Nipper Gives a Listen to My Win11 Chromebook!

Happy (thrilled? relieved?) to announce that the HP x360 Chromebook running Windows 11 now has speaker drivers. With this step, the transition to Win11 on a newish Chromebook is complete!

(In related news, I’ve now officially canceled my MS 365 subscription, which seems contradictory. But it’s all part of the masterplan. Nyahaha!)

I spent $10 buying the audio drivers (which is paltry, considering the amount of programming work that went into them, and the fact that the rest of the process is free; heck, on the previous Chromebook it was completely free). And then spent 5 days wandering the labyrinth of the process for installing it — only because it was as unintuitive as a pre-GUI 1980s-style experience:

  1. Buy the driver by putting money in your Patreon account, which is already sort of backward to Patreon usage.
  2. Then subscribe to the programmer’s Patreon project with that balance.
  3. Follow a link back to the programmer’s Website to download the installation program. (Be sure to get the correct 1 of 3!)Then unsubscribe from the Patreon. (Hang on. I forgot to do that! Back in a sec.)
  4. Extract the zipped folder. Go into its GUI folder. Run the GenLicense program, which involves:
    • Click a button to generate an unsigned license binary file;
    • Click a button to open the online portal to upload the unsigned file;
    • Click to have them to generate a new, signed binary; download it;
    • Run the GUI again to select the signed license binary file;
    • Run the now signed driver installer.
  5. Next up, open Windows Device Manager to see if the driver took effect. Often with any new driver, you have to restart the PC for it to happen. Sometimes in the old days, I’ve even had to delete a device from the Device Manager, then restart to force the machine to rerecognize it and look for a driver. In this case, I just had to use the Device Manager’s option to browse to a new driver so the PC could recognize it.

Voila!

Sounds pretty easy, right? Not so fast. Complicate it with 5 days of sending emails with screenshots of error messages along the way, and 24+ hours each time waiting to receive a cryptic one-sentence response.

Tonight, while taking screenshots to demonstrate that I had, indeed, bought the license, I came across the Read Me file again, scoured it for clues, launched the license GUI again, and thought, “Wait, can they really mean to generate an unsigned license, upload it to verify, download the signed binary, and relaunch the GUI to recognize it? What the hell, let’s give it a try.”

Maybe it would’ve made perfect sense to you. To me it was like putting a locked box of cake mix into the oven and photographing it; then taking the photograph to the store for them to unlock the cake box; before going home again to actually mix, stir, and bake the cake.

Pretty tasty cake, though! And this is a pretty sweet little touchscreen, foldback, Windows 11 laptop.

I got nothing for a title

Our youngest daughter, Karalyn, the Seattleite with a career in video, was taken by ambulance to the ER this morning, after a weeklong bout with COVID. The trouble was revealed to be bloodclots in her lungs and left leg. She’s now recovering from emergency surgery, apparently well. But Jenny’s crying because this is the first surgery Karly has gone through without her mom there.

Change of topic: Since childhood, I’ve looked past every bully to the toadies empowering him. Take away those chickenshits, and the bully deflates, unwilling to fight you alone.

Confluence of topics: As a father I’m pissed, because COVID would be less of a problem if not for the ignorant, asshole antivaxxers. Especially the MAGA toadies standing behind Donald Trump. A bully whose political power has cowed the Republican party for a dozen years. I hate a bully, but I utterly loathe their toadies.

(Yeah, this just got political. But we’re in an earthquake of political shakeups this decade, and it’s stupid to pretend we’re not.)

Every bully and mob of toadies also has a crowd of onlookers. People either too afraid to get involved or too entertained. In this case the mass of genuine conservatives who have either caved to the mob for the sake of expediency or back it for financial gain.

An aside: Admittedly, I’ve always had philosophical differences with the Republican party. I don’t think the human race has achieved this level of civilization through a “That’s mine, hands off” attitude. Competition is fine for sports, but I believe that at heart we’re a collaborative species that excels while working together over Nature’s challenges. That’s philosophy. I’ve never despised anyone for a different point of view there.

Well, except for Conservative Evangelical Christians. The tribe from which I come. The “Why does my tax money have to go to food stamps for deadbeats?” gang. The ones who never really noticed that Jesus didn’t tell the rich man, “Donate all your money to a church or a museum,” he said “Give all your money to the poor.” The Christians who sort of gloss over the parable about everyone getting an equal wage. The Christians who oppose collective social support, but never really realized that we all share the same roads.

Again, those social issues are merely philosophical differences I have with conservatives. But don’t tell me you’re Christian and also espouse them.

Back on topic: The whole Republican party has twice now had an opportunity to choose differently in their primaries. And again, they’ve overwhelmingly chosen the bully, because … see my point about toadies and bystanders, above.

