The Raspberry Pi

In early 2012 I found an article about the Raspberry Pi. All of my news feeds were filled with buzz about “The $35 Computer.” Ever since then my mind and my project to-do list have been filled with projects that the Raspberry Pi could be used for.

I often bring up the Raspberry Pi in casual conversation. People usually get excited about it and want to know more. They will often ask me questions that I can never adequately answer on the spot. I want to be able to say “I don’t have enough time to do this topic justice right now! However, I have wrote about it extensively on my web site! Please, take a look!” If that is why you are here, I’m glad you could make it! 🙂

After having owned and used many Raspberry Pi (Pi) boards, I want to finally start writing about it. Sharing projects where I have utilized the Pi.

I want this blog post to be used for both newcomers and slightly more technically savvy people who just need some recommendations for what to purchase and links to additional resources to get them started.

Please note that I make no claims of being an expert with the Raspberry Pi, Linux, or computer hardware. I consider myself a fanatic!

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What is the Raspberry Pi?

Before I tell you what the Raspberry Pi (Pi) is, let me tell you what it is not! The Pi is not a $5, $10, or $35 computer! We’ll talk more about that later.

The Pi is a low-cost ($5 – $35), low-powered (5V, 2A), and tiny (the largest being 3.37″ x 2.21″ x 0.83″) system board (think motherboard) that contains all of the necessary components to function as a desktop computer, server, laptop, thin-client, mobile computing platform, or the brains of an Internet of Things (IoT) device. You supply the storage media (to boot the operating system), monitor (or TV), mouse, keyboard, and case.

It was originally designed for kids to be used as a way of learning how a computer works and how to write computer programs. Instead of them trying to attempt these things with their family’s home computer. Kids could do this with a low-cost computer that could be easily wiped and restored if anything went wrong. If the board itself was destroyed, thankfully it wasn’t the family’s much more expensive home computer. The original Pi board was released for $35. There are now versions of the Pi that are available for as little as $5 (original Pi Zero) and $10 (Pi Zero W).

When the board was released, the DIY/maker community embraced the Pi and used it as the basis for thousands of projects. Any project that you can think of that would require any type of computer processing at its core, the Raspberry Pi has been used for. To give you an idea of what people in the DIY community use theirs for, below is a list of 4 projects that I absolutely love and why I love them.

3D Scanner

As a photographer and a fan of Star Trek I’ve always had this crazy idea of creating holographic photos of people. While holographic technology is nowhere near the level I would like for it to be, this Pi scanner gets us closer to capturing people and objects in 3D. You can then take the captured image and use a 3D printer to reproduce a replica.

Talking Toys

At my parent’s house in Tennessee. Buried deep in the closet is a 2-XL robot. It was an interesting toy. You put cassette tapes in and it would ask you questions which you answered by pressing buttons on the robot. For several years, since the Pi has been out, I have thought it would be fun to revive my old 2-XL with a Pi. The link above takes you to another individual who turned one of their toys, a phone in this case, into a talking toy. It gives me hope that I can do something fun with my 2-XL if I ever get the chance.

AstroPi

Two Pi were sent to the International Space Station with astronaut Tim Peake. The Pi boards were equipped with sensors for monitoring the environment within ISS, detecting how it is moving through space and pick up the Earth’s magnetic field.

Irrigation Controller

Before my partner purchased a sprinkler system with built-in Wi-Fi, I thought it would be fun to create a Pi sprinkler controller.

This is an extremely popular project. If you do a search you will see thousands of results for people with their own version of this project.

What would the average person use a Raspberry Pi for?

Desktop Computer

The Pi would not win any speed comparison contests with any desktop computer that is on the market today. However, it can be used as a desktop computer for basic computing tasks such as browsing the Internet and office applications (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations). If you’re not a fan of LibreOffice (the free and open source office suite pre-installed with the desktop version of Raspian) you can use Microsoft Office online.

If you have a relative or a friend who would like to have a computer for basic tasks, but you and they do not have a lot of money to spend on a computer, then the Pi would be fantastic. It’s fairly easy to setup. It can be configured to sync with cloud services such as Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox. If the OS becomes corrupted it can be wiped and re-loaded easily.

Put one in the kitchen. This is where one of my Pi’s has lived for a year now. I use Microsoft Office OneNote (via web browser) to take phone call notes. I use it to lookup recipes. I use it to look up anything I would like additional information about that my partner and I may be discussing. I also use it to play Solitaire while I’m on the phone!

