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A window into the Digital Life of Bryan Vyhmeister

The Famous Home Office Hits 7.0

One of the great things that can happen on the internet is meeting people that have common interests that you would otherwise not run into in the normal course of life. There have been a number of people I have met this way that I now keep in contact with and one of them is Stefan Didak. We met up along with our wives in Southern California in 2011 and had a great time!

If you don’t know who he is, you might recognize him from his home office. As a fellow home office aficionado, it’s always fun to look at all the tech gear. (Yes, obviously I enjoy tech hardware and home office layouts.) This picture from his site gives some idea of how expansive the layout is.

The newest iteration is now at 7.0 and is very impressive. As I’m designing my new home office that will be completed in January or February, it is very interesting to look at his whole design and assembly process.

The hardest part of the office design for me is choosing the right desk and desk layout. In particular, I have hesitated to buy an expensive desk since I tend to change things around frequently or, in the case of moves, change is required. It’s great to see a really good layout for lots of systems and monitors and it gives me great idea for how to better design my own space.

You’ll find the main office pictures at Stefan Didak’s Home Office page and the assembly at the Home Office Version 7 Setup Making Of page. Both are definitely worth a look and a bookmark!

Downloading YouTube Videos with OpenBSD or Similar

From time to time it is nice to be able to download a YouTube video for offline viewing. There are commercial tools to do this but I always tend to avoid those. Last week I discovered the tool I have wanted for years. I’m probably the last one to know about this but here it is.

The tool is called youtube-dl and simply takes the YouTube URL and downloads the best quality available. It’s hard to beat that. I’ve now downloaded a variety of BSD videos that I want to watch at my convenience or while traveling. (The bsdconferences YouTube Channel is a great place to start.) There are, of course, many other command line options that I have yet to explore.

Fortunately, youtube-dl is available in OpenBSD Ports as well as MacPorts and Homebrew

Updated SSD Guide Now Available

I have updated my SSD guide with the current crop of best-in-class SSDs that I recommend coming into the holiday season. For the first time in the guide I also added two enterprise SSDs to the lineup should your needs be for SSDs in your servers or heavy use workstations.

I am using the SSDs I recommend with OS X laptops in external enclosures (reviews coming soon) as well as with OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and Linux systems. All of the recommended models are excellent solutions for high performance and some excellent options for exceptional value as well.

On to my SSD guide.

HP Chromebook 11 with ARM and IPS

Update: The HP Chromebook 11 has been voluntarily removed from sale while HP and Google are investigating an overheating charger problem. The units still work fine but it is recommended that you use a different USB charger. The details are available in an HP blog post.

The HP Chromebook 11 has arrived with many similarities to Samsung’s ARM-based Chromebook. What the HP variety adds is an IPS display and what appears to be a higher quality casing. There are some additional accent colors and a clean exterior. The full spectrum of wireless connectivity is available with 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 and Verizon 4G LTE will be available in a future version as well.

Adjusting Constrast and White Balance for ThinkPad X1 Carbon in OpenBSD

I purchased a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon recently and I immediately noticed that the screen’s contrast and white balance were not very accurate at all. This system does not have and excellent IPS screen like the ThinkPad X230 but it does have a slightly higher resolution TN display at 1600x900 instead of 1366x768. I wondered how I might solve this problem on OpenBSD. A few searches and I found the answer.

Notes on OpenBSD in QEMU on OpenBSD

Although performance is not its strong point, QEMU can be a pretty useful tool for running OpenBSD instances on OpenBSD. Some years back, kqemu support allowed for much better OpenBSD performance but, unfortunately, kqemu support was removed quite some time ago. While we are waiting for bhyve to support OpenBSD guests and eventually maybe OpenBSD as a host, qemu will have to do.

Netflix now Working on ARM Chromebook

In a move that I hope is a sign of things to come, Netflix has added a special HTML5 interface to its streaming video survice to support Samsung’s ARM-based Chromebook (per Engadget). I hope this is the writing on the wall for Netflix’ use of Silverlight but time will tell. This move could also open the door to being able to use Netflix on various Linux flavors and other operating systems like FreeBSD or OpenBSD using Chromium.

