Hurricane Irma, The Wait For Power

Really.   If I can sit here on a Wednesday Morning and bust out some blather about the electricity being out and that’s about it, then I will survive.

The one story that keeps coming through my mind is a woman on Barbuda in the Caribbean.  She was one of 1600 people there.  She was watching a baby and a tornado hit her home.  The baby was sucked out of her arms.  Baby found dead later when the storm passed.

Really.  So, count your blessings.  If you are reading me, you are better off.

We are without power.  The gasoline supplies are very low, we’re waiting on the coast guard to allow tankers into Port Everglades to refill.  I guess we join a long line to fill gas cans like many others.

But we’re intact here.

I caught news that the west side of the state, Naples, Fort Myers, and the like got slammed by this horrible storm.  Here, not so much.  We didn’t have a predicted 9 feet of water in a storm surge come in.  We did have white-out conditions with rain so strong that I couldn’t see the wall of a building 250 feet away briefly.

The eye of the storm crossed Cudjoe Key.  Call it MM 52 – 52 miles East of Key West.  As well as they prepared, anything not nailed down is now not in the house.  Those folks will need help getting onto their feet.

So I’ll return to putting the plants back out and scooping my neighbor’s tree leaves out of the pool.  Not unscathed, just a bit muddy.  Not really even worth taking pictures of it.

A cycle of running the generator an hour, then waiting three hours to run again.  It keeps the bags of ice in the freezer frozen and the refrigerator cool.

Much better off than many.

Yes.  This is global warming.  Anyone that tells you otherwise is a fool and should be returned to their medications.  Anyone who makes laws or votes to the contrary is a damn fool and probably should not be allowed to effect other’s lives.

But after all is said and done.  A few observations.

Gasoline.  I suspect the state has been pretty much drained of this stuff.  We’re ok for four days now, after having gotten some.  I’m sure many won’t be as lucky.  Some of the lines were blocks long.  Police were thankfully directing people around.

And Gasoline is beginning to flow in which is a major plus.  It will take a while before we start to see supplies even out in South Florida.  There was a report that in Tampa, simply forget it.  Again, Thankful but that could be “helped”.

Traffic.  We drove down to Davie about 10 miles off.  I have to say the roads work better with fewer lights.  I’ve heard a saying that “Every Traffic Light Means Someone Died Here” but I have to question if streets aren’t just badly designed and enforcement of traffic laws are simply not stringent enough.  If you follow the rules, you’ll have a better time of it.  If you drive a car like an idiot, you’ll wreck it for everyone else.

A Traffic Light that is out is considered a Four Way Stop by the universal vehicle code.  Yes, Even For you.

We did make it to Wawa in Davie.  The line was untenable.  Close to 100 cars waiting for fuel.  Might need to get up in the middle of the night to attempt it next time.

Count your blessings.  If you can read this, you’re better off than many others.  Now, go talk to your neighbor.  They just may need something.   Mine just put out another bucket of Avocados.  There are plenty left, go and enjoy.

If I could just figure out how to eat the darn things other than sliced on a bagel!  I am thankful even for avocados, weird though they are!

 

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Hurricane Irma, Slogging Through Saturday Into Sunday

But hey, I still have power…

At least through Sunday Morning, I have.

It wasn’t until 4PM here that I saw the first rain that left enough water on the ground to sheen the streets.

The county declared a curfew from 4PM through.  I’m guessing the duration.  I don’t know when that is.

The only thing that has bothered me is a few power pops here and there.  When power does go out, we’re sunk.  I can’t say that they’ll be by to reconnect us at that point, because there is some wind speed that they stop work at.

I seem to remember 35mph.  We are over that now.  44 was the last check, although it’s been gusting faster.

Then you’re on your own, cowboy.

Net’s up.  Power’s up.  Water’s flowing.

This isn’t a whole lot to deal with compared with Antigua, Puerto Rico, the DR, Haiti, and Cuba.

Now the Florida Keys.

