Trans: Latin prefix implying "across" or "Beyond", often used in gender nonconforming situations – Scend: Archaic word describing a strong "surge" or "wave", originating with 15th century english sailors – Survival: 15th century english compound word describing an existence only worth transcending.

Category: Reviews

Notes on a Free and Open Source Notes App:  Joplin

Joplin for all your Operating Systems and devices

As a lifelong IOS + OSX user (Apple products), I have used many, many notes apps over the years.  From big name apps like OmniFocus, Things 3, Notes+, to all the usual suspects like Trello, Notability, Notemaster, RTM, and others, I always eventually migrate back to Apple notes, simply because it is always available and always up to date.  There are zero “features” besides this convenience, which is why I am perpetually willing to give a new app a spin.

Joplin is free, open source, and works on OSX, Windows, Linux operating systems and IOS and Android phones.  

Find it here:

brew install joplin 

The most important thing this project has nailed is cloud support and syncing.  I have my iPhone and computers syncing via Dropbox, which is easy to setup and works….  really well. Joplin folks have added many cloud options, so this is unlikely to be a sticking point for users.

Here are some of the key features:

  • Markdown is totally supported for straightforward and easy formatting
  • External editor support for emacs / atom / etc folks
  • Layout is clean, uncluttered, and just makes sense
  • Built-in markdown text editor and viewer is great
  • Notebook, todo, note, and tags work great across platforms
  • Browser integration, E2EE security, file attachments, and geolocation included

Hopefully this will be helpful.


– Jess

Recycled Personal “Cloud Computing” under NAT

As many may intuit, I like the AWS ecosystem; it is easy to navigate and usually just works.  

…However- more than 1000 dollars later, I no longer use AWS for most things….


My goals: 

Selective sync:  I need a unsync function for projects and files due to the tiny 256 SSD on my laptop (odrive is great, just not perfect for cloud computing.

Shared file system:  access files from Windows and OSX, locally and remote

Server must be headless, rebootable, and work remotely from under a heavy enterprise NAT (College)

Needs more than 8gb ram

Runs windows desktop remotely for gis applications, (OSX on my laptop)


Have as much shared file space as possible: 12TB+


Server:  recycled, remote, works-under-enterprise-NAT:

Recycled Dell 3010 with i5:

– Cost: $75 (+ ~$200 in windows 10 pro, inevitable license expense) 

free spare 16gb ram laying around, local SSD and 2TB HDD upgrades

– Does Microsoft-specific GIS bidding, can leave running without hampering productivity

Resilio (bittorrent) Selective sync:

– Cost: $60

– p2p Data management for remote storage + desktop

– Manages school NAT and port restrictions well (remote access via relay server)

Drobo 5c:

Attached and syncs to 10TB additional drobo raid storage, repurposed for NTFS

  • Instead of EBS (or S3)


What I see:  front end-

Jump VNC Fluid service:

– Cost: ~$30

– Super efficient Fluid protocol, clients include chrome OS and IOS,  (with mouse support!)

– Manages heavy NAT and port restrictions well

– GUI for everything, no tunneling around a CLI

  • Instead of Workspaces, EC2

Jetbrains development suite: (OSX)

– Cost:  FREE as a verified GitHub student user.

– PyCharm IDE, Webstorm IDE

  • Instead of Cloud 9


Total (extra) spent: ~$165

(Example:  my AWS bill for only October was $262)



Intro to the AWS Cloud 9 IDE

The Cloud 9 IDE is the fastest way I have come up with to develop web-based or otherwise “connected” programs.    Because it lives on a Linux-based EC2 server on AWS, running different node, html, etc programs that rely on a network system just work- it is all already on a network anyway.   🙂  There is no downtime trying to figure out your WAMP, MAMP, Apache, or localhost situation.

Similarly, other network programs work just as well-  I am running a MySQL server over here (RDS), storage over there (S3), and have various bits in Github and locally.   Instead of configuring local editors, permissions, and computer ports and whatnot, you are modifying the VPC security policies and IAM groups- though generally, it just works.

