Network splicing.

So, this week I have had hectic days pulling all my desks and entertainment system apart, ostensibly to clear up some old cables and create new electrical outlets. It seems that with each passing year, we need more sockets to use.

It’s hardly surprising though.Just looking at my TV unit I seem to have a Telly, 2 XBOX consoles, a blu-ray player, an amplifier, an android box and an iptv box… So that’s already seven plugs, and of course, seven network cables required as well.

On to the nearby speaker on the right, and we have the wifi router from the telecoms company, as well as a network switch and a cordless phone. Moving on, we find the computer system which utilises 5 plugs… the PC itself, the monitor, speakers, printer, and now, the LED lighting system.

Add a couple of mobile phone chargers, and you might soon realize what an amount of power we use. (I forgot to add the AC!!!)

The sad thing is that these things grow ‘organically’, and while starting out initially well sorted out, the sheer amount of cabling simply loses any semblance of elegance as they degenerate into a tangle of spaghetti behind that unit. It simply happens and there’s sod all one can do.

But I decided to tackle it anyway. The first thing was to plan things out. With that sorted, I had to get past the not inconsiderable problem of increasing my outlets from the wall. This would separate my ‘gadgets’ into four distinct layers.

  1. Computer System
  2. Air Conditioning
  3. Communications
  4. Entertainment Unit

There is a reason for these layers and that is to have easy autonomy for each. While not subscribing to the thought of switching everything off just to save a few measly cents per year, I am more concerned about the longevity of the electronics.

So, with just one outlet with one double pole socket, it was obvious I needed to expand on this 3X3. The solution was an elegant one. At Big-Mat in TaQali I saw this 4gang in 1 adapter. Truly excellent, and for twelve Euros, a definite steal. This thingy had the ability to fit OVER a 3X3 hole socket in the wall, with just two screws. Something similar below, yes I know, it is 3-gang, but I got the last 4 switched one.

plug

Re-routing everything took me ages, many hours. But it was finally done. I applied the last bits of LEDs to my monitor and desk and it looks absolutely stonking. At night, it even looks better!

16665531_10154335448831824_5047206852004137126_o

Inevitably, the hardest part was sorting out the network cables. There are too many cables. No wonder we tend to go to wifi. Anyway, finally getting round to the real reason for writing this.

After re-routing these pesky network cables, I was left with the unenviable task of trimming down my Solar Panel network cable. It was waay too long, and I don’t mean a metre or two extra, noooo… I had about an extra eight metres to get rid of.

And I was down to my last RJ45 plug. AARGH! I connected it, and for some reason, I neglected to check the right page on my solar panel page to see if the data was being received. Since it was night by then, I assumed, obviously wrongly, that the connector was spliced incorrectly.

Now, sadly, I am a statistic fan, so having my panels and not having a monitoring system was scandalous… and I thought.. WHY do network cables need to be on a plug perforce?

So I did something I never imagined I would do. I cut two extra cables with crimped ends AFTER I did some experimental speed measurement on them.

I then stripped the twisted pairs, twisted one end to another cable, and finally taped over them.

cat5e

Once again, I tested the ‘lengthened’ cable, and expecting it to fail, was surprised to see that there was no packet data being lost at all. How could that be? All my life I have been taught that nothing worse than a ‘patched’ patch lead could exist in a network.

But it very obviously worked. I was still getting my 30MBPs speed from my provider.

ping

So I thought, why not try it on my longer run of cable from the solar panels to the network switch?

Well, I did, and the damn thing actually worked again. And so, I’m thinking, why all this fuss with balanced plugs, joiners, booties, and expensive crimping tools? It is obviously the way to go, but in a pinch, can be used easily without any significant loss of data.

Don’t get me wrong, being neat, tidy, organized and well connected is the only way I could accept my network to be, but again, on a cold, dark, wet Saturday night, it is not the end of the world either.

The dreaded flu bug visits again…

Well, I have just gone back to work after recovering (partly) from my annual week battling the dreaded flu. It was a bug my daughter picked up from school, and after a week of sniffling and sneezing, there was no doubt I would get it as well. No amount of lemon, honey, ginger, or indeed, single malt whiskey will stop it.

Naturally, owing to my low immunity system, it would mean that it would hit me hard. I actually felt the symptoms on a Monday afternoon, and by evening I was already feeling the heat from an elevated temperature.

On Tuesday I awoke breathless, feverish, and with a searing pain in my throat. Constant hot teas were the norm in a bid to soothe them a bit.

So yeah, I was supposed to go back to work on Friday, but decided that since I was really weak (three days are hardly enough to recover from a flu bug), I decided to take a personal day off…

By Saturday I thought I had recovered a bit, so went for a drive to Dingli Cliffs, beautiful and sunny in this weather. But by evening I was worn through and my back was killing me with all the coughing.

It’s been busy this morning, but hoping that it will calm down a bit in the afternoon as I am, truthfully, blasted.

