This may seem unusual for what most might consider an Electronics or Computer Tech Blog but this is Human Body Tech. Let me preach on it…………..
Sometime around the year 2000 or so I was ridiculously fat and getting fatter. I finally decided that it was time to knuckle down and do what needed to be done. I was living in Japan and on a business trip to Pax River, Maryland and hopped on a treadmill for the first time. I had to run in boxer shorts and dress socks but I ran a mile on the treadmill.
I’ll spare you the progression story but suffice to say I was a huge “runner” but a runner nonetheless. And along with that hugeness came aches and pains. I was highly motivated to run and read EVERYTHING I could get my hands on. There is no shortage of motivational running literature out there. And then the inevitable happened. I got a mild injury, probably to my IT Band. The IT Band is a thick bunch of fibers that runs along the outside of your thighs and knee. While researching my ouch-ee I read a book called The Pain Free Runner, about Myofascial Release for the first time.
I’m no Doctor or Nurse or Physical Therapist or anything of the sort. I was nothing but a fat, hurt runner. But I’ll my best to explain this in layman’s terms. When some muscle hurts in your body the actual site of the injury or “Trigger Point” is somewhere else. The tension from the knotted muscles or tissue pull and stretch the affected muscle where you feel the pain. Release the knotted muscle and the pain subsides.
You’d think a modern Tech Blog would discuss modern equipment but the reality is sometimes tech that is still laying around gets forgotten about and in some sense this blog is about an attempt to upgrade some old tech.
Back when I was a pup fluorescent lighting was everywhere. It was probably the most common way to light up larger spaces. If you got your hands on a 4′ long lighting fixture you were living large. My dad found a couple somewhere and painted them red, white, and blue and hung them in his office basement. I’ll never forget that horrific buzz.
Recently my wife and I bought a mid 1980’s country home and the back yard shed had two 4′ long fluorescent light fixtures in it. There were a couple of bad tubes in it and sometimes the lights would come on and sometimes they wouldn’t. Being the tech savvy dude that I am I decided to upgrade the old light tubes to LED’s with drop in replacements. Sounds easy, right?
It was not.
At my old house I had all manner of storm preparations in place. We moved here in July of 2021 which gave me several months before the Winter Storm of January 2022 hit.
I, as they say………Screwed The Pooch.
Fortunately for me the power never went out because if it had I wasn’t quite ready for it. My biggest indiscretion was that I own a 9500 watt, 50 amp generator. That is essentially enough power to run your whole house in a storm.
At my old house I had a 7500 watt, 30 amp generator. I ran my whole house EASILY with that. And while this is a much larger house with mostly all electric appliances…………you pick a floor to live on. Upstairs or Downstairs. Actually the heating system downstairs runs on gas. So if we stay downstairs, which we mostly do anyway………….we’d never miss a beat.
So when we moved here I decided to hook a PBN50 Power Inlet Box up to the house.
- 9500 watt, 50 amp generator – ✔
- 50 amp power inlet connector – ✔
- Cord to hook them together – X
First let me say, “I AM A MAC GUY”. We can also say that “I AM A LINUX GUY”. I am most definitely NOT a Windows guy. All this being said I am also a Maker, or we used to say in the old days…….a Geek.
I have a lot of hobby type hardware such as Lasers, Vinyl sign machines, 3D printers, and CNC machines. These things all have Mac or Linux software of some kind but the cream of the crop software is written for Windows. While I can function on most of the hardware platforms with Mac, the straw that broke the camels back was my newly found love of CNC. The best CNC software, hands down, comes from Vectric, and the new CNC machine I bought comes with Vectric VCarve Desktop. The only computers I own with Windows on it are an old 3rd generation Intel i3 laptop with a tiny amount of RAM and a copy of Windows 10 on Parallels for Mac M1. By the way, Parallels on a Mac M1 runs about as efficiently and trustworthy as the Government. And it isn’t portable as I have it on a Mac Mini. My CNC is in a back yard shed which is either too hot or too cold and I want to do all my prep and design work in the house and run out with the laptop just when it is time to set up the job on the machine.
A new Windows laptop was really my only choice here. Here were my working parameters:
- Cost – Always the first consideration. I only want to use this to run VCarve Software.
- Availability – I wanted a computer I could run to the store and get and return if necessary. Buying a computer by mail can be a horrible PITA if something goes wrong.
- Upgradability – The laptop I chose can have RAM, and the M.2 SSD upgraded and it has an un-used place for a 2.5″ SSD SATA drive.
- At least an Intel i5 chip
- Upgradeable to Windows 11
I ended up buying an Acer Aspire 5 from Walmart, specifically the:
I hit all 5 of the wickets I listed above. Now lets go a little deeper.
I’ve been on a security kick and asking myself, why don’t more people protect their personal communications? Here’s the short list.
- It’s hard.
- Or it costs money.
- If it costs money, it’s still hard.
If you use a web-based service like ProtonMail it is actually pretty easy. It’s all built in. But God forbid you use Mac Mail, Outlook, or Thunderbird to bring in encryption certificates.
I’m pretty tech savvy, and I’ve played with email encryption before and it just is beyond the scope of most average computer users. People in corporate or government roles are most likely to use it, and then they have dedicated IT Departments to set it up. When I worked in the government it was as simple as pushing a padlock button in your email.