Getting going:   The only prerequisite is you have an AWS account.  Students:  get $40 EC2 dollars below:
Open the cloud 9 tab under services.



Setup is very fast- just know if others are going to be editing to, understand the IAM policies and what VPC settings you actually want.


Know this ideally a browser-based service; I have tried to come up with a reason a SSH connection would be better and didn’t get any where.

For one person, micro is fine.   Know these virtual “RAMs” and “CPUs” are generous….





The default network settings are set up for you.   This follows good practice for one person; more than that (or if you are perhaps a far-travelling person) note these settings.  They are always editable under the VPC and EC2 instance tabs.



That’s it!   Other use things to know:

This is a linux machine maintained by Amazon.   Packages you think should work and be up to date (arguably like any other linux machine I guess…)  may not be.  Check your basics like the NPM installer and versions of what your going to be working on, it very well may be different than what you are used to.

In the editor:

You have two panels of workspace in the middle- shown is node and HTML.   Everything is managed by tabs- all windows can have as much stuff as you want this way.

Below there is a “runner” (shown with all the default options!) and a terminal window.  Off to the left is a generic file manager.



I hope this is useful, it sure is great for me.


Birding Beyond Binos: 5 Bird apps vs. “the Guide”.

We all have a favorite bird, animal or plant guide.  Peterson is the best at drawing; Sibley takes the best pictures.  Kauffman ties it all together; National Geographic makes a solid reference and Audubon is great for fast looks.

While these books will always have a place on the shelf or table, the depth of content and portability of smartphone apps and trustworthy (e.g. reaserch related or associated with a big bird organization you recognize) websites truly foster the next level of ecological acuity.

[I will cover apps for iPhones and iPads- these are tools I have available and find to be indispensable.]  Like the shelf of guides they can replace out in the field, there is always room for another guide- and, generally speaking, cost significantly less than the least expensive print guide on your shelf.

  1. iBird PRO –

This app does it all: view photos, range maps, sounds, and similar birds, and search by band code, Latin/common name.  The sound recordings are pretty good and can be looped individually or as a species playlist (good for playback in research situations).  Similar bird songs are playable at the bottom of each species- great for learning and verifying nuances between similar songs.  The illustrations are “ok”- better than what I could do (obviously) but nothing quite like Peterson or Kauffman.  There are two more (add-on) engines in this app I have not used:  the local birds function by GPS (BAM) and a “humanized” search tool to pinpoint the bird you are looking for (Percevia).

  1. Audubon Birds

Audubon Birds has come a long way, and generally will offer more of a comprehensive written overview on each bird- going into feeding, behavior, breeding, and habitat discussions.  They seem to have added eBird integration (far, far superior to their “nature share” tool) which allows for both a mobile search into the unfathomably large user-based data set for local birds and a way to add your own data to eBird (though traditionally, the best way to do that is from a computer).

  1. Audubon Owls

This app is only a small vignette on owls; there seems to be more info geared solely about owls here than in Audubon Birds- photos, videos, tips, and tricks

  1. Merlin Bird ID

Despite the hardcore Bird Photo ID algorithms and location-based searches, this is geared toward those who may be starting out, and want to up the ante.  You fill in a few parameters about a bird sighting (this will not help with bird sounds), then it will generate a list of probable birds.  Supposedly, if you get a good photo of the bird on your phone (Digi scoping/Wi-Fi upload?) It can id the bird visually.

  1. eBird

If you are truly doing an eBird list for your trip, try this app for basic, quick additions- but I would not rely on it for media uploads or anything too crazy.  You can upload your checklist from the field then edit it later, though it is unclear if that is really a good idea in the scheme of data collection.

This is a list of the Bird apps I use on my phone, most getting use many times a week or even every day (iBird Pro).


DIY MrSpeakers “Open Alpha” 3d Printed Headphones: Dan Did It Again!


