Two New Toys in the Kitchen

Aiyumi -

In my post about ramen, I had talked about some of the obstacles I face in the kitchen, and that cooking isn't my cup of tea. But as evidenced by that post itself, sometimes crazy things happen when I decide to make something different...

My biggest problem is still my insecurity when dealing with the stove. But then, it occurred to me that I had no problem operating the coffee maker and the rice cooker, two electric appliances. So, I decided to research about other kinds of electric pans to see if they could be something for me.

At the end of October, I began looking into electric pans, features, advantages (easy control of cooking times, better preservation of food nutrients, safety mechanisms to avoid accidents, the convenience I'm used to from the rice cooker...), disadvantages (the only disadvantage I found is that using these machines will obviously have an impact on the electricity bills, but I hope we can balance their use so that the impact isn't too bad). I wrote a more detailed post about my findings on Steemit. You may read it here.

In November, I managed to buy an air fryer and an electric pressure cooker on Black Friday, and here we are in December! I'm still learning how to use my two new toys, still relying on sighted help until I get the hang of it, but am confident that soon I'll be able to operate the appliances with no problem.

My first experiments didn't come out perfect, but thankfully all of them were edible (and not just once :P )! So, I believe it's a good start!

I wrote about my mistakes and successes so far (mostly mistakes :P ) as well as other considerations about the pans, and you may read about them in this other post on Steemit. Interestingly, "I'll get this right next time!" became a recurring sentence in my head. And for someone that's not much into cooking, being this motivated to persist and improve can only be a good thing, no matter how I look at it!

Then, to many "next times," and nice amounts of progress next year! May 2019 be a year when many tasty foods come out of my electric pans! XD

PS: the electricity bill for most of November + beginning of December has arrived. It's the one with the results of all my uses of the two pans so far (the four experiments described in the second link's post). Everything normal for now. At least this time, the impact isn't even noticeable, but since I've used the pans just a few times so far, it's still early to celebrate. I'll continue using them carefully and monitoring the bills.

Small Status Update and a Post About Accessibility of Clickable HTML Elements

Aiyumi -

Just passing by to show I'm still around :P . It's been a few months since I last posted anything here, but I still update my fan fiction every month. To my surprise, I've also been managing to be active on Steemit, posting at least once a week (twice if we consider I usually publish the same post both in Portuguese and in English). Incidentally, my last Steemit post was about the accessibility problems that happen a lot with clickable HTML objects, which may be of interest to anyone visiting my blog to read about accessibility. Below is the link to the post:

You can find other posts on my Steemit blog.

Keyboards and Demo Songs

Aiyumi -

So far, I have owned three musical keyboards:

  • A basic Casio which I don't remember the model anymore.
  • A Fenix TG-8880D (Brazilian brand). It looked like a piano from outside, but its sounds and features weren't that impressive...
  • And the Yamaha Motif XF, which is a beast (in a good way :P ).

The former two aren't here anymore, but the XF has been with me for seven years (I've already posted music arrangements using it here on the blog quite a few times). It has sounds that I like a lot, and many features I still haven't been able to master!

From the time I owned my first keyboard, I've always liked to listen to the demo songs. A few days ago, I wrote a post talking a bit about my keyboards and my appreciation for demo songs, also with some links for listening to demos of the Fenix keyboard, as well as a link to a Youtube channel I found with demos of a lot of other keyboards. I published the post on Steemit, and you can check it out on the link below:

Keyboards and My "Addiction" to Demo Songs

Watch the Persona 5 Anime Online and for Free

Aiyumi -

The game Persona 5 which I've been talking about so much got an anime adaptation! It's called "Persona 5 the Animation" and began airing in Japan on April 7th, 2018. And just like what happened to the Day Breakers special episode, the streaming site Crunchyroll is simulcasting (streaming the episodes right after they air in Japan), one episode each week, and even with English and Portuguese subtitles! I find it incredible that it's possible to watch an anime that just aired in Japan, and that it has Portuguese subtitles no less, especially considering how Brazil tends to be behind when getting releases of anything (not limited to anime), when it gets the releases at all...

The first P5 episode came out for free right on the day it aired in Japan. As for the second one, which aired today (the 14th), was released only for premium users for now, and the episode page says it'll be available for free on the 21st. Thus, we can conclude that the normal rule (free users must wait one week to get access to the episodes) is still valid.

Here's the link for watching the anime. There's no need to even register at the site. Just open each episode's page and watch... although, if you're watching the anime for free, be prepared to see a lot of ads and commercials. I'm not complaining, though. I'm just glad I can watch it at all, for free, and legally.

