REISUB Performs a Safe Reboot of a Linux Computer

By Nicholas Scribner
March 28, 2021

Tonight, I was writing an email to my brother, when suddenly my computer locked up. Not wanting to lose the contents of my email, I took out my iPhone to look up how to do the equivalent of Control-Alt-Delete on Ubuntu Linux — a familiar search query for me, though I'd never had success in the past. This time, however, I found an informative forum post on Ask Ubuntu as the first result. The most useful answer instructs the user to first try a few other methods when the computer hangs. None of these methods worked for me (no surprise, as they never had in the past). But the last method sounded promising because it didn't sound familiar. It promised a safe reboot without having to press and hold the power button — a big no-no among computer people — and involved pressing an interesting sequence of keys (someone commented that "REISUB" is "BUSIER" backwards).

Here are the instructions: Press and hold Alt + SysRq. If your keyboard doesn't have a SysRq key, press PrtScr instead. While holding the previous keys, press, in order, R, E, I, S, U, B while making sure to pause for one second between each key, since "each letter is a different kernel action leading to a 'graceful' reset."

After following the above instructions, my computer rebooted like magic. Note that my ThinkPad doesn't have a SysRq key, so I pressed PrtSc (the screenshot key) instead. Furthermore, I don't like trying things on computers based on one forum post (however credible), so I Googled this method before trying it and read this helpful article that confirmed the above answer and recommended a Wikipedia article on the topic.

Back to that email I was writing to my brother, the contents reappeared in my webmail in Firefox after the reboot. So it all worked out.


Pugsley's 10th Birthday

By Nicholas Scribner
March 5, 2021

Today, my first dog, Pugsley, turned 10. He and his half-sister, Missy, got a YETI dog bowl from me today — even though I had no idea at the time that it was Pugsley's birthday. I've been saying the word "serendipity" a lot recently, and it certainly applies here.

I hope you had a good birthday, Pugsley, and I hope there are many more to come.


Posting Web Content on a Variable-Ratio Schedule

By Nicholas Scribner
January 25, 2021

In the winter of 2006-7, when I was applying to college, I wanted to study journalism or psychology. The small liberal arts college I attended, Bard College in Upstate New York, didn't have a journalism program, so I became a psychology major. I soon switched to English, though journalism and psychology remained interests of mine. I enjoyed the few courses I took in these subjects at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where I ended up finally getting my bachelor's degree in 2019. As matter of fact, I did better in these courses than any other courses I took at the university (including English).

It may come as no surprise that I have not studied any textbooks more thoroughly than my journalism and psychology textbooks (there aren't exactly English textbooks, after all). One concept from my psychology textbooks, the variable-ratio reinforcement schedule in operant conditioning, always resonated with me. According to Wikipedia, this "[r]einforcement occurs after a variable number of responses have been emitted since the previous reinforcement. This schedule typically yields a very high, persistent rate of response." Indeed, it is the most effective partial reinforcement schedule. The quintessential example is gambling (think slot machines or the lottery), but it's also seen in the lab with rats pushing a lever for food. Much like the gambler who spends hours at a slot machine, the rat will push a lever persistently to get these unpredictable rewards. (As an aside, I recently read that slot machines are designed to pay out small- to medium-sized sums of money every so often that excite the player enough to keep playing but not enough to want to cash out. The jackpots, of course, will likely never occur.)

So what does this have to do with posting online? Well, like I said, this concept has always resonated with me. I have applied it to many everyday situations. In particular, I have often thought about how posting to social media or, better yet, personal websites can utilize this concept. I think it's a way to keep an audience engaged with one's online postings. Indeed, I think it's better to post on this variable-ratio schedule than, say, a fixed-interval schedule (where a post would occur after a set period of time).

This blog is now an example of this concept. Each of my first three posts were three days apart from each other, but now I'm posting this article just one day after my last post. Additionally, like the slot machine that pays out varying amounts of money, I think online posts should vary in the quality and quantity of the content.

Now before jumping to the conclusion that I have a sinister motive to get people hooked on this blog, I should say I am not that evil. But the goal of every website is to accumulate hits, and this site is no different. If I were a public relations consultant, I might instead say I'm trying to keep this website fresh.

That's all fine and good, but what do the SEO experts have to say about this technique?

