Thomas Boutell

A father, a dancer, an open source guru. Occasionally a poet. Not quite Buckaroo Bonzai, but close.

  • Followed
  • Follows you

Edit biography

Have finally given up on waiting/helping to fix Linux on the Samsung Chromebook 3 (which, to be fair, was never sold as a machine for Linux, so no blame). Plus it's very underpowered with that Celeron. I just can't get behind waiting to see what I'm typing in Facebook and Google Docs. I'm going to flip them on eBay... yes, I had two. I had initially accepted blame for somehow messing up the first. Uh-uh. It's a compatibility issue.

So I splurged just a little on a used Dell Chromebook 7310 with an i3 processor (specifically). Oh man, is this an improvement. And the screen is IPS, which is nerdese for "really nice."

I've been using it for like 15 minutes, but so far I'd recommend finding a Dell 7310 on eBay rather than buying an underpowered new Chromebook.

Plus, it'll take a replacement SSD drive (m.2, 44mm size). So I have a much phatter one on the way. I'll be waiting until that arrives to rebuild it on GalliumOS, the Linux distribution for Chromebooks.

How did I choose this machine? The custom firmware to run Linux tidily on a Chromebook is made by a guy called mrchromebox. He has this machine, and he likes it. 😂

Still... it's bigger. 13" screen, not 11". The joke will be on me if the next time I fly out to visit my son in Vancouver, I can't open my laptop in Basic Economy.

Guess what my original motivation was to get a separate home machine...

Google did recently acknowledge there will be official support for Linux apps on Chromebooks, which is cool. But it doesn't sound like something every Chromebook will support, just as the "Android apps on your Chromebook convertible tablet" thing isn't for every Chromebook model. My goal has always been Real Linux On A Good Cheap Laptop.


Found one of these in the outgoing thrift pile and said whoa there, that's an optical zoom. Sure it's not a great camera, but nobody in the house has anything with an optical zoom, much less 27X. This thing's a keeper.

And it has a cute little USB cable tucked into its wrist strap. Score!

Except, when you plug it into your Linux box, Mac or Chromebook, it displays a message inviting you to install Windows-only software. Uh, thanks.

So what to do? I did some spelunking. Here's how to make it work.

It will show up like a thumbdrive would (it took a minute to show up on mine). Then you want to browse into it and go to:


There you will see filenames like 00000.mts. I'd never heard of an mts file either, but it's the same format used for Blu-Ray.

On a Chromebook you probably can't play it directly, but you can upload it to google photos via the website, and google photos knows what to do. Victory!

This works on Linux too, but a Linux machine can also play them with VLC Player or convert them to MP4 format with ffmpeg:

ffmpeg whatever.mts whatever.mp4

Or something to that effect. For me, playable video on Google Photos was sufficient proof of concept.

Speaking of Chromebooks, I have at last given up on the Samsung Chromebook 3 as a workable Linux machine. Nothing wrong with them running the OS they are made to run, I just haven't been able to beg, buy, borrow or absorb the skills to figure out why the keyboard starts duplicating keystrokes and the trackpad freezes after a while on Linux. So instead I've purchased a Dell Chromebook 7310... the model recommended by "mrchromebox," who writes the custom firmware for booting directly to Linux without a fuss on these. And I bought it with an i3 processor, not a Celeron, because come on, sometimes I have to get work done. Looks like I can also upgrade the SSD on that model.

I'll be flipping the two Samsungs on eBay. Yes, I had bought a second to see if I was responsible for the problems with the first. Since I have to disclose that the cases were opened, I might do better to donate them to a school. That way I get both karma and a tax writeoff. But it sounds like those writeoffs will be less important under the Trump tax code. I hate that this might influence my life choices in any way.

According to this episode ( ) of TWIG, they're working on a setup where you can run Linux inside Chrome OS. It sounds like they might be a bit far from where you want them to be, but I thought you might want to know that it's on the horizon somewhere...
Check @ about 4:20 if you're curious.
Sounds like an adventure, but it had to feel good once you got it to work!

(ffmpeg! such an unfriendly but amazing software. I think my message to their mailing list received a response akin to "well, if you read the source code it will become obvious that....")
Yes. ffmpeg is the quintessential "screw you if you don't get it" software.

Ursula Le Guin passed away a few weeks ago. She was my favorite author.

To Mark her passing  I read The Daughter of Odren. Set in the same world of Earthsea as her early fantasy novels.

