Showing posts from June, 2017

ExpressVPN subscription server issues

On Thursday 29 June, the ExpressVPN desktop application on my MacBook Air indicated that my subscription had expired.

However, since my service is still very much active, and I was connected to an ExpressVPN Japan server on my Moto G4 Plus, I performed troubleshooting steps such as updating the ExpressVPN app and re-entering my Activation Code.

The steps failed and I sent an e-mail to the their support staff.

Note: Curiously enough, ExpressVPN closed out their chat support, arguably due to the issue.

As it turned out, based on ExpressVPN's e-mail which I received a few hours later, the subscription authentication issue was widespread and the staff advised logging out of any ExpressVPN app and then activating the service using the provided code (which I had already attempted).

Although the e-mail's suggestion failed, access using the macOS version of the ExpressVPN app was restored before the day was over. The Android app for ExpressVPN was historically problematic at times, but…

Replacing the Acer ES 11 hard drive

The Acer Aspire ES 11 (ES1-132-C686) is an entry-level laptop and depending on the market, comes with a 500 GB WD Blue SATA hard drive. Although Acer doesn’t include instructions for replacing the hard drive, the steps for replacing the mechanical hard drive is similar to most models in the market.

This article uses a CR-V 1.5 head screwdriver, an Acer ES-132-C685, and a Kingspec 120 GB SSD.

Note: As always, be careful when working with internal components and exposing them to static electricity. In addition, take note of which screws are for which part of the laptop. The Acer ES 11 uses 2 different types of screws for the door and hard drive components.

To replace the hard drive:

1. Lay the laptop flat on a desk and remove the six screws. Note that one of the screws is hidden by a sticker.

Note:Acer uses a cheap type of screws for the panel door and the hard drive support bracket and holder. Be gentle when removing or replacing the screws as they wear out quickly, preventing you from u…

Setting up an Intuos Draw with an external display on Fedora 25 Workstation

Setting up Fedora 25 Workstation to work with an external display is dependent on the video card / adapter of your laptop or PC. When you connect a Wacom device to Fedora 25, additional steps are required for mapping the tablet active area with the extended or mirrored screen.

This article uses an Acer ES 11 running Fedora 25 Workstation, an Intuos Draw, and an AOC 22" LED TV.

For details on using the Intuos Draw, refer to Unsolicited Review: Intuos Draw /CTL-490DB.For details on Fedora 25 on the Acer ES 11, refer to Notes on Fedora 25 Gnome on the Acer Aspire ES 11.
To set up Intuos Draw with an external display in Fedora 25 Workstation:

1. Connect one end of the HDMI cable to the Fedora PC and the other end to the HDMI port on the display.

2. Power on the display, and use the remote control or on-screen display to switch to the HDMI connection.

3. In Gnome Displays, configure settings to extend or mirror the Primary display. Click Arrange Combined Displays to adjust the position…

Unsolicited Question: Which devices or accessories you own do you least use?

As with most users and IT professionals that regularly purchase devices and accessories, I own some products that are left neglected due to another device, a change in usage habits, or just product preference. 

1. Wacom Bamboo Stylus Solo (July, 2015)

For a quck review on the Bamboo Stylus Solo, refer to
Quick Review: Bamboo Stylus Solo (Android 4.2, Windows Phone 8.1, iOS8 and Android 5.1)

Wacom releases solid writing and drawing accessories, and the Bamboo Stylus Solo held much promise when I first purchased it in July, 2015. Unfortunately, apart from using it briefly with the iPad 2 for highlighting PDFs and ebooks for a few weeks, I've stopped using it altogether and never used it for drawing. Worst, I had actually thought I lost it for awhile but recently discovered it buried in my Macbook Air's laptop bag.

Note: To be fair, I've started using my 2011 Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch and Intuos Draw with my Surface Pro 4 and Macbook Air for illustrations and drawings. More…

Quick Fix: Fedora 25 Workstation and Intuos Draw

Fedora 25 Workstation's default desktop environment, Gnome 3, is launched automatically with the Wayland protocol for the compositor and display client, not X, in a stock installation of Fedora. Unfortunately, this may affect driver support for products such as the Wacom Intuos Draw.

Symptoms indicating limited support for the Intuos Draw include two mouse pointers, the absence of any tablet settings in the Wacom Settings utility, and no response from Wacom buttons on desktop applications such as Inkscape and myPaint.

For additional details, refer to the post Unsolicited Review: Intuos Draw / CTL-490DB (Blue) Part 2.

If you don't have any urgent requirements regarding running Wayland on Fedora 25, you can switch to Gnome with X when logging into GDM.

