Reviving old laptop

I posses an old Toshiba NB205 laptop. NB205Windows 10 doesn’t run on it. Windows XP does run, but it obviously isn’t supported and probably not very safe with continuous stream of Microsoft’s bugs. On top of that I’m not using it any more anyway. The thinking is give it up to someone who can have some use of it. Interestingly, I tried using it for Zoom and Zoom had Windows XP client. But the poor thing couldn’t keep up with the video rendering.

So the solution is to install Linux. Something small and fast. I’ve tried several distributions:

Bodhi Linux

Used version 5.1.0 legacy. The iso came in at 747 MiB. The installation was strangely unadjusted to my laptop’s small screen. It does ask if one wants a login screen, but then the actual installation doesn’t have it set. The window manager is weirdly annoying to configure. Many system apps for some reason don’t fit into the small screen. It also doesn’t really use the space very efficiently. I don’t know if this is the distribution itself or their window manager.

Linux Mint

Used version 19.3. The iso came at 1.9 GiB. Smooth installation and running. At the beginning there is a very annoying all that checks the system and tell the user what is missing and what is needed. It takes quite a bit of CPU time to run.

One thing to note is that they stopped supporting 32-bit machines after this version.


Used version 19.2.1. The iso came at 699 MiB. Very good bare-bones distribution. Installs and runs fast. One qualm about the small screen: it has this cute widget on the desktop showing the CPU usage and other stats. The problem is that it run over any other popping things. For example, the network configuration thus making it quite difficult to select a WiFi network. It also doesn’t handle the power properly – closing a laptop should put it into sleep/hibernate mode. But this distribution doesn’t do it out of the box.


Used version 18.04.3. The iso came in at 1.3 GiB. Took a while to install. Perhaps due to all the stuff it needs to download. It works well so far. It just has this really weird lock screen. There is no place to enter password – you just type it and hope it’s correct.

I’ve posted on CraigsList to give away this laptop. A lot of people responded. Yes, free stuff goes very fast. Interestingly, from the experience, if I’ve asked just $5 no one would have replied.

So originally I was thinking of giving it away to some family who have kids doing remote learning and need a compute platform. However, then I’ve changed my mind. There was difficultly finding people who know how to use Linux. Then they need to run Zoom and some intencive apps, which this laptop can’t do. Eventually I gave it to a gentleman who was replacing his 2006 laptop running something like ssh server and terminal for his projects. At least he knows what he’s doing and will put it into a proper use. I hope.


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Fixing Electric Range

We have a very nice electric range. It is glass on the top. Very easy to keep clean and I like it. Regular ranges – gas or electric – are notoriously hard to clean. There is some talk on gas providing more heat transfer, but I haven’t reached this problem yet, while I do like the cleaning aspect.

So the said stove was working fine until one heating element in my glass electric range stopped heating. I went to YouTube to figure out how to fix it.

It was simple to find that the wire in the heating element broke. Removing the old one was not difficult (the manufacturer designed ti well with push in contractors), finding the new one was. A regular brand-new replacement can cost over $100. For what exactly? I managed to find a close-enough one on eBay for $30. Works fine. The conclusion of this story, however, is not to throw away an old range just because it is out of style or something – those heating elements can still be valuable.

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Embedded Artistry

Stumbled on a very interesting web site about embedded systems development, called Embedded Artistry. There is also a nice interview with the owner of the site here. A lot of things he is talking about is what I’ve learned over the years. It is nice to be validated. The dude is doing embedded SW development as a consultant. I wonder if I can do the same job and what the implications will be.

One more blog is the Better Embedded Systems SW.




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Camping at Arroyo Seco & Plaskett Creek. April 2019

I’ve started planning this trip as something to do on the way to Los Angeles. Camping was always nice and the long drive South is ripe for a good brake. So I went to my favorite tool – Google Maps – and searched for campgrounds on the way South. I found Plaskett Creek right on the shore. The campground photos looked great and the location was excellent. The only problem – in February it was already full during the weekend. I still wanted to have some company with other people, as a result camping during the week was not feasible. Thus I found Arroyo Seco. It was a bit further inland, which meant no ocean views, but it also meant no cold fog in the morning. I was very worried about the temperature. This spring is a bit slow on the warming slope and I’m responsible for three more people who may not be as tolerant as me. But, we had to try it. We could always just pack up and keep going.

Friday, April 12

Started after Sam’s nap. The drive to the campground wasn’t very long so it was no point in leaving early. This allowed me to pack everything carefully and get dinner. We arrived to the campground – it was beautiful. Green. Quiet. Shady. Lovely. I suppose it was empty due to Friday, but still. img_1642 We setup and just enjoyed the campground, well, at least I did. There was a small, sort of, lake down from the campground overgrown and producing tons of mosquitoes. There was the arroyo river way down in the ravine.


