on the road again, in osaka

the jet that brought me to japanBack in Japan for another business trip. Took the “regular” flight out of Orlando on United/ANA through Chicago to Narita, Tokyo. My trip this December, which started November 29th Orlando time, is the most complex, involving two cities (Osaka and Tokyo) and requiring I use Japan’s train system more extensively than before.

the route from tokyo to osaka on the bullet trainThis screen capture of Google Maps shows the essential route from Tokyo to Osaka. I had to take two trains, the Narita Express from Narita to Shinagawa, and the Shinkasen Hikara from Shinagawa to Shin-Osaka, or Osaka. I would have gotten to the hotel about 45 minutes earlier than I did, but the Narita Express was so quiet and I was so tired I slept through the Shinagawa stop. I had to take a train back two stops, and there the very nice train personnel helped me to change my ticket to a slightly later train.

shinkansen hikari at shinagawa riding on the shinkansen bullet trainAfter two years of travel to Japan I’m still impressed by the quality of the Japanese rail system, now even more so after having ridden on the Shinkansen. Compared to flying on a contemporary Boeing 737 jet with a domestic US carrier, the interiors are spacious and comfortable with plenty of leg room, allowing me to lean back and nap. Both the Narita and the Shinkansen are smooth and quiet. One thing I did notice and that’s the apparent speed. While you’ll read the occasional story about high speed runs, the speeds through the heavily urbanized corridor I traveled were more “sedate.” But that’s not a problem when someone else is doing all the driving while you just sit back and relax.


I’m doing something very different for me. Now that I’ve got an iPhone 6s Plus I’m using the back-side camera rather than pulling out my Olympus E-M10. And I’m very pleased with the results I’m getting. I fully understand now why so many prefer smartphone photography, especially on the iPhone. If I were forced to I’d leave all my interchangeable lens cameras at home and just use the iPhone. As it is I only have the E-M10 and a few, very compact lenses.

I’m also using a WiFi hotspot rental I picked up at Narita. For about $10.50/day I have 4G LTE connectivity with unlimited data. My iPhone and MBP are wirelessly linked to it. This gives me the connectivity I need for a lot less money than if I were using AT&T in Japan. AT&T on travel is just too damned expensive.

Posted in Apple, iPhone, Japan, Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

the kittens are coming

kitten pile 2That über-cute pile of kittens, taken last weekend, is rapidly reaching the point where they can all be weened and go out into the world. They’ve all discovered the joys of canned cat food, which mother Sunshine is most appreciative of. Three females, all in the front, are Caramel, Nougat, and Maggie (front to back). And they’re all pretty much spoken for by three persons. The two males in the back, Greebo Ogg (front) and Ponder Stibbons (back) are spoken for by me. Greebo’s short name will be Bo, while Ponder will be Ponder. Bo and Ponder. Ponder and Bo. It has a certain ring to it…

I’ve made the decision to fill the gaping hole left by Lucy’s death with a pair of Ginger males. The loss of Lucy is still painful, but time moves on, and there are other cats in this world that need Persons to care for them (and that they can care for back).

I chose to adopt both because my oldest daughter and her boyfriend have both noted how the males are very close to each other. I don’t have the heart to break up the pair by picking just one. So I picked both. This means the cat population at my house will double to four, two females (Ellipse and Lulu Belle) and two males. How they’ll all interact will be interesting to observe. But the first thing that’ll happen to the new guys is they get neutered here in Orlando. I will not have males spraying around the house marking their territory. Right now I’m planning on picking them both up the end of December, with a trip to the vets the first week of January to get them fixed.

rowdy bunchSunshine their mom has been the perfect mother, with the infinite kindness and patience of a saint. Regardless I’m sure she’ll be glad when four of the five are gone; Caramel (the one chomping her ear) will stay, and both are going to get fixed. Mom produces beautiful kittens, but this is mom’s last litter.

