Category Archives: pabulum

Pabulum– Stuff to Think About!

FFMPEG Movie Magic

FFMpeg: https://ffmpeg.org/ is an Extremely Ugly, Extremely *powerful* command line tool to process movies and stills.
My examplesa are for Linux, likely MACOS- Windows varies slightly.

Here are some of my most useful commands as a reference for Myself, really:

  • Break [MJPEG] Input Movie into single JPG still frames in the same directory:
    ffmpeg -i input.avi -vcodec copy frame%4d.jpg
    

    Convert between video types/containers:

    ffmpeg -i input.avi -c:v libx265 -c:a libfdk_aac output.mp4

    [h265 is super compressed, libfdk_aac is the highest quality AAC encoder you can use]

  • Above example, but Batch convert files into an (existing) folder “output” below this one, keeping main filename:
    for i in *.avi; do ffmpeg -i "$i" -c:v libx265 -c:a libfdk_aac./output/"${i%.*}.mp4"; done
  • Top Example, Batch, convert multiple videos into a huge collection of numbered frames  (for fun work re concatenating, etc) This will create: file1_0000.jpg (4 digitas count upward)
    file2_0000.jpg (same Story for file1.avi, file2.avi:
    for i in *.avi; do ffmpeg -i "$i" -c:v copy ./output/"${i%.*}_%3d.jpg"; done

My Dog Does Not Bite

Scenario 1: a Joke. Or is it?
Vector silhouette of a woman with a dog. - 50783515Woman walks in the park and sees a man and a dog sitting at a bench. “Does your dog bite?”, asks the woman
“No”.
So,  The woman  proceeds to pet that dog, which promptly bites her. “I thought you said your dog didn’t bite?” says she, angrily indeed.
Says He: “This is not my dog.”
Lady  Loses based on a wrong assumption.
Gentleman  loses due to lack of, well,
common decency in recognizing assumptions of others


Scenario 2: Serious. Sort of.
Man and Dog SetYou are in a park, the same hypothetical park may be.
A dog & its (Obvious) owner are there and Rover approaches you. So you say:
“Can you call your dog back please?”
The owner says something like” “Oh she is friendly” or similar. Wrong answer. basically,  a non-sequitur. You did not ask: “Is your dog friendly?”
Right one is “Yes” and “Heel” or something to comply,
Isn’t it? Anything else basically says: “!F..k you!”
Or am I crazy? Just get the Dog Away. As Above!
The reasoning is the same as above.

Treatment:
Technology is never about technology,
owning a dog is not about owning a dog. Let that sink in.
it’s always about being so called Human.
We Humans imagined, considered, designed, implemented and supported various choices  whether it was a about a fire-stick, tractor,  Boston terrier or nuclear weapon.
Forget the dog.
Think: “Human!”


Scenario 3:
Man Destroying Computer High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - AlamyTech Support: “We have never had any complaints about (xyzzy) before”
Problem: This assumes everything is Fine and that their “dog” does not or would not or could not  bite you or yours
But you just got bitten.
Dump that company.

In providing tech support I generally avoid the parental incantation:
“Because I Say So” about removing questionable software, for example.. and I try hard to cite the source of my concerns, usually with well respected web site links.
Security-wise, I love “Krebs On Security” by the way.
It’s also hard to be the point-person for design screw ups elsewhere.
“I am not responsible for this other person’s dog, right?”
I am well aware of the other company’s shortcomings that  are unknown to the caller.
They are calling ME and not calling Company 1XYZ
They may have tried, mind you. 
This is a minefield of problems, 
Should I take on the shortcomings of Company 1XYX?
Am I willing to get a client’s transfer of angst against 1XYZ to me?
Yes. on two conditions. 
1) I cannot guarantee success or that it will not get worse
2) It’s at least $500/hr with all meals and ‘entertainment’ included and may get posted to YouTube,
Those of you who know me will know which products & company I am referring to- and a few well known Web Hosts to boot.


Scenario #3Playing Tennis Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from CartoonStock
A tennis star goes to the doctor and reports pain on raising her arm above horizontal- a limited range of motion, it might be called.
“So it hurts when you raise your left arm?” says the good doctor
“Yes” says she
“Well, that’s easy. just don’t do that then”
says the good doctor.

Treatment:
The only real computer security that exists is the computer you don’t have that’s not plugged in and you never owned or touched.
Practical, right? Just don’t do the thing that causes the Problem.
So the only real identity security is the one you don’t have
Unrealistic, right?

Nevertheless, guess what? #3 CAN be a useful insight.
If your database keeps screwing up, ask yourself,
“Does my information need to be in a database at all?”
Years ago I heard- and this may be apocryphal- that nuclear submarines- high tech like nothing else- would keep an inventory of supplies and spares on paper index cards.
Not infallible but orders of magnitude more reliable.
Somerset Maugham, the somewhat famous British writer started out hoping to be a painter in Paris, and was told:
“You are good but you will never be great”- So he took up writing…….


wreck.jpg
Credits: MARYX Blog (Click Image)

