Author Archives: Todd Weed

About Todd Weed

I want to get along.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Overview, Part 1 Windows

I wanted a tablet that would help me type. I am a journalist and hoped to have the ability of a tablet to handle it. To be able to fact check online, get emails, and use a word processor was what I hoped this tablet would be able to do. To decide if this tablet was enough I read a hardware review.

This is an overview of the Surface tablet: I created a recovery drive, tested the hardware, customized some setup options, and give my thoughts of it.

OEM OS backup and restore

Windows 10 is created to protect itself. For necessary situations it has the ability to refresh or be reset by the user. For instances with updates, they can be rolled-back within 10 days. The prior OS 10 tools are still there (system imaging, restore point) for the meta-detailer, however, I will trust the Windows 10 tools to be able to handle recovery. I also have a year warranty so that helps out too.

File backups are encouraged. For files there is File History in Settings > Backup that will backup personal files on a regular basis.

Recovery drive creation

My tablet has a recovery partition that has Windows RE (Recovery Environment) on it. Windows RE is for resetting or repairing Windows 10.

I wanted to have a failsafe and I created a Windows RE on a USB flash recovery drive. The USB creation utility can be opened in the Start menu by typing Create a recovery drive. I unchecked the option to copy the system files as the plain recovery drive has all the tools I need. (A microSD card can be used here too.)

If there is ever a need to recover Windows later this page has more details.

Recovery drive image

The USB flash drive I needed for other tasks. I imaged the drive so I can restore it later if needed¹. I used msys2 to do so:

# size get from Drive properties 357 MB for me (+1 MiB for partion table, etc)
cat /proc/partitions
dd if=/dev/sdX count=182784 bs=2048 | pv | xz > surface_$(date +%F)_winre-usb.img.xz
# recovery drive image restore
xzcat surface_DATE_winre-usb.img.xz | pv | dd of=/dev/sdX bs=2048
# tested working

For Windows to recognize the USB flash drive properly again after Recovery drive creation it has to be re-partitioned and re-formatted. Type diskpart in the Start menu and then:

# Start menu `diskpart`
list disk
select disk X
online disk
convert gpt
create partition primary
select part 1
format fs=ntfs label=Backup quick
assign letter X

Hardware tests

Windows touch-ups

Windows 10 on this tablet was pretty much ready to go out of the box. I did a few appearance touch-ups and added a few programs.

  • Desktop scaling increase to make images and text larger for the higher than previously typical DPI. It needs to be a little larger than the default 150% and the next in the basic setup is too large (175%). Using a custom scaling number is alright though recommended otherwise. The only instance where there is trouble is apps that can’t rescale an image down again to its 100% for something like a gamma correction test: Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Display: make text and… > set custom scaling level, I use 162.
  • display color calibrate—type this and use the guide to balace the colors levels
  • sleep time extend for computer as is 10 minutes default—listening to audio and … I extended it to a hour, type Edit power plan in Start menu
  • recycle bin move Quick Access as I organize in the File Explorer—drag RB to File Explorer Quick Access, and remove from Desktop: Show or hide common items on the Desktop
  • drive lettering order that makes sense to me: C:\ Windows, P:\PNYFLASH S:\ SDXC; this is also he order they are hardware recognized
  • hibernation in Start Menu add, because I put this in my backpack I want to be sure it stays at a cool temperature: Power Options > Choose what the power buttons do > Change settings that are currently unavailable > add Hibernate

Programs I installed:

  • 7-zip
  • notepad++
  • msys2

Surface and Windows 10 thoughts

Microsoft has been nice to me. This process started with Surface User Guide I got online. It was very helpful; I got to learn the hardware and the OS with it.

The 4GB RAM the Surface has, I wondered if it would be enough. I email, web browse, and word processor busily; these first two weeks the tablet has been running proficiently. The GPU plays videos smoothly. On other GPU intense tasks with some programs on lower settings it can do enough. Windows 10 appears to use memory efficiently and the 1408MiB page file has remained at that level.