Because Linux is the primary operating system that a person would use if they want a graphical user interface with the Pi, there are hundreds of free and open source games that can be installed. Put one in the kid’s playroom. You can disconnect it from the Internet once you have installed the games you would like for them to have access to. There are a lot of people who play Minecraft with their Pi.

Put one in your guest bedroom. Not that I ever have guests, but if I did, I wouldn’t want them on my computer. No offense potential future guests!

Put one in the garage. Use it to look up tutorials for servicing your car. Connect some speakers and use it to listen to web radio.

Connect one to your TV and play your digital media files or use it as a game console emulator.

What would a more technically savvy person (or small business) use a Raspberry Pi for?

Virtual Private Network (VPN) Server

Using public WiFi is extremely unsafe. If you absolutely have to use it, you should be connecting to a VPN. You can setup a VPN server in your home that you can connect to while you are traveling. You’ll get a secure, encrypted connection back to your home office. You’ll have the added benefit of being able to access your home network resources.

Thin Client

One of the projects that I fully intend to implement in my home and write about is a virtual machine server and utilize Pi’s as thin clients. I’ll have the benefit of being able to move from different terminals in the house and pick up where I left off in the other room. Do I really need this? Yes, absolutely!

Digital Signs and Information Screens

In some of my favorite fast casual restaurants I am seeing digital displays showing the menu and prices. As a business owner I would love the ability to update my menu and price boards without having to print new copies of everything. The same goes for information screens. If the information you are wanting to display can be pulled from a database you can use the Pi to display it. If you don’t have a database there are many other ways that you could display the menu (presentation, image viewed in full screen, web page, etc.). I suspect that the commercially available options for digital signage are extremely expensive. It doesn’t have to be! If you’ve got a display you can use a Pi to display your content.

Web Server

If you have a web site that doesn’t get a whole lot of traffic and you don’t want to pay for web hosting, you can use the Pi as a web server. If you’re concerned about security you could simply use it for an internal site or just use it as a testing environment.

File Server

Too many families do not back up their photos! Some people are scared of storing their photos in the cloud. Some people simply do not know how to backup their photos. The first MagPi magazine that I purchased included an article about using the Raspberry Pi to backup your family’s photos. The project was called the Mason Jar Preserve. I loved that they used a Mason jar as the enclosure for the Pi. I think these would be fantastic to give as a gift.

What do I need to order?

The Pi is too often referred to as the $5, $10 or $35 computer. I have even made that mistake myself in the past. While it is true that there is a model of the Pi board that only costs $5; I want people to understand that it takes more than that to get the Pi up and running. Hopefully, you’ll have many of these items on hand already (excluding the case, of course). Below are my recommendations for items to have on hand prior to the arrival of your Pi.

Raspberry Pi

Obviously, you’re going to need to purchase a Raspberry Pi. You will first need to decide which one to purchase. There are currently six models that you can choose from. This blog entry is going to focus on three options. If you would like to see the others, please visit the Raspberry Pi Foundation web site product page. The specifications listed below were copied from that page.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

Specifications:

Quad Core 1.2GHz Broadcom BCM2837 64bit CPU
1GB RAM
BCM43438 wireless LAN and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) on board
40-pin extended GPIO
4 USB 2 ports
4 Pole stereo output and composite video port
Full size HDMI
CSI camera port for connecting a Raspberry Pi camera
DSI display port for connecting a Raspberry Pi touchscreen display
Micro SD port for loading your operating system and storing data
Upgraded switched Micro USB power source up to 2.5A

Price: $35

This is the “go to” Pi board. It’s the most powerful. It has the most memory. It has all of the ports you need for a desktop computer built-in to it. Unless you need more than four USB devices attached, you won’t need a USB hub. Bluetooth and WiFi are built-in. This is the board that I recommend for most people who are interested in the Pi.

Raspberry Pi Zero

Specifications:

1GHz, Single-core CPU
512MB RAM
Mini-HDMI port
Micro-USB OTG port
Micro-USB power
HAT-compatible 40-pin header
Composite video and reset headers
CSI camera connector (v1.3 only)

Price: $5

I would only recommend this board for single task projects. I would also only recommend this board for projects where you will not need on-board WiFi/Bluetooth or you plan to use an external adapter anyway.

