assume it doesn't work, and that at the very least the tape deck belt will be shot and capacitors probably bulging. Recovery would likely involve things such as

But I wanted to see how the keys felt versus the mechanical keyboards I've acquired recently, and what the weight was like. Definitely in the same ballpark as the LC-Power one I'm typing on, keys slightly heavier. It uses a membrane but with some sort of spring action making it clicky. More or less a holy relic.

Had a bit of a play with the Fuse emulator, and with RISC OS on Arculator, which I'll write up separately. Feeling a bit ancient, especially with how many luminaries of those communities are no longer with us. Technically the MJ Hibbett song "Hey Hey 16K" (check out this 2017 live performance) is correct, the Speccy is where I started coding, but Acorn's BBC BASIC and co-operative multitasking is where I learnt procedural languages and most of the core concepts that matter.

Then: 86DOS 0.11 (1980)
Now: and 30 years after Windows 95, Microsoft is back pedalling on more changes to its program launcher, after back pedalling to changes to its taskbar/panel. Deckchairs, Titanic much?

Since the 2000/XP days basic stability in Windows has been okay. Average users didn't overly care about forced reboots, telemetry, adverts or frenzied efforts to con them into creating a Microsoft account. There are two factors I think the reputation of Windows boils down to: 1. fucked with interface basics, and 2. required hardware replacement. XP, 7 and 10 largely didn't. Vista and 8/8.1 failed on one each. 11 has failed on both. In the past, Microsoft could row back on the interface changes. It doesn't look like that'll be enough this time, if they try to stick to the TPM requirement. There are whispers they won't rush to enforce it for business customers.

Then there's Microsoft's increasing desperation and betting the farm on AI with grand plans for a Copilot key on some keyboards, not that the menu key it's supposed to replace for some OEMs is much used either. The hardware partner nepotism of coming up with ways to waste ever more processor cycles with things that aren't crypto or >1080p video. Consumption driven upgrades.

Talking about "progress" and getting back on-topic with Linux, the situation with Canonical gradually withdrawing support for .deb packages is also rather annoying. Part of their overall strategy is to release an immutable distro with apps supplied as snaps, so a lot of resource is clearly being directed towards snap-ifying apps that will be required for that user experience. But in some cases it's leading to support for normal repository apps being withdrawn, with Thunderbird probably soon to be a casualty.

What's an immutable distro? It's a concept people might be familiar with from Android. The operating system gets updated as an entire snapshot rather than files within it being able to be modified separately, with things that need to change such as apps and config being located somewhere else.

What are the differences with snaps? They're intended to solve problems such as applications needing different versions of components than are installed on a system, particularly LTS (long term support) releases of a distro. They typically package all of their dependencies, making for bloated packages where you don't know if a particular component is up-to-date or includes security patches, and work by mounting files in a semi-sandboxed compressed file-system. They often exhibit problems with interacting with other files and settings on a user's machine. Fans of snaps tend to claim there are fewer problems than there used to be.

When this happened with Firefox, driven by the need for a browser to have a rapid release schedule, the way it was done was underhand. The deb version in Ubuntu silently installed the snap version instead. I seem to recall this also broke things for people who had snaps disabled. With the release of Firefox 122 there's an official Mozilla deb package again, although for Ubuntu users the default will still be the distro snap version.

I think the nearest thing would be a mozillateam PPA? Put it this way, it's a reason to delay upgrading to 24.04 until the outcome becomes clear, and with Plasma 6 being due in 24.10 a holding position would be to try to use an alternative source for Thunderbird for now and stay on the LTS once any other nasty surprises in it have been uncovered, then look at longer term strategy.

I'm seeing people mention that recent Debian addresses some of the paper cut issues people have previously cited with it as a distro. Stable is currently 12.4 and perhaps it's time for a clean install after nearly ten years? Install initially without a DE, install 5.x Plasma or 6 when it's more tested, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, etc?

With all this talk of archeotech, it's a reminder that hardware reliability and data integrity require active monitoring. As this article points out, this goes for flash drives too, but I don't use those for long term storage.

sudo e4defrag -c / is happy enough, likewise for my data partition.
Create a file called forcefsck at root to force a filesystem check, which I hadn't done since getting the drive. The file should automatically disappear after.
sudo tune2fs -l sda1 to check when last done.
For non root partitions just umount before fscking

Using gsmartcontrol and Disks, SMART doesn't like either of my drives due to their age and a smattering of alleged pre-failure attributes that it doesn't seem to be reading correctly (values blank/zero). Basic self tests are okay. Should probably run longer ones.

Seagate Barracuda split 100GB/20GB/1.9TB as system/swap/storage, purchased Jan 2021, power on hours ~440 days and resets ~950. At some point in the past it's gotten hotter than rated, probably related to a hot summer and/or intensive copy operations.

WD My Book, purchased Sept 2022, power on hours ~150 days and resets ~1030. The data suggests it's suspending correctly when not in use. A previous My Book I bought in 2017 failed so I'm wary of large storage drives, but it is a bit luck of the draw and AFAIK that one was on constantly.

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