Wednesday, September 30, 2015

If I didn't have a camera....

If I didn't have a camera, this is how I'd show you what's outside the window. This is experimenting with a program called "My Paint" in Linux Mint, and it's fun. I'm not used to it yet. This is my first attempt, but it won't be my last.

Hooked on Mars...

Here's where it is in the sky this morning, seen from our West Coast.

And here it is, seen much closer. Olympus Mons, the solar system's largest old volcano, is almost dead center on it.

And this is a neat shot of sunrise on Phobos this morning, with the rest of the galaxy in the background. 

Here's some interesting numbers. These are the diameters of these bodies.
Our Moon: 3,474.8 Km. - Mars: 6,779 Km. - Earth: 12,742 Km., and as you've noticed, each succeeding one is about twice the previous. Interesting.

If we could put our Moon back into Mars, and then restore the other missing surface features and oceans, and atmosphere, we'd have a sister Earth. And I hear you asking "What do you mean "back into Mars"?" Ok - if you look at that big ragged scar or 'canyon' or 'rift' across Mars for about 5,000 Km., just below its equator, and if we could open that into a circular hole (I'm tempted to say 'once again') then our Moon could probably pass through it - and perhaps once did, right after that meteoroid hit it, over 3.5 billion years ago. Their calculated mean densities are almost the same. More the same than any other terrestrial bodies in the system. And there's a reason for everything.....

And here's the Moon this morning. (The other part of Mars? I wonder...) 

The experts have now accepted the fact that Mars was once warmer and wetter than now. But they still aren't talking a whole lot about how Mars, formed as it was from the same cloud of protoplanetary materials as Earth, could somehow develop into such a vastly different planet, unless it suffered some horrendous disaster. 

When Earth and Mars were much younger, they were both probably closer to the sun, and therefore Mars would not be located as now on the outer fringe of the habitable zone. Earth back then was probably tropical or semi-tropical all over, and Mars would probably have been much more like Earth is today - quite warm and cosy. And then along came that meteoroid, variously speculated as being between the size of one or two hundred kilometers in diameter up to possibly the size of Pluto. And it hit Mars near its equator, puncturing its crust. I won't do an "instant replay" on the Big Bang that resulted. The point I'm sneaking up on here is that solar systems and atoms probably react the same ways when confronted with the sudden addition of mass and energy into the system.

Those cute little flying parts called variously "electrons" or "planets" whizzing around the nucleus have to re-adjust their orbits to accommodate that increased mass and energy. And let's remember Uncle Albert and his theory: mass is synonymous with energy and vice-versa under the right conditions. So when that strange foreign object came flying in, adding mass and energy to our system, the existing little flying objects had to re-adjust their orbits slightly, and that meant  increasing those orbits to a "higher shell" or larger orbit, further from the nucleus or "sun" in this case.  In other words, our solar system at that point became like an excited atom, and things changed forever. Are we an "excited atom"? I don't know, but the evidence suggests the answer may be "yes". Perhaps an ionized oxygen atom. The next nearest stuff being a binary. As in H2O, perhaps.  Is this getting a little too "out there"? Maybe.... again, I don't know yet. But I wish....

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ivan Davis - Fantaisie Impromptu op. 66

Joe 'Fingers" Carr....

Anyone remember Crazy Otto's Piano ? (The last is probably best.)

Judy Garland - Somewhere Over The Rainbow.....

Helen Kane - Button Up Your Overcoat

Lester Lanin and his Orchestra

A Well-Tempered Synthesizer....

Mars today....( All beach, no oceans)

At the north pole, there's a central cap of frozen carbon dioxide and/or water, and then a little further out from that, after a bare area, more streaks of frozen materials. I wonder if that's because of the relative elevations of those areas?

And that lighter circular spot, a little to the right of center, between the two red horizontal (almost) markers, is very probably Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system yet discovered. About 600 Km across, 20 Km high, with a caldera in the center of some 80 Km in diameter. Big. And thankfully inactive. In fact, it hasn't been active for a very long time. It's a monument to Mars destruction after it was hit by that meteoroid which punctured its crust over 3.5 billion years ago. The real movie about Mars and its history would need to be mostly animation, showing it being hit by that meteoroid, puncturing its crust, and then exploding inside as the frozen meteoroid contacted the molten core, and created a superheated expansion which literally destroyed the planet.