Scenario #4 AND Treatment, All In One!
the so called X Y Problem
In imagining Y is the solution to problem X, means to support problems with Y completely lose the original objective: Problem X.
Example:
“Ink Jet Printer Ink Is So Expensive!”
so, I tried elaborate “Solutions to Problem Y”: refurbished cartridges, refilling cartridges, “economy” printing, different brand of inkjet printer that could print using a single black and white cartridge even when the colors had run out. Yep. You know what I am talking about. I even got a “Chip Resetter” to defeat the manufacturer’s clever trickery that tried to force you to buy only their own  fresh cartridges. Here’s looking at you, HP, Epson…
All of it a Big Problem- several, really.. and Very Interesting:
Which led me to think:
The problem is really X: “Cheaper Printing- How?”
not: “Expensive cartridges are a Problem”. If I mostly print in black & white, why not use a laser printer?
(Color lasers are still too expensive for me)
In fact, at “root cause” one might even ask- Why print at all? If you need to give some pages to someone, why not send a PDF files..?
Just Sayin’.. (I hate that expression)
On the face of it, a laser printer may cost a bit more. 
Inkjet printers are “loss leaders” or “Sample Drugs” so you are now stuck with cartridges that cost more than the printer itself when you need them. I did check- Most laser printers don’t have a means to prevent you refilling them or buying inexpensive refurbished ones.
In my case: a monochrome Canon MF4700 has lasted me 8+ years and a 1200 page toner cartridge costs $8 refurbished from Amazon.
(Less Crap in the Landfill, guys!)
I use the vendor feedback and the knowledge I can return it if need be. NO PROBLEM!
So! How do I print in color, if indeed I must?
I send them to a Print Service like Kinko or CVS or Shutterstock. 
So! your Business generates forms that are required to have colored fields? (This is true if you do Insurance claims etc) 
Simple. Order a batch of pre printed color forms from Kinko, etc, then overprint with your black and white laser.
Some forms are even available online as PDFs.
Hell, many of them you can even order from Amazon if they are a common type such as bank check stock
Love photographs? I now have mine loaded into a digital Photo frame
Above are several examples of the X Y Problem at work-
Job #1 in Troubleshooting is, “Define the Problem”
Not: “Assume a solution and have at it” : )


Scenario #6Economic Jargon Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from CartoonStock
“I have an opaque solution using jargon to your simple problem”
Sometimes when providing reference link to articles describing someone’s technical problem I realize there is enough jargon present to alienate that person.
Even the words: “Update” and “Upgrade” and the important difference between those 2 words- which are totally distinct- can cause bafflement.
Worse, context can change meanings in horrible ways. 
“Arguments” in computer science are words and numbers used as inputs to a program, not about people beating each other up.
It also has a different meaning in  debate which is not what is commonly understood to mean.
“Do not assume we speak a common language”
“Do not assume someone understands correctly just because they did not ask you what some word meant”
Most people I meet are smarter than they think about technology, given half a chance and not blindsided by jargon & tech elitism.


Conclusions:
Who noticed there was no Scenario #5? I went 1,2,3,4, to #6.
“Always Question your Own Assumptions First”
But It’s my blog, I can do what I like, right? Most tech companies and vendors essentially get to do whatever they like with their bottom line being the driving force, not the product.
If an oil company could make as much money by not drilling refining and selling oil, don’t you think they would?
There’s a very common misconception that “Big Companies Must Know What They Are Doing”.
or they are in the business of doing whatever it is they sell.
False- Their first responsibility is to their shareholders, not you.
Ironically- a great or at least useful product with no real need for improvement can kill a company as the need for further income may be gone. (Looking at you, Wordstar!) It’s why so many companies now have gone to a Subscription model where you pay monthly.
Damn them.

Not for profits are rather different which is why I prefer them
Commercial companies can afford to screw up more often and bigger than you and I can and they consist entirely of fallible arrogant humans just like you or me.
One year my business partnership (Pre Dot-Com Crash in 1999) only broke even in the same year IBM lost billions. Was I doing “Better’ than IBM? worth thinking about that.

Let us, we so-called Humans watch our assumptions closely.
We,
And our dogs. 

Credits: Various royalty free photo agencies or as Linked.
Thank you
Draft. Comments Welcomed!

WebSite security

  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Usability
  • Functionality
  • Availability

In my opinion, I have a few trusted Hosting Providers that take care of most of the things mentioned here FOR me, often even costing less than the one you might be using.
I do not need to go in and tweak much to Make It Right and is easy top check. Most Hosts miss many essential and simple things


Cartoon thief safecracker breaks into a safe vector illustration - 51877416* SECURITY
On no account should you be transferring/publishing  your material to or from  your site with anything that sends information unencrypted. Principally, your username and password must not cross the Internet readably or it will be intercepted and misused.
“FTP” (File Transfer Protocol) is “ancient” technology and just such a transfer program.
Firstly make sure your site has the service itself *OFF* so in fact it cannot be used or abused by anyone ‘out there’
This is even true if YOU do not use it for what you do.
The simplest replacement, If Available, is something called: “SFTP” (Secure File Transfer Protocol) but, your Host must Provide this
Don’t Worry- whatever you use for doing FTP, if it’s new enough,  will be able to do this in almost exactly the same way the FTP you were used to, does. It runs via a so called “Secure Shell”
(a kind of wrapper that encrypts everything within) so your literature may mention “SSH Login/Password… etc)
So, you say, you are using a WordPress Website that does not use this method at all? Watch Out. your Hosting Provider likely has an FTP access method turned on that you never use but that is vulnerable. get them Turn It OFF COMPLETELY.

  • If you Web Host has no ability to do this, does not know what you are talking about or says “It Is Not Possible” or charges or gives you the runaround…You know how that goes…
    The only acceptable answer by them is: “Ok!”
    else go elsewhere.

Your Web Service must have the “SSH/SFTP/SCP” service turned on. If they are Smart, it will NOT use the “Default Port” of 22.
Why Not? Because that is where miscreants will be looking for it.
“Never be where your enemy expects you to be” (The Art of War)
There are over 65,000 alternatives to force a miscreant to look- Make them work for it and, for reasons I won’t go into, much, ensure the “Port Number”: chosen is well over 1024.
Clever Hosts will boobytrap Port #22 to totally lock out whoever is knocking at that (wrong) door. : )

  • Your SFTP program will have an Option to change that Default port number from 22 to whatever was chosen by the Hosting Provider. 
    Don’t Forget: your Hosting Provider must be the one to provide  that non default port away from 22, then you follow suite.
    It’s not like you get to set some random port and that’s
    what’s used : ) If they cannot or will not, blah blah, Go Elsewhere.
    (you do know about Secure UserName/Password, right? 
    and, No amount of secure shelling can compensate for lame account credentials, passwords.
    You do not use “admin” as a Login, for example, right?

