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The Personal Blog of Michael L. Whitt Posts

Thinking about a barcode project, some Assembly required, pun intended.

Been under the weather so I haven’t gotten to working on my projects the past week or so.  Yet I have added a new project to my list.  My Dad has a new barcode printer and I am looking at whipping up a custom program for him.

Part of the coding will be low level Assembly code.  I haven’t done any deep ASM coding in a couple decades so it should be nice to mess with again.

I haven’t completely decided what I will be doing the front end in.  At first I was considering C++ or Java, but the more I have thought about it I may do it in Javascript,  possibly ReactJS.

My JS skills aren’t nearly as strong as I would like so this might be a good project for me to practice with.  Might go ReactJS but not sure.  My brother is a whiz as JS so if I do go that route I will have to pick his brain some.

You know you are an old time Geek when you are looking forward to some ASM coding.

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Raspberry Pi Desktop

As I have mentioned I am a huge fan of the Raspberry Pi.  I have owned every iteration including the latest 3 B+ and found that they are great microcomputers.   I have always like the Raspbian OS as well which is a fork of Debian.  Of courses I tend to use Debian based Linux more than others (huge Linux Mint and Ubuntu fan) so that added to my liking Raspbian.   At any rate last year Raspberry Pi Foundation released a version of Raspbian called the Raspberry Pi Desktop geared towards non-Pi systems.  I had been meaning to getting around to installing it one a couple older systems but never got around to it until tonight.   I have a number of lower end PCs that I use for testing and a lower end i3 laptop that I usually use for pen-testing via Kali-Linux that I figured would be great test beds for the Raspberry Pi Desktop OS.

So far I have only installed it on the i3 powered laptop.  The installation was straight forward as is most Debian based distributions.  As I have been using Arch lately it is always nice to return to Debian based distributions.   At any rate just like the Raspbian installs, the Pi Desktop OS install was very quick and non complicated.  Needless to say if you have messed with Raspbian you know that the OS is a very light install.  It has basics like Python and related IDE, LibreOffice and a few other light weight apps, plenty for basic computing (and of course you can apt-get anything else you need).  Great for a low end PC, similar to other Debian based distros like Lubuntu or SparkyLinux.

I haven’t came across any hardware issues so far on this HP laptop, this hasn’t been the case for most other Linux installs on it.   The primary issue I have had on this machine has been the WIFI NIC.  But not with Pi Desktop, the WIFI works fine, aside from the fact that the antenna is horrible (but of course that isn’t OS related).   Pi Desktop OS boots as fast as any distro I have had on this particular machine, even other lightweight distributions.  So far it is certainly the best OS I have had on this machine.   Next I plan on installing it on a decade old iMac (1st gen Intel) and a Mac Mini.   Both of those machines work (ok) with Mint and Ubuntu respectively however would benefit quite well from the much lighter Pi Desktop.

Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t want to replace Mint on my primary machines but for lower spec machines Pi Desktop I think will be my go to for a bit.  It helps that I have a number of Raspberry Pis so I am right at home using it.   Even if you aren’t a Raspberry Pi microcomputer user it is still more than worthwhile to install on older desktops and laptops, or even just create a LiveCD/USB to Live boot and play with.

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Microsoft shifting focus from Windows.

Caught an article yesterday that Microsoft is breaking up it’s Windows division and moving to spread it across it’s other divisions.   On one hand it does make some sense, however I think that the shift will further degrade Microsoft’s hold on the PC market.   Don’t get me wrong I am an avid Linux user, primarily running Mint and Manjaro, while occasionally utilizing other distributions, so personally anything to further enhance Linux utilization is a good thing to me.  That said it speaks some as to the continued move away from Desktop/Laptop operating systems, the logic being that each year the market from desktop and laptops dwindles some.  As the world continues down the path of IoT, Smart phones and tablets the PC world becomes further and further diluted.  Sure there will for most likely decades to come be a continued user base in the Corporate and Power User worlds for PCs.  I don’t foresee the day were I don’t own at least a couple desktops/laptops anytime soon, if ever.   From the 8088 days I have also had some type of desktop/laptop, so well since the beginning of the Personal Computer age.  But while my daughter has never known a household without multiple PCs, she has never really shown an interest in them to any extent outside the occasional PC game played with me.   She has grown up in a world of smart phones and tablets since she was old enough to old one.   And most of her generation is the same way.   Outside of using a Chromebook for school, everything she is interested in doing can be done from a mobile device.

