eXamining the Xenial Xerus

Ah, April. The Stanley Cup Finals have started and my Tampa Bay Lightning have already advanced to round 2. The NBA Finals have also started and my Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to sweep the Pistons on Sunday and move on to the conference semi-finals. We’re about a month into the new baseball season and both my Rays and Indians are off to slow starts. The NFL draft starts in a few days, which mean new hopes for the Browns (including RG3) and Bucs.

Besides the confluence of sporting events, though, April means a new Ubuntu release! 16.04 LTS, Xenial Xerus arrived this past week and per my usual, I proceeded to immediately upgrade my server.

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Let’s Encrypt! Switching to HTTPS …

Let's Encrypt SSLYou may notice something different about ‘chmod 644’ today … a green HTTPS padlock in your browser’s address bar. That’s because my domain is now using an SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt.

The Let’s Encrypt project is a certificate authority (CA) that aims to bring free and open encryption to the web. I first heard about it back in 2014 on episode #483 of Steve Gibson’s Security Now! podcast. The project went into public beta in December 2015 and at the time I played around with generating a certificate but then got busy and never ended up actually using it. Certificates issued by Let’s Encrypt need to be renewed every 90 days so in early March (shortly after the 1 millionth certificate was issued) I received a notification that it was going to expire and, since I still didn’t have the time to properly implement SSL, I just let it.

Finally, the other week, I had some time and decided to give it another go, starting from scratch.

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Linux on Windows 10

The latest Fast Ring Insider Preview build of Windows 10 (14316) includes the new Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) that Microsoft announced at their Build conference last week. I have to admit, I kind of enjoy being able to open a bash prompt on my PC and using Linux commands to interact with the file system, use vi to edit files (yes, I use vi!), and running shell scripts. I haven’t had a lot of time to use it in-depth but it will be interesting to see what kind of cool stuff can be done with this.

bash shell under Windows 10

 

Nest 3rd gen learning thermostat

Nest thermostat

I’ve been wanting to try the Nest learning thermostat since the first one was released back in 2012. At the time, though, I had just installed my ADT Pulse and Z-Wave home automation system. Putting in the Nest would mean using a separate app to control my home’s temperature outside of Pulse with no integration between the two systems.

Fast forward to 2015: in July, ADT announced that Pulse now supported the Nest and in September, the 3rd generation of the learning thermostat was released. The Honeywell Z-Wave thermostat that I had added to my Pulse system in 2013 was functional, but not “cool” so I finally decided to give the Nest a try.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Surface Pro 4At work we’ve been using Microsoft’s Surface Pro since its original release and it has been our standard issue laptop since last year, starting with the Surface Pro 3. Moving forward, we’ve starting deploying the latest Surface Pro 4 with Windows 10. I’ve been using the SP4 for the past week as my primary machine in the office and other than some obvious hardware enhancements and some cool new features, it’s pretty much the same as the SP3 (and in fact, this post will pretty much be the same as the one I wrote back then).

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Happy New Year! (from Epcot)

We wrapped up our two weeks of family vacation (a Disney cruise, followed by a few days in Ohio with family) by ringing in the New Year with thousands of other people at Epcot. The park was super-crowded (as we expected) with wait-times for some of the attractions going past 2 hours! Still, it was quite the experience and a fitting wrap-up to our vacation.

Happy 2016!

Disney Very MerryTime cruise

Three years ago we went on our first cruise (on the Disney Dream) right before Thanksgiving. This year for Christmas, we decided to go on an eastern Caribbean Very MerryTime holiday cruise. After months of planning and preparations, we just got back from a week of relaxation and recreation on the Disney Fantasy, and we had an incredible time.

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Canon PowerShot SX710 HS and Olympus Stylus Tough TG-4

Despite being only four years old, my Canon PowerShot Elph 300 HS had been showing its age: there were annoying dust specks on the CCD and it had been taking longer and longer to auto-focus, causing me to miss shots. I decided it was time for a new camera. The top features I wanted? A really good optical (not digital) zoom, preferably waterproof, WiFi/GPS, and, of course, a decent price. After doing a lot of research it became apparent I wasn’t going to find a single camera that met all my criteria, but with prices so good why not get two new cameras?

Being a long-time Canon customer (since my first A70 back in 2003) I selected the Canon PowerShot SX710 HS as my daily-use super-zoom camera. For the specialty waterproof/rugged camera, I chose the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-4.

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