Note Taking for Linux With Encryption

If you use a Mac or Windows, you may have read my posts about what I feel are the best note taking applications for Windows and Mac. As I now use Linux, and have used Linux for many years on and off, I want to share with you what I feel is the best Linux based note taking and storing program.

My favorite Windows and Mac note taking applications do not run on Linux natively. The best known Linux note taking program I know of is Tomboy. Tomboy, is a cross platform application. Tomboy does have some limitations which keep it out of my favorites as my needs are different. Tomboy is included by default in many Linux distributions and worth checking out if your needs are simple for note taking and storage.

What for me is a better alternative to Tomboy for Linux is a program named Cherrytree.  Cherrytree per the home page is:

“A hierarchical note taking application, featuring rich text and syntax highlighting, storing data in a single xml or sqlite file.”

I enjoy using a a notes program with a tree like structure. If you ever used any version of Treepad for Windows, you will be right at home. Cherrytree’s tree like node structure lends itself to easily visually find any note. Cherrytree also contains a handy search function. The tree node structure allows for notes to be placed under notes. This means no folder to open and peruse, notes are visible unless you have condensed the node.

cherrytreeI enjoy the Cherrytree search function. When using the search function, Cherrytree lets me know every instance of the keyword, or phrase I search for. Cherrytree has options for keyword setting on each node of the tree. My notes are not that complex, but the option is there if you need it.

What makes Cherrytree special, is Cherrytree has an encryption option for storing note files. On top of an easy to use, and easily to modify tree structure, notes can be encrypted when the file is saved.

What I do is I have two files. The first Cherrytree file contains my ’43 folders’ type information (calender and to do system), and general notes. I leave this file unencrypted. I have a second file containing passwords and other personal private information which is encrypted. Swapping between the two files with Cherrytree is a breeze. When Cherrytree is in use you may open another file as easily as you can with a text editor.

For the password protection scheme, Cherrytree uses 7-zip. 7-zip uses Strong AES-256 encryption in 7z and ZIP formats. Strong enough encryption for me. If my computer turns up missing, as in stolen, I have plenty of time to make all the alerts I will need to make.

Another important Cherrytree option is the ability to make each node on the tree ‘read only’ with the press of a key. There is nothing to match the frustration of overwriting a password or phrase because I did a Shift + V (paste), instead of Shift + C (copy) and later saving the file and not noticing what I did.

One final and perhaps moot point is Cherrytree is aware of file modification. Some programs are written with the user in charge, no questions. A file may be saved in a changed state, no questions asked. Cherrytree however asks if I want to save the modified file. This simple question has saved my passwords from being overwritten by mistake because I am thinking of other things while closing programs.

Cherrytree is in the repository of many Linux distributions. If Cherrytree is not in the repository of your favorite Linux distribution, you can download Cherrytree (as I have) in the format you need from the authors web site. Install instructions are easily followed, and simple to do.

The odds of anyone trying to break an encrypted file saved on a stolen computer are so low it is not worth worrying about. Thieves are only interested in a quick buck, not personal secrets. Truth is, if a thief is smart enough to break password encrypted files, they are not physically stealing for a living.

If you use Linux, and want an easy to use program to store sensitive notes, Cherrytree is the best program I have found. Having read only ability by a key toggle, and strong encryption make Cherrytree stand out from the crowd.

For all this, Cherrytree is donation-ware. Try out Cherrytree, and if you like it, let the author know by making a donation to the program via Cherrytree home page. Donating helps keep Cherrytree and its author reamin alive and healthy.

Prostituted Customer

I feel like a company has tried to buy me off. They did so quite generously too I might add. Is this the new way of doing business?

I am a Celiac. I consume more than a ‘normal amount’ of a certain product because of the limited number of manufactured foods I am able to eat. The product in question is an oatmeal based snack bar. Over the last year, the bar(s) in their individual wrapper have been shrinking. The price remains the same.

I started thinking about what a waste this is. Shrinking product size makes excessive landfill waste because the packaging is over-sized for the product. Plus I get hungry faster – less calories per serving. The idea started to bother me.

Products that are grown such as vegetables, fruits, and meats do not shrink if the cost of farming and ranching go up. Why do manufactured products need to shrink? Can’t they be real, or is it falsely believed consumers do not notice?

Because I do not mind having my opinions heard, I emailed the company at their customer service email address. Unfortunately for the company and myself, the person who was assigned to help me, appeared to have limited reading and comprehension ability and seems to be inexperienced in public relations.