Saturday, April 13

Slow morning. The others were suppose to come later. We just fooled around and played. Once the others came Sam had some company to run around with. There is an interesting hike along the river to some sort of waterfall. We did it after lunch. It was a bit more trying than I expected. We went up using the trail. The thinking was that the trail was shorter and more fun than some road. However, it was very overgrown by poison oak and Sam wanted me to carry him. He actually passed out while I was carrying him. To add to that the elevation change was quite significant. But in the end we reached another lovely camping spot by clear rushing river. It could actually be a good place as an introductory backpacking trip. The way back was a bit slow since Sam again wanted me to carry him once in a while.

Sunday, April 14

Pack up and drive. The drive was a bit weird due to the lack of network connection. The main route went through the Fort Hunter Liggett military base. Because of that the area was just gorgeous. Not many people, green slopes, giant oaks. One large meadow was really overrun by wild flowers. There were so many that I could smell them from the distance.


However, right after the base the road became really scary looking – first it was windy, then narrow and on the side of a cliff. I also wasn’t sure which way the campground was – left or right.

Eventually we made it to the campground. It was beautiful, yes, but a bit weird. It was mostly slanted. For some reason the toilets didn’t have water even though they had all the plumbing. And the poison oak was in all its glory. But there were also some little bunnies. And I found the reason it was full – someone had a wedding. The sand dollar beach was just a short walk away across PCH.

Monday, April 15

The evenings on the Pacific Coast are always lovely with the sun setting down and providing beautiful light. However, mornings are not so much. The coastal fog would roll in and make everything wet and cold. We packed up and continue drive all the way to LA. It took a bit longer and around, but it was nice and green. Best time to drive around.

Photos. Photos.

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Camping at Gualala River Redwood Park. August 2018

Once again going to the Gualala River Redwoods Park. Originally I was just planning to go with Sam. I was a bit concerned about taking 2 months old Nora to a forest. Rita mostly wanted to go, understandably, anywhere. So we all went. I wasn’t sure whom I was worried about more – Nora or my father-in-law. Neither of them were seasoned campers. Well, I was hoping we could get a nice trip in the end. However, I wasn’t sleeping well the last night.

Friday, August 17, 2018

I left work early. Essentially after lunch. The idea was to get going early to arrive in some reasonable time. I had to do some errands and there was also a team lunch with old VMEM people. However, I’ve completely messed it up. I thought the lunch was at the Firehouse at downtown Sunnyvale. But instead it was at the Faultline. Bummer. The bigger bummer was that another time I saw one thing written, but I understood something else entirely. Aside from occasional screw-ups it actually worries me. It is like I’m sloppy and absentminded.

After all the stuff was loaded into the new CR-V we picked up Sam and headed North. It was the regular traffic jamming. One right around the golden gate bridge and around Santa Risa. Once we passed that it was great driving. It was really – the scenery was great and it was still light. Nora was actually taking the trip quite well. Much better than the first car trip we did with Sam who was actually older at that time. In the end we reached the campground before dark. Nice.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Jenny arrived at around 11PM. I had to come out and greet them. In the morning there was a regular routine. Rita’s dad brought enough food to eat for several days. Apparently the campground is fancy enough that there is a power plug at every site. We could have brought a lot of cooking tools.

In the morning Rita’s dad decided to play his flute. I’m always a bit concerned when he does it. Who know how people would react, and they can’t really talk to him. But people were quite happy with his playing. It seemed to have resonated nicely between the redwoods.

Afterwards we just went to “the beach”. Sam mostly was throwing rocks. I was looking to maybe swim, but I didn’t bring the proper clothes. Jenny ad her boyfriend went to some other event.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

We packed and headed back home. It was a long drive that could be handled in a pleasant way. We stopped at Bodega Bay for some sea food. Rita picked a place called Fisherman’s cove. The place was crowded. The food was … reasonable. Well, i like some seafood, but oysters isn’t my cap of tea, yet. I really don’t get what the hoopla is about. After that we headed straight home. The drive was easier than I anticipated.