Raspberry Pi Zero W

Specifications:

Same specifications as the Raspberry Pi Zero (above), but also includes the following:

802.11 b/g/n wireless LAN
Bluetooth 4.1
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Price: $10

Like it’s predecessor (Pi Zero, above); I would only recommend this board for single task projects. As an example, I have had success in using these as car dash cameras.

Where to Buy Your Pi

I usually buy my Pi boards 1.) Anywhere that has them on sale. 2.) Anywhere that has the best shipping.

I have purchased them from Adafruit, but I am always hesitant because in the case of the Pi Zero, I paid more to have it shipped than the Pi Zero actually cost! I do appreciate that they allow you to use Amazon as a payment source.

I like buying Pi from Amazon, but only when it is from a reputable seller (preferably from the Raspberry Pi Foundation themselves), Amazon Prime shipping is available, and the price isn’t insanely jacked up.

I have had good luck with CanaKit, but in the case of the Pi Zero again the cost of shipping was more than the cost of the device itself.

Occasionally, arrow.com will have an amazing sale on Pi boards. A few months ago I purchased 3-Raspberry Pi 3 boards for $70. It was an insanely good deal and I had to jump on it.

Case

Whichever model of Pi you purchase, buy the case for it. It bothers me to see naked Pi sitting around.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation makes amazing cases for the Pi. However, if you aren’t keen on the Foundation’s cases, Adafruit makes and sells some great Pi cases as well.

Raspberry Pi Foundation Cases

Raspberry Pi 3 Case

Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W Case

Adafruit Raspberry Pi Cases

Pi Model B+ / Pi 2 / Pi 3 Case Base – Red Don’t forget the top!

ModMyPi Pi Zero Case – Frost/Clear – This case is from ModMyPi, but sold by Adafruit. ModMyPi is based in the United Kingdom. If you’re in the United States (like me) and want a ModMyPi case you’ll get it faster by ordering through a re-seller such as Adafruit.

microSD Card

There are several online electronics stores that sell a pre-flashed microSD card with N00BS (New Out Of the Box Software). NooBS makes it extremely easy to get the Raspbian operating system up and running.

These are great if you don’t want to spend any time downloading and loading the Raspbian OS onto a microSD card yourself.

My problem with these is that you are paying a premium. The microSD card is usually small (16 GBs as of late). You’re most likely going to need to update the OS anyway.

16GB Card with NOOBS 2.1 from Adafruit

16GB MicroSD NOOBS Card from Sparkfun.

If you do go the route of buying your own microSD card and flashing it yourself (which I recommend); Don’t purchase one smaller than 16 GBs. You could probably get away with an 8 GB card, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you know you will not be installing additional applications. The Raspian operating system is already over 4 GBs and that is before you install updates or your own applications. I typically use 32 GB or 64 GB cards as they’re usually less than $20 these days and are often on sale on Amazon. I do highly recommend SanDisk.

SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSDHC on Amazon

SanDisk Ultra 64GB microSDXC on Amazon

HDMI Cable

For the Pi 3 you can use a regular HDMI cable.

AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable – 6 Feet (Latest Standard)

For either of the Pi Zero boards you will need to use a Mini HDMI to HDMI cable.

AmazonBasics High-Speed Mini-HDMI to HDMI Cable

Power Adapter

You will want to purchase a power adapter that can supply 5 volts and 2.5 amps. You may have a phone charger that you are no longer using that may suffice. Just make sure that it meets the 5v/2.5A requirements. If you need to purchase a power adapter I would recommend the following two options.

CanaKit’s 5V 2.5A Raspberry Pi 3 Power Supply / Adapter / Charger – Works with the Raspberry Pi 3 and the Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W.

AUKEY Power Strip with 2 Outlets and 4 USB Ports – For this option you’ll also need to purchase a micro USB to USB cable. Make sure to get one long enough to reach your Pi.

Where I have my Kitchen Pi, I was running out of power outlets. I needed a plug for the Pi, the monitor and an Amazon Echo Dot. The AUKEY power strip turned out to be an adequate solution. I was able to connect the Pi and Echo Dot to the power strip via USB. Then connect the monitor to one of the power outlets on the power strip.