How Persona 5 Sparked My Interest in the World of Coffee

Aiyumi -

Let Me Explain!

It's not the first time that a game from the Persona series makes me go out of my way to learn something new. The game Persona 3 even made me try to prepare ramen even though cooking isn't my thing. Now, it's Persona 5's turn.

In Persona 5, while acting just like a normal student during the day and fighting injustice and corrupt people at night, the young protagonist is forced to live in the attic in a coffee shop, and one of the activities to get items for missions is learning to prepare a good cup of coffee. But it isn't just any coffee!

Sometimes, when the protagonist prepares coffee, the cafe owner comes and tastes the result, then says something like, "From this taste, you used beans 'XYZ,' didn't you? Let me explain!" and proceeds to release some trivia about the given coffee beans. In my case, it got to a point where he stopped coming to taste the coffee and give trivia, and I thought it wouldn't happen anymore. Also, he always said the coffee was bland, and I thought this was his only possible response. So, I thought, "If there's no more trivia and the coffee will be bland forever anyway, then why should I waste my time? The ingame days are limited, and there are more important things to do," and gave up.

However, later I found out I was totally mistaken, both about the trivia and the responses. I should've kept insisting. Apparently, I hadn't seen even the half of it! The user Chapsthedude on Reddit compiled all (or if not all, almost) coffee trivia, and there are even two Brazilian coffees, the Brazilian 2/18 (according to the game, it's also known as Santos, where 2 refers to the quality and 18 is the bean size) and the Brazilian Bourbon. I thought this was very cool!

A Few Discoveries

I've always enjoyed coffee, but had never gone beyond the common supermarket coffees or espressos from snack bars once in a while. Before Persona 5, I had no idea how the coffee world could be so vast. The game got me curious, and I decided to do some reading-up. Then, I learned that:

  • I'm not sure if it's the same in English, but here in Brazil we classify coffee in three "levels:" traditional coffee - the mostly dark and bitter coffee of the common supermarket-variety -, superior coffee - has slightly better beans - and the specialty or gourmet coffee - contains the best of the best beans produced, and obviously are the most expensive (these are the most exported ones).
  • There are two economically relevant coffee species: arabica coffee and robusta coffee. Arabica represents 3/4 of the coffee production worldwide, has a wide variety of beans and flavors, and less caffeine. As it's more delicate and difficult to grow and process, it's more expensive. Gourmet coffee is usually 100% Arabica. Robusta coffee is produced in less quantity but is cheaper, and is the one the general population usually consumes. It's said that robusta can produce drinks of quality as good as arabica with proper care in cultivation and processing, but this doesn't happen much yet, and robusta coffee usually ends up relegated to cheap and bitter supermarket coffee.
  • There are beans and beans with different characteristics and flavors (some are sweeter, others more citric), different levels of roast (light, medium, dark), different brewing methods (filter, French press, espresso, moka...) with appropriate grinding thicknesses for each one, among other things.
  • The darker the roast, the more bitter the result, because roasting too much will burn all the sugars in the coffee, in the same way caramel (burnt sugar) is a bit bitter. And this is why the more common (and cheaper) supermarket coffees tend to be darker and more bitter. They may contain a mix of robusta and arabica with "defective" beans, the ones that aren't good enough for gourmet coffee standards, and over-roasted to disguise the imperfections.
  • It's best to drink freshly roasted and freshly ground coffee (preferably brewed soon after grinding). The more time passes after roasting and grinding, the more the coffee loses its aroma and taste.
  • If you still don't have grinding equipment, you can go to a coffee shop and buy the recently roasted coffee beans they sell (they can grind the beans for you if you ask). It's not possible to brew the coffee right away (because it has to wait for you to at least get home first :P ), but it's a good choice for those who are starting out and don't have the equipment yet.


I was curious to try some of these specialty coffees, but I didn't know any real coffee shops (apart from those neighborhood snack bars that serve espresso). So, to start, I decided to do a test with some ground gourmet coffees I found in the Pão de Açúcar mini market close to my home. They indeed taste different from what I was used to (don't be fooled. Even those light-colored coffees may have a strong flavor!). Overall, I liked it! The problem is that it's impossible to know when the beans were roasted and ground (as these products likely don't sell much because they are more expensive than the most common coffees, I don't doubt they've been sitting on the store's shelf for at least a month!). As it's kind of expensive (at least here, a pack of 250 grams of gourmet coffee is sold around $25.00 BRL - roughly $8 USD -, while a pack of 500 grams of "traditional" coffee is around $10.00 BRL, or around $3 USD), I just allowed myself the luxury of buy one 250 grams pack per month and drink it only on weekends. This increases the "time passed after roasting and grinding" factor even more, but oh well...