It could be worse, I could be in the Keys.  The Eye of the Storm right now is crossing into the lower keys, and they’re still predicting that trip through Key West and up the west coast of Florida.  My heart goes out to them since I can’t say I would want up to 9 feet of salt water piling up on my house.  That’s going as high as 270 CM.

This map is of the expected storm surge.  Those pink areas are where the 9 feet of salt water comment comes from.  Naples, Marco Island, north up the coast.

I grabbed that map from the NWS Miami Twitter Feed.

I stocked up on rechargeable batteries a while back.

I’ve also been harvesting old laptop battery packs.

Why laptop batteries?  Each one is a larger and longer cell configuration so they will not fit inside of a standard radio or flashlight.  They also put out more voltage at 3.7 VDC compared with 1.5 VDC for a D, C, or AA Cell.

But.

Each one puts out between 2 and 4 amps.  Connect four together and you get 14.4 VDC.  Run them through a voltage regulator like that cigar lighter thing to charge your phone in the car and you now can recharge your phone a couple times.

So those 18650 batteries will charge my flashlights for months.  Battery operated fans for weeks.  Radios will play.

The air conditioning may not work due to power outage, but I will be able to listen to crappy music.

If you want radar?  Follow this link.  Remember that the highest point in the Keys is on Key West at 18 feet.  The map showing those islands should be considered a suggestion since most of them will be overwashed by storm surge.

That “9 feet” again.

But so far, for me, I’m lucky.  Not even anything worth taking a picture of here in Wilton Manors, and I thank my lucky stars for that.

How to get Tap To Click back on your Debian 9 XFCE Linux install

We are at an early point in Debian 9, and therefore many of the “downstream” distributions in Linux-Land these days.

Debian just made Debian 9, Stretch, the Stable version.  It also came out with an upgrade to 9.1 a couple days ago.

Since my own laptop was a Debian 9.0 install, I had a problem.  The track pad no longer did a “tap to click”.  It was there in the earlier versions, and removed in a Debian 9.0 install.  They migrated to libinst.  It promises to be new and shiny and do many new things but most of these things are in the future – or so my lack of Tap To Click would show.

I don’t use many of the more complex mouse options with my laptop.  It’s a non touch screen, Lenovo Thinkpad T530.  I heavily use Tap to Click so I want it back.  My other laptop, a Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga S1 had the same problem.  After a lot of research, this was shown to be a design decision.  Debian is my go-to operating system distribution due to the absolute depth of software and documentation out there.

So I set about to “fix it”.

DISCLAIMER:  I was able to do so on two computers but with some thrashing around.  I will give here the information that I have, but that thrash may make it less solid than my usual “cook book recipe” guarantee of any technical articles that I write.

Give it a shot.  If it works, let me know if you did anything different and I’ll mention it here.

Background – the documentation for Debian 9, Stretch, is still incomplete.  The files that I created had to be placed in Xsession.d and the directories that Debian gave were either missing or empty for me.  What they have is correct for the earlier versions and the docs need to be proofread.

Or I went crosseyed and got the wrong damn directory…

Since this blog is a place I put documentation for my own uses (Linux as well as recipes and photography), I’ll put it here.  I’d rather not have the heat of an official inquiry on me since I live in Florida and it is quite hot enough as it is.

First:  Create a 50-synaptic.conf – the file should probably not be there on a “clean install”

1) edit /etc/X11/Xsession.d/50-synaptics.conf

2) at the top merge (Copy and Paste) in the following lines:
Section “InputClass”
        Identifier  “touchpad catchall”
        Driver  “synaptics”
        MatchIsTouchpad “on”
MatchDevicePath “/dev/input/event*”
        Option  “TapButton1”  “1”
        Option  “TapButton2”  “2”
        Option  “TapButton3”  “3”
# This option is recommend on all Linux systems using evdev, but cannot be
# enabled by default. See the following link for details:
#       MatchDevicePath “/dev/input/event*”
EndSection
Second, copy that file to /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-synaptics.conf
Third open terminal and sign into root to install a package:
apt install xserver-xorg-input-synaptics
Fourth: reboot.
On return, you should have tap to click working.  Entering “synclient TapButton1=1” on a command line should give you information for further research.
You may diagnose what the touchpad is doing by running as root “synclient”.
Entering “synclient TapButton1=1” on a command line should give you information for further research.
Further options such as multitouch, double finger tap for scrolling, and coast speeds and so forth are described in detail in the Debian Wiki Synaptics touch pad page at https://wiki.debian.org/SynapticsTouchpad