I named my two males after characters from Discworld, in honor of Sir Terry Pratchett. Long before there was Potter, we had Rincewind and the far more entertaining Discworld to explore. And before you ask, yes, I can tell them apart. In color or black and white. Now I just have to get through two more trips before the end of 2015 and another four weeks and get the house prepared for their arrival…

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all in with apple – part 1

Taken with an iPhone 6s Plus

For the past year (since November 2014) I’ve been surreptitiously moving from a reliance on Windows, Linux and Android based devices to devices using Mac OS X and iOS. It started with the purchase of an iPad Air 2 in November 2014, the one to the left with the picture of Lucy on the lock screen, and continued until this November and the purchase of the 15″ Retina Macbook Pro on the right. My Olympus E-M10 is in the mix for a sense of scale. And because I like that little camera.

My shift started with my growing dissatisfaction with Android, especially how Samsung was handling Android on my Galaxy S4. Especially with regards to security updates. I have two other Android devices, a pair of 2013 Nexus 7 tablets. I’ve watched those tablets upgrade over the air from version 4.4.2 to 5 and recently to Android 6. It took a long time from Google’s announcement to OTA upgrade, far longer than Apple takes with iOS after an Apple announcement. And Samsung? It did eventually upgrade to 5, then 5.0.1, and finally 5.0.2. Complete with Samsung’s skin and apps. A mess which I was willing to put up with when I first purchased the S4, but after two years of constant exposure, it finally wore me down.

I didn’t realize at first just how dissatisfied I was becoming with Android. And yet, in hindsight, it was inevitable. That dissatisfaction was first expressed with the purchase of the iPad Air 2. At the time I was trying to decide between the iPad and a Samsung Galaxy S2 10″ tablet. The Samsung was about $150 cheaper, but was only available in 64GB maximum internal storage. After two days of vacillating I purchased the iPad with the idea of learning how to do sophisticated image post-processing while on travel. I’d purchased the Olympus E-M10 in September of that year because of a key feature, WiFi interconnectivity with any mobile device running Olympus’ OI.Share app. You could get that app for both Android and iOS. When I got the E-M10 I naturally installed the Android version on my Galaxy S4. And I was very impressed.

The problem was I only had 16GB on the S4, even though I had a 64GB micro SD card installed in the phone. OI.Share couldn’t be coerced into storing the E-M10’s images in the micro SD card, and as a consequence the limited internal 16GB began to fill. After a time I moved some of the images up to Google Drive, and some of them to Flickr, and the majority of them off to my Windows PC. It was awkward but doable, but it added additional steps to my workflow of using camera and phone together for photographic work. And I am not a fan of automatic upload to Google Drive or any other location in the “cloud.”

So in November I purchased the iPad with 128 GB of storage, a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard and cover, installed a few apps, and took the whole combination to Japan for Yama Sakura 67 in December 2014. I’d also taken my Samsung 17″ running Windows 8.1, but I’d left my primary photo storage drive, a 1.5 TB WD My Passport Ultra. I didn’t want it lost or broken. With the external drive at home I didn’t want to use Lightroom. I decided to work everything on the iPad.

The iPad worked pretty well for the most part. I discovered a lot about using the iPad for creative work, and learned to “trust” JPEGs again. That’s because there are no RAW converters for Olympus RAW files on iOS (nor on Android for that matter). In spite of some quirks, the combination was good enough that I depended on it again in April of this year on another Japan business trip, and I’m going to use it once more this December in Japan. The iPad Air 2 and the E-M10 make a portable, potent combination. With WiFi connectivity I can push my finished work up to Flickr, Instagram, and WordPress (especially blogging). And with the purchase of an iPhone 6s Plus, I can use either iDevice to pull images off the E-M10 and use pretty much the same post processing workflow. I still need the iPad with its keyboard for writing.

I was happy enough that by March I purchased a refurbished late 2012 Mac Mini Server model. That allowed me to begin to tie backups from my iPad and my wife’s mid-2012 MBP together. And it was from the Mac Mini that I grew comfortable with OS X. And that helped to ease the decision to purchase an iPhone 6s Plus to replace my Galaxy S4 in early November. That, and Apple’s Upgrade Program. With the Upgrade Program, combined with Apple’s software upgrade policy across their iOS devices, I can now maintain an up-to-date iDevice, the phone. Every year now I’ll get a new ‘S’ device. Right now my opinion of the iPhone with Apple’s custom ARM chips is that anything else is a waste of money. The iPhone is that good.

