Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Sat, 13 Dec 2014 10:03:10 GMT  <== Computers ==> 

I received yesterday a Dell Inspiron i3147-3750sLV 11.6-Inch 2 in 1 Convertible Touchscreen Laptop from Amazon. Cost me $380 plus New York state sales tax. I'm typing this post on it. It's a cute little thing. I named it "Midget". The keyboard is a little smaller than full-size, but due to shorter-stroke keys, makes my typing less error-prone than my 15" Asus laptop. I bought it to have a machine that will work on an airplane. The 15" laptop doesn't fit in the tiny space between the seat in front of me and me, causing my to curl up my arms in a way that downright hurts after an hour or less of typing.

I chose this model because I read that it runs Ubuntu well. And so it does. I installed Ubuntu 14.10 from a USB flash drive I created on Thursday. It can also dual-boot to the supplied Windows 8.1, but I doubt I'll do that very often.

The "2 in 1 Convertible Touchscreen" means that you can fold the keyboard back behind the monitor, like the Lenova Yoga, but $130 cheaper. Ubuntu doesn't offer an on-screen keyboard, so it's only useful in that mode in Windows, but it makes an OK tablet, except that you must touch the screen very softly to get touches to register, something my daughter is good at but me not so much.

It's got a 4-core Pentium N3430 CPU, running at 2.16GHz. Plenty fast enough for the coding and web surfing I plan to do with it. For $140 more you can get the same machine with an Intel Core I3 processor, which I guess is faster.

The built-in speakers are tinny-sounding, but louder than most builtin laptop speakers, and it has Bluetooth, so I can use my Sharkk boombox for good-enough portable sound.

It weighs only 3 pounds and is purported to have a 7-hour battery life, likely a little less with my typical as-bright-as-I-can-get-it use.

Nowhere near as nice a computing environment as my 27" iMac with Apple's wonderful keyboard, but not bad for occasional travel.

Dell Inspiron 11 3000

Click on image for hi-res version

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New drug could cure nearly any viral infection

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Wed, 10 Dec 2014 15:54:46 GMT  <== Science/Technology ==> 

MIT News - From Dr. Todd Rider at MIT, a silver bullet is on the horizon for viral infections.

esearchers tested their drug against 15 viruses, and found it was effective against all of them  including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.

The drug works by targeting a type of RNA produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. In theory, it should work against all viruses, says Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratorys Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group who invented the new technology.

Because the technology is so broad-spectrum, it could potentially also be used to combat outbreaks of new viruses, such as the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, Rider says.


Rider drew inspiration for his therapeutic agents, dubbed DRACOs (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers), from living cells own defense systems.

You can donate to the research at The DRACO Fund. They have a good article by Scott Tarone: MIT and the Demise of the Viral Infection.

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End Taxation Bot

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Sat, 25 Oct 2014 01:49:14 GMT  <== Politics ==> 

For a while now I've been interjecting in conversations that mention taxation a few simple words:

Taxation is extortion. End it.

The other day, I posted a tweet on Twitter in which I mispelled "weird" as "wierd" and the @WeirdVsWierd bot piped up with a reminder of the proper spelling. My subconscious worked on that overnight and came up with an idea for my own simple bot. I skipped work on Thursday morning and wrote an endtaxationbot, in Lisp, of course. It tweets as @endtaxationbot.

Taxation is Theft

The bot is now running on, in the same lisp image that serves this blog. Once an hour it finds the most recent 10 tweets mentioning the word "taxation", and responds to each with one of two messages:

Taxation is theft. End it.


Taxation is extortion. End it.

So far, I've had a couple of people follow the bot, lots of retweets and favorites, and, of course, quite a few people saying how impossible it would be to end taxation. Sorta cool. Injecting a meme into the Twitterverse, 10 tweets an hour.

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Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:20:54 GMT  <== Webmaster stuff ==> 

A new SSL vulnerability, POODLE, is in the news. I changed my Apache web server's SSL configuration to mitigate. It no longer supports IE 6, so if you're using that, why?

I used the recommended Apache configuration at
I tested it at

I'm still using a certificate signed with SHA-1. That is apparently no longer recommended. I'll update it sometime.

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Google's Nameserver:

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 19:34:49 GMT  <== Computers ==> 

The internet at my house has been slow of late. Can't see it in transfer rates, but I noticed today that many of my domain name lookups were timing out. So I changed the networks on my iMac and my iPhone to use before my wifi router's It's like having a new computer. The internet is instant again. is Also likely useful is,

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Rebalancing the Scales

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:19:35 GMT  <== Politics ==> 

Eric Peters Autos - when a mundane assaults you on the street, you have the right to defend yourself, violently, and he, not you, is responsible for any harm that comes to either of you, once it has been established that he was the aggressor. Not so with the police. You are guilty of a crime if you defend yourself, and the taxpayers, not the individual cop, will pay should he be found to be in the wrong.

This must stop. If it doesn't stop soon, we will be at war with the police. A real shooting war. They will lose, but the casualties on both sides will be massive. At least that's my take on it. Click the link to read Eric's.

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My Ribs Are Healing

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Wed, 24 Sep 2014 13:54:41 GMT  <== Webmaster stuff ==> 

As I noted on 23 August, I broke seven ribs on 18 August after hitting a deer on my motorcycle. It's now five and a half weeks later, and I've been free of pain meds since the weekend. Still a little pain, but not enough to stop me from sleeping or distract me too much to work.

I can also finally lay on my back in bed, so I no longer have to get up every two hours to let my right side recover. Praise the Lord for small miracles!

The doctor said the whole process would take 12 weeks, so I'll wait until the middle of November before I start lifting heavy objects, but I appear to be well on my way to healing.

I took a look at my scooter yesterday. Something is obstructing free motion of the steering, so I'll have to fix that before I can take it on short rides around home. I was hoping to replace it and my old Saab in the spring with an Elio, but they won't be shipping until fall of 2015. So I'll have to fix the leak in the Saab's power steering fluid line so that I can use it until then. Sigh...

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Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Sun, 24 Aug 2014 03:07:25 GMT  <== Quote ==> 

"When Americans decide to actually DO something about their police state problem, three percent of America's 80 million gun owners will grab their deer rifles and go out and shoot two cops. If ten percent are successful, we'll be rid of half a million pigs in one day.

"The police are the tip of the state's enforcement speer. WIthout them, we could all laugh at everything our government's huge bureaucracy demands. Even with them we can laugh at most of it, as long as we're willing to kill what needs killing, and any man that would deny another's liberty for an act that harms none needs killing, bad."

-Bill St. Clair

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Dance Me to A Deer Collision

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Sat, 23 Aug 2014 13:38:34 GMT  <== Entertainment ==> 

Last Sunday, August 17, I took a long scooter ride to Fall River, MA, to dance with Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. On the way home, after midnight, I hit a deer, went down, rolled a few times, and broke seven ribs. Full story at

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Robin Williams, RIP

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Tue, 12 Aug 2014 14:17:28 GMT  <== Entertainment ==> 

Robin Williams is dead. Apparently from depression. Sigh...

But his humor lives on. Nanu Nana, Your Magnificence!

150 Greatest Robin Williams Jokes (local copy)

Lot of YouTube videos

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