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Creating a bootable Linux USB installer disk from an ISO on the Mac

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I got myself a new pc to learn Linux and do all my crazy experimenting on.

What’d I use as my primary OS? Why CentOS, ofcourse. Two reasons … - These are long term, slow stable releases, just the way I like my software to be. - My last exposure to Linux was Red Hat Linux v5 & 6 way back when1. CentOS looks familiar enough to ease my apprehensions.

First step on the way, was getting the OS installed on the machine. Slight hiccup though. I had the ISO and no optical drive!

I’d disconnected and given away the optical drive on my server, because I thought,2 I didn’t need a device sucking power, needlessly. And ofcourse my trusty old MacBook Air has none.

So how do I do about installing?

Well, I got the ISO down, via bittorrent and then “burnt” it to a USB drive, making myself a bootable USB installer.

How? Well here goes3

  • Get the ISO4.
  • Convert the read only ISO to a read/write image using hdiutil5 like so. sudo hdiutil convert -format UDRW -o 'call-it-what-you-want.img' 'path-to-iso-file.iso It’d be simpler if you’re in the same directory as your iso file. Saves you making booboos with paths.
  • You’ll end up with an img file (it might also get appended with a .dmg extension, so that you end up with CentOS.img.dmg. Doesn’t matter.)
  • Partition your USB drive so that it’s empty.6diskutil partitionDisk /dev/disk2 "Free Space" "unused" "100%"
  • Write the converted image file to your USB drive using dd. sudo dd if='path to your new img file' of=/dev/disk2 bs=1m
  • Once dd is done, the USB installer’s ready.

You can then go right ahead and use it to install CentOS.


  1. 1999 — 2000. Yes, I’m that old. 

  2. Don’t laugh! 

  3. Instructions for reference purposes only. Be careful. Don’t be a cargo cult sysadmin. Don’t blame me, if you hose your system

  4. that you think you’d need. I got the everything ISO. If you’re comfortable doing everything over your fast broadband connection, a minimal ISO should suffice. 

  5. You’re obviously doing this in the terminal. Just thought I should tell you that :P 

  6. Your device might not be disk2. Find out what it is by using “diskutil list” 

Grit!

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Started: 2018-01-27 Finished: 2018-01-28

I started my modern non-fiction journey only a couple of years back, with Antifragile and Thinking Fast & Slow. (I’d only read older, motivational self help before then, Ziglar, Carnegie etc) I made the mistake of thinking everything was as wonderfully dense, yet rambling and well written.

I was sadly mistaken. I realised that just like fiction, most non-fiction wasn’t worth my time and that just like most fiction, non-fiction followed a beat; a predictable path.

  • You present the lay of the land
  • The problem with the way things are
  • Present your hypothesis for a solution
  • Support your hypothesis with your findings and supported studies and articles
  • Exposition (or you’d how to apply the solution in your life or to your problem)
  • Expand it across domains if possible
  • Optional, an upsell if possible to talks or events.
  • The End

This has made it so easy for so many to fit so much drivel into the standard 300 pages. Yet it is now just as easy for me (like someone lifting off a veil,) to skim books and junk the ones I don’t like.

And further yet, when well done, this same pattern allows for such amazing exposition of knowledge. Seth Godin and Cal Newport are masters at the game. And so is Angela Duckworth, author of Grit. I’ve marked the book blue, so I can’t hope to even summarise it here. Just a few inspirational notes follow. I’ll leave the entire exposition for the book.


“With everything perfect,” Nietzsche wrote, “we do not ask how it came to be.” Instead, “we rejoice in the present fact as though it came out of the ground by magic.” 2

As did I. I see people writing prodigious pieces of software, figure out how to move mountains of data, keep hundreds of machines in sync and am filled with awe. I see Ansel Adams’ photos and despair of ever being even a tenth as good as he was. I watch Ian Ethan do what I can only describe as crazy making with polyphonic tones and God knows what else on a guitar with two fretboards while I struggle to play a single scale on one. Scott H. Young self-learns a 4 year MIT CS degree in a single year, goes on to learn four languages in a year and then just for kicks, learns to draw portraits in a month, while I struggle with to pick up programming and cannot draw to save my life.