Those photos from the Mars Rovers showing cracked and broken rocks everywhere, and some of those close-ups from Curiosity showing tiny little balls of bluish glass-like material permeating other materials suggests a very intense and very hot explosion of some kind. The result of an impact? Very likely. 

And can someone explain why the calculated mean density of Mars and our Moon are very similar, yet unlike those of Earth, Venus, and Mercury? The calculated mean density of Mars is 3.93 grams per cubic centimeter, and that of our Moon 3.346. The calculated mean density of Earth is 5.52 grams per cubic centimeter. Venus is 5.20, and Mercury is 5.43. If we were using those numbers to establish a relationship between our Moon and one of our planets, which one would you pick? Or do I really need to ask?

A little classical music, perhaps....

More random thoughts from "Oldest Living Blogger"

After I got home from the LifeLabs medical testing place this morning, feeling lucky I lived long enough to get out of there alive, I came home, turned on the electric kettle, which fortunately shuts itself off, and then while waiting for it to boil, I fell asleep, resting on the edge of the bed. 

I must have been tired, because looking at the clock as I awoke, I was shocked to see that it was minutes to midnight. And now that I'm fully awake again, and have had something to eat, here I am, all dressed up with nowhere to go. Nobody goes out to party someplace at a quarter to one in the morning - certainly no one my age. And that got me thinking about my age.

As someone trying to be a wit once said, "My health isn't the problem. It's my age!" And the trouble with an age like mine is that most of those whom you've treasured as friends and advisors, or enjoyed as lovers or confidants, or even found interesting as protagonists in this play called 'life' are gone. Not gone as in gone on vacation, or gone to Whistler for the weekend, or gone to Florida for the winter, but just simply gone. As in 'no longer with us' - departed; cut down in their prime, so to speak. Dead.

And I'm not. Not right now. Not yet. But the writing's on the wall. And simply redecorating won't fix that. I haven't really got the desire to spend a week moving furniture to paint walls anyway. I have to save my strength for enduring those doctors' offices, germ-filled but sterile-looking, while I'm poked and prodded, and otherwise treated with indignity, or being chased off to yet another "lab" where some generic nurse-looking person pretends to give a damn for three minutes while wishing she was having lunch with the love of her life somewhere worth being. It's not only my age that's a problem, it's where I'm spending half of my time these days trying to survive growing older.

And all those doctors and nurse-looking persons who probably can't apply a Band-Aid and get it right-side-out aren't there to fix the problems I'm really having - the aches, the pains, the wrinkles, the itches I can't scratch - no.  They're only interested in the problems, hypothetical, mostly, from which they can maximize their incomes looking for inside me. So instead of seeing my mundane general practitioner, I'm herded off to visit urologists, or gastroenterologists. People whose titles and job descriptions I can barely comprehend without resort to a medical dictionary, and sometimes, not then. But Thank God for the Merck Manual, or I'd be scared out of ten years growth by things they want to do to me. All in the name of survival. Theirs - not mine!

Monday, September 28, 2015

This because we survived the Med Lab today...

Linux Mint + Stellarium = Mars

Now that I have the latest version (13.3) of Stellarium installed, I can show you Mars this morning as seen from its satellite Phobos, the closer one of the two.

And here it is as seen from Deimos, the satellite furthest from it. Today, we're lucky, because we can see it from both of its satellites. That's not always possible because of their differences in orbits, and the location of our vantage points.

Today, NASA is going to make a special announcement about Mars, and the speculation runs toward something about the presence of water. So let me start by reminding us that the climate of Mars, being on the outer fringe of our sun's habitable zone, is about like our own sub-arctic. Quite cool varying to downright cold and solidly frozen. Bearing that in mind, there isn't likely to be a lot of liquid water running around loose on the surface. But I'm going to revert here to my old theory, and come out with this statement: Mars once had oceans. It had to have oceans, because those rocks that Curiosity has been drilling and sampling are sedimentary rocks, and sedimentary rocks are formed as the name implies from sediments under water - lots of water, for quite a long time.

So this announcement later this morning will probably confirm the above, and I will be smiling and saying "Told ya!"

And this is this morning's full moon, after all the fuss last evening, still looking OK.

And this is how it looks from my balcony this morning.

Here's an update on that...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mountaintops at sundown....

At its full resolution, you can see the individual branches on those trees on the skyline. That's not bad, considering these peaks according to the map are about four miles away, or a bit more. The resolution available here by enlarging this to its largest isn't the maximum resolution of the original, because Google has limits beyond which images are not enlarged, and this exceeds those limits.

