Minimalism embodied: a minimalist desk image.

Many people reach a point in their lives where they see clutter and excessive personal possessions for what they are: distractions and time-sinks that deeply – and negatively – impact one’s life.  Minimalism seeks to change this.

I am no different; I, too, have been conscious that for many years I have amassed a vast number of gadgets, had far more clothing than I could ever really wear (before it went seriously out of fashion), and bought books far quicker than I could read them.  Freely, I admit, I still do the latter – but I can “hide” them now on my ebook reader!

The Internet’s “Minimalism”

It is amusing to see, particularly on certain social networks, how minimalism is portrayed.  Let’s describe a typically “minimalist” image:

  • White.  It must be white.  White walls, white furniture, mostly-white accessories, all well lit (often artificially).
  • An Apple Mac computer, centre-stage on a desk.  Typically a 21-inch iMac, but sometimes a 27-incher too.  In front of the Mac must be the following:
    • A wireless keyboard & wireless trackpad – both precisely aligned;
    • A notepad
    • A pencil
    • An iPhone
    • Sometimes… a mug of coffee (although I am allowing myself a crossover into that other bastion of internet imagery here, the “Getting Organised!” image);
  • A desk lamp;
  • A single picture on the wall, bordered with a white frame, casting a soft shadow thanks to…
  • A window on the adjacent wall;
  • A crappy plastic chair (still white) that no-one in their right mind could ever sustain a day’s work in;
  • A wooden floor.  Or, if the floor is white, then the desk is wooden.  Or the chair back might be green.  You get the idea.
A silly picture of my wardrobe.
For completeness, here’s a terrible picture of my wardrobe, showing just how far my minimalism still needs to come (it’s not just white, grey or black)!

For an example, check out Jessica Comingore’s minimalist studio.

Flipboard is a great resource for these types of images.  Search for ‘minimalist’ and you’ll soon happen upon this template of what a minimalist lifestyle apparently involves.

What Is Minimalism?

If you Google this, no doubt you will see a definition along the lines of styles in art, music or design.  But these days, “minimalism” has come to mean something else: the removal of superfluous possessions leading to a perceived reduction of stress and distraction in a person’s life.  It’s this definition what I am most interested in, which is the one driving most internet imagery these days.

Minimalism is not, necessarily, about choosing to do without

Minimalism is an interesting side-effect of western capitalism.  The effect of acquiring wealth is curious; it more often than not seeks to be displayed through the adornment of expensive garments, and through “showcasing” the necessity of owning various accessories, plus the outward demonstration of their worth to a “successful” person.  But to many people, myself included, the effect of acquiring objects is that they increasingly demand more time from the owner in order to manage.

This is detrimental to their original purpose, because time will now be split between the owner using the objects, and the owner managing the objects.  Thus, the fewer objects there are – whether these are clothes, cars, bottles of liquor in the cabinet, or watches – the more utility such devices actually provide and therefore the more effective they become both at their original purpose, but also as a showpiece.

What Minimalism is not.

Minimalism doesn’t, in my mind, have any connection with frugality, virtue through sufferance, or eco-mentality.  To me, “being green” and “being minimalist” can be mutually exclusive, although they can also co-exist very well too.

Minimalism is not, necessarily, about choosing to do without.  It is choosing to do with what you need, in the numbers your need it/them, and do without what you don’t.

Minimalism is also not doing without, for the sake of doing without.  It’s a great exercise in making one reconsider what is important and what’s really important to you.  This is the key.  It’s justifiable to say that you need something because it makes you happy.  Most people listen to music because, for their happiness and wellbeing, it’s needed.  That’s fine.

Being minimalist does not mean sitting in a silent, white room, looking at perfectly pressed shirts hanging in a wardrobe.  And it’s also not about choosing £20 shirts instead of £100 shirts.  One can enjoy life’s luxuries, and one probably will enjoy them more, if their number is measured.

My Minimalism Experience

Macbook Pro 2015: forcing my minimalism.
A really expensive laptop considering the spec. A true minimalists machine!
Image of ThinkPad T420: my barrier to minimalist computing.
A great laptop, but sadly superfluous to my needs.

