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Peak Laptop

My ThinkPad X260 is entering its sixth year of service. Last year I preemptively replaced the SSD. A few months later I replaced the keyboard after noticing that the space bar would sometimes fail to register. I’ve had no other problems with the machine.

Last month I bought a used-but-basically new ThinkPad X270 for a ridiculously low price on eBay. The X270 was released in 2017, a year after the X260. Both models are basically identical but for the addition of a USB-C port on the X270. The presence or absence of USB-C has no practical impact on my life today, but it seems like a thing that I may grow to appreciate in the future.1

My plan for the X270 is to put it in storage with my old ThinkPad T430s. I’m excited to have a backup machine that is almost identical to my daily driver. If the X260 ever develops a problem, I can pop the SSD out of it, move it to the X270, and continue on with my life. While the T430s is still a great machine that is perfectly capable of doing everything I need a computer to do, switching back to it would be much more disruptive due to its different form factor and power setup. The T430s is now a backup to my backup.

The X260 and X270 both represent Peak Laptop to me. Not because I can’t imagine ways to make them better, but because, since their release, no laptop manufacturer (including Lenovo) seems to have been able to release anything as good, much less better. These machines are everything I need a laptop to be, and I’ve yet to feel limited by their performance. While the X260 shows no signs of its age, I’m happy to have the X270 staged for transition if it ever becomes necessary. Perhaps in another five or ten years the industry will have figured out how to improve on these machines and I’ll feel a desire to upgrade. Until then I’m done buying new laptops.

Peak Laptop

The X270 came with two 6-cell batteries. Combined with my existing batteries, I believe my collection is now complete. The original battery from 2016 is still healthy, which I think can be largely attributed to TLP’s battery charge thresholds.

Notes

  1. A couple years ago I purchased a USB-C to Slim Power Tip adapter on eBay, thinking it might be nice to charge the X260 via USB-C. I've yet to do anything with it. The ThinkPad Power Bridge battery setup is great, and none of the new USB-C wall wart chargers seem to be better than my old FINsix Dart charger.

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Zensah Leg Compression

I purchased a pair of Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves in 2008 after reading about them at MilitaryMorons. This was when minimalist running was beginning to take off – Born to Run was published the following year – and I found that the sleeves ended up being a valuable part of my transition to less supportive footwear.

The story I was sold in various wilderness medicine courses was that compression aided recovery because it constricted the blood vessels, raising the percentage of oxygen delivered to the area, which in turn speeds muscle regrowth. I understand there is some debate about whether this explanation is accurate but, whatever the reason for it, there seems to be no debate that compression aids recovery and performance.

I still use my 12 year old pair of Zensah sleeves. They’re not a piece of equipment I reach for frequently, but they’re invaluable when I do use them. If I’ve been pushing myself on runs – or, in the Before Times, if I had a hard training session at the boxing gym – there’s nothing better than the immediate comfort I get when sliding them on. Because I don’t use them often, sometimes I’ll forgot that they’re buried in the bottom of my sock drawer and I’ll go a couple days with discomfort in my calves that I can’t get out with a roller or massage ball.

Prior to buying the Zensah sleeves, I would occasionally accomplish the same thing with 3M Vetrap. It works, and is worth having around for splinting (the self-adhesive property makes it superior to the classic ACE elastic bandage), but wrapping and getting the tension just-so is more of a hassle than just sliding on the sleeves. Vetrap is also not as comfortable as Zensah’s material, which is both breathable and moisture wicking.

Giri/Haji is a stylish, slow burning neor-noir crime drama set in Tokyo and London.

The story concerns a police detective, his yakuza brother, and their series of poor life choices. Everything about it is very well done. The show is described as “cancelled”, but the first season is a complete story and, as excellent as it is, I think continuing with the characters in a second season would only lessen the experience of the first.

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Managing Android Wifi with Tasker

One of the earliest programs I installed when I bought my first smartphone in 2013 was Kismet’s Smarter Wi-Fi Manager. It kept the phone’s wireless radio disabled unless I explicitly enabled it and connected to a network. When that happened, it would store the location by identifying nearby cell towers. Whenever it saw those towers again, it would turn the wireless radio on. In all other cases it would keep the radio off. This was a simple solution to the problem of only wanting wifi turned on at known locations, like home and work. It helped save battery, and prevented information leaks when wandering around meatspace.