The Snow Report....

This isn't the best picture I ever took of the peak of Crown Mountain, but my excuse is that I wasn't quite awake yet, and neither was it. I promise I'll try harder next time. The point of course being that we haven't got any white stuff yet, but we're anticipating. Skiers and boarders, especially. Most of last winter, the runs on my favorite local hills were bare on their lower halves, so couldn't be used. It was serious enough that this season, those season pass holders from last winter are getting an 80% discount on this year's pass, if they agree to come back.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Getting "under the hood" with Linux...

It sneaks up on you. Before you know it, you're typing commands into the little interactive "Command Prompt" window called "Terminal" or "Konsole" or variously named weirdly in other flavors of the system. And as you do, you get packages of downloads, and fresh little programs, and you learn about things like "superusers" and you begin to pick up on the protocol for the language conventions used in probing the "inner sanctum" for more software or help with that which you have. It sneaks up on you. And suddenly, you're in the thick of it.

Windows doesn't help you modify the components of the system to suit yourself, and maybe that's why I'm attracted to Linux. It's configurable. And it works!

Like this!

Desktop wallpapers: I love 'em!

I've been most of the morning finding and resizing wallpapers, or desktop backgrounds as they are more formally known. I needed a few more interesting ones for this Linux Mint 17.1 I put on here yesterday. Here's a sample.....

Or maybe another one, something like this......

Or perhaps not quite so wild...

Anyhooooooo.... It's fun, it's reasonably priced, and no one gets hurt. I like it.

And here's my 'Peace and Love' Flower Power one, for mellowing out after a bad day on Facebook reading about the Third World War or the American Revolution, both seemingly still in full bloom.

Friday, September 25, 2015

I replaced Win-10 again....with another flavor of Linux

And a picture is still worth a thousand words!

The latest issue of Win-10, build 10547, doesn't run desktop gadgets, but we've still got them in Linux Mint 17.1 and 17.2, and they come with it. You don't have to hunt the Internet to find them. There's a lot of thoughtful touches in here. And if that sounds like a hint, you're right.

I tried for two days to get one of these Linux distributions to install alongside Win-10, without success, and I tried every trick I knew and every one I could find on the web. I blame the failure on Microsoft's "Secure Boot" which is a feature in the boot sector which doesn't accept software that hasn't got an "approved" signature attached, meaning if it isn't blessed by Mighty Microsoft, it just doesn't make the cut, Sweetie, and of course a Linux installation wouldn't have its drivers autographed by Satya Nadella and his group. Which might explain why it couldn't share the drive and the boot sector with a Windows hot off the cut & paste table in Redmond. And that in turn explains why Win-10, build 10547, got overwritten today by this Linux Mint 17.1 system. If you can't join 'em, then replace 'em.

Media Players compared: I was wrong about SMPlayer

My fault, Kiddies - I hadn't found or set the volumes and the equalizer. Stupid me! And once I did, this one also kicks ass, every bit as good as Winamp. And that's good, because Winamp doesn't work in Linux. It works in Windows, OS-X, and Android systems. Damn! I wish it worked in here. It's better looking than this one. But your ears don't know that....

Winamp: Forgot to show you where to get it....

Doing a little comparison between SMPlayer and Winamp, each tuned to Jazz24, and both using the same volume setting on the PC, and using Sony headphones to listen to the music, Winamp in my humble opinion is the clear winner. It has a fuller, richer sound and clearer tones, and better stereo separation. Try this for yourself, and see if you agree.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Win-10: And now for the good news.....

This player in the screenshot is called SMPlayer, and I discovered it in a Linux distro the other day. It works like a charm in Windows 10 (and other Windows) and it comes complete with all its codecs, so you don't need to hunt for those on the web before enjoying the music or the videos - and it does YouTube too...

This reminds me of the now-defunct Winamp, which I loved for years. And now I don't need to wish it was back, because this one also kicks ass big time - and it sounds very nice, too. You really should try it. Get yours right here!

Speaking of Winamp, it may be gone, but it's not yet "defunct" - it's still very much alive and well if you look for it, and here's what it looks like, for those who may have forgotten....

This is the compact mode of it, and like the SMplayer, it also does videos, and it has a couple of other features that newer one doesn't - like a "windowshade" mode (see below) that fits it into the title bar of an open window on your desktop....

