Musings by @rg

A place to jot down ideas, notes, pointers.

A Wintery forest and sun shining behind it

Just now finished writing a letter to a good friend, a young lady who is my penpal via the wonderful Slowly app.

As I wrote, my thoughts turned to it could be today's blog du jour. The letter did not contain any personal info so, here we go!

Latest of the many letters I have enjoyed writing with this app.

Hello K.!!

LOL, still having a chuckle on your disapproving, tsk tsk of my far too busy web browser scene. Yeah, you are right – it's probably even worse than you think now.

The thing is, I haven't turned off my laptop for days on end, I put it into sleep mode and come back later, or next morning and resume from there.

I have at the moment 3 Waterfox (Firefox derived browser project) windows open. Two are normal ones; the last one is a Private tabs window, where I do open Gmail and keep it sandboxed so it can't follow all my wanderings in the main browsing windows.

The other two are to reduce the clutter into the one original one; about 70 tabs if you can believe it, but I swear the laptop and browser handle it with aplomb, no sweat. (A snapshot of my too busy desktop Tasks List shows all the apps in use currently)

A snapshot of my too busy desktop Tasks List

I have many things going on at once, as you know. Mastodon instances, there's maybe 5 or 6 tabs with different ones, different accounts on each tab. I concentrate on one, my home instance (as Mastodon servers are called), and am very active there. Some of the others I visit frequently, some are less visited.

I do have a client called Pinafore loaded into the first tab in that set, which can support multiple instances (servers) configured. You just switch from the one currently on, to another, and it connects to it and has all the colours, avatar, etc that you selected for that one.

It is an excellent piece of software, besides the flexibility it is very light and nimble, the type of thing I really appreciate; there's too much bloated stuff around, unfortunately.

Got some exciting news to share – I posted a reply letter to a Japanese new penpal, similarly to what I had done with you earlier, same idea of it being a nice piece of writing, without any undue personal and private info, which could be appreciated by other users if I shared it.

Loved writing the letter, as I went into that flowing prose streak you know well, and the letter was satisfying for me, to write memories of various kinds too. While writing it, I recognized that it was that type of letter – and mentioned it to O., my penpal.

Sent the letter and went straight into Blogging mode; editing it in write.freely is so nice since it's a minimalist, no distractions programme, really focus the mind in the words or the formatting you want to apply to them, no buttons around to confuse things.

Added reference links, to Wikipedia sources, but buried most of them in the letter text itself to avoid reader distraction.

The web has this richness of us being able to connect and expand ad infinitum; but we sometimes need to keep focus and the readers in our page, not sent out on a spin, not to return.

The page became quite pretty and polished, as you know I am a picky and perfectionist type; sometimes a bad thing.

Once it was done, I had the idea of suggesting it to the Slowly team at Twitter, for possible publication in their “Slowly Stories” feature. I did, sent them a direct message and they liked it, accepted the submission.

It was posted an hour later, and was announced in social media accounts this morning. :) Yey!! See it here.

I sent my penpal a Twitter DM, (she is also a user there) and told her about it. A time warp, since she could see the letter immediately, if she wanted, or wait for delivery via Slowly a few hours later. I think she liked it.

Thank you for the suggestions of reading materials, web pages! I enjoy reading and understanding more about History, Geography, International Relations which tie together well into a deeper understanding of our world.

Nice that you had the chance to watch those favourite films with dad at your side. :) I used to watch a lot of film and documentaries with my older son, he was my buddy for those. We followed Breaking Bad since the beginning, and then on as the series developed, wonderful television and story telling, great acting, such a joy to watch. Even if it kept me tense during and sometimes after the episode was finished.

Time to send this one, K... Have a good week and weekend coming up!

Hugs, Saludos to A.,


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A Winter Solstice Blessing

Native American inspired poem, by Stephanie Laird

May you find peace in the promise of the Solstice night, That each day forward is blessed with more light. That the cycle of Nature, unbroken and true, Brings faith to your soul and well-being to you. Rejoice in the darkness, in the silence find rest, And may the days that follow be abundantly blessed.

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Just now finished writing a letter to a good friend, a Japanese lady who is my penpal via the wonderful Slowly app.

My friend sent me a nice letter and described some local customs, including the one that explains the image above:

It will be Winter solstice day tomorrow, 22nd. The winter solstice is the day on which the day is shortest, and the night is longer of a year. In Japan, there is an old belief that on the winter solstice, taking a bath with yuzu (a type of citrus) will help a person to stay healthy through a cold winter. So, I bought a pack of yuzu at a grocery store today.

And that calls for a quick Reference :

Yuzu (Citrus junos) is a citrus fruit and plant in the family Rutaceae. It is believed to have originated in central China as a hybrid of mandarin orange and the ichang papeda. The yuzu is called yuja (from Korean) in Korean cuisine. yuzu at Wikipedia

She sent me the photo above, and a Bing Image search confirmed it's a popular custom, bathing in Furos with the Yuzu floating about it.

As I wrote, my thoughts turned to it could be a nice post to include here, today's blog du jour. So, why not?

I even mentioned that in the letter, which did not contain any sensitive, personal info. So, here we go!

One of the many letters I have enjoyed writing with this wonderful app. I sincerely thank the developers, who were into penpal friendships and letter writing in their younger days, and now brought their experiences into our more accelerated days in this 21st century we stumble along on.

Without further ado, here goes the letter; written minutes ago today, Monday December 23, 2019.

Hello O.!

Thank you for your nice letter! Very nice, and here goes my reply before I get deep into other things, lol.

I am having a lot of fun in the new network I am immersed in now. Posted a new blog page that has a full letter I wrote to a friend and explains about it, a bit long but maybe you enjoy reading it? It's here :

Letter to a friend on a wintery morning.

I am glad to have found something so interesting and that excites me, the intellectual stimulation is great and gets my mind away from the Winter Blahs. Instead, I am here working away in many things, all day, and happy.

Also glad to have started the blog, something I knew would be a good project for me – I love writing, have many personal stories to tell, and enjoy sharing them. So it's all good, and I plan to expand later into maybe more than one blog; creating a couple more for more thematic posts: Bicycles and cycling in one place, travel stories and photos in another. Tech posts and stories, history and geography in another one, etc.