For example, just before Christmas I came to a difficult decision:  I decided I had to sell my ThinkPad laptop.  There were no two ways about it; I had too many computers adoring my house, due to accumulating older work laptops as time went on.

My thinking was, “well, it still works and it’s still powerful enough to do lots of stuff, so I can get more done by keeping it and splitting my activities between the MacBook Pro that I now use for work, and this.”  Except that doesn’t really translate into the bigger picture.  Sure, I could keep both machines and pretend I’m being more productive, but in reality I started spending more time wondering which machine to do what on, or moving data from one to another, or agonising that I was simply distracted by this entire thought process, or generally finding that the MacBook Pro was more portable and thus my preferred choice to take somewhere.

I historically associated my perceived productivity benefits to my ThinkPad, its wonderful keyboard, and loved how I had complete control over the GNU/Linux operating system I used on it.  But in reality, two machines became a burden.  Yet, this wasn’t the only laptop I had “laying around” (although occasionally used).  Actually, I had four other laptops.  This was akin to hoarding, and served no benefit whatsoever.  There was basically no chance I would ever use them all until they broke, one by one.

So before Christmas, each laptop – an HP Pavillion, a ThinkPad T420, another ThinkPad – a T420s, and a Samsung Chromebook, all found new homes.  They also found me richer – not only for the money I made on them, but also for the less clutter I had around the house.

Finally, the agonising dissipated and with that, the stress went.  I had more space to think, fewer options to consider (as far as my computing went) and happier productivity.

Moving forwards

Once you get the bug for selling or giving away old stuff, it is hard to ignore.  As soon as I can find the time I will work on selling more computing kit I have laying around.  And there are other things too – all sorts, in fact.  Like old pieces of furniture (bin/tip), old garden tools (tip/sell), old clothes (donate to charity), one or two old TVs (!) … it goes on and on.  In fact, the speed at which one can acquire goods is absurd.

Moving forwards, reducing this clutter alongside a renewed focus on personal development has already made a huge change in my self-perception.  I feel stronger, lighter and more focused.


If this post has helped you, or if you have had similar experiences, please comment or link below!

Taking off on a wave

I used to typically find New Year celebrations a mixed blessing.

Sometimes they can remind you of all the good, great, sad and bad events of the concluding year, in a way that makes you grateful to be alive and with loved ones.  Other times, the gratitude can give way to pensiveness, reflection and perhaps also regret.

Having One’s Cake

This new year (2015 into ’16) was a little different, though.  Following a very busy but also very rewarding year, the period over Christmas gave me opportunity for reflection and redirection.

2015 was a “solid” year.  And by that, I basically mean unrelenting.  It was a year without a single week off for annual leave, which proved extremely tiring as the autumn months came around.  At the same time, after a gruelling late summer with web projects “galore”, things started a gentle easing towards the end of the year.

It wasn’t to last, but amidst the business of work projects was also a number of social engagements which provided plenty of entertainment and some light relief!  All of which was enjoyed on social media, of course (want to connect? Find me on whatever you use).

Blending cake mix
Always room for a little freshly-made cake, right?

Three Directions

Naturally, life eventually returns to matters of work, which I love.  This year, my focus is on quality and quantity.  Well, if you can have both, why not!

Quality First

My belief is always that there is no substitute for quality [1].  I apply this principle to all the work my company, Warp Universal, is commissioned for by clients, and to all hosting services too.  I’m currently working on some ideas to further guarantee the highest quality project management and delivery to clients, whatever the challenges!

Support Always

Providing quality support is paramount in my eyes.  I have always been proud to offer good support to our customers, but this hasn’t been without its challenges (being forced to quickly reconsider data storage, in the wake of Schrems vs Facebook, being the most recent).

Building Up Organically

Managing a micro business is no mean feat, as anyone who has done so will testify.  At one time, I considered growth to be the largest (and perhaps only) signifier of a successful business.  But this is false, and I’m glad I realise that now.  Many struggling businesses are those that have grown too quickly, without enough consideration, or without the ability to back-off sales satisfactorily.  It’s my intention to grow the business, organically, sustainably and vertically.