It also has a library of visualizations, which play on its video viewer, or full screen, but unfortunately, I can't show you a screenshot of the full screen ones because Win-10 isn't doing that just now. It used to, but not now. However, it does display the full screen visualizations, and those on a 30-inch monitor timed with the music, are quite impressive! You just have to take my word for that.

And these are my two choices for a really nice media player in Windows 10. Of the two, Winamp has the best collection of skins and plug-ins because it's been around longer - and it still kicks ass!

Here's a couple of those full-screen visualizations I can't capture with the screen capture feature here (for some unknown reason!) and got with the camera...

If those don't keep you awake, then I just can't help you!

Partitioning Tools....a good one.

We're familiar with Easeus Partition Master, and it's good, but it doesn't do the latest formats for Linux/BSD partitions.  Formats such as EXT4. This one does.

Here's why I have various security programs...

Because they catch different things, and they work together.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Win-10: New Theme this morning...

It begins with one of Win-10's solid colors of backgrounds, and then I added a darker tint in 25% increments until I got bored with all that and stopped.

That was all done with a treasured old copy of PhotoStudio 5.5 from 2003. And that brings me to today's Question Everything which is: "If I can run a 2003 vintage graphics editing program in the latest build 10547 of Win-10, then why can't I run Helmut Buhler's great and most recent "8gadgetpack" in here? And I mean without the CPU going nuts, and most of those gadgets not loading? They all worked fine in previous versions of Windows 10. In fact, I've been bragging about how nicely Windows 10 runs older programs like PhotoStudio, and then some whiz-kid in Mighty Microsoft's Redmond, Washington main office decides to make a liar out of me.  Not nice, Kiddies! I want those gadgets back! And Helmut says it's going to be a month or more before he can fix whatever you guys F-F-F-F-Fiddled with. And by then, we'll probably have to do it again.....

Moving right along here, Question Everything #2 is: "Would you like to get rid of the Lock Screen?" If the answer is "Yes!" then I have a Registry hack for you:-

Navigate to: HKLM > Software > Policies > Microsoft > Windows > Personalization, and in the right pane (values pane) create a new 32-bit Dword called NoLockScreen, and then right-click on that name to bring up its values window, and give it a Hexadecimal Value of 01, meaning "no lock screen, thanks". And then you can close Registry, and test your new hack. And if you ever change your mind and want the Lock Screen back, just go back into that, and change its value to zero, and Voila! the Lock Screen returns.

And Question Everything #3 today is: "If Linux Mint can automatically detect a Windows 7 partition on the hard-drive, and work around that, preserving Windows, then why can't it see Windows 10 on a hard-drive, instead of reporting "There are no installed systems on this drive...." ?

Here's today's new theme in action, doing its thing on here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Win-10, Build 10547.....

In this one, there's a few raggedy edges, including an inability to run gadgets, and that's a bummer for me, because I do like them. And if you do get a couple running, the CPU will be working its ass off and making things slower. So the line of least resistance was to remove them, reluctantly. 

I ranted about this before, but may I please do it again? Please? Gadgets were originally removed by Microsoft with the excuse they were easy carriers of viruses and malware. Possibly, but the same security programs which protect all the other stuff in your computer are also going to be overseeing the gadgets, naturally, so I didn't buy that "security risk" argument, and neither should you. If you scan the stuff on its way in, or have Malwarebytes Premium which does it automatically, then there's no big hairy problem. So Microsoft must have been looking at something else and just didn't want us distracted with cute gadgets.

Win-10: Another helpful hint or two....

After a lot of installing, removing, re-installing other stuff, removing it, and then re-installing Windows, there was a lot of junk on the old PC. A lot. Like a couple of Windows.old folders. One was "Windows.old.000" containing 165,642 files that totalled around 17 Gb. Not a misprint.....really big folder. As a normal user login, I couldn't get permission to touch it. As my secret hidden administrator account, I still couldn't delete it. 

Some searching on Google revealed a very useful trick for situations like that. Just log in as the administrator with its elevated privileges (the usually hidden one) and then simply rename the offending folder as "$Recycle.Bin" (without those quotes) and Woof! It's a gonner. The whole several many gigs of it.

A prudent follow-up to that is to do a defragmenting of the drive. In this case, there were literally thousands (around 4,800) fragmented files to sort out. After which, your nice old computer should respond easier and hopefully a little faster.