I wanted to go deeper into the coffee world, but I've been procrastinating it for at least half a year because of the risk of getting addicted, becoming too picky and getting unable to return to ordinary coffee, which means it can become quite expensive. I was considering to buy an entry-level manual grinder (about $200 BRL, around 70 USD) to be able to have freshly-ground coffee, and maybe some different coffee maker like an Aeropress (also around $200 BRL here), aside from the beans themselves ...

I still wasn't brave enough to take the plunge and buy equipment, as I still haven't tried coffee brewed using different methods, and don't have any reference of flavors or brewing methods to see what I like best. My coworker advised me to go to a Starbucks coffee shop, try their coffee of the day, and bring home the ground beans while I don't have a grinder. I searched for the nearest Starbucks, and found the one at the Metro Santa Cruz Shopping mall (São Paulo/SP, Brazil), and I decided that Id go there during my vacation. And I finally did!

My plan was to try the coffee of the day, and buy the beans of the same coffee to compare the flavor with the output of the simple coffee maker at home... but it didn't go the way I had expected. As it was the first time, I fumbled a little while placing the order, and the attendant was unable to explain how things worked. He only gave me the option to have espresso or coffee with milk (and it seems that they only had espresso machines), while the beans of the day's campaign were from a Papua New Guinea coffee. To me, the taste of the espresso was "just right" (unlike another store's espresso I had, which was very strong and left a not very pleasant sensation in my mouth). Then I found out that they also sell the beans they use for that espresso (it's their own blend they call Espresso Roast), but since I don't have an espresso machine, it wouldn't do. I ended up taking the New Guinea one anyway... at least I'm sure it's freshly roasted and ground!

And this is how the coffee looks like in the cup, after going through the simple coffee maker here... (own picture, taken with a cellphone)

The Guinea coffee inside a cup which has the word 'confidence' written on it in Japanese, translated as 'confiança' in Portuguese

I found the taste very smooth, but I'm not sure if I could identify the herbal touches mentioned in the package (there's a little flavor that reminds me of something but I don't know if that's what the package is talking about). I wonder if other cooking methods / equipment would make these flavors stand out a bit more. I also tried the coffee with milk and it was... interesting. It's as though I had mixed something salty together with something sweet to balance it out (though I didn't put sugar in either the coffee or the milk). Or at least, this was the impression I had. Sorry, I don't know how to describe it :P . This was the best I could do!

And to wrap this post up, here's the sound of the coffee being served! XD Not that it was necessary, but I just felt like recording it. At least, if I decide to do a Persona 5 audio drama that has a scene involving coffee, I already have the sound effect :P .

(* The boss suddenly appears*)

"Ah. From this taste, you used the Guinea PNG beans, didn't you? Let me explain! The Papua New Guinea coffee, or PNG, is produced on Papua New Guinea Island, which is about 150km north of Australia. The coffee is produced in a hard-to-reach region, on soils rich with nutrients from volcanic activity. It produces a drink with a light flavor and herbal touches." A pause. "... But you still have a lot to learn. Your result is still bland... There's much room for improvement! Starting with the equipment..."

Ugh... okay, I'll think about it. I don't know where I want to get with this yet, but I'll keep insisting. We'll see!

And this is more or less how I think the trivia about this coffee could be if it were in Persona 5. Mostly based on info written on the package.

A Few Links About Coffee

Slint, a Slackware-Based Linux Distribution that's Accessible to the Visually Impaired

Aiyumi -

As some already know, my Linux distribution of choice is Slackware. However, it isn't an easy distro for visually impaired users to install. The Slackware installer isn't accessible unless the users have a hardware-based voice synthesizer (I don't have one, and most others probably also don't), which means they'd need sighted assistance to install it and then install the screen readers. Some visually impaired blog visitors emailed me and showed interest on installing Slackware, but they had no one to provide them sighted assistance to carry them through the installation process, and sadly I couldn't help them. But now, this problem has a solution, in the form of a Slackware-based Linux distribution called Slint.


My First Week on Steemit, and My First Impressions

Aiyumi -

I've never had much patience, nor luck, with social networks.