I can always refer from one to another and link pages if they have interests or stories that are shared – like travel and cycling, with stories about Bicycle Touring, which I have done and enjoyed. It could help other people too, as sometimes we go thru areas that might be not well known; leaving a report could help other people planning trips too.

Nice that you have those special customs for the Winter Solstice — it's an important time of the year, in Europe it was always marked by festivals, marking the beginning of the return of the Sun and longer days, better climate, easier times for the people living there.

All of those traditions predate the Christian celebration customs of Christmas, and I find them fascinating.

Serra da Estrela, which I mentioned on that Twitter post, is indeed a great place to visit. It has the highest mountains in Continental Portugal — not the highest in the country overall, which includes the islands of Madeira and the Azores Archipelago; as they have some very high mountains in these islands. All of them are from Volcanic origin, rising from the depths of the Atlantic oceans all the way to sea level and on higher.

The highest peak of the whole country is on the Azores, I believe. Mount Pico, 2350m, Wikipedia page

My family was originally from the Beira Alta region of Portugal (from my father's side of the family), so for many years I had big curiosity of seeing what they were like. Two years ago I traveled there for the first time, cycling all over the country, and really enjoyed it.

The Serra is a large mass of mountains, raising to close to 2,000 meters above sea level. From the neighboring region, they rise at least 1,500 meters from terrain level, and so have a large presence in the landscape. That first visit I was near by and on to the mountain sides to about 600 m elevations. Did not climb up to the top since I feared hurting my legs muscles, as I had a heavy, fully loaded Touring bike, with all that I needed to camp, cook and be happy for a night anywhere with a flat piece of ground.

But this year I returned, and rented a car to be able to explore and visit. It was fun! Had a hotel nearby for a few days and was able to drive to the top of the Serra, and then on to the other side, down to the picturesque town of Manteigas.

This was in many ways a first for me: first time renting a vehicle overseas, first time driving in Portugal, since I had been touring with my bike or backpacking and using public trains and busses in other times, including this trip. Only had the car for a short period, to visit here specifically.

I will create travel stories posts and am sure will greatly enjoy them, as the y will bring me memories of my past travels, so many wonderful places and moments I had.

Joanna Lumley is indeed lovely, I did not follow her in her younger days, TV productions, but fell in love when watching the “Catwoman” TV documentary I mentioned in the post (Trailer at youTube, 2 min). I found her charming, intelligent, and wonderful.

Cycling is indeed good for the soul, as you mentioned, helps relieve stress and is good for health as well. I love it, and collected many bikes over the years, as I do work on them myself, feel pity if I find a discarded one on the side of the road, and return home with it, yet another bike for the stable, lol. I stopped counting at a certain point, when they had multiplied to a large wheeled family here.

Nice that you had these days with warmer temperatures, they are great relief for the winter blahs; we had a sunny day yesterday and I made sure to go out and walk on the trail to enjoy it, a special day.

Loved the photo you sent me, thank you O.!

And while writing this letter I thought it would also be a nice one to post on my blog – I will make sure it doesn't have any personal details, and will not violate our privacy. I think people will enjoy reading an example of how Slowly can be a great channel for us that love reading and writing, full letters that are interesting and fun.

Happy Holidays, dear friend, hope you have a great New Year too.

Till next time!


p.s. : A photo for you. This is the view from the rocks on a beach near Porto, Portugal, a wonderful place, I stayed here for a couple hours just admiring the beauty of the sun, waves, rocks. Taken in early May, 2019.

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Reminiscences from a visit to the Archeology Museum

This post is a transcription of a series of un-edited Toots, a conversation in the Mastodon network in December, 2019. It was motivated by a series of Toots earlier that morning, posted in sucession by Anarchiv,

I am grateful to him for his great story telling in a new medium, which reminded me of an experience I described later that same morning; in my own series of Toots.

And now here, in a blog post format, richer with added formatting and more references, images. Hope you enjoy reading it.

It started this morning, the thread. And over short posts, someone told a story. Of a Greek man, who lived in antiquity, by the Mediterranean side; in a city whose name is still preserved, and today is written “Marseille”.

This series of posts was interesting, I caught one flying by the Local feed, about halfway down his sequence, liked it and went to the top to find the rest.

Enjoying his post, I remembered similar thoughts, of History, and how things worked, how small bits and pieces came to me as I visited an exposition, at the Archeological Museum, in Lisbon. (click image for larger size)

Stopping at each display, I would read and examine the artifacts. All of them had came from the same region, countryside around today's city of Loulé, in the Algarve, Southern Portugal.

The region has been inhabitted for thousands of years, and the exhibit had pieces from pre-historic, Phoenician, Roman, Moorish and more modern times.

The Algarve is the most Southern part of Portugal, the warmest and sunniest. Trees, fruit, grapes grow well there. Fish in the seas are plenty. It was good land for settlements.

And they came, different peoples over different eras. Phoenicians, traders at heart, created outposts to explore the land and it's products, while also supporting passing seafarers going to farther places. Some of their mariners came from the homeland in modern day Middle East, traversed the whole Mediterranean, and went past the Columns of Hercules, now Gibraltar, into the open Atlantic.

Wild ocean waters, for people with small ships, but brave they were; and the profits from trading moved them. From home, via this route, into the Bay of Biscay, always a dangerous passage, and on to Cornwall for the Tin metal so demanded by the Bronze Age technology. Tin was plentiful there, and provided profitable mining for thousands of years. Traders came from far an apart to purchase the ore and bring it home for resale.

In the Algarve, Phoenicians, Romans set up colonies. The Romans saw the abundance of fish and built an industry of processing then into a preserve, the “Garum” fish sauce which was popular in their cuisine. Garum produced in the region was high quality, and had a demand from various regions of the Empire, including the Capital, Rome itself. (click for larger image)

Garum was created by cutting up the fish and placing them into stone vaults cut into the local bedrock. Salt was added as a condiment but primarily as a preservative agent. The salty fish mix was left on the stone vats to cure for some time, months possibly. And once finished, it provided a concentrated sauce with protein and a flavour judged exquisite by the people.

