Laptops and the minimization project continues.

On Monday this week, the Apple from work went back to the employer, along with my ID card etc. I ran work as an apple island, using a iphone and a mac pro. They are being replaced, but not, repeat not, with macs. This is not an issue of cost. In NZ, the cost of a reasonable iphone and mac is about the same as similarly spec’ed wintel laptops and android phones. The issue is interface.

Bluntly, Apple drives me nuts, to the point that over the last month or so I’ve been disappearing into the downstairs office to get any real work done. I have used android phones for a very, very long time, and I can get them to generally sit up and beg — and the compatibility issues with Android clones from Oppo and Huawei have basically disappeared. The Apple phone went back a few weeks ago, and I hope to keep by 4 year old phone going until the phone audio is horrible.

Android fun.

The big issue with the phone has been audio. The speaker is starting to crackle. The simplest way to solve this is to put headphones on — but that does not work in this household. I miss the birdsong with headphones on. In ear monitors work, and will be an option if needed, but headphones only work when I’m channeling Vox Day.

Gab @Spacebunny, who notes Vox has stolen her puppy.

The app purge continues.

  • Spotify has gone. Tidal sounds better and supports artists.
  • Strava is added. Instead of switching to another watch when I work out, I track workouts with the cellphone. It has a better GPS and it is generally on me as a safety thing anyway.
  • I have been binge watching bush radical and people renovating houses in the Italian Alps. Adam got me onto that, and he’s right: it is addictive. You tube advertisements irritated me sufficiently to get a trial month sub with them.

The laptop replacement.

I have a rule for gear that is at times broken. If essential, buy local. Kea needed a laptop for her studio — and Casa Weka her desktop and office shared space with the studio, which is not the case in Casa Kea — and we got a Lenovo Ideapad. The one delivered from a local retailer had a bad screen, so they replaced. The second rule is similar: if it is not in stock, don’t get it.

So, one starts by looking at what usually works in almost all circumstances with linux. I prefer Lenovo, but generally have not bought them due to budget. The NZ Lenovo website has the L series, in AMD, at reasonable prices. So I go to the local dealers. Forget it. They will sell ideapads, but not thinkpads. At this point I phone the Lenovo 0800 number — which clearly goes to Australia, over a very statically line. I found out that all Thinkpads are specail orders, minimum wait time 8 weeks. This is not acceptable. I need this: I am not funding their development.

So I list what I need. Accurate and bright colour. Reasonable memory and HD size. A good keyboard — this is one of the selling points for the Lenovo T series. Two options are being sold: Lenovo Yoga 14″ with good screens but made out of what appears to be tissue paper and with a keyboard akin to the mac (which I don’t like: it hurts. I use dongles and proper keyboard most of the time), or a Dell gaming laptop that has a decent keyboard but the screen is not as good.

Go home. Both do not easily work with linux. Download MX linux with the new drivers to help. Do not install on the downstairs machine, that is stable with manjaro and setting it up so it works took weeks. Look around the specailist providers.

Two of them — pb tech and the laptop company — require the vaxx pass to open so they don’t get business. But two companies sell Asus Zenbooks. These are light, small — and the specs are good: they install mx linux fairly easily, and with some tweaking their clever number pad in the trackpad works.

So the next step is to visit and look at one. Again, dealing locally… went down to GLI in Dunedin, who had a zenbook. Right size. Good screen. Can get a Ryzen at a reasonable price. Asked for one to be held, so I can do research. Digging around Reddit I found this.

Hi guys I wanted to review for you the Asus UM431 which I got like 10days ago. The exact spec sheet which I have got is a Ryzen 5 3500U with 8gb of memory and a 512gb of ssd. I will start this off by saying that linux support for this device is surprisingly good. I installed and used Manjaro KDE Plasma on it and the installation went smoothly and everything is working fine. The laptop is built very well and I can definately say it will last me 2-3years. The screen has almost no wobble or flex and can be opened with just your thumb. The keyboard is really good and for someone like me who does a lot of typing I find it very pleasing to use though I would have liked a bit more key travel. The touchpad is fine and it also has a fingerprint sensor which ofcourse doesn’t work and anyhow am not a fan of fingerprint sensors so I didn’t work on trying to find and compile its drivers. The battery is another huge plus of this laptop as it lasts me on average 5hrs when I mostly do my work which includes stuff like using vim to write some code doing heavy web browsing and using web based applications (I am using Brave browser) sometimes using some Libre Office or using gimp. The processor is a great plus as I find it to be very snappy as there is almost no jitter or lag whatsoever when opening anything, switching between apps or virtual desktops. There are no heating issues only when I use some vm in virtualbox I hear the noise from the fan otherwise its utter silent. The screen is good too its got good colours and a very decent 1080p display with not too high brightness but it is still fairly high. I did try installing Lutris and play League of legends but it gives some wine related error for which I didn’t try fixing but I’ll update you how the games run on this. I would like to mention that the speakers have faily decent sound but they dont get very loud so I don’t quite like them. All and all I was surprised by what this laptop offers and it definately has great linux support.


Next week we get this, then install fun starts.

Blog changes.

If all goes well, I will be able to stack most of the pension and retirement payment and start working part time. I’m still young and the wife is younger. When that happens, most posts will be written in advance. Technology stuff goes up, for instance, on Tuesday. Kipling or one of his cohorts on Wednesday. Theology in Friday, once the silly season is out of the way. George Herbert on Sunday. Most of this can and is scheduled. The changes this we

  • Instead of adding another page for reading, I’ve set up a monthly reading list page.
  • The Gutenberg editor allows me to shred out a fair amount of bumpf fast. I’m using it by default.
  • I am using nitter and screenshots to check on most social media. When I see something useful, I’m going back to screenshots. This works with Bibliogram — the interesting thing is that bibliogram is basically blocked by instagram.
  • I need to automate the sharing of posts to Gab and Telegram. The third party solutions, such as bluff, are relentless woke. I won’t support the woke. (Ironically, the photo blog, running on Ghost, is better at this stuff.). At present I have to hand post to both sites which means at times I miss the post, particularly when things are busy and I am preparing posts ahead of time. I am trying to avoid Jetpack, so alternatives will be gratefully received.

Setting up Libreoffice spellcheck.

I have been having to use abiword to generate text because the spellchecks were not in libreoffice. This is inefficient: for communication reasons I want to be able to send word documents occasionally and pdfs a lot. Libreoffice is much better at formatting and structuring. So, after digging around, I did the following.

sudo pacman -R libreoffice-still ## This is the old versions, and I want something faster
sudo pacman -Sy libreoffice-fresh
sudo pacman -S libreoffice-extension-texmaths ## Equation editing
sudo pacman -S hunspell ## needed for spelling.
sudo pacman -S hunspell-en_gb ## Commonwealth English Spelling
pamac install hunspell-en-med-glut-git ## medical spelling. This is a community repository.
pamac install hyphen-en libmythes mythes-en ## hyphenation rules and thesarus.

And after testing...

sudo pacman -R abiword

I could have installed libreoffice-fresh-en_gb and then had the default language as UK english. But you NEED hunspell. If you don’t put that in first, spelling does not work.

Why you should not use wayland yet.

One of the things I like about plasma is that it scales well — I can run things at 125% and read them. Big screen. It helps. However it does not work in wayland on a lot of apps, and if you try to switch to something else such as xfce then — the way the machines are set up where you just log in (my security is called locks on doors) it automatically goes back to plasma when you reboot.

The problem is — to quote the Arch people — that wayland is not ready for use quote yet. Use the x11 versions for work or fix the bugs.

I don’t have time to fix the bugs.


sudo pacman -R plasma-wayland-session
sudo reboot

Then I was able to get into xfce, and play with that. The first thing I did was move the themes around, move the scaling to 200% and then test if libreoffice can come up.

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14 days ago

Good to know. My Sony Vaio laptop is about a decade old and starting to lag a little. Too be honest not sure how much of the lag is due to the VPN rather than the processor (PIA but I’m switching to Nord at the end of this month when my sub runs out). Can’t do Zoom meetings on this one, lags and freezes too much and I do Zoom meetings at least twice a month, sometimes more. I’d buy another Sony but they don’t do this anymore. My Lenovo Yoga that work provided is nice but good to know that it doesn’t play well with Linux as I will be looking to switch completely when the Sony finally dies (or at least go dual boot).