At home, not so much. First of all, I use Mac. And while it is possible to add certificates to your store for free it is all command line stuff and again, it is beyond the scope of most users. The solution is a program called GPGSuite but not only does it cost money, it seems to keep costing money as their upgrades cost money. Mac goes from Big Sur to Monterey……..you’re buying a new encryption Suite.
What’s a boy to do?
I had a fit when I found out that the Justice Department was “threat tagging” American citizens who dared to speak out at school board meetings. It was at that point I knew I needed to go dark on my personal communications.
Now, don’t think I went into full Prepper or Patriot mode. I still have a few regular email accounts and I’ll still use them for various things. I use gmail for a spam trap. And getting emails from Amazon and all the other marketing crap can still come in through good ol’ dot Mac.
But if you are a human carrying out conversation with me, especially any kind of business or family business or especially communications with lawyers………….our email is going to be encrypted. I even changed the email address on my “Contact Me” tab of this page.
So lets talk about the service I’m using………….ProtonMail. I’ve had a ProtonMail account for years, but I almost never used it. I got it because I was going to hire a lawyer for something once and the first thing he did was direct me to get a ProtonMail account so our communications would be private.
Now more than ever in this Social Media day and age I think it is important to encrypt your private communications. Most people think they are boring but as the current news feeds amplify, if you dare speak out on a subject you may be a target. I won’t get into details beyond that but …….why not encrypt your on-line conversations? No one needs to know what you like and don’t like, and what you stand for or don’t stand for. Or what your vaccination status is.
If you think Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo are not spying on you there is no hope for you. You need to move on from here. Email encryption is nothing new and in fact I remember the first consumer grade stuff ………Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) in the mid 90’s. It was super cool but people just would not take the extra steps to do this. I suspect they still won’t. But they should.
There are several secure email services and in this blog I will focus on ProtonMail They use end to end encryption and if you have a ProtonMail account and you email someone that doesn’t…….you can still create an encrypted environment.
ProtonMail is web based, and for most of you that isn’t an issue. You are used to logging into your Gmail or Yahoo account on a web browser, so don’t let this scare you. You’re simply using another service except this one is more secure.
Let’s move on with this discussion.
After setting up a new household, network, and entertainment devices I have observed the following items. My apologies for not going in depth with device names and photos and statistics……….I’m trying to keep this as simple a read as possible.
We have a smart TV and several smart devices. Roku, Firestick, Apple TV, and HDHomeRun for Live TV connected to an antenna.
- Wireless devices and TV’s are the norm. You have to pay bigger $$’s to get an ethernet port. Streaming video and hi res is more likely to glitch over wifi.
- All have abandoned Optical out for audio. They seem to think that all devices operate perfectly over HDMI or that no one has an older Audio Visual (AV) system.
- The HDHomeRun app only provides audio on some TV sets if set to Dolby Audio.
Granted I have older stuff but still. Anyone with anything more than a few years old might have an AV system or surround sound system that worked on Optical or Digital out. All these new devices seem to be HDMI only.
I have a Polk Audio sound bar on one TV that was several hundred dollars (came with the house) and isn’t that old. It DOES NOT connect to HDMI. So if I want to use a Roku AND THE SOUND BAR …………..it ain’t gonna happen. In order to use the sound bar I have to hook up a super old (2015 era) Apple TV that I have. Yeah it works but Apple no longer supports those devices and you just don’t get updated apps, etc. for them.
In other words, there is no backwards compatibility.
You would think that at a Tech Blog the guy writing it would only have the latest and greatest. Well, let me tell you something about the latest.
Well, here it is. The day we all wait for. Retirement. My official work counter shows me at 37 years and 8 months and retiring as a GS-13 Step 9.
We’re quite a ways from 1982 when I went through the gates at Great Lakes Naval Training Command. Imagine being 19 years old and departing boot camp and reporting to an aircraft carrier in dry dock. I’m not scared of heights but when I looked down that dry dock at the USS Carl Vinson in its entirety I got a little bit of vertigo. Not to mention the whole ship is a gigantic maze with no cheese at the end.
I bet you never heard of Credit Alert Interactive Verification Reporting System (CAIVRS) before.
CAIVRS was established by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency in June of 1987. It is a database of Social Security Numbers that are in default regarding federal loans such as Student Loans, Small Business Loans, VA Loans, etc.
The following agencies report to CAIVRS:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Education
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Small Business Administration
- Department of Justice
If you default on a loan or credit card it goes to your credit report which is accessible to you. However, if you default on a Federal Student Loan it is not reported to your credit file. It is only reported to CAIVRS.
YOU WILL NEVER KNOW YOU WERE A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT UNLESS YOU APPLY FOR FEDERAL MONEY.
I just applied for a VA loan for a new home and was notified by my lender that I was delinquent on a Federal Student Loan and that I could not get my VA loan until this issue was cleared up. I immediately knew this was inaccurate because I HAVE NEVER HAD A STUDENT LOAN.
I called the Department of Education Student Loan Debt Resolution ……………… let that sink in a moment. This problem is so huge apparently that they have their own departmental offices.