Gerrit Niezen

Maker of open-source software and hardware.

I've been using Elementary OS for just over 4 months now:

When I installed it, I created a second partition on my drive after shrinking the size of my Ubuntu partition. Now that I haven't used my Ubuntu partition for months, and after running into some “disk pressure” issues while using Kubernetes, I thought I'd remove that partition and resize the Elementary partition to fit the entire drive.

Deleting the Ubuntu partition was simple enough using the Disks app, but then I realised that while I could shrink the Elementary partition, I could not enlarge it when it was mounted as the root partition. I used Balena Etcher to write the latest edition of Elementary OS onto a USB flash drive and rebooted. It took me a while to figure out that I had to press F2 to set the boot order correctly in order to boot from the flash drive. Once running the Live version of Elementary OS, it was very easy to run the GParted partitioning tool, drag the sliders to make the partition fit the entire drive, and click Apply. Not an fdisk in sight.

Even though everything was so easy, it was still pretty nerve-wrecking to wait half an hour for all my data to be copied across the drive. After I came back from a short 30 minute walk, I could reboot into the resized partition and everything was working as expected. Phew! 😅️

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#100DaysToOffload #day20 #elementaryOS

I just noticed that, the originator of #100DaysToOffload, has changed the format from a post a day for 100 days, to doing 100 posts in a year.

His rationale is that he wants more time to work on each post, in order to produce higher quality content. I agree with him that it's too time-consuming to produce a great blog post every day, but I'm going to continue with the 100-day format for the following reasons:

  • I'm interested in building the daily habit of writing again, as I've successfully written 100 consecutive days in the past
  • I see this more of a daily diary than “providing quality content”
  • People like Seth Godin and Austin Kleon have shown that it's perfectly possible to write great shorter form blog posts and get something out every day

One change that I will be making is not to use the format “100 Days to Offload: Day X” as my title heading anymore, as the title is the only thing that gets federated to Mastodon, and I want people to know what the actual content of the post is about. I'll still use the #100DaysToOffload hashtag and will also add the day as a hasthag.

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#100DaysToOffload #day19

Starting a garden diary

As part of the permaculture course I mentioned in previous posts, I'm planning on staring a garden diary/journal to keep track of our food growing experiments.

We have a small raised bed of 1 by 3 metres, in which various sugarsnap pea plants are growing pretty happily. We also have potatoes growing vigorously in two potato planters filled with compost from the local tip. I also have a bunch of garlic plants growing in pots, thanks to the lovely, who sent me hardneck garlic cloves for free, including instructions on how to grow them.

There's also some thyme, parsley, mint and rosemary growing in pots outside, and inside I have a little hydroponic setup with a small habanero chilli plant that's fruiting pretty heavily at the moment. We also planted more seeds over the weekend, that I haven't even been keeping track of. Therefore the decision to keep track of everything in a garden journal.

There's a very pretty garden journal in the video above, but I'm going to try and keep it simple, having attempted Bullet Journals in the past. I still have a pack of Field Notes notebooks I received as a gift, and the one entitled “Gardening” is still empty.

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Going deep

I just read an excellent article over on The Correspondent about how repetition is a lot more important than new experiences.

It reminded me of the concept of depth years, where you spend a whole year not starting anything new or acquire any new possessions you don't need.

I'm definitely the kind of person that is always chasing new experiences and wanting to learn new things. I think there could be massive value in slowing down, focusing on what I already have and what I'm already doing.

It doesn't even have to be a whole year. CGP Grey and Myke Hurley's Theme System talks about choosing seasonal themes, so I could do a depth season instead.

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Shipping cargo by sail

This morning I read an article about a farmer who built a sailboat to take his produce from Vermont to New York City, that posted on Mastodon:

My favourite quote from the article:

Andrus is the kind of guy who puzzles over why, in the face of tremendous evidence, people continue to do things they know are ultimately maladaptive.

I love these kind of stories, and hope that more shipping of cargo by sail will happen the future. I've read about some of the ships mentioned in the article, like Tres Hombres, that sails between Europe and the Americas. There's a pretty good list of cargo sail projects over at New Dawn Traders. The Guardian also published a summary last year.

If you're in the UK, it's even possible to place an order for some olive oil, coffee, wine, beans etc. in the New Dawn Traders online shop, for delivery in July when the Blue Schooner Company ship Gallant arrives in Cornwall.

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Installing Manjaro on a Pinebook Pro

We bought a Pinebook Pro, the $200 Linux laptop, at the end of last year:

The custom Debian install always felt a bit weird, and one frustrating bit was that I never got it to print to our network printer. When Manjaro became the default OS, I thought that it may be a good idea to switch.

Yesterday I finally got around to installing Manjaro on the Pinebook Pro. It took a while to figure out how to do it, but after finally discovering the right image file, and using unxz to extract the .img from the .xz file and using dd to write it to an SD card, I was able to get it installed on the laptop. I wanted to user Etcher, but could not get it to run on the Pinebook Pro.