I wrote in my email, over the past year their product has shrunk. I would prefer they return the product to its original size and raise the price. Sounded reasonable to me. I am willing to pay a little more for the original product size.

The first reply stated I was mistaken, and the product size has not changed in the last year (Ok, the last months maybe?). The last year was the time frame I used. I am reading the reply and thinking, ‘I eat a number of these each and every week. The open space in the package has grown by almost an inch, or about twenty percent over the last year. I get hungry sooner after eating them than before.’

Ok, I thought, perhaps there is an understanding gap between what I wrote and what was read on the other end. I decided to rephrase my email comments. I explained perhaps I was not clear in my first email about my concern and here is a rehash.

The product is a food, and therefore a major part of my diet. Because it has shrunk, I now have to eat something else to replace those calories that are missing when compared to your product from a year ago. I would prefer, you raise the price, and keep the product size the same.

The second reply echoed the first reply. The product has not changed in size. Also a check would be sent to me for my time and my emails. This email was a little frosty, imo.

This reply generated a third email from me. I stated I did not want any coupons or money from the company. All I want is to make the company aware of the idea, that shrinking product may not be the best answer in all cases.

This last email was ignored. Within a week or ten days, a check showed up in the amount of ten dollars addressed to me from the company I traded emails with. Really?

In defense of the company and the person who was unfortunate enough to have to respond to my email, I am sure they did their best, and I am sure they followed company policy.

The tone of the replies was a little brusque, but I lend that to the apparent inexperience of the person handling my email. A customer may not alway be right, but it helps to actually read and understand what is being said, before writing a flip reply.

So now, instead thanking a customer for making a suggestion to their business on how better to market their product, I feel like I have been prostituted. Ignore the customers concerns and suggestion.

Send the whiner a few dollars (against his wishes) to shut him up.

Chess Barely Past 1000

I have made it past 1000! Only 1,600 more points to climb before I say I know how to play chess. Just kidding, if I get to 1500 to 1600 I will be thrilled. I now know, there is no magic bullet. It takes time and energy to learn anything, especially chess.

Chess feels to me like a series of interwoven steps. I climb one, and step back two steps to correctly integrate what I think I now know. Some days I feel like a six year old would beat me. Then slowly, my newest learning starts to meld with the little I know. Then, for a few moments, I gloat over my new found skill. Then reality happens, again.

My biggest weakness right now is choosing to move too fast. I can’t seem to stay off the gas peddle of moves. I see a nice move, and I do not see (take time to look for) anything better, so I move. Then I watch one of my pieces I didn’t notice eaten, because I moved too fast. When I slow down, protect my pieces and  not leave them hanging, my chess ability will improve.

As I watch the Masters playing their game via a .pgn file, their play looks so thoughtless and effortless. I am learning, every move made in the late opening is meant to support a later move. I used to think they were wasted moves. For my part, I am busy getting my pieces out so I can castle. For no real reason, I forget what I am supposed to be doing, and poof, another piece bites the dust.

A second learning from the master level games is moves that made no sense to me and looked like errors, are starting to make sense. White moves their pawn to block a two move knight problem before it can be made. Black moves a bishop to tie up a rook, planning to over extend the rook in another move or two, while they plan trap the queen.

They had a plan, and a backup plan. My first plan is to get my pieces active. While doing this, I watch my pieces disappear from the board because I am not thinking and I am moving too fast. That is my current best chess ability.

I am a master at allowing my pieces to be taken. I am starting to appreciate the focus and thinking needed to pay chess well. I need a forced pause between mouse clicks. Counting does not work. I can not count and think at the same time. Perhaps having a clock close by would help, so I know when an acceptable amount of time has passed. Or in my case, an acceptable amount of looking and thinking has not yet passed.

When last spring rolled around, my frustration with chess was high. It was easy to set chess down and pretend chess is something for people with a lot more free time than I have. That is what I did. I told myself, it was not worth the effort. There were better things to do with my time.

This fall however, I started spending more of my spare time with chess. I am finding chess is a lot more fun, as long as I am willing to do some thinking as I play. My frustration level has dropped because the more I think, the more I see good changes in my chess, and in my life.

If you work in a group, I strongly suggest you take up learning chess (again if you stopped). The need to focus and analyze in chess will help you in your work and with the problem of office politics.

