Short version for those who are frustrated with a similar problem:

Windows 7 handles faulty CD/DVD drives very poorly. It can cause the Live USB, Safe Mode, Recovery Tools, and Normal Boot mode to take HOURS to complete.

 

My company recently auctioned old IT assets. I picked one up for a friend and installed Ubuntu so it could be a nice backup or guest computer for them – just web browsing, videos, and light word processing.

Very soon after the purchase my friend had a need to do work on this computer; they needed Windows. This is when the trouble began.

I’ve installed Windows from floppy, CD, USB, and even via image. All with or without slipstreamed updates. This was one of my more frustrating experiences.

I opted for the easiest option: USB + slipstreamed updates. It went great. I had all the software and updates installed and was ready to go. Suddenly, Windows started loading slowly. I mean, VERY slowly. I would see the “Starting Windows” for a few hours. The logo was still moving, and I could see the hard drive light flickering. One night, out of frustration, I just let it sit on the table when I went to bed. When I came back in the morning Windows was up and running fine.I ran my usual checks: defragment, error check, SMART test, etc. All of these showed NO issues. And yet, Windows was consistently taking hours to boot.

I noticed the BIOS was hanging slightly, so I disabled the “Thorough” POST checks. This helped a bit, but it was still taking a longer than necessary to load up. After this, I tried an Ubuntu Live USB drive. It worked fine, and booted lightning fast. (Remember, I had Ubuntu running on this machine before).

Neither the Safe Mode, Recovery Mode, or even the Live USB Windows Recovery mode were able to quickly boot on this computer!

I was wondering if it was power related, so I removed all devices, including the removable CD/DVD drive. Amazingly, the boot time was immediately down to ~30 seconds. However, it’s not because of the power usage. It turns out, the CD/DVD drive is faulty: the tray doesn’t quite open and close properly. The cabling inside has come loose and jams the mechanism. I’m guessing this is causing the drive to send strange signals to the computer.

You would think this type of issue would be detected, and that Windows would ignore the drive during the boot process. I mean, Ubuntu figured out a way to work just fine…

So, the end result is this:

A faulty CD/DVD drive (and BAD CODE) caused Windows to become almost unusable until the drive was removed.

Why did I type this whole post when I put the relevant information in 2 sentences at the top? Because it makes me feel better, that’s why.

When things that should just work, don’t

Reasons why Linux cannot be taken seriously as an end-user operating system

I can think of at least 10 other things I would like to title this article, considering the amount of time I have had to spend on this issue.

For the past 2 years I’ve been using my Intel NUC + Xubuntu + VirtualBox as my own private server / media center PC. It’s been working great for testing out anything I want, running my own servers, and playing movies on my TV.

It’s great except for one flaw: every time you unplug the monitor or turn the TV off, you either need to reboot the NUC, or drop into command line mode and run a command to reconfigure the screen.

Seems like a pretty big flaw, right? I think expecting a monitor to “just work” when it’s plugged in is a pretty basic request. This error is from the 14.04 version, which is about 2 years old. When asking the support community, they basically said “Yea, it’s not a big deal… It’s not a high priority for us to fix.” 2 years (and two major versions) later, this bug still isn’t fixed.

I decided I had enough, so I would install the stock Ubuntu (even though it has the gut-wrenching-make-me-want-to-gouge-my-eyes-out interface – seriously, Unity is so terrible). I assumed it would have better support for this type of thing.

I downloaded the ISO, booted into Ubuntu, selected the typical “Erase disk and Install Ubuntu” – and what happened? The reasonable person would expect that it installed Ubuntu, I restored my Virtualbox configuration, and I went about my day happily. This is far from what happened.

After a few hours and a few failed installation attempts, I found out that Ubuntu is failing to install the bootloader. Furthermore, it failed to even configure a boot partition. How is this possible? You know what – I don’t want to know. I’m sure someone is going to comment about how “Oh, it’s confused between the UEFI and Legacy boot options that the NUC supports.” I don’t care.