To log in to Gnome with the X display server:

1. On boot, select the user from the list.

2. Click the Settings icon, and then select Gnome on Xorg.

3. Enter the user password, and then click Sign In.

Once you connect the Intuos D…

Debian 8 Jessie to Debian 9 Stretch upgrade notes Part 3

Continued from Debian 8 Jessie to Debian 9 Stretch upgrade notes Part 2

7. Surprisingly, stock Stretch with Gnome includes a complete set of games on top of those packaged with gnome-games: Chess, Five or More, Four-in-a-Row, AisleRiot Solitaire, Lights Off, Nibbles, Mines, XBoard, among many others.  Uninstalling the gnome-games package will still leave the system with 7 games.

8. Three GUI methods for managing software packages are available: Packages, Software (the "store" frontend), and the classic Synaptic Package Manager.

9. As promised, Debian ships with Mozilla Firefox, rather than Ice Weasel.

Debian 9 Stretch for Linux, Windows, macOS, and FreeBSD users

Although Ubuntu is well-supported in most IT laboratories and schools, and IT professionals gain much from running Fedora due to its relationship with Red Hat, Debian is an excellent choice for new and experienced users. It has the purity of early Linux distributions and the friendliness of mainstream Linux systems, wi…

Debian 8 Jessie to Debian 9 Stretch upgrade notes Part 2

Continued from Debian 8 Jessie to Debian 9 Stretch upgrade notes Part 1

Here are a few additional notes on Debian 9 Stretch Gnome 3 after upgrading from Jessie:

1. Starting from a stock install of Debian 9 Jessie, upgrading to Stretch resulted in storage consumption that is roughly 8% to 10% larger at 6-7.5 GB.

2. When searching and installing software, apt-get now triggers an invalid command error. Usage of apt is now standard.

3. A stock Stretch Gnome 3 upgrade from Jessie includes Gnome Books, Gnome Photos, Gnome Music, Sound Recorder, and Mutt for e-mail.

Note: Rhythmbox and Evolution are still included, although Shotwell, which is commonly shipped with Gnome, has been dropped. Gnome Books is still as unusable as ever, and failed to display or list PDF, .txt, and .mobi files from and

4. A well-designed GUI for Indexing Preferences is available from the list of applications and complements the standalone GUI Desktop Search utility. You can, of course, stil…

Debian 8 Jessie to Debian 9 Stretch upgrade notes Part 1

This article is a quick look at the Debian 8 Jessie to Debian 9 Stretch upgrade process with additional notes and observations on a stock Debian install.

Note: This article was tested on a non-production system running a basic install of Debian 8 Jessie without third-party packages. The steps are an abridged version of the well-written upgrade process at the Debian site. For additional details about upgrading from Jessie, read the release notes for Stretch.

To upgrade from Debian 8 Jessie to Debian 9 Stretch:

1. Verify if the repository list is already using either stable or stretch sources.

# cat /etc/apt/sources.list 

In the following screenshot, Jessie sources were disabled with # and stable sources were added manually using a text editor.

2. Refresh the repository list.

# apt-get update

Note: If needed, run apt-get clean and/or apt-get autoremove to remove all previously downloaded package files and packages that are no longer used to reclaim hard drive space.

3. Perform a base system…

Using AppImage for Krita and Flatpak for MyPaint on Fedora 25 Workstation Part 2

Continued from Using AppImage for Krita and Flatpak for MyPaint on Fedora 25 Workstation Part 1

Krita was one of the first projects to adopt AppImages and they provide the full version of Krita via an 81.5 MB AppImage file. Fedora 25 supports AppImages without further configuration. After changing permissions, you can run the AppImage directly from any directory on your system.

To run Krita using the AppImage:

1. Download the Krita AppImage to a folder on your Fedora system where you want to run the application from.

2. In Terminal, change user permissions by running the command chmod +x <AppImage filename>.

3. To launch Krita, navigate to the directory of the AppImage and run the command ./<AppImage filename>.

Note: Debian 8 Jessie and Debian 9 Jessie both run AppImage files without having to install any additional software packages. Note, however, that Krita 3.1.1 is available from Debian's default repositories.

For someone who maintains Debian-based, Red Hat-based, an…

Using AppImage for Krita and Flatpak for MyPaint on Fedora 25 Workstation Part 1

Krita and MyPaint are two worthy digital painting desktop applications for Linux. If you're running Fedora 25 Workstation, the latest version of Krita is available on the default repositories, while a version of MyPaint is available via RPM Fusion. You also have the option of running Krita via AppImage, while MyPaint's updated release can be installed via a Flatpak command.'s download page provides a Flatpak reference script for automating the install process. However, although the ref file launched Software Manager on my Fedora 25 machine, installation would not initiate despite having an available Install button. Instead, the flatpak command had to be run manually.