Quality brings demand, and demand attracts traders; there's money to be made and livelyhoods could focus on supplying it.

The Museum showed photos of the larger artifacts, like these stone vaults, carved into natural rock. They showed site maps with pointers of what each part was intended to do. Once you have a product, and an eager market, things will work to get it supplied.

How do we carry this out? The Museum showed many Amphorae, large earthware/ceramic vessels which were built to store and carry various products around, localy, regionaly and along longer routes to Rome and Beyond. (click for larger image)

During the Roman era, there were thriving colonies not only in Lusitania, today's Portugal, but also in the Southern region of today's Spain now called Andalucía, which came from the Moorish era name – Al Andalus.

Roman estates in the Andalucia region, then called Baetica, produced fine Olive Oil, another staple of the Mediterranean diet. They sold and exported this widely, quality bringing in demand and profits to traders, farmers and landholders. Baetica was 'next door'to the Algarvians, so trade flowed easily between them.

As documented by the various amphorae, eithe whole or in fragments, on display at this Museum exhibit. The notes pointed out how many Baetican amphorae had been found in the Algarve, testimony of vigorous trade. Algarvians had income and could purchase finer goods – their own region produces olive oil and wines to this day, but the Museum had fragments which had been manufactured in Baetica, and even in mainland Italy, Rome's homelands.

Algarvian amphorae fragments had cruder handles and rougher surface texture. The Baetican ones were finer and prettier ceramics. Past contents of these vessels could still be determined by analysis of residues in some of them.

I should point out that I am not a Historian, but a curious man, fascinated by glimpsing the past and being able to understand a bit of how they lived, by seeing such a nice exposition and the numerous Historical buildings, sites and ancient settlements commonly found in Europe. So, my writing probably has factual errors, which I apologize for, the intent being to jot down those and share with others who might find them intriguing, hopefully.

The collection on display was all dug on sites around the modern city of Loulé. Besides these wonderful Roman and pre-Roman era artifacts, they also had later, Moorish period ones, with beautiful ceramics and metal work.

After visiting Europe for the first time a few years ago, I was so impressed and pleased by all these cultural artifacts and History around everywhere that traveling here in my home region, in Norht America pales in comparison.

I hope you enjoyed this narrative, and welcome your comments and follow ups. Thank you.

  • Archeological Museum, Lisbon, Portugal :

The National Museum of Archaeology (Portuguese: Museu Nacional de Arqueologia) is the largest Archaeological museum in Portugal and one of the most important museums in the world devoted to ancient art found in the Iberian Peninsula. Located in Lisbon, the museum was founded in 1893 by the archaeologist José Leite de Vasconcelos.

The museum is the most important centre for archaeological research in Portugal. The museum was given the international “Genio Protector da Colonia Augusta Emerita” prize, awarded by the Foundation for Roman Studies and the Friends of the National Museum of Roman art in Mérida, Spain.[3] Museum Official Site Wikipedia page

  • City of Loulé :

Human presence in the territory of Loulé remotes to the Later Paleolithic. The growth of the settlement of Loulé likely stemmed from the late Neolithic, when small bands began rotating agricultural crops and herds around numerous subterranean cavities in its proximity (specifically around Goldra, Esparguina and Matos da Nora). Within the following millennium, the settlements began to grow and intensify with spread of Mediterranean cultures, that progressively penetrated the southwestern part of the peninsula. This culminated in the arrival of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, who founded the first trading posts along the maritime coast, increasing fishing, prospecting for minerals and commercial activities.[4] Wikipedia page City of Loulé, Bing Maps

  • Amphorae :

An amphora is a type of container of a characteristic shape and size, descending from at least as early as the Neolithic Period. Amphorae were used in vast numbers for the transport and storage of various products, both liquid and dry, but mostly for wine. They are most often ceramic, but examples in metals and other materials have been found. Versions of the amphorae were one of many shapes used in Ancient Greek vase painting. Wikipedia page

  • Garum :

Garum was a fermented fish sauce used as a condiment in the cuisines of ancient Greece, Rome, Carthage and later Byzantium. Liquamen was a similar preparation, and at times they were synonymous. Although it enjoyed its greatest popularity in the Western Mediterranean and the Roman world, it was earlier used by the Greeks. Wikipedia page

  • Garum Traditional preparation :

Small fish are covered with salt, spread out in the sun and turned from time to time. When they have been completely fermented they are scooped into a fine-meshed basket that is hanging in a vase. The liquid that seeps into the vase is liquamen. cited on Coquinaria NL Take a smell walk into the past – anyone for Garum?

  • Lusitania, Roman period Iberia :

Lusitania or Hispania Lusitana was an ancient Iberian Roman province located where modern Portugal (south of the Douro river) and part of western Spain (the present autonomous community of Extremadura and a part of the province of Salamanca) lie. It was named after the Lusitani or Lusitanian people (an Indo-European people). Wikipedia page Roman Empire map, 3rd Century

  • Baetica information :

Hispania Baetica, often abbreviated Baetica, was one of three Roman provinces in Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula). Baetica was bordered to the west by Lusitania, and to the northeast by Hispania Tarraconensis. Baetica remained one of the basic divisions of Hispania under the Visigoths down to 711. Baetica was part of Al-Andalus under the Moors in the 8th century and approximately corresponds to modern Andalusia. Wikipedia page

  • Al Andalus :

Al-Andalus, was the name given by Muslim sources during the Middle Ages to the territory in the Iberian Peninsula culturally and religiously linked with them. At its greatest geographical extent, it occupied the northwest of the Iberian peninsula and a part of present-day southern France, Septimania (8th century), and for nearly a century (9th–10th centuries) extended its control from Fraxinet over the Alpine passes which connect Italy with the remainder of Western Europe. Wikipedia page

  • Moorish Period :

In 711 an invasion by the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate, comprising Berbers from North Africa and Arabs from the Middle East plus other Muslims from all around the Islamic world, conquered the Visigoth Kingdom and founded the Islamic State of Al Andalus. The Umayyads reigned supreme and advanced through Iberia and France until the Battle of Tours (732) but endured across Iberia until the fall of the Kingdom of Granada (Spain) in 1492. Wikipedia page

  • Wikipedia's full series on History of Portugal :

The history of Portugal can be traced from circa 400,000 years ago, when the region of present-day Portugal was inhabited by Homo heidelbergensis. The oldest human fossil is the skull discovered in the Cave of Aroeira in Almonda. Later Neanderthals roamed the northern Iberian peninsula. Homo sapiens arrived in Portugal around 35,000 years ago.

