My Baby

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Last June I bought a 1973 standard (as in not a Super, but also manual) Volkswagen Beetle off Craigslist. It was “fully” restored in around 2007, albeit poorly (more on that later), and have been working on it since I got it. It’s my daily driver at this point, mostly because it’s my only car. It came with all the receipts of the “restoration,” the original bill of sale, and other goodies.

It’s got a 1600cc dual-port, carbureted, air-cooled engine that produces about 50 horsepower. I’ve had it up to 87 miles per hour and it was a terrifying experience. No air-conditioning, no diagnostics, no airbags. It does have three point seatbelts and a collapsible steering column though!

If you know about aircooled VWs and you take a look at my engine bay you’ll notice a couple things wrong. I’m running a mechanical advance (009) distributor vs a vacuum one (034) with my 34-PICT 3 carburetor. This pairing results in a terrible “flat spot” during acceleration. I push down on the gas and the car doesn’t go anywhere for a few good seconds, then all of the power suddenly appears and it jerks forward. This makes merging onto interstates particularly harrowing. I’ve also got a paper element air filter vs the oil bath filter that originally shipped with my Nov. 1972-manufactured Beetle. It’s definitely more stock than the chrome air filter that was on it when I bought it.

Like I said the car came with all the receipts of the restoration, and it was a cheap restoration. I’ve been working on bringing it back to as close to stock as possible. The front fenders on it were $69 a piece from JC Whitney. Those have gotta go, even if it means the paint job is mismatched. Same with the bumpers; they’re Chinese reproductions that rust super easily. Also another small issue: it’s rusting from the inside out. When this gets really bad, I’m going to have it all sandblasted down and taken care of, then repainted all in one fell swoop.

The car is a lot of trouble, but it’s so fun and it brings a smile to my face every time I drive it. I hope to own it for a long, long time.

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A couple months ago I got rid of my Lumia 950 (RIP Windows Mobile) for a Nokia 6.1 and it’s a terrific piece of hardware. For $280, it’s powered by a mediocre but serviceable Snapdragon 630 and 3 GB RAM. It’s got a 1080p display, USB C, and a headphone jack! Having a headphone jack was a requirement of mine. I will always choose a phone equipped with one over a phone without. The bezels are kind of big, and the camera hangs a lot on shutter. Other than that it’s definitely a great phone. Highly recommend.

I do really miss Windows 10 Mobile. It had such potential but Microsoft just killed Windows Phone with too many reboots and not enough focus or attention.

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Surface Pro 4

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Well I’ve pretty much failed at keeping this updated. I’ve been meaning to but I don’t know. I guess I’ll make a couple of posts.

About a month ago I became the proud owner of a Surface Pro 4, the Intel Core i5, 8 GB, 256 GB SSD model. I absolutely love it. It’s a beautiful machine with an absolutely stunning display.

There are a few problems with it though. It is very buggy. There’s a software issue with it where when you have Hyper-V virtualization features enabled and you scroll past a video the display flickers pretty wildly. Without the Hyper-V features enabled the Surface consumes full power while it’s sleeping, so your battery life is decreased significantly. It’s a very frustrating issue.

There’s another problem where with Windows Hello (the infrared face scan for login) enabled, half the time the display doesn’t turn on when waking from sleep. I’ve resolved this issue by disabling Hello entirely and using a PIN to login, which I actually prefer. It’s not that Windows Hello itself doesn’t work, I’m just a fan of using the PIN because when you lock the screen, it automatically searches for you. Sometimes I just want the screen locked without it trying to log me in.

The battery life is not particularly good, but it’s not particularly bad either.

Other than those not minor quibbles I’m a big fan of the Surface. It’s a fantastic tablet. OneNote 2016 is probably the best tool for taking notes in class and at work. It’s also a pretty good gaming machine. I’m able to play Street Fighter and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on the go, even if I have to make sacrifices with the gaming quality. That’s not to say the Core i5 is sluggish. It actually probably outpaces my older desktop i7.

I do highly recommend the Surface Pro 4 over almost any other tablet, especially iOS tablets, simply because it offers the full Windows experience. You’re not limited to Store apps like you are with an iOS device. That’s why I bought it to begin with. I’m excited to see what Microsoft does with it in the future.

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My Phone

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First off, I’d like to say that iPhones are shit and that iOS is shit. Apple is shit. I was forced to suffer with an iPhone 4 for two years and it became a completely shitty experience six months after I got it with the release of iOS 7.

