Taking a day off. 

So, Michele and I decided to make a day of it and went and tried to find some hex grid paper so that I could show her how to map out a world that she’s working on for something that she’s writing. We didn’t find the one that we wanted, because the gaming store that we finally ended up at only had 1 inch hex grid paper, we need something no bigger than .25 inch. I guess I’ll have to find a grid online, and print out a few copies to get her started on mapping. Once we discovered that we were not going to be able to get the required paper of the type that we wanted, we went ahead and decided to go eat something, I’ll spare you those details. Anyhoo, we’re back at home now, and she’s reading this as I type, because I am bossy like that 😉

Look! No recumbent trike mentions… Until now.

Have fun all 😉

So, I just got back from a moderately long (for me, at this time) ride. I didn’t do it to go to work, finally. I didn’t do it to get home from work, finally. I just decided to go out and see how the bike was on a ride for the fun/exercise. The ride went well, but the trip back, and especially the last part were all uphill, so I think I can say that that last bit was where most of the workout was done. Downhill is easy, it’s getting back up that counts. I took a route that I’ve never taken before, and saw a part of Portland–that in all the time that I’ve been here–I’ve never seen. It was interesting, reminded me of yuppieville, or whatever they call it these days. I think I may do this every Saturday, so that I can get the workout that I need, and also try to get outside while the weather is nice and enjoy it. I’ll probably alter the route a bit now and then to get a view of areas I haven’t yet seen. Should be interesting.

–It would also be easier to see from a recumbent trike 😉

Because I’m very interested in trying to get onto a trike, here’s an article that might interest those cyclists who might be curious: Why Ride a Recumbent Trike?

#recumbent #trike #cycling

If you want to help me pick up a trike (I’ve tried the loan route, to no avail), please visit my gofundme page (https://gofundme.com/briansrecumbenttrike), if you can’t donate, please share. I really do appreciate the help! 🙂

Enjoy the read, it’s quite informative, and the reasons mentioned on it echo my own; my back and knees are not loving me getting back into riding, but I plan to keep doing so anyway.

If you’re interested in helping me out, so that I can work toward making this my main income, I’d very much appreciate your help via Patreon. All my posts are free, but if you do feel that they’re worth a donation, please use the orange button at the top of the blog to help support me and the blog. I very much appreciate all the help I can get. I’m also still working on trying to get the trike that I’ve mentioned previously, so if you want to contribute to that, I would also very much appreciate it. Having a recumbent trike will help me greatly.

Brian’s Recumbent Bike Donations

Thank you and enjoy your day or evening,


I’ve recently decided to go and look at recumbent trikes, and fell in love with a Catrike Pocket when testing it out at RecumbentPDX here in Portland. It rode amazingly smoothly, didn’t hurt my back or my knees (or any other parts, but that’s a story for another time, if ever) and I believe if I were to take it home, I’d have no trouble climbing the hill to get here. When I ride home from work, it’s all uphill. It’s not too steep, but for someone who is getting used to riding a bike again after 15 or so years of not having touched a bike, it’s daunting, and a good way to run out of breath. I can do it, and haven’t failed yet to make the hill, but it’s not as easy as it once might have been. I’m getting older, and really think a recumbent trike would suit me better, and I would be able to use it to get all around town, not just back and forth to work, as I am doing now with the bike. The climb is getting easier, and over the last month of being back on the bike, I’ve made noticeable improvements in being able to climb the hill, but my back and knees pay for it every time. I hate getting old[er]. 🙂


A note about RecumbentPDX — They were very nice, and easy to talk to, and were helpful beyond measure. If you’re ever in Portland looking for a recumbent trike, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They knew that I wasn’t able to pick up a trike, when I went in there to test the Pocket out, yet they still answered all my questions and were respectful and friendly. I immensely enjoyed the visit there. 🙂

In this post I will be offering up my take on three different 64 bit Linux distributions which I have enjoyed for different reasons. I will try to delineate the relative strengths and weaknesses that I have seen so far in each, and where I believe each one needs some improvement. Constructive commentary is welcome.

The three distributions that I will be talking about are (in no particular order):

  • Fedora 15 x64
  • Ubuntu Linux 11.04 x64
  • Sabayon 6 x64

Each of these distros will have its own section. I’ll start by talking about my own experience with each, then go on to talk about specific points where each shines and then where each falls short, after which I’ll make whatever suggestions that I might have.

