More Elementary

A few weeks before the pandemic started I fixed the touchpad on the ancient Acer ES1-111M we had lying around, upgraded its RAM and turned it into a moderately useful “couch computer”. For good measure, I also installed Elementary OS 5.1.4 Hera on it, and I’ve been using it ever since on a near-daily basis.

So this post is a sort of follow-up to the last time I did a similar thing, but on a C720. And it was also the latest step in a long string of attempts at making this particular laptop somewhat useful.

It had originally run Windows 8 moderately well (soon converging on miserably as the kids tried to do more and more on it), and I had already installed Elementary on it once, but the tiny 32GB EMMC storage it shipped with and the wonky touchpad precluded any extended use.

So I decided to fix what I could. Sadly, there is no way to drop an M2 SSD inside it–the PCB layout has tracks but no connector, and I couldn’t figure out if there was supporting silicon either, but grounding the touchpad and adding 8GB of RAM was enough to turn it into a great little laptop.

The CPU is a Dual-Core Intel Celeron N2840 clocked 2.16GHz, and as such more than good enough to do all the routine sysadmin stuff required to keep my pet projects running (even if some of them haven’t seen any new releases in many months), run VS Code, take notes, and remote desktop to my work machines.

It is even able to do Zoom and Teams calls in a pinch (although I suspect it will handle multiple video streams quite poorly), and can drive an external 2560x1080 display just fine:

My LG 29WK500-B 29" UWHDs seem to share the EDID of the 34" model

So yes, Elementary OS is still great, and smooth, and (for me at least) completely trouble-free.

Everything works, and it is probably telling that I use it more than I do my MacBook (although that can also probably be attributed to it being a lot lighter and less of a distraction).

There are a few things I never do on Elementary, though, and that are essential for me on a personal level:

  • E-mail (I might be in the minority here, but nothing can really replace Mail.app for me yet, and Elementary’s mail client can’t seem to deal with my huge folder trees).
  • Calendaring (I can probably get away with the built-in CalDAV client, but last time I tried I just couldn’t get it to work, and I need a To-Do/Calendar app that can sync with my phone somehow).
  • Password management (1Password does not work in Linux without hacks I’m not willing to maintain, and I can’t stuff everything into Firefox).
  • Photography (the Photos app on Elementary is very simple, and does seem to handle some RAW formats, but lacks the sort of color adjustments I have on Apple plarforms and doesn’t sync with anything).

The good news is that all of these seem fixable, even without resorting to third-party stuff.

And considering the mess that Catalina has turned into, running a full Elementary desktop on a permanent basis seems more and more likely by the day…

Using OneNote as a Wiki

I’ve been using OneNote for years, but this eluded me throughout all of that time:

You can easily link to pages in the same notebook by just typing [[Page Name]].

OneNote will auto-link and remove the square brackets if it finds a match, or underline with a dotted line and create a new page if you click through.

So far I haven’t found a way to link across different sets of subpages, but this is handy enough.

Beneath The Surface

Nothing much to report on the creative front. Work has been exhausting, but it has also taken another unwelcome twist: As it gets progressively warmer, my Surface Pro 4 is collapsing slowly under the effect of near-constant video calls, and has already shut down on me once.

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Knocking on Metal

I’m very, very tired of planning and spreadsheets and slide decks (and even more tired of all the insanity around the pandemic), so I spent a couple of hours this weekend geeking out a bit. Nothing of consequence, just some harmless fun.

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Clearing Quarantine for Casks

Every now and then I install an app using brew cask and Mojave/Catalina spends ages “verifying” it upon launch.

The solution for that is to clear the com.apple.quarantine attribute from it (and any internal bundles, recursively), using:

sudo xattr -dr com.apple.quarantine /Applications/AppName.app

Obviously, you should only do this for apps you trust.

A Short Rant About Remote Productivty

This would ordinarily be a three-day weekend and I would be taking a decent break, but in practice I worked a few hours yesterday (May 1st) and am going to do the same this Sunday.

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TIL: Pop!_OS has Automatic Window Tiling

Today I learned that Pop!_OS, the Linux distro developed by System76, almost makes up for its silly name by shipping with a very nicely done auto-tiling Gnome shell extension (available at pop-os/shell):

A nice little demo movie.

Alternatives for macOS

  • Magnet does almost the same thing on macOS, and if it supported saving pre-defined window layouts I would switch away from Moom.
  • Amethyst is likely the best tiled window manager for the Mac, but the default keyboard bindings are somewhat annoying after years of Moom.
  • The LG Screen Manager application also does that, although they don’t actively advertise it.

Alternatives for Windows

PowerToys for Windows 10 includes FancyZones, which lets you define tiling zones.

50-ish Days Later

Here’s a short update on the pandemic situation, partly spurred by crude oil prices having reached zero this week and because we’re now a little over 50 days into it here.

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Please Hold, Your Life Is Important To Us

I’m going to break away from the usual tech stuff and write a bit about my current state of mind. So yes, this has something to do with the pandemic. And something to do with breaking points, too.

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Three Months With The Synology DS1019+

After a faithful nine years of service, I decided to replace my Synology DS411j with a brand new DS1019+. This actually came to pass a few days before last Christmas, but for multiple reasons I never had the time to write about it–until now, of course.

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