A month ago I got an HTC One M8 running Windows Phone. It’s a beast of a phone. Five inch screen, quad-core Snapdragon processor, and two gigabytes of RAM. You probably think I’ve gone off the deep end at this point. Windows Phone? Who uses that? I bought it because I have faith that with Windows 10 and universal apps, there’s going to be no shortage of applications available for Windows 10 Mobile.

Going from the 3.5″ iPhone 4 screen to the 5″ HTC One screen is amazing, and I can finally play games and stuff!

I love my Windows Phone <3

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Grand Theft Auto 5

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I’ve been playing a ton of Grand Theft Auto 5 lately. I’m completely blown away time and time again by the astonishing detail of San Andreas. But I still don’t think the game quite matches the awesomeness of GTA: San Andreas in 2004. Regardless, this is the true next iteration of GTA after San Andreas, not GTA 4.

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I use two desktop computers on a daily basis. My primary computer is called Intrepid, and my server is called Enterprise.

  • os[Linux 3.2.0-61-generic x86_64]
  • distro[Ubuntu “precise” 12.04]
  • cpu[2 x AMD Athlon(tm) Dual Core Processor 4450e (AuthenticAMD) @ 1000MHz]
  • mem[Physical: 2.8GB]
  • disk[Total: 1.7TB]
  • video[NVIDIA Corporation C61 [GeForce 6150SE nForce 430]]
  • sound[HDA-Intel – HDA NVidia]

Enterprise functions as a “personal cloud” computer. I use a samba share and FTP on it to access my files wherever I am. In particular, my music library on one dedicated hard drive (100 GB IDE HDD, gotta get that replaced) and my videos on two other dedicated hard drives (500 GB HDD and a 1 TB HDD). It was originally configured to be a device than ran transmission-daemon full time, because I needed to continuously seed torrents and Intrepid was a dual-booter at the time.

I have a graphical user interface installed on Enterprise too, which is apparently taboo for servers, but I like it. It’s hardly a server anyway. I run openbox for the desktop / window manager and xfce4-panel for the taskbar. Both are incredibly light on resources. Openbox uses 5 MB of RAM and xfce4-panel uses 10 MB (which is probably a lot more than it should but it’s still very lightweight). I highly recommend both of these for anyone looking to use a lightweight but still functional and aesthetically pleasing desktop solution. Transmission-gtk is the most memory intensive process, using 50 MB of RAM.

Anyway, the more computers you have, the better 😀 Even if it’s just a raspberry-pi.

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Operating Systems

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I used to be the biggest Linux zealot ever. In spring of 2009 I had an Alienware m15x gaming laptop that was absolute shit, and it had Windows Vista on it. My best friend at the time had recently purchased a Mac mini and I loved it. I wanted Mac, but Hackintosh wouldn’t work on my laptop, so I installed an operating system called OpenSolaris. It was a now defunct operating system developed by Sun, and it was definitely not Linux, but I thought it was! I struggled with it and with its lack of software support, but I really loved the simplicity of it, so my best friend suggested I get Ubuntu.

An Alienware M15x

I installed Ubuntu on that laptop in May of 2009, and the next month completely got rid of my Windows partition. I used Ubuntu and all sorts of Linux distributions full time for roughly five years. In summer of 2011 I reinstalled Windows 7 so that I could finally use my laptop for gaming, but it struggled to even play Fallout: New Vegas. The Alienware m15x is easily the worst purchase my parents have ever made for me, and I so badly regret talking them into it. The laptop finally died in April, 2012.

Intrepid, the name of my current desktop.

Christmas of 2012 I got my current computer, my iBUYPOWER ne741i (I think is the model). It was a beast at the time but the mobo was a bit outdated and the GPU is showing its age. Anyway, it came with Windows 8, which I tried for literally five minutes, then I just installed Ubuntu and Windows 7 on it. I still loved Linux, but I had a gaming rig and I absolutely needed Windows 7 on it. Steam for Linux wasn’t available at the time, and it’s just now starting to get actually good triple A games. I guess I used Ubuntu about 3/4ths of the time, but that slowly started to shrink to under half the time. There were a few things keeping me from switching to Windows 7 full time.