2016 is looking to be a very promising year for Warp Universal 🙂

Pushing Forward

Alongside work, 2016 is looking to be a great year for my surfing.  Not because the weather patterns look particularly convivial to it, nor that my free time is that much greater than it was before.  It’s simply that I want to surf more in 2016, and I’m in a position to make it happen.

Along with that, it’s definitely a year to align my media production with media consumption.  A great love of mine is music, and work commitments have often meant I’ve lost touch with newer acts on the scene.  I look forward to reconnecting via a music subscription service.

Take Off!

The year ahead is an interesting prospect.  365 days remaining from today (leap year, remember!) to achieve so many goals.  And not forget that life is short, so a little fun should be had also.

 

[1] A phrase once used by my Grandmother.

Also on:

I’ve decided I need to dance more in my life.  Being a techy-programmer-web_developing-CEO-type, there is so little time anyway.  With the remainder, I usually indulge in sci-fi, walking the dog, eating… and occasionally sleeping too.  Yet, being almost an artificial intelligence by any reckoning, I can tell you that Androids are too busy to dream.

Well, this has to stop!  No more sleeping!  Only raving.  It’s essential.

A trip to Miami is essential too.  After all, you can’t be #superhuman all the time!

#trancenation

I am the first to admit that I am a product of the old guard.  What do I mean by this?  Well, when I started running a business in 2001, when the internet provided unbridled commercial opportunities and there was a scarcity of talent to develop for them, there was a certain modus operandi: keep your cards close to your chest.  Shedding this behavioural axiom feels like the equivalent of standing up naked, in front of a live TV audience, promising them you really are still going to the gym and it’s all a work in progress.  You can expect mixed reactions.

But in the last thirteen years, a lot has changed.  We have seen the meteoric rise of internet-enabled devices and the framework, especially via social networking, for people to express themselves more freely.  In fact, not just “more” freely, but FREELY, period.  With this certain stream-of-consciousness we have also seen how businesses, once the “big blue”s of this world – hidden behind glass and steel, dictating the new world order – have become much more bottom-up, and even grassroots in appearance, if not in total nature.

I would argue that smaller teams in larger businesses will become more fashionable, because they tend to get things done more efficiently.  The challenge has become less about the big wins, and more about how the small, inter-connected wins can be made to work well together.  This, after all, was the original spirit of Web 2.0 (remember that?!).  What Web 2.0 represented was the idea that instead of developing a monolithic web site or business platform which covered all functionality, you could actually interact with other sites and use them too.  And they could use you and your services/data.

This is very much the case today.  How many web sites do you visit where you can log in using credentials from another service/site? This flexibility and openness is not necessarily less secure, though some might argue against global logins – and there are good reasons to be cautious of this.

But, authentication is one of many possible services available on the web, and exploring this loosely-coupled architecture is becomming faster and easier than ever. Through a much greater spirit of discovery, we are bearing witness to an age of more open experimentation, more open discussion, and more open engagement amongst interested parties.  Clients, friends, rivals, competitors.   Finally, we can also celebrate the “failures” too.  The increasingly scientific nature of modern thinking allows egos to be left at the door, and the excitement and joy of new adventures in technology to be more fully appreciated.

Many of us are into technology because of this excitement and enlightenment, myself included.  It’s childlike and, IMHO, a desirable quality in a person.  When you accept you are but one person, you accept a universal truth shared by everyone – and in so doing, acknowledge that while your time is precious, sharing whatever you can from it is a great investment.

On that basis, I am intending to up my blogging rate ten-fold, to try to document the events of my days and weeks and the challenges I face in them.  My experiment will be to see if in doing this – i.e. openly blogging much more of what’s going on in my microbusiness, there is a positive effect on people around, the interest in my business services and, ultimately I suppose, a positive effect on me.

And I will be open about the result.  Stay tuned!

Regain security
Regain email privacy & security

Part #3 of the Data Liberation series

Is there ever time in the day to reconsider your online security? I mean, really consider it?

Take the most common access point for communication in the 21st century – email. Yes, you read that right. It’s still email. Email is the root of online authentication for people worldwide, not only allowing them a “safe place” to recover lost account credentials, but also facilitating properly secured communications with the use of PGP signed and encrypted email. But is your email storage secure?