It’s 2016, it’s a robust piece of hardware, and when I tell an OS to have its way with my hard disk, it should have no problems doing so! I guarantee that if I were to use Windows 10, or Windows Server they would have no issues. This is why I say Linux isn’t going to make it as an end-user OS. The community really needs to get its act together and start fixing problems that require the user to do things like drop into the command line, or manually configure partition tables for simple things like plugging in a monitor or doing a fresh install of an OS.

Yes, this is mostly a rant – but I’m putting it out there so that if some poor soul Googles “Ubuntu doesn’t work on NUC”, or “new install of ubuntu grub won’t load” they just might find my solution: manually partition the partition table yourself, turn on Legacy Boot mode, and make sure Secure Boot is off. Finally, while it’s installing – give some thought to whether or not you really still want to use Ubuntu.

 

P.S. – For some reason when installing the third party plugins, the Adobe Flash Plugin downloads INSANELY slow – I’m talking 1 KB/s at times.

People often ask me “what do you eat” or, “how did you lose weight?”

As I’ve said before, this comes with a change in what you’re doing, which starts by changing how you think.

So… let me give you a glimpse into my mind of what I think when I look at food. I’m really not trying to pick on this product, it’s the same analysis for any product.

I aim to get about 200 grams of protein in a day, so it’s often what I’m looking for in food. I’m not sure how realistic this is, but in my mind – as long as I eat enough protein, fruit, and vegetables then the remaining calories in my daily “budget” are all for me to eat what I please!

This is why I take it so seriously when a “protein rich” product is really not much better than a candy bar.

Since I know some of you may suffer from TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) on this, I’ll give you my tips up front:

If the food advertises “22% protein”, that means the product is 78% fat and carbs (sugar).

Fat has almost twice as many calories per gram as protein, so it’s much less filling. And well, more fattening.

 

You can often get your nutritional needs in a more efficient, cheap, and delicious way. For example, this $5 “protein ball” has about the same amount of protein and calories as:

  • a glass of skimmed milk and a cookie
  • egg white omelette and some juice
  • a bowl of Cheerios with skimmed milk
  • can of tuna (which would have 4x as much protein)

All of these options would be cheaper, more filling, and more healthy. And personally, I love these foods! If I could easily buy a can of tuna and skimmed milk at any convenience store I would always meet my protein quota.

 

Also, keep in mind that the percentage by weight and by calories can be quite different.

nutrition chart

Notice that the protein and carbs are about the same, but the fat is much higher. And the “Other” category for weight is often caused by fiber, etc. The “Other” category for calories is due to rounding and the “accepted values” for a gram of protein, carbs, or fat.

SO, let’s take a look at a product I wandered by in an airport recently

front

What the manufacturers probably want you to think:

  • Oh look, it’s a cute little ball with eyes
  • Oh hey, it says 22% protein. That sounds good!
  • It has whey protein. Not just any old protein, but WHEY protein…
  • There are 6 delicious cute little balls in this package

What I’m thinking:

  • It’s a “protein ball” and it only has 22% protein?
  • It is 45 Grams, so 22% protein would be 10 grams (I didn’t even have to look at the back to figure this out).
    • 10 grams of protein would be ~40 calories. So [Total Calories] – 40 = How many wasted calories are on this product.
  • There is a cute little protein ball, which I think is supposed to distract me from something
  • They are advertising WHEY protein (which metabolizes very quickly, so it won’t last long)
  • They probably added whey protein because the base ingredients don’t have much protein

Ok. So now we’ve looked at the front. Why not open it up and see how it looks before we look at the back?

open

What they want you to think:

  • AH! it’s a cute little protein ball! Just like the package said! If only it had eyes and a personality and it could be my little pet.
  • They’re so small and easy to eat!

