Archive for December, 2020

Chromebook

Posted in Just Day to Day Schtuff on December 27, 2020 by KAHNSoft

So I posted before about my iPad and how much it was helping me work remotely. I had actually started that process with an Amazon Fire tablet that I had purchased a keyboard for. It worked but it was a bit small. The iPad worked better. Unfortunately, I received the iPad towards it’s end of life and Apple was not supporting the hardware anymore (it was a Gen 4). When things started to shutdown and not work anymore due to the outdated operating system, I had to find an alternative. I immediately looked at other iPads. At the time, I was invested somewhat in the Apple ecosystem. I was carrying an iPhone and pricing Macbooks. It was all very expensive. I started looking at something cheaper.

Enter Chromebooks.

The first Chromebook I bought was an experiment to see if it would fill the void left by the iPad. Primarily, would it allow me to connect to work? It would. It worked very well as it turned out for connecting to work. It also worked very well for using Microsoft’s 365 Office environment. Suddenly, this little inexpensive box was proving to be more and more useful.

If I could create documents and such on it, what else could I do?

My primary interest in any computer, is software development. It’s been a hobby of mine since I was very young. I discovered that with an application called crouton, I could setup a legitimate development environment that looked and felt very much like Linux (which I loved). I started playing with coding on the chromebook. Unfortunately, that little base machine was a little under powered for the coding I was starting to do.

Meanwhile, Google was hard at work making it better. Google recognized the power behind crouton and the developer community that was growing around it. They decided to provide the ability (natively) to run a Linux subsystem directly in the chromeos. I immediately jumped on the bandwagon.

Again, the little chromebook that could was a bit underpowered for the development I was trying to do. I started shopping again. I was already very much in love with the chromeos ecosystem so I found a slightly higher powered machine (same memory, better processor). Enter the Samsung Chromebook Plus.

I have rarely found myself enamored with a machine, but the Samsung Chromebook Plus seemed to tick all of the boxes. It just worked. I had Linux setup and Microsoft’s Visual Studio. I actually sat in a Microsoft building at one point taking classes on how to work in Docker and Azure and did the bulk of the work on the Chromebook while my associates were all hard at work on their Microsoft Surface machines (I had a Windows machine with me, but the Chromebook just worked). I was more than able to keep up with the course.

When I again found myself running out of resources while compiling programs and debugging programs, I fired up a virtual machine in Google’s cloud space to take over the bulk of the work. Microsoft made it easy by providing the plumbing in Visual Studio Code to remotely code, compile and debug the software. With the addition of two extra clicks, I might as well have been doing the development on my local machine.

Now my little iPad replacement had become a multi machine development environment where I had the Chromebook 3 hosting email and coursework and the Chromebook plus hosting the development work while attached to the VM. It has been a lot of fun.

Christmas 2020. It’s been a rough year. I changed jobs. I’ve spent a lot of time taking technical courses on the chromebooks and been issued a shiny new windows machine by my new employer. I do develop on the windows machine for work, but I’ve found that some of the training that I’ve been doing is difficult to do on the Windows machine because of the way it’s locked down (and my own reticence to install things into the environment). As such, I’ve done the majority of the coursework on the chromebooks. Unfortunately, the limited memory and hard drive space on them has still been a challenge. Until….

My beautiful Bride found a Google Pixelbook for sale on-line. The Pixelbook is the “premier” Google ChromeOS device; better hardware, better build quality and its beautiful. Within moments of booting it up and signing in, it looked and felt like “mine”. Shortly after that, I had the Linux system up and running and had installed the development tools that I enjoy using for my classes. Since the bulk of what I have been doing lives in the “cloud”; once the security measures were in place to allow me to connect to things, I was completely up and running in minutes. It’s worth noting here that in the past when I’ve had to setup a new Windows machine for work, I’ve written a whole day off to do it.

The Pixelbook is amazing. Everything I loved about the first two chromebooks only better. It’s faster (7th gen i5 processor and 8gb of Ram). It’s able to store *all* of the applications I use (I had one of the two previous machines setup with Android Studio and the other configured with Visual Studio Code). The screen looks amazing. I’ve now fixed bugs in a previous javascript project that I hadn’t before. I only mention that because I’m already able to develop on it, but now I can do it locally without the need for the external server.

I feel a little like I’ve achieved “nerdvana”. I’m writing code in C# and javascript which are the languages of choice for my job right now. I’m doing it in a Linux environment, which is my environment of choice for about the last 25 years (since I was put on a project at my first job which was almost exclusively unix based). I recently found myself prototyping a solution for my current job, completely on the Chromebooks. Once completed, I was able to check it out on the work machine and integrate the solution with the company’s code.

I found myself recently justifying the chromebook to a user on reddit. Their claim was that I wasn’t really using the Chromebook itself so much as using it as a dumb terminal to get to the VM, which in their defense was true to an extent (sorry Microsoft). That said, with the introduction of the Pixelbook, that changes. Everything I could do before, works better now and it works locally. I could create a complete project with database, APIs and a front end all from the Pixelbook and if I ever find myself on a plane or in an airport concourse, I could do it offline and provide the results when I had a connection again. That experience had previously required me to carry a machine that weighed as much as my children did when they were born and cost almost 3 times what the Pixelbook would have new.

Google is still actively working on this environment and it’s getting better all the time. If you haven’t tried ChromeOS yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough. From the first “cheap” box I bought, I’ve been converted to this environment and it’s only improved as I used it. Now it integrates with my phone so if my phone is nearby and I give it my fingerprint, I don’t have to log into the laptop. If the laptop needs an internet connection and it’s not finding one, it can connect to the phone and turn on the wifi hotspot the phone. If I get a text message on the phone and want to respond, I can do it from the laptop keyboard. All of these factors play into the idea that my attention stays where it needs to be, on the code in front of me.