“Why don’t MacBooks come with cellular networking?”

Marco Arment made some excellent comments as to why Apple is not including any sort of cellular data connectivity in any of the MacBook lines. This is one of the only major things lacking from Apple’s laptop lines.

“With LTE, you can burn through a 5 GB data cap in an hour if you’re downloading big video files, and it would be easy to burn through the cap in just a few days if you’re streaming HD video — which, in 2013, is commonplace.”

Back in January, I had some major problems with my Verizon FiOS business connection where only the Verizon-provided ActionTec router would work. The rest of the details are for another post but I ended up using my Verizon 4G LTE USB data card as a stopgap until Verizon could do a truck roll. I only had the 4G LTE USB data card and router as our connection for about 36 hours and many of those hours were while we were sleeping. Using YouTube and a little bit of Netflix from our Apple TV units during that time we easily burned through 8GB of data. I had to upgrade our Share Everything plan with another 2GB so we didn’t go over that month.

I have been using 3G EV-DO since around 2005 just like Marco. The advent of 4G LTE has really transformed the way I use cellular data. I would absolutely love to have it built-in to a MacBook of any sort. As it is, I currently either have some sort of router in the car, occasionally use a MiFi device, or tether (actually using Personal Hotspot via WiFi for the most part) to one of our 4G LTE iPads. Marco also makes some good suggestions about what could be done.

“To start, Apple could just put cellular-connection detection and responsible-usage logic into iTunes and Software Update. That would be sufficient to launch with new 4G MacBook models at WWDC, then they could have a session on the new API and start enforcing responsible practices in the Mac App Store. Along with maybe working something out with Netflix, they’ll have addressed the biggest accidental bandwidth hogs that most people will face.”

It would be very disturbing to have the latest HD TV show episode, which easily tops 1.5GB, download in the background. Unlike with 3G, you might not even notice because 4G LTE is so fast. As Marco points out, it would also be essential to disable automatic software update downloading. As a technical professional, I would be willing to deal with these issues manually but most consumers would not want to be bothered and would not have any idea there would even be an issue until they started receiving data usage alerts or, even worse, a massive cell phone bill.

Built-in cellular connectivity in laptops is also mostly aimed at business users except in the case of the various Chromebook models. The Chromebook is unique in that everything is web-based and not very much data is transferred except for streaming media. Apple may not be including cellular data because of the focus on consumers rather than business users. In any case, I think Apple needs to create a new API for OS X as Marco suggested sooner rather than later. Apple can obviously implement 4G LTE cellular data just fine in the iPhone and iPad lines so I hope the MacBook lines are the next frontier. The next generation MacBook Air seems like the perfect candidate to me.

Nexus 7 Becomes Interesting with Ubuntu Tablet

Due to my use of iOS devices like the iPhone, iPad, and iPad mini, I have not been interested in any Android devices. None of the available devices have had any advantages over whatever iOS devices I have been using at the time. That appears to be changing but it has nothing to do with Andriod. I still have no interest in Android at all but I do have an interest running Ubuntu on a tablet. As was announced a couple of weeks back, Ubuntu is pushing into the phone and tablet markets.

A couple of days ago I discovered the Ubuntu installation instructions for the Nexus 7 tablet. I’m interested in any feedback from someone who has tried this process. I will probably wait until after Ubuntu 13.04 is released on April 25, 2013 but running Ubuntu on a Nexus 7 might just be worth it.

elementary OS Looks Promising

Last night, I was investigating some alternative operating systems to the instability I have experienced with Ubuntu 12.10 on my Lenovo ThinkPad X230. Because of virtualization software, I need some form of Linux that works well with Intel HD 4000 graphics and is pretty stable. I installed Linux Mint 14 Cinnamon two days ago on my X230 and I am somewhat impressed. On a forum post, I discovered something even more interesting.