I had an article to finish, but have left it for later in the week as I need to concentrate well on how to present it.

It is quite difficult for me to present this article when I know that so many employees, with their limited wages, will find it impossible to do… And this is something I cannot understand these days, how the minimum wage is still so low as to be unliveable on.

Anyway, I will try to see how to bring the article in line with expectations.

Live Long and Prosper…

Busy Saturday!

Yeah, I know, Sunday today, but I thought I would pause to let some of yesterday’s many surprises sink in.

First of all we had the Amon Amarth tickets booked. My daughter, being an ardent Metal fan like myself, was over the moon, and I have to admit that I have longed to see the band live.

The fact that the show is in Italy, a few minutes away from the airport is a great bonus, as are the Ryanair flights directly to Bologna.

Following that was the excellent news that our dear friend Franco will be joining us for the show.

A meeting was thus necessary and it was to be that we watched the Juventus – Atalanta match together. An easy 3-1 win and a pleasant chat (some chat – 4 hours!), and it reminded me of how we have bonded so much over the years. A true friend indeed.

Another huge shock was seeing Rachel walk up the stairs in a daze, holding a brand new iPhone7 in her hands… Her boyfriend saw fit to buy her a new phone as the old one’s battery was barely holding up.

At night then, I had the, uh.. unexpected pleasure of having to sleep on the sofa with our two cats who were terrified of the lightning and thunder which hit the islands. I slept all crooked and a number of claw marks decorate my arms and chest. Still, they were like hot water bottles, and I love them… so what can I say really?

The wife seems to be coming down with a tummy bug, and has made the bathroom her dominion for the time being. It means no going out on Sunday, but I can take it. I love my TV room, my computers, YouTube in the background on my splendid XBOX ONE … it will provide ample rest and to continue work on my ‘movie project’ for the time being.

Have a great Sunday!

Live Long and Prosper

Spend! Spend! Spend!

Today, I am touching a subject which is to everyone’s heart. Money! (Or the lack of it!)

Granted, today we live in a consumer-centric society, and that the onus is to contribute more to the coffers of capitalism, but sometimes there are times when one has simply to stop and take stock of a situation that ultimately, threatens to run away with him.

I am of course, talking about the spending which occurs from the end of November to the end of December. Starting from the Black Friday deals all around the world, right up to the Christmas holidays and the New Year celebrations, people from all walks of life splash out on far more money than they have accumulated over the same period.

And let’s face it… some of the things on your wishlist suddenly become far more affordable than they could ever be. When is the best time to splash out if not on Black Friday? It’s true. I have fallen into the trap more than once myself. As an ardent gamer, I cannot resist really good deals. It’s inherent in all of us.

But are we really saving money? Is that gadget, service, whatever, really important to you? Will this purchase relieve you of a pressing desire or need? And most of all can we afford to buy this item instead of, say, food? Or clothing? Education even?

This goes on right through the Christmas season when it is customary for families to relax their grip on the kitty. Mothers and Fathers look on these occasions as the time of the year when it’s the ‘Time to be jolly, and forget the woes of a hard year.’

I tend to disagree. Many families splash out on expensive gifts, outings, meals with friends, using the same money they have worked so hard to put aside. While nothing illegal, it is totally illogical. You spend months slaving to save money only to splash it out on gifts which will (in my opinion) never make it past the first week of January?

This is nothing but madness. I am not adding to the mix something else entirely. People borrowing money via ‘soft loans’ on their credit cards. Money which has an insane interest on it, and where the minimum payment will not even scratch the surface.

It is quite common here in our country to talk to people who admit to having two debit cards each. Since it is laughably way to buy stuff online (you never SEE the money go out), we see families burdened with a ‘soft loan’ of around three thousand euros with little chance of paying it out completely.

So yeah, I could be called a grinch, but we are losing our ability to think clearly and realize that this constant bombardment of advertising is pushing us to limits that we will finally admit to have passed so many years back.

As an inquisitive person, I also nosed around to see what colleagues think about saving. Sadly, very little do any saving at all. And it’s not only because of the miserly pittance that passes as wages here, but also because we have lost the capability to do so.

Everybody wants a new car, a new computer, a new hair-do every week, nail technicians, gym memberships, a new mobile every year… but can we really afford them?

We are living beyond our means. WAY beyond it.

I cannot accept that. I cannot live in peace, laying my head on the pillow every night knowing that if the shit hits the fan, I cannot provide.

Sure, I spend money like everybody else, but at least, and this is thanks to a priceless lesson from a colleague at work, I first put away an amount of money from my salary for a rainy day, THEN a smaller amount for us to enjoy.¬†After all, life is not all about work and saving. It’s about having the financial capability to make it through when the going gets tough, but also living comfortably.

And utilizing micro-management (for which an article will appear tomorrow), we are not only living better, we are also saving money easily. EASILY.

Live long and prosper.

