Shopping For Alternatives

Shopping For Alternatives

Sunday, Jan 10, 2021

Listening to: Girls With Knives - Handsome Men

Because they’re not advertised, lots of folks are not aware of free or open source software packages, often suitable as an alternative to commercial products. Not that they are copies, in fact some features of commercial packages are first developed in open source. It goes both ways.

Here’s a short list of packages for common tasks although there are far, far more:

1 minutes read
My Friend Percy

My Friend Percy

Saturday, Jan 9, 2021

Listening to: Red Gate Compilation Mixtape

Year ago I used to volunteer as a barn worker for a local rescue. S.A.I.N.T.S. in mission is a pretty unique place. A home/refuge/hospice that specialises in older animals. So looked forward it every week.

As I cleaned out the stalls, various animals would participate. Chewie would always make mischief. Tipping over your wheelbarrow JUST when you finally finished filling it. So much character, he always got a skritch between the horns when I wandered by.

Pigs, goats, llama, sheep, horses, dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and more inhabited the place. But some of my favourites were the cows.

Percy (pictured) was a 2000 pound steer hand raised after being rescued from a calf auction. The closest thing to a “lap cow” you’d ever meet. Always curious, he would run over to say hi when you passed by. It should be mentioned he was a bit licky. OK, a lot licky. I mean, in an affectionate way, like a dog. But with a massive tongue that felt like it was going to take your skin off when he wrapped it around your arm.

And he smelled good. Perhaps it was growing up on and around farms as a kid, but the smell of cow has always been a strong olfactory memory. When biking through nearby pasture country I’ll always cruise slowly with my visor up, taking in the barnyard smells.

Heck, as kids we played “king of the hill” on mounds of dried poo. Good for the immune system I once read.

If the world ever returns to normal, S.A.I.N.T.S. used to have tours at 11:00am Saturday and Sundays. By donation. Totally worth it.

2 minutes read
Stepping Out On The Town

Stepping Out On The Town

Friday, Jan 8, 2021

Listening to: Kyla La Grange - Vampire Smile (video)

Christmas Eve I made some changes to my life. Which under the pandemic rules here meant that I was “stateless”. Living solo and able to attach to another household. It’s not only permitted but seemingly encouraged as this all drags on. The risk from a “singleton” has been gauged negligible and the mental health benefits for all parties far outweigh any minor quibbles. That I also work alone, avoid the bus and changed my habits so I don’t frequent any busy/unsafe establishments means the risk to others is even lower.

And I can tell you, after enduring two weeks of household quarantine, they’re not wrong. Being solo all the time is not only a drag, but starts to stress you out. Seeing as long term stress can lead to health complications, the whole policy starts making sense.

I’ve been given (or researched) some additional guidelines. Pandemic “safe” dating, distanced walks or other such activities are all good. If it steps over the line, even something as simple as having dinner or visiting somebody’s house, that means you’ve “attached” yourself to the person/household. Which is also OK. If whatever you’ve mixed yourself up in ends… it’s back to another two weeks of being driven insane conversing with your cat solo before you can “try again” with another person/household.

note: What’s official online is a rather vague and lacking in specifics, so all this has been gleaned from multiple science-based sources.

Excited and apprehensive at the same time. I’m not on social media and don’t really want to agree to the terms of service for a dating site, so it’s going to be down to… bravery?

Oh dear.

2 minutes read
Goodbye (and good riddance)

Goodbye (and good riddance)

Thursday, Jan 7, 2021

Listening to: Lisa Mitchell - Coin Laundry (Video).

One week until Facebook (finally) deletes my account. It’s only been used once or twice during the last year so there is no need to keep a big database of personal information online. Instagram has been deleted for awhile as have many other commercial services. Google is mostly detached, I just need to transfer some final online account contacts to my personal e-mail first (which is hosted by Protonmail).

Instead, a few of us are talking about starting our own local social network, probably something based on Mastodon. The intent is to provide a private place for marginalised local communities to communicate safely. DIY bands could promote without the platform artificially restricting their audience (because $$). Conversations about what kind of privacy model to use are ongoing but the tech groundwork has started. I posted before about Fosstodon’s Code of Conduct being a good model, and perhaps it’s one to adopt. There’s also talk of our own video streaming server. That’d be fun. Anything to do with encoders and codecs makes makes me wiggly (hey, judge not lest ye be…).