I like free program CYBERDUCK, for ALL platforms : )
Or command line: “sftp” if available,
You lucky Windows users: Try free WINSCP There is never a need to pay for a decent Transfer Program!

  • Your Webhost should reasonably be expected to keep its infrastructure Up To Date– Many use so called PHP. If this or things like it are out-of-date, it is vulnerable to misuse. Also- If their server ITSLELF is out-of-date… Good Luck.
  • So your Site either keeps or forwards Emails? If these Emails originate within a Form for Posting- that form must resist being bombarded by scripts that send junk mails.
    The commonest method is so called CAPTCHA  that forces miscreants to do uniquely Human work that a Script cannot do.
    Miscreant Scripts cannot easily “Read” images of traffic-lights, crossings and boats : )) –
    “Web Spamming” using forms on your site at its worst can, unknown to you, send Spam Emails to 3rd parties as “Someone Else”  and get you shut down or blocked by Google Searches.
    You could just wait until this happens then deal with it but this is Not Smart as it’s far harder ti unravel such a problem after it has happened that before. the excessive traffic can also make your Provider shut you down or bill your service for more traffic!

If your “domain” has Email where mailboxes are provided- the Protocol used MUST NOT include insecure methods
IMAPS not IMAP. No POP at all Please. and OAuth,
(Online Autherication) not generic  Username/passwords.
If you do not know what these things mean that’s OK so long as your site is NOT doing these things : )

Did I Mention? If you have them: Move OFF yahoo.com, hotmail.com, aol.com,  sbcglobal.net & its affiliates. These Email services are notoriously unreliable and insecure. “Just Saying”
Gmail.Com which not perfect seldom has problems
Another Blog I may talk about how To Move Email Services.
* your Domain’s DNS (domain Name Service) ideally uses SPF and more to hips Verify ‘real’Emails sent as ‘you’


  • SO YOU ARE USING WORDPRESS.
    FTP and even SFTP/SCP are all turned off and unavailable because lucky you you, you  get to publish and manage stuff over a Web Page? GOOD!
    First Off: Ensure WordPress is set to auto Update itself and its plugins. From ver 5.8 upwards, “Auto Update” of WordPress itself should be ENABLED and also for Plugins.
    (Remove all unknown themes and plugins while poking around-
    they can be an attack vector)
    Can Updates Cause Problems? YES OF COURSE but NOT updating will cause worse problems.
    There is now a mechanism to re enable your website with reasonable simplicity if some Update seems to Lock you Out. SO ensure that Worpress has a working “Notification Email Address” often the same as the Admin Login Email so that you will be Emailed reports of such actions and more.

Your whole site is using a Secure Certificate/SSL via “HTTPS://” and not “HTTP://” right?
If not- when you Publish stuff, the log in credentials and password are traversing the Internet in an easily stealable format.
Also true if your visitors are interacting in any way with forms or password protected pages,
Furthermore, any attempt to access the insecure version of the site on port #80 should redirect everything to the Secure version on port #443
(These are the Defaults and should not be altered)
Chrome Browser for example, will not longer deal with old standard port 80 and will immediately go looking for the Secure version of your site… Pretty soon, port #80 will I feel become officially unsupported! Do NOT Turn It Off Just Yet Though.
Just be sure your visitors get re direct 80->443
(Google Elsewhere- sorry ’bout that I cannot cover it all)

— Sep 18 2021 – To Be Continued

Libre Office

LibreOffice.Org is a free ‘Office Suite’ for MAC, PC and Linux to make documents, spreadsheets and presentations that admirably emulate Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint:
But it needs a few little tweaks. 
You probably got referred here because either you do not have Microsoft Office or you do have it and it’s way out of date or broken.

You may have considered ‘upgrading’ to a newer Office Suite from Microsoft. It will cost, it will need new learning and it will be  infinitely larger and uses way more resources than this free alternative. If I’me wrong– Delete LibreOffice and go back to Plan 1. 
It can even peacefully co-exist with MS Office,
or will uninstall cleanly. 

Rest assured the installation (from the link above) is pretty easy and the download is small. By default, typically once it is installed clicking on a ::
* Microsoft Word (*.docx, *.doc) Documents [LibreOffice Writer]
* Excel (*.xlsx, *.xls) spreadheets [LibreOffice Sheets]
* Powerpoint (*.pspx, *.pps) Presentations [LibreOffice Presentations]
will launch your New Installation and You Will Be happy.
If it does not you will need to figure how to make Libreoffice the “Default Application” 

If in doubt, launch Libreoffice and File.. Open the file.
Change something. Anything. Now, “File.. Save As..”

Now- the Important Part. The “Default File Extension” for a Libreofficer Writer document is native to OpenOffice, and ends in *.ODT. If you sent this to someone who does not have LibreOffice it will not open. YOu need to do a “Save As”, Name the File and pull down the Option for Document Type- Et Voila- Looks like a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet to anyone else, not a LibreOffice “Sheet”


Okay so why not have LibreOffice Always save the Microsoft Default way so you can cooperate better with the rest of the (non-libreoffice) world? Here’s the example for Microsoft Word when you make “Writer”documents,
[Your mileage may Vary depending on MAC PC or LINUX- But try your best to just use Options and see how to match this]
Go to Tools.. Options…

Document
Document

Spreadsheets:

Spreadsheet
Spreadsheet

And Presentations:

Presentation
Presentation

That’s IT for Now : )
I am sure there is More… Tell me in Comments.

Time Lapse Fun

Project: Automated daily timelapse video using Linux and an old IP Webcam

Required- Intermediate Expertise: AND:
A Crappy Webcam, patience, Linux, Exiftool, wget, imagemagick, cron, ffmpeg knowledge, more patience,
BASH shell understanding
NOT for Beginners!
Resulting Video At End Of Page


I have an old IP Webcam Dlink DCS-930L from? 2012, able to resolve 640 x 480 pixels. I will not go into how I got this running on WiFi except to say I did start with an Ethernet connection : ) In so configuring, I did give it a Fixed IP Address on my local network of 192.168.1.22 which will come up later. 
Using FireFox at http://192.168.1.22 you may  get a still image AFTER filling in the Username/Password that you set up.