The woes of web mail

The “problem” with email is that its ubiquity spawned, some years ago, the explosion of “free” web mail services. All the big players provide it. These services are advertising-supported. In other words, the cost of providing such services are met by revenue generated from scanning your email and providing “relevant” adverts within your browser to click on. Each click is tracked and the advertiser billed accordingly.

An issue here, then, is that your email is scanned. All your emails are read by an indexing process which scours every single nugget of information. What information could that include? How could it be used? How about this little list for starters:

  • the date & time
  • the sender’s name and email address
  • their computer’s name
  • their network (i.e. their email provider, their ISP, any intervening mail routers)
  • their probable native language
  • their approximate location when sending the message (obtained from their original IP address)
  • your approximate location when reading the email (based on your IP address)
  • yours and their exact locations if using any location service

That’s not all

If the sender is using the same “free” web-mail service as you:

  • if they use a calendar in that service, what they were doing when they emailed you (giving an insight into the sender’s thought processes…)
  • if they maintain a contact list / address book in that web-mail service, that service may “know” you are a friend or family member of the sender
  • in this case, it will also know their friends – and your friends – and any shared friends too.  It can start to build up a map of contacts – who knows who and possibly why.
  • Knowing “who knows who” means those related contacts’ web-mail services can be interrogated for commonalities, such as shared events (in a calendar), shared interests via a social network, and so on.

Web cam

There are yet more ways your data can be exposed. If they are not using the same “free” web-mail service, but are using another service which they log into using their web mail service’s credentials:

  • that web-mail service provider could poll the other services to see what data you are sending (e.g. what you are posting) to those services
  • it can map any correspondence to or from your contact via its services even when not in relation to your email – e.g. It can expose a contact’s movements, their communications and interests in a given time-frame.
  • they can even be exposed by their use of related services from that provider. For example, new photos into a flickr or instagram account which is public, can be mapped back from their date, time and location to the IP address that was used to query location services.

Finally, a crucial problem with all online services is that there is no guarantee your data is actually deleted when you choose to delete it.  After hitting “delete” through a web site, this could simply flag the email to be removed from your visible account and stored in MegaWebCorp’s vault of “deleted” email, remaining there forever.  Or until needed…

This is the risk of putting data into another provider’s hands – what gets uploaded or stored in your name, stays there in your name, forever.  What goes up, sometimes stays up.

Resolving the privacy crisis

Coming back to email, then, the first priority for someone who wants to maintain some privacy with respect to their life activity needs first to remove the source of indexing from MegaWebCorp’s database – the link between all things you do, your email address.

When the email address is removed from the purview of MegaWebCorp’s systems, your online activity can start to become your business – not the advertiser’s.

Getting your own address is simple.  You can register a domain name with any of numerous providers around the world and sign up for a low-cost hosting plan.  For any person who values their privacy and the sanctity of anonymity, this is a small hurdle to overcome.

For the gain in privacy you can achieve by hosting your own web site, the price attached to a “free” web-mail account may seem rather high.

Bootnote

ArsTechnica has an interesting article published yesterday (30 March 2014) on “metadata as surveillance” .

 

If there is one thing I become acutely aware of, as time rolls by, it’s that the effort to write a page on my blog never diminishes. As the length of time since my last post increases, so does the psychological pressure to produce the next post. But one has to question, why is there this innate need to compose something, share it to the world and possibly see no return for the effort?

As strange as it sounds, I am intrugued by blogs that appear to have “stopped” at some point in time. When you come across a really useful post from a blog that was last updated three years ago, you can’t help feeling a bit sadenned by it. What happened to the poster? Did he/she get busy doing more even interesting stuff – so much more interesting and so much more busy, that they have neither the time nor the inclination to share?

This is a problem I have and I suspect I’m not alone. Sharing what goes on in my daily life is sometimes not possible. People count on me to provide web hosting support the moment they need it, not after I write a blog post. Working with a number of UK graphic design agencies, my days are kept busy and varied. Staying on top of the latest technical developments – often blogged by others in the industry, means I have little time to share this newly-acquired knowledge myself.