In her later career Le Guin wrote two additional novels extending the Earthsea Trilogy that you may be familiar with. Both of these, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to fix the world she created in her early books back when she was writing as - in her own words - "an imitation man. A pretty good imitation man."

A novel to fix the afterlife, a novel to fix the patriarchy. Well... the second one wasn't quite that tidy. And it was the better for being complicated.

The Daughter of Odren is a short story, rounded up to a novella for Amazon. But I like it much better than either of the late novels. It concerns the daughter of Lord Odren, a landholder in Earthsea who is forced to go to sea to fight Pirates who are destroying the economic life of the island. During his absence, his wife takes up with a sorcerer... or is bewitched by him. The sorcerer engineers the father's demise on his return.

A traumatized son and daughter flee to the house of a nearby farmer. The son leaves to master Wizardry and seek revenge. The daughter becomes the wife of the farmer and plots revenge on the sorcerer as well.

But when her brother returns, the wizards of Roke have convinced him that his mother was the real source of the evil, controlling the sorcerer and killing their father. It is easier for them to blame a witch than imagine that one of their own has gone bad. Of course, it is patronizing to assume she was not a willing co conspirator. Or even, perhaps, a witch...

What begins as a simple family story turns into a clever commentary on the patriarchy, and the daughter's choices are real choices: limited and personal, but meaningful. I could say more, but I hate reviewers who ruin the story.

I will miss her new words. I look forward to reading more of the old ones.

Oh I like that thread. I MUST have read some Earthsea at some point (the name is very familiar) but nothing is springing to mind. May just add those to the List.
I can't remember which of the later books was about silence and speech but I find myself thinking about it rather a lot.
If you haven't read her collection of essays about SF&F called The Language of the Night, I'd really recommend it. I gather there was another set of more general essays published in the past few years. I'm looking forward to reading it.

I had an odd dream this morning. Roxanne and I were living in a house, and there was a girl of about thirteen there who looked like a Romulan we'd met once. She had been living in the house surreptitiously ever since we met the Romulan. When I came across her, I calmed myself and asked questions.

You're friends with young Curtis now? He didn't tell us you were here. That's a little strange. Are you going to school? Sort of, she said.

But she seemed very excited. "She has nominated me herself," she told me.

Come again? "The Romulan remembers your kindness and that is why she left me to grow here. And now she has nominated me to become herself."

I had complex feelings. Should I hide her from the Romulan? Let her grow into her own person instead of being the Romulan's next body? But is that even how it works? Is this their natural means of reproduction? A cultural tradition? Some awful Never Let Me Go thing? She didn't seem afraid.

I wanted to ask her: will she/you remember this life?

But I should have asked her: how do you feel about it?

Wait, was the new girl a Romulan?
She looked like a Romulan, but WAS she a Romulan?
(asking for a friend)

I posted this to Facebook on time last night, then I just had to get some shuteye. Sorry I'm late, creative accountability pardners.

Creative prompts from Aaron Humphrey: Nicholas If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned Barbon, a candelabra, "the wifi is down."

YouTube absolutely crucified the audio here. I don't know why. It pains me to say this but it sounds way the hell better on Facebook. Lyrics below, it would be nice if you could hear them.

Some people
Some people make
Some people make it up as they go along

Some people
Some people can
Some people can do anything they want

Some people
Some people will
Some people will say anything

Some people
Some people have
Some people have a lot of fucking nerve

An asymptotic curve
Approaching infinity, ay ay o
You thought you were the grasping man’s Galileo

And the only thing that bothers you
Is posterity

So you wrote and wrote and lectured with
Such clarity

And you tried to sell the rights to what you’d never owned
As the lord protector shoved the sword back in the stone
As you fought the lawyers in the street
I admit that part was kind of sweet
But you did it all for you and you alone
Nicholas Barbon

Now I don’t
Now I don’t know
Now I don’t know how to get along
Without your shiny toys

Now I see
Now I see why
Now I see why the end of every song
Became a royalty check

Now I’m insured against
All acts of God
You’re betting that he won’t show up
The cobbler’s kids are wonderfully shod

And if the candelabra ever falls
You’ll have plenty of time to pack and skip town
While we’re all still asking why the wifi is down

And you tried to sell the rights to what you’d never owned
As the lord protector shoved the sword back in the stone
As you fought the lawyers in the street
I admit that part was kind of sweet
But you did it all for you and you alone
Nicholas Barbon

11/17 '17 7 Comments
I have to respond to this using the Liz Lerman method, because I don't just like this, I have questions and thoughts.