Using a Manifest to Recreate your Linux System Selectively

Last week, I had finally had enough of not being able to hibernate my computer.  There was enough “chaff’ and weird things happening.

I did realize that I could create a list of everything I had, and then get Linux to import that list and reinstall all my programs.

That would be my Manifest.

I did it knowing that I could be reintroducing the problem that I created with the old system.

I was right.  So I did it over, selectively.

And it worked.  Hibernate and video crashes were problems, and after 17 consecutive hibernate cycles over two days of active use, I’d say I am done.

This was a whole lot simpler.  You see, this scary Manifest thing is nothing more than a text file that is generated within “Synaptic” that contains all the markings of the programs that I installed over the 7 years that I had that Linux install.

I went through that file and deleted everything that I did not expressly know what that particular program was, or anything I knew I did not want.

Easy except the file was in chronological order or … well, lets just pretend it was and leave it at that.  Basically it can be sorted in alphabetical program order simply.

One line in Terminal, just like everything in Linux, would solve it.

Assuming the Manifest is called /home/bill/Desktop/Manifest.txt

In Terminal, issue this command string on one line:

cat /home/bill/Desktop/Manifest.txt | sort > /home/bill/Desktop/SortedManifest.txt

Now you’re in alpha order, and it makes it easier.

I did delete anything that started “lib” as well as KDE, gnome, and mate since I strongly prefer XFCE to all of those.  My choice, no big deal

I simply edited the file in Mousepad, and deleted all things I did not want.

If you want the long form description of all of this, Last Week’s Post is at this link.  However the short form is here:

1) on original install create a Manifest within Synaptic Package Manager.

a) open synaptic

b) Select File, Save Markings As

c) navigate to the place you want to store this file, and give it a name.

d) Tick the box “Save full state, not only changes”

e) Click Save.

2) Verify that your manifest is on removeable media.

3)  Remove any unwanted programs from the Manifest

4) save your important files from the operating system on removable media
/etc/samba/smb.conf,

/etc/apt/sources.list,

the Manifest file

5) Install a fresh copy of your Debian Based operating system on the destination computer.

Debian, *Ubuntu, Linux Mint, whatever…

6) Get the destination computer “up to date” and stable.

7) compare and manually update your /etc/apt/sources.list file from the original computer

copy the installed version to a save file

I copied my own from the original computer in its place and updated

then you will need to update the PGP keys for one or more added such as http://www.deb-multimedia.com

8) install the manifest by

a) open synaptic

b) Select File, Read Markings

c) find and open the manifest.txt file

d) click open

e) verify needed markings have been imported into Synaptic, and click Apply.

f) there will be additional libraries incorporated into your install list due to any new dependencies.

8) you’re done.  Verify everything is OK.  Live with it for a while.

You will want to add in programs like libdvdcss to allow DVDs to play, Samba to share files, but these things will need to be done individually.

9) File Sharing.  I used the Debian Wiki entry at https://wiki.debian.org/SambaServerSimple

a) apt install samba samba-client

b) edit /etc/samba/smb.conf  – or put the one in from the old computer assuming you had it working.

c) add your samba users:  smbpasswd -a USERNAME

replace USERNAME with the correct name, and it will ask you for the password

d) restart Samba:

    # /etc/init.d/samba restart
    or, if you are using systemd
    # /usr/sbin/service smbd restart

Green Onion Flower, or When Internet Memes Bloom

We have all read them.

Internet Memes that promise that you can grow your own food forever.

Guess what, they’re right.

Actually, in some cases they are.  Others depend on how good a gardener you are.