All of which led me to the purchase of the MBP. I purchased that for the express purpose of replacing, over time, my Samsung 17″ Chronos 7 notebook running Windows 10 as well as my much older Samsung running Ubuntu 15.04. The MBP is combining what I consider the best attributes of both.

The desktop should remind Ubuntu users of Ubuntu’s Unity desktop, with the dock to the left. I chose this combination because I learned, on my Mac Mini Server, that I could have the equivalent of Windows and Linux under one environment. The key Windows feature I want and need is Office. The pieces of Office I need are Word, Excel and PowerPoint. And they work pretty much across either Windows or OS X. There is no office for Linux and there may never be. Trying to work with complex Office documents with LibreOffice, the best of the free office suites on Linux, is a recipe for slow madness. I know, I tried.

And if I need a “pure” Linux? I’ve discovered I can get that by running one or more Linux distributions on OS X via VirtualBox.

Languages such as Oracle’s latest Java, Google’s Go, Python, and Rust are dead simple to drop into the OS X environment. The biggest and the best, Swift, is available through Xcode. And I can share, via a common folder on the OS X file system, files between the Linux VM and native tools on OS X.

Time permitting I’ll do a more detailed comparison between the individual Apple devices and everybody else. But for now I have to say I’m pretty well satisfied. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s better than most else I’ve been dealing with over the past two-plus years. In spite of what the current critics may say, Apple’s hardware and software is more than good enough, and in many cases, better than the current state of the competition for my use. Your milage, as they always say, will vary.

For me, however, I’m all in with Apple.

Posted in Android, Apple, iOS, Linux, OS X, Swift, Windows | Leave a comment

kansas city, again day 2


One more day in Kansas City. One of my stops was the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, in the same building that also houses the American Jazz Museum. I paid $15 to see both, and thought it was money well spent. I stayed for several hours just looking and reading, especially in the baseball museum.

It’s packed with a lot of history, much of it made during my lifetime. I came across an entry for Hank Aaron (“Hammerin’ Hank”). He started playing for the Boston Braves a year before I was born. He came to Atlanta with the then Milwaukee Braves in 1966 (the Boston Braves became the Milwaukee Braves became the Atlanta Braves). From that point I kept up with him and the team.

the museums
the museums

The museum didn’t allow photography in the museum proper, and I understand that. My few photos are of the street exterior and the foyer.

After a few hours just soaking in the NLBM I meandered a bit around the city, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and the balmy 65° weather. And then I drove back to the hotel and supper.

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raspberry pi 2: reflections going forward

"Raspberry Pi 2 Model B v1.1" by Multicherry. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

“Raspberry Pi 2 Model B v1.1” by Multicherry. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

My work with the Raspberry Pi started with the original Raspberry Pi 1 model B, the version that came with just two USB ports and the most amount of RAM at the time, 512MB. I purchased the B+, and then earlier this year, the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B. During all that time I’ve run some distribution of Linux on it; Arch first and for the most amount of time, then Raspbian when Arch suddenly corrupted itself after what turned out to be an ill-advised update on the B+.

If you look at the entries in this blog under Raspberry Pi you’ll note that it’s been for the most part light weight and a way to get to know how the hardware and software work together. I’ve looked up and followed along, making changes necessary for it to work on my end. I’ve not published anything unique that advanced the use of the Raspberry Pi. My excuses boil down to lack of time to really research and then apply what I’ve learned. I’ve got all sorts of big ideas, but just need to figure out how to make them real.

To that end I’ve started to look at the latest releases of operating systems available for the latest Raspberry Pi 2. Before the trip I managed to install the latest Arch, Raspbian, and Windows 10 for IoT. Here’s a quick rundown on what I discovered.