  • I've tried to use twitter, but nothing came out of it. I didn't have the patience to read others' things and post constantly, and it was cumbersome to rephrase everything I wrote to fit the character limit. In the end, my Twitter was relegated to just informing people about blog and fanfic updates. I only have like 7 followers, and my tweets don't even show on searches, just because they contain links (to this blog or to my fan fictions). From what I understood, the fact that they contain links and have no retweets makes the Twitter search engine bots think my tweets are spam! So, no one outside of my 7 followers can even find my tweets...
  • I don't have Facebook because I don't like it.
  • Updates to my Youtube are few and far between because my visual impairment makes it hard for me to create visual content.
  • I'm not on Deviantart because of the same reason above.
  • Since I've found a few interesting blogs on Tumblr, I once tried to use it, but gave up because the interface is completely unusable with screen reader software, thus inaccessible to visually impaired users who depend on screen readers to use the computer.
  • Also, I'm more a reader than a poster (people who have seen this blog knows how infrequent my posts are). There's a community on Reddit, r/Persona5, which I've been following since 2016, before the Persona 5 game came out in Japan. But I don't even have a Reddit account, and just read what other people post. Surprisingly, I have enough patience for that, as said community tends to have insightful discussions about the plot, the characters, and the game in general. But so far, nothing gave me enough incentive to actually go out of my way to create a Reddit account and go write something there, and I've been content just by reading.

And Now, There's Steemit...

One day, one of my fanfic's readers, a talented artist that goes by the nickname Ayza, commented on my fanfic. I made a deal with her to request some artwork related to my fanfic, and she sent me links to the social networks where I could find her. Among these links was her profile page for a social network I had never heard before, called Steemit.

Around since 2016 and still in beta, Steemit is basically a social network that rewards people for posting content. Users that read and enjoy a post can upvote it (similar to the "likes" on Facebook or the "upvotes" on Reddit), comment on it (it's also possible to upvote comments), and repost it so that their followers see it, which gives more visibility to the post. One week after posting, the post's author earns some "points," which are actually cryptocurrencies (similar to the well-known Bitcoin) that can be used as power to make their votes be worth more "points" inside Steemit, or converted into normal money at a few cryptocurrency exchanges. This is an oversimplified explanation, and there's much more to Steemit, but this is the basic idea. The actual details are in the Steemit FAQ.

I found the concepts interesting. The posts I came across were of good quality, and had nice and insightful comments. Steemit seemed to be a welcoming place, and did something most social networks didn't. It made me want to sign up! :P

So, I signed up. The only things they ask are an username, an e-mail address, and a cellphone number (to get a text message with a code for account validation). As with most sites that are in beta, there's a wait list. While I waited for my account to be approved, I read a few posts to learn more about how things on Steemit work. Four days later, my account was approved. Although it's not mandatory, it's customary for new users to make a self-introduction post using the "introduceyourself" tag, and try to start engaging with the community. I made one, and surprisingly, some users took the time to welcome me and give me some tips on how to use the platform. Then, I learned that there's a growing community of Brazilian people, and which is quite friendly and helpful to newbies like me.

I've come across a lot of well-written and interesting posts. I also learned about the existence of a video streaming site similar to Youtube called DTube and an audio streaming site similar to Soundcloud called DSound that use the same rewards system as Steemit. Since I have problems to find images to use as background for my occasional game music covers to post on Youtube, and Soundcloud is another site that failed to convince me to sign up, DSound might be a good option for me (it has no sign up and uses the Steemit account for login). However, DSound still has some accessibility problems - basically, the buttons don't have any text saying what they do (their functionality is represented by icons only) and visually impaired users who depend on screen readers can't know what the buttons are for -, but it's a young project with a lot of potential, and I hope it'll improve in this regard in the future. You can read the post explaining how DTube works here, and the one explaining DSound here. The posts are a bit old and many things improved in both projects, but the basic idea about how they work remain the same.

Speaking of accessibility, Steemit itself is rather accessible, and my screen reader got along with it rather well. I've run into a few small problems, but nothing that really hinders my use of the service.

Of course not all is roses on Steemit. Not every post has good quality. There is crappy content, there's people that abuse the system with spam (this is inevitable everywhere, especially when rewards with monetary value are involved), and the platform still lacks some features that would provide a better user experience. Steemit is still in beta, far from perfect, and may be complicated to learn in the beginning. But one thing that made me identify with Steemit is that the community is very helpful and writes various posts to guide new users, or to recommend ways and tools to work around the platform's shortcomings. There are various recommendations of helpful posts by users on Steemit's welcome page. Inspired by this, I also tried to do my part by writing a post about filtering posts by authors and tags (hopefully it'll be of use to someone).