Chrome browser will not work as it wants to redirect to a Secure Site httpS://.. all the time which this camera is too Old to oblige.

Device is nearly useless now as it originally required Java and/orActiveX for video and other stuff, which is insecure and unused anymore, but, I did find from Other Hackers that you can grab a single JPG still image like so:
http://192.168.1.22/image/jpeg.cgi
Again, with Username And Password being required…
Started Thinking: If I use a CRON job to grab just such a frame every minute, we could have a nice time-lapse scripted Video every day, No?

So here is a script using WGET(WebGet)  that grabs a jpeg frame from the camera every time it's called and saves it to a file:

wget - http://192.168.1.22/image/jpeg.cgi \ 
   --user=user --password=pass -O capture.jpg

Nice! Some tests showed that worked fairly reliably

More Cobbling with an ugly script- I have left in various pieces of diagnostic code for the curious. DO NOT run as Root User.
DO change the $BASE variable (the base directory to save files)
Script will generate date sequenced folders to drop timestamped jpg files a la:
/some/base/path/2021/Sep/01_Sat/13_15.jpg
I used a 24hr timestamp per file to simplify concatenation later and AVOIDED the use of colons which really throws stuff off:
script name I used: grabdlink
These paragraphs are ALL ONE SCRIPT which maintain variable names throughout. Note the $BASE path must be writable by the CRON owner and happens to be where the Web Server expects to find content in many distributions (Mine is MINT 20)
any number of directories off the ‘parent’ will be created as needed
which is the the -p arg in “mkdir”
______________________________________________

#!/bin/bash
YEAR=`date +%Y` # 4 digit year
MONTH=`date +%b` # Full Month name
DATE=`date +%d` # 01-31 day
DAY=`date +%a` # 3 char Day of Week
# TIME=`date +%I`_`date +%M`_`date +%p`
# CLOCK=`date +%R` # R=24h Clock 21:23 
HR=`date +%H_%M`
#
BASE="/var/www/html/dlink"
FOLDER="$YEAR/$MONTH/$DATE"_"$DAY"
FILE="$HR"
#
FULLPATH="$BASE/$FOLDER/$FILE.jpg"
mkdir -v -m 0755 -p $BASE/$FOLDER
#
echo "OutPut Name: " $BASE/$FILE.jpg
wget - http://192.168.1.22/image/jpeg.cgi --user=user --password=pass -O $FULLPATH
#__________________________________________
#The Dlink Camera produces basic JPEG files that lack any #meaningful EXIF (embedded meta data) so I added my own using #the superb EXIFTOOL  (All One Line below... sorry!)
#______________________________________________
/usr/bin/exiftool -P -overwrite_original '-AllDates<FileModifyDate' '-Model=Dlink DCS‑930L IPCAM' 
'-Author=Tech@ArtOfLogic.Com' '-Description=Http://Www.ArtOfLogic.Com' "-Comment=Http://Www.ArtOfLogic.Com Technology" $FULLPATH
#___________________________________________
#This way at least the time stamp for the #original shot remains #within the image no #matter what happens to the file's Unix # # #timetamp(s)!
#Now lets use the magical IMAGEMAGICK tools to #embed a visible #imestamp inside each jpg image. #It uses the embedded timestamp #we just created #so will work no matter how the *nix  file time #stamps change later:
__________________________________________________
convert "$FULLPATH" -gravity SouthEast -pointsize 20 -fill blue -annotate +30+30 %[exif:DateTimeOriginal] "$FULLPATH";
#END OF SCRIPT grabdlink

___________________________________________
Run as a Cron job:
* 6-18 * * * /home/sysop/bin/grabdlink
This will run every 60 seconds between 6AM and 7PM, not 6PM
as it’s all the times where “18” matches  the hr position : ))

This will give us about 900 jpg images per day one per minute all inside one day dated folder. Nice. 
At some point past the last capture (Or even during them, Why Not)
you can run this rather nasty-looking ffmpeg script to make things into a nice h.264 Video WITH AUDIO!.
Note that “GotamaCut.m4a” is an aac encoded Audio File longer than the longest expected video production, which will be copied into the resulting image stream, but will STOP as soon as the full video has played out.Ugly cut off ending, but it works
If you remove the “-shortest” option , audio will keep playing to its end while showing the last frame frozen. Could Do That Eh?

Also- ffmpeg DOES have a Fade Out option for audio add-in,
But I did not use it ; )

The mysterious TOUCH command sets the earliest time stamp possible for the resulting video so it will sort at the TOP of listings on an auto indexed web page. Of course, you can get cleverer than me here and fix it to the Earliest Still’s Date. Your Exercise!
_________________________________________
ffmpeg -i /home/sysop/Music/GotamaCut.m4a \
-r 8 -pattern_type glob -i ‘*.jpg’ \
-map 0:a -map 1:v -shortest -c:a copy -c:v libx264 -crf 25 -pix_fmt yuv420p timelapse_h264.mp4
# make It Sort FIRST (Earliest!) in Web listings
touch -t 202001010000 timelapse_h264.mp4
# End.
________________________________________
You COULD use libx265 not libx264 for an even more squashed HEVC video BUT web pages using HTML5 do not (yet) seem to know how to handle these. VLC is fine about it though : )
Likewise: -pix_fmt yuv420p seems to be required so web pages can stream the resulting video. I do not pretend to know Why : )

There IS a format MJPEG that means, “Motion Jpeg” but this is inefficient as it cannot perform intra-frame Compression,
only inter image. Lots of room to experiment!
-r 8 represents the “rate” of Frames per Second
Do the Math : )