First up on my personal list is a Matrix instance to use for messaging. Given the recent news that WhatsApp is forcing users to quit or have their data sent to parent Facebook, I suspect most won’t care some local folks may want a privacy-respecting alternative. Especially those in marginalised communities. It’s super easy to use with apps for every platform.

There is an argument to be made that some of this comes off a little paranoid. Perhaps. But it also means I get to do a lot of learning while regaining control over aspects of my life. In a increasingly globalised world that seems to be spiralling out of control, one could argue it’s may even be good for one’s mental health.

Naw, it’s about the dorking.

2 minutes read
The Cast - Willy

The Cast - Willy

Wednesday, Jan 6, 2021

Listening to: Primetime - Tied Down

Here he is rather disoriented from a recent move. His WTF?! pose.

I wandered into a animal rescue a decade ago, ready for another medical foster (the previous had been a doozy so we’d taken some time off).

“Wait here, we have an emergency that needs to get out today” was the reply. And a small beige box appeared before me along with medication and a sheet of instructions. The box let out one high pitched “mew!” on the way home. Sounded like a tiny cat although the box was rather heavy.

When finally opened a large forest cat uncurled itself and looked up. “Mew!”.

Willy was pretty much unadoptable. He was dying at the SPCA and after a large number of tests (barium series, the works) was, amongst some physical issues, diagnosed with a severe anxiety/abandonment disorder. If he doesn’t get enough love his body starts shutting down.

So he became the first of a number of “foster fails” over the years. He couldn’t go back into the system and not many people could (or would) be able to meet his various needs. Five homes was enough, he’d found his final one.

Life with him has not been without challenges. He’s a jealous thing who’s bitten partners and acted out when he doesn’t get enough attention. At one point I started playing console games so I’d stay still for at least an hour a day and recharge his batteries. He’s very affectionate and the:

BEST PANDEMIC BUDDY EVER!

2 minutes read
The Cast - Stanley

The Cast - Stanley

Monday, Jan 4, 2021

Listening to: The Shiverettes - Dead Men Can’t Cat Call

This is my “Oh, hey. While you’re up can you grab me a beer?” photo.

Stanley was born atop Chilliwack Mountain. Runt of the litter, it was hit or miss whether he lived. Lucky for us, he not only pulled through, but became largest of the bunch. Size AND personality.

If you met him, you’d know he’s rather outgoing. Assuming he’s welcome wherever he goes, whether you’re a stranger sitting quietly reading on a park bench or a family having a picnic. Welcome to Stanley.

We did a lot of training with him at first. A lot because he was considered “wilful for the breed” and had to stay after class. Even so we eventually won a trophy for “most improved” of the year. Though he immediately forgot everything. Probably my fault.

He’s worked as a support dog both in workplaces during crunch times and as an anxiety dog of sorts at other events. He’s even been asked to help children get over their fear of dogs. If you wander about with him chances are people won’t remember your name. Been called “Mr. Stanley” on more than one occasion. All good.

If you see him out in Vancouver, please say hi. His entire reason for being (besides food) is to love strangers. Walks are great as you’re never alone for long. Even those brief distanced conversations help a lot during these isolating times.

I love the bugger. He lives upstairs now because of pet number 2. Willy the attack cat. More on him in another post.

2 minutes read
News Alligators (Or How RSS Makes Browsing Easier)

News Alligators (Or How RSS Makes Browsing Easier)

Sunday, Jan 3, 2021

Listening to: Kate Bush - Live at Hammersmith Odeon (video)

RSS readers. I just spoke to somebody who didn’t know what one was and said I’d write it up (hi there!).

What

An app which pulls in an overview of articles recent posted from any number of sites. Saves a bucketload of time as you can just click open the full text of interesting items to read and skip the chaff. Podcast apps use a similar structure.

How

RSS ICON Many sites, especially personal blogs like this, will have a square icon with three curves in it (mine is over on the navigation box). Clicking will open up a page of dork code or what looks like garbage text (it’s really called XML). Entering that page URL into a RSS Reader will give you content and update it every time you open your app, looking for new posts. That’s the manual method, each platform and app will have it’s own style. Some organisations even have a nice index page of all feeds by subject https://www.cbc.ca/rss/ and clicking on one will automatically add it to some readers.