When I was a wee brat, I had pots and plants all over my bedroom.  Along with fish tanks and the sort, there was always something growing, living, bubbling.  The room was always a little more humid than the rest of the house which was great in Winter I guess.

Those Suburban South Jersey split level tract homes could be rather dry, even if you had the bedroom over top of the garage.

I guess I had some luck with growing flowers.  I had a marigold bloom that grew in a thimble sized pot once with a tiny little flower that surprised me.

But this was a surprise.

The meme said that there was a list of food plants that you could grow from the root portion of the plant.  This promised to be a “forever” thing, if you got it right and used them well.

Carrots, Onions, Green Onions, and Celery, as well as a laundry list of other things.

Green Onions.   We would get a package of them and end up tossing some of them every time.  There is an ongoing “discussion” here about green onions.  When I was growing up you used up the entire plant.  Green leaves and the bulb.  Nothing was wasted.  Others would only use the bulb and leave the leaves in the trash.

I decided to stick those extras in a pot.  They started to grow.  I would cut a leaf off when I needed some green onion for my Pizza or what ever else I was making.  They kept growing.

In fact, the problem I have now is that the plants are a bit too prolific.  I have two pots that have green onion in them and we don’t use that much in the way of greens.

One of the plants in particular must have been very happy because it sent up a little spike that bloomed.  I never thought too much of a Green Onion as a garden flower, but this was a rather beautiful white and green tinged puff that came up in the pot.

All of this out of some plants that I rescued from the trash.

So yes, as for this Meme?  You can grow them over and over.  If you do, you can just stick the extras in the soil.  As for recipes, the green portion tastes the same, the white is there for crunch.

Simply leave a little bulb on the bottom of the white portion of your Green Onion and you may get good results.  The suggestion with regular onions is to slice about 1/2 inch or 1.5 cm above the bottom root portion, and stick it in water until you see growth.  If you do get some root stock showing, then you can plant that and later get another onion.

Bottomless, never buy vegetables again?  I won’t go that far but I certainly can’t see buying Green Onion in the next trip to the grocer, that’s for sure!

How Does The Leaked KFC Fried Chicken Recipe Bake?

Ok, a little history here.

There’s that famous recipe.  The one with eleven herbs and spices.  The one we all had at one time or another in Western Fast Food.  It’s pretty good.  I have had it before, and I’ll probably have it again.

There are a lot of attempts to duplicate it or at least come close.  Many professional chefs have tried, with varying results.  I’ll allow you to search for your favorite.

At one point the Chicago Tribune newspaper published an article saying that the recipe they had was The Original KFC recipe.  They weren’t sure completely, but it made for a good story.  More correctly, it is alleged by a family member that this is the recipe that Harland Sanders used to make his chicken.

Do go read that link at the Chicago Tribune.  The writer told a wonderful story and the Trib definitely deserves the read and my own thanks.

I had to try it.  Or rather, I had to try that printed recipe “My Way”.  And THAT is why I say “Alleged” above.  You see, when I made this, it turned out great.  But it had too much pepper in it.  Black pepper specifically, so when I make it next time, I will tweak it for my tastes.

Otherwise I really did like the chicken that I got.  So much that I will be eating some today for lunch in a big bowl with rice.

Yum.

If you like KFC chicken, either go to a proper KFC and get it there, or go through the work of figuring this one out yourself.

While I have no personal information other than the article, and I can not say whether this is absolutely KFC’s original recipe, it tastes so much like my own memory of it that I’ll keep making it for myself.

 

Yes, it is good.

Yes, it is worth the time and effort.

Yes, I will do it again.

Is it truly KFC?  Dunno but it’s damn close!

How I did it:

There is a Buttermilk Marinade for 30 minutes that I of course skipped since there is no Buttermilk in the house.  You can substitute milk.  You can also skip it.  I would expect the Buttermilk to add a little moderation to the spices and tenderize the chicken due to the acid.