Aaaand here is the Resulting Video

_______________________________________

 

ID.ME

I am stating here in the strongest possible terms that I consider the website ID.me to be hugely insecure and putting enormous amount of extremely sensitive personal data at risk

I and many people like me have been forced to use this site to supposedly  verify identity to the satisfaction of the likes of EDD, DMV et cetera et cetera. I have been forced, in order to become eligible for PUA & so called “Real ID” to upload information and photographs that I consider extremely sensitive, including my own likeness in stills and video to a lower level functionary person at some kind of datacentre where I could clearly see other people walking around in the background. 
This itself and alone is a violation of confidentiality and security

I  will be demanding a data dump  of everything they have on me and requiring its deletion once my verification is done, if ever.
https://oag.ca.gov/privacy/ccpa
This is California Law, weakly enforced and undoubtedly will take as long or longer than the original application- By which point it can have been misappropriated and misused in copies.

This seems to have a follow of the disclosure that the EDD up until the end of 2020 had indiscriminately handed out benefits to the likes of federal prisoners and obviously false identity individuals –

In a massive slamming of doors after horses have bolted I have now become essentially the target for identity theft which I have scrupulously avoided since starting working on the Internet over 20 years ago – I closely guard my address Social Security number identity cards, credit cards my likeness and anything that could personally identify me which essentially has all been given away in a few short days to several organizations that literally have no idea what they were  doing even before the  onslaught  of a pandemic.

While I have no direct evidence that ID.me itself is doing anything wrong, its methods Reek of hackability and vulnerability and simple lack of due diligence – with similar features to the sites hacked: Sony, Experian, Chase, Home Depot, Yahoo!…..

I was never given an opportunity, or any alternative  to make an appearance in person with identifying documents and was never able to reach a person on the telephone for any effective identification.

So from bureaucratic incompetence those who are supposed to be served are put in a severely vulnerable position and I am stating for the record that I consider this unacceptable given that there are better ways to do it rather than loading the onus on the consumer or client.

Bureaucratically the use of the single point of failure like ID.me  “makes sense” and also from a budgeting point of view and certainly saves paperwork but that the ultimate cost to the end user which is bound to come, mark my words, usually disclosed by independent parties and not the result of any in-house diligence. 

I am sure the Form letter already exists:
“We take our clients security and  confidentiality Very Seriously, and value the trust placed in us”. Not.
The average cost of an identity theft is about $1500 and uncountable uncertainties for further violations of finances and privacy.

Being as ID.ME says it’s “one of only three federally recognized sites for identity solutions” I might feel more confident if they had posted a financial bond to assure conpensation when they fail:
No such guarantee is shown. 
One might consider the Titanic was manufactures to shipping standards of the day-

I await the sinking of this enterprise with due interest and not a little trepidation 

that’s it. For now. Not the end of this particular story.

 

Ego

Draft.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
The Egg in Egotism, no less– that they are MY words not Yours.
But how fragile- how meaningless. Great falls needlessly strengthen the ego 
“Try Harder Not Smarter” is an egotistical message

“My life has Meaning, goddamit!”
— Peter Finch character in the movie “Network” (1976)

Seems like common parlance suggests Ego means,
sense of identity, The Self In Contrast To Others And The World,
The identity creation and preservation mechanism that gives one a name, place, space, set of actions reactions and integrity as an individual- typically against the identity of all others-
yours in particular, whoever I am talking to. 

Saying “we are all one” is trying to deny an ancient mechanism-
Why not Live with it not against it.

So here are MY understanding.
It’s that which creates and maintains the impression of being a “Me” and not a “someone or something else” or worse still, nothing at all

It is the mental component that Reflects and contrasts itself against other egos.

It is naturally a mechanism of contrast- Always it seems in sets of comparisons- In other words it has to me very little abosolute reality but rather a duality:

Mine-Yours
This-That
Now-Then
Good-Bad
Right-Wrong
Threat-React
Proactive-Redactive

There is a simplistic and useful overtone to this form of identity that rejects the complexity and nuance of “Other Egos” which to me is where the real interest lies:
Why do people believe what they believe?
Am I the only person who really gets “It”
even though I cannot define “It”! 
What does it take to change ones mind against overwhelming evidence?
AND:

Am an actor in my life or just a reactor?

Is ego Bad? or does it just exist and is necessary somehow to our existence like air, water, food and safety?

Freud did say Ego is supposed to be  the moderator that exists between baser instincts that are adrenalin and animalistically driven and our “higher” decision-making mechanisms.
We might kill something or come to harm ourselves- 
due to  territorial threats, hunger, injury, fear etc and the “Higher” functions like volition, intention, the temporal businesses of planning, execution and evaluation that supposedly really make us human.

But do they? In being my honorable slave I do not trust my Ego-
yet it is ancient, largely evolved over thousands  of years of “primitive” existence and fits poorly with the safe environment of so called civilized present day society where individual responsibility for safety etc. is performed by proxies like law enforcement, not self.

The scorpion stings the frog to death that is carrying him over the river on his back:
so they both drown, the scorpion apologetically saying as they go under: “I did not mean to sting you but it is in my nature”
— Aesop.

Therefore My Ego:

* Whatever It Is , it will preserve itself unchanged as far as it can
* It will spare my “Higher Sense” anything from seeing what does not concur- Confirmation Bias lives here.
* It votes certainty over truth, present comfort over future betters
* It hides. If seen, it feels threatened. If spoken to, it defends, regardless. If questioned it triggers .. Adrenaline.
* It’s always on guard and does not want contradiction, dilemmas, disagreements or dissent. 
* It almost has a mind of its own at our expense and does NOT have our real-person here-and-now Civilized Persona  existence & enjoyment at heart.

____________________________________
Like our need to bereathe it appears, like air, to be necessary and needs to be judiciously stepped around rather than destroyed or avoided. How?

