It's a Thanksgiving miracle! I wasn't expecting my clarinet to be repaired for at least another week or so, but I got a text from the shop late in the afternoon today that it was ready to be picked up.
A loose key mount has been fixed, several key pads and corks have been replaced, and it's been oiled inside and out. When I got it home I played (fumbled my way through) some scales and an etude, and I felt that old but familiar joy that comes from playing a musical instrument.
I'm hoping to be consistent in practicing every day and get my “chops” back so that I can audition for our community orchestra or band.
The timing couldn't have been better. On the eve of Thanksgiving, I have been reminded how thankful I am for music and for musical talents.
I've written several posts about how I acquired and got my current laptop working – a Dell Latitude E7470. It's several years old, but it's been running like a champ and has come into my possession at the perfect time, given my current hobby project.
I started a Mastodon instance this past weekend (ZCMI.social) and I've been on it pretty much non-stop since then when I'm not working.
The past several days I've used my laptop for such tasks as:
Register and configure the domain
Set up and configure the admin email for the server
Set up and configure Mastodon
Start a Patreon
Use GIMP to design a logo
Use a shared Google Doc to collaborate with others on developing community standards
Set up a companion website where the community standards and other info will be available
Use Discord to collaborate with others on the project and mentor a few who are interested in joining the server in a “closed beta”
Research all the questions I related to being a Mastodon admin
Play some Minecraft to take a break
Sure, I could have used my desktop, but then I'd have been stuck at the desk I sit at all day for work. It's been nice to sit at the dining room table or in the living room or on the futon in my home office while I'm doing all this Mastodon stuff.
Also, Pop!_OS has been a dream to use. It looks and runs great on this hardware and I'm very pleased with it.
Now with all the typing and writing I'm doing, I wish I had a phone with a physical keyboard...
Getting a new shared Mastodon instance going is a lot of work! I've put in a lot of hours the past couple days on getting ZCMI.social off the ground. It's not just the technical side of things with domain, hosting, and administration – there is a lot more to it.
We've got to figure out what kind of community we want to create and then develop server rules, standards, etc. to help us get there. We've got to figure out how to fund the venture as a community, because as it grows more money will be necessary to keep the lights on.
In addition to hosting a server, we've got to get a companion website going, as that's the easiest way to keep all of our info in one place and help people learn more about what we're doing.
We also need to help and mentor people joining our server who are completely new to Mastodon and the Fediverse, let alone our instance! If they're familiar with other social networks, they will find some things familiar and other things completely foreign and not intuitive.
With all of this, patience is key. I've felt a little overwhelmed at times, but most of the time I've just been eager and excited to learn new things and get all of this working.
Whether this project ends in a month or continues for years, I'm glad I finally worked up the motivation to try.
The battery cable I ordered arrived today. I installed the battery without too much hassle and now I have a 100% working Dell Latitude E7470 laptop for a total cost of ~$250!
I also received the Fosstodon sticker I ordered, which was just as exciting! I think it looks great alongside the Pop!_OS and System76 stickers. More stickers are on the way, but I won't spoil the surprise. I plan to eventually cover that lid!
I have a work-issued laptop and I use it for personal web browsing sometimes, but I don't have any apps installed on it besides those required to do my job. Now that I have my own laptop again, it will be nice to have access to all of the software I want to use on the go.
I also plan to run Linux exclusively on my laptop. I'm enjoying Pop!_OS at the moment. I may do some distro hopping – I always like to change things up. But unless there is a truly urgent need, I won't be installing Windows on this machine.
I've been thinking about what tech-related upgrade I'll focus on after I get my laptop fully working (still waiting on one more part).
With any luck, I should get several good years out of the laptop. Between the laptop running Linux (Pop!_OS) and my desktop running Windows 10 (currently being used mostly as a HTPC), I have all of my PC bases covered.
I would love for my my next focus to be switching from an iPhone to Android, but every time I consider that I come to the conclusion that it would make my life more difficult, not easier. For example, my immediate family as well as my parents and siblings all use iPhones. Besides actual phone calls, iMessage and FaceTime are the easiest ways to keep in contact with them. Me suddenly not wanting to use these convenient, seamless services anymore is, frankly, not a good enough reason to force everyone else to switch to less-convenient (and inferior) alternatives for the privilege of communicating with me. I'm stuck with an iPhone for the foreseeable future.
I've been thinking about getting some decent recording equipment. Since I'm trying to get back into playing the clarinet, I thought it might be nice to try to record some songs or maybe get really adventurous and dub multiple parts.
I also want to find a small, but nice quality piano keyboard that I can put on my desk in front of my laptop so I can just play whatever and maybe also record some stuff.
I'm leaning towards the piano keyboard at the moment. We do have a nice Yamaha downstairs, but my son plays that most of the time and I want something more convenient.
The battery I ordered for my Dell Latitude 7470 laptop arrived today. However, it didn't come with the cable needed to connect it to the motherboard. So I still can't use my laptop as an actual laptop until I get that cable. I ordered one and it should arrive next week.
In the meantime, I've put some Pop!_OS and System76 stickers on the lid and I ordered a few other stickers to put on it, and there are still a couple more I want to get. I'm probably going overboard with the stickers, but this is the first laptop I've ever put stickers on, so I'm going to make it count. I won't spoil it – I'll share a photo once all the stickers are on there.
In the meantime I'm getting accustomed to using my desktop as a HTPC and it's working pretty well. I've got my music and video libraries on there, now I need to get some retro video game emulators installed.
It's been at least a couple decades since my clarinet was last taken in for maintenance and repairs, so this was long overdue.
I know the local high school band director and asked him if he knew of a good repair shop. Today I took my clarinet to the one he recommended and let the repairman know of the specific issues I was having. In addition to the repairs I also asked him to oil it inside and out (the wood needs oil to prevent from drying out and cracking) and replace any faulty corks and pads. It'll cost at least $200, when all is said and done, but that's less than a complete overhaul (full re-cork and re-pad) which costs over $400.
This will be money well spent. It's an old Buffet Crampon R13 and it belonged my father, who taught high school and elementary school band for 41 years. He gave it to me when I started playing the clarinet in 4th grade and it's been my primary instrument all through elementary school, high school, college, and beyond. To say that I have played the heck out of it would be an understatement. So much amazing music has been played on it and it's held up remarkably well – except when I was in college I had to get one of the sections replaced when the original developed a crack that was irreparable.
My son (only child) plays the trumpet and piano. So I'm hoping to keep my clarinet in tip top shape so that one day I can pass it along to a grandchild or someone I am sure will appreciate it and play it. Taking it in for maintenance and repairs is a small price to pay for (hopefully) more decades of musical enjoyment to come.
The RAM and SSD I ordered came two days earlier than expected! I just installed them in the barebones Dell Latitude E7470 I got earlier this week. The new battery is still en route, so it'll need to be tethered to the power cable for now. It looks like everything else works!
I installed Pop!_OS and will be getting that all set up and configured. And I must say, the display on this thing looks excellent. Trackpad and keyboard feel great. Everything feels responsive. Should be a nice little laptop!
Please excuse the desk clutter in the photo. I was actually in the middle of moving my desktop PC over to my office TV to use as a HTPC when I went to check the mail and was surprised by the early arrival of the laptop parts, so everything's askew at the moment. I'll have everything put away and organized soon enough.
I don't know what it is about tinkering with computers that is so satisfying. Sourcing parts, getting non-working machines up and running again. It's fun.