Tag Archives: technology


In honor of Pi Day, I built and deployed a Pi-Hole server.

Pi Hole is software that acts as a caching DNS server and ad-blocker, by black-holing known advertising sources at the DNS layer.

You can obtain Pi Hole at https://pi-hole.net/

As the name suggests, it is optimized to run on a Raspberry Pi. I’m running it on a Pi B that was otherwise unoccupied.

It’s been running for a couple of days now, and tells me that it is stopping around 25% of traffic. And because it stops the traffic before the browser even connects to the server, that means that it is making my network faster as a result.

It took me very little time to get running, following the instructions on the website. Indeed, the longest part of the entire process was the initial Raspberry Pi operating system installation. The actual Pi Hole installation took maybe 10 minutes.

So far there has been no negative impact that I’ve noticed – no false positives, no pages I couldn’t get to that I wanted.

Recommended. Give it a try if you have a Raspberry Pi that has been sitting around since Christmas and you’re not sure what to do with it.


I am now wearing my new BAHA Intenso ®, which I acquired about 2 hours ago at the UK Hearing Clinic.

As we walked out of the clinic, I heard a fire engine siren, and I knew which direction it was coming down the street before I saw it. This is a pretty big deal, since have lacked directional perception in my hearing for more than 20 years now, so I assumed this would be something I’d have to relearn. But I heard it, and immediately knew that it was to the left of me.

The device itself works amazingly well. In fact, when I first put it on, we thought that we’d have to send it back and exchange it for something less powerful, because even moderately loud noises were painful with the device set on a hair above zero. However, the audiologist adjusted it, since the gain and low-tone setting were both cranked all the way to max, and it was much better. Even now, I’ve got it set on 1, or somewhere between 1 and 2, and it is very loud.

I am sure that it will take a long time to get used to it, and that I will have headaches for the next few days. But, to be able to hear is pretty amazing.

On the way home, Maria drove, so was sitting on the left of me. Turns out that when she mumbles inaudibly to herself, she’s actually saying intelligible things. Who knew? 😉

About ten years ago, I went to an event where Dr. Vint Cerf was speaking. His wife was there with him, and she has a cochlear implant – not the same thing I have, but much more complicated and amazing. At question time, one of the suits asked the standard question that you ask technology wizards. What’s the most amazing advance in technology in the last 50 years? And, of course, being Vint Cerf, the expected response was some blather about how the Internet has changed everything. But, being Vint Cerf, he said instead, my wife’s cochlear implant.

Polaroid “PoGo”

Polaroid has announced that they are now marketing a camera that lets you take a photograph, and then print that photograph immediately.

It’s this kind of amazing fresh thinking and out-of-the-box engineering that keeps the United States firmly in the forefront of innovations in technology. I mean, who’s ever thought of anything like this before?

Of course, my first thought was … nice photo, can I get a digital copy of that, please?


I got an iConvert as an early Christmas present, and have been playing with it today.

I’ve been eying several of the USB turntables for a while because I have a pretty big stack of LPs that I’d really like to be able to listen to. I expect that this kind of device has probably reached its low price point, and will just go up from here as the demand drops off and folks stop making them.

As you might expect, I’ve had successes and failures, as a function of the condition of the LP that I’m trying to convert. No big surprise there. I have LPs as late as 1990, and some as early as the 1920s, so I don’t expect 100% success.

New Toys and Geocaching

While the Jeep was getting fixed, someone went into it and forced open the center console where I had, among other assorted junk, my ancient GPS receiver. I bought it in the early days, when GPS technology was first available to civilians. I paid an enormous amount of money for it, and, by today’s standards, it hardly did anything at all. But it kept me sane for a couple years, giving me something to do in those endless days and hours.

This weekend, we went up to spend some time with Skippy, and while there, I found a refurbished TomTom One for about half of what they’re going for new, and we snapped it up. I’m completely blown away by what a low-end device like this can do. It’s got street-level maps of the entire USA. It does turn-by-turn routing, and reroutes if you choose to ignore its advice. It tells you where the nearest restaurants are. And all sorts of other useful things.

So, today, after more than 3 years of not Geocaching at all, we went out and found four caches, and did maintenance on one of mine that’s been disabled for a while. It looks like we might get back into geocaching again, which would be cool. I’ve enjoyed it for a long time, just my schedule the last few years has made it very difficult to make time for it.

New Toys

I picked up a couple new toys this weekend. One, in particular, I’m very fond of. I got an iPod Touch, for use as my primary PDA, calendaring, note-taking, mobile computing thingy. Overall, I’m *way* impressed with it. It’s quite a feat of engineering.

What I found frustrating about it from the very beginning – even before I had one – was the lack of availability of third-party applications for it. Granted, it’s a very young device. I had a Palm device more than 10 years ago, and even then there were hundreds of third-party apps for Palm. Now there are thousands. And for the iPod, I can’t find any.

Now, I know there are some, and that you can install them if you install hackish jailbreak software on the iPod. And, I’ll probably do this. But I find it perplexing that a company as savvy as Apple would choose to release a device that didn’t from day one, make it easy for third-party companies and hobbyists to provide apps for it. Nothing inspires device loyalty like an app that fills just exactly the need that you have. And, frankly, the default apps on the iPod are unimaginative. And … duh … no games. Who thought that made sense? At least put solitaire on here. Sheesh.

Having said that, the ease of use of the device, and the obviousness of use, impress me. There’s never a doubt of what you’re supposed to do to accomplish what you want.

One other complaint, I guess. The networking hides just a little too much detail from me. I needed to know my MAC address this afternoon, so that I could add the device to the permit list on my parent’s 802.11 AP, and I couldn’t find it anywhere. It’s one of the Linksys devices, and I had to pick my device out of a list of other devices that had tried to access the AP, presumably neighbors, and I just couldn’t do it in the time I had available.

Oh, well, mostly thumbs up, and I imagine I’ll like it more, the more I rely on it.

Writing a book

I’ve been looking for a decent tool with which to write a book, and haven’t haven’t had much luck.

Pages is nice for laying out stuff, but although it does a Table of Contents nicely, it doesn’t do indexing. I’ve been told that there are templates that do indexing, but I haven’t had any luck in finding them.

Word does indexing, of course, but it’s so amazingly difficult to add an index term that it actively discourages one to do it.

The process, by the way, is:
* Highlight term
* Click on “Insert” -> “Indexes and tables”
* Click “Mark Entry”
* Fill in the term that you wish to appear in the index.
* Click “Mark”
* Click “Close”

Simply having a shortcut key to highlight and mark, or perhaps highlight, right-click, and mark, would greatly increase the effectiveness of this process. If I don’t index while I write, I don’t index.

I could use DocBook, and probably will, but the tools for converting DocBook to anything else are SO geek-centric that I find them profoundly tiresome to use. Having to spend an entire day researching and installing and configuring in order to write content seems excessive.

And of course, I could go back to writing LaTeX. Once I get back into the swing of it, I imagine that it would be the most efficient thing to do. But the output tends to be a little on the sterile side, and it’s hard to do specific layout like image flow, sidebars, and so on – although I’m sure that a dozen people will respond and say, it’s really easy, you just follow this 12-page HowTo. Oy.

Anyways, if someone can simply point me to a Pages template, that would of course be the best of all options.

For the most part, though, it’s frustrating that one either has to be an uber-geek in order to use any of the readily-available book authoring tools, or spend a lot of money on some other tool.