Lopeztel's Blog

Collection of random thoughts and ramblings from a somewhat interesting person

As mentioned in a previous entry, I started a new job in Norway last year, here are my thoughts so far:

First of all, a couple of interviews related to my position took place 3 weeks before my Master's thesis was due, all that can be said about that is: lots of excitement, I remember getting results and figures the weekend before the final interview took place.

After a well deserved month of relaxation back home (Mexico), my first day on my new job was a week before the company's Christmas party and it wasn't long after that everything was slowing down and everyone was away from the office so not much time to get used to a new country and learn the ropes at the new workplace.

During January, February and the middle of March things slowly started to ramp up and I started to understand a bit more on how things worked around here, from using the printer (always a pain, don't deny it) and meeting colleagues, to slightly more complicated tasks related to electronics and coding.

Then, in the middle of march disaster happened and COVID-19 started to spread, so I was left with doing a couple of tasks here and there (not complaining, still got paid and everything was more or less fine).

Ever since health regulations allowed for people to start going back to their offices with a few minor considerations, things have started to ramp up again but now I can't help but feel like I haven't been able to keep up and learn as fast as I should, blaming the pandemic is easy but still...

It is also important to note that my colleagues are really brilliant people and no one has mentioned anything about my performance, maybe anxiety got the best of me or I am just pushing myself too far... Or is it that people in Norway are just that chill and like to take their time? Only time will tell, in the meantime, gotta keep at it.

Having being abroad and back home 2 times in the last 3 years have taught me that living in Mexico makes you take some things for granted:

  1. Family
  2. Excellent food
  3. Friends

Let's just say that personal interactions have been... different, but not in a bad way.

I was always a bit of an oddball, antisocial even (for Mexican standards), but after accepting a job offer in November that led to moving to Norway, knowing just a handful of people in the city (from my Masters program), living alone and COVID-19 lock down, even I started to feel anxious and a bit depressed.

Things here work a bit differently and, again, not a bad thing, but it has been hard to make new friends or keep in touch with old ones.

It's the little things like talking, getting together and the like that start to seem more meaningful. Since lock down rules were relaxed, three recent events in particular come to mind, which basically made my day over the last month, all nice simple things:

  1. One of my Norwegian friends texted me:”I remember that you used to post all the time about your runs, are you up for a run this weekend? I need a running buddy”. We went for a long 9K-ish run the next day.
  2. After a barbecue we had with some other friends, last weekend, the same guy texted again saying: “It breaks my heart that you haven't been to a proper Norwegian beach around here, the barbecue place was not the nicest, so come along with us to the beach tomorrow”. So I ended up going to the beach with him and his fiancée.
  3. Yesterday, after an outdoors activity day sponsored by our company, one of my team mates said: “By the way, we're flipping some burgers for dinner today, I live pretty close by, wanna come over to our place? Since we work together I figured we should get to know each other”. I ended up coming back home at 22:00.

All these interactions have meant a lot because they were not initiated by me and gave me the feeling of starting to fit in here. Funnily enough that's all it takes, nice gestures.

I just felt the need to document my latest Linux issues:

First, some context, I like painting with watercolor and have been doing it for quite a while now but in the last couple of years material such as paper (I used Arches 300g) has become quite expensive, which made me think that perhaps it was about time to go digital.

After buying a cheapo digitizer tablet (a tiny one by the chinese brand Huion) I came across my first issue: doesn't work “out of the box” on linux (specifically Manjaro); long story short and after some research my eyes came across the DIGImend project, turns out that these guys have been creating drivers for all sorts of digitizer tablets out there and mine was on the list, but it gets better, it is in the AUR! So I was up and running in a matter of minutes.

Now for the software, at the time of writing it has been a week since Krita 4.3.0 was released featuring new watercolor brushes, after looking at some videos on their new YouTube channel I got very interested because Krita can now emulate pretty decent watercolor, so being the impatient FOSS/FLOSS fan that I am, I decided to install the appimage since the official repositories haven't been updated (again, at the time of writing).

Last, another problem, I though it would be fun to record my screen to document the process, either for my reference or for others (no intention of becoming a content creator though), but after realizing that my first attempt to record resulted in a video that flickered and showed my background at times and further investigation, turns out that recordmydesktop, SimpleScreenRecorder and OBS don't play well with Gnome3's window manager (called Mutter if I'm not mistaken). The fix was right in the home page for SimpleScreenRecorder: try removing drivers for 2D acceleration or changing window manager.

Removing xf86-video-intel did the trick and everything works fine now. Working Krita + digitizer tablet + recording setup took some effort but perhaps that is also why I am so satisfied and motivated to paint now, let's see if my hands can produce some decent artwork, at least testing the watercolor brushes has been fun so far:

Painting

Some links: Krita 4.3.0 release notes Troubleshooting SimpleScreenRecorder DIGImend project

I was just recently thinking given the recent COVID-19 situation, the world is not ready to prioritize what is really important.

It feels like no one really notices importance of services like running water, electricity and above all medical care. What I see on the news nowadays leads me to believe that no one really cares about anything as long as we're not affected.