I used to admire the caution and discipline of conservatism. But their repeated choice of Donald Trump has left me with little respect for the Republican party. We’ve now walked well past philosophy into ethics, with life and death more pointedly on the line than ever.

So let me pointed to Trump supporters. You’ve chosen not just a team with a different point of view, you’ve joined the ranks of my enemy. (And if you’re in those ranks as a Christian, it’s your inatentiveness to your own instruction manual that pushes me and others toward atheism.)

If this post offends, measure that against a father’s offense at how Trumpism has contributed to his youngest daughter’s health hazard. You’ll understand how little I care about a few bruised egos.

To everyone else: Vote. And speak up in solidarity. The only way to break up a gang of toadies is to push your way through the bystanders and stand behind the bully’s victims.

Quod scripsi, scripsi

Steam Deck Playstation

Linux has sort of scared me. Sure, I come from a pre-desktop generation, typing things like C:\>D\lester\games\nevadasmith.exe on a black screen to launch a program. But Apple and Windows soon spoiled me with desktops and mice, with clickable icons and framed program screens with mouseover menus. I didn’t want to return to command line boxes if I could at all avoid it, and for Linux I feared it inevitable.

Then my Barcelonan buddy Abe bought a Steam Deck and brought it to Gary Con as his “laptop.” Packed it with a slim Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Airport Security rules didn’t even make him turn on a handheld gaming device.

As a bonus, SteamOS runs atop a Debian-based Linux desktop. A less-than-scary desktop to get my feet wet. Now toss in a couple of out-of-date Chromebooks that I can afford to experiment on, and after some research, installs, and uninstalls, I settled on the super lightweight Bodhi Linux for the older one, and eventually on OpenSUSE for the newer one. Mainly both were choices for space, but user-friendly installation played a big part. (Arch was daunting to this relative newbie.)

Chromebooks aren’t actually designed for anything but ChromeOS, so there’s a little bit of under-the-hood work to replace their BIOS with something new. It’s not uncommon to have to troubleshoot audio; and some of the upper row of Chromebook keys (volume, brightness, refresh, etc.) don’t generally work immediately post-install. But there are so many friendly YouTube videos and message boards to walk you through, and communities devoted to different Linux devs and forks. It didn’t take much searching to find a script to remap the keyboard, nor to fix the sound on the newer machine (the old one had no sound problem at all).

That’s what I love most about open-source and community built stuff. And it’s what brings me to this particular post.

You already know that, using community info, I installed Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines with the incredible, fan-made, Wargames app on my Steam Deck. Supposedly couldn’t be done; I’m here to say it plays wonderfully.

And then I came across EmuDeck, a program for running PS2 games and a couple-three dozen other systems on a variety of desktop OSs (even Windows, if you must). But EmuDeck has an especially super strong Steam Deck community!

The video in this post is my Steam Deck running PS2 Primal, one of my favorite games of all time.

Setup is pretty easy. But prepping a game’s ROM is time-consuming—like, hours per game to create an ISO from the game disk, and then compress it to something smaller, like CHD format. Then comes the painfully slow transfer of files that size from the PC where you prepped them to the Steam Deck itself. But while they’re building, play Primal or some other favored PS2 game. And while they’re transferring, get some sleep.

All of the above gives me the added pleasure of moving steadily farther from the Windows and Apple corrals, where office suites and graphic programs grow increasingly intrusive and require upgrading hardware, dumping perfectly good old machines.

Now it’s time to learn the process for porting PS3 games to Steam Deck. That’s another example of the couple-three dozen EmuDeck can handle.

Bypassing Bloat

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

I am sooo sick of Web bloat. 🙁 Google’s search results now with an AI summation of the topic, for example, then scroll past a full screen of sponsored entries, before finally reaching any actual search results. I’m less annoyed by Facebook’s endless ads, given they’re easily identified and scrolled past, but still, unpleasant.

Yes, dot com means “commerce,” and the commercial Web is what made the Internet public, but yeesh. It’s like more billboards than scenery nowadays.

This recent dive into Linux has revealed some OS-agnostic options to reduce it. The Chromium Project browser is less intrusive (and leaner software than Chrome, Edge, or FireFox), and Startpage.com is a much, much less troublesome search engine.

And software bloat and adware:

Unable to bear Adobe PDF Reader‘s unwelcome influx of offers to add features, or to find its screen capture tool I used for printing shipping labels, I’ve switched to SumatraPDF on Windows and Okular on Linux.

Similarly, I wanted a word proccessor and a spreadsheet reader that didn’t mean installing an entire office suite (I’m looking at you, Microsoft, OpenOffice, and LibreOffice). AbiWord and Gnumeric fill those needs nicely. The first has a Word-like menu bar; the second maintains the F9 function I needed to repopulate Cut Up Solo GM-less oracles.

Some of these may suit your needs as well!