This, however, can cause another problem. If you're a Windows Insider, and you remove those "Windows.old" folders that really aren't much practical benefit anyway, then that's going to cause your Windows Insider status to be changed from normal to one of seeking to terminate that status. And the only simple fix for that is to just go ahead and sign out of the testing program, then do a reboot, and immediately rejoin it again to once more have the desired options showing in your Windows Updates page in Settings. There's apparently no other easy cure for that problem. But quitting the Insiders program and re-joining fixes it. I know, because I did it this morning, and as I write this, the latest Win-10 build 10547 is preparing itself to install.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Win-10: Still testing it. (Some notes)

In the latest version (V15) of '8gadgetpack' not all of the gadgets have yet been fully optimized for the latest builds of Windows 10, so there may be some, like its most popular "All CPU" gadget, which will act a bit strangely. These aren't the result of viruses or malware. I've scanned them. It's just a matter of Microsoft and Helmut Buhler being at different places on the page, so to speak.

But I have always loved these gadgets, even when Microsoft decided we shouldn't, with that incomprehensible excuse that "they might contain viruses". As I pointed out, rather obviously, our anti-virus and malware programs that cover everything else in our computers would probably be unable to avoid covering those gadgets simultaneously. And if you have the purchased or "Premium" version of Malwarebytes Antimalware, it has a feature that blocks incoming malware before it gets in, and it puts up a little pop-up window in the lower right corner of your screen, to show you it did that, and to display the IP Address of the offending item. In case you want to blacklist it.

Lastly, for now, in the screenshot above, you'll notice a changed Recycle Bin. That's a gadget from 8gadgetpack . Quite a few of us who have been testing Windows 10 have mentioned that the default version of Recycle Bin isn't too esthetically appealing, and by a happy coincidence, this little gadget can be placed exactly over it, and works even better. The little icon beside its "X" will display some notes and configuration data, and when something's in it, the words next to it will change to tell you how many items, and their size. To empty it, you can use your normal context drop-down, or simply click on the little "X".

And my "rolled up" windowblind-style blog page in the screenshot is done with  Wil Palma's "Winroll", still working great, ever since Win-XP. And I love it!

Win-10 Logon Background: The hack to remove it....

If you aren't one of us Insiders, or even if you are, but aren't on the very latest build yet, (which now has an option to choose this without hacking the Registry) then here's how you can remove that background behind your mug-shot and logon thingy, and replace it with a solid color background of your choice.

What's Shakin', Baby? - I'm re-installing again !

This is most definitely a "work in progress". I'm in the midst of re-installing the Windows 8.1 Pro x64 version (now on here) and then getting the free upgrade of the matching Windows 10. Which, as I'm writing this is now...

....about 67% downloaded, following which, it has to be prepared for installation and then after that, actually installed. So this will be a while yet. I'll have to do another blog entry when it's all finally installed and up-and-running.....

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Windows vs Linux Mint - some comments.

When I was first learning Windows, and reading all the hype about that and other operating systems, I thought people were picking on Windows just because Microsoft had the biggest game in town, and others were just grumbling about it. Now, after eleven years of Windows, and a few detours into open-source systems, I know those people weren't just grumbling for the hell of it. Sometimes, there's a legitimate complaint.

A couple of days ago, I installed PC-BSD on the #1 PC, expecting it to recognize the pre-existing Windows there. It didn't. It wiped out the Windows and gave itself the whole drive. As long as it was there, I decided to play with it for a day or so. Then this morning, I got out the Windows 7 discs, chose the 64-bit one, and began installing Win-7 over all that other thing. I thought. Not so fast, Buster! It isn't that easy. Four times, that install disc went through all the right moves to do the install, and four times, it got to about 80% done, and then rebooted, and began again from the very beginning. I'm a patient guy, but I tire easily at my age, so the fifth time it got to 80%, where it barfed before, I quietly removed the install disc, reset the boot loader to boot normally, and then sat back to see what would happen. I should have done that two hours previously. It continued on without the disc in the drive, finished the install, connected me to the Internet, let me activate the key codes, and begin the long and tedious updating process, which continues as I write this - seven hours since beginning all that. 

And that, Dear Reader, is why we sometimes get just a little annoyed at Mighty Microsoft. It seems to some of us that they've been in the business long enough now to get it right the first time, without requiring me to kick-start it to keep it going. I don't have that trouble with Linux. It just works. There's a moral there somewhere, if we look for it.

Around the solar system this morning....

Views of Mars, as seen from its satellite Phobos.

From Callisto, looking at Jupiter.

From Io looking at Jupiter.

"You are here"

And if it weren't overcast and raining, this would be our sunrise...