Keyboard and Mouse

You’ll need a USB mouse and keyboard. The Pi Zero W does have built-in Bluetooth, but you will still need a USB mouse and keyboard to set up any Bluetooth devices.

I have successfully used Microsoft and Logitech wireless mice and keyboards with my Pi’s. I have also successfully used an HP PS/2 keyboard and mouse via a PS/2 to USB adapter.

Keep in mind that some key mappings may be off. For instance, the @ and ” keys are reversed on several of the keyboards that I have used with my Pi’s. Someday, I’ll do a quick search and learn how to fix this.

Monitor

Almost any monitor will do (including your TV, provided that it has an available HDMI port). If your monitor does not have an HDMI port you can use either an HDMI to DVI cable or an HDMI to VGA converter.

I don’t have a recommendation on a good HDMI to VGA converter because I have never used one. I do recommend the following HDMI to DVI cable.

AmazonBasics HDMI to DVI Adapter Cable

Additional Recommended Items for the Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W

USB OTG (On The Go) Cable

This will allow you to connect a USB wireless mouse/keyboard adapter or the USB hub mentioned below.

USB Hub

I wouldn’t say that a USB hub is a requirement. It is really going to depend on your needs. Keep in mind that the Pi Zero only has one USB port. Which you will most likely be using for your keyboard and mouse. If you are purchasing the $5 Pi Zero, you’ll also need a port for connecting a USB Ethernet or Wi-Fi adapter. The Pi Zero W ($10) has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built-in.

USB Wi-Fi or Ethernet Adapter

If you are going to go with the $5 Pi Zero and need network connectivity you’ll need to use a USB Wi-Fi or Ethernet adapter. I am quite partial to TP-LINK products and have had great success with the TP-Link N300 Wireless Mini USB Adapter on my Pi Zero boards.

TP-Link N300 Wireless Mini USB Adapter, Ideal for Raspberry Pi (TL-WN823N)

OMG, Andy! That’s A Lot of Stuff!

I know what you’re thinking. “OMG, Andy! That’s a lot of stuff that I need to buy! That has to be ridiculously expensive! There’s got to be a better option‽” Here are my suggestions.

Make sure that you don’t have any of these items on hand already. If you don’t; Ask your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. More often than not they will have one of the items that you’re needing and often they will gladly give them to you free of charge because they are needing to get rid of them anyway.

Check your local thrift and second hand computer stores. We in Boise, Idaho are lucky enough to have the Reuseum.

If you don’t want to ask anyone for anything and you don’t want any dirty second-hand gear, you can get started by purchasing a Raspberry Pi Starter Kit. There are several options available. Keep in mind though that most of these kits are still going to require that you have a monitor, mouse, and keyboard.

The Official Raspberry Pi 3 Starter Kit

  • Created by The Raspberry Pi Foundation
  • Includes a SMALL keyboard and mouse.
  • No monitor.
  • Available from several stores.

CanaKit

Adafruit

Note: You will see that I link to a few online stores a lot. I do so because I have purchased items from them before and was pleased with their service.

Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit – 32 GB Edition by CanaKit

  • No keyboard or mouse.
  • No monitor.
  • Available at CanKit.com

Computer Starter Kit for Raspberry Pi 3 by Adafruit

  • Includes keyboard and mouse.
  • No monitor.
  • Available at Adafruit.com

Kano Computer KitS

Kano has put together two amazing kits for the Raspberry Pi. I say amazing because they look fantastic! I have never purchased, owned, or used one of their kits myself. Mainly because of the sticker price. However, convenience may outweigh the cost and frustration of trying to track down all of the components on your own.

  • Kano Computer Kit:
    • Includes a keyboard with a touchpad.
    • These kits go on sale often.
    • Available at Kano.com
  • Kano Computer Kit Bundle:
    • Includes a display, keyboard and mouse.
    • Available at Kano.com

Pi-Top

  • Started on Indiegogo.
  • The pi-top kit provides all of the necessary components to build a laptop with the Raspberry Pi (which is included).
  • You can also purchase a desktop all-in-one computer (called the pi-topCEED) that has a Raspberry Pi built-in and is ready to go out of the box (monitor, mouse and keyboard are included).

How do I set it up?

Watch this space.

Additional Resources

In addition to the Raspberry Pi website itself, the following are additional resources for the Pi.

