My killer research setup

As I have recommenced study at university, I have a renewed interest in software and systems that facilitate good research habits and consistently reliable access that research in a way that doesn't interfere with me getting my thoughts and ideas committed to paper. I think I have landed on a great setup that makes research fun again. Maybe this could help you too?

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New directions, some reflections

Not long ago, I announced on Facebook a rather radical change in direction for my life both personally and professionally. After almost 20 years working in the information and technology sector, in a number of different roles and industries, I came to the realisation; I really don't like it. I could go on about the many things in this industry I don't like, but rather I would like to focus on my future: nursing!

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Solar is back online

A while ago, some 4 years to be more accurate, my server which magically recorded details from my Aurora Solar inverter died, and along with it my enthusiasm to restore said function. However, recent events have restored the need to know what exactly is happening on my roof so I rekindled my programming mojo to see what could be done. Long story short: my solar is being monitored again courtesy of PVOutput.

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Teens and the Internet; You're in Control

How many times have you threatened your kids "Do that again, and there's no more Internet!"? How many of you can actually do it without shooting yourself in the foot and locking everyone out, including yourself? Many parents have asked me, as a person experienced in technology and Internet "stuff", how do I manage Internet access for my daughters? In the past, this has been a rather complex task involving routers and some specialised internal systems. Definitely, not something your average parent would want to attempt. However, all is not lost! Enter the "Fingbox".

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This is going to be a short one. Basically, I've been reading the book The Power of Habit and decided to try some of Charles Duhigg's ideas to the test. Specifically, I'm trying to create making time for exercise a habit. This has many benefits for my physical, and mental health. Plus it means I'll use less gas when diving...and that's always a good thing!

So in order to replace my sedentry habit with a new one I need to interrupt the "cue, behaviour, reward" cycle and replace the do nothing behaviour with exercise. This is not as easy as it sounds, because I like to do nothing :)

So I've been focussing on the "reward" part. What is it, after exercising, can I look forward to? Other than "the end" of course. So I've been trying to be as self-aware as I can when I finish exercise of the wonderful rush of endorphins and subsequent dopamine hit. Then when I feel it, engross myself in it. Absorb it! Let it become everything I focus on in that moment. Rinse and repeat for a few gym sessions over the course of a week.

Now I find myself sitting at my desk and quite out of the blue, I want that rush! I'm getting agitated sitting here typing this blog post! I want to go exercise :) Seems like this book actually might work. Go figure.

Reinventing myself

It has been a while since the last blog entry and that is rather remiss of me. However, it has been a very busy year and it's not over yet. It all started when my wife found "a lump" which turned out to be breast cancer. Bugger.

So into the cancer fighting machinery we went and 9 months later the end is starting to materialise. A few more weeks of radiotherapy (after 6 months of chemotherapy) and then it rolls into annual reminders, sorry, check-ups. So much uncertainty.

This whole season in our life has caused me to seriously re-evaluate what is important for not only myself, but also my family.

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The making of a Diving Instructor - Part 1

It's been a while since I updated the site and I know that is not a good thing. I haven't been sitting idle however and that leads me to the purpose of this post. I'm currently sitting in a serviced apartment in Port Vila, Vanuatu! As the post title suggests, I'm here to earn my PADI Dive Instructor qualification and fulfil a dream that has been kicking around quietly since I started diving back in 1990.

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AVG...what the heck?

What do you do when the very companies entrusted to keep our computer "safe" sell out? This is exactly the question facing every AVG user. I understand a company has to make a dollar, and no-one is attacking the essentials of capitalism, but what AVG has done goes beyond just "making a dollar". They have openly, and proudly, announced their one page privacy policy which is a great idea, but what it reveals is just plain frigthening. Here's the highlights:

What sort of non-personal data do AVG collect?

  • Advertising ID associated with your device;
  • Browsing and search history, including metadata;
  • Internet service provider or mobile network you use to connect to our products; and
  • Information regarding other applications you may have on your device and how they are used.

What do they do with this?

"we collect non-personal data to make money from our free offerings so we can keep them free"

Here's what they say about personally-identifiable data:

"We may also aggregate and/or anonymize personal data we collect about you. For instance, although we would consider your precise location to be personal data if stored separately, if we combined the locations of our users into a data set that could only tell us how many users were located in a particular country, we would not consider this aggregated information to be personally identifiable,"

Here's the rub though: they still collect the data and attempt to clean it after the fact. How much do you trust their infrastructure, staff, contractors...? They have just broadcast to the world "hey everyone, we snoop our users and their personally identifiable data...come hack us!". This is a veritable gold mine for malicious players and AVG have painted a target on their back.

So what can you do? Simple: remove AVG and find a new anti-virus solution. My suggestion is to go with either:

  1. Avira Free. Their paid offering isn't obscenely expensive either.
  2. Bitdefender Free. Very low resource utilisation and very capable anti-virus solution.

Old site is ported...mostly

The old site has gone. Long live PHP and all that. Basically I got tired of worrying about the security of an abandoned PHP-based CMS running behind this new shiny site. Consequently I grabbed all the stories I thought were relevent (over 100) and ported them from HTML to reStructuredText and dropped them in. However, I still need to recreate the galleries and other content so as time (and bandwidth) permits, I'll start uploading them. In the meantime any attempt to go to the old site will just redirect back here.

So long Geeklog/GLFusion, you were a fun ride, but it's time to move on. :)

Six months in a leaky boat (called Work Cover)

It has been a little while since my last (rather melancholic) update so I figured it's time to update the world on progress so far. First of all, progress is still happenning, albeit a little slower than before. My shoulder continues to heal and I am gaining a little more mobility in stages. Seems "something" goes right, things get better, then nothing for a week or two. Apparently this is normal. Go figure.

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