Windows does updates in the background smoothly now and is patient to reboot. It also handles the firmware.

The Edge browser is nice. It is just the basics and has run efficiently. Microsoft. To save a page for offline I use the print to XPS option.

A beginner’s primer for the Amazon Fire


I have a dream of being able to use a tablet as a personal computer. I bought an Amazon Fire tablet to see if it was possible. This is my first time buying either an Android or Amazon product. I gave the tablet a good going over. I had a good experience and thought I would share my observations to people new to the Amazon Fire or could use a few tips.

The good

  • the display is pleasant to look at, it has good color reproduction and a wide viewing angle
  • the glass is hardened, though I’ve been good to it it has more to do with the thoughtful quality of the construction
  • the CPU runs the apps reasonably fast and the graphic animation is usually smooth
  • a SD card slot
  • the files can be organized (either by plugging in the tablet to a personal computer or by a file manager app)
  • the price of $50
  • many apps are available, some quite good

What I would like to see improved

  • built-in storage if it can be done, it is currently four gigabytes after OS updates
  • memory, it is 500MB which makes apps usually have to save states rather then be retained in memory
  • edge tapping, this might be my big, clumsy fingers but I have a hard time with buttons recognition on the edges
  • SD card write access for third party apps for conventional file saves, this would be nice though I know is currently prevented because of a security precaution
  • file organization by folders only, currently Android OS tries to index all the files into four libraries (Documents, Images, Movies, Music) and some apps use these libraries; knowing all file types is a big task and folder organization would mean my family photos don’t get grouped with my web development photos
  • the calendar app to get a notification daemon, currently the app needs to be open to display reminders
  • a setting to define the Text to Speech (TTS) default app; I selected the online TTS app by accident and now when I want to hear pronunciations I have to be online


The tablet has a great reader, for both books and the newsstand. It has easy to look at text and is enjoyable to use. I get the feeling the Amazon tablet was created with the intention of expanding on the Kindle stand-alone reader. The Kindle app behaves just like a Kindle product: intuitive to use, responsive, and the standard extra features. The tablet is worth the price, IMHO, if used just for reading.

Doggie in the window

I like the Amazon store and use it occasionally. The first time I bought something I used the web browser, but I learned since the Shop Amazon app provides a better interface: increased font/image size, good organization, a shelf to compare products… it made it kinda fun. I also found it good to write the reviews in.


Battery discharge time depends on screen brightness and wireless. I’ve noticed that using Bluetooth uses a good amount of power. With a slightly dimmed screen and no wireless, I will get about eight hours from the battery. Recharge time with slightly dimmed screen and no wireless takes about four hours to charge; with Bluetooth it takes about seven hours. When not in use about four percent battery discharge will occur in about eight hours.

Accessories that will probably be needed

  • a $10 stylus will help keep the screen clean
  • a $10 cover will help with accidental bumps
  • a $5 microfiber cloth will help clean the screen
  • a $30-$50 keyboard will help typing a lot
  • a SD card will help if planning to use for any amount of time


  • to move/delete/categorize an app press the app for a few seconds
  • to save home page space categorize the Amazon apps that have a content-page/tab
  • to save home page space turn off to display “Recent Items”, these will still show in the “Recent” content page; Settings > Apps and Games > Amazon Application Settings > Home Screen Settings
  • to switch apps more efficiently with the app switcher touch the window’s title bar
  • to help efficiency consider using the tablet with the orientation as upright – the Android OS is used on many phones where this orientation is common and many apps are designed with this in mind
  • to help performance, it appears to me, it is improved with only a few apps open; apps can be closed in the app switcher by swiping them
  • screenshots are done by holding down power and volume down at the same time for two seconds, a click will sound if successful; it will be saved in Internal Storage/Pictures/Screenshots
  • the tablet will shutdown on its own on a low battery, it does so at zero percent