Tutorial Sites

List of tutorials from RaspberryPi.org

tutorials-raspberrypi.com

Adafruit

SparkFun

ThePiHut

Magazines

The MagPi

Raspberry Pi Geek

YouTube Videos and Channels

The official Raspberry Pi YouTube Channel

Eben Upton – The Story of Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi as Fast As Possible by Techquickie

2017 United States Solar Eclipse

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Dell PowerEdge 840 Upgrade

In January 2012 I purchased a used Dell PowerEdge 840 (PE840) server. Since then I have been using it as a home file and remote desktop server. My eventual goal when I bought the server was to upgrade the server to its maximum capacity. I wanted to use the server as a file and virtualization server. I knew it would take a while to buy all of the components. I started buying components for the upgrade project in March 2015. It is now November 2016 and I have had all of the parts for a few months now. I finally had some time off from work and performed the upgrade.

Specs before upgrade:

CPU: Intel Xeon 3040 Dual-Core 1.86 GHz
RAM: 2 GB DDR2-667 PC2-5300 ECC RAM
Storage: 1-250 GB HDD and 1-2 TB HDD
Connectivity: 1-Gigabit Ethernet Port

Specs after upgrade:

CPU: Intel Xeon X3230 Quad-Core 2.66 GHz
RAM: 8 GB DDR2-667 PC2-5300 ECC RAM
Storage: 1-60 GB SSD, 1-120 GB SSD and 2-5 TB NAS HDDs
Connectivity: 4-Gigabit Ethernet Ports (1 on motherboard, 3 via add-on cards)

The upgrade was successful. The server is running well. The only major problem that I had is with Windows Server 2016. I was hoping to be able to run Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V. It installed without a problem, but it would not recognize the embedded Broadcom Gigabit NIC. I found drivers for the NIC that were created for Windows 7, but they did not work (it was a long shot, I know). I couldn’t find any newer drivers. However, I was able to utilize the NIC with Windows Server 2012 R2.

I am currently using this machine as a file and Hyper-V server. I have two virtual machines running around the clock. (1) VPN Server (CentOS with OpenVPN) and (2) Windows 7 installation that is being utilized as an iTunes server to feed our Apple TV.

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I purchased the upgrade components over the course of a year so I was able to distribute the cost. However, the RAM upgrade alone was close to $90 ($45 for 4 GBs). Recently, I had the thought of buying another PE840 to use for additional virtual machines. I found one for $90 (plus shipping) that has the same specs that mine has AFTER I upgraded it. It would be ridiculous for me to purchase another PE840 for $90 when you can get something much better that doesn’t cost that much more. You can get decent brand new servers in the $200 price range. There are much better/newer used servers to be had on eBay for as little as $100-$150. Some with 32 GBs of RAM or better. If you’re dead set on upgrading your PE840, go for it. You’ll appreciate the performance boost. If you haven’t bought the components, I would investigate buying a newer server.

The only component that I haven’t installed is an adequate GPU. It would really be nice for Hyper-V machines so I can take advantage of RemoteFX. However, I don’t think I want to put anymore money into this machine as I am hoping to retire it or re-purpose it soon. If I were to purchase a GPU for it, it looks like the ZOTAC GeForce GT 710 would be the best option. Currently on NewEgg for a little under $50. It is DirectX 12 capable which would allow you to utilize RemoteFX (which requires DX11).

When I started the process of buying the components to upgrade the PE840 I found the following blog post that was extremely useful. If you’re planning to upgrade a PE840, check it out.

What is the best CPU that a Dell Poweredge 840 can take? A Quad Core Xeon X3230!

Central Oregon Road Trip, Labor Day Weekend 2016

Every year my partner and I try to make it to Bend, Oregon. We fell in love with the town in 2011. We’ve been every year since (except for 2014).

The town has a lot of great things to offer. There are great restaurants. One of our favorites is Deschutes Brewery’s Public House. I don’t drink but they have really good food. Now that I am going through this lifestyle change I am thankful they have some great salads on the menu! I really didn’t want to gain the 15 pounds I lost last month back because of poor meal choices on vacation!

In addition to great restaurants, Bend is a great launching point for sightseeing. Crater Lake National Park is just a couple of hours away. When we go to Bend, we always go to Crater Lake! It is one of my favorite places on Earth. There is something about the crisp air and the gorgeous blue water that calls us to come back every year. It doesn’t hurt that Crater Lake Lodge has great food! We’ve only ever been there when they are serving lunch, unfortunately. Hopefully, one of these days, we’ll be able to stay at the lodge and have breakfast and dinner. I also am dying to be at Crater Lake during sunrise, golden hour and sunset!

