WIJFR: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

The Committee, an international cabal of industrialists and media barons, is on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary, an idealistic online Underground, stands in the way of that takeover, using radical politics, classic spycraft, and technology that makes Big Data look like dial-up. Into this secret battle stumbles an unlikely trio: Leila Majnoun, a disillusioned non-profit worker; Leo Crane, an unhinged trustafarian; and Mark Deveraux, a phony self-betterment guru who works for the Committee. Leo and Mark were best friends in college, but early adulthood has set them on diverging paths. Growing increasingly disdainful of Mark’s platitudes, Leo publishes a withering takedown of his ideas online. But the Committee is reading – and erasing – Leo’s words. On the other side of the world, Leila’s discoveries about the Committee’s far-reaching ambitions threaten to ruin those who are closest to her.

I just finished reading “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” by David Shafer, which I heard about from Leo Laporte on an episode of TWiT (or Security Now, I forget which) last year.

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Windows 10 Technical Preview

Microsoft announced Windows 10, the successor to Windows 8, last September. Like I’ve done in the past with Windows 7 and Windows 8, I downloaded the first tech preview in October and installed it on a spare laptop at work to get a jump on learning my way around the newest iteration of Windows. Last week, after an official media event for Windows 10 (at which Microsoft also announced HoloLens!), another big update to the tech preview was released so I grabbed the ISO and did a fresh install on my (original) Surface Pro tablet.

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ViewSonic VA2212M 22″ LED monitors

After I got my standing desk it became quickly apparent that I should upgrade my monitors. My trusty 17″ Samsung 172N was over 11 years old and my 19″ Gateway FPD1960 was pushing 9 years. There was nothing wrong with them, but they were square (4:3) and, now that I was standing, too low on the desk, making me look down and hurting my neck. It was time for an upgrade and for Christmas I received two ViewSonic VA2212M 22″ LED monitors and the VIO free-standing dual monitor stand.

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Going all-in with Evernote (and it’s about time!)

I  started using Evernote back in 2009 when I got my first iPhone and had to find a replacement for the old ListPro app on my Treo. I used it primarily for random lists and notes but eventually started exporting my handwritten notes (from Note Taker HD on my iPad and Lecture Notes on my Samsung tablet), taking advantage of handwriting recognition and other features. Last year I finally upgraded to a Premium account.

This year, as part of my annual file cleanup/archive/re-org, I decided to start using Evernote even more, replacing other third-party apps where possible. My two big conversion projects: recipes and home inventory.

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Image corruption

During my recent web photo gallery conversion to Piwigo I realized that a lot of my JPG photo files were corrupted! I think this happened last March when I copied everything from my old NAS to a new one. I suspect the network/connectivity issues I had with that new NAS caused the file corruption. I ended up returning that device and getting a Synology Diskstation, but by that point the damage was done. I didn’t notice then because the thumbnail images in my Gallery software were still fine, it was the originals that were messed up. Unfortunately, since the corruption happened so long ago, I no longer had backups I could restore from. My only option was to try and repair the files.

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Migrating from Gallery to Piwigo

I guess I’ve never written about it here (except in passing) but for the past 10 years I’ve been running Gallery to manage my photo websites (before that I hand-coded HTML pages!). I started with Gallery v1.4 way back in October 2004, upgraded to Gallery v2.x in November 2005, tried the Gallery v3.x alphas and betas in 2009 and 2010 (but didn’t really like them) and then finally upgraded to v3.x in October 2011. Then, in June 2014 it was announced that the Gallery project was going into hibernation. I wasn’t too worried as the software was pretty stable and there weren’t a lot of security issues, but always in the back of my mind I knew at some point I’d have to move on.

My theme of choice for Gallery was Grey Dragon by Serge, a heavy Gallery user who also contributed themes and modules to the project. After the Gallery team announced the hibernation, Serge starting looking at and evaluating replacement candidates, which I followed with interest. He eventually settled on Piwigo, a French-based open source project (which believe is pronounced “PEE-wee-go” and was formerly called the PHP Web Gallery), and converted all of his G3 sites to PWG (including porting his Grey Dragon theme). Over the holidays, I decided to give Piwigo a try.

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The FitBit Family

Everyone seems to have a fitness tracker these days. They’re the hot new personal tech.