So, how do I get to be that good? Or at least part way competent? The answer lies in being gritty.

First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction. It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special. In a word, they had grit.

Talent however, is no guarantee of grit. (Or I’d be destined to forever be at the bottom of the totem pole :) )

Which is why I loved it when Angela held up Charles Darwin as a shining example of grit.

Darwin’s biographers don’t claim he possessed supernatural intelligence. He was certainly intelligent, but insights didn’t come to him in lightning flashes He was, in a sense, a plodder. Darwin’s own autobiography corroborates this view: “I have no great quickness of apprehension [that] is so remarkable in some clever men,” he admits. “My power to follow a long and purely abstract train of thought is very limited.” He would not have made a very good mathematician, he thinks, nor a philosopher, and his memory was subpar, too: “So poor in one sense is my memory that I have never been able to remember for more than a few days a single date or a line of poetry.”

So how then did Darwin, get to be … well, Darwin?

Darwin’s (less famous, yet arguably more talented, more genius) cousin, Francis Galton, provides us with the answer

Outliers are remarkable in three ways: they demonstrate unusual “ability” in combination with exceptional “zeal” and “the capacity for hard labor.”

Here’s Darwin, himself …

“I think I am superior to the common run of men in noticing things which easily escape attention, and in observing them carefully. My industry has been nearly as great as it could have been in the observation and collection of facts. What is far more important, my love of natural science has been steady and ardent.

One biographer describes Darwin as someone who kept thinking about the same questions long after others would move on to different—and no doubt easier—problems

Gritty folks, in Angela’s words, were constantly driven to improve … and were paragons of perseverance.

The focus on talent distracts us from something that is at least as important, and that is effort. As much as talent counts, effort counts twice. The main thing is that greatness is doable. Greatness is many, many individual feats, and each of them is doable. A high level of performance is, in fact, an accretion of mundane acts.

More words on perseverance …

The bigger impediment to progress is that sometimes we stop working out altogether. … Consistency of effort over the long run is everything. Many of us, it seems, quit what we start far too early and far too often. Even more than the effort a gritty person puts in on a single day, what matters is that they wake up the next day, and the next, ready to get on that treadmill and keep going. If the quality and quantity of those pots, books, movies, and concerts are what count, then the striver who equals the person who is a natural in skill by working harder will, in the long run, accomplish more.

Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare. Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time.

How do you figure which pursuit of yours is worth following?
Have a few, big overarching goals and let the rest of your actions and smaller goals drive you to that big one. You can drop, change, blow up the small things, but keep your eye on the prize.

Here’s Warren Buffett and Angela, explaining this a lot more clearly,

First, you write down a list of twenty-five career goals. Second, you do some soul-searching and circle the five highest-priority goals. Just five. Third, you take a good hard look at the twenty goals you didn’t circle. These you avoid at all costs. They’re what distract you; they eat away time and energy, taking your eye from the goals that matter more.

To Buffett’s three-step exercise in prioritizing, I would add an additional step: Ask yourself, To what extent do these goals serve a common purpose? The more they’re part of the same goal hierarchy—important because they then serve the same ultimate concern—the more focused your passion. If you follow this method of prioritization, … you’ll stand a better chance of getting somewhere you care about—a better chance of moving closer to where you want to be.

And the way to get better at grit and perseverance and getting slowly better by the day is through Deliberate Practice. Angela has a chapter dedicated to it. But Cal Newport has a written about this at length, showcases process and success stories and even has a whole book dedicated to Deep Work & Deliberate practice. So go, read.

She goes on to write at length on the mindsets you’d need, which you could develop both intrinsically and extrinsically, finding purpose, having hope, and how to develop grit personally and as parents and leaders in society. You really ought to read the book cover to cover.

I’ll close with Nietzsche’s plea to peek behind the curtain and appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that go into making magic …

Nietzsche implored us to consider exemplars to be, above all else, craftsmen: “Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became ‘geniuses’ (as we put it) … They all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well, than in the effect of a dazzling whole.


  1. The West African, Adinkra symbol of perseverance 

  2. All the quotes are from the book 

Show Your Work

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Started