Where

It’s common software for any platform and I’m sure a quick search will turn up a few for whatever you’re running. There are also sites which act as portals for your feed (read the fine print). I’ve never found a need to pay for one, but use open-source software. Your call. If you do go free or open source, perhaps kick beer money to the developer if you’re flush. They like that.

WTF?

Sometimes a site will “lose” the link to the feed, taking the icon off the site. It doesn’t mean the feed isn’t being generated, but that somebody thought it didn’t make enough money screwed up the coding. If you look in “common places” you’ll often find it there anyway. /index.xml, /rss/, /feed/ etc. Some search engines will pull the direct URL up as well.

Many big sites have eliminated them despite almost every CMS (content management system) supporting the feed structure. Reasons vary, but many want you to surf the site so they can monetise your visit with ads or by selling the personal data you generate.

More info: Wikipedia RSS Entry

2 minutes read
Codes Of Conduct

Codes Of Conduct

Saturday, Jan 2, 2021

Listening to: XTC - Drums and Wireless - BBC Radio Sessions 77-89

It started four or five years ago. I’d been having increasing problems with much of mainstream society, especially some forms of accepted behaviour. From trolling on the internet to some really shitty people ruining what were otherwise awesome occasions (dance night, parties, gigs, workplaces etc). Their behaviour was often normalised and very difficult to do anything about. But leave.

Alternatives were found. I started going back to my roots and hanging out in the DIY music scene. Ya, this unit was a bit older, but there were a few others of similar vintage about and after a bit of time, enough people warmed up that it became “home”. I eventually ended up joining a collective and it’s been a great experience with some wonderful people from every walk of life. Not that it wasn’t without challenges, I had some of my preconceptions blown away and bad habits are still being corrected. A constant learning process.

Common social media was eventually dumped. Other options were also found here. The main one being Fosstodon. A respectful, privacy-centric non-profit community of like-minded souls. While not a free speech platform, there is little censorship, relying on the community to make any needed corrections, hopefully before the admins need to get involved. From the ever present “caterday” pics to conversations with paleobiologists about their work. It’s been awesome.

Which brings us to a direct comparison of the two groups mentioned above. Their “Codes of Conduct”. While the application is different, the two documents are remarkably similar in tone. Red Gate’s is pictured, while Fosstodon’s is here. I just wish the rest of the world worked this way.

2 minutes read
Dancing With Myself

Dancing With Myself

Friday, Jan 1, 2021

Listening to: Nouvelle Vague - Dancing With Myself (cover)

Starting to live by myself during a global pandemic is forcing some decisions. Like what to do on New Years Eve? Stay home smothered in cat like every other night? Probably not good for the mental health, it’s hard enough to fly solo on a day-to-day basis.

I can’t remember a New Years without dancing. Be it in a house party’s kitchen or out at a venue, there has always been a series of odd contortions vaguely aligned to music bit of dancing.

So I went down to a local venue, turned on the PA’s and had nice spin about the floor. Beer in hand. After all, who was I going to spill on? There was even a glass of champagne at midnight from a like minded (socially distanced) soul. For the first time in awhile, I got a wee bit tipsy.

Yay.

1 minutes read
New Years Eve 2020

New Years Eve 2020

Thursday, Dec 31, 2020

Listening to: SBDC - Bad At Sex

We (Stanley and I) were to depart this summer for a long awaited trip across Canada.

When he first came home I promised him the best life ever and, for the most part, it’s been a promise upheld. Travel, love and adventure. Snowshoeing on Seymour, swimming in Lynn Creek, Sunday morning “pizza crust hunting” on Commercial Drive, lots of friends and even a few concerts. He once expressed a desire to pee on Newfoundland. I’m not sure he entirely understands WHAT the maritime provinces are. PEI may indeed be a form of cookie. None the less, a plan was made.

The vehicle in question was a cheaply obtained 1987 G20 ‘Get-Away Van’ in need of repair. Even after finished those, the mechanic who inspected it gave us “at least a 50-50” chance of making it. With these odds are adventures made.

“The Thing” scuttled all those plans and will likely do so for next year as well. I hope Stanley lives long enough to pee across Canada see the other side of the country, he’s getting to be an old dog these days.

Ugg. Fuck 2020.

1 minutes read

Bandcrack

Support your local scene.

Buy merch. Buy music.

Dance like nobody’s watching.

Flay on Bandcrack