Pre-Celtic tribes such as the Cynetes lived in the Algarve and Lower Alentejo regions before the 6th century BC, developed the city of Tartessos and the written Tartessian language, and left many stelae in the south of the country. Early in the first millennium BC, waves of Celts from Central Europe invaded and intermarried with the local populations to form several ethnic groups and many tribes. Wikipedia page High Resolution Map of Iberia

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There are many people who need a license for a new or updated Windows 10 installation. The support for Windows 7 is expiring in one month from now – January 20, 2020.

If you don't have a license to install Windows 10 and have not yet previously upgraded to it, you can purchase a copy Directly from Microsoft here The cost at the moment showed as USD$ 199 !

Sticker Shock is understandable, that is a substantial amount of money – But there are ways to get it for less.

It's perfectly legal to download a fresh, updated copy from Microsoft directly. You need a CD key to validate your Windows 10 install, and there are some sellers listed on eBay and other internet malls who offer legitimate license keys for sometimes unbelievable prices.

I came across one such offer this morning – a Toot at a mastodon instance, where the user Ir0n Monk3y posted a link mentioning a low price : $12.48 USD for a win 10 Pro license. This is offered as a Microsoft Retail package on for CAD$ 129, about USD$ 100 at current exchange rates.

How can that be?

The low priced key sellers are offering a VLM license, Volume License keys intended for OEM channel – people or companies building computers and selling whole packages.

This offer is for a bare key, no packaging, no DVD media, no shipping costs as the 'product' can be delivered instantly via email to the client.

Details, details :

The post from Ir0n M0nk3y linked to an article on the Redmond Pie site. (his link on the Toot contained a FB Client string, so I assume it was found on Facebook. I have removed that tracking from link here)

At RP, there's some explanations :

In order to avail this offer, simply head over to UR CDkeys’ page for Windows 10 Pro OEM keys here and enter code RM20 at check out when buying to bring the price down to just $12.48.

Once you get hold of the genuine OEM key for Windows 10 Pro, simply download Windows 10 Pro from here and install it the usual way. Once installed, head over to Control Panel > System section of Windows and when you are there, click on “Change product key” option and then enter your genuine OEM key which you just got from URCDKeys to activate your copy of Windows 10 as genuine.

The article proceeds to link to UR-CDkeys offer page, and includes a Referrer ID (they might be getting a commission for it). This is the same page, without ANY referrals included.

How to get Windows 10 Pro to install?

If you need the installation media for Windows 10, a retail package will contain a DVD. Most common those days, and for a faster installation too, is to an USB memory stick with at least 8 GB capacity to create your own install device.

  • Install media : an USB storage device, 8 GB minimum. It will be formatted during the process of creating your Win 10 installer, so make sure it doesn't have any valuable data on it.
  • The latest version of Windows 10 Pro, which can be legally and quickly downloaded from Microsoft itself — here.

Download an ISO with MS Media Creation Tool :

You can use MS's own tool to start the download of the large ISO package (about 4 GB total), and later prepare the USB media for you. It's a bit slower, but all in one is easier for some people. Click this link to download it now.

The Media Creation Tool can be used also to simply Download the ISO – and later use the saved file for later use, or with a better USB prep tool.

Better and Faster USB Creation :

As a tool to create the bootable USB install device, I use and recommend Rufus, a small and free package. Download the latest version of Rufus from the developer's site here.

Rufus is a utility that helps format and create bootable USB flash drives, such as USB keys/pendrives, memory sticks, etc.

It can be especially useful for cases where:

  • you need to create USB installation media from bootable ISOs (Windows, Linux, UEFI, etc.)
  • you need to work on a system that doesn't have an OS installed
  • you need to flash a BIOS or other firmware from DOS
  • you want to run a low-level utility

Despite its small size, Rufus provides everything you need!

Download the Windows 10 Pro package from the Microsoft page, get Rufus and simply install it or unpack the archive anywhere on your computer, and go to work.

Rufus will take about 15 minutes to prepare the bootable USB device. Until then, go brew some fresh coffee, read the news, etc.

Getting and Using the Windows 10 Key :

Once you have decided to engage in this process, have downloaded the ISO and prepared the USB install media, you can proceed to install Windows 10.

Early on the Install, it will ask you to enter your License Key — but that same screen has a dismiss button (Leave for Later), which allows the install to proceed. The install will eventually complete, but it will not be Activated with Microsoft – which has some implications. Some of the customization options, like Lockscreen, Desktop colour themes and wallpapers could be not available.

But having your own key on hand, it can be added later without problems.

The Redmond Pie article recommends installing the key afterwards like this.

Once you get hold of the genuine OEM key for Windows 10 Pro, simply download Windows 10 Pro from here and install it the usual way. Once installed, head over to Control Panel — System section of Windows and when you are there, click on “Change product key” option and then enter your genuine OEM key which you just got from UR CDkeys to activate your copy of Windows 10 as genuine.

Getting the key is a simple shopping matter. The RP site linked to UR CD Keys for the Windows 10 Pro license key. (clean link, no referrals) The UR-CDkeys page has this description for the product:

Permanent, Authorized, Global Key

Windows 10 is a personal computer operating system developed and released by Microsoft as part of the Windows NT family of operating systems. It was released on July 29,2015. It is the first version of Windows that receives ongoing feature updates.

...the important part being the description of the key offered as :

  • Permanent, as in non-expiring.
  • Authorized, they are resellers with MS permission.
  • Global, so the keys could be used for any language, localized version.