I pre-ordered the original FitBit back in 2008 but ended up cancelling my order once they shipped (over a year and a half later) because at the time I had met my weight loss goals and decided I didn’t need one. Four years later I got my wife the FitBit One and ended up with one (no pun intended) myself in January last year. I really took to it, just for basic step counting and weight tracking, even calling it “generating system/debug logs for my body” in an e-mail I sent to the Daily Tech News Show (see the clip below, starting at 28:04):

My wife now has the Flex and my daughter got a Charge for Christmas, so my family is a FitBit family. We all use the FitBit app on our iPhones, compete against each other in step counts, etc. It’s actually a fun “family” activity. I particularly like the Charge because a) I finally got my daughter to wear a “watch” and b) it’s paired to her phone so when I call her my name appears on her wrist and it vibrates so I know she’ll see me calling. :-)

Oh, Happy New Year by the way!

Sennheiser RF120 wireless headphones

Sennheiser RF

For Christmas I received the Sennheiser RF120 wireless headphones (and charging stand). My old wireless Sony headphones were starting to show their age: the original rechargeable batteries no longer held a charge so I had to use alkalines, the cushioned ear cups were peeling, and there was just too much interference and hard to get a clear signal.

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Thanksgiving road trip: back home

It was a long week (4 days of travel, 3 days of vacation) but we’re back in warm Florida after our trip up north to Ohio for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Despite the heavy snow on Thanksgiving day, slightly warmer temperatures on Friday allowed for the roads to be clear and easy to navigate, so once again weather was not a factor in our trip. We left Cleveland around 9:00am (36 degrees!) and stopped for a late lunch with old college friends in Lebanon, Ohio (46 degrees). We ended up staying and visiting a little longer than expected so we weren’t back on the road until 3:30pm. Around 4:00pm we crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky on I-75 South. We stopped for gas and a driver change in Lexington around 5:30pm (55 degrees!) and at 7:00pm crossed the Tennessee border. We grabbed dinner at a Zoë’s Kitchen in Knoxville around 8:00pm (not bad!). Another long night of driving into Georgia and we stopped just north of Atlanta at our hotel in Kennesaw at 11:15pm.

Sunday morning we were checked out of the hotel and driving south on I-75 by 8:30am, and then stopped for a quick breakfast at Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta. We crossed our final border into Florida at 1:00pm and stopped for lunch in Lake City about 45 minutes later (and it was now a wonderful 75 degrees). We ran into terrible traffic through Gainsville (Gator fans driving home?) that seriously slowed us down. Instead of a three hour drive from Lake City, we didn’t get home until after 6:30pm.

Our total round trip was about 2,739 miles, 48 hours in the car, whew!

Offhand note: I learned that Touch ID on my iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t work reliably when my hands are cold and dry like they were in Ohio.

Happy Thanksgiving from Cleveland

Happy Thanksgiving from snowy, Cleveland, Ohio!

What posessed us to drive over 1,200 miles from warm, sunny Florida to Ohio around arguably one of the busiest travel times of the year? 1) It was a little last-minute; we didn’t have any big plans for Thanksgiving and had nowhere else to really be. 2) Our dog is 16 years old (17 next month!) and we don’t like leaving him in the kennel for extended periods, so we wanted to bring him with us and didn’t want to deal with last minute flights with a pet. 3) Road trip!

We actually left Florida early Monday morning (75 degrees). We crossed into Georgia on I-75 North around noon and stopped shortly thereafter for gas and food in Valdosta (now rainy and still 75 degrees). After a brief stop for my daughter at the American Girl store north of the city, the rest of Monday was just more driving until we eventually stopped in Clinton, TN for the night at 8:30pm.

Tuesday morning found us back on the road, crossing into Kentucky and making a brief stop at the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum (yes, the first KFC). It wasn’t open, and seems to be under rennovation, but at least we got to peek in the windows and read the historical marker. The weather continued to cooperate (although it was getting chillier as we header further north) and driving was smooth: we were through Lexington around 1:15pm (after a stop for “lunch” at Graeter’s, something we can’t get at home), then Louisville about 45 minutes later. Yes, we veered west to I-65 North because we were going to go through Indianapolis to see my wife’s grandmother on our way. I-65 is where we ran into some bad construction traffic (and I witnessed a tractor trailer swerve, hitting a van, and going into the median). But by 5pm we were in Frankfort, IN (north of Indy) visiting briefly with grandma. We continued on I-69 North to Fort Wayne and then onto US-24 to cut northeast into Ohio, crossing the border around 7:45pm. We finally connected to I-80/90 and made it to our final destination at 10:30pm. It was a long day, but we made it (and by now it was under 40 degrees).

We won’t be doing a lot of sight-seeing while we’re here …mostly spending time with family and friends. Tonight, Thanksgiving, the snow is really coming down! On Saturday, we start the two day trek back home (I hope the roads are clear!).