Dallin Crump


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...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 57) #tech #hobbies

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.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 56) #tech #SocialMedia #hobbies

It's been a whirlwind weekend, but I somehow started a new Mastodon instance! ZCMI.social is now a thing.

It's currently open only to a small group of close friends and associates for a “closed beta” until I get this whole Mastodon Admin thing figured out. If there is any reasonable degree of success after a month or two, I might opening it up for more people to join.

But let me back up. Why did I name it “ZCMI” and who is it for? The original ZCMI – Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution – was a department store chain founded in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1868. It changed owners throughout the years and went defunct about 20 years ago. (Seriously, how many department store chains have died in the last couple decades? Remember Mervyn's? Fred Meyer? Montgomery Ward?).

The ZCMI in ZCMI.social stands for Zion's Cooperative Mastodon Instance! It's intended for members of my church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – who are actively trying to live their faith. I envision it as as a safe space for church members to talk about their faith and interact with and support other members trying to walk the covenant path. The name of this new Mastodon instance is a way of honoring our past while looking forward to the future.

There is still a lot of work to do – a few of my colleagues and I are coming up with some community guidelines and refining the server rules (I mostly copied our existing rules from Fosstodon because I think they're a pretty great place to start).

Over the next month I'd like to try to get at least 30 or 40 people on there and actively using it and see where things go from there.

I'm excited!


#100DaysToOffload (No. 55) #tech #faith #ChurchOfJesusChrist #SocialMedia

Occasionally over the past couple years, I've thought about starting a Mastodon instance for members of my church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Today I've been brainstorming with some friends about it. I actually purchased a domain name and have been looking into hosting options.

With the tsunami of new users that have joined the Fediverse over the past couple weeks due to the turmoil at Twitter, now seems like a great time to get a new instance going. But the increased attention also means that most dedicated Mastodon hosting services have been overwhelmed. One of the most popular providers – Masto.host – has actually suspended new registrations as of the time I write this while they figure out how to accommodate the surge in demand for their existing customers.

In addition to hosting, I've been considering many questions about how to administer and run such a community. How big do I expect it to get? Should I cap the number of accounts? What should our rules and guidelines be? What is our ban policy? Can people appeal? Should I set up a Patreon or similar to help defray the cost? The list of questions is long and continues to grow.

Thinking through these questions has really given me more appreciation for all of the volunteers who host and run thousands of Mastodon instances out there, especially the one I'm currently on – Fosstodon.

Whether or not I actually get a new Mastodon instance off the ground, I'm thankful that such an option exists and allows people all around the world to connect with each other in meaningful ways without for-profit companies trying to exploit them for profit.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 54) #tech #SocialMedia

My new Andor sticker arrived and it looks great on my laptop!

It's been a long time since I have been really excited about new TV shows, and this year there have been three that I have thoroughly enjoyed:

  • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Captain Pike may very well be my favorite Star Trek captain now)
  • Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (a solid 8 out of 10 for this non-die-hard LOTR fan)
  • Andor (my favorite of the three and my favorite Star Wars production ever)

I'll write another post about Andor once the series is through, but suffice it to say, I have enjoyed every moment of it and couldn't resist getting the sticker when I saw it.

There is still room for more stickers! I better get looking.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 53) #tech #hobbies #TV

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.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 52) #tech #hobbies

Streaming music services like Apple Music and Spotify provide unprecedented convenience and instant access to more music than we've ever had before. But when it comes to my favorite music – music I want to be assured I can listen to whenever I want – I still purchase or burn CDs.

I work from home, so I don't drive very much. When I do drive, it's usually my trusty 2005 Honda Civic, manufactured two years before the first iPhone. It has a basic sound system with radio and a CD player and no aux input or USB ports. If I want to listen to music of my choice, it has to be on a CD. I used to have a Bluetooth FM transmitter that allowed me to play music from my phone through FM radio, but the reception and sound quality were not great. I prefer CDs.

But the main reason I still like CDs is that the music in your streaming music library may not always be available when you want to listen to it. Numerous times, regardless of the service, certain tracks in my library that I have been able to listen to before have suddenly become unavailable due to arbitrary licensing agreements. Some licensees like to rotate their music through different services over time. So they may make an album exclusively available on Apple Music for several months, then switch to Amazon Music, then switch to Spotify, etc. What good is it to have access to millions of tracks when you can't listen to the specific ones you want to?

So I have learned that if I want to absolutely guarantee my favorite music is available to listen to any time I want to, I either purchase it on CD and rip it to my library, or purchase it in a downloadable form – usually Bandcamp or another DRM-free provider – and burn it to CD. I like to have both digital and physical copies for redundancy and backup purposes.

There's something almost rebellious about listening to a CD or a standalone digital audio file in 2022. No internet connection is required. Nobody's tracking me. No subscription is required. It's just me and the music. As it once was. As it should be.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 51) #tech #music

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.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 48) #tech #hobbies

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.

#100DaysToOffload (No. 47) #tech #hobbies

I accidentally left a Pluto TV stream running overnight (the Judge Judy channel, don't judge me). I don't know what my data cap is with Comcast Xfinity, but I'm probably at risk of hitting it this month. So now seems like a good time to try an experiment. For the remainder of November, I am not going to stream any video or audio for personal use.

With one exception: I am a huge fan of the Star Wars TV series Andor (you need to watch it whether or not you are a Star Wars fan), and I will be streaming that when new episodes are available on Wednesdays. Unfortunately there is no other way to watch it right now and I am too invested in it.

Aside from that single exception, I will be relying on physical media or digital files already on my computer, as well as old-fashioned over-the-air broadcast TV and radio.

Perhaps I will get a little extra reading and music practice in, as well. I just started Book 4 of the Wheel of Time series. And while my clarinet will be in the shop for a few weeks, I have my penny whistles, recorder, and Native American flute!

Can I survive without YouTube and Apple Music??!?

(Yes. Of course.)


#100DaysToOffload (No. 46) #music #TV #movies #tech