Some comments on the Redmond Pie article suggest caution : in, that these keys could theoretically be revoked later. They are supposed to be sold to OEMs and not to retail customers. But other commenters had success and report no problems. Your Mileage May Vary is a common internet motto, so keep it in mind.

Redmond Pie mentioned a discount code 'RM20' for 20% off the posted price. UR CDkeys itself has a banner I noticed in another page with a Christmas Special, discount code 'UKMAS'.

If you are a new customer, you need to register an account; all they request is an email, First and Last names, no Payment Details Yet. Then you can add the product to your shopping cart.

Adding it, at the Shopping cart, enter the discount code; the UKMAS code is valid until end of December, 2019.

...And it brings the price down to a lower value, once you hit Apply button.

So total cost comes down to USD$ 11.71. The next stage is the Payment Options, and there's a wide choice here.

Once you complete the purchase by entering Payment method and account details, you will check out, your key will come via e-mail.

And then it's just a matter of heading to the Settings app in Windows 10, selecting the Update and Security option, then Activation, Change the Product Key as shown.

And that concludes the process... Windows will connect to the Microsoft servers and register your product, then shown an 'Activated' status on the same panel.

Hope all went well, and now you can enjoy a legally updated system without guilt or draining the bank too much.

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A snapshot of my blog editing window

Just now finished writing a letter to a good friend, a young lady who is my penpal via the wonderful Slowly app.

As I wrote, and described what goes on with me, my thoughts turned to it could be a nice post to include here, today's blog du jour. So, why not?

I even mentioned that in the letter, which did not contain any personal info that would be untactful to share in a public venue like this. So, here we go!

One of the many letters I have enjoyed writing with this wonderful app. I sincerely thank the developers, who were into penpal friendships and letter writing in their younger days, and now brought their experiences into our more accelerated days in this 21st century we stumble along on.

Hello K., good morning!

Glad to read that you have finished the exams period and can now relax, sleep lots, think and just put your feet up when you get a chance. There's still work, so I now recalled, so it's not idyllic but better than the pressure cooker you were in until now.

Thank you for the list of books, recommendations. It is fun to have some suggestions for something different, although I haven't been reading books or even the online news much those days, so busy with things on the online universe.

Have been intrigued by all the new things to discover and try out, then I need time to reflect and understand them, all the while new other things pop up unexpectedly.

I haven't even slept normal hours, and have about 70 open tabs on my browser — honest, not kidding or guessing, I installed an add-on for Firefox to keep a backup of open sessions, since I have a hard time giving up on a topic and closing the tab for good.

Crazy, eh? It's that I have my main tabs with the community sites, Mastodon instances, each being like a bulletin board system of the older times. Now I am up to a few of them, the main one I am quite active, have just over 3,000 posts, but sometimes it slows down and there is nothing happening, no new posts, so it's nice to go out and see other local scenes.

Each of those has a focus, a theme and attracts different types of people. I stay away from any right wing ones, as these people are toxic and I can't stand it.

On my main one,, I have now been promoted to moderator, as of this week. :) Neat, isn't it? I am happy, have been enjoying spending my time there.

Last week I started posting on a Blog, my first ever, finally got around to doing something I knew would be good for me; I love writing, telling stories, and do have my own experiences to relate. Plus images, photos and things we find and want to create a little place to highlight.

The week before I went into search mode, to find which software/platform to use, where to locate it. I decided on one location, and once that was in, then it was time to learn to use it, and it's becoming nicer and easier with practice.

The platform I chose is called write.freely, a good name, as it has a very clean, simple, minimalist look. There's even a Dark or Night mode, which I enjoy and use in other apps. That is so much easier on the eyes for the long sessions I work at the computer (my laptop is getting much love, as it is such a delightful machine).

Write.freely has this Night mode, and when I go into writing, push a button for a new post and it pretty much instantly gives me a Black screen, no distractions, with my text going in in crisp white. It responds quickly, and is a joy to use. (and I am writing this to you already thinking it would be a good post for today's blog — Letter to a Friend, any personal details removed).

The write.freely software is open sourced and free, a pretty small package, and can even be run from a home computer if someone wanted to. There are online instances, places already having it installed and running, and many will accept new registrations for new users. Their is no cost to have an account, and depending on the place you select, there's more or less features to use.

My blog is at a place called, which is located in France, a good thing. I prefer to use services located in Europe as they have better user privacy laws, and a better cultural environment overall. My own blog is at – take a look there sometime if you have a chance.

We are close to Christmas, and all the hoopla, lol. I am quiet here at home, and happy to have found those activities to keep me interested and entertained during the cold, long, dreary Winter season.

Will be sending this now, K, on it's way to you. Hope you have a wonderful time during the Holidays, and keep in touch as you can. I have been a bit slow to do my own letters, since my time is being absorbed into this maelstrom of new experiences, things to try, ideas to organize and pieces of writing to create.

But it's been fun!

Happy Holidays, dear friend. Hope A. is well and at your side when he can.

Big hug and a kiss, sincerely,


And I think this is our first shared photo, via Slowly!

Not mine, but I loved this one; it was taken in a small rural road, near Aveiro, Portugal. A touring cyclist took and posted it, and I loved the landscape, the fact people are using all light clothing and seem perfectly comfortable – and it was taken in October. Nice, at that time we would likely have nastier weather and cold, having to be more wrapped up in clothing than they are here.

Cyclists riding along on a beautiful small rural road near Aveiro, Portugal

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Just now, this morning, at a Mastodon instance called, a user named benignstein ( posted a small series of Toots.

They got my attention, as they included some images of an intricate Tile pattern, so I started to read and follow the successive posts. All small in length, but when put together tell the story and get us into an uncharted territory, discovering new things.

The story is interesting, and it will be my day's Blog project to share and document it. Hang tight. The Toots are reproduced as posted, with line breaks between each representing the small delay until the next showed up.

Thinking about Roger Penrose.

He's this Mathematician who worked with Stephen Hawking, and he also coined this interesting and complicated tiling pattern where it looks like it's repeating, but in actuality there's no way to make a shifted copy of the pattern that matches the original.