I pressed the chicken breasts by using a meat mallet, but obviously that isn’t necessary since the KFC restaurants are selling mostly chicken parts with bone in.  I used breasts because that was what I had here on hand.  Pressing De-boned chicken makes for a more uniform thickness and therefore a more “controlled” result when baked.

Breasts were dredged through a scrambled egg wash, then generously dipped in the flour and spice mixture.

 

 

This mixture will make enough for about five pounds or two and a quarter Kilos for my non US Audience.  Hello, folks from Sunny Florida!  I split the coating in half and it worked out great for my 40 ounces of chicken parts or 1.1 KG (or so).

I did not have Celery Salt on hand.  I substituted 1/2 the amount of ground Celery Seed.  There does seem to be quite a bit of salt in this recipe to begin with.

I baked the chicken parts on a cookie sheet at 450F 230C for 15 minutes and tested to make sure that it was cooked to an internal temperature of 165F or 75C.  Thicker pieces were returned to the oven until they reached 165F.

 

 

This picture below is a direct link to the Chicago Tribune graphic, but will be explained in case that link disappears.

What that well loved recipe says is to add to two cups of flour the list of 11 herbs and spices.  The “Ts” are Tablespoons.  It makes a bit more than 3 cups of coating.

The list of ingredients are:

2 cups flour plus

  1. 2/3 tablespoon salt
  2. 1/2 tablespoon thyme
  3. 1/2 tablespoon basil
  4. 1/3 tablespoon oregano
  5. 1 tablespoon celery salt
  6. 1 tablespoon black pepper
  7. 1 tablespoon dried mustard powder
  8. 4 tablespoons paprika
  9. 2 tablespoons garlic salt
  10. 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  11. 3 tablespoons white pepper

For the metric crowd:

a cup flour is 120g

a Tablespoon is 15ml

Since this is “cooking” instead of “baking” if you’re a wee bit off, you should be fine.  It isn’t like making bread or a souffle!

Nice thing is that since Recipes are never patented in the US, we can share and enjoy.

But I would say the nicest thing about making this recipe is that once you’re done, you will be craving for your nearest KFC restaurant.  Get the biscuits and gravy as a side.

Do they have a proper “red eye” sausage gravy there now?  I wonder….

My own final verdict is like I said before, I will do it again but I will cut back on the black pepper.

 

I did have a heavy hand in coating the chicken which is why there’s a strange powder on some of the pieces.  If you actually deep fry the chicken, that extra will cook and turn brown.   Baking is a bit less forgiving of my own mistakes when it comes to over-coating your chicken.

 

Now that I am sitting here, reading and re-reading my writing… well lunch is coming and I’m looking forward to more of this recipe chicken!

Pebble Steel Charging Issues – Creating a Charging Ground Platform for the Pebble Watch

Recently I was bequeathed a Pebble Steel watch.  My godmother’s husband, Larry, had passed and his wife Kathie wanted to make sure that it would go to someone who would actually use it.

Thank you Kathie, and thank you for keeping Larry’s spirit alive.

The watch is a beautiful thing, after all who can pass up an E-Paper display on a watch.  For an electronic watch, it simply blows away any other display technology for sheer flexibility.  Low light, it has a backlight that gives a blue glow once you press a button.  In high light, the numbers show up in a beautiful silver on deep navy blue.  Other Pebble watches have different color schemes, but the E-Paper display is amazing.

 

The watch did not come with the charging cable, initially.  Since I was given it at Larry’s Celebration of Life ceremony, I wasn’t going to ask for it immediately.  I did get it a couple weeks later, but until then I would “find something” to make sure it still worked.

I did find a Reddit link to something someone wrote. Apparently the connectors on the watch, in my case on the side of the watch, were Negative and Positive connections with the case being an extra Negative – the Ground.  For other Pebble Watches, the connectors are on the back of the watch.

This is where I issue the Internet Standard Warning:


Contact Pebble for Service under Warranty if your watch is still warranted.  Much better than hacking around with whatever I say here!

Any information given here within is presented at your own risk.