That's a good question, and I'm not really sure. I have just recently started reading SEO blog posts again for one reason or another. In particular, I can suggest the article "How Many Words Should Blog Posts and Web Pages Have for SEO?" The article recommends posting "several shorter pieces each month or week, along with one or two longer ones." It also states that "if you have nothing of value to say, wait to create an article or blog post until you do." This is an important point, and it ties in with the idea of posting on a variable-ratio schedule, since some days or weeks one might have a lot to say compared to other times. Taking this into account, one doesn't necessarily need to plot when to schedule posts, since one may naturally create content on a variable-ratio schedule.

In conclusion, I think posting on social media or blogs on a variable-ratio schedule can be a good way to keep visitors coming back. I've also found that people who post when they're inspired, rather than on some kind of fixed schedule, are more interesting. No one wants to seem sterile or mechanical online. But don't take this guideline as fact and think it must be followed dogmatically. If one follows this advice too rigidly, the effect would be no different than doing the opposite.


For Better Browsing, Open Dozens of Tabs and Bookmarks

By Nicholas Scribner
January 24, 2021

I've used the web browser Firefox since the beginning. It's still the only browser I use, be it on Linux, Android, FreeBSD, Windows, iOS, or Mac. Frankly, I don't understand why a serious web developer would use any other web browser.

I know Chrome is the leader in market share, but doesn't Google control enough of the internet? Furthermore, doesn't it seem like one should interact with the web via free and open-source software rather than proprietary software from the world's biggest advertising company (who are also tracking their users)? Whenever someone projects his or her laptop screen running Chrome, all I can think is, Now I have to watch this noob? It's insufferable. It's impossible not to judge someone for it.

But that's not why I wrote this article. My brand loyalty for Firefox is unlikely to change anyone's mind. Instead, I'm writing this article because I wanted to share that browsing the web is better with dozens of tabs open. Additionally, creating bookmarks for interesting web pages is a great way to return to them later (it's the star icon in Firefox, Chrome, and Edge).

This must sound obvious to nearly everyone reading this article, but it wasn't to me. I previously thought keeping many tabs open would reduce my computer's performance. Maybe this was once the case, but it's not anymore. I've kept at least a dozen tabs open most of the time on my laptop and Android phone for weeks, if not months, without any noticeable reduction in performance. I'm not even shutting down my computer (though I should, since shutting down computers at night is good for their hardware). As for bookmarks, I didn't use them because I thought they would clutter my browser.

What tabs one decides to leave open is a personal choice, but here are what I have open at all times: my music library, my webmail accounts, my fitness tracker, my diet tracker, my weather forecast, my word processor, and my database for this blog, which I am currently editing. The rest of my tabs are articles or web pages I've started reading but haven't finished. On the other hand, I generally use bookmarks for websites, blogs, articles, or social media accounts I find interesting and want to return to later.

The reasons for my recent change in browsing habits are threefold: going down rabbit holes (initially on Wikipedia and later on other websites), having reignited enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity, and self-prescribing bed rest as a way to cure hemorrhoids.

While I think keeping many tabs open promotes engagement, going forward it might be best to limit the number of tabs I have open and instead use bookmarks for content I wish to revisit. The point isn't so much that one should keep dozens of tabs open as it is that one can — and, often, to one's benefit.

So start heading down rabbit holes and creating endless tabs and bookmarks. For inspiration, start by finding articles on Wikipedia about recent questions, thoughts, or ideas. The web was designed for visiting links, and it's a much richer experience without self-imposed restrictions.


I Joined Voice, a New Social Network

By Nicholas Scribner
January 21, 2021

I joined the social network Voice yesterday. Voice was announced in 2019 with the sale of Voice.com, which became the most expensive domain name sale to date — selling for a staggering $30 million. (Note: Other websites have sold for more money, but Voice.com is by far the most expensive sale for a domain name only.)

Part of what makes Voice unique is their registration process that weeds out fake and duplicate accounts. To that end, they require users to take a 3D selfie in the Voice app when registering. This biometric scan ensures a unique user registers. Voice also requires that users display their legal name.

After I set up my Voice account, I took the selfie the app created and posted it on all my social media accounts. My last selfie was close to five years old, so this update was long overdue.

The similarities between the logos for Voice and Jeers are coincidental. In fact, I designed the logo for this site 10 days before I found out about Voice.

Visit my Voice profile at https://www.voice.com/profile/nas.


Welcome to Jeers

By Nicholas Scribner
January 18, 2021

On January 8, I purchased the premium domain name Jeers.com from Network Solutions. Although the domain name didn't finish transferring into my account until January 15, I went to work on the website immediately. Today, I finished the programming and design.

I just wanted to welcome the public to Jeers. Jeers.com is the best domain name I've registered in my 18 years of registering domain names. Needless to say, I am excited to make Jeers my new home on the web.


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