Minimal Configuration for Modern Laptops

[UPDATE: I have moved to a Lenovo ideapad laptop – also only $199 at Best Buy. No idea why, amazing laptop! New post about this soon]

At some point in 2014 during a visit back here in the U.S. we picked up some clearance sale laptops at BestBuy. My HP touchscreen and the wife’s Toshiba were both 15″” and at great prices. They have both performed well and handled the upgrade to Windows 10 admirably. However, now that we are preparing to move back to Mexico it seems like a good time for an upgrade. We have acquired two off-brand Chinese laptops that drop the spinning hard drive and any CD/DVD tray in exchange for quieter, cooler running, longer battery life, less bulk and less weight. This would probably be a good place to insert a small table 🙂

 Spec HP 15-r017dx Chuwi 15.6 Lapbook
Weight 5.34 lb. 4.1 lb.
Thickness 1.01 in. 0.86 in.
Resolution 1366×768 1920×1080
CPU i3 Dual 1.7Ghz x5 Quad 1.44Ghz
Battery 2800 mAh 10000 mAh
Storage 750GB 64GB
 Spec Toshiba Chuwi 12.3 Lapbook
Weight 5.4 lb. 3.08 lb.
Thickness 1.27 in. 0.3 in.
Resolution 1366×768 2736×1824
CPU i3 Dual 2.5Ghz Celeron Quad 1.1Ghz
Battery 4000 mAh 8000 mAh
Storage 750GB 64GB

So one of the main tradeoffs is hard drive space. This means a transition to small USB or MicroSD cards for storage. Not a problem, actually. Backups in the cloud. All good!

For document editing Microsoft Office has a *large* footprint. Even LibreOffice comes in at anywhere from 800mb to over a Gigabyte. I have opted for FreeOffice, which clocks in at a measly 163MB! Not only did I save space, but I saved $75 on my refunded Office365 subscription. One side effect of this change was a drastic reduction in the available storage on OneDrive, which also impacted my OneNote storage space. So I replaced both of them! My new cloud storage (at least for text and spreadsheet and PDF documents) is hosted on and stored in the NextCloud app which syncs with my USB thumb drive. My new web clipper for articles I want to read later is Wallabag, which I am running on my Raspberry Pi. For organizing/tagging I am testing TagSpaces. So lighter, smaller, leaner, meaner laptops and more control over my own files and data – what’s not to love?

My Career in Desktop Support



The benefits of staying off the corporate ladder

The first time I came even close to having a clue about my ‘career’ was when I felt ‘called’ into the ministry. But even then it was just a vague idea – pastor, missionary, music director. It could have been any of those. After marriage and my first child priorities shifted to just paying the bills. I left college and started working. I could type a bit faster than ninety words per minute, so I started doing clerical work, then advanced to word processing. That definitely paid the bills for many years.

I was once fired from a job where I was trying to basically be an executive secretary. I truly sucked at that. But the man firing me said I seemed more interested in the computer/software end of things and that if he had an opening in that area he would have kept me. It was a light-bulb moment. As soon as I could I transitioned to tech support, then desktop support. I’ve been doing that ever since.

For most of my I.T. career I have been an hourly employee. I’ve had many opportunities to apply for positions that were salaried: Sys Admin, team lead, etc. I declined to apply, because I could not justify the tradeoffs. Sure, more money! Prestige! Upwards mobility! But I have always viewed my job as a means to an end. It pays the bills and provides benefits, but it never gave me a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment. I always understood that I was a maintenance worker. I was facilitating everyone else’s jobs, keeping the cogs greased and the wheels rolling. I was never in danger of being awarded a Nobel Prize for anything, or landing an interview in a major magazine. So my search for significance was always outside of work. For most of my life I sought this through church.

Once I was no longer in church I spent a fair amount of time exploring various adventure sports and hobbies: swing dancing, rock climbing, motorcycles, storm-chasing, genealogy, cigars and pipes, wine-making,  antique reselling. I also began work on a memoir, more of a writing exercise than a serious attempt. Later, when we began making serious efforts toward retiring early, I explored multiple means of making money ‘online’ – drop-shipping, ad and affiliate revenue from traffic, etc.