Anyway, people thought the Penrose tile pattern was pretty great and wanted to tile their floors in it; but you can't find Penrose tiles for sale, because Roger turned out to be pretty litigious.

He sued a company in 1997 for making toilet paper with the Penrose tile pattern and won, but i think the patent's expired now, so i hope someone on gets on top of this.

Roger patented the tile pattern in the 1970s, but then some random Math nerd who was traveling around the Middle East found Penrose pattern tiling in a 15th century Mosque.

Reactions and Commentary Notes :

After benignstein made the post – located here, very soon there were reactions and commentary popping in. People “Liked” her posts, me included, by using the “Favorite” feature in Mastodon (a Star button, present under each post).

Some did more, by Boosting the post – equivalent to Retweeting, this will show the post to their own followers, and add a copy of it to the Boosting user's personal profile. This in itself is great, as it helps more and more people see the post, plus we can find it if desired later – by looking around in our own profiles.

Yeah, unfortunately we don't have a good Bookmarks feature in Mastodon yet – although there's a need and requests from users, so it should be in the development pipeline.

(alternative versions of Mastodon like GlitchSoc already have Bookmarks; they are on the leading edge of the project development.)

During the chat after the post was completed, I mentioned enjoying the topic and asked if it was ok to use the text and images for a possible blog post – the one you are reading now, as benignstein had no problems agreeing, and even provided the original source for the post's inspiration.

That is an article at Wolfram's Mathematica :

Weisstein, Eric W. “Penrose Tiles.” From MathWorld—A Wolfram Web Resource.

Reactions on the post thread continued as I frantically collected the toot's text, and collated notes and references to prepare this post. It is probably still going, I left to avoid distraction and focus on writing, but there were positive reactions to my interest as well.

My Research Notes :

A Bing search window is my looking glass into what the Internet can provide, and this turned out quick rich.

a. Penrose Tiling article at Wikipedia :

A Penrose tiling is an example of non-periodic tiling generated by an aperiodic set of prototiles. Penrose tilings are named after mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose, who investigated these sets in the 1970s. The aperiodicity of prototiles implies that a shifted copy of a tiling will never match the original. A Penrose tiling may be constructed so as to exhibit both reflection symmetry and fivefold rotational symmetry, as in the diagram at the right. Wikipedia page

b. Roger Penrose :

Roger Penrose in the foyer of the Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, Texas A&M University, standing on a floor with a Penrose tiling.

Sir Roger Penrose OM FRS (born 8 August 1931) is an English mathematical physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science. He is Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, an emeritus fellow of Wadham College, Oxford and an honorary fellow of St John's College, Cambridge.

Penrose has made contributions to the mathematical physics of general relativity and cosmology. He has received several prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking for the Penrose–Hawking singularity theorems.[1] Wikipedia page

c. Historical Evidence for Islamic architectural use of Penrose pattern :

Penrose was not the first to discover aperiodic tilings, but his is probably the most well-known. In its simplest form, it consists of 36- and 72-degree rhombi, with “matching rules” forcing the rhombi to line up against each other only in certain patterns. It can also be formed by tiles in the shape of “kites” and “darts” or even by deformed chickens (see the “perplexing poultry” entry below). Part of the interest in this tiling stems from the fact that it has a five-fold symmetry impossible in periodic crystals, and has been used to explain the structure of certain “quasicrystal” substances. Geometry Junkyard page

Which leads to...

d. Examples of Penrose pattern Tiles in Islamic Architecture :

Examples of Penrose Tiling Found in Ancient Islamic Tiles Sultan’s Lodge in the Ottoman Green Mosque in Bursa, Turkey (1424 AD) Self-Similarity Translation Pattern Sultan's Lodge in the Ottomon Green Mosque Archway from the Darb-i Imam shrine in Isfahan, Iran, which was built in 1453 C.E. The larger pentagons outlined in pale blue were constructed using a large-scale girih tile pattern, and the small white pentagons were constructed using a small-scale girih tile pattern. Cover of a Mamluk copy of the Qur’an that dates to the early 14th century. A decagon, surrounded by bowties and hexagons, forms the basis of this cover of a Mamluk copy of the Qur’an that dates to the early 14th century. The Penrose in Ancient Islamic Tiling, Ronnie Dietrick

e. Beautiful Images abound on Bing searches :

Computing Technology References Mentioned :

f. Mastodon network :

Mastodon is a microblogging platform akin to others you may have seen, such as Twitter, but instead of being centralised it is a federated network which operates in a similar way to email.

Like email, you choose your server and whether it’s GMail, Outlook, iCloud, wherever you sign up you know you’ll be able to email everyone you need to so long as you know their address. Mastodon quick start guide

g. GlitchSoc Project documentation :

glitch-soc is a friendly fork of the open-source social media software Mastodon, with the aim of providing additional features at the risk of potentially less stable software. You can browse our source code and contribute to the project on Github. GlitchSoc documentation

h. Boost :

“Boost” (as in “signal boost” or “rocket boost”) is a synonym of “reblog” or “retweet” in Mastodon. Mastodon quick start guide

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De um post achado nas redes sociais. Originalmente postado em Português, e outras traduções seguem.

From a post found on social networks. The original, in Portuguese. Other translated versions follow.

De un mensaje encontrada a las redes sociales... El original, en Portugués, y otras traducciones seguen.

A felicidade é um cházinho quente em noites de frio; é um banho gelado no meio de um calor danado é receber uma agradável e inesperada visita em um fim de tarde qualquer; é pão quentinho com manteiga derretendo; é café com o pão que escrevi na frase acima; é cair de quatro no chão e morrer de rir; é não morrer quando cair de quatro; é fazer o bolo predileto e lamber a vasilha no final; é cama limpa, travesseiro fofo e pijama cheiroso; é sensação de alívio após uma situação resolvida; é ligar pra bate papo com alguém querido; é olhar o horizonte; é ao olhar o horizonte, enxergar um mundo melhor. Felicidade é inventar e fazer valer a pena a invenção, porque a realidade é dura demais.