No one cared about COVID-19 until we couldn't go out, until our Amazon or Aliexpress and overall cheap stuff from China couldn't reach us in time.

Maybe COVID-19 is a slap on the face, interesting that something we can't even see changes economy and everyday life so much.

Some random thoughts on a recent failed ski trip and the global pandemic

Skiing

First things first, I have absolutely no clue on how to ski, zero experience whatsoever, so naturally I had to sign up for my company's Ski trip. In total there were 37 people in the group.

We got to a cabin close to a ski resort after a four and a half hour drive on Wednesday, all went well except for some icy paths on the way but that is another story (just don't do summer tires and front 2 wheel drive on them, you'll suffer a lot)

Keep in mind that this trip officially started on the same day COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, so we already knew that we were going back and working from home, universities and schools were already considering closing at the time.

On Thursday we had fun, people who knew their stuff geared up and went to ski (alpine) while some other noob and me went to get the gear we had pre-booked, this was the beginning of the end for me, I didn't realize that the boot size was wrong, trusting the staff at the shop and thinking “I guess they know their stuff, I guess these are supposed to be tight and cut off your blood circulation”, it was very uncomfortable but I just went with it.

Us noobs decided it would be wise to pay for a lesson and after a few rounds at the kids area we were surprised to see we were not completely useless, I wasn't able to turn or break completely but I wasn't that bad either. Our instructor figured we could do harder stuff (either that or just wanted to have a laugh, we'll never know) and took us to one of he “beginner” slopes (never trust Norwegians when they say a slope is easy, for them skiing is just like breathing). That's when my spectacular falls started, all of a sudden I couldn't remember what to do or coordinate movements.

By the time I could more or less manage to go down a slope using a zig-zag motion and more or less break decently, my feet were basically destroyed and my legs were cramping. I had to take off the skis and walk to the resting area because by then the pain was unbearable.

Right after taking the ski boots off I realized I had a bit of a problem: I just couldn't move my feet or walk. I found myself thinking “well, shit”. I had to contact the group and request help because I was stuck, luckily a good hearted colleague came to the rescue and gave me a lift back to the cabin. Some rest and time in the sauna (and some very amazing home brewed beer) made me feel better, but that afternoon everyone was in for a surprise.

COVID-19

Effectively immediately the ski resort would be closing down following official government mandates to prevent the spread of COVID-19 so basically the trip was ruined for everyone that got here on Wednesday (some people had been at the cabin since Sunday). Arrangements were made to go back today or on Saturday while waiting for more news.

Feeling a bit disappointed everyone had dinner while receiving more bad news: apparently people had started hoarding toilet paper, because, you know, stupid people are everywhere. I messaged some friends because I couldn't believe it at first but sadly I was totally wrong.

So here I am now, Friday morning, after breakfast, writing about our failed trip and preparing to be isolated from the world for quite a while, I'll probably have to buy a decent headset/webcam and figure out how to get off of my landlord's WiFi repeater and get my own contract. The next few weeks are going to be fun...

Fediverse

Privacy and social networks

Welcome stranger,let me start by saying this blog is just meant to be a space to share my thoughts and because I find it therapeutic, don't expect the next best novel :)

Now, let's get right to it: I had always known that big tech companies such as Facebook or Google don't let you have free accounts out of the goodness of their CEO's hearts, I also knew that their revenue comes mostly from ads, targeted ads. So far so good, what's the problem? It doesn't stop there.

I will not go through all the references and details but let's just say that most people have an idea of what is going on by now (or at least that's what I hope). After the Snowden and Cambridge Analytica scandals I started to dig a bit more into privacy and that is when shit really hit the fan.... trackers, cookies, ads, sensitive data breaches and mass profiling are terms that popped up very often. Let's just say that at this point I was wary but didn't take any measures.

It wasn't until recently (2 weeks ago) that I decided to take some steps to protect my data, easy things like replacing Whatsapp by Signal, using OsmAnd instead of Google maps while trying to use Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) as much as I could.

The discovery

When I was searching for privacy oriented FOSS alternatives for the apps and services I normally use I came across the term Federated Social Networks, and the term Fediverse, that describes all the social networks that work in this way, I got interested.

Turns out it gets even better: 1. No ads 2. Anyone can host their own instance and still interact with other instances 3. Instances can be dedicated to your topics of interest and (in my experience so far) the people that host them are not in it for money, they just want to create a community in which they can meet other like-minded people 4. There is a set of rules to follow and moderators 5. As someone used to YouTube like interactions on the internet I was surprised to see that everyone is very polite (at least on my instance) 6. Did I mention no ads?

For now

It was until I was thinking of removing the Twitter and Facebook apps that I found a problem: while I can uninstall Twitter because I don't use it that much, or Instagram because I mostly do it to have a nice gallery of my favorite pictures, Facebook is mostly how my friends organize events so I ended up deciding to keep the app while limiting the usage to just events and messaging if there is no other alternative, a necessary evil.

I think I'm going to eventually replace all my social networks for Fediverse alternatives...

Some alternatives: Twitter –> Mastodon Facebook –> Diaspora, Friendica Instagram –> Pixelfed

More on Fediverse Party