  • Inconsistency: Different folders have different folder views, and there wasn’t a way to set them all to the same one. Popular third party apps almost always have unique interfaces whereas on Ubuntu almost everything was GTK or Qt that could be styled to the GTK theme.
  • My Music Library was almost all FLAC and I couldn’t find any good music players on Windows. Foobar2000 was incredibly complicated for me and Winamp was ugly as sin.
  • I use a second computer as a “personal cloud” and I didn’t know of a way to let Windows communicate with it. On Ubuntu I used a great bit of software called sshfs (highly recommend if you’re using Linux and need to mount another computer as a file system) and I didn’t know of any comparable software on Windows, especially something that could handle all my symlinks.
  • Just the fact that Linux was cool, stable, powerful. It gave me control over everything, which is something I still miss.

I suppose the catalyst that got me using Windows again was Micro$oft’s rebrand and redesign of Hotmail, It had a very nice interface, so I forwarded my emails to it. I started poking around through it and saw that it had a calendar, awesome contact management with the People app, and even Microsoft Word online. Skydrive (now OneDrive) was really nice too. Now you might be saying, “Thomas, Google has all of that stuff and more!” To be honest, for the past couple of years I’ve really been concerned about privacy with Google. That’s one of the reasons I don’t use Google Chrome really. I’m going to sound like a paid M$ shill here but Microsoft is probably the big tech company I trust most these days. They’ve really turned themselves around since Ballmer left. Still, fuck them for all that stuff with the Xbone. I moved all of my contacts from my iPhone into the Microsoft cloud and started syncing to OneDrive.

In October 2014, I suppose it was, I took the plunge and installed Windows 8.1. I still had the key from when I first got the computer, so *gasp*, I was actually using a legal version of Windows! Anyway I fell in love immediately. I loved the integration between all the apps. There were three things I really didn’t like though.

  1. Not as much control as I had over Linux. On Linux I could always pop into a TTY with Ctrl + Alt + F1 to do stuff like kill nonresponsive apps. It makes me sad this isn’t possible with Windows. The ability to just halt everything and bring up a PowerShell instance would be really nice though.
  2. Charm bars. Self explanatory. They’re pieces of shit.
  3. Full screen Metro apps. I really liked the Metro apps and their simple design, and the Segoe UI font is beautiful, but I just hated that they were full screen.

But I was able to solve two of my initial problems. Windows has this great program called NetDrive that lets me mount another computer, even one with an ext4 file system, with Windows, and it followed symlinks! And I just used Winamp. I just dealt with the ugly design (but I learned how to use and customize Foobar2000 so that’s what I’m using now).

On Linux, I was always into the bleeding edge stuff. Okay, yes, I stuck mostly with Ubuntu’s LTS releases after 2012 just because I was tired of upgrading every six months, but for the actual apps I probably had dozens of PPAs installed. I was really excited to use Windows 10 after it was announced, especially since there were windowed modern apps, so I signed up for the tech preview and that’s what I’m using now!

Windows 10 Tech Preview

Honestly, Windows 10 is probably the best operating system I’ve ever used, next to Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat. It looks beautiful, has multiple desktops, windowed Metro apps, a mixture of the classic and Windows 8 start menu (Live tiles are awesome!) and Cortana from Windows Phone. I switched out NetDrive (which went premium) for Samba, which is incredibly awesome in every way. I really wish Microsoft would make File Explorer (formerly Windows Explorer) tabbed, but there’s a great program that does that called Clover. I also hope that they put in a shortcut to PowerShell from the Ctrl Alt Delete screen.

Anyway, that’s where we are today. Windows 10 is very nice and it’s completely free, so I highly recommend it. It’s still pretty unstable though, so don’t get it if you don’t absolutely know what you’re doing.

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If I had a nickel for every time in my life I’ve started a blog, I would probably have a good bit of money. I’ve had numerous blogs, a couple blogger blogs, and a tumblr. Three of them have been successful: one I created when I was like 13 where I blogged about my life, one I created when I was 14 where I blogged about Linux and my experiences with trying to get literally everyone I knew at the time to use it, and my Tumblr that I created a couple years ago and then deleted because I couldn’t stand the SJW stuff.

My most recent attempt at blogging was a WordPress blog I created at the end of last year and posted on maybe three times. I was going through some pretty severe depression so posting on that helped me get some things off my chest. A lot has happened since then though.

This is yet another attempt at blogging. I plan on posting about music, technology, my life, my opinions on things, and more. Hopefully I don’t forget about it.

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