  • Discomfort? Lean into it.
    Unlikely to kill you no matter what the Ego says
  • Consider existential annihilation is way different to physical death.
    Looking stupid because you ignored your Ego’s warnings that you will fail…won’t kill you.
    In hunter gatherer circles, mistakes could kill. Not nowadays.
  • Learn to recognize adrenalin rise- This will taser the Ego. Be Still.
  • Feeling critical? That’s recognition of one’s very own ego  in others. 
  • STOP. that’s it. STOP reasoning. Wait. It will pass.. the Ego easily gets bored and distracted as it’s only Here, Now. Plus, adrenalin generally declines given about 20 minutes.
  • Prove to yourself the ego is almost useless. Do what it does not want you to do- go where it does not want you to go. Feast on the results and reinforce that. Good examples; Say Sorry and mean it with excuses. .. Just Say “YES”
  • this brings me to Improv, a fun revealing way to unravel the ego. 
  • the Rules of Improv are generally very challenging to the Ego as you get to practice safely being whoever you feel like being doing whatever  you want to do in a safe environment
  • that’s it for now. Comment welcomed.

XFinity

I get asked a lot of questions about installing a brand-new service by XFinity/Comcast cable Internet

First of all, to do this, the cable service needs to be present nearby in your neighborhood – you can tell simply if your neighbors have already got it 🙂 so Ask.
and by the type of cables outside your premises, which are co-axial or ROUND cables, typically black in colour. But you can find out when you apply on-line for service and provide your address.
https://www.xfinity.com/learn/internet-service
Do also Google “Xfinity Deals” as you may be shown lower prices via. marketing sites (Beware of Scams though!)

This leads to the interesting possibility that you do not really need to get your own Internet you could share it with somebody else, typically over Wi-Fi.
I will not address here whether this is permitted or not but it’s certainly not “Detectable” as such.

Bear in mind that XFinity will charge a different rate depending on whether your address is Listed residential or non residential. 
It need not be a business –
they just give the lowest rate to a place where people live.

Typically the cable service may already exist somewhere on your property perhaps being discontinued sometime before, or already in use for television et cetera. Let’s be really clear about this –
if Internet is all you need, then that is all you need to buy, not their television service or TV package no matter how hard they try to upsell you unless you are really clear. 

You also DO NOT need their modem or hardware equipment that they want to lease  to you at at least $15/month: the FCC is really clear about this- They cannot force you to use their stuff.
Just typically buy APPROVED Xfinity Equipment from Amazon for about $79 with a 3 year warranty-
That way they cannot refuse support for unsupported equipment (which I think is reasonable)
https://www.xfinity.com/support/articles/list-of-approved-cable-modems

Comcast has lost a lot of revenue from television services to the likes of YouTube TV, sling, the Amazon fire stick, Apple TV et cetera which I won’t go into here, so now they make most of their money from Internet services- typically their top speed and reliability for outstrip Att DSL/ADSL 2+ AKA “Uverse”

There are always introductory deals as low as $19 a month for their basic service for a year’s contract even when they tried to upsell that to a higher speed, most of which most people don’t need anyway.
They are always happy to bump the speed up if you find it really isn’t enough later – unlikely.

You will most likely not get this deal at a non-residential premise, but most types of educational, not for profit, and institutions can fill in a form and get a rebate which Comcast then claims back in tax deductions 🙂 https://business.comcast.com/ctf Called “Teleconnect Fund”

Cut to the Chase:
– you need the Coaxial (round). cable with their Service on it to be delivered to the right place INSIDE your Place.
Their job is to deliver the cable to some point on your building typically OUTSIDE sometimes known as “MPOE” (Minimum Point Of Entry) for free but may want charge for “Inside Wiring” to get it where you want it.
Or, You can do this yourself- Just use “RG6” type cable is all
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01D3W29JG/

You can ask for “Self Install” and do it yourself.
Xfinity should STILL at least deliver Internet to there outside of your premises at the very least. I have known some linemen to happily run wires in for free too. They are Great–
But the Company Itself Sucks Majorly

The Hardware involved as separate items, which is how I prefer to do it, are:
1) – a MODEM– (without its own WIFI)  about $79
Converts Co Axial Cable Signals to Internet Ethernet signal.
2) – a ROUTER- this acts like a power-strip and makes one address available to many devices- 
-3)  a WIFI arrangements- this sends Internet “Over The Air” so your Service can reach WIFI devices up to about 100′ away.
[2) & 3) are usually inside the same Black Box. and cost $20 and up depending on range and features]

YOu can buy the Modem ahead of time so the technician has something to connect to, It will typically have ONE “ethernet” port you can connect directly via. that Ethernet to one Laptop or PC
for troubleshooting This is what your Technician can test, and makes later troubleshooting WAY simpler by eliminating extra hardware from XFinity  tech checks.

Once operating properly, one adds the separate WIFI router which propagates the single Ethernet to provide up to 254 different devices, plus 4-6 distinct extra Ethernet ports to attach hardware printers, extended routers, VOIP telephone boxes to, etc.
(Not OddFellows– this is the arrangement we already have)

This also, incidentally, creates a useful “Local Network” or LAN.

If you are SWITCHING away from , for example, AT&T, done right it should be almost transparent because your internet source is now different BUT the Local Network will remain the same along with any VOIP phone devices, printers etc..

This is a Basic Outline. Comments Welcomed!