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Stay at Avila Beach,CA November 2017

I was trying to find and interesting B&B to stay over during the drive to LA. Something in the middle. After some search on google maps I found this place called Inn At Avila Beach.
It is an all inclusive hotel. It isn’t exactly all inclusive in the tropical resort sense with tons of food available 24 hours. They serve decent breakfast with eggs, very good coffee, and pastry. There is some open bar between 2 and 5PM also with coffee, pastry, and sad pizza (also beer). And some local pies with ice cream at 8M. Not too bad. I can probably live on that.
The staff at the inn was very friendly. The lady showed me around the area, talked about the features they have like bike rentals and beach towels. Very good. They recently gotten a liquor license. So now they had a very large, locked, cabinet with all sorts of drinkable goodies. The only problem is that that lady wasn’t a drinker. As a result, she couldn’t recommend me any of those bottles.
We arrived mid afternoon. It was still light and almost at the end of their afternoon eating. We had sad pizza and chips and stuff. Sam was mostly loading on chips. After that we went to stroll on that short promenade. There were nice swings on the beach. We were basically stretching time till the 8PM pie with ice cream. The pies there were good, from some local bakery. Ice cream was fine. Sam is really into ice cream now. But, luckily, he doesn’t eat that much yet. We spend the evening trying to get Sam to take a shower in that weird shower room and searching for some places to go around.
I the morning I got up earlier than the others. The breakfast the hotel provide starts at 7AM. I went up the roof to see a rather glorious morning. I’ve gotten good coffee, some egg dish, and scone. I could enjoy some amount of peace and silence and beauty.  Then Sam woke up and the regular running began. He ate something, we checked out. The host said that we can still use the services during the day. We went to a tiny local park next to the Avila Beach Aquarium. I like aquariums. But this one was a bit too small for the price they were charging. So we stayed at the playground. Man, I forgot that multicolored parents are not the norm. The parents at that playground were primarily very white women with their white kids. Very few men. It seemed like those women were stay at home wives of some rich dudes that lived in the area.
Then we had some of our leftover heavy Chinese food back at the hotel’s kitchen and went to the beach. It was a bit weird to play at the beach in late November. I wasn’t prepared for it. Some people were swimming even though the water was quite cold. Sam eventually started playing in the sand around some family. I don’t know if he is shy or his lack of English makes him weary of other kids. I’ve never really seen him play with others per se. Maybe he does this in the daycare.
Closer to Sunset we went to the roof for some freebies and headed to LA. There was still one place left to explore in Avila – trail leading to Avila Hot Springs. I was searching what to do in Avila and found this great place. Well, another reason to visit this place.
On the way to LA we passed through Pismo Beach. I drove through it several times and always wanted to stay there. But Avila is a much better place.
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Camping at Gualala River Redwood Park. August 2017

I found this place in the Weekend Sherpa newsletter. There is a small state park with a campground, close to the ocean. And there is a commercial park farther inland – Gualala River Redwood Park. I was very concerned about the closeness of the ocean due to cold. But I was also concerned about the commercial park. Usually those parks are tight and overpriced. Some people on the internet were complaining about mosquitoes. Well, that’s nature. So I had to take a gamble of sorts to book that campground. I took out two backpacking (read – small) sites for the total of 4 families. Eventually only two came.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Start driving. The distance is closer than Tahoe and also the direction is different. We made a decent progress right up to Sunset. Then we went into this winding and no reception area. It was dark and very winding. Took about an hour to get through last section of the PCH. Arrived at around 10PM. Girish was there helped me set things up.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Morning start. Regular breakfast and stuff. The mornings in these areas are cold and foggy, which wasn’t bad concidering the heat we were getting lately.
All I had planned was to go to the river next to the campground. Just enjoy the nice weather and nature. No cell phone reception here. Sam liked to play with numerous rocks there. He was happy. Then we had lunch. I managed to get him to sleep. Walked round a bit. And then it was dinner time. We just had fire, watched the kids play – just enjoy the nature. The benefit of this campground is that it had some amount of play things – swings and slide, and ping-pong table. Enough to occupy little kids and big kids.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday started with a little rain! There wasn’t much to do but just pack and drive home.


It was hard to get the boys out. We stopped at a tiny local beach right outside Gualala. The weather was great – warm and sunny. But the water was still freezing. It was interesting to see all those sand crabs on the beach. After the beach we went back to Gualala for some lunch and headed home.


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National Atomic Testing Museum

National atomic testing museum, part of the Smithsonian, is right next to the Las Vegas airport. One more interesting thing to do in Vegas if you are not into gambling or shopping.

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National Bonsai Museum

bonsai_page_2Another little gem in our bustling with museums capital – National Bonsai Museum. The museum sprouted into life in 1976 when the people of Japan presented Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with a gift of 53 bonsai trees to commemorate the U.S. bicentennial. (This wasn’t the first time Japan gave the U.S. a botanical gift—in 1912 it sent over the 3,000 cherry blossom trees that still decorate the National Mall).

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DEA Museum

dea-museum-1-700x525Tucked in the back of the lobby of the Drug Enforcement Agency headquarters in Arlington, Virginia is a public museum detailing the effects of drug addiction and the law enforcement agency’s history in fighting their manufacture and trafficking.

The museum is located one block north of the Pentagon City metro stop. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 AM to 4 PM. Admission is free.


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