If you use it and break anything, it is at your own responsibility, and I take no responsibility or give no warranty. 

All Information presented here within “works for me”.  

If you connect something backwards or short out a connection, you could damage any of your electronics.

Make doubly sure you have tested all connections with a multi meter and make sure that you have polarity correct.

 

First – clean all connectors.

Second – get your Pebble up to the latest firmware.


According to this link on Reddit, you will be able to fashion (jury rig) a connector to charge your watch.

I was able to.  I connected a piece of wire to the positive connector on the watch, a second to the negative, and fed 5VDC into it.  The watch vibrated almost immediately, displayed the Pebble start up display, then began charging for as long as I was able to hold all the connectors together.

For the Pebble Steel, the Positive connector is the connector closest to you, assuming you hold the watch as if it is to be read correctly.

Problem One:

Charging Problem NOT Originally solved.  You see, there’s a problem with these watches.  If you charge one up full using the cable on the connectors at the side of the watch, then reconnect it, it will discharge back into the power supply draining the watch.

They need a Diode in line to help fix that.  Ten Cent Part.

Problem Two:

The connectors must be clean.  As in no dirt on the connectors at all.  Clean with Alcohol and a bit of cotton.  This may allow you to charge the watch but not necessarily.  I tried it and it did not help.

Problem Three:

The cable finally arrived.  There was about 70% charge on the watch.  I plugged the cable into the back of my laptop, and walked away.  The watch drained completely of any power.

The Solution presented itself in a Youtube Video that is embedded below.  There is a person in Holland with a Pebble Steel watch.  He had the same problem as I did.  In the video he mentions that his watch would charge sometimes but not others.  When he asked for service from Pebble Support, he was sent back a new watch which worked perfectly under warranty.

 

Great!  Excellent service, Pebble!

Near the end of the video, he tied all the information together without knowing it for me.  He plugged the new watch onto the cable, and connected the old watch to a second cable.  The old “damaged” watch did not begin to charge until he touched the back of the old watch to the new one thereby creating the ground.


 

Therefore my solution was this.  I created a Charging Ground Platform for my Pebble Steel.

Step 1: Obtain parts:

  • Four Thumbtacks
  • Suitable base for the platform – mine was a lid to a treats canister.
  • Length of wire to connect to Ground – specific length is not material, mine is about 18 inches or a half meter
  • Good electrical ground to the negative side of the charging cable

Step 2: Assembly

  • For your watch, positioning of the thumbtacks will vary.
  • I laid a piece of paper on the back of the watch to make a template, then marked it off on the plastic lid.
  • Marks on the lid will match that of the screws on the watch.
  • This placement will lower the probability that the watch will get scratched up.
  • Drive one thumbtack through the lid for each corner of the watch.
  • Connect each thumbtack with wire allowing the wire to extend out past the last connector freely.

Step 3:  Final Connections:

 

  • Plug the Pebble charging cable into your charger and to your watch.
  • In my case, I am using a laptop and that greatly simplified my connections.
  • The case of the laptop is a ground, and functions as a ground for USB and for the entire computer.
  • An external charging “wall wart” plug will require you to take further steps.
  • Connect the ground wire from the Charging Ground Platform to a metal ground on the laptop.
  • Place the Pebble Watch onto the assembled platform making sure that one or more of the thumbtack will touch the bare metal case of the watch, preferably on the screws in the back of the watch.
  • You may or may not get confirmation from the watch that it is now charging – I have seen it immediately go into charge mode, and I have seen it not and both work.

The way I see it, in my uneducated opinion, this is a design flaw.  I do not know where the fault lies.  It is acting like a firmware issue.  However my Pebble Steel is now at the newest firmware.  No software at the charger is required to make the watch charge.  The watch is only looking for 5 Volts DC at USB standard current of 1 Amp, apparently.

 

The Pebble Steel is now a product that has been discontinued.  The memory in it is lower than the newer watches, and the operating system firmware can not be updated past the last of version 3.  Newer watches have version 4 available.

Like I said, it works for me.  Good luck!