Or, in English :

“Happiness is a hot tea on cold nights; it's an icy bath in the middle of a darn heat; is to receive a pleasant and unexpected visit on any evening; it is warm bread with melting butter; is coffee with the bread I wrote in the sentence above; is to fall on all fours to the ground and die laughing; it is not to die when falling out on all fours; is to make your favourite cake and lick the canister at the end; is a clean bed, fluffy pillow and sweet smelling pajamas; is the sense of relief after a resolved situation; is to make a call to chat with someone dear; is to look at the horizon; it's when looking at the horizon, seeing a better world. Happiness is to invent and make worth the invention, because reality is too harsh.”

O, en Castelano :

La felicidad es un té caliente en las noches frías; es un baño helado en medio de un calor infernal; es recibir una visita agradable e inesperada en cualquier noche; es pan caliente con mantequilla derretida; es café con el pan que escribí en la frase anterior; es caer de cuatro al suelo y morirse riendo; es no morir al caer de cuatro así; es hacer el pastel favorito y lamer el bote al final; es una la cama limpia, la almohada esponjosa y el pijama fresco; es una sensación de alivio después de una situación se resuelta; es llamar para charlar con alguien querido; es mirar el horizonte; es cuando se mira el horizonte, ver un mundo mejor. La felicidad es inventar y hacer valer la pena la invención, porque la realidad es demasiado dura.

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Reaching out, Connecting.

A modem was the only available way to reach out and connect to other computer systems in the early 90's. They were not cheap, but the allure of finding out what was out there was enticing. You saved, until you could get one.

My first modem was an US Robotics Courier 2400 bps, internal model. Purchased it in a company liquidation sale, new in a sealed box.

I had to learn VERY quickly of all the intricacies of IRQs, Com port addresses and default assigned IRQs, Jumper settings to change those.

And — even when perfectly configured for a Com 2, IRQ 3 (I think it was, been a long time), it did not work well at all.

More troubleshooting, and it was the beginning of my learning of many aspects of PC technology. Fast forward 5 years and I was teaching a Computer Repairs class, all from what I learned on my own, struggling but persevering and getting things working in the end.

Loved it, specially when things were working well!

Turns out, the modem problem wasn't the modem, or any ports on the ISA expansion card this system had. It was the mouse, a Logitech bus mouse with its own ISA controller card, which had been set by jumpers to use IRQ 3, the one I wanted, default for Com2 serial ports.

Once I figured that, a Jumper change and it moved to IRQ 5; no more conflicts.

And my adventures in the BBS world started. Becoming an active member of FidoNet was the next phase.

Internet? that took about 4 years before I could get access, when joining a University. NO consumer internet existed at the time, it only became more common later, 1996-7 or so.

Joining the internet in the mid 90s:

My first access to the internet was via an academic server, running Irix on a Silicon Graphics machine. They were pretty, with some purple details and very modern design. We low grade users did not have physical access of course, but the Irix command line was quite enjoyable.

See the Joining the internet in the mid 90s post for the continuation of this story.

References and Notes :

a. US Robotics Courier Modems :

U.S. Robotics Corporation, often called USR, is a company that produces USRobotics computer modems and related products. Its initial marketing was aimed at bulletin board systems, where its high-speed HST protocol made FidoNet transfers much faster, and thus less costly. During the 1990s it became a major consumer brand with its Sportster line. The company had a reputation for high quality and support for the latest communications standards as they emerged. Wikipedia page Company page Gadgets we miss : Medium

b. Jumpers :

In electronics and particularly computing, a jumper is a short length of conductor used to close, open or bypass part of an electronic circuit. They are typically used to set up or configure printed circuit boards, such as the motherboards of computers. The process of setting a jumper is often called strapping. Wikipedia page Jumper Images at Wikipedia

c. Comm Ports – Serial Ports :

In computing, a serial port is a serial communication interface through which information transfers in or out sequentially one bit at a time.[1] This is in contrast to a parallel port which communicates multiple bits simultaneously in parallel. Throughout most of the history of personal computers, data was transferred through serial ports to devices such as modems, terminals, and various peripherals.

While such interfaces as Ethernet, FireWire, and USB all send data as a serial stream, the term serial port usually identifies hardware compliant to the RS-232 standard or similar and intended to interface with a modem or with a similar communication device.

Wikipedia page

d. IRQs – Interrupt Request :

In digital computers, an interrupt is an input signal to the processor indicating an event that needs immediate attention. An interrupt signal alerts the processor and serves as a request for the processor to interrupt the currently executing code, so that the event can be processed in a timely manner. If the request is accepted, the processor responds by suspending its current activities, saving its state, and executing a function called an interrupt handler (or an interrupt service routine, ISR) to deal with the event. This interruption is temporary, and, unless the interrupt indicates a fatal error, the processor resumes normal activities after the interrupt handler finishes.[1]

Interrupts are commonly used by hardware devices to indicate electronic or physical state changes that require attention. Interrupts are also commonly used to implement computer multitasking, especially in real-time computing. Systems that use interrupts in these ways are said to be interrupt-driven.[2]

Wikipedia page

e. ISA expansion bus :

Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) is the 16-bit internal bus of IBM PC/AT and similar computers based on the Intel 80286 and its immediate successors during the 1980s. The bus was (largely) backward compatible with the 8-bit bus of the 8088-based IBM PC, including the IBM PC/XT as well as IBM PC compatibles.

Originally referred to as the PC/AT-bus, it was also termed I/O Channel by IBM. The ISA term was coined as a retronym by competing PC-clone manufacturers in the late 1980s or early 1990s as a reaction to IBM attempts to replace the AT-bus with its new and incompatible Micro Channel architecture.