Mini Split Ductless Air Conditioner

Some Good Info Here:
https://temperatureprocentralnj.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-ductless-mini-splits/

These efficient units. which began appearing in the USA about 2015 
can quietly both heat and cool the inside of your house as needed. New homes seem to include these now, as opposed to a “central” air-ducted system.
You may already have seen some and not realised it as they are so unobtrusive

They come in three parts:

1) Outside Unit
A large weatherproof  outside metal box unit with a big but quiet  fan and compressor that dumps the heat out of your house
(or cold if used in reverse- More Later). It’s mounted on a solid slab or bracket. 
1300 sq ft area generally require a single 240v AC power supply “Fused” at 30A. USA homes have this at their power-panel but you will likely need an electrician to link things up properly.
Smaller units may only need 110v 20A.
A separate circuit should be provided in either case

2) Line Set:
A pair of copper pipes 25′ long on average called the “line set” with plastic insulation-

Outside  Diameters:  1/4″ high pressure (200 PSI) and one 1/2″ low pressure (50 PSI) Ave.
Plus- it is sold cleaned, purged and filled with dry nitrogen…

These pipes usually tuck into a 3″ duct between the Outside Unit
(Above) and the Inside Unit (next). to improve insulation and appearance.
Lengths can be changed but it’s simplest to use the default length.
There’s also 25″ of 5-conductor Power and Control cable, too,
as no separate ‘inside power’ is required.

3) Inside unit: (can be more than one)
This is the relatively small and quiet Business End of things that does the cooling with a long narrow “Squirrel cage” fan and evaporator coils rather than a bladed fan, and a very easy to clean filter.
This is what makes it so quiet!

It is generally fitted at least 6″ on all sides from obstructions,
high up on the wall in a central location, and not necessarily on an outside wall. A single hole 3″ in diameter is required to pass the “Line Set” through to outside,  to join all three parts, along with a simple 5-conductor control and power cable to get electrical power and controls from “Outside”.
The system is also called “Ductless” as no air ducts are involved. 

This is not a straightforward Plumbing Job as it might be with water or gas, be warned. I have done it myself but I advise you to get a licensed installer as its flared fittings must be correctly sealed & tightened, then ‘evacuated’ (vacuum pumped of air and moisture ), tested and filled with refrigerant that’s shipped inside the compressor.
I am also pretty sure the copper piping is specified in size and design for this and no other purpose.
Done right, 5 years is the usual warranty.

Mine has a remote control and you can set the temperature according to where you put the remote control rather than having it as traditionally, screwed to the wall where it measures the temperature there.
Lots more options are available, not least a simple default “Cool” one that maintains 73-77 degrees.

In winter they can switch to Heaters by REVERSING their function

It will more than gas but LESS than if you were using ’true’ Electrical Heaters. These devices are “Air to air heat pumps” being the reason- They move energy from outside to inside,
inherently more efficient than dumping electrical power straight to heat or cold.

Of Special Interest is the use of three “Inverter” motors in compressor, outside fan and inside fan.
More Info Here
Full torque is available at low speed s there are no start-up “surges”

My calculations  are for my  1300 sq feet with doors opened to other rooms so would need a “24,000BTU capacity unit” also mysteriously known as a “two ton unit”
(In fact the shipped weight of mine was 400 pounds, go figure)
Here is a calculator I used to figure the right size of machine
I went a bit ‘over’ as ‘under’ would disappoint on a hot day!

These start at $1500 from Amazon, Home Depot   etc.
Mine was less but be warned- an installer may not want to install something she did not order or is unfamiliar with.
This profession & business is known as: HVAC= “Heating Venting and Air Conditioning” and has various certifications.
Be Warned you will NOT get the warranty unless you use such a licensed installer! a “Handyman Install” such as I did, no matter how carefully or successfully  it is done, will allow the manufacturer or distributor to claim the warranty Void.

GOTCHAS:
These units can ONLY recirculate the air through filters and do not bring any new air in from outside.
This is Nice when its smokey or otherwise polluted outside but can make your home dry and stale
(They will naturally wring moisture out of the air)

I use mine in combination with a Whole House Fan- This is a huge extractor fan in the ceiling used to drag outside air inside via the House living space and push it out via the roof space, thus also purging hot air trapped under the roof area

I do this typically in the coolest part of the night around 4AM in the Summer- thus flushing the entire house of stale air in about 15 minutes.

One MUST leave some doors or windows open WITH SCREENS when doing this as the air must be sucked from somewhere, ideally bug-free
Certainly , leave things open at the furthest points in the house
and be warned unchocked doors can slam shut hard in the breeze!

This is all a certain amount of manual work but worth it-

No special arrangements needed for the air conditioner– In fact, most come with a WIFI Internet Connection and App. to maintain control remotely and pre set things more easily

That’s It in general. Comments are Welcome!

 

 

Split Air Conditioner Install Steps

NOTES ONLY! 
FYI- nothing I say here should encourage you not to get a qualified HVAC person in. All is at Own Risk.

These Notes assume you have figured out how to connect up a split air conditioner and want to vacuum pump out the line set (piping) ready to open the valves to fill the system with refrigerant from its lowest point, visible in this picture:

Steps in using a split ductless air-conditioner
valve core removal tool to install a new system

Examine the Core Removal Tool to see how it works.

Examine the Exhaust port. This is the lowest point on the outside compressor unit (above) to which you will connect and has a cap over it.

It has a “Schrader” valve within to retain the positive refrigerant pressure within your system when it’s running. It needs to be defeated somehow if you are to force air by sucking it  OUT of the pipes rather than keep it IN

Your job is to impose NEGATIVE pressure on this valve (a vacuum) to remove air and moisture etc.

Therefore, Ideally, this valve should be either depressed or removed as it’s going the ‘wrong way’ before vacuum pumping to free passage from vacuum pump to line-set.

Your blue extraction hose coupling from the vacuum pump may have a raised brass dimple within that could depress that valve to defeat it,
so that vapor can be drawn out of the piping… But that’s both unreliable and inefficient & 
In my experience is highly unpredictable and worse, obstructive, slowing the vacuuming process.

Compete Removal then replacement of this tiny valve is ideal.
(Have some – cheap- spares in case it’s damaged!)
but this presents the dilemma of how to do so without the system equalizing to atmospheric pressure either letting outside air back in or blowing off refrigerant when switching between tasks

Imagine having to deflate your car tire just to replace its valve.
Then you have to refill it.
Same story- But refrigerant is expensive unlike, well, air.
It’s also never Okay to release refrigerant into the atmosphere!
Worse, it’s hard enough to get a decent vacuum-
a tiny leak would instantly ruin it.