Fedora 15 x64:

I’m starting with Fedora mainly because that’s the distro that I’m currently running. It feels solid and stable, runs well, and doesn’t seem to have any major glitches. The fact that the primary UI is Gnome 3/Gnome Shell doesn’t slow me down, and with some tweaks is actually fairly nice to use. I did have to go through and search for a few things, like how to get VMware Player running under Linux Kernel 2.6.40 (which was less painful than I thought it might be). I still need to go and figure out something similar for Virtualbox OSE.
The Good:
Fedora 15, as I mentioned above, is a very solid and stable OS, as far as I have been able to see. I’ve been able to install more or less whatever I want to run, even a few packages that are not in the normal repositories.A good example would be the Wingware Python IDE (very nice software, by the way… Brian Tomlinson and I use(d) it to debug some python code he was working on). It runs flawlessly and detected the python install on my system without me having to dig around for the location of the executables.
Getting back to the subject; so far Fedora 15′s strengths are stability, speed, ease of use (for an old Linux geek, I’m not sure about how a Linux newbie would feel. Input from that front would be welcome.)
The Not Quite So Good:
I do have some issues so far with Fedora 15, but I’ll say that they’re more likely to be inherited from Gnome-Shell and Gnome 3 than any inherent flaw in the distro itself. I am unable to figure out how to totally turn off power management features using any kind of graphical client… I find this lack of functionality disturbing.
Now for the part of Fedora 15 that I really don’t like much; the package management system, YUM. I have to say that I remember when RedHat first came out with RedHat Linux and their then-highly-advanced Redhat Package Management (RPM) system. Back then it was the cool beans, and has progressed since then. I don’t know if the problems with YUM are rooted in RPM or if they are rooted in bugs in the implementation of YUM itself. But to me, YUM is slow and occasionally too buggy. I’ve never had the kinds of problems with APT that I have had with YUM. Again, these are my experiences. Your mileage may vary.
My Thoughts on this Distro:
Definitely usable to the general populace, very stable, and also pretty fast. It lacks the total control of some distros (see Sabayon 6, below). But, for a person who is new to Linux, or for someone like me that just wants it to work, it’s a good start and a solid base to build from. I’ll mention that I tend to test all sorts of Linux OSes, from Gentoo on up to Ubuntu. I can recommend Fedora 15 without significant reservation, even accounting for YUM. It’s a very solid distro, and will serve most people very well. So, with that said, your mileage may vary.

Ubuntu Linux 11.04 x64:

The Good:
Ubuntu is perhaps the single most installed Linux distro out there. It has a good interface and runs well on most hardware that supports 3D hardware acceleration. Its interface is straight-forward, with easy to find icons for most common tasks of entry-level Linux users. I call the interface “User Simple”, in that it’s simple for a new user to get a hold of and run with. For those who may be wondering which interface I’m referring to; I’m talking about the Unity desktop in Ubuntu 11.04.
Package management in Ubuntu is excellent with Synaptic Package Manager, and is tolerable with Ubuntu Software Center (which is being actively developed to make it even better.) The Debian package format has always been a high quality system, and remains so in Ubuntu. Updating and installing new software is a breeze and rarely causes any headaches.

The Not Quite So Good:
Ubuntu is based upon Debian, which is known to be a very stable and carefully managed Linux distro. Given that, you would expect Ubuntu to continue to remain stable. I have one problem with it though. The problem that I have encompasses a lot of territory within this distro. It appears to be that a lot of Ubuntu developers are putting out new interface and software changes just for the sake of maintaining their coding quota. This behavior is driving the overall quality of Ubuntu downward, not upward. I consider this a serious problem that desperately needs to be addressed. One example of that is Unity itself, which was released far too soon. It started out as a barely functional UI which Canonical then proceeded to patch into something approaching a functional stage. This is not the way to develop software, especially an OS which has the largest (to my knowledge) share of the Linux market.