It is a good feeling to create a situation where a potential problem is either solved or deflected before can cause you harm. Chess also helps one focus on actually doing work. I’m my case at least, it helps me see ways to be more valuable by using the tools I have to work with in new ways.

Target and My Personal Information

I received an email apology from Target today. This is my reply:

Hello Gregg Steinhafel,

I do not remember ever using a credit or debit card at Target? I certainly did not provide this email address. Since I do not remember doing this, either I have not, or it has been a few months since I did use any plastic as a Target customer. I do not give out this email address.

Why are you hoarding my personal information?

Michael

I am sure Target’s email to me is sincere. What bothers me is why does Target have my information on file in the first place?  Does being a customer give a company the right to collect and hoard my personal information?

Homeless and Invisible, Mexican and successful

In the 1980’s when Ronald Reagan was president, America felt about the same way it feels now. America was looking for a hero, a financial fix, and a sense of self worth.

Earning a living was a hard, pretty much like people are trying to make ends meet today. Feels like Ground Hog Day lately. In an effort to reduce taxes, someone decided that institutionalizing people who were not a threat to themselves or others was a violation of their civil rights.

In a short period of time the walls of sanitariums fell, and tens of thousands of people were free to live a life that was their ‘legal right’, or in other words, literally kicked to the curb to fend for themselves. Nobody really noticed what was happening except their taxes went down. This homeless group of people were pretty much invisible, migrating to inner cities where few saw them on the streets.

During this same period Caesar Chavez prevailed in nothing short of a revolution for Migrant Farm Workers. Migrant Farm Workers were Mexican citizens who did low pay long hour ‘agricultural’ jobs, aka picking fruits, vegetables, citrus and such.

More and more Mexican citizens decided to stay and try to make this country their home. Speaking poor English, no real rights, and no financial support, they thrived.  They too were not noticed at first. There were few of them, and they lived quietly in rural and eventually inner city areas eking out what passed for a living.

It is interesting how some things have changed and other things have not. Mexican Migrant Workers have joined the American workforce with some becoming American citizens. Some small percentage have become wealthy, experiencing first hand the American Dream.

The homeless are still homeless. As natural born citizens many Homeless people lack basic skills which would enable them to hold any kind of job, have a place to call home, and a support network to help them. Many Homeless people who are mentally ill, or otherwise challenged and are brushed under the rug, as they fall through the cracks of life. They are rarely mentioned, barely noticed.

The Homeless population may be indicative of how we choose to treat those less fortunate than ourselves. People who legally may not be a threat to themselves or others, but emotionally or cognitively are not able to manage the basics of a normal life.

Homeless People wander and live in the streets, preyed upon, locked up, and murdered. This happens every day in our streets. We more fortunate Americans are unaware, or pretend not to notice. After all we can’t afford to help them.

I am in awe of the power of marketing. This is mass marketing in its finest hour. Mexican immigrants are the new pioneers, demanding their fair share from their newly conquered lands. The Homeless remain all but invisible. They are not able to get their act together, protest, and be heard.

Yet, the Mexican/American population of these United States shows the American Dream is still alive, and thriving. How is it a people who weren’t born here, may not speak any English, have several roadblocks in their path, become successful Americans, while the Homeless are ignored.

Bidding Site Fraud Happens

I watched a friend logged on to a bidding site, placing bids on a cable to fix a broken shifter on their bicycle. Each time they bid, within a few seconds, their bid was trumped by an auto bid.

Curious by nature, I wanted to see who was doing the auto bidding. Turned out the auto bids were listed only as “Dealers”. There were three different “Dealers” who submitted auto bids over my friend’s bids.

I am thinking, why would several “dealers” auto bidding on a mundane item with a ten dollar shipping charge? There was not a lot of room left between the bid and buying locally. Per my friend it was getting close to the cost of gas and sales tax.

What resale profit is there after over bidding a live human bidder when the price is this high? There is none. Nobody is going to buy a cheap product at more than the price is worth, Dealer or not.

I know little about bidding sites. I have never done any business with one, though I have been to auctions and know how they can be manipulated. Somehow these “Dealers” are managing a fraud scheme without tripping any flags on the bidding site that monitors the bidding for fraudulent behavior.

In real world auctions, though it is rare, there will be a group of four or more people in the crowd to bid up prices. If they ‘win’ the bid, the item is simply set aside for another auction on another day. No one loses, except the unsuspecting bidder who are cheated out of what should have been their purchase.