 

What I’m thinking:

  • It’s all shiny. This thing looks like it’s full of fat. It’s either greasing up to compete in a sports competition, heading to the beach to get a tan, or breaking out in a sweat just from moving out of the package.
  • These are kind of small, and not very heavy. I don’t think this will make me very full.

 

Alright, we’ve looked enough, now let’s look at the back.

back

What they want you to think

  • Look at that boring black and white table to the left. I’m not going to squint at the small text and numbers. I’m hungry!
  • Look at all those cute balls on the right! And the pretty fonts and colors!
  • I’ve stumbled upon “the most delicious, all-natural, protein balls in the universe!” I’m so smart!
  • They’re Gluten Free! I’ve heard that stuff is bad for you!
  • No egg whites! Wheat Free! No Added Sugar! Vegetarian! No GMOs, and no soy! This sounds amazingly healthy!
  • They lovingly make their protein, unlike those other heartless protein producers.
  • And they feed their cows grass! I know that cows are supposed to eat grass, so that sounds good!
  • Rock ‘N Roll! Who doesn’t like Rock ‘N Roll?

 

What I’m thinking:

  • OK, so I know it has 10 grams of protein, yep. Confirmed it right there on the bottom.
  • So that’s 40 calories out of… 187!!! Wow, how much fat and sugar is there in this thing?
  • Ah, it says right there. So there is almost the same amount of fat in this thing as protein, and twice as many carbohydrates (sugar) as protein.
  • Let’s take a look at the ingredients…
  • Dates is the first ingredient? That means it’s most used ingredient in this PEANUT BUTTER PROTEIN product. So much for “no added sugar”
  • Peanuts (38%) – not bad.
  • Whey Powder (milk) 3rd down on the list… not so great.
  • Fruit juice concentrate – so “no added sugar” was a blatant lie then…
  • Rice starch – OK, something has to make these sugar-fat balls not stick like glue
  • A pinch of HIMALAYAN salt, because any other salt just won’t do…
  • Alright, now for the lies on the right: “most delicious in the universe”? You haven’t even left Earth…
  • Gluten Free? Unless you have Celiac Disease, it doesn’t matter
  • No Egg Whites? WHY NOT?! How about a balanced protein compound?!
  • All Natural – What does that even mean? Animal droppings are all natural; doesn’t mean I want to eat them.
  • No Soy? Again – WHY NOT?!
  • Wheat Free – isn’t this a repeat of what you’re trying to say with Gluten Free?
  • No Added sugar – are you kidding me? You put more dates and fruit juice concentrate in this than protein!

And almost as important as the calories – how did it taste? It was OK.

If I had my choice I would have eaten any of the items on the list at the beginning of this post.

Pro

  • You get to be King!

  • You get to do everything and be a highly valued resource in your company

  • You’re never bored

  • No one knows exactly  “what you do”

  • You get to learn many new skills

Con

  • You have to be a 2

  • “I do everything” doesn’t look good on a resume when you want to go to a new company

  • You’re always busy

  • No one knows exactly  “what you do”

  • You have to self-learn most things

 

Being a wildcard at work is just like being a wildcard in poker. You’re never as good as the card you’re pretending to be: The kings will be more skillful than you in their category, and the twos will be a more cost efficient resource for the work.

As with most things in your professional life, you have to look at the long-term and decide if being a wildcard is working to your benefit. If not, it might be time to switch tables!

The Rules

Let’s have a real talk here. Don’t get caught up on the specific numbers, or on the easy excuses.

History

I am 6’1 (186 cm) and 28 years old. At my peak weight I weighed 265 pounds (120 kg). I had very poor eating habits, and was also very sedentary. I sat in front of a computer for work, and also for my hobbies at home. The only good thing about this is it paid the bills.

I was never happy with my weight and I always made excuses. I went through a rough time in my life, and I decided I was going to make the change for good. I changed my diet and exercise habits; over the course of about 16 months I lost about 100 pounds (45 kg). At my lowest weight I was 165 (75 kg). From there, I focused a bit more on my diet and now maintain myself around 175-180 (79-82 kg).