Keyboard shortcuts


alt   + tab    app switch
ctrl  + t      tablet notifications
space          page down (in browser or readers)
shift + space  page up
alt   + space  search
space + space  lock screen quit


alt   + left/rght  cursor move to line beginning/end
alt   + up/down    cursor move to doc. beginning/end
ctrl  + left/rght  cursor move to word before/after
shift + arrow      cursor move and select text
                   (+alt/ctrl use as modifiers)
shift + backspace  cursor erase forward character
alt   + backspace  cursor erase line
ctrl  + x/c/v/a    cut/copy/paste/all-select

Silk browser (generally the same as Chromiums):

ctrl + t    tab new
ctrl + tab  tab switch
ctrl + w    tab close
ctrl + l    location bar
ctrl + f    find
ctrl + h    history
ctrl + m    menu
ctrl + r    reload


menu + b          browser
menu + c          contacts
menu + e          email
menu + l          calendar
menu + p          player (music)
menu + backspace  desktop

Apps I liked


Converter Free                a unit converter
Dictionary - Merriam-Webster  offline, good defs
DroidEdit                     a nice text editor
File Commander + Cloud        very nice file manager
LastPass                      password manager
NPR News
Podcast Republic
Radar Express
ruler(cm, inch)
Stellarium Mobile Sky May     a nice star chart for a few
TK Music Tag Editor
Weather by MacroPinch
WordWeb - English Dictionary


Watch ABC


CSI: Hidden Crimes
Cut the Rope: Time Travel HD
Doodle Numbers
Geometry Dash
Monument Valley
Pocket Mine
Quick Logic Puzzles
Simple Mahjong
Survival Run by Bear Grylis
Temple Run: Oz
The Hunger Game Adventures
The Secret Society–Hidden Mystery
Where's my Water?



  • Unicode, never could find a way to enter unicode characters… no character map and no key combinations possible
  • are there finger covers I can buy to keep from smudging the screen?

A beginner’s primer for the iPad


I got an opportunity lately to try out and setup an iPad. This was my first time trying an Apple IOS device and I wanted to share a beginner’s perspective for those any who have thought about trying it. I will discuss how to operate it, its design philosophy, and some basic settings that helped me.


  • top quality hardware, all of it, runs smoothly and dependably
  • software is well designed and the user interface intuitive
  • plenty of good apps are available

Could be better

  • no file organization, nor file manager
  • apps often have to reload every time they are switched to


Almost all interoperability is done with three finger gestures: tap, for buttons; finger pinches, for resizing; and swipes, for page flipping. The Home button is used to return to the Desktop.

Design philosophy

Having used computers since the 1980’s, I expected common computer operations to be carried to the IOS. I had the notion to use my iPad as I had my laptop, hoping to get a likewise functionality out of it. One thing I learned definitively though is that the iPad is designed only to be a companion device. To elaborate: it is designed to be a supplemental piece to a personal computer for the purpose of doing specific tasks in an intuitive manner. I did attempt to add common computer functionality to it through apps and settings but it just isn’t designed to do so.

The following point is an expression meant in a positive attitude. However, just for note, I am very peculiar about how I control my files.

The functionality that I expected, that I considered necessary for any computer user, was to be able to manage files. I thought I would be able to rename, organize, copy…. However, there is no file manager. The design philosophy of the IOS is centered around apps. To open a file a user has to adapt their behavior to first recall the app that created it. To transfer files to/from the IOS device requires the user either to: plug the IOS into the personal computer and use iTunes (if the app has iTunes support built in); or use the iCloud app (which I only learned about after returning the iPad). So the process just appears complicated.