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Crater Lake was PACKED this year. The fact that it was the day before Labor Day did not help! It took forever to even get turned off of the main highway onto the entrance road. It took us over an hour to get up to the entrance pay station. Thankfully, once past the pay station traffic wasn’t too bad. Many of the viewpoints were super crowded though. Thankfully, we have stopped at all of them on our many trips so we just went on to the next one when one was too crowded.

The past few trips that we have made to Bend we have taken a route that allows us to stop by The Painted Hills near John Day, Oregon. The two times we have stopped at The Painted Hills it was raining. This time we were greeted with gorgeous blue skies. To tell you the truth though, I kind of like my pictures of The Painted Hills from our last trip better than the ones I took this time. I may grow to like the ones I took on this trip in the future. I am very critical of my own work and tend to hate it for a while. Most likely because I spend a lot of time fussing over them before I publish them. At a certain point I become sick of them! It could also be because I worked harder on the photos I took the last time. Even though it was cold and raining, I stood out there with the camera on the tripod and even used a light meter. This time it was freestyle shooting all the way.

Because we have made a trip to Crater Lake and The Painted Hills before, I decided to try something different this year. I decided to try my best to take more photos of the details. To do this, I opted to use my telephoto lens instead of my wide angle lens.

The next time we are in Bend, I want to spend more time taking photos of the actual town. More so than I have in the past. It’s a beautiful town. Not too big. Not too small.

If you’re interested, I created an album on Flickr for ALL of the pictures I have taken at Crater Lake. I decided to create this album so I don’t have to send people multiple links to see all of my Crater Lake photos!

Right now I am in a “I hate these photos!” mood, but I hope they’re decent enough for you to enjoy!

Shadow in a Hat

Shadow in a Hat

I do like to pretend that I am abstract artist. I love to put pen and paper together and just see what happens. Last night while I was doing this I looked at the piece and didn’t see anything. I rotated it 90 degrees and saw a hat. I then thought it would look fantastic on our cat Shadow. After digging through the thousands of pictures that I have taken of this cat I found one where he was looking straight at me.

I think the colors of the hat in the original are much better. I haven’t quite figured out how to get scanned ink drawings to look great. Regardless, I think the final piece is fun. Maybe even wall worthy?

Delete OneNote 2016 Templates

The option to delete templates in OneNote 2016 is grayed out. I found a quick solution on the Microsoft Answers site. Copying solution here in case that page ever goes away:

  • Go to C:\Users\yourusername\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates
  • Open My Templates.one
    • You may be prompted to choose which program to open the file with. Choose OneNote 2016.
  • Your templates will appear as pages. Delete the templates that you don’t need. The template will be removed from the “My Templates” section of OneNote.
    • This does not remove the template from the “Page Templates” button in the ribbon. The old template will go away once you start to use other templates.

Since your templates now appear as an open notebook in OneNote, you can easily switch to it to delete, edit or create new templates.

Going through “The Change”

I grew up differently than everyone else. We didn’t call housework “chores.” Housework was referred to as “You do this right now or I’m going to bust your butt, mister!” We didn’t call punishments “demerits.” We had “Go out there and cut me a hickory switch! If it’s not good enough I’ll make you get another one! Then I’ll make you wish you got a good one the first time!” Long, but effective!

Fast forward a few years to me between my freshman and sophomore years in high school. I got the opportunity to go to a summer camp with the Upward Bound program. The first few days I felt like I had went to a foreign country. The counselors used terms like “chores” and “demerits.” There was an imposed curfew, lights out and bed time. If I had stayed at home that summer I could have stayed up all night long if I had wanted to. This was an interesting change to my lifestyle from home.

Fast forward to August 13, 2016. I have been on this bariatric diet for two weeks now. I think I have been doing a fantastic job. Have I lost any weight? I don’t know. Have I cheated? Oh, absolutely! We all do when we’re dieting, right? Right? You had better have answered YES to that! However, there is a night and day difference between what I was eating and what I am eating now. I haven’t raided the vending machine in two weeks. Okay, I went one time because I didn’t bring enough food for my 10 hour shift at work. I got beef jerky. Then I realized how much sodium was in one package. I won’t be doing that again!