Wikipedia page

f. Bus mouse and adapter card :

In computer architecture, a bus[1] (a contraction of the Latin omnibus) is a communication system that transfers data between components inside a computer, or between computers. This expression covers all related hardware components (wire, optical fiber, etc.) and software, including communication protocols.[2]

Early computer buses were parallel electrical wires with multiple hardware connections, but the term is now used for any physical arrangement that provides the same logical function as a parallel electrical bus. Modern computer buses can use both parallel and bit serial connections, and can be wired in either a multidrop (electrical parallel) or daisy chain topology, or connected by switched hubs, as in the case of USB. Wikipedia page

e. Dial-Up Networking :

Dial-up Internet access is a form of Internet access that uses the facilities of the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to establish a connection to an Internet service provider (ISP) by dialing a telephone number on a conventional telephone line. Dial-up connections use modems to decode audio signals into data to send to a router or computer, and to encode signals from the latter two devices to send to another modem. Wikipedia page Dial up modem sounds Dial up video (26 secs)

f. BBS systems :

A Bulletin Board System or BBS (once called Computer Bulletin Board Service, CBBS[1]) is a computer server running software that allows users to connect to the system using a terminal program. Once logged in, the user can perform functions such as uploading and downloading software and data, reading news and bulletins, and exchanging messages with other users through public message boards and sometimes via direct chatting. In the early 1980s, message networks such as FidoNet sprung up to provide services such as NetMail, which is similar to email. Wikipedia page

g. FidoNet computer network :

FidoNet is a worldwide computer network that is used for communication between bulletin board systems (BBSes). It uses a store-and-forward system to exchange private (email) and public (forum) messages between the BBSes in the network, as well as other files and protocols in some cases.

The FidoNet system was based on a number of small interacting programs. Only one of these interacted with the BBS system directly and was the only portion that had to be ported to support other BBS software. This greatly eased porting, and FidoNet was one of the few networks that was widely supported by almost all BBS software, as well as a number of non-BBS online services. Wikipedia page

#modem #DialUp #networking #IRQ #Retro #Computing #hobby #PCtech

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Before consumer internet service was available, you needed an academic or business account.

Story Time. Joining the Internet in the mid 90's.

#introductions [words in Italicized text have Definitions later in page]

My first access to the internet was via an academic server, running Irix on a Silicon Graphics machine. They were pretty, with some purple details and very modern design. We low grade users did not have physical access of course, but the Irix command line was quite enjoyable, I learned all the basic operations of the Internet (that was pre-Web days) via command line utilities.

Pine for email. Gopher was cutting edge stuff. FTP to download text and binaries, program files from remote servers. Telnet , to access another Unix system in Colorado were I had a free shell account – the very first one I ever had.

At first, I would Dial Up into the modem pool from home, connect via ppp, login with my friend's credentials (he was already a uni student, I became one there later too).

(part 1 of 2) #storytime #vintage #retrocomputing #unix

Screenshot of the Nyx About this Server page

And How To get a Shell account.

On my first or second day there, sharing his account, I found myself this neat system in Colorado. It was a home for me for a long time, and it is still running.

Loved Nyx! We accessed it remotely at, via Telnet or SSH, using a secure shell protocol client programs.

They are STILL there now, the Join Nyx page STILL offer free accounts, command line Unix Shell access only.

Originally posted as Toots in a Mastodon instance. I wanted to create a Blog post about this, the story is just too nice to be lost.

Screenshot of the Nyx How to Join Server page. (2 of 2)

References and Notes :

a. Irix :

IRIX is a discontinued operating system developed by Silicon Graphics to run on the company's proprietary MIPS workstations and servers. It is a variety of UNIX System V with BSD extensions. Wikipedia page Company page

b. Silicon Graphics :

Silicon Graphics, Inc. was an American high-performance computing manufacturer, producing computer hardware and software. Founded in Mountain View, California in November 1981 by Jim Clark, its initial market was 3D graphics computer workstations, but its products, strategies and market positions developed significantly over time. Wikipedia page Company page

c. Pine (email) :

Pine is a freeware, text-based email client which was developed at the University of Washington. The first version was written in 1989, and announced to the public in March 1992. Source code was available for only the Unix version under a license written by the University of Washington. Wikipedia page

d. Gopher :

The Gopher protocol is a communications protocol designed for distributing, searching, and retrieving documents in Internet Protocol networks. The design of the Gopher protocol and user interface is menu-driven, and presented an alternative to the World Wide Web in its early stages, but ultimately fell into disfavor, yielding to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. The Gopher ecosystem is often regarded as the effective predecessor of the World Wide Web. Wikipedia page

e. FTP :

The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a standard network protocol used for the transfer of computer files between a client and server on a computer network. FTP is built on a client-server model architecture using separate control and data connections between the client and the server. Wikipedia page

f. Telnet :

Telnet is an application protocol used on the Internet or local area network to provide a bidirectional interactive text-oriented communication facility using a virtual terminal connection. User data is interspersed in-band with Telnet control information in an 8-bit byte oriented data connection over the Transmission Control Protocol. Wikipedia page

g. Unix :

Unix is a family of multitasking, multiuser computer operating systems that derive from the original AT&T Unix, development starting in the 1970s at the Bell Labs research center by Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and others. Wikipedia page Company page

h. Dial Up :

Dial-up Internet access is a form of Internet access that uses the facilities of the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to establish a connection to an Internet service provider (ISP) by dialing a telephone number on a conventional telephone line. Dial-up connections use modems to decode audio signals into data to send to a router or computer, and to encode signals from the latter two devices to send to another modem. Wikipedia page Dial up modem sounds Dial up video (26 secs)

i. ppp :

In computer networking, Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) is a data link layer (layer 2) communications protocol between two routers directly without any host or any other networking in between. It can provide connection authentication, transmission encryption,[1] and compression.

PPP is used over many types of physical networks including serial cable, phone line, trunk line, cellular telephone, specialized radio links, and fiber optic links such as SONET. Internet service providers (ISPs) have used PPP for customer dial-up access to the Internet, since IP packets cannot be transmitted over a modem line on their own, without some data link protocol that can identify where the transmitted frame starts and where it ends. Wikipedia page

h. Nyx public access Unix system :

Nyx is a public access Unix system that brings you as much access to the resources of Unix and the Internet as we can allow. It is a public computing equivalent to public TV. Nyx is a free, public system that provides access to the Internet for users who otherwise cannot reach it. Nyx is run by a non-profit, tax exempt corporation called “Nyx Net.” About Nyx Join Nyx

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