Comparing the Smith and Wesson to the Schrade Pen

For some time I had been carrying around the Smith And Wesson Tactical Stylus Pen. My main reason for doing so, was my lament about the lack of good, HQ pens in the world today.

This pen also featured a rubber-like tip, which can be used as a passive pointing device on capacitive tablet screens. I think that my main problem with the Smith And Wesson Pen was, that the formulation of this rubber caused it to have a high coefficient of friction, even against the surface of a tablet screen. So it could be used for tapping, but not for swiping.

Also, being a “Tactical Pen” meant, that the Smith And Wesson had a pointed hard end that could be used for self-defense. The size and mass of this pen was great enough to make this use plausible. But then, the size and mass of this pen also made it slightly awkward to be wearing normally, in socially calm scenarios.

I have the tendency to fidget and play with my pens, which in this case meant that for years, I would turn this pen around in my hand, and rub on the rubbery, stylus-end with my thumb. This habit eventually caused the stylus nib to break. At that time I found out that I could no longer order replacement nibs, because that type is no longer being manufactured. The type of stylus nib which also had the flaw which I just mentioned.

And so what I did next was to order a complete replacement. Once that nib has broken, you would presumably also need to replace the whole pen. I replaced mine with a Schrade Tactical Stylus Pen.

The Schrade is similar to the Smith And Wesson, with two main differences:

  1. The Schrade has a correctly-formulated rubber-like nib, which can be used to swipe on a tablet screen as much as to tap on it, because its nib has a low coefficient of friction.
  2. The Schrade is a smaller object, which fits more elegantly into a shirt-pocket, the way a pen is supposed to fit. And this also means that although the Schrade also has a¬†pointed hard end meant for self-defense, its mass is too low to allow it actually to be used for self-defense, in any way I can imagine. You would effectively be hitting the other person with ‘a Popsicle-stick’, that happens to be pointy at one end.


However, I was never really keen at obtaining a self-defense weapon. I only ever wanted an HQ pen. And so for now, the Schrade replacement pen suits me fine. It remains to be seen, whether the Schrade will also last as long as the Smith And Wesson did, under normal use, and while being played with in my hands forever.

One step which I took with the Schrade however, was to buy a small package of replacement nibs for it, even before I had received the pen. It could be that the replacements for this one will stop being manufactured at some point in the future as well, and in that case I will have several already in my drawer, waiting to be attached.



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An Alternative to OpenShot under Linux

In the past, I used to be a fan of the non-linear video editor named “OpenShot”. It is the kind of editor which allows for multiple source clips to be added to multiple, parallel timelines, and for transitions and effects to be added, to put those together into a longer video presentation. One could say that OpenShot was a software-end to the process of compositing. In the past, I had even custom-compiled version 1.1 of OpenShot on the Linux computer I name ‘Walnut’, and gotten that into a state in which it could be used. This means that I did not write the source code in any way, but that I did overlook a lengthy process, by which this source code could be translated into an executable program, on a platform which would not ordinarily have supported it. However, v1.1 still lacked many of the features which later versions claim to have, and that eventually become necessary. V1.1 did not have the Blue-Screen or Green-Screen, Chroma-Key effect.

These days, OpenShot v1.4.3 is directly available through the (Linux) package manager under Debian / Jessie. But I don’t use it, mainly because I cannot. I seem to have discovered that there are major stability issues with recent versions of this video editor. On my Linux box named ‘Phoenix’, this video editor actually caused my desktop to freeze – not once but three times. Almost all my other, package-installed software, is comparatively well-behaved, and I have no other reason to think, that my graphics chipset is in any way faulty.

Under Linux, even a defective application run in user space, should not be able to get the desktop to freeze.

There is also a Windows version, v2.0.6, which I next tried to install on the Windows 7 computer named ‘Mithral’. I did not like the fact to begin with, that this is the type of install which asks the user to reboot Windows for the changes to take effect. But then I also found that the Windows version would constantly crash. Next, having OpenShot v2.0.6 installed under Windows, actually prevented a ‘GPG4Win’ application named “Kleopatra” from working on ‘Mithral’. This last detail worries me.

Yet, after I uninstalled OpenShot from the Windows computer and rebooted again, Kleopatra was working again.

And so the bottom line for me is, that this once-great video editor is now too unstable to be used.

On the Debian / Jessie, Linux computer named ‘Phoenix’, I can use “Kdenlive” instead, which does more or less what OpenShot was supposed to do, and which does these things without crashing. Kdenlive also offers the user to place video clips he supplies into multiple timelines, and to apply transitions and effects, and does include the “Blue Screen” (alpha / translucency) effect.

But under Windows, I can still only see paid-for solutions to this need.



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Linux Rocks!

A little bird has whispered into my ear, that people who use Linux today, are like DJs, still using cassette tapes.

I think that the simpler idea needs to be put into view again, that Linux is Up For The Times. We have good software, terrific security, and great sophistication.

But if you are a Linux user or Linux expert, you already know this.

The only real drawback which I see to Linux today, is the inaccessibility of standard, killer games. Those will require that some of us still keep Windows computers around, and powerful Windows computers at that.

But for all the other things people do on computers, including documents, including multimedia, including social networking, including music authoring, including Web servers, including VPNs, including programming, including to control robots from our own workbenches, there are ample Linux solutions, which are often also HQ solutions.

I think though, that If a user happens not to be much of an expert or at least a power-user, you might need to have ‘a Linux Guru’ on-hand, to run a Linux machine properly… BTW, I’m not for hire.



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My Neato XV Vacuuming Robot

I own a “Neato XV Signature” vacuuming robot.

Neato XV _1

And I have written about it before, in

This Posting and

This Posting and

This Posting

This robot vacuums the greater proportion of my floors, three times per week. As it does so, I frequently observe it, although in some cases I trust it to do so while I am not at home.

There is an aspect to how this robot is programmed to map out the space it has been assigned to vacuum, that defies human common sense, but that seems to serve its purpose. The robot starts out on the assumption that it will vacuum a large, unknown space, which is too large to process in one attempt. And so it subdivides the space into sub-regions, as it is mapping the perimeter of each sub-region. After having mapped the perimeter of each sub-region slowly, the robot performs linear parallel passes through the area inside each region at a faster speed, that eventually cover this entire inner space. And, if the robot encounters additional obstacles in each space, it deals with those, using logic that already worked on the perimeter.

Once each sub-region is complete, the robot ventures to the boundary of the current sub-region, and starts to map a new one.

It seems inconsistent with this scheme, that as the robot starts to map a new sub-region, it actually seems to make a diagonal foray of random distance into the interior of the as-yet unexplored sub-region. However, this is what the robot has been programmed to do, and then to proceed outward from this new position, until it encounters the perimeter…

By making certain moves which seem to have this pseudo-random character, I suppose the robot reduces the risk of leaving spaces consistently uncleaned. It does not actually map its entire space exactly the same way every time. But, I also find that the robot does not miss any spaces within the larger space it has been assigned to vacuum.

At the same time, the amount of time needed to complete the entire assigned space also varies greatly from one day to the next. And this can cause me some anxiety, if I happen to be watching the job in progress.

However, the overall track record of this robot is very good in my experience, so that I eventually do trust it to keep doing its job.



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