To address this issue, I am going to start worrying a little less about the content of my blog posts and more about their timeliness. Sound strange? Perhaps. Having read others’ blogs, though, it seems that social, political and technical comment is still a sought-after item of value in cyberspace. It all comes down to trust. Do you trust the opinion of the writer of this blog?

In our increasingly exposed digital world, establishing trust is something that comes from interactions and being able to judge a person’s character through what they share. As time rolls on, I will attempt to share more of my thoughts and observations through this blog and other social media sites, and worry a little less that I’m not providing a how-to on “everything you ever needed to know”.

If you have any comments, please feel free to add them below. Thanks.

Working alone can be tiresome.  If you are your own boss, it can be pretty gruelling to keep tabs of your schedule, stay on top of development plans, keep up communications with friends, family, business contacts and your wider network.

Here are five tips that I find help me enormously on days where I work alone.

1. Structure your day

Decide on a routine and stick to it and don’t be tempted to “just do this” when it means overshooting your alloted time

2. Be mindful of your caffeine intake

It is very easy to keep piling up biscuits and gulping down pints of coffee, but this can have a deleterious effect on concentration and productivity

3. Get outside!

As simple as it sounds, taking just 30 minutes away from your screen at lunchtime can make the second half of your day as productive as the first

4. Speak to people

Being totally isolated and not having the benefit of human interaction can make the brain lethargic.  Stimulation by interaction – whether a phone call, or video chat, can help minimise this

5. Decide on your end time

If you are the type of person who likes to knock off 30 mins early, see if you can discipline yourself  to complete “on time”.  Or, if you tend to overshoot and work longer than you should, be firm.  Make your deadline real and stick to it.

I find that these simple rules help maintain a clear mind during both busy and less intense periods.

Also on:

Let’s be clear:  I am a stubborn git.  I’m the first to admit it.  To the dismay or, perhaps, bemusement of my friends, I struggle with product concepts such as the iPhone, iTunes, Amazon Kindle, eBooks in general, Facebook and Skype.

My friends tell me it’s because I don’t like to conform with the “normal” things that everyone else does.  Things like broadcasting my whereabouts and the company I keep at all times in my life, wherever I am.  Apparently, disagreeing with the background, terms of service, patenting practices and Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) of various “social media” service providers is anti-social and rebellious. 

It’s a curious thing to be a digital pariah.

What my friends don’t understand is that I don’t restrict my opinions to Apple, Facebook Inc., Microsoft and Amazon.  It’s just that they’re the companies my friends use, so to relate to them I cite them as examples.  I feel exactly the same way towards some of Google’s services and products, although I do have slightly more faith in Google than any of the above named alternatives.  They do more good, in my opinion.  And, with Google, at least you have confidence in being able to delete anything you create.

My main objections to these services & products, then, are:

  • privacy: I do not wish to be “guilty by association” on any social network.  Being tagged without my permission, and/or the attempt of tagging me (whether I disallow or permit the tag – or ignore the attempt to tag) is not acceptable.  It is especially unacceptable when I have no faith that the service provider will protect my interests as a private individual and law-abiding citizen.  
  • security: anyone remember when the iPhone took pictures of its users without their knowledge?
  • product quality: I am not interested in any iDevice because of the standard of software engineering and product management.  I am also not interested due to the restrictive rules of the app store.
  • freedom and flexibility: smartphones are good if they are flexible.  If I buy any device with gigabytes of storage, I want to be able to use it for whatever purpose I choose.  And, I don’t want to use any device:
  • with a proprietary connector which requires an expensive proprietary cable to connect it to a computer;
  • which uses a proprietary, “secret” protocol that my chosen computer can’t connect to; 
  • that virtually prohibits me from putting my own digital content on the device, rather than that obtained through the device vendor’s sales channel;
  • that supports in any way the obscuring of content I have a right to, or in some way supports an ecosystem where the alteration, deletion or other control of content is deemed “acceptable” through the EULA;
  • that limits me!
  • On this last point, it worries me that Google Inc are appearing to adopt the Apple way of doing things on their Nexus devices – and in their cloud software.  Not being able to use additional data storage (no SD card in a phone, in this instance) means a greater reliance on the Google way of doing things.  Android software is becoming less flexible with regard to media storage (the camera app no longer lets you select the photo storage location, for example, although Android still supports external SD cards and will utilise media stored on it).
There is a greater trend also: that of the death of physical media and moving everything “into the cloud”.  There are a few fundamental problems with this:
  • Physical media can be shared and enjoyed by more than one person.  Sharing is not copying nor is it stealing.  If I am attending a family gathering – a party, say, then I am free to bring along a couple of CDs to play.  How can this simple act be replicated by cloud-only storage?  If we all use cloud-storage network devices at home, sharing a CD will become impossibly.  
  • One solution to this, touted by a friend, was to “bring along your iPod“.  Disregarding that I wouldn’t have an iPod, introducing this as a solution means I would have to ensure that my portable music player is up to date with all my music.  A solution to that is, of course, a cloud-based music service – iTunes and Google Play Music are two obvious contenders.  But there’s a further problem: connectivity.  Is a 3.5mm headphone plug to amp/speakers standard equipment in most households?  Unlikely.  So there my music stays, locked inside my device unable to be shared.
  • Books.  I can pick up a physical book, read it, share it.  I will probably get my book back if the borrower is respectful, thus I haven’t been denied it in the process of lending.  Can the same be said of eBooks?  Can one “lend” an eBook to a friend?  Perhaps.  More worryingly, though,, can it even be guaranteed that any digital eBook provider will not alter original material or remove any purchased books from my library?  Again, unlikely.
  • We begin to see, further and further, that DRM is abused by on-line content providers.  We are restricted in new ways that the old ways couldn’t (and shouldn’t) prevent.  It is troubling that access to information is price-controlled in this way; entire cultural values can and will be influenced by the (lack of) availability and slowly, surely, belief systems and perceptions of free thinking and free will may be curtailed, even ceasing to (legally) exist.   Hello, 2084. 
    This is why I will not lock my photo, book or audio content in any on-line silo.  I will always have off-line access to my copies of digital media and I encourage others to do this also.
    Does this make me a stubborn git? Or does this make me someone who is not prepared to endure extortionate business practices with items as important as art, literature and music…?

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    Minimalism & Debian

    Less is more, as the saying goes.

    While I love using Fedora in my daily work, sometimes when I want to relax I find using an alternative distribution is good therapy.  Fedora is fabulous with its GNOME Shell finery, but occasionally I hanker for something simpler and more lightweight.  It’s also good to see how the other half lives 🙂

    So, I decided to put Debian on my netbook.  With no GUI.  Everything I do on it must be by the command line, including web research.  Compared to Fedora, Debian‘s system requirements are practically non-existent, which is especially good if you want your system to still run nice and quick.

    First steps…

    1. Firstly, I had of course to grab the distribution.  I’m not over-fussed about running cutting edge stuff on this machine.  For me, the most important thing is a low-maintenance base where I don’ t need to think much about the distribution changing every 6 months.

      I visited the Debian Mirror List and grabbed a NetInst CD image.

    2. Next off, I plugged in the USB CD/DVD drive and installed the software, making sure I didn’t overwrite my XP partition.  Well, you need a reminder every so often how awful life used to be.. 😉
    3. I won’t go into the installation process here – there’s plenty of documentation elsewhere which covers that.  So, once installed, I really wanted to keep the installed software as trim as possible.  That is, with one or two exceptions…
       
    1. Firstly, I have tried and tried it again but I just can’t/don’t/won’t do vi, vim or anything similar.  It’s just not my bag.  It’s emacs for me.  I also want to keep my mail inside emacs, so it’s goodbye to mutt – even if it does suck less, apparently 😉
    2. Also, Exim4.  The servers I manage don’t use it (generally it’s Postfix or QMail) and I already have a tiny smattering of Sendmail knowledge – so I have no desire to pick up on this.  I’m sure it’s a fine MTA and undoubtedly there are many technical reasons why I should keep it on my netbook… but even so, no thanks.