Of course there are still a good number of even her generation that have use for a PC.  While you can do things like programming, office productivity and video editing from a mobile device, it is hard to beat having a powerful processor, keyboard and mouse for example for those items.   Sure you can game on mobile devices and do even more powerful gaming on dedicated consoles, but nothing beats gaming on a med to high end PC.   It is those type of things that will keep the PC a must have for many people even for years to come.  So I think that Microsoft is somewhat jumping the gun with distributing their Windows division across other divisions.  It’s almost like since they failed at garnering any real share of the mobile environment that they believe doubling down and pulling away from what has been for 30+ years their bread and butter, the OS, that they can suddenly compete against Apple’s IOS and Google’s Android market instead of focusing on the market that they already dominate.  Once again this is a good thing for us Linux advocates as there has never been a better time to sell people on moving to Linux.   Regardless though it has me shaking my head wondering just what Microsoft hopes to really gain from this restructuring, outside playing what they must believe is the long game.  However I am not so sure that them playing fully into the long game of trying to move their business from the desktop world to the mobile world is going to gain them even.

Sure Apple and Android device makers could misstep and lose their stranglehold on the market, but at this point it would take some major blunders on Apple and Samsung’s part for this to happen in any major way.  In effect it is no different than those times that Apple has tried to step outside their true market place in the PC world.   Apple was very lucky to hit the phone market at just the right time and innovate on the front end of the smart phone marketplace.  Since then while they have continued to mostly make good moves, they have held back on any real attempts to innovate and let other phone makers take the risk, and only move with redesigns when a product was proven elsewhere, take edge to edge displays for example.   At this point that is actually a good thing.  They don’t move often on product enhancements that aren’t already field tested by others, allowing them to come in and do the trademark Apple thing of putting old consistently solid products with aesthetically pleasing UI and form factors.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t hurt to attempt new things, however cutting up your breadwinner in hopes of moving into a market where you have yet to truly succeed isn’t the way to do it except in very rare cases.  At this point it seems that Microsoft is hedging their bets on such a move, yet doesn’t seem to really know where to place the chips.  It will be interesting to see where it takes them, but I think it is a very huge risk for a company that has already made some costly miscalculations.  If Microsoft isn’t careful it is steps could come back and bite them hard.   It wouldn’t take too many missteps to really start to lose more of the OS market to Linux.  It wouldn’t take too many more to lose out to other open source products either.   As I earlier stated over the past couple of years it has become drastically more easy to replace Windows with Linux.  No longer is that just the case in the server environment but also the desktop environment.  This holds true as well for other MS products like SQL Server.

Either way it should be very interesting to see how this change will change the PC marketplace for years to come.

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Raspad – Raspberry Pi Tablet on Kickstarter

I early backed the Raspad on Kickstarter.  It is a kit that includes a nice 10.1″ IPS Touch Screen enclosure, a short but still  nice to have battery (3 hours) and stereo speakers.  Back a bit ago I started to do my own Raspberry Pi tablet but never got around to the project.  I came across the Kickstarter project from a SunFounder newsletter and thought, hey it’s pretty much what I was wanting to do and at a good price (early bird backing).  I already have plenty of PI to use, including the very latest Pi 3b+ which just came out.

I look forward to trying out the tablet.   I am wanting to see if it will work as a decent away station for some of the sensor projects I have in mind.

You can find the Raspad project currently on Kickstarter.  It has roughly 53 hours left before funding is complete.  The project has already exceeded the primary goal and has since past a couple stretch goals.

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Ardunio, Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone Black and more.

I have a number of micro-controllers that I like to mess with from time to time.  Above is some of my collection.  The top row left to right is three Raspberry Pi 3Bs, a ROK64 and a Beaglebone Black.  The bottom row is three Raspberry Pi Zero Ws,  two Ardunio Unos and a Metro MO Express.   I have a few Photon Wifi, Feather MO Expresses and ESP8266 as well.   The lovely thing about the new Metro MO Express is that it works great with Ardunio Uno shields yet uses Adafruit’s fork of MicroPython called CircuitPython.

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