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Archive for March, 2016

Terrible Tuesday

This is not how I planned things. Today being what it is in Belgium, with “terrorist attacks” dominating the news headlines as well as my reality (I work in Brussels), the subject might seem a bit out of line. Or maybe not. Just read “BoingBoing: How would you explain the difference between war and terrorism to a space alien?“. And don’t get me wrong: I think Europe isn’t that much better than the USA when it comes to this subject… so no quotes from the text here.

Just spare a moment of silence and warm thoughts for the victims of today’s attacks, and help make the world a better place for all humanity.

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Spring 2016 is officially here, at least on the northern hemisphere. Too bad the weather isn’t very good, these days, here in Belgium. But we went for a walk, my wife and I, and we had a good time.

"Der Mag Zoveel Ni!"

“Der Mag Zoveel Ni!”

That’s an art work from a guy named Smok, painted on the wall of a garage. The title loosely translate as “There’s so much that’s not allowed!“. More of his work can be found on his website.

Just click on one of the pictures for more photos of our walk…

dscf6766.jpg

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More cultural stuff on Kickstarter: Alex Winter wants to make the definitive documentary about the life and works of Frank Vincent Zappa. As a fan of Zappa, I simply had to support the project.

The Zappa family house: view of the interior (Photo by Alex Winter)

The Zappa family house: view of the interior (Photo by Alex Winter)

If you’re in a generous mood, why not buy the Zappa family house in Hollywood? It’s not on sale through Kickstarter, you’ll have to look it up on eBay, I’m told – and it will cost you a cool 9 million US dollars… Seems like a small price to pay to protect the cultural heritage of a musical genius, but I guess mister Trump isn’t interested.

 

PS. Looking through my blog, I noticed that “St.Alphonzo’s Pancake Homepage” (see /2000/11/03) no longer exists on the Internet. Luckily, there’s another extensive source about Zappa: “Information Is Not Knowledge“…

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As predicted in my previous post, I installed the Ice application from the Peppermint Linux distribution on my Xubuntu PC. Although is part of the PeppermintOS distribution, installation in Xubuntu (and presumably Ubuntu as well) is quite simple. I followed the instructions from the Ubuntu Forums thread “How to get a program called “ice” from Peppermint OS 6“. In a nutshell (make that a real shell in your Terminal, please):

cd ~/Downloads
wget https://launchpad.net/~peppermintos/+archive/ubuntu/p6-release/+files/ice_5.0.1_all.deb
sudo dpkg -i ice_5.0.1_all.deb

For good measure, you should check the latest Peppermint OS release packages to make sure you have the latest stable edition of Ice – just replace ‘ice_5.0.1_all.deb‘ with the name of the latest version.

The link to my PVOutput.org site works OK in Xubuntu. But you must remember that all Ice-generated applications use the same cookies etc. as the Chromium browser they are based on. That may not be 100% what you need, but I haven’t yet found a solution for that problem (other than writing your own application).

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In 2006, I wrote about my use of a Mac OSX application to access GMail. I used that app for two reasons: first of all, to have a version for each of the Gmail accounts I used at the time, and secondly to have a few shortcuts pointing directly to each of these accounts. Remember that Google’s account management wasn’t what it is today, ten years later!

This was my first encounter with what I now know to be “single site browsers“: a web browser packaged in such a way that you can only surf to a single site. Ideally, such an SSB-app keeps the cookies and login data and more for that single site separate from all other apps, including your favourite browser (Safari, Chrome, whatever). An SSB turns a site (or a subsite, or a URL) into a desktop application. OK, it’s an application that needs an active Internet connection to work, but you can’t mess it up with whatever you do while surfing on the internet in a general browser. That includes limiting the threats that might be posed by malicious Javascript code hidden in ads, for example.

Now, back to today. Now that I have started to record the electricity production from our solar panels on PVOutput.org, I went looking for a way to create a single site browser to point to PVOutput.org. This would allow me to install such an application on the computers of all the members of this household without having to force them to remember the URL and login data – I’ll log in once, and the app will remember all that’s needed to get started. So when I’m not at home for a few days, someone else can enter the daily numbers (and I can check those numbers from wherever I am at that moment). Forget the little paper notebook that I used for this purpose in the past, let’s go digital so we can even have smartphone alerts reminding us to check the meter and prompting us to enter the data!

The user interface of Fluid is quite simple!

The user interface of Fluid is quite simple!

It turns out that the number of choices for creating an SSB in 2016 is rather limited. Since there are almost only Macintoshes in this house, I settled for Fluid. The applications it generates are not entirely separated from Safari, but for my purpose I think it will be sufficient. One of these days, I’ll probably also use the Ice application from the Peppermint Linux distribution. This does more or less the same thing as Fluid, and includes integration with the LXDE desktop – that should go nicely on my Xubuntu, I suppose.

But I wonder: why aren’t there more (and certainly more modern) tools to build SSB’s? I know we can have URL’s as shortcuts on most desktop operating systems. But SSB’s can (should?) be more than that, especially for those of us who care about their own privacy and the security of the data in their browsers. Or am I missing something?

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An extra day in the month, especially one like today, makes a difference for anyone using solar panels to produce electricity. February 29 was the “best” day on the month for our installation: almost 9% of the total energy production for the whole month was generated on that single day.

Oostduinkerke beach

Oostduinkerke beach

Looking up the numbers for 2012 seems to confirm that special relation between leap years and higher than average electricity production. Indeed, in 2012 we had the highest production numbers for all months of February in the existence of our installation. But that was not not because of the extra day, but simply because the whole month was relatively sunny from day one on – the 29th then was in fact one of worst days of the month!

Anyway, even without that 29th day we would have surpassed the average production for this February, so all in all the year has started off well enough, at least for our panels.

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