The latest Arch Linux for ARM has a page devoted to installing Arch directly onto a micro SD card for the Raspberry Pi 2, using Arch Linux as the tool bench. In my case I used my Samsung R580 notebook running Ubuntu 15.04. The only tool I needed to add via apt-get was bsdtar. Otherwise the directions given for the Arch environment worked identically on Ubuntu (taking micro SD card device differences into account).

Once the installation process was finished, I put the micro SD card into the RPi 2 and watched it book into a text console. Nothing out of the ordinary in that, and in a way I prefer text over a GUI. My only complaint with the latest Arch is the lack of out-of-the-box WiFi support for the most common WiFi dongles. I had to install WiFi support after my first initial installation of Arch Linux nearly two years ago. Here I am with the latest and I find I’ve got to do that same all over again. My main reason for looking at Arch is its relatively lean footprint, but lack of WiFi support is just a bit too lean. It’s annoying to fix this issue, especially as WiFi networking on the Raspberry Pi is a big feature, two years since the last time is a long time, and when it’s not there out of the box, it’s a big issue.


The latest Raspbian image was installed using my Ubuntu system and the ‘dd’ method for copying the image onto another micro SD card. Once booted, Raspbian will walk you through an initial configuration and expand the file system, consuming the rest of the card. It now boots immediately into a graphical desktop. This is all well and good, but even with a quad-core ARM processor and 1GB of memory, the GUI still taxes the Raspberry Pi 2. This so-called taxing shows as a jitteriness of the mouse cursor as it moves across the screen, among other issues.

I give points to the distribution for fully recognizing my Apple USB keyboard without having to perform any kernel-level configurations, and it recognized both of my WiFi dongles and thus joined the network at boot. For a distribution where you want the greatest assurance it will come up and be usable by an absolute novice to the Raspberry Pi, the current Raspbian distribution can’t be beat. To quote Apple, “It Just Works.”

But I’m still not quite happy with it…

Windows 10 IoT

This was the most sophisticated, and in the end, the most disappointing of the three. I’m glad I gave it a spin, but I would never use it for my own work nor can I recommend it for anyone else to use.

Microsoft has a page to help you get started here. I chose to download an ISO image and to install the tools necessary to flash a micro SD card with the IoT image that comes bundled with that ISO. Once installed on the Raspberry Pi, the Pi booted into Windows 10 with absolutely no problem. The problems came later when it turned out it wouldn’t work with either of the two WiFi USB dongles I’ve been using with Linux ever since the original Raspberry Pi B was purchased.

I spent more time than I cared to slumming through the forums, but no-one seemed to know how to get WiFi working. After about an hour of trying various so-called solutions I shut it down and deleted everything. Yes, I could have plugged the Pi 2 into an open network port on my home router, but I still had no guarantee I would find the proper drivers to make WiFi work. I know how to get all that to work under various Linux distributions. The bigger issue is the requirement to have a desktop Windows system in order to develop for the Raspberry Pi 2. As I’ve written about here you can do some serious and sophisticated work natively on the Raspberry Pi, reaching back to a desktop/laptop only when the development needs are fairly serious. I don’t want to be forced to do this out of the gate. I lived that development life back in the 1990s with Wind River’s VxWorks. While that was fine back then, I don’t want to go back to that, especially now. Even the Beagle Bone Black, which requires a laptop to bootstrap it’s development tools, has everything local to the BBB, and only requires you use a browser.

Unless it changes drastically I’m done with Windows 10 IoT.


There’s a lot that has happened over the last two years, especially with regards to security and encryption. I knew the Internet had devolved into a dangerous place, but I didn’t know how dangerous until the leaks from Edward Snowden and other’s he’s inspired. That has in turn motivated me to think about best practices for securing an internet-of-things device such as the Raspberry Pi 2, and how best to encrypt data both at rest on the device as well as across the wire into and out of the Pi. I’ll have more to write about later, but for the present, I can’t approach this with the same naivete I did in the beginning.

Posted in Arch, ARM, Linux, Raspberry Pi, Raspbian, Ubuntu, Windows | Leave a comment