So far, I'm enjoying the stay. One week in, and I got 14 followers. From their posts, I think three of them or so might be bots, but the others are real people (most of them are the ones who welcomed me in my introductory post) and are quite active in the Brazilian community. Avid social network users may laugh at this, but 14, or even 11 followers is a huge achievement to me.

Will I make money on Steemit? Honestly, considering my lack of patience with social networks and my lack of ability to promote content, I doubt it. But I'm enjoying the content, and for now, I only wish I could get a bit more STEEM POWER so that my votes would be worth more and help give more visibility to the content I like.

Will I have enough patience to continue frequenting Steemit? This, only time will tell, but I hope so!

A link to my Steemit profile is already on the sidebar, and is also below:

As much as I'd like to repost some things from this blog on there, I can't post the whole text because that would cause search engines to penalize either this blog or my Steemit blog for duplicate content. So, I'll do some experiments, alternate between posting here and linking from there, and vice versa. Let's see what happens...

Edit (13:35): wow, looks like Steemit brought in a few Twitter followers as well! The number went from 7 to 11 (11 here too? XD ) I only noticed this when I went to Twitter to publish a link to this blog post. :D

New Year, New Disk

Aiyumi -

2018 arrived, and I kicked off the year with... a hard drive failure in my main PC. In the morning of January 4th, I had just started doing some job-related stuff (I'm working at home) when, suddenly, without any symptom or prior warning, the computer began emitting clicks, everything crashed, the machine stopped responding, and the only way to turn it off was by holding the power button for a few seconds. When I turned it back on, I got a hard disk failure message. I used a Linux live USB to try to see what was going on, and everything worked fine except for the HD. The disk wasn't even recognized, and kept emitting clicks. We opened the machine and replaced the SATA cables, but nothing changed (the cables weren't the problem). Conclusion: the HD died for good.

Assessing the Losses

I usually make a backup once every week. Emphasis on "usually." Ironically, I hadn't made a backup the previous week, and thanks to this, I lost two weeks worth of changes (the previous week + the ongoing week when the HD died). Thankfully, I didn't lose progress on most of my work-related scripts because I had uploaded them to the office's servers. But I lost a whole chapter of one of the fanfics I'm writing which had taken me my free time of those last two weeks to put together, and I'm still trying to recover the motivation to write all of that again. I also lost the Windows partition, which I actually never bothered to back up thinking nothing important was inside... until, after I lost the drive, I remembered all my VOCALOID and UTAU project files were in there, including the USTs for the "Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There" UTAU cover that took me a month to finish. I had copied the generated audio files to my Linux partition, but not the USTs... :(

Choosing a New Drive

After much consideration, I decided to get an SSD instead of another HD. SSD ("Solid State Drive") is a different kind of disk that has its memory on a chip (like the memory in SD cards or USB sticks), data is accessed straight from the chip and the disk doesn't need to spin like the HDs do, which makes it faster (I had heard the operating system boots up in a matter of seconds once the machine is turned on, and heavy programs open quickly). It's more durable, quieter and consumes less power than HDs. I've heard that after living with an SSD, it's hard to go back to the traditional HDs. I had been curious about SSDs for a few months, and decided I might as well turn the lemons into lemonade, take this "opportunity" to try it out and see what all the fuzz was about. The problem is that this technology is still a bit expensive, and I paid $375 BRL (roughly $120 USD) on an SSD that only has 240GB, and for that price I could have bought a normal 1TB HD... but it's fine. It may seem like too little space, but my old HD was 1TB and never came close to filling (at most it used 30GB from the root partition with Slackware Linux, 70GB from the separate home partition, and 50GB from the Windows partition, totaling around 150GB), so, I believe 240GB should be enough.

I ordered a Western Digital SSD (WD Green 240GB) through Mercado Livre (a Latin-American online marketplace like Ebay). I bought it on Thursday night, it shipped on Friday morning, and arrived on Monday (I believe local postal services here don't work on weekends). While I waited for the SSD to arrive, I had to work using my netbook (a weaker machine where each page in Firefox takes like 20 seconds to load and Orca takes some more time to start reading it), and also where I downloaded the Linux ISOs to install once the SSD arrived. Then I connected an external DVD drive to the netbook, burned the ISO to a DVD RW, and that was it. Preparing the Linux ISOs was easy-peasy. On the other hand...