To install myPaint using Flatpak:

1. Run the following command from the Terminal.

flatpak install --from

 2. MyPaint is added to your list of Applications and can be launched from its shortcut.

Note: For users r…

Notes on the macOS Sierra reinstall process Part 2

Continued from Notes on macOS Sierra reinstall process Part 1
Duration and external applications
If the available broadband network access is speedy, macOS Sierra's clean install process takes less than an hour. This doesn't include installation of third-party applications and macOS desktop apps such as Pages or iBooks Author, which are installed via the App Store. With similar hardware (Core i5, 4GB RAM and an SSD), Linux distribution installation duration using LiveDVD/LiveUSBs for Ubuntu, Debian, openSUSE, and Fedora is slightly faster or the same. A base installation of FreeBSD 11 without a desktop environment takes a lot less time, though depending on what you will use it for, FreeBSD's post-installation steps may add a considerable amount of time.
Note: By default macOS has an OS image shipped in a partition in the hard drive, a practice similar to Windows preinstalled by OEMs like Dell and Acer. Unlike Windows, however, macOS has the advantage of including updates up…

Notes on the macOS Sierra reinstall process Part 1

Skilled Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, and macOS users choose to perform a clean install of their system only when they really need to, or if they prefer to have a clean system to work with. As with many tasks involving operating systems, your user habits, the amount of software you use and the activities you perform directly affect how much software you have to reinstall. Incredibly ignorant and uneducated users tend to complain about the number of software they have to reinstall in Windows, but the truth is, if you were only running Office and Skype, your hardware components (processor, hdd type, RAM) affect your reinstall time more than the software installation process itself. If you run lots of freeware, need to set up a development environment, or install PC games, there's the illusion of a lengthy process. MacOS arguably has a smaller library of software for mainstream users, enforcing the illusion that the initial install process is "shorter".

MacOS 10.x has long had an…

Tap and drag with trackpad and FN keys in macOS Sierra (10.12.5)

Tap and drag with trackpad If you’re accustomed to tapping and then moving Windows in Linux distributions or Windows, you can enable tap and drag on a macOS system from System Preferences > Accessibility.

1. In System Preferences, click Accessibility > Mouse & Trackpad > Trackpad Options.

2. Select Enable dragging. If needed, select with drag lock or three finger drag from the option list.

3. Click OK.

FN key option On the MacBook Air, the FN keys follow hardware functions such as Brightness up, Brightness down, and volume controls by default. If you prefer the FN keys to perform desktop application-defined FN functions, change the keyboard settings.
1. In System Preferences, tap Keyboard.
2. Select the Use F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys option.

Unsolicited Review: Intuos Draw / CTL-490DB (Blue) Part 3

Continued from Unsolicited Review: Intuos Draw CTL-490DB (Blue) Part 2

Design and dimensions - Intuos Draw (2016) vs Bamboo Pen and Touch (2011)
Five years is a long time in the electronics industry and Wacom has made great leaps in their tech. The Intuos Draw is an entry-level pen tablet that has a supported resolution of 2540, though it has the same pressure sensitivity of 1024 as my aged Bamboo Pen and Touch. I'm perfectly happy with the discontinued Pen and Touch when I'm working in CorelDraw X8, and with the Intuos Draw's 133 pps reading speed, I'm pretty sure I'll be even happier with the Intuos Draw.

The Intuos Draw has an active area of 6.0 x 3.7 inches, no multi-touch support, and has only one size (small) compared to other models. In practice, the Intuos Draw more than matches the Bamboo Pen and Touch in terms of comfort, even for someone who isn't a digital artist or professional designer. The Intuos Draw has a smaller form factor due to the redesign…

Unsolicited Review: Intuos Draw / CTL-490DB (Blue) Part 2

Continued from Unsolicited Review: Intuos Draw CTL-490DB (Blue) Part 1

Driver installation for macOS and Windows
Although Wacom provides a CD for installing the drivers, the start up guide actually recommend connecting to the Internet and downloading the updated drivers. One of the advantages of companies with a focused product range is that they can provide unified software updates regularly, and the Japan-based Wacom is pretty conscientious about releasing updated drivers for both Windows and macOS users.

The provided macOS and Windows driver and desktop utility binaries install without issues. Both my Windows 10 and macOS machines have the legacy Wacom drivers for my 2011 Bamboo Pen and Touch and no conflicts occurred after installation of the newer driver and utilities for the Intuos Draw.

Note: If you have an older Wacom tablet like the Bamboo, you can download the driver from the Driver for Previous Generation Products section on the Wacom drivers page. I had recently installed t…