MOST MEMORABLE/MEANINGFUL ELEMENTS: The simplicity of the verses when contrasted with the bridge. The human, accessible, "yes this song is about me" -ness of the verses.
"The cobbler's kids are wonderfully shod."
"An asymptotic curve
Approaching infinity, ay ay o
You thought you were the grasping man’s Galileo."
It was meaningful to me that you alluded to his middle name without straight-out using it.

Why did you choose to avoid deliberately using his middle name?
Do you feel that Barbon's work as one of the first proponents of the free market makes him a forerunner of Creative Commons licenses? Is that why you used the phrase, "the wifi is down?"

I think your points about Nicholas Barbon are excellent and relevant to life today. I think this is an important song, though it needs some practice and refinement: I'm well aware that this is a first or early draft.

I have an opinion about your guitar playing and the melody, which could be helpful, or not. Do you want to read it here, or should I keep it to myself?
Lindsay Harris-Friel 11/19 '17edited
Go for it. I'm well aware that picking up my guitar twice a week for an hour doesn't really improve my game...
Thomas Boutell 11/19 '17
I wasn't going to say, "practice more," but practice never hurts.

What I was going to say is, when you are really relaxed and confident with playing this musical composition (it's clear this song is new to you, as it should be), write a second guitar part to go with it and fill it out. You may find that having a guitarist and songwriter who is unbiased about this song may be a good choice to write that, rather than having you do it, because they may be able to see a contrast of your melody more easily than you can.

Really, you shouldn't have a second person write the second guitar part, you should just write it when and if you feel like it. I know nothing about music composition. But, I benefit from my collaborators having a different perspective on my work than I do, so my gut always tells me to say, "find a collaborator!" when that may be totally unnecessary. Which is why you should take my opinion with a grain of salt.
Thank you for all this!
Thomas Boutell 11/19 '17
I used the phrase "the WiFi is down" because it was assigned 😁 I may or may not have succeeded in writing a verse about how if you pull off a big enough insurance sale, it takes an act of God that would shut down civilization anyway for you to go broke.

The song is a bit scathing but my actual views on him are more sympathetic. Whadda fuckin' guy.

His middle name is really long and would take the song over... Or maybe drive a great verse about the English revolution and the dawn of free market theology. Hmm.
Thomas Boutell 11/19 '17
I forgot the phrase was assigned. And it was right there in front of me. D'Oh. See how I got pulled in?

His middle name would entirely take the song over.
You know what I really want? I want somebody good to run with one of these songs. I'm even OK with them chucking the music entirely if they dig the words.
Thomas Boutell 11/20 '17

E                          D

Teach your kitties Python,


Teach your kitties Perl,

E                           D

Teach your kitties C++,

A       B              E

That’ll melt their world.


Teach your kitties Fortran,

Hey they’ll always eat.

Teach your kitties COBOL,

Join the obsolete elite!


Teach your kitties JavaScript,

Now they are confused.

Teach your kitties Eiffel, it’s

A skill they’ll never use!


E                      D

Kitties haven’t got much RAM

E                                 B

They can’t draw UML diagrams

But all the boss on Upwork knows:

They’re experts on stack overflow


When you’re kitty’s ready,

Call the agency.

Soon she’ll be debugging

Thermostats in C!


Teach your kitties Python,

Now you’re living large!

Ship them off to SpaceX

On an automated barge!


11/9 '17 7 Comments
That was fun!

My cat only knows Kibble++ and she refuses to use any kind of source control.
Chris Herdt 11/10 '17
IHNJH, IJLS "obsolete elite." :)
Thanks guys!

With this song I learned exactly why nobody listens to anything I put on SoundCloud and then link on Facebook... They make installing the app mandatory if you're on a phone.

Even YouTube links get very low levels of play on FB, probably because Facebook is arranging it that way to promote Facebook video.

I get the most views, I suspect, when I upload video directly to FB, but lately they make the sound a lot worse. Hmm.
Thomas Boutell 11/11 '17
Thank you for telling me this. I'm looking at some ways to get Jarnsaxa out to people who don't do iTunes.
Lindsay Harris-Friel 11/11 '17edited
I clicked the link above (here in OPW) and it opened right in my browser. No app download required. Hmmm.
This is true, but in the Facebook app for mobile devices it goes right to the soundcloud app install and people say uh no. Thus comments here but only one on FB from my girlfriend and she let me know it was a pain, which was good Intel. 😁
Thomas Boutell 11/12 '17edited
This is really fun. :)

In completion of my weekly creative challenge.