My Thoughts on this Distro:
If you want a good and stable OS which is also easy to use and isn’t hard to maintain. Also, if you don’t mind weird and unexpected changes to the user interface of what is supposed to be your OS. Then I recommend using Ubuntu. If you don’t like unpredictable and somewhat flighty development, then I’d suggest staying away.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I used to really enjoy Ubuntu, but ever since Unity and other unilateral decisions, I’ve been more and more wondering why I support a distro that doesn’t really seem to care what its users want.

Sabayon 6 x64:

Sabayon is one of those distros that takes an existing distro, re-imagines part of it, expands on other parts and really applies a nice finish to it. It’s a stable OS with a lot of really innovative and cool features. Its Entropy Package Management system is top-notch. It’s blindingly fast in certain areas, and it’s a fun distro for the experienced Linux Geek to play around with.

All that being said, this distro is not for the person who is new to Linux. It is easy to break if you decide to use the wrong repository for your packages. You have to be very careful with what you decide to install from where, and you have to keep a close eye on updates. You also need to know what really needs updating, and what can wait.

The Good:
Being based on Gentoo, this distro is one of the few that gives you total control over what you install. You start with a reasonable base, and a few extras. From there you can go in and install software to your heart’s content. This is a blazing fast distro and will take good advantage of your hardware.

The Not Quite So Good:
Some things in this distro are (at the time of this writing) broken. If you want to use Gnome-Shell (heretofore referred to as “GS”) on ATI/AMD video, you’re out of luck. For some reason the maintainers of Sabayon have decided to lock GS into what’s known as fallback mode. Fallback mode resembles the interface for Gnome 2 (“G2”). It isn’t quite as pretty as GS, nor is it quite as intuitive (once you wrap your head around the interface of GS, that is), but it’s powerful, and easy to manage, and if you preferred G2 to begin with, then with a few differences, you’ll either love it or hate it.

Documentation? What’s that? So far the distro maintainers have been a little slow to document changes on Sabayon. They only have limited manpower, so their reasons are justified. If you’re running this distro, or are considering doing so, and have a bit of spare time. Consider offering to help them out on this.

A personal pet-peeve of mine: Sabayon will not work with certain advanced features of Google+ Hangouts (Hangouts with extras). This was the final straw that sent me back to Fedora 15. This needs to be fixed. Along with the problems with GS, which other distros have solved. I find that for me, this isn’t tolerable.

I run Sabayon on my other laptop in GS without issues, on Intel video, and it’s a beautiful experience.

My Thoughts on this Distro:
This distro has the potential to be truly inspiring. All the pieces are there, they just need polishing and fine-tuning. The problems with GS, Hangouts with extras, and package maintenance need to be worked out. entropy is an excellent system, but it needs a manual and it needs an interface that is less confusing to those who are new to it (I’m primarily speaking of the Sulfur gui).
Few other distros give this level of control and flexibility. But, also few other distros can be as easy to break. So, if you’re a Linux Geek, and have been for a while. Have a blast. This is a fun and highly performant distro.

My girlfriend and her son seem to enjoy it, and they seem to get it. They are not computer geeks, by any means. So, with that said, and what I’ve mentioned above, give this distro a shot, and have a blast. But only if you know what you’re doing and are not running AMD/ATI video (and also if you don’t play in Google+ hangouts with extras).

Final Thoughts:

Fedora 15 is stable, and fast. You also have several nice desktop options to choose from. I chose GS (gnome-shell).

Ubuntu is a good start if you’re just starting out in Linux, and want to get your feet wet, but not too wet. Its performance is adequate for most purposes, and it is reasonably stable.

Sabayon is fast and stable, but you can get into trouble with it if you choose to use certain software repositories. It also is buggy on certain video hardware.

My Final Recommendation:

Overall, out of the distros that I mention here, I’d recommend going with Fedora 15. Ubuntu/Canonical doesn’t seem to care what the user really wants, and Sabayon is probably a bit much for most people who ‘just want to get things done’.

But, with the above being said, for new users who have tried Fedora and just don’t get it. I’d suggest going with Ubuntu, Linux Mint or PepperMint OS (Linux Mint is derived from Ubuntu).

I won’t assign numbers or ratings, because each person knows what they want and what they’re willing to tolerate. I want performance, stability and ease of use and configuration. So, I went with Fedora 15. Please leave a comment and let us know what your choice is, and why. I’d like to hear your thoughts 🙂

I’d also like to hear about other distros to test out. Ideas are always welcome, as is constructive criticism.