Trying to Download Windows

My main operating system is Linux. The few Windows programs I sometimes use (mainly VOCALOID and UTAU) can run on Wine, but the problem is that Wine isn't accessible to visually impaired users because it doesn't implement accessibility interfaces, and no screen readers are able to run on it. But since Windows 7 came with my machine and I have the license, I decided I might as well use it. I had backed up Windows as soon as I bought the computer and had used up all my DVD RWs plus two more DVD Rs because I didn't have enough RWs. But that was a backup of a newly installed Windows with no security updates or anything, and worse, the backup could only be restored from inside a running Windows! Conclusion: that backup was as good as nothing. I'd have to reinstall everything from scratch. The problem is that Dell doesn't provide a Windows installation media, and the installer is located (guess where...) in a partition in the HD! Of course, the HD died, so the installer went down with it.

It turns out that there is a Microsoft page where it should be possible to download the installer. Theoretically, I'd just need to enter my Windows serial code. It's what I did. However, the page returned an error saying that this code wouldn't do because it is from a version of Windows supplied by a computer manufacturer, and that I should contact the manufacturer (Dell in my case) to get their custom image (the version that comes with Dell utilities which I was unable to uninstall, and a lot of other crap that only wastes resources and disk space).

On the Dell page, I'd have to enter the "service tag" that's glued to the computer case, so that it displays content and downloads related to the product I purchased from them (my computer). I informed the code, but the downloads area for my machine's model only has drivers and nothing else. I browsed the help topics, and found out that there are three ways to get an installation media:

  1. The way they recommend is to use a program to generate and download a custom image. Of course, the program only runs on Windows (so, it's useless to me because I'm without Windows. No idea whether it'd run on Wine). I wanted to know if there was another way and, after much searching, I found the second way below.

  2. There's a page to download the Windows installation media, for those who need to download the image from a machine without Windows (my case! Yay!)... but when I entered the service tag, the page said there are no downloads available for my machine's model.

  3. The other way is to contact support and request a physical copy of the media, and if the computer isn't under the warranty period (it isn't anymore), I have to pay around $60 USD! No thanks...

In a last attempt, I found a blog post (in Portuguese) by someone with a similar problem, where I learned of a workaround to download Windows 7 directly from Microsoft's servers without the need to inform the serial code. Basically it's a page to download Windows 10 (which doesn't ask for a serial code to provide the download link), except that if you change a parameter in the URL that corresponds to the product Windows 10 for the one corresponding to Windows 7, the page would generate a Windows 7 download link. It's based on the API that manufacturers use to download the Windows installation media, and some people found out the IDs of all the possible ISOs. I Tried. And... it didn't work! I tried with the Windows 10 ID and it worked*, but for Windows 7, no luck. Apparently, this method isn't working for Windows 7 and Office. It seems that the workaround either doesn't work anymore, or there's a temporary problem with the API.

* I got a Windows 10 download link, but I can't use it because I don't have a Windows 10 serial code to activate it if I install it. I don't even know whether Windows 10 would run on this machine...

Wow... dealing with proprietary software is so complicated! For now, I gave up. If the workaround resumes working, I may consider trying again another time. Meanwhile, I guess I'll have to resort to Wine and sighted assistance. Oh well...

Installing the SSD

On Monday, January 8th, the SSD arrived. I had known it was smaller than a desktop PC HD, but I hadn't expected it to be so small and thin... it's as thin as a CD case, and looks like a glorified memory card (which it probably is :P ).

My mother and I opened the machine and swapped the dead HD out for the SSD. Unlike traditional HDs which have different sizes (3.5 inches for desktop PCs, and 2.5 inches for laptops), apparently there's only one SSD size, which is 2.5 inches. So, ideal for laptops, but a bit small for desktops (fortunately the SATA connections are the same). We plugged the SATA cable and attached the SSD to the case with a screw the way it should be done, but it wasn't as firm as we'd have liked. Ideally, I should've gotten a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter to fit the SSD easier, but the seller I bought the SSD from didn't have that, plus I was in a hurry because I needed my machine for work.

Some people just plug the SSD and leave it hanging from the SATA cables inside the machine without much worry, since SSDs don't have moving parts like HDs, which means less risk of corrupting data from impact. But we got a bit worried. It didn't feel right to leave the SSD loose inside the machine. So, we cut an old and unused USB cable we had lying around, tied it to the "walls" of the compartment inside the case, to act like a "net" to help keep the SSD in place and prevent it from falling. It's ugly inside, but it works! :P Though I'm still wondering whether I should get one of those adapters to have a less "hackish" solution...