This is where the “Valve Core Removal Tool” comes in, an ingenious device that keeps system pressure or vacuum during change-outs

Aside: When sold the line set likely had some pressurized dry nitrogen in it. We assume this is now all flushed and joined-up.
I made the mistake of uncorking this a few hours before joining the line-set flanges. Some air & moisture would get in : (
Join things up promptly on releasing the nitrogen to avoid as little atmospheric air and moisture as possible getting in is the way to go

Attach correct adapter to end of core valve removal tool:

In my case, 5/16” which required an included adapter.
Before attaching anything,
GENTLY depress the pin in the middle of the valve.
Ideally, nothing happens as the pressure should be about the same both sides.
But, being the low-point of the system it’s possible moisture, lubricating oil, refrigerant gas or any combination of the above can come out. Pay Attention!
You should NOT be sucking this stuff-
Venting or bleeding a tiny quality of liquid to gas is OK though. Ask yourself how it got there is this is a New System : )

Now Trial fit the Valve Removal Tool on the “exhaust” port coming from below the Low Pressure (Large) pipe side

Open the ball valve in the tool (handle along the axis of the device.
This will allow you to push the removal spindle forward through the open ball valve up to the point where it meets the Schrader valve.

Be sure the outermost screwed seal for that spindle is finger-tight: 
This withstands some pressure either way

Gently “feel” for the farthest end of the spindle engaging the Schrader valve.

GENTLY twist and probe til it engages, Never Use Force!

Gently twist counter-clockwise a quarter turn and wait

Ready your Vacuum Pump blue hose

Ideally you will have a vacuum gage and understand its correct plumbing.

Continue unscrewing 3 or 4 turns- It’s fairly obvious when the valve comes free. Another few turns to be sure

Very Gently withdraw the stem which should have a tiny rubber washer in its tip (Examined it beforehand, didn’t you?) to ‘capture’ the valve center pin..

Pull the stem ALL the way back til obviously it has come though the ball valve

Gently CLOSE the ball valve to 90 degrees

YOu should now be able to unscrew the outermost spindle retainer so the spindle plus valve ALL come out.. Set aside the little valve in a clean place- well actually keep EVERYTHING clean

You are enow free to connect up the blue vacuum pump line finger-tight, but. DO NOT open any valve yet

Turn the vacuum pump on, It should ‘evacuate’ the blue hose all the way up to the ball valve. Even a basic gage should show this happening. albeit inaccurately- they are designed to show POSITIVE pressures so the needle moves a minuscule negative amount. A proper “Micrometer” vacuum gauge is $200-$300 so I did not use one : (

True the pump off & wait.. Ideally that needle will stay ‘put’ for at least a few minutes showing you your pump and lines are okay.

open the ball-valve, start the vacuum pump. I ran mine for 15 minutes and waited 15 minutes 3-4 times while watching that the negative reading on the gauges did not ‘leak’ back when the pump was off. YOu may want to Close the ball valve between pumpings– Just In Case.

The intermittent use lets the pump cool off, lets you check the system can hold that vacuum  AND more importantly,
gives time for any moisture to ‘boil off’ under the low pressure.

The ‘books’ say you are supposed to reduce air-pressure to “500 Mils or less” (only measurable using the expensive  gage mentioned above)

This turns out to mean that your normal atmospheric pressure of about 29mm of mercury (Barometric Pressure) will reduce to a mere half a millimeter.. or 60 times less.
The ‘harder’ (lower) the vacuum the harder it is to achieve. 
Zero is basically near impossible except in a physics lab perhaps-
Or outer space.

Satisfied? Right. This step is critical.
KEEP THE BALL VALVE CLOSED. 
Gently open first the top (high pressure) then the bottom (low pressure) 5MM hex screws all the way to the end stop then back them off.

The hissing is the refrigerant abhorring the vacuum in the line set and replacing it with pressurized refrigerant from the compressor where it’s stored, at 600PSI (High) 300 PIS (low)

So! the Valve Removal tool is now under POSTIVE pressure and the vacuum is gone. This is Good as it’s far easier to lose pipes full of vacuum than a tiny percentage of a whole system full of  pressurized gas and fluids.

THE BALL VALVE IS STILL CLOSED RIGHT?

Re Insert the spindle plus valve and hand-tighten the retainer nut.

Spindle cannot go all the way in of course as the closed ball valve is preventing it.

GENTLY open the ball valve.  A small hiss of pressurized gas is NORMAL. There will be a natural back pressure as you push the spindle forward through the now open ball valve to re insert the Schrader valve.. “Feel” for the moment the valve enters the aperture into which it will screw

You are doing this against the back-pressure of the system but that’s Ok! Hold the spindle knob forward against the gas pressure with your thumb as you turn it gently to thread the valve back in.

This is a skilled gesture which is neither forceful nor difficult,
just requires a “feel” for what’s goin on., followed by a few turns to ‘bed’ the valve.

Pull the spindle back behind the ball valve

Close the ball-valve.

Unscrew the spindle retainer slowly and completely.
there should NOT be any valve attached anymore!
A small trapped amount of gas will escape.

Gently open the ball-valve- another tiny escape of trapped gas should happen, NO MORE. If a lot comes oujtp the valve IS NOT working right,

Now you can unscrew the entire valve removal too.

An old Garage trick is to put a damp finger over the valve opening. 
Nothing shook be escaping If your finger is wet you should not see bubbles.

Screw the brass sealing-cap back on, This is. tapered fitting for which no thread compound should be used, and is considered a proper ‘system seal’ rather than the valve, strangely enough

Seal the High and low pressure side 5mm plugs with their brass caps

let’s leave it at that for now- I do have a Freon Leak Detector and studied it carefully BEFORE and AFTER running the system.

Take Your Time! best of Luck!