Thank you for reading,


Fair warning, this is going to be a long post…

Steve Gibson of GRC.com has created yet another masterpiece of technology. His “Off the Grid” paper-based password generation system is amazing and once printed out, amazingly low-tech, even to the point of being effectively no-tech, as it requires only a piece of paper with the specially generated and one-of-a-kind grid printed on it (I would suggest laminating it with something that is friendly to dry-erase or erasable markers/highlighters). You trace out the path of, to use his example, ‘amazon’ to shorten the URL of amazon.com, using a finger, or something else convenient and which won’t mark-up your grid (thus my suggestion of laminating it).

Here’s one of the unique grids that his system generates:

a grid generated by Steve Gibson's GRC.com secure paper passwords generator
One of a monstrously huge number of possible grids

Now, seeing that somewhat daunting image above, you’re probably thinking “How the hell do I use that?”. I know at first-glance it is daunting. But, if you follow the directions given HERE (I can’t give clearer instructions than the guy who invented it, so I am not going to try), you’ll pick it up quickly. Go ahead, I’ll wait 🙂

Now that that’s done… You DID go and look at that site, right?… We can go through and look at what happens when we take ‘amazon’ as an example on the grid above.

First, we go across the top set of blue letters and look for the ‘a’  (note that we’re ignoring the letter’s case, for now), finding that, we go vertically to the letter ‘m’, then horizontally to another letter ‘a’, then vertically to the ‘z’, horizontally to ‘o’, then lastly, vertically to ‘n’. No changes here so far, right? Right.

Here’s what we have so far:

What we have so far.

Next, we’ll go through and spell out ‘amazon’ again, also ignoring case, but paying attention to the case of the letters that we capture after we find our key letters. For example:

The encryption path, not including 'overshoot'.

Now, what you see above is not including what Steve refers to as ‘overshoot’ zones. These are the ‘key’ (probably a pun intended there) to the encryption process that he recommends. I’ll show those below:

Grid with both paths, and overshoot for encryption.

Now here’s the fun part. Based on what we have done so far, by pathing this out as we have, is we’ve developed a key for ‘amazon’. What is the key? Follow with me through the grid above, along the green path, pay attention to how the overshoot is read, it’s read according to what you cross first for each one. For example the first ‘a’ in ‘amazon’ has the letters ‘vh’ after it, and read in the order of encounter… I’ll explain further in the next step.

Continuing on to the letter ‘m’ in the green path we see the letters ‘dI’ following it, again note the order that we read those, it’s important for later where I add to this scheme.

Now, if you keep going and following the green path and reading the overshoot letters properly, you’ll get the following results: ‘vhdIKWMpFRLr’. I’ll break that into pairs for you: ‘vh-dI-KW-Mp-FR-Lr’.

Now, using just what we’ve done so far, you already have a very strong encrypted password for use on amazon.com.

What I’ll be presenting from here on is an additional layer to that encryption scheme, using the password that we just generated as the key to that. We can use this additional layer as ‘salt’ for the password, or as a kind of substitution code for the password that we have already.

Here’s how what I have in mind works:

Take each pair of letters as broken down above as a set of coordinates. For example, we’ll take ‘vh’ as the first set, since that is what it is. Then we plot those coordinates using the first row of blue letters on the grid as the X axis, and the first column of blue letters on the grid as the Y axis. We should get the following:

I’ll post each path result separately, so that you can follow my logic and reasoning for this idea. Be ready for a lot more images: 🙂

Grid with vh coordinates plotted.

As a result of plotting out ‘vh’ on the grid above, we get the letter “Q” as the output. Write that down below where you have ‘vh’ written on your paper, if you do.

Now, let’s do the same with the next set ‘dI’:

dI coords plotted out.

Note that for our purposes, the initial coordinates are ignored as to case, this is ok, since the 26×26 grid can’t cover both upper and lower case. We DO want to maintain case sensitivity if using the password as-is without these additional steps. We also want to keep them case-sensitive when using with these additional steps when we go to finally add the ‘salt’, which we’re in the process of generating, to them.