      Therefore, my software changes are:

      $ sudo aptitude remove exim4 exim4-base exim4-config exim4-daemon-light vi mutt

      $ sudo aptitude install emacs w3m-el sendmail

  • So far so good.  However, I was still stuck with a chunky 80×25 character screen when booting up, which is real ugly.  Through much searching and grub configuration editing, I found that my answer was actually to install the intel video package.

    $ sudo aptitude install xserver-xorg-video-intel

    You’re on to a winner here, because Debian Squeeze is already set up for Kernel Mode Setting.  In other words, as soon as your system starts booting up, the video drivers get loaded and the optimal video mode is enabled (or, at least, that’s the intention).

    Whether or not it’s worth specifying screenmode in grub is open for debate.  FWIW, I put this in /etc/default/grub:

    GRUB_GFXMODE=1024x600
    GRUB_GFXPAYLOAD=1024x600x16

    … And in /etc/grub.d/40_custom:

    set gfxpayload=1024x600x16

    Then, I simply updated grub with the new config:

    $ sudo update-grub

    Please note that this step relates to my Intel-based netbook.  Yours may vary.

  • The only significant piece of the puzzle remaining was to get wireless sorted out and connect to my server:

    $ sudo aptitude install wireless-tools iw wpasupplicant autofs nfs-common

    ** PLEASE NOTE: this step assumes your wireless network device doesn’t require firmware or that you already have the firmware installed in /lib/firmware. **

    Once done, you need to uncomment the /net line in /etc/auto.master and restart autofs:

    $ service restart autofs

    If you want to refer to server by hostname and are not running a DNS server, add the hostname to /etc/hosts (somewhere below the localhost lines):

    111.222.333.444      myserver.mydomain.com  myserver

    At this point, assuming all went well, you can cd to /net/ in either the shell or a file manager such as nautilus (if running a GUI).

    So, this takes care of a basic local network configuration, but we still need to actually get connected to it on wifi.  So, there is, in my /etc/network/interfaces:

    # The loopback network interface
    auto lo
    iface lo inet loopback

    # The primary network interface
    allow-hotplug eth0
    iface eth0 inet dhcp

    # Wireless
    auto wlan0
    iface wlan_mynet inet dhcp
    wpa_ssid my-network-ssid
    wpa-psk  my-network-key

    Once done, save this file and change the permissions for extra security:

    $ sudo chmod 0600 /etc/network/interfaces

    – and connect up, like this:

    $ sudo ifup wlan0=wlan_mynet

  • Voila!  With luck, maybe a little patience, and possibly an extra step or two (which you can hopefully figure out, if needed) these are the key set up steps which will make your netbook/laptop nice and lean, and perhaps more fun to play with.

    Next time, I’ll go through a few tools I use for ‘net stuff.

    It takes a long time to ditch those applications with which you’re intimately familiar.

    It starts, quite often, with your Office Suite.  No, I’m not talking about desk and chair, but rather Microsoft Office.  Excel is an excellent spreadsheet tool, there’s no doubt of that.  But quite often, people like to work differently to the prescribed “norm”, and Libre Office allows just that.  It’s not the only open source office suite, of course: there’s also KOffice, the Abiword/Gnumeric combiniation and so on.

    Recently I’ve ditched other proprietary applications which I have worked with for years.  Why?  Well, for one I believe that switching applications is good, because it challenges you to think differently.  You have to learn new ways of doing old things, and this can help you think of new, better things to do.

    Secondly, you get no love with proprietary applications.  Time and again, you pay your money and end up getting no support.  So, really, what is the point?  I’m not just talking about Microsoft, either; many proprietary software vendors are only able to make a profit by re-packaging open source software and selling access to it from within a proprietary system. Parallels, I’m thinking of you here.

    The only way to beat companies is to not buy their products. It’s this simple.  Here are the ways I have ditched proprietary software:

    • Operating System: was Microsoft Windows XP, is now Fedora (16, currently)
    • Email:  was Microsoft Outlook, is now Mozilla Thunderbird
    • Office: was Microsoft Office, is now Libre Office
    • Web Browser: was always Firefox 😉
    • ..the list goes on…

    Farnborough, Hampshire, UK