Partitioning the Disk

The first thing I did once I turned the machine on was insert the Slint (talking) installer DVD, and checked the disk with Fdisk. The system recognized the SSD just fine, and the size was reported as 223 GiB, which translates to the advertised 240GB. Then I partitioned the disk, and ended with roughly:

  • 84GB for Windows, in case I ever manage to reinstall it on this machine. If not, I'll use the precious space for something else.
  • 84GB for the home partition, meant to be used by two Linuxes.
  • 4GB for swap. I don't recall this machine ever having resorted to swap, but who knows when the need may arise...
  • 34GB for my main system, Linux. Instead of installing Slackware, this time I decided to go with Slint, a Slackware-based distro with accessibility out of the box (including a talking installer), though it's pretty much Slackware at its core.
  • And the last 34GB for the other Linux. I picked Arch Linux mostly because it also has a talking installer (in the form of the Talking Arch ISO), and because I found out it's able to run the (closed-source proprietary and hard to troubleshoot) online banking software many of the banks in my country decided to adopt (I couldn't make it work on Slackware no matter what, and being unable to access the online banking was becoming a big problem. But the software worked nicely in the test Arch Linux install on my netbook, so...).

I installed Slint at night, and I was already able to use the machine for work the following day. That weekend, I installed Arch Linux and the Internet banking software into the other partition. After that, I've been slowly adjusting settings and installing extra things as the needs arise, in both Slint and Arch to make them behave the way I want.

And this is the status at the time of this writing. Things are getting back to normal, better and faster, thanks to the SSD. The machine responds quicker than before and feels like new. And now we have access to the online banking as well. Having the HD break was quite the scare, but things seem to have changed for better. Maybe I've kicked off the year in a good note, after all.

Not to say that I had no issues while configuring the two Linux distros to make them my own, though. I had a few issues (mainly with Arch, and mostly thanks to my unfamiliarity with it), though most of them are solved by now. But that's a subject for another post.

In the next post, I intend to talk about Slint, the Slackware-based, multi-language distro with accessibility out of the box and a talking installer!

Persona 5 Opening - UTAU Cover

Aiyumi -

I mentioned how I was excited about the release of the game Persona 5. I had been so excited that I began writing fanfictions about it months before the game had even come out in Japan and we had nearly no information about the characters or the setting. On September 15, 2016, the game was released in Japan (I'm writing this on September 15, 2017. So, it was exactly one year ago! :D ). And on April 4, 2017, the western version finally came out (and even had a Japanese audio option as free DLC, like I had wanted).

I usually don't preorder games, but with Persona 5, I couldn't resist. I got it from an online games store from my country. I traded in two old GBA games I had lying around which I had barely touched (they came with the second-hand GBA I had bought at the end of 2008), and the store gave me an additional discount for paying in full (in the end, the total discount amounted to around R$91 BRL, roughly $30 USD). The store shipped the product quickly, and the game was in my hands on release day (April 7th here in Brazil, unlike North America and Europe that got it on April 4th).

I wouldn't say that the game has no flaws, but it was as great and fun as I had expected. I've already beaten it twice (with Japanese audio) and gotten the Platinum trophy in my second playthrough. I'm currently on my third playthrough (trying out the English audio). There are many small details that can easily go unnoticed in the first, or even the second playthrough. Persona 5 continues entertaining me even now, even though it's my third time going through it (and giving me even more fanfic ideas :P ). I'm very satisfied, and glad that it lived up to all the excitement I had since last year. The game is worth every cent, plus the work I went through to trade in the used GBA cartridges :D .

To celebrate platinuming the game, as well as finishing one of my long fanfictions (that I began writing before the games Japanese release last year), I did an UTAU cover of the game's opening song, "Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There." UTAU? Yes, a singing sinthesis software. I've already talked about it here, where I had come to the conclusion that it was unusable without a mouse and I wouldn't be able to use it ever. I was wrong! I suddenly decided to tamper with the program again a few months back, and what was my surprise when I managed to connect a few syllables smoothly! So, I decided to do a cover, and here it is.

The link to the video is below, featuring... the Brasilian version of the game's cover art! (there's stuff written in Portuguese, but the game is in English) ... And a (probably very inaccurate) instrumental made by me, using the accompaniment generator software MMA (Musical MIDI Accompaniment) and my Motif XF keyboard.

Credits and more details are in the video description, here.