I am not a dietitian, nutritionist, personal trainer, doctor, nor am I in any way certified to give out advice on health or nutrition. My only “credential” is that I’ve been heavy, and I’ve lost weight. All of my information comes from researching in books and web articles.

I have been wanting to write this for a while, but I’ve procrastinated because I was worried people would not like what I have to say or pick it apart. Overall, I think this writing will do more harm than good. This writing is just my way of thinking when it comes to weight loss.

Here are some pictures of approximately “before and after”. As you’ll notice, I’ve omitted any shirtless shots (for both of our benefits)

Before 1 After 1
Before 2 After 2
Before 3 After 3

 

Budget

As you grow older, you get a concept of which things are expensive, and which things are cheap. Once you get the hang of this, you can worry a little less about the specifics and still keep your budget on track. You know that you can buy a pack of gum without checking the price. In contrast, you learn that if you’re in an expensive looking store you need to think twice before buying a purse.

Why do we treat food any differently? Do you know your caloric “budget”? It’s probably not 2,000 calories despite what the back of that cereal box tells you. Similar to the purse scenario, you need to be a bit more careful about what you throw on your plate when you’re at a pizza parlor than when you are at a salad bar if you want to stay within your “budget”.

Debt

You can be in debt financially, and you can also be in debt calorically (overweight). The nice thing is that your body is much more forgiving than your bank. You can overspend your daily income by a few thousand times if you decide to go buy a Ferrari. Your body is configured well enough that you cannot possibly absorb more than a few day’s worth of calories in a single day. But in both cases, you can overspend by 5-10% for a few years and then it will come back and bite you – hard.

Excuses

Let’s get the excuses out of the way. There is a little thing called the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy. It means that you cannot create mass from nothing. To really blunt – it means you gain weight because you take in more mass (food) than you convert into other forms (mass and energy) through bodily functions and exercise. If you do somehow find that you are creating mass from nothing, I suggest you immediately nominate yourself for a Nobel Prize in Physics. But be warned, you’ll probably be getting a free autopsy – for Science!

Math

They told you in school, and it’s true: math can save your life. It’s actually REALLY easy to use math to lose weight. Here is how I think of the equation:

Weight Change = Input – Basal Metabolic Rate – Extra Effort * Personal Multiplier

Let’s break these things down.

Weight Change:

A pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories. Please note I said roughly. Apparently some people are very passionate about this not being 100% accurate. Whether it’s 2,500 or 4,500 – I think 3,500 gets us in the right ballpark, and the right mindset.

So, if you want to remain the same, the weight change number should be 0.

If you want to gain weight (even muscle), the number needs to be above 0.

If you want to lose weight, the number needs to be below 0.

Input:

This is everything that you eat or drink. Yes – that soda you’re drinking is PACKED with calories. Are you sure you’re enjoying it as much as you should?

The nice thing is this is really easy to calculate, and also easy to find when food advertisements are flat out lying. I don’t know all the intricacies of how they get away with it, but let’s just say that when something says 99% Fat Free it doesn’t always mean it.

Your body can only break down certain types of material, and nutrition labels break it up into a few categories. Each of these categories has a generally accepted amount of calories that a gram represents.

1 gram of Carbohydrates is 4 calories.
1 gram of Protein is 4 calories.
1 gram of Fat is 9 calories.
1 gram of Alcohol is 7 calories.

Clif Bar - Chocolate Chip

Let’s take a look at an example:

Total Fat: 5g = 45 calories

Total Carbohydrates: 45g = 180 calories

Total Protein: 10g = 40 calories

Total Calories: 265 calories*

* Why is this different than the calories on the label? Because Dietary Fiber is sometimes not counted as calories because your body can’t digest it and obtain its caloric worth. Is this worth fretting over? NO! Should you use this as an excuse to eat another Snickers bar? NO!