Recently, when setting up a new phone, I discovered that Smarter Wi-Fi Manager had been abandoned. I thought I had heard something about the behaviour being integrated into the latest version of Android, but it seems that is not the case. Fortunately I found that Tasker can be configured to replicate the behaviour.

In Tasker, a profile can be created to recognize a location using a few different means. I setup one profile for home and one for work, both using the “cell near” context state. Like the Smarter Wi-Fi Manager of old, this just stores the identities of nearby cell towers. Then I created two tasks: one to turn wifi on and one to turn it off. The first task is added to both profiles as the main task. The latter is added to the profiles as the exit task. The result is that when the phone sees the cell towers near my trusted locations, the wireless radio turns on. When I leave, the wireless radio turns off.

Profile: Home (1)
    Restore: no
    State: Cell Near [ ... bunch o' towers here ... ]
    Enter: Wifi On (4)
        A1: WiFi [ Set:On ]
    Exit: Wifi Off (9)
        A1: WiFi [ Set:Off ]

Profile: Work (2)
    Restore: no
    State: Cell Near [ ... bunch o' towers here ... ]
    Enter: Wifi On (4)
        A1: WiFi [ Set:On ]
    Exit: Wifi Off (9)
        A1: WiFi [ Set:Off ]

The task to turn the wireless off is only triggered when I leave the location, which means I can still manually turn the radio on when I am somewhere unknown without Tasker immediately turning it back off. That new location will not automatically be stored as a trusted location, but if I want it to be remembered it only takes a minute to create a new profile and hook it up to my two wifi tasks.

I found the Tasker interface to be somewhat confusing. It took me a while to figure out how to achieve my desired behaviour. This is probably because Tasker can do a lot of other things. I don’t think my phone is integrated enough into my life to make its other capabilities relevant to me (though I might set it up to only enable GPS when mapping applications are open), but I was happy to pay the low price to retake control of my wireless radio.

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Link Log 2020-12-06

On the use of a life

Did Global Warming Play A Significant Role in the Recent Northwest Wildfires?

Just how many people do we need doing that job, anyway?

Why Is Post-COVID China Embracing A Cyberpunk Aesthetic?

No Config for Old Men

Bro Culture, Fitness, Chivalry, and American Identity

Preventing the Collapse of Civilization (Jonathan Blow, 2019)

It is the regular course of world history that great achievements in technology just get completely lost because the civilizations that made those achievements fell or failed to propogate the knowledge into the future. Technology goes backwards all the time.

Without generational transfer of knowledge, civilizations die because the technology those civilizations depends on degrades and fails.

Green Machine

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On Toothpowder

After posting about my toothpaste capsules last year, Ze Stuart wrote to ask if I had ever considered toothpowder. He recommended Eco-Dent DailyCare.

I had not brushed with a commercial toothpowder product before, though had tried carrying baking soda on some backpacking trips for this application. I was never happy with the result. Mostly I think it was just that the lack of foaming and mint flavor, both of which I’ve been psychologically conditioned to associate with “clean”.

Eco-Dent was available locally, so I bought a bottle and started using it. Application is easy: wet the brush, squirt out a bit of the powder from the bottle’s flip top lid, and brush like normal. After brushing for a second the powder froths up, and the experience is more or less the same as brushing with toothpaste.

The label claims that the 2 oz bottle can provide “up to 200 brushings”, which I find to be inaccurate. My first bottle lasted me 350 days. I brush twice a day, so that is 700 brushings. That works out to be about $0.01 per use, which is better than any toothpaste can offer. (Perhaps they expect you to use more of the powder per brushing than I do, but I always use enough to generate the same frothy lather I’d expect from toothpaste.)

When travelling, I repackage the powder into a 0.25 oz bottle. That is plenty for a week or two, takes up no space in a toiletry kit, and weighs approximately nothing.

There are plenty of other toothpowders on the market, but I’ve bought another couple bottles of Eco-Dent. Between those, my collection of toothbrush heads, and a stash of floss, I’ll be out of the dental care market for a few years.

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