Now, I’ll go ahead and give you the remaining grids, next is KW:

Grid with KW coords plotted.

Now for Mp:

Grid with Mp coords plotted.

Next is FR:

Grid with FR coords plotted.

Finally, we have Lr:

Grid with Lr plotted.

Now that we have all the letters that we need, we need to do something with them…

Remember the password that you originally generated using the grid? No? Well, here it is again: “vh-dI-KW-Mp-FR-Lr”, also we have the results of our salt generation using the password as a set of coordinates: “Qyqcnp”.

What can we do with the salt? We can append it to our password: ‘vhdIKWMpFRLrQyqcnp’

We can replace every other letter of the password with a letter from the salt, to further obfuscate the password we originally generated:  ‘vh-dI-KW-Mp-FR-Lr’ becomes ‘vQ-dy-Kq-Mc-Fn-Lp’.

We can try any number of other alternatives, which I leave to you to discover.

Thank you for reading this and I look forward to any feedback on this little variant I have on Steve Gibson’s amazing ‘Off the Grid’ paper password generation system.

Until next time, surf safe 😉


So, are you wondering what the word “ideate” means? Well, I made it up based on normal etymological theory. It roughly means “to create or generate an idea or ideas.”

I suppose that makes it a verb, because it describes the fact of creating an idea.

So, there we are. Now it’s defined somewhere. Please feel free to use it as described. 😉


Here’s an alternative method for self-verification. For everyone you know, and know to be real through Hangouts or whatever means, mark them, through a checkbox or some-such in their profile (this is hypothetical) as “I verify this person as real”.

This would enable cross-verification through peer-exchange, not through some unilateral demand by a corporation to verify yourself based on some unknown criteria.

To explain the idea further: Let’s say I go to Ryan’s profile page and verify him, and some of his friends do the same. Ryan comes to my profile page (assuming he believes me to be a real person) and does the same for me. This goes on throughout our networks, with those who believe their network associates to be real verifying those associates. This builds a trusted network, through a peer review process, instead of a mandated system of providing personal data.

Someone I know on Google+ had this argument, and I believe that he makes a good point, so we need to find a way to keep the spam-bots out of the network, or at least to a minimum.

Here are his thoughts on the subject:

And spam-bots would happily cross-verify each other. It’s a good way for me to trust that +Ryan Schultz can strongly identify people I don’t know. But it’s not what Google wants. 

I think verification is a good idea — it just needs to be optional. And universal — Anyone want to take the bet that you won’t need to be in the US to be a Real Person™ for the first while?

My reply is the following (edited for brevity, clarity, and to remove irrelevant content):
Perhaps a form of built-in captcha combined with context sensitive image recognition? Combine that with a cryptographically strong ID string which requires some time to generate, similarly to bitcoin…

The idea behind the bitcoin-like key-string generation is to waste spammer’s time and processing power, and to generate a truly strong ID for each system/person.’

I think that this is an interesting subject. I welcome opinions and ideas.

Laptop Power Brick Specification Proposal (WIP)
I’m still working on this; any constructive input is welcome.
For those of us that are more than a little tired of having to purchase new power supplies every year for our laptops, notebooks, etc.

Getting the power done right:
Let’s make this make sense to us, as well as business, or it will not be implemented.
1) The power supply must maintain its own cooling.
  • This one thing alone will help to extend the lifetime of any power supply, especially if that cooling mechanism isn’t dependant upon the circulation of air. I’m half-tempted to suggest some sort of internal gel-cooled method, but that’s probably expensive, and prone to any number of potential issues.
2) The power supply must have a universal ability to detect and provide power to whatever (laptop, notebook, net-book, etc.) system it is plugged into.
  • Working on the assumption that whatever one is plugging it into is something that it has the proper adapter and physical ability to power effectively.
3) The power supply must be designed to last 5 years or longer, given proper care.
  • Anything less than 5 years seems to be too short. I know that most people consider laptops and computers in general to be ancient at that time scale. My question is: “why shouldn’t the power supply be reusable for a new system?”
  • A notebook is still a notebook, and will have similar power requirements over time. So why not re-use existing power supplies? Especially ones that are designed to last a long time. This is more ecologically friendly than tossing out (and purchasing new) power supplies each year, and more cost-effective for end-users/consumers.