New Music – November 2016

I have discovered lots of interesting music in November, including the long lost Sea Nymphs album that was recorded in 1991 but only released this year (and which can be bought from the Cardiacs store. There was also a surprising electronic Lambchop record and an equally surprisingly angry Moby record.

The Sea Nymphs – On The Dry Land
Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions – Until The Hunter
Sleaford Mods – TCR
Marie Davidson – Adieux Au Dancefloor
Lambchop – Flotus
Moby and the Void Pacific Choir – These Systems Are Failing
The Sweet Release of Death – The Sweet Release of Death.
Emily Reo – Spell 10″

New job, new biographies

I start a new job on Thursday. I’ll still be working for the University, but for a different department and on a different project. I’m currently at home using up the holiday I carried over from last year, and I’ve set aside today to update all publicly available biographies and blurbs to reflect this change, and also to try and ensure that Linkedin and Facebook represent my updated professional and personal networks.

As part of this I’ve updated the about me section of this blog, plus the pages I maintain on what I’m currently working on and what hardware and software I’m using. I suspect all of these will see further revision once I’ve started, but they are at least more accurate than they were.

Using an iPad as a primary computer

There’s been a lot of talk on the internet over the last couple of weeks from people who were planning on buying a new Macbook Pro who have instead decided to move most (or all) of their workflow over to some sort of tablet (usually an iPad Pro). While I’m not quite there yet, I do find myself using my computer less and my iPad more, and I thought it was worth exploring exactly what it is that would stop me making this sort of switch.

As far as I can work out, the things I still need a computer for are downloading and managing music, ripping/converting CDs/DVDs, converting markdown into .docx (and possibly some other formats, although I have solutions for html and pdf now), and web development/Wordpress work.

Of these, the first one requires macOS/Windows because of the integration with iOS (and only because of that). I don’t want to stop using my iPhone/iPad though, and I buy new music very regularly, and want to be able to listen to it on the move.

The second one can be done on any computer that can be connected to a USB CD drive (which I already own), will run handbrake and that has enough storage space. I probably wouldn’t try this on a Raspberry Pi, but anything else would work.

The third one I can do on anything that can run Pandoc, so any computer that can handle the first two tasks will handle the third.

The fourth one I can do on any Mac/Linux computer. I already have a Linux solution working, and could even use a Raspberry Pi at a push (I’ve already set up a basic environment on a Pi II).

That’s actually not a lot. All my writing, blogging and social media works fine (in some cases better) on my iPad, and Microsoft Office also works well (and integrates nicely with both Sharepoint and Dropbox).

Right now my two most utilised computers are the iPad and the Pi that I use for watching TV shows. Nothing else comes close, and my desktop computers only really get any sort of serious use during weekends/holidays. Maybe there is more milage in this than I thought.

Back to the 80s

Yesterday appeared to be 1980s day. I created a playlist the day before called rediscoveries and listened to it for most of the day (with a brief break to listen to Hope Sandoval’s new record on vinyl). I can’t remember the last time I listened to Tears for Fears, OMD, Ultravox, Japan, Simple Minds, Furniture and The Associates, but it’s the sort of music that takes me back to childhood the moment I hear it. Other things from this era have stuck with me in the years that followed, but there is quite a lot about the 1980s that I very much left in the 1980s, as I left home, moved to a new city, and reinvented myself in the way people do when they go to University. Maybe in a few years time I’ll be ready to revisit the 1990s through a filter of nostalgia, but for now I’m content with enjoying music that sounded dated 20 years ago but that now sounds surprisingly contemporary.

Getting up and running with a CHIP

Tonight I finally received two CHIP boards (sort of a cross between a Raspberry Pi and a Pi Zero). I’d kickstarted these about a year ago and totally forgotten about it, so it was a nice surprise. Whenever I get my hands on something like this the first challenge is to power it up, boot an operating system, and see what it will do.

What follows is one way to get one of these devices powered up, connected to a wifi network, and with access to a graphical desktop. These instructions will work on macOS and Linux, for Windows there may be a need to consult the manual to get the relevant type of terminal access.

The only thing you’ll need (apart from the CHIP itself) is a microUSB cable. As an avid Raspberry Pi enthusiast I have quite a few of these lying about so there was no additional expense. Plug the small end of the cable into the relevant slot on the CHIP and the other end into a spare USB port on your computer. You’ll then need to see what device name your computer has assigned your CHIP by issuing the following command in a terminal window:

ls /dev/tty*

Find the output that looks something like /dev/tty.usbmodemFD1223 and make a note of it. Then issue the following command (replacing my device name with whatever yours is):

screen /dev/tty.usbmodemFD1223 115200

At that point you should get a login prompt. Log in as user chip with password chip (yes, I know). At that point you should find yourself logged into a fairly minimal Debian installation.

As yet there is no network, but as the CHIP has wifi then we can set this up fairly easily. In the logged in terminal session enter the following:

sudo nmcli device wifi connect '(your wifi network name/SSID)' password '(your wifi password)' ifname wlan0

The output should be something like:

Connection with UUID 'e9e45ce8-9961-4116-a7eb-d526e60af3ee' created and activated on device 'wlan0'

At this point you should have a network connection. Test it by doing some software updates:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

When you’re done (it might take a while) install xrdp to allow you to initiate remote desktop connections to the CHIP:

sudo apt-get install xrdp

Once that is done, create a new RDP connection using your client of choice. Find out the IP address using ifconfig or just use the name chip.local, enter the username and password, and you should see a graphical desktop with an application menu and a fair few applications.

I’ve also had some success plugging an ethernet adaptor into the CHIP’s USB port and connecting via ssh, but on most occasions the device powered down before I could do anything useful with it. This is the same setup I use with my Raspberry Pi Zero, so I know it theoretically works, but I need to investigate how much power the adaptor is drawing as it looks like the device is struggling to power it.