I have finally realized, truly realized, that there is nothing in that vending machine that is even remotely healthy. Not even the granola bars. Just because it is a healthier option doesn’t mean it is a good option. That machine haunts me! I can hear it calling me from my desk. When I am sitting in the break room during my lunch break eating a salad I hear it calling me.

“Andy! Andy! Andy! Come and get some Ruffles! Just think about how good they will taste! Don’t stop at one bag! You know one bag isn’t going to be enough to satisfy your craving!”

I stare at it. I look at each and every item thinking: “Would that really be that bad?” Then I stop myself. “YES! Andy! YES! It would be!” I really want some Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream chips. I want them with sour cream and onion dip. I want an entire family size bag and tub all to myself! I can’t though! Not even one chip!

I went to the grocery store three times last week. I had the hardest time shopping. Prior to starting this diet I had gotten into a bad habit of buying freezer meals. At the time I didn’t think I was buying terribly unhealthy food. It was either something from Trader Joe’s (they have an absolutely amazingly delicious selection of frozen Asian food) or the organic section of Fred Meyer. After starting this diet I REALLY got to looking at the sodium, fat and carbohydrates in the nutrition facts. It was shocking!

This diet truly is a lifestyle change. If I am going to have bariatric weight loss surgery, I have got to make it a permanent change. Going out to eat will be happening a lot less. Preparing food at home will be happening a lot more. It’s a good thing my partner and I love to cook (we just wish we had more time to do it … and a cleaner kitchen to do it in)! It’s one of the hardest lifestyle changes I have had to make. Even harder than getting used to being away from home at summer camp. At least with summer camp I knew there would be a time when I would get to go back home and resume my normal life. I can’t ever go back to my previous eating habits! Maybe I need someone to beat me when I eat the wrong things? We’ve got plenty of bamboo canes!

Even going through the grocery store is a new battle. Even if you stay on the outside perimeter of the store. Every aisle I go down I see everything differently. I don’t see what they’re trying to sell me. I see one of the following: carbs, sugar, fat, sodium. Canned soup? No, it’s canned liquid salt. Suddenly Salad anyone? How about Suddenly Fat! I think not!

One would think that they could order a tuna sandwich from Jimmy John’s, right? That sounds healthy. OH NO! 1,700 mg of sodium. I had no idea it was a salt lick. Maybe that’s why it is so good? I won’t even talk about the carbs! 2,414 mg in the Italian Night Club (my personal favorite). 3,534 mg in the Gargantuan. How did I or anyone else not instantly die after eating the Gargantuan? Goodbye Jimmy John’s. I will miss you!

I still have a long way to go before I am eating right! I am doing good right now, but it could be a whole lot better. I am eating better foods, but I still need to work on portion size. An omelet recipe in the South Beach diet cookbook calls for 3 eggs. Says that it serves 2 people. Mind boggling! I used to eat 3 eggs in my own personal omelet. I need to focus on eating while I am eating. We still sit in front of the television for dinner. Perhaps it’s time to go get the table cleared off once and for good!

I just wish these cravings would go away! I am really wanting a pizza from Costco right now. I want to go out for Mexican food! I want Chinese food! Jesus, take the wheel!

NOTE: In regards to the first paragraph. I was spanked for misbehaving, but it was not abuse. It was included as a humorous way to tie in other thoughts in this entry.

Goodbye 425

Apparently, I have decided to have weight loss surgery (WLS). For years, I have railed against the idea of having WLS. I have been frightened by the thought of having WLS. I always thought I could lose the weight on my own. I have always thought WLS was for the super morbidly obese. News flash, Andy. You weigh 425 lbs. You ARE super morbidly obese!

I am 30. I will soon be 31. Tick tock. Time is running out. I want to lose weight. I want to enjoy my 30s! I can’t in my current condition. I want to be able to climb the stairs, hike the trails, take the spectacular photos that I can’t take right now because my weight hinders me from being upwardly mobile.

My health is rapidly declining. Last year I found myself in the hospital diagnosed with blood clots. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I developed a hernia a few months ago that has further hindered my mobility. I am extremely fortunate that I don’t have diabetes! I really don’t want to wind up with anymore special conditions!