I'm used to Ubuntu and use Elementary OS as my daily driver on my main laptop, so first I had to learn how to use pamac to install and update packages. I got some weird pacman error, which was resolved after going to the forums and finding the right command-line incantation to make it work again. Doesn't seem like Manjaro is quite ready for people who are not software developers?

After rebooting the laptop, it would only show a black screen on startup. Went back to the forums again and found out that a lot of people are experiencing this, but that the Manjaro developers have not been able to reproduce the issue. I tried a bunch of things, until I started wondering if it may be that the power supply I was using was under-powered. I switched power supplies, let it charge overnight, and lo and behold, everything seems to be working fine the next day.

I tried to set up printing, but it was even harder to do than on Debian, because neither the printer settings applet nor CUPS come preinstalled. Finally discovered the printer on the network, only to have the test page not print even after the applet said it printed successfully. Go figure. I really wish Elementary OS would run on ARM devices, as it's a night-and-day difference in user experience. I sincerely hope that that the stability of Manjaro on Pinebook Pro improves, but I'm a little bit surprised that it's already the default OS.

If you're using Manjaro on a Pinebook Pro, let me know your experience

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Installing a water butt

As part of the permaculture course I started in March, I committed to installing a water butt at my house. It took almost a month to get a water butt delivered from Wickes due to the current pandemic, but it finally arrived this week.

First I had to get the ground level next to a downspout. We still had some bricks left over after re-rendering the back of our house, so two days ago I managed to grab a water level and build a small platform for the water butt to sit on. Today I installed the rain diverter kit on the downspout. Now we just have to wait for some rain (which shouldn't be too long in Wales) to see if it works.

Water butt

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Using custom favicons on

If you haven't noticed it yet, I'm using to publish this blog. As part of their April 2020 Updates, they announced custom favicons for Pro accounts. I actually signed up for a 5-year Pro plan recently, as I really believe in their mission and want them to succeed.

So, how do you get a custom favicon on your blog? Well, I used to create a favicon of the logo I wanted to use, and then you just send it to as an attachment. I don't know how long the turnaround time is on this, but I'm looking forward to having my own favicon instead of the standard logo.

Update: It took less than an hour to be updated, yay!

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Why I love my Roomba

Back in 2014 I bought an iRobot Roomba 650 in an attempt to get pet hair out of our carpet without going crazy. It worked really well, and if you don't mind cleaning the brushes every now and again, the little robotic vacuum does a great job around the house.

At the end of 2015 it seemed to have lost all its suction power. I performed all the recommended maintenance tasks and even replaced the brushes with a kit I ordered from iRobot, but it still had very little debris in its container after a cleaning cycle. I asked iRobot whether it was possible to send it in for them to have a look at it. They explained that they only replace robots within the warranty period, and that they sell replacement parts for any robot out of warranty. They also provided me with a long list of troubleshooting instructions. I thought it was quite novel that they were essentially telling me: “You don't need to send it in. You can fix it yourself. You got this.”

Using the troubleshooting instructions I was able to figure out that the brushes were not spinning, indicating a fault with the Cleaning Head Module. As the robot is not under warranty anymore, I opted to open it up myself and clean the module and its gearbox. I was surprised by how easy it was to do this, indicating that the robot was clearly designed for repair by customers – thanks iRobot! After spinning the brushes a couple of times manually, I was able to get them working and everything was fine again.

It was another six months before the Cleaning Head Module stopped working again. This time round I had a look on eBay and bought a replacement Cleaning Head Module for less than £60. It was super easy to install and everything worked again!

Last year the battery finally started losing its charge very quickly. Again I headed to eBay and picked up a brand new battery for £18 that was literally a drop-in replacement. Since then it had some charging issues, which I fixed by bending out the battery contacts a little bit.

So even though this Roomba goes through a lot of wear and tear on a weekly basis, it's still going strong after almost six years. And all you need to fix it is a screwdriver and the right replacement parts. I wish more things were designed like this.

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Why I sold my Apple Watch

I bought an Apple Watch Series 2 in December 2016 and wore it pretty much constantly until March 2020. Having to charge it every night and just not being a lot of fun to use finally got the better of me. It just never faded into the background, and needed a lot of attention.

I went without a watch for about a month, and then got a Garmin vivosmart 4 activity tracker. It also measures heart rate and number of steps, but also pulse oximetry when you're sleeping. It doesn't have a GPS chip, so your location isn't constantly being monitored. And it costs a lot less. Even less than the price that I got for my Apple Watch after selling it on eBay.

Overall I'm enjoying the experience even more than with my Apple Watch. It has a small OLED screen, so just displays the bare essentials in clear black and white. The battery lasts about a week, but since I wear it when I'm sleeping, charging it for about 10 minutes every day while I'm in the shower seems to be more than enough.

It still displays the time and the current weather conditions, and can send message and app notifications if I so choose. It can even control the music on my phone, so I don't really feel like I'm missing anything I was able to do with the Apple Watch.

And it fades into the background really well.

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