Leaving Linux by the wayside…

After a number of years pushing forward with Linux machines and anti-establishment operating systems, I think it is time to throw in the towel and concentrate on getting the best out of modern software and switch completely to Windows, despite its many flaws, as seen two days back with my notebook… which could simply be the fault of an errant hdd.

I will still be forging ahead with freeware for productivity. Weapons of choice in documentation remains iCloud with Pages and Numbers for Windows as well as the rather excellent Libre Office.

Visual Studio Express is a superb piece of software, as are my perennial favourites Blitz, Clickteam Fusion and Game Studio Pro which remain my go-to programs for creation and have had no qualms in purchasing. My favourite graphics package Paint Shop Pro get everything done efficiently, and with little fuss.

Creating virtual systems in virtual-box on a Linux System to test my creations simply defeats the whole purpose. My audience is Windows oriented. It is to them that I must play my tune. My recent XBOX ONE console purchase has also pushed me forward to perhaps produce an Indie game

Finally, recent restrictions to Ubuntu has made me question the whole Canonical concept. Performance has become sluggish, software cutouts are being enforced especially with codecs, and the constant switching has been bothering me. Moving to Mint, ArchLinux or other distros will still have the same end result.

It simply is not worth the effort any more. There comes a time when one must stop swimming against the tide and go with the flow.

My current Linux machine will be switched off on Sunday and the high-spec organs donated to a friend. In the meantime I have created a Raspberry Pi NAS for my huge collection of media. This means that my Dell Workstation will return to the lightweight, silent, blazing machine it once was.

Accessing all the media I own on a low-power efficient little thing is a ‘dream’ I have managed to achieve. I know that I could have easily purchased a NAS, but what’s the fun in that?

Live long and prosper … o\\//

No parties thank you!

So, our 25th wedding anniversary has come and gone. And frankly, I feel happy that it is over and done with. Lately I have become very skeptical of celebrations and parties and similar shit. To say that I have a phobia for them is an understatement.

I have, for the most part, become an ‘honorary hermit’… or rather, a quieter person.

Perhaps it is the maturity leap we all go through, or perhaps I have lived the last few years in comparative panic that has led me to seek the peace and quieter places for the majority of the cases.

My in-laws had been pestering me for some time to re-bless the rings, hold a commemorative mass to renew our vows and hold a party.

I do not know where my wedding ring has gone (probably exchanged with a hard-disk), and as for holding a mass, I have renounced my religion, and I no longer care at all. I made my vow once, there is no hope of reneging on it. When I promise something, it is a promise I keep forever.

Moreover, lately, both with my illness and later on, my wife’s (far more unsettling), I have become a bit skittish at hearing the word ‘Party’. I hate them, and I hate attending parties, weddings and other stuff like that.

For too many years I have attended these shindigs purely out of respect, but in reality, these days, I do not care what others think of me.

So for our anniversary, we shunned everything and spent a most wonderful day on the beach, just my wife and I, with a few mojitos, a couple of beers, and a nice meal at a sea-front restaurant.

We spent the day in peace, just talking between us, snapping a few pics, and generally chilling out.

That cannot be beaten.

Is Microsoft shooting itself in the foot?

Working in IT certainly has its benefits as one can keep his pulse on a number of improvemets or ‘evolving’ in the technological world.

One thing that has always bothered me however is the fact that with all this ‘cloud’ thingy, one simply has to give up all his rights to privacy.

I understand that if one is to embrace and immerse himself in social media (like I do), then it is a given that recognition in the social media world is important.

However I draw the line at certain practices pushed forward by the big M. While Microsoft has made a big stride towards pushing Windows10 to its customers (and even to those who don’t want it!), I am mostly concerned about its Office suite.

Big, bloated, power hungry and plain unwieldy, there is no way that one can install Office without signing in to the softie’s cloud.

But what if I simply want to write to my heart’s content without logging in or making an account? The answer is simple. You can’t. And what I write, to whom I write and who publishes my work, I really don’t want people to know.

Yes, it is a secret. Suffice to say that over 1 million readers have read my texts, articles and stories. 950,000 of those people do not know WHO wrote particular works, or if the one credited as being the author really did pen the words.

Thus, I am loathe to divulge my account even in the most secretive way.

I am not including my reluctance to pay over 260Euros for an Office system from which I will only use the Word Processor. And from that, I will only probably be utilising 5% of the power under the hood.

Thus, for the past year, I have been using Libre Office exclusively. It is a small download, does not require me to log on to any cloud based services, and is available for free or for a small donation. I always donate 10 dollars when downloading this software, and my clients are always happy with the package.

Now the next thing is to totally eradicate Windows from my notebook computer. My journey to Linux is almost complete. Ubuntu fits my needs perfectly, and runs so quick it is absolutely astounding. For the odd windows program I use WINE , and even that is increasingly rare!

So why is Microsoft insisting with high prices for an Office suite that is increasingly difficult to install on a corporate machine? Foot forward. Shoot. Bang.