  • a $10 stylus will help keep the screen clean
  • a $10 cover will help keep the tablet safe from common bumps
  • a $30 tablet-sized keyboard is nice for typing… common keyboard shortcuts may not always be available, for Safari hold Command to see them
  • apps can be moved or removed from the desktop, press and hold the app for a few seconds to do so
  • close unused apps for better performance (double-click Home and swipe up)
  • for *nix tools a remote shell account can be used with a SSH app

Apps I liked

  • Apple Store
  • Apple Trailers
  • Coda \$10
  • Does not Commute
  • Microsoft Word is free, but Papers is supposed to be real good if it can be afforded
  • Rayman Adventures
  • Vim
  • Weather Channel
  • Wallpapers
  • Yahoo Mail


For users that have other ideas, consider giving Apple your iPad Feedback.

decompress—a wrapper script to decompress various archive types


The Arch Linux BBS has a thread where people put up their scripts so that others can peruse them. A long time ago someone came up with the idea to create a script that would detect various archive formats and decompress them. That post is unfortunately gone now, but I kept the idea and have expanded on it a bit: I’ve added a couple archive types, file detection, program detection, and archive list support. I gave it a good, overall test so I feel comfortable with it.

Options can be in any order:

$ decompress --help
decompress [*-l] ... — wrapper script to decompress various archive types
  -l, --list  - list archive contents

If an archive’s existence isn’t detected it will be displayed:

$ decompress
archive non-existent:

If a program’s existence isn’t detected it will be displayed:

$ decompress
program required: unzip

Listing support is available:

$ decompress -l
       32  2016-04-11 10:39   file-q1
       32  2016-04-11 10:39   file-q2

Listing and decompressing can be done for multiple documents:

$ ls
archive-a.tar.bz2  archive-f.tgz       archive-k.txz  archive-p.xz
archive-b.tb2      archive-g.tar.lz    archive-l.7z
archive-c.tbz      archive-h.tar.lzma  archive-m.bz2
archive-d.tbz2     archive-i.tlz       archive-n.gz
archive-e.tar.gz   archive-j.tar.xz    archive-o.lz
$ decompress archive-*
tar: This does not look like a tar archive
tar: Exiting with failure status due to previous errors
tar: This does not look like a tar archive
tar: Exiting with failure status due to previous errors

.exe and .rar files are untested because I was lazy. If there is an error its error message will be displayed.

decompress can be found in my general-scripts repository.

compress—a tar wrapper script to simplify archiving files


I have become accustomed to using long options over the years as they are easier to remember. I do however use tar in numerous ways. I needed to have a quick way to remember how to archive files; I wrote this script to make it real basic:

$ cd ~
$ compress .local/bin/ Development/general-scripts/
archive name [archive.tar.gz]: /dev/sda4/sc
scripture.css  scripts.tar.xz
archive name [archive.tar.gz]: /dev/sda4/scripts.tar.xz
archive exists, overwrite? (y/n): y
archive created: scripts.tar.xz

The compression type to be used will depend on which extension is typed; tar has a nice option called --auto-compress. So, in the above example, typing ...tar.xz will use the LZMA compression algorithm. Just typing Enter on the archive name and the default archive.tar.gz will be used. The script also supports tab-completion for typing the archive name to help navigate folders and files.

compress can be found in my general-scripts repository.

Perl module installation

If doing Perl programming or if another package requires a Perl module, learning how to install one may become necessary. The recommended way to install a Perl module is through the distribution’s repositories, however, they can be installed manually with Perl.


Perl has its own repository where programmers make available their modules called the comprehensive Perl archive network, which is better known as the CPAN. Perl includes a built-in module that can download, build, and install from the network. For some distributions this module may already be built, however, it is probably a good idea for all to build it… to be sure it is set up correctly. Begin by starting the CPAN module shell so that it may be configured:

perl -MCPAN -e shell

A configuration message will appear… most users will be good with the automatic configuration it recommends. If additional configuring needs to be done later typing o conf init will re-run the configuration dialog. To leave the shell type exit.


The first requirement most people will need to do is build and/or update the CPAN module. Modules can be installed with the built-in module in three ways: from the module shell, from the perl command, or from the CPAN module binary.