As you can tell by the length of this post, I’m a fan.

2of2

Posted in Just Day to Day Schtuff on December 27, 2020 by KAHNSoft

So I was reading through the sparce posts on my blog and I realized that while I have a few posts on here talking about my oldest, I haven’t talked much about my youngest.  2of2 is an amazing creature.  She was the product of a very happy series of circumstances that allowed us to try invitro fertilization.  My employer at the time offered an insurance option that was a big help and we likely would not have been able to try had that not been the case.  The pregnancy was a tough one for my Bride, but the results were amazing.  We were blessed with a beautiful healthy daughter who would grow to be an amazing, brilliant young woman.

While my oldest has always been interested in performing and stage work, my youngest has had more technical interests.  She’s been involved in two different competitive robotics teams and has built her own robot at home.  She’s done programming (which certainly thrilled her old man) and is very into various engineering concepts.

She struggled with public school initially and had a speech impediment early on.  As such, my Bride home schooled her until she was ready for middle school at which point they went looking for a public school that would allow 2of2 to explore some of the social aspects of school and expose her to other options for learning.

We were again very fortunate to find a school that had a technology focus that got my daughter even more excited about the prospect of school. So much so, that when we (her parents) suggested we pull her out early one day to go for ice cream, she politely declined saying she’d rather go to class. She’s made many good friends there and has just finished her third season with the schools First Tech Challenge (robotics) team.

Now that we’re all at home, her transition to remote learning was a simple one not only because the school did a phenominal job of providing the resources needed to do it, but also because 2of2 was already well versed in learning from home.

My baby is 16 now.

She shows little interest in driving and is quite content to hang with her friends at school or online. She’s not as interested in programming so much as she once was but she’s very into building and engineering. She wants to help people and talks about a career in bio-engineering or something related. It’s amazing to watch her get into things, and best of all, she still likes me. So frequently during the current lock down (the 2020 pandemic), she will be in her room most of the day and I’ll be in my office working but if we haven’t seen each other for too long, she will come find me just so she can give Daddy a hug.

I thought my kids would come to resent me after a while and that their teenage years would be rough, but as it turns out, both have been willing to talk to me about a variety of topics. I’m amazed and thrilled that they still like me, and I’m awed at what amazing creatures they both are.

Welcome to my Office

Posted in Just Day to Day Schtuff on December 27, 2020 by KAHNSoft

So in the beginning there was my cube (sorry, no pictures). There were toys and there were computers and there was a space that I would go to every day to work. It was limited but it was sort of mine. Then we bought a house. I quickly created a space in the house where I could work.

Over the years, it was my place to go and try new things or on the very rare occasion do some work from home. It changed a bit over the years.

When my children came along, the office went away. The toys were packed into boxes and the desktop computers went into storage. That was the end of “my space” for a long time. I had some space at work but initially, it was a shared office where I had a few items on the desk but it wasn’t really “mine”. When my company moved, I was assigned my own office. My own space. I went nuts. I brought in book shelves and toys and when you walked in, you knew who worked there. My company moved again and I was given a similar office.

I immediately made it mine, and it was the stuff of legend. I worked for that company for 17 years. From the shared space to my own space to the definitive office of Jon.

During that same time, I found I needed more and more to be able to work remotely. Not necessarily at home, but someplace other than the office. I was on call all of the time and it wasn’t always possible to go into the office to fix issues that came up. I started becoming an expert in remote work. I got better and better at being able to support my company’s needs while away. First on their laptop and then on an Ipad and then on a Chromebook.

Whereever I was, I was able to get in and do what needed to be done.

Towards the end of 2019, I found that I was working from home enough, that I needed some space here to “go away” to work. This came about partly due to spending some time at my brother-in-laws house working remotely so that someone was in the house with my Mother-In-Law who’d just had surgery.

The next iteration of my space came about shortly after I stopped working at his house.

When the rooms upstairs became bedrooms for the girls, there was a space in our basement that was going to be my new office. It would have places to store and display my toys as well as plenty of work space. We started finishing it complete with conduit for network cables and power boxes all around. It was going to be epic. Then time and money ran out. The room later became an appartment of sorts for my other Brother-In-Law and my “Study” was no longer a thing. When the B-I-L moved out, the room became storage.

When I needed space at home, that seemed the best place to start. I pulled together scraps of furniture from the mess of things we’d accumulated in the basement. A table from a school surplus sale years ago. Two shelving units that had once been in my daughters room that had been discarded.

Later, my oldest daughter would create a “nightstand” for me that ended up being a wonderful printer stand.

The space worked and it was good and I could go down there and work when I needed to without disturbing anyone upstairs. In fact, for a time, if I came up during the day, they were surprised that I was there. I was getting pulled into early morning meetings (5 and 6 am) at work and in order to accommodate them without going into the office too early, I started my day downstairs. It worked well. Until that job went away. I immediately got a new job and it was mostly in their office (in a cubical) so much of the decor that had graced my previous office was boxed up.

Then came more family medical issues, and auto issues and I was back to working from home. More long term this time and so the little space that I had started began to fill out.

Then the Pandemic struck. My company issues orders that I was to stay home and work from home for the foreseeable future. Well, that was the straw that broke the … well, you’ll get the picture.

Welcome to my space. What started out as a meager effort to make a quiet space to work from home has become a legitimate office where I can work or play, study or practice. Watch TV or just sleep. It’s the most climate controlled space in the house as it’s right next to the furnace/central-air. With almost every need within arms reach. This is where I’m me.