Headfi forum with release and build notes

MrSpeakers headphone plug terminals 

Acoustic wool I used

Brainwaves earpads

Prices for Prusa i3 on Ebay

Other materials include a recycled Grado cable, spare bolts from my Prusa i3 printer (and obviously my i3 printer for printing, too) and Hatchbox black PLA.

I like the Hatchbox stuff, thus far it has proven to be affordable and reliable, even at low printing temperature (180 degrees is all I got).

One side, stock t50rp. Otherside, Open alpha.


So:  Before I get into the build details, the bottom line is this is the definitive overhaul to complete in terms of t50rp mods.  I started with a refurbished mkiii,  and hated the crazy EQ spike at about where hihats generally reside.  This was not a subtle issue, and would give me a headache quickly.  From modding with the stock cups, I found denser damping=worse issue with treble and less bass.   Think of it like a bass trap- I used essentially felted wool, which in its raw form killed all frequencies except for the strongest… …Which in this case was about 2.8khz to give a rough estimate.  Ouch!  After googling around, I discovered Dan was using cotton balls as the primary damping material, with a thin layer of dense acoustic mat of some kind to line the cup (helps mostly I think with leakage control and resonance from the actual plastic and flat surfaces on the cup itself).

Damping the Alphas:

I already had this fancy acoustic wool, so I figured I could make some “wool balls” by separating the dense wad into fluffy pillows.  I’d say I aired on the side of less dense- at this point I was printing my Alpha cups, and the space in there is huge, leaving ample space to layer up some of these wool balls.  I did not feel the need to line the cups with a damping mat of any kind, because my wool seemed to kill noise and reflection already like nobody’s business.

Printing the cups and other parts:

…Painless, except on the inside of the cups there is a dip where the headband arm is mounted.   For no particular reason, I printed both cups without supports- but not without a large amount of “PLA spaghetti”  and the occasional emergency “duct tape the PLA spaghetti wad to the bed so it can have something to build on…”


Firstly, these sound nothing like the stock t50rp.  AT ALL.  the low end goes quite low with not a huge amount of distortion, the mids are wide and spacious, and the treble (including the significantly tamed-down spike) is springing and provides nice “pop” and sparkle.  These headphones are a pleasure to listen to- I’ve been doing Art Blakey and Coltrain lately because the reproduction of the jazz bass is superb,  Couple that with the expansive space where the sax and piano reside, these make a nice way to relax at the end of a day (which is how I have been relaxing each evening since I made them).  Obviously, we still have some fundamental setbacks.  The Fostex driver is unbelievably inefficient.  It takes much care to juice these properly (I like them through my e12 portable amp actually,  because I can crank the input volume on that with very little distortion for quite a bit).   Additionally, there is a limit to how much detail we can siphon out of the driver; this uber mod definitely maxes out the clarity and definition this driver can provide.  For example, the successor to this headphone when it was made commercially by Dan/MrSpeakers is the AEON (still in preorder mode at the time of writing)- a completely in house design trickling technology down from the company’s acclaimed ETHER headphones.  I am actually lucky enough to have had a few hours to play with them and chat with the inventor (Dan)- quite simply, the clarity and silkiness of the AEON demolishes the notion of clarity with my Open Alphas.  THAT SAID an $800 carbon fiber headphone invented from the ground up by Dan (who maintains the highest regards even from competitors (ZMF, even hifiman reps) as the most dedicated headphone creator) is obviously not really competing against a headphone a made for <$300 INCLUDING the 3d printer and donor headphones…. 🙂


The Prusa i3 Update: My ~$150 3d Printer


the prusa i3 on ebay

Cura 3d slicing and printing gcode software

Marlin firmware for “real” arduinos on Github

I purchased my 3d printer new from the USA for exactly $155.   That is $50 less than a single DUM headphone cable from MrSpeakers.  It did not work until much duct tape had been applied and zip ties zipped and jigs rigged, but overall it wasn’t that bad.  Now that I’m up and running, there are a few things to note:

  1. It can barely heat PLA (at 180 c), so forget about ABS.  I have a hunch this may have something to do with the wimpy PSU it came with.  I just so happen to have a full size version of the same PSU, rated at 30 amps @ 12 volts- someday I will try swapping that one in and see If I can get more temperature.  The firmware has ABS settings, it just will never reach the 225 degrees called for.
  2. The firmware is very firmly stuck in the arduino.  I spent hours upon hours trying to flash this arduino with a custom Marlin software, as I have been taught from my MPCNC project, to no avail.  The best thing to do is do all the tweaks in Cura, load the resulting gcode into a sd card, and run the printer off that.  The USB was getting wonky on me (I can’t remember exactly what it was doing, it just wasn’t the right thing). plus with the sd card you can put the printer wherever you want.
  3. The build quality… there is no quality.  be prepared to make up the assembly and troubleshooting as you go.
  4. “heated” bed- the bed game is rather weak.  things sometimes stick, but usually don’t.  I learned the best way to get prints to stick is with washable glue sticks.  Long story short (and many prints that skittered off the bed before they were done), I need gluesticks.

Once I procure some glue sticks, I’ll be printing out my “real” machine.  MPCNC, Here we come!

Album Review: Hiromi’s “Spark”

Listening prerequisites:  Well caffeinated, thoughtful and contemplative mood

This is a real contemporary Jazz album, full of epic changes and tweaked drums.  Holy smokes, Simon Phillips on the drums, (This guy drummed with Art Blakey back in the day!) with the sound of “I think Hiromi just told Simon to do whatever he please, and go as nuts as possible”.  🙂


For what it’s worth, Hiromi is a Berklee music school piano teacher.   She is very technically minded (modal jazz is so last century- we’re talking cutting edge theory) and likes creative ways to use keyboards and time signature.

Three first songs sum up the album:

Spark & In A Trance:  These tracks seem to be the hallmarks of this album (Simon has drum solos in both).  Spark starts off sounding very subdued and surreal; this quickly changes when Simon and Anthony Jackson (the bassist) comes in, effectively “dropping the bass”.  Speaking of which, Anthony doesn’t go too big in most of this album.  I think that is due to how much space Hiromi and Simon are taking up- it is Hiromi’s trio project after all.   There are a great deal of mini-build ups and sections all over these tracks, creating more of a rolling  landscape  than a traditional song structure.   Simon’s first drum solo is still accompanied by the other two- listen for the use of hi hat and ride/cymbals (AFAIK Simon has more cymbals than Guitar Center before black friday)

In A Trance epic drum solo:  Skipping ahead (all this stuff is great) one will notice in a trance is a ~9 minute song, and it seems the whole thing is setting a magnificent, sharp, and well polished table- just so Simon can rip the tablecloth off and generally wreak havoc.  This is a jazz album, but it is not subtle.  The use of instrument volume and intensity, as well as repeating motifs and phrases build up to exactly 5 minutes into the song, at which point Anthony and Hiromi stop completely and wait for simon to finish.

The dynamics, use of the snare in relation to toms in relation to cymbals is unbelievable.  At 7:04 Simon seems to start whispering via his drums, playing a quieter but still with a certain vigor.  7:18, dropping the bass again the other two start.  7:20 is the greatest thwack ever to be heard.   The End.

Take Me Away:  This one starts with less energy of the first two, up through about 2:00.  Here, Hiromi is toning the complexity down to set up for a straight up jazz groove, starting at 2:28.   Anthony can be heard burbling around in there.  Hiromi is doing a sort of conversational jazz with this groove, laid back and breathing with the other two.   At 5:00, again Simon can be heard banging his drums, particularly the hi hat with quick, decisive strokes.  Good low end on this track after 2:00 ala Hiromi’s root notes and similar notes played by Anthony.

…The rest of the album is yours to enjoy and decipher; it does seem to fall under these three songs framework (or lack thereof).

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