In the case of the human bidding with auto dealer bidding over them on a bicycle cable it doesn’t need but a few bids to spot what’s going on. In my friends case it was four bids. My friend ran into a Fraud Coop, auto bidding on randomly assigned products sold by other members of the Fraudulent Price Gouging Coop. If the Dealer’s bid is the winning bid, the transaction takes place per bidding site regulations, the money is refunded in another manner, and the product never gets shipped.

The winning “Dealer” now becomes the seller, with the original Dealer the shipper. I thought what I was watching was a carefully thought out scam, involving many people.

The people involved in the fraud could be anywhere around the world, placing auto bids driving up prices for themselves, gouging customers who aren’t aware of what what is happening. If funded well, more than one or two people are all thats needed, only virtual computers, physically located in disparate locations, far apart from each other with no obvious connections.

No matter what someone buys, there is always room for cheating the buyer or seller out of money. No matter how policed any sale is, someone may be willing to cheat innocent buyer. After all who is going to take time to pursue a real claim over a few dollars?

Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware.

In McDonald’s defense.

In McDonald’s defense. McDonald’s has taken literally decades of attacks on their menu offerings. I too have been critical of McDonald’s menu choices. Most of meals McDonald’s offers are overwhelmed with fat, sugar, and salt. As an observation, there is never a lack of people wanting to eat meals from McDonald’s most of the hours of the day and night.

Recently, I read articles from hopefully trusted sources about the nature of McDonalds employee communications. McDonalds in an attempt to help their employees  stretch their dollar as far as possible, is now offering advice on how to live and what to eat. Even going so far as suggesting a paid McDonalds meal is not in their best financial or health interest.

McDonalds has been overly criticized for providing this information to their workers. I say good for McDonalds! McDonalds should be applauded for being realistic about what reasonable expectations are for its employees away from work. What other big business besides the military makes it clear that their bottom of the pay scale employees should not think they hold a job that will meet their financial needs.

McDonalds is glaringly truthful about employment with McDonalds, and the lifestyle McDonalds employment may and may not provide. Every current and prospective McDonalds employee needs to understand McDonalds position. For the most part McDonalds jobs are entry level jobs, and not a career path. McDonalds has always been obvious about this point.

Paycheck based economic reality is essential to any workforce. If any McDonalds employee is offended by the information provided, perhaps it is time to do a reality check on their spending habits? If anyone else is offended by what McDonalds provided to help their employees make ends meet, perhaps they also should be realistic about this sector of the economy.

McDonalds became the fast food giant they are by being realistic. Almost daily I drive by at least one McDonalds with five or more cars in the drive through. Two of these locations have a grocery store within sight of the drive through. When seen in this perspective, who is being more realistic about what McDonalds provides, McDonalds the company, or employees and customers?

Wanting Ice Cream in Your Bowl

We like to help people who smile and are polite  more than they like to help people who are demanding and serious. It is our nature.

I was at a buffet by the scooped ice cream as a boy was trying to get the attention of the server so he could get some ice cream. “Hey Lady….Hey you…Hey, he was saying in a demanding voice.

The woman who naturally, wasn’t about to be ordered around by a twelve year old, pretended to be busy and hard of hearing. I stepped over to where the boy was and suggested to the boy that by saying please, thank you, and smiling, he was more likely to be helped, and more likely to get a little extra ice cream in the process. We all like a little more ice cream.

I politely called to the woman who could not ignore her two customers any longer. The little boy in a condescending tone  asked the server for ice cream. Of course he was rewarded with a bowl containing the absolute minimum amount of ice cream the server could defend as a serving if the need arose.

This kid is a little slow on the uptake I thought to myself. He missed the idea of using good manners gets you farther than not using good manners. The boy walked two steps away, turned to me, smiled, and said, “Thank you”. Go figure! I bet he gets it right next time.

There are always at least two levels of service when you are the public and need someone to help you. The first level of service is when it is the other person’s job to help you. You get the minimum they have to do for you and keep their job. People do not like to be taken for granted and unless tipped or paid excessively, people working with the public do not put up with bad behavior and poor manners. They will do their best to put you in your place, or make your experience less than it could be

The second level of service is the service you receive when you use your manners, and respect the person who’s job it is to help you. When this happens someone who’s job it is to help you, is now happy to help you, because the interaction is taken to a higher level.

I always strive for the second level of service, how about you?