Well that was fast

I have a really nice older D-link WiFi router that has served well for years. When we moved last December, I got a speed bump in our internet service from 20MB/s to 125MB/s, quite a jump. I even bought a brand new cable modem that had more channels to bond (which just means lots more speed). I tested it with a computer connected directly to the cable modem, and we were getting the speed we paid for.

Unfortunately, the old router wasn’t up to the task. It still lived in the past and gave a solid 20MB/s. No matter what I did, which settings I changed, how I hooked things up: 20MB/s.

So over the weekend I purchased a newer ASUS dual band router and got it installed. We now enjoy 40MB/s to 80MB/s with 60MB/s being the average on speedtest.net. Quite a jump. I’m glad we’re finally getting what we’re paying for now. So if you have an older router and you aren’t getting the speeds you expect, make sure your router can handle it. And make sure your modem can, too.

Old Dogs. New Tricks.

I have been a Windows user for over twenty years. I have used Linux on the desktop for around ten years. My primary work machines have run Linux for around four years. I never really used Macs. I have tried in the past, but it just never really worked out.

OS X looks good on paper, but I always found its resistance to customization and inflexible user interface offputting. I owned a Mac a while ago, but never really used it beyon the occasional testing of things I was developing “on a Mac” to say I did, or to verify compatiblilty with Safari.

When I started my new job on January 4, 2016, I was given a Mac. It’s one of the top-of-the-line Macbook Pro models with a Retina screen, a super fast CPU and a solid state drive (very fast). And I have actually gotten things done with it.

I really wanted to just throw Linux Mint on it, but one of my new coworkers gently told me it isn’t that painful to learn the Mac way of doing things. My biggest gripe is that keyboard shortcuts are dramatically different in a lot of cases. Linux and Windows are pretty much the same. OS X annoyingly has completely different cursor movement keys (Home, End, etc.) that go against established conventions. And there is no practical way to universally re-map them that I have found.

So I have to re-learn shortcuts at work and un-learn them at home. And there are the user interface differences like the position and function of buttons. Some of that is mitigated by software like Moom that doesn’t necessarily replicate how Linux and Windows work, but makes window management a lot easier.

I’m a week and a day into it and it’s actualy working pretty well. There are still quirks and annoyances, but I am adjusting to them. So the old dog is learning new tricks. With that said, I don’t see myself converting to the Apple ecosystem any time soon. I do see it becoming another piece in my toolbox.

Organizing the ones and zeros

I am trying out some new software and workflows and rather enjoying the process. I have switched from a haphazard way of storing information to Evernote (this link will take you to a referral page where you get a free month of Evernote Premium and I get points that will get me free Evernote).

Actually, it is not entirely true about switching. I have not fully switched but am in the process of switching. And I’m going to share the tools I have discovered and am using.

Scanned

A few years ago we purchased a document scanner for the house. Document scanners are pricey, but worth it. We are now able to scan all of our bills before paying them, as well as any important documents we need to keep a record of like insurance cards, mortgage documents, and contracts.

We have very little in the way of paper in the house and a mostly-empty file cabinet. All of our documents live inside computers now as PDFs with few exceptions. Even stuff that we have ot keep paper records of is scanned and filed.

(We also have a very robust storage network at home that includes cloud synchronization and off-site storage. I realize the importance of this data and have a “zero byte loss” policy.)

The scanner we have is a Fujitsu ScanSnap. Great piece of hardware. The included software isn’t bad for basic organization but leaves a good amount to be desired when it comes to organizing years and years worth of stuff. Basically, ScanSnap it’s folders and keywords. Keywords is clumsy at best, and although folders can be nested any amount, this requires a lot of planning to get right.

One of the best features of ScanSnap scanners is that they come with Adobe Acrobat, and this enables not only scanning directly into a PDF file, but the ability to apply OCR to make that PDF searchable. The Fujitsu software does have the ability to scan directly into Evernote, which adds all the great Evernote organization features such as simpler folder management and tagging. I use an “inbox” folder in Evernote for all of my scanned items and then process them there, adding tags, moving them into other folders, etc. It makes bill paying pretty easy (tagged “unpaid” or “paid”). Evernote Premium had a PDF annotation feature (so my bills can be tagged “paid on DATE”).

Editing

In addition to supported documents, Evernote has a pretty decent built-in editor in both the native app and web client. It is good for for just writing notes, but I prefer to use Markdown to do my writing. Markdown is great for things that will eventually become HTML or a PDF. It has a good number of limitations, but fits the bill for 98% of what I write, including technical stuff for work.

Evernote doesn’t have native Markdown support (boo) but there is an excellent editor available called Marxico. It’s $15 a year to access all of your documents, and it works great if you have a Markdown preference. There are even native Windows and OS X apps available, in addition to in-browser editing and my favorite, a Chrome app. The Chrome app works great on all desktop OSes including Linux.

Marxico has a few shortcomings, though. As Curtis McHale points out there is no iOS or Android client for Marxico, and because you can’t edit Marxico-created documents in Evernote, editing on mobile devices is impossible. McHale also points out that Marxico cannot import previously-created content from Evernote. You can export Marixco to HTML and import that HTML into Evernote to edit, but the formatting is limited and the content cannot be imported back into Marxico. This isn’t as much a limitation for me since I have no real previous Evernote content and anything that I might need to “edit everywhere” I can simply create in Evernote.

Marxico is only one tool in many that I am starting to use with Evernote. It works great for lots of writing and I know I can always adapt my workflow. The idea of being able to write in Markdown and organize my writing in one place is a huge win for me.