For Lindsay, who gave me these prompts:

Micky Dolenz, an avocado, and "you do and you'll clean it up."

You fake it till you make it
You fake it till you’re there
C                    D
It’s like an avocado
You don’t know what’s in there

You’re really really green but
You’re really really good
C                       D                     G                                  
If you can just align the coulda should with the grain of the


                  C                      D                  G
Like Micky Dolenz you persisted till you could

The lie is well intended
The lie is made of gold
The liar can lie down with the lamb I am told
It’s just a funny story
It’s just a little fib
And you’ve been telling stories since the hour you crawled out of the


D                        Am
And even at the pearly gates
     D                           G
As your performance demonstrates
      C                D              G
It’s perfectly all right to ad-lib

You break it and you bought it
You do and you’ll clean it up
And if you start the drinking game you’re draining the cup

You have a penny, leave a penny
Leave it all behind
Cast off all your possessions and embrace the intended


As you’re defying entropy
And we’re pretending not to see
The emperor’s shiny behind

I have to hand it to you
But I can’t reach that high
It was a noble effort
A remarkable try

You nearly told the truth once
You nearly sold the bridge
You had us in the desert
Hanging half off the grid

   C             D
A colony of artisans
        G                        D
Who couldn’t play the drums
          C                       D
We’re standing by the highway now
And rapidly running out of


A broken tale of lightning strikes
For what it’s worth, it struck you twice
And finally you’re stricken


11/2 '17 3 Comments
I needed that. Thank you.
"standing by the highway now and rapidly running out of thumbs"
somehow reminds me of
"exporting bass to pedestrian nations"
Brian Rapp 11/3 '17
Rabbit 11/3 '17

A tiny ditty in completion of my weekly creative challenge. It's very short and trivial in structure but I think it's a good song that would not be enhanced by further elaboration.

Written in response to prompts from my dear old friend Anne Galvin:

"Schrodinger, a cat, 'how'd that work out for ya?'"

Strictly speaking, I cheated a little on the character, but hey, representation matters.

G Dm Am7

I went to a lecture by Schroedinger’s cat
And she said
History is written by the lucky and the fat
My sisters, half my sisters, statistically anyway half, they’ll tell you
Don’t worry
This is fine

And the other half… (silent verse)

And this, yes this my kittens
(And her gaze became imploring)
Is the reason I never ask:

“How’d that work out for ya?”

10/26 '17 2 Comments
oh this is fantastic! I could listen to you sing all day. These words are so clever and sweet.
Robert Bryan 10/27 '17
Huzzah sir huzzah!

People get confused. They think the monster is the man...

In fulfillment of my creative challenge for the week. And by the bye: it's Thursday everyone. Where's your installment?

People get confused
They think the monster is the man
They think the man is a scientist
But he's really just a hobbyist

And the monster is confused
He never really thought it'd come to this
Just a scare, just a little kiss
Just a clever ruse

But they made him the mayor of this fucked up town
And the cops want to drive him around
And I hear a giant sucking sound

Oh my Frankenstein
You used to be a friend of mine
We had dinner parties all the time

Until the villagers came and took you away
And dressed you in a cape
And crowned you king

You thought it would be fun
But then you stepped on everyone
And the bastards cheered you on
It's about time someone got something done

I don't understand
This is not the second life we planned
This is not the second life we planned
This is not the second life we planned
This is not the second life... we... planned...
Oh my Frankenstein

The ideas that I put into your mind

10/19 '17 5 Comments
I heart your voice. Those words are clever, and that long-freeze at the end is absolutely top quality.
Thank you for sharing that.

As for me, I wrote and mailed these 5 paper letters:
Three Quaker Friends in retirement homes / rehab / live by themselves.
Two people I couldn’t speak to at the funeral on Monday.
It’s helped to know I have to report progress.
Robert Bryan 10/19 '17
Glad it worked for you!
Thomas Boutell 10/19 '17
Great song! I like the idea of a Frankenstein (Monster) mayor. Minneapolis has an upcoming mayoral election, I wonder if there's time to get on the ballot. Captain Jack Sparrow is an official candidate, it's not unprecedented:
Chris Herdt 10/19 '17
These lyrics-- ow ow ow ow. (And by "ow ow ow ow" I mean "Wow. They reflect the reality I do not like." The song though: STRONG WORK!)
Thanks Jill! That is where I was going for sure.
Thomas Boutell 10/22 '17