Site Updates Coming

Skippy with mask

Hey everyone. First, I want to say thank you, for sticking around while the blog’s posts have been intermittent in the best of times. I’ve been stalled, as of late, getting some security updates installed for WordPress, and it didn’t feel right adding new content while it might not be secure, and with everything else going on in the world, I’ve put a hold on shilling in general. So, it really means a lot to me that you’re here. Same goes for people who are just coming by. Welcome!

Secondly, I’m going to be updating the theme of the site so that the landing page is more of a, well, landing page. The blog will still be here, but it might require an extra click to get to. The good news is that you’ll be able to check in on all of my major projects from one place. The blog, the writery goodness, vlog, the Twitch channel, the YouTube archive, the tech projects, the webcomic, all of it.

Thirdly, in an effort to get back on the fiction-writing bike, I’m intending to post some fan fiction that I have rolling around in my head. Right here! For your eyeballs! So, get ready for that!

Remember, you’re awesome, and you’ve got this.

Goodbye, digestive system.

I think, in retrospect, this might be one of the things I look back on fondly, but wonder what, really, WHAT, was I thinking? This Saturday, at 3PM Eastern time, I will be participating in a Hot Ones-inspired wing challenge, with good friends and streamers.

If you’d like to see me suffer, tune in either at my Twitch channel or Zeb’s. It’ll be good times! (Face melting not guaranteed!)

Interurban Rail

Did you know that Michigan has an interurban rail system? No? Because it doesn’t. But it used to.

I’ve long considered myself a bit of a buff when it comes to public transportation, but this weekend, at a holiday party in Grass Lake, MI (outside of Jackson), I learned that there was a whole section of local transport history that I was completely ignorant of.

We took a break (!!!) from the holiday party to go and visit the Lost Railway Museum (!!!) and the kids had a great time (!!!)! It’s a donation museum, and has two interurban rail cars that are in the process of being restored. It’s got a video presentation all about the history of interurban rail, why it was popular, and what put it on the chopping block.

Can you ring the bells on the cars? YES, YOU CAN! And holy cow, did my kids ring that bell. I may have also done a small amount of ringing. I cannot be blamed, the switch is in the floor, shut up it was awesome! Also, wicker seats!

To know that a system like BART existed before the advent of the inexpensive automobile, and that it was both frequently-used and popular enough to involve two competing companies, here in Michigan, has given me hope. Not only can it be done, but we’ve done it in the past!

Check out the museum’s page here, and drop by if you’re in the area. I highly recommend it.

Chip off the old block

It was a proud moment for me when my youngest son brought home a laptop from a garage sale, and said that we should fix it. According to my wife, he talked my repair skills up to the family running the sale, full of pride in his Dad. My wife had grabbed a second one out of the bin, just in case my son’s didn’t work. At $5 each, it was a hell of a deal, and all the buttering up helped a great deal. So, of course I said I’d do it!

The laptop he’d picked out was a Compaq CQ62. Single-core Intel Celeron processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB spinning hard drive. The other was a Lonovo Chromebook N22, with mysterious Google magic inside. Maybe also hardware. Neither came with power cords, and the batteries were drained, so of course they didn’t boot up. I ordered some very inexpensive replacement cords from Amazon, and set to cleaning the laptops. They were both missing keys, but that was a worry for after confirming that they’d boot. There was a lot of dust, and some grime on the Compaq’s boards that might’ve been water damage, or might’ve just been storage ick. The Chromebook was sealed together tightly enough that I didn’t want to poke around too much, lest it never fit back together again.

When the power adapters arrived, there was great happiness! Both laptops not only booted, but heir batteries held a charge! The garage sale lady had been honest, and storage hadn’t wreaked too much havoc. For the Compaq, I restored from the factory default, which sped it up a great deal. I upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and the laptop behaved just as snappily. (Shut up, it’s a word!) While watching it chug through updates, I used the task manager to see if there were any resource choke points. Lo and behold, the CPU and RAM were keeping up like champs. The hard drive, on the other hand, was SLOW. Far slower than a spinning drive should be. It passed both the quick and long tests for its manufacturer, but that took ages as well. So, I cloned the drive to a 120 GB SSD that was living in another project computer.

Everyone, I/O speed has way more impact on a machine’s behavior than it has any right to. The difference in behavior was staggering. Windows 10 – fast. LibreOffice – fast. Minecarft – responsive. Roblox – responsive. Steam – hell yeah, I’ll install! YouTube, Twitch streams – smooth! Our only disappointment was a long shot: DC Universe Online. It loaded, and ran, eventually. In the end, it just wasn’t playable with the graphics hardware. He was totally fine with it, and was just happy that it worked. Score!

The Chromebook was even easier. It booted, updated ChromeOS, and just ran. Double-score!

All that was left were the damaged and missing keys. I ordered some replacement from LaptopKey.com, and they… well, some of them popped right on. Some, due to the design of the keyboards, were a bit of a struggle. Unfortunately, they didn’t fix the problem, so I guess those keys were damaged in the layers of the keyboards themselves. Back to Amazon for replacement keyboards! When they arrived, all it took was a couple of YouTube how-to videos, a couple of screwdrivers, and a couple of hours to replace them both. Did they work?

Yes! The Compaq is fully functional and in my son’s room. The Chromebook is on my wife’s chaise lounge, and works for web browsing, app install, and streaming – both Netflix and Amazon. We spent between 40 and 50 USD, and ended up with two functioning laptops. A fun time, and completely worth it!