A New Arrival in the Testerman Tech Family

I've been very, very happy with my MacBook Air, which I picked up in 2013 and which sailed by its three-year milestone with flying colors, no less capable now than it was when I first got it. It is, without a doubt, the best all around computer I've ever bought. That's not to say it's the most powerful (it isn't, and never was) or best featured (though it might be, if I consider all the apps I use on it that simply don't exist for Windows or Linux). However, for writing and all but the most demanding video stuff I do with a computer, it is my preferred machine. (It's been so good I invested in additional desktop Macs that I otherwise wouldn't have looked at twice.)

With that said, I'm not sure it's the absolute best value-to-cost computer we have in the house. It's a near thing, because I do use use the heck out of the Air, but I think the award might have to go to the Chromebook we picked up a few years ago for Sean. Like the Air, it's been around for a few years, is aging gracefully, and gets more and more use as time goes on and Sean grows more adept with it (so its cost-to-value ratio grows ever more favorable). It cost us $150 bucks at the time (thanks to some Amex points we had stored up), and it's been great.

This Christmas will see a new contender for the Value-to-Cost throne in our house, as we're getting a new Chromebook. It just showed up today, I had a chance to play with it check it out and get it set up for its intended users.

The machine in question is an Acer R11 Convertible. It's a solid Chromebook (same brand as Sean's current machine, though smaller) with (basically) a 10-inch touchscreen that you can flip over and use as a tent display or a nice tablet, with 4GB of memory, and 32 gig drive, all for less than $300.

Two USB ports, HDMI mini out and SD card slot. Battery life is supposed to be in the 10 hour range (we'll see).

And, as a huge bonus, this is one of the models that can run Android apps natively, which means I can install stuff like Jotterpad, Firefox, Skype, Lightroom, and even some cool Android ports of games like Final Fantasy Tactics. (!!!)

All of which is to say that if you’ve been waiting for a perfectly good Chromebook that you can also use as a perfectly good tablet, for under $300, this thing looks pretty good.

Amazon.com: Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible, 11.6-Inch HD Touch, Intel Celeron N3150, 4GB DDR3L, 32GB, Chrome, CB5-132T-C1LK: Computers & Accessories
Amazon.com: Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible, 11.6-Inch HD Touch, Intel Celeron N3150, 4GB DDR3L, 32GB, Chrome, CB5-132T-C1LK: Computers & Accessories

Every October, I get obsessed with a Tech Project

All of my domains renew annually or biannually, somewhere in October. RandomWiki and http://fireflywiki.net are the same.

Changes to backend platforms. New programming projects… I built an online campus/forum/archive for my MFA program during one such binge.

I don't remember what grabbed my attention last year (probably nothing, since I was hip-deep in new house projects – https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DoyceTesterman/posts/NTreF1eetYS), but 2014 was a massive project to automate the collection/archiving of my blog and social media posts as they were created.

This kind of bug always – always bites me right when I'm supposed to be prepping for a big writing project of one kind of another. Always.

This year, I've wandered down the rabbithole of website creation and hosting using a combination of Jekyll (markdown-based blogging platform) and github. It's become a situation where I hit a roadblock, back up, try it from another angle, and hit the same massive barrier from another direction.

The basic problem is, I'd like to collect the material from both of my main blogs into one unified one, with all the posts stored in markdown/plaintext, and while Jekyll can do it and Github supports it, the fact that I want to add sixteen years worth of previous blog posts brings the whole thing screeching to a halt – either Github gets mad when I try to put more than a thousand files into the same directory, or Jekyll refuses to build the site when there are so many source files – basically, I can import back to about 2014 (or 2013 if I never write another new post :P) which is roughly 20 to 25% of the stuff I want to include.

(And when that failed, trying to import the same .md files into a fresh install Day One turned out to be a total sandtrap as well.)

I don't know why it's always October, but there it is. Writing this out so I can at least avoid revisiting the same project in a year.

FireflyWiki.net | Firefly / Home Page
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VW TDI Dieselgate (personal update)

We got a letter from our VW dealership today, letting us know that if we wanted to, we could bring our TDI Jetta in early, provided we'd gone through the website registration process, and they'd give us the full value of whatever Volkswagen was going to pay us, as credit, weeks or months early, keep our car on their lot, and then deliver it to VW when the time came.

The downside to the proposal was that we had to buy something from the VW dealership, but since we were looking at slightly used non-VW AWD stuff, that wasn't a deal breaker.

The upside: I didn't have to drive the equivalent of forty cars to work every day.

So I drove down to the dealership today, found a low mileage 2013 Rav4 that met our eclectic criteria, and made the trade. The payback from VW was high enough (pre-dieselgate bluebook, plus $5000) we were able to make up the difference ourselves and buy the car outright, as is our preference.

Everything wasn't roses and champagne: the used vehicle has only one key fob, so I'll need get a second fairly quickly, and for some reason they couldn't pull up the VW estimate for what we'd get paid for the car, so they had to go by the manual, using the lowest estimate for our make and model, and then write us a check for the difference once VW finally does the buyback. The troubles caused a few twinges of buyer's remorse, but I'll get over it.

But… that said, we've got an AWD vehicle again (useful for those rare Denver blizzards and not-at-all-rare trips up to Loveland for family skiing), and big enough to carry the whole family (dogs included) without being so big Kate wouldn't be comfortable driving it (she took the kids for a spin this afternoon).

I wrapped up the day by building a second above-garage-door storage platform for our paddleboards, so all in all, a pretty busy day and YES I BELIEVE I'LL HAVE THAT ICE CREAM NOW THANK YOU.

VW diesel settlement and buyback program nears final approval
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer, who has been presiding over the diesel settlement proceedings between VW, several federal agencies and a class of almost 500,000 plaintiffs, indicated that …