From the shell (which was entered in the configuration section), the following command will install a new module, or in this case, update the CPAN module:

install Bundle::CPAN

From the perl command:

perl -MCPAN -e 'install HTML::Template'

From the cpan module binary:

cpan Module::Name

Note: CPAN itself recommends using the cpanm module for installation. Modules will need to be reloaded after being updated: reload cpan.


Modules are sometimes executable binaries and if they are known to the shell can be executed like any other command. Some modules are support modules and can only be used for programming or by use of another module. Information of installed modules can be discovered with the command perldoc perllocal.


Module maintenance is typically unexpected after installation and the built-in CPAN module has no ability to be able to do so. If the cpanm module is installed it does have the ability with the --uninstall/-U option. It will display the files to be removed and prompt for approval before uninstalling.

System backup to DVD

Splitting Files

The purpose of this article is to detail how to backup a Linux system using a DVD writer; this will likely take multiple DVDs.


A backup can be done to multiple DVDs in situations where it is necessary. However, keep in mind DVDs can be damaged and that the organic dye in DVDs deteriorates over time… backing up to external hard drives is recommended.

System backup

Start an install CD or other likewise media to be able to access the drive/partition without system operation interference. Backups must be done from an external medium as files are constantly written to on a live system.

mkdir /mnt/distro
mount /dev/sd[#] /mnt/distro
cd    /mnt/distro
tar   -czvf distro_`date +%F`.tar.gz .  # (c)reate (z)ip (v)erbose (f)ile

Backup split

The backup can be split into multiple files so they will fit on a DVD.

Note 1: A DVD’s storage capacity may be smaller then some expect. The reason is because the original computer developers wanted to use binary as the base storage measurement (a kilobyte to be 1024 bits) and erred when they adopted metric prefixes. Data storage manufacturers began using these 1000 base prefixes because they displayed larger values. A 4.7 GB DVD in binary units with the later and gradually being adopted binary prefix is 4.37721 GiB— this is the number that computer veterans typically expect. (GB to GiB conversion fraction: 1,000,000,000/[1024 * 1024 * 1024] = 0.9313226)

Note 2: The UDF file system, typically used for DVD data storage, at the time of this writing was still experimental on Linux and I choose to use the ISO-9660 file system for reliability. However, this file system has a file size limit of four GiB. Since my writable DVDs had a capacity of 4.7 GB I had to split up the files to two per DVD. File system overhead also has to be factored in and I reduced 2.188608100 GiB to 2.188000 GiB.

tar usage

With tar create a Length-defined, Multi-volume archive (length is in 1 KiB units):

tar -cML 2188000 -f distro_`date +%F`.tar.gz_00 distro_`date +%F`.tar.gz

After the first segment is split a prompt will request the name of the next file (Prepare volume #2 for 'distro_DATE.tar.gz_00):

n distro_DATE_tar.gz_01

(This command, tar and multi-voluming, can also be done from the beginning of the backup if archive compression is unnecessary.)

split usage

Splitting can also be done with the split command. Here 2.188000 GiB is converted to 2240.512 MiB and -d adds a numerical suffix:

split -b 2240M -d distro_`date +%F`.tar.gz distro_`date +%F`.tar.gz_

DVD write

To use growisofs to burn the files to a writable DVD disc:

growisofs -Z /dev/dvd -rJ distro_`date +%F`_00.tar.gz distro..._01.tar.gz

System restore

Boot from the Install CD or other boot medium (boot with a caching option if available in the boot menu if another DVD reader is unavailable).

$ umount /dev/dvd && eject
mount /dev/dvd /mnt/dvd
mkdir /mnt/distro

Create the file system on the drive/partition if necessary and mount it.

Backup join

With tar:

tar -xMf distro_`date +%F`.tar.gz_00 distro_`date +%F`.tar.gz

With cat (for the split files):

cat distro_`date +%F`.tar.gz_* > distro_`date +%F`.tar.gz

Backup restore

tar xvf distro_`date +%F`.tar.gz -C /mnt/distro