Two of my good friends who also happen to be coworkers have been positive influences in my decision. I have witnessed their amazing transformation. Not just in their size, but in their mindset. They are more determined, more outgoing and happier!

Two months ago I started on this journey. A couple of weeks apart from each other I attended two WLS seminars. One at each of the major hospitals in the area. After going to the two seminars I made my decision on which provider would be better (I went with the provider that has been doing the surgeries the longest). After the seminars I made an appointment and I met with a surgeon. The surgeon HIGHLY recommended that I have a gastric sleeve. I had initially wanted to have gastric bypass. The surgeon said that he would do it, but he really believes the sleeve would be better. He said that due to my size, it would be much riskier to do a gastric bypass. From what I gather, more surgeons are highly recommending the gastric sleeve now. So the current plan is to do the sleeve, but we do have some time to change our minds.

Since I don’t have $30,000 to pay for the surgery out-of-pocket, I do have to go through insurance. My insurance company requires that I go through a 6-month doctor supervised diet. Two days ago I had my first appointment with a dietician. I will be following the South Beach diet plan. I am well equipped. My wonderful sister-in-law bought me a stack of South Beach diet books. They are full of valuable information. In addition my dietician provided me with meal plans.

Another requirement of my insurance company is that I go through a psychological evaluation. I did that yesterday. While I won’t tell you the results of that test (because it will probably show that I am crazy). I will tell you that if you are planning on having the surgery, be prepared. It was a 3 hour long session at a psychologist’s office doing testing and discussing my entire life history with a psychologist. Not an ideal way to get your day started!

In a couple of days I have to go to the hospital to have an upper GI tract X-ray. It’s a good thing that I liked to eat chalk when I was a kid!

I am going full on with the South Beach diet on Monday morning. It’s going to be hard for me. I don’t think it’s going to be hard to give things up. I think the biggest problem I am going to have is preparing fresh food. I have relied on ready to go meals too much lately.

It’s definitely going to be a long and quite possibly a difficult journey. I want you with me for it. I have been wanting to get back into blogging for a few years now. Perhaps this is the best reason to make myself do it! Please excuse the default WordPress theme. I plan something much better! Please, watch this space! Thank you!

Edit 8/13/16: Before I published this I forgot that when I was in the hospital last year I weighed 464 lbs. I don’t know if that is my heaviest weight, but it is the heaviest weight I have ever had recorded.

Install Chocolatey packages on remote Windows 7, 8, 10 computer via PsExec

This post is in response to me thinking that people may be wondering how to use Chocolately, as discussed in “Getting Started with Chocolatey”, to install applications to a remote Windows 7, 8 or 10 computer.

The quickest solution is to utilize PsExec’s remote command prompt feature.

If you are in a workgroup environment rather than a domain environment you will most likely need to make a registry modification in order to be able to connect to a remote computer using PsExec.

Note: All registry edits should be performed with care. A backup of the registry is highly recommended before performing any registry edits.

Navigate to the following location in the Windows registry: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Policies\System

• Right click.
• Choose New -> DWORD (32-bit) value.
• Change of the name of the newly created key to: LocalAccountTokenFilterPolicy
• Double click on the newly created key and change the value to: 1

Modifying the above registry setting allows full credentials to be passed between the local and the remote computers in a workgroup environment. I do not have access to a domain environment where I can test whether this registry modification is necessary in a domain environment or not. Please feel free to comment if you have the answer to this.

If you do not already have PsExec installed onto your own computer you can easily do so via Chocolatey using the following command: choco install sysinternals -y

Once you have installed the Windows Sysinternals suite you can open an admin command prompt and enter the following command: psexec \\REMOTECOMPUTERNAME cmd

If this is your first use of PsExec you will be prompted to accept the license agreement.

If your local credentials match the credentials of an account on the remote computer that has administrator credentials you should be connected without any problems. If your local account is different than your account on the remote computer that has administrator credentials you will have to enter a different command to connect remotely: psexec \\REMOTECOMPUTERNAME -u USERNAME cmd

If PsExec is able to successfully connect to the remote computer you should be prompted for the password of the user account that you specified. If the remote logon is successful you will be taken to a remote command prompt. You can issue the same commands here as if you were sitting directly in front of the computer. You can use this to install software via Chocolatey as discussed in the previous post.

To confirm that you are on another computer you can issue the command hostname

When you have finished you can enter exit and you will be returned to your local command prompt.