Next time you’re in the deli section of the store, pick up a pack of pre-sliced meat and count the calories in the protein. I often see packaged meat with 90 calories per serving and only 10 grams of protein (40 calories) per serving – and it’s marked as 99% Fat Free!!! I don’t know how they get away with this, but does it matter? I’m the one who gains weight if I don’t know what I’m eating, so I have chosen to learn to calculate how lean meat really is.

Using these basic calculations, you can figure out about how many calories is in something and if it is worth it. You would be surprised that sometimes two similar items (e.g. a muffin) can be at least 200 calories different from each other based on what the ingredients are. Considering this could be 10% of your daily budget, it’s important to know! Does this mean you can’t eat the muffin? Absolutely not! It just means you have to know what you’re doing and make sure you enjoy it!

A special note on Input and Protein

The numbers are all over the board on this one, but there is a guideline of how much protein you need each day. If you want to maintain muscle you need 1g of protein per pound that you WANT to weigh. If you want to gain muscle, you may need more.

I weigh 175; my caloric “budget” is around 2,300 calories per day; I want to gain muscle. This means that I need to eat at least 175 grams of protein (700 calories) each day. This means I still have about 1,600 calories to play with. So I can choose to eat protein rich food and vegetables (around 900 calories) and then gorge myself on about 7 Krispy Kreme Original Glazed donuts. Or, I could eat food that is about 30% protein the entire day. It’s my choice, and I can tell you honestly that I have done both.

 

Last note on Input

Yes, calories are calories. There are plenty of examples of how people have lost weight eating nothing but Twinkies. However, it’s also about HEALTH. You can be thin and unhealthy.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):

This basically means this is how many calories you would burn if you were in a neutral (not hot or cold) environment and didn’t do any physical activity (e.g. sleeping). This is your baseline amount of calories and doesn’t include exercise. You “earn” more calories in your budget through exercise. There are some guides on how to calculate your BMR, but I hope you understand that you shouldn’t expect a web page to be able to calculate anything about your body 100% accurately.

www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bmr_calculator.htm

Extra Effort:

This is all the extra work you do, big and small. This is choosing to walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator.

This is parking at the far end of the parking lot and walking for 5 minutes instead of driving around for 5 minutes looking for the closest spot – seriously, why do people do this? Especially at the gym!

Last but not least, this is also exercise. Again, you can use websites to get an estimate of how many calories you’ll burn doing an exercise. And again, you should not trust a website to tell you exactly how many calories you’re burning. It can’t see how hard you’re actually working!

Personal Multiplier:

This is the “wildcard” I give everyone. I’m sure there are plenty of medical conditions that make weight loss more difficult. But I’m going to go back to my Conservation of Mass statement and say that it’s impossible to create mass from nothing. So what does this mean? It means that for some people, the same amount of effort doesn’t get the same results. It may be HARDER for you, but NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

Some people have naturally higher or lower metabolism. But your BMR is what your BMR is, so all you can control is how much exercise you need to do to balance out your equation if you’re choosing to eat pizza. You can also choose to eat healthier and maximize your budget so you need less exercise to even out the equation.

Tips:

  • Don’t get sucked in with the “free” when it comes to food. ITS NOT FREE! Would you spend $100 on a package deal when you only want a $20 item in it? NO! So why waste your calories on deep fried breading when all you want is some delicious chicken? It may not cost you more money, but it will cost you more calories!
  • Don’t burn yourself out. It’s not a sprint, it’s a MARATHON. It is a way of life that you need to WANT to live. I’ve seen people execute very healthy diets, absolutely PERFECT – for one day.
    Ease yourself in, but also make the mental switch.
  • Make the change soon! Yes, I dropped about 100 pounds. On the surface, it looks like a success story. But I can tell you that there is also an ugly side. To my great shame, I still have extra skin and fat on a few areas of my body. Based on what I’ve tried and researched, there is no healthy way to remove the fat – and no way (except surgery) to remove the extra skin. The more “debt” you gain, the harder it will be to work off and the more irreversible damage you will do to your body.I’m happy with myself now – and I do think about the surgery at times. Though, I also think that there must be a better way to spent $15,000 than on a little bit of extra fat and skin. Maybe my superficial side will get the best of me one day.
  • Set your goal with your eyes, not the scale. Once you’ve met your goal, use the scale to help you keep on track. Pants a little tight? Time to back it off for a few days!
  • Accept that you probably won’t get six-pack abs unless your body is genetically and physiologically pre-dispositioned to this. You should be aiming to look in the mirror and be happy with yourself and look healthy.
  • Take out the Low Hanging Fruit: Chips, Fried foods, and Soda. Making these easy changes will chop a large amount of calories from your diet.
  • Find good substitutes. This goes hand in hand with the low hanging fruit – I found that most of the time I was eating bad food was because it satisfied a craving, not because I wanted that specific food.
    • I wasn’t craving chips, I was craving something I could pop in my mouth and was salty and crunchy. Hello Dry Roasted Almonds with Sea Salt! A great source of Protein, Calcium, and Vitamin E. However, as with most nuts it contains a lot of fat and is relatively high in calories. This is why I recommend shelled nuts like Pistachios as well.
    • Gaining a taste for zero-calorie, zero-fake sugar, carbonated water is a great and healthy alternative to satisfy the desire for something fizzy. And you can use those calories you saved to eat something you’ll really enjoy!
  • Find exercise you’ll enjoy. Maybe it’s taking the dog for a walk, playing soccer with your kids in the park, or even picking up a manual hobby.
  • Lift weights. The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR is. Lifting weights helps you burn calories while you’re lifting, and the muscle you gain helps you burn calories even at rest!
  • You’ll only cheat yourself. If you’re going for weight loss, don’t tell yourself that you only ate 1/2 of the burger so it doesn’t count. It just means you took in 1/2 the calories of a burger.

Most of all: (Responsibly) Enjoy yourself!

Does this mean you can’t eat ice cream, french fries, and all of your other favorite foods? NO! It means you need to be DELIBERATE when you do it.

Are you enjoying the bread on that sandwich? Is it amazing and exactly what you wanted? No? Then why are you eating it?!

I eat bad food from time to time (my favorite is Taco Bell Doriotos Loco Tacos!). I don’t eat them on nights I work out, and I make sure I’m really enjoying it.

Especially if you’re in America, you need to learn to be OK with throwing food away as you are making a positive change in yourself. The portion sizes and quality of food here are atrocious.

Perhaps with time, more places will offer lean and healthy food. Until then, it’s up to you to seek it out or make your own modifications as necessary.

Remember: The most effective diet and exercise plan is one that you actually do!

One of the great things about travel is that it not only lets you see new things, it also gives you plenty of time to reflect.

Long flights, bus rides, and the occasional 4×4 trip through the desert give a lot of time for self-reflection.

On this most recent trip (which I promise to write about), I had a realization about my passion for continuous improvement.

I’m not sure if it is my upbringing, or simply a part of my DNA. In any case, I always think things can be better. Anything can be improved. There is always something that can be tweaked or re-worked in order to gain some benefit. This insatiable desire for improvement has been a valuable asset of mine, but I’ve also found that it leaves me unhappy.

I have finally realized why. I’ve put the term “satisfaction” on the happy/unhappy scale. You see, “satisfied” can mean relatively happy, but it can also mean that something is “done”. As in, “All the criteria have been satisfied.” For me, the idea that something is “done” is rarely true.

I believe that I have avoided happiness in my avoidance of being “satisfied”.

So now, my challenge is to find a way to be happy, while also recognizing that things can always be better. Perhaps the trick to this will be smaller goals, and more celebration of them.