To get the audio only:

Download/listen: wake-up_0.1.ogg (OpenDrive) | wake-up_0.1.mp3 (4shared)

Installing Orca on Slackware 14.2

Aiyumi -

These are instructions for installing the Orca screen reader on Slackware 14.2 without the Gnome desktop environment. It's not the latest Orca version, but rather, it's the one compatible with the library versions that come in Slackware by default (to install the latest Orca, we'd need to recompile newer versions of many of the Slackware-provided programs, which would be much more difficult).

From Slackware 14.1 to 14.2, the number of dependencies reduced a lot, which is a good thing. Most of the Gnome-specific libraries are gone, there's no longer the need to recompile programs that came with Slackware, and now everything that uses Python depends on Python 3 instead of Python 2. If more of these changes keep coming and making things easier, soon it might be possible for Orca to enter, then we will no longer have to do all this juggling with my scripts. Let's hope!

For those who used my instructions and installed Orca on 14.0 or 14.1 and is upgrading to 14.2, you need to remove obsolete dependencies with the command below (those who still don't have Orca installed don't need to use this command, but just look how many dependencies are gone :D ):

# removepkg gnome-mime-data gnome-vfs gnome-python libgnome libbonobo ORBit2 pyorbit

Now, the instructions themselves. First of all, you need Sbopkg to be installed.

Actually, the process to download and install Orca remains mostly the same as it was before. You can read the previous instructions for more in depth explanations if you want, but basically:

  • Download my repository and configure Sbopkg to use my scripts:

    # git clone
    # cd slackware-scripts
    # cp -R slackbuilds /var/lib/sbopkg/aiyumisb
    # cp slackbuilds/100-aiyumi.repo /etc/sbopkg/repos.d
    # cp sbopkg-queuefiles/aiyumisb/accessibility/*.sqf /var/lib/sbopkg/queues
  • Run Sbopkg and use my repository:

    # sbopkg -V aiyumisb/local
  • If you still don't have Espeak (which Orca uses by default), go to "Queue" -> "Load," load the "espeakup" queuefile and install everything. Espeak will be installed along with Espeakup, which adds support for speech via software to Speakupp (a screen reader for the console, which is always good to have).

  • Go to "Queue" -> "Load," load the "orca" queuefile, install everything, and wait for the process to finish.

  • Edit the Speech-Dispatcher settings in "/etc/speech-dispatcher/speechd.conf." Make sure the Espeak module is set to load and to use your preferred language as default (in my case, Portuguese). The relevant lines are below:

    # ----- VOICE PARAMETERS -----
    DefaultLanguage "en"
    AddModule "espeak"       "sd_espeak"   "espeak.conf"
    DefaultModule espeak
    LanguageDefaultModule "en"  "espeak"

    To test it, use the command "spd-say something." If you hear sound, then it's working!

  • Lastly, copy the file "/usr/doc/orca-*/orca.atspi2.xinitrc" to "~/.xinitrc" (it's the file that sets the accessibility-related variables for the graphical interface), and change the last line to start your favorite window manager or desktop (for example, "startfluxbox" for Fluxbox, or "startxfce4" for XFCE).

Done! Now you can just use the "startx" command to enter the graphical interface and hear Orca "run it's mouth" :D .

A note about Firefox: In the instructions for 14.0 and 14.1, I had said that Slackware's Firefox came with disabled accessibility and needed to be recompiled, which took hours. The bad news is that Slackware's Firefox still comes with no accessibility. But the good news is that I found out that we don't need to recompile it! Thanks to this post by Frankiej, I learned that there's this script that downloads the Firefox binary provided by Mozilla (where accessibility works) and creates a ".txz" Slackware package that can be installed with installpkg as normal.

Despite the name "latest-firefox," this script isn't limited to downloading only the latest version of Firefox. You can actually use it to download any version you want. Just pass the "VERSION" variable to the command that executes the script. For example, at the time of this writing, the Java plugin doesn't work in the latest version of Firefox because they removed support for the API that the Java plugin uses. For those who need the Java plugin, while a compatible version of the plugin doesn't come out, the workaround is to use an earlier version of Firefox where the Java plugin still works. The latest version of Firefox where the obsolete API works is 51.0. In this case, the command to get the Firefox 51.0 package for Slack would be:

# VERSION=51.0 ./

Or, for Firefox 51.0 with the interface in Brazilian Portuguese:

# VERSION=51.0 FFLANG=pt-BR ./

And the program will leave the package in "/tmp." Enough of having to wait three hours to compile Firefox at each version :P .