Other Stuff

Rather than trying to know everything about Evernote before I dive into it, I guess I’m acclimating as I use it. I try to stay aware of things I’m doing online and if there is anything about that I need to save. If I do, I use Evernote to save it. My notebooks are still a bit disorganized, but the blessing of a blank slate is that I can rearrange things as I need to. the curse, of course, is that it’s up to me to create structure.

We’re starting to search for a place to buy or rent, and I’m using web clippings in Evernote. There is a great Chrome plugin that makes it super easy to save the page I am currently looking at. It’s a lot like browser bookmarks on steroids with the ability to capture the page.

Like I said in the opening, I’m enjoying the journey so far and forcing myself to think about how I store stuff. If you’re curious about Evernote, don’t forget to try it out.

It’s also worth noting that I am not shilling for any of the products I have mentioned here. I paid for each of them and am a happy customer. I do have the affiliate link for Evernote, however.

Ommm … my goodness!

I was doing really well at the mindfulness and meditation class tonight. It was our second try at calming the mind. My mind was clear. My third eye was pointed inward.

I heard a noise from the vicinity of the lady in the chair next to mine that could have been furniture moving or gastric indication that she had become very relaxed. I presumed the former, but the third deep breath in confirmed it was the latter.

That utterly broke any concentration I had. When it comes to farts, I have the emotional maturity of a five-year-old. I was trying not to burst into laughter, and managed to keep quiet. No snerks, but I know my face was contorting between smiles and a painful look of someone trying to suppress laughter. I hope nobody was looking.

I spent the next few minutes being present in something other than a quiet mind. At least it only happened once and I was spared any scrutiny when our olfactory benefactor immediately got up to use the rest room after the meditation was over.

 

Pad Thai One On

Sheri and I went on a little adventure tonight. We went to Old Town Littleton to have dinner and do a bit of shopping. I also found a Thai restaurant called Wild Ginger to try out. I’m not a huge fan of Thai food (too much coconut) but there’s always something I can try. Sheri loves Thai food.

I also happen to like very spicy hot food and Thai restaurants typically oblige with a few dishes (or more than a few) being available at incendiary levels. The Seafood Pad Thai was available in mild, medium, hot and “Thai Hot”.

Thai Hot? Yes, please!

So that’s what I ordered. The waitress (who looked like she was from Thailand or had ancestors who were) raised one eyebrow and looked at the large white man ordering what’s clearly an “Asians-only” level of heat, telling me that, “it’s very hot” as a warning. I told her that I have been there and done that.

She simply shrugged and gave me this look:

Challenge_accepted

And boy was it.

The first bite was great. Lots of flavor, a big fat mussel, and a good amount of heat. Second bite was just as tasty, this time with a shrimp and more heat. Each successive bite was just as tasty as the others, but boy was that heat building. And multiplying. Oh man, this was HOT. They were not kidding. Our server came by after the third bite with a surprised look that I hadn’t died yet. She asked how it was and I declared it “perfect … exactly what I wanted.” She shook her head and walked away. I think she was secretly impressed but didn’t want me to know.

I. Loved. Every. Bite. Sure, I had tears, a runny nose, and was in pain. Breathing in burnt. Breathing out burnt. YES! But it was just that good. The level of heat was right at the threshold of what I could stand. Plus I knew the blessed endorphins would be kicking in after a while.

I ate about 1/2 of the plate, drank about 3 glasses of iced tea and 3 more of water, maybe 4. I was in my overly-spiced happy place.

I had a small dish of green tea ice cream as dessert and a preemptive strike against undigested capsaicin. The check came and our leftovers were neatly packaged. And as I was walking out, I saw our waitress and told her, “You weren’t kidding. That ‘Thai Hot’ is hot. Very hot. And it’s great.”

She then dropped a bomb: “We also have Extra Thai Hot.”

I told her I’d have to work up to that. But it’s good to know that when I level up, they’ll be ready.

One good thing about pervasive Christmas

Thanksgiving is weeks away. But I’m seeing Christmas everywhere. Even before the kids were out trick-0r-treating I saw hints of red and green here and there with pine tree accents.

I gotta say that Christmas is really overstepping its bounds. Santa will be appearing at the local mall starting this coming Saturday (November 8!!). The only demographic I can see directly benefiting directly from this trend are the chubby guys with white beards.

It used to be they’d have steady Santa-related employment for a few weeks in December. Now it’s beginning to look like they’ll have jobs for a few months each year. And by the time I join the ranks of chubby and gray, I might even have full time employment!

That’s where we’re headed: it’s ALWAYS Christmas.

Oy.

More work talk

At work, we primarily develop in WordPress, which started out as a blogging platform but had really evolved over its ten years into a full-fledged Content Management System (CMS).

Another popular CMS is called Drupal. It’s officially pronounced “DROO-pol”, but I pronounce it “dru-PAUL” like the famous drag queen with an extra letter. I’ve always done this. Don’t ask me why. It’s not disrespect. I don’t have enough experience with Drupal to really form an honest opinion. Perhaps I like the humor of it.

I was talking with one of the managers at work and kept saying Drupal my way and it was getting on her nerves. She finally stopped the conversation and told me the correct pronunciation. I told her I know, but my way sounded better. Not to mention Drupal is just WordPress in drag.

From then on, she liked my way better.

Fallin’

Autumn is definitely here in Colorado. It’s getting nice and cool at night, but still hitting the 70s during the day. A perfect mix. We haven’t had our first snow yet, but I expect it will be here within a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I plan to take advantage of things the way they are.

I spent a little over an hour on the patio tonight, reading a good book, sipping some of my favorite local bourbon, and taking slow, deep breaths of the wonderful cool Colorado air. I’m not sure it gets better than this.

And now it’s time for bed.