Evolving notes, images and sounds by Luis Apiolaza

Category: meta (Page 2 of 6)

Flotsam 16: new laptop

In my job I get a new laptop every 3 years or so; at least that is how it works with Apple laptops. You get a new one, together with Apple care, and it is depreciated during three years. Keeping computers for longer doesn’t make financial sense according to the bean counters. Coincidentally, it is roughly the time for the laptops to start falling apart, more likely by design.

On terms of features, I reached 1 TB SSD disk around 6 years ago (I don’t use half of that), 16 GB of RAM 3 years ago (I used to be quite comfortable with 8 GB of RAM 9 years ago or so. What I am trying to say is that spec-wise I’ve been OK for the last half decade, at least. The peak of my computing was a Macbook Air 13″ just before the appalling Macbook Pro 13″ butterfly keyboard fiasco. In 2020 I ordered a huge 16″ Macbook Pro, despite 13″ being my sweetspot for laptop size, because of covid 19. We didn’t know for how long we’d be working at home—which in NZ turned out to be not very long—so I ordered a larger screen and, gasp, a real ESC key (again). I don’t have much love for the 16″: too heavy, too noisy, meh battery life, got too hot, etc.

This time I went back to Macbook Pro 14″ because: real ESC key (ridiculous to mention this, but I was traumatised by the touch bar ESC), no touch bar (yay!), SD card slot (I like photography), HDMI connector (FINALLY!) so I can skip on one dongle, proper power connector. The screen notch looks funny, but it disappears from my mind when busy writing. Overall impression: solid, hefty, fast. It actually feels much faster than the 16″ with Intel processor.

I test a lot of software that I don’t end up using, R packages, etc. so I avoid moving my old setup to the new laptop, starting from scratch and avoid carrying over all the cruft accummulated over three years. Then it comes the unavoidable boring task of installing the software I need for my work (the university already install MS Office and other software that don’t use, like Endnote). I installed:

  • Homebrew: unix package manager*.
  • R and RStudio: R stuff (see below for packages)*.
  • Apple command line tools: compiler, etc.
  • MacTex: everything and the kitchen sink LaTeX for mac*.
  • Zotero (including Zotfile and Better Bibtex plugins)
  • Joplin: notetaking in markdown*
  • NetNewsWire: reading RSS feeds, free, synchronises across mac and ipad*.
  • Calibre: e-book management*.
  • Digikam: photo management*.
  • Rawtherapee: RAW photo processing*.
  • Visual Studio Code: free text editor, don’t think it is fully open source.
  • Neovim: text editor*.
  • pandoc: text transformer*.
  • asciidoctor: text transformer*.

All starred (*) items are Open Source Software.

I use numerous R packages, but when I start with a new computer I don’t compile a list of packages to import in the new machine (lots of cruft) but I add a few packages that I know I use often and then add when I need to. Included in this list:

  • tidyverse: so I get ggplot, dplyr, reader, etc*.
  • data.table: sometimes I use this for fread() and data management*.
  • asremlr: multivariate + spatial genetic analyses.
  • rjags: bayesian stuff*.
  • rstan: bayesian stuff*.

I still have to install “a few” things (like QGIS) but I’m getting there. I’ll update the post later once I have added more software.

Flotsam 16: neovim

Just to remember where things are in my neovim installation in MacOS:

" Configuration file

" Using vim-plug for managing plugins
" Location of plugins

The init file follows the structure presented in here: https://github.com/junegunn/vim-plug pointing to the location of the plugins as:

call plug#begin('~/.local/share/nvim/plugged')


I was thinking that I have six domain names (including the .net and .com for my surname), posts spread all over the place and that I should focus my attention in fewer projects. On top of that I was annoyed with Hugo—the static site compiler, not a person—as for whatever reason small changes broke compilation of my luis.apiolaza.net site. This site had a long and distinguished history of running under different tools, from artisan-level writing HTML by hand in a text editor, to wiki systems.

In parallel, I’ve been running a blog since 2003, also with a bunch of different software, different subdomains and domains to the current QuantumForest.com using WordPress.

In a moment of total annoyance I decided to merge the site and blog under one roof. Thus, I wiped out the luis.apiolaza.net files, except for the uploads folder which contains PDF copies of my articles. Installed WordPress and imported the blog contents. The old site HTML pages will become WordPress pages, and the odd HTML posts will be imported as WordPress posts.

I will then redirect all Quantum Forest posts to this site and, very slowly, check for broken links. Expect major catastrophes that will, very slowly, be fixed. At least that’s the theory. In practice most everything will be in a state of disarray.

P.S. The 301 permanent redirect seems to be working OK. Added these lines to the top of the .htaccess file in the QuantumForest.com domain.

Options +FollowSymLinks 
RewriteEngine on 
RewriteRule (.*) https://luis.apiolaza.net/$1 [R=301,L] 

P.S.2. Can’t figure out how to set a favicon in the fancy block-theme in WordPress. Goes to the too-hard basket until I sort out all other issues. A couple of days later this item is sorted.

P.S.3. Completed merging the two domains. Now looking for other small sources of posts.

Returning to the small web

It’s no secret that social media has been progressively deteriorating for, at least, ten years. Simultaneously, many of us (myself included) stopped writing blog posts in which we could give some nuance to our ideas. Instead, we reduced thought to small sound bites, initially 140 characters long, later to an expansive 280 characters.

For some of us the sale of Twitter marked a point of insurmountable disagreement with both the system and the politics of the new owners. A fraction of “some of us” left Twitter and moved to the Fediverse, mostly Mastodon. In my case I opted for building a new network from scratch, actively trying to avoid replicating the old one. But this is still a microblogging social network, with a bit more room to write (this time 500 characters by default), still someone else’s network. Sure, one can have his own instance, but the costs associated (both in time and money) are too much for most people. In the same way I don’t maintain an email server, I don’t want to keep a Fediverse instance.

And here comes the crux of the problem: I want to keep my writing under my own name, which goes back to this post by John Scalzi on the artisan web. Step one for this is:

Create/reactivate your own site, owned by you, to hold your own work.

This is not the first time that someone says this; it just happened to resonate with me at the time. A somewhat similar feeling came from Jaron Lanier’s Ten arguments for deleting your social media accounts right now book. We are being eaten alive by the performative nature of social media, sucking our creative energy and “monetizing” our interactions. At the same time, it’s hard to leave networks and Scalzi suggests using them to drive traffic to our own artisan web, but putting our own words/photos/work first.

Whichever way I choose forward it has to be different. Both my Mastodon and Twitter accounts have been set to “ephemeral”, with posts being deleted after a month or so. Most of my interactions are now in Mastodon, which feels already better than some years before. They are small steps, but online feels calmer for the first time in years.

Why you shouldn’t entrust your pet to Glenstar Kennels

Travel is part of life and if you have pets, finding appropriate boarding for them is a must. This is my explanation for why you should not entrust your dog to Glenstar Kennels, in Canterbury, New Zealand.

At the end of 2016 I had work approval for a two-month trip overseas. Normally I would book accommodation for my dog at the SPCA boarding kennels (as when we had two-months repairs to our house following Christchurch’s earthquake). However, as this trip included Christmas/New Year, it was impossible to find a vacancy. I was happy to find a spot for my dog at Glenstar Kennels spanning the whole end of year period.

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