Most of my co-workers had little time for such pursuits. I watched them give an extra 10-20 hours to our employers, often for some weak form of compensation that could rarely be used. If you can’t get your job done in a 40-hour work week, how can you afford to take vacation, much less any form of ‘comp day’ you might be given? Soon they maxed out the allowable comp and vacation days. I knew that I would lose much of my time for things I truly enjoyed if I were to be promoted. So I stayed in desktop support, and I’m glad I did.

In the end, we’re both leaving work with pensions and social security, small 401k’s and a decent savings account. Just by living minimally and keeping expenses low we were able to save additional money back even while living in one of the more expensive cities in Texas, even on just one salary. I never had an impressive title or made big decisions yet I think we’re going to be ok. I hope I live to 100, because it may take me that long to catch up on all of my unfinished projects – writing, genealogy, travel photos, blog, etc. I may be technically retiring early, but it doesn’t really feel like its early enough…

Setting Up Wallabag on the Raspberry Pi


In my recent flurry of indieweb-style activity I decided to go cold turkey with my dependency on certain major service silos. In addition to the general motivation to dump the monolithic, monopolistic mega-corp silos, there was a more practical motivation. Before our big move back to Mexico we are upgrading the laptops. Three years old and upgraded to Windows 10 had me a bit nervous. Also, spinning hard drives. So our new laptops are straight-from-China cheap with eMMC drives of only 64gb.

MS Office and even LibreOffice take up a *lot* of room. So I cancelled my Office365 subscription (got a full refund, surprisingly) but this had the side effect of reducing my OneDrive space allocation down to about 5GB. In cleaning up the space a bit I managed to accidentally trash the folder which held some of my OneNote folders.


And yes, I also emptied the trash. Gone. Forever.

But wait! I found a backup copy, except you can’t export or import it without an Office365 subscription! Huh? Well fuck.

So obviously, I needed a new solution for web clipping, one of the things I used OneNote for extensively. Enter Wallabag.

When it comes to self-hosted read-it-later services this seems to be the only thing that comes up on Google searches. And frankly it was a bit of a pain to get set up. But I did, somehow, manage to get it up and running. Here are some of my fuzzy memories of problems I ran into along the way, and the solutions.

First, make sure you have the requirements in place. Most of the instructions mention Composer as a default install procedure, but it does seem to have some higher memory requirements. I had to reboot the Pi at one point which seems to have cleared the path and allowed for the install to complete successfully. Basic instructions are here.

At the end of the install it will ask for user name and password, etc.

DOCUMENT ROOT: This one is important, otherwise you’ll just get a blank page:

(in my case, it was /var/www/html/wallabag/web)

The important part is that you have to point your virtual host or other setup to the `/web` subdirectory.

Once you have that working and can log in via the web interface then you need to add some content! The two main ways I’m doing that are:

– Firefox add-on extension
– Android app

For the Firefox (or Chrome) extensions to work you have to set up a client in Wallabag. In the main menu, click on *API Clients Management*, click *Create a New Client*. Give it a name (this is just for your own internal reference) and click the *Create a New Client* button. This will give you the two main pieces of information you will need for the extension.

Next, download the extension. Most Google searches point to the old one, which links you to the new one, although it goes to the French version. The English version is here.

Go to the browser extension options and enter the URL for your wallabag installation and click *Check URL*. Once that verifies, enter the *Client ID*, *Client secret*, *user login* and *password*.

**THIS IS IMPORTANT** – you have to click on *Get token*. After that you can just exit the page. You don’t have to save anything to a file, that’s optional.

Detailed instructions on Chrome (and Firefox) add-on setup.

And it auto-saves. Once you set a tag, just walk away!

The Android app is simpler to configure – just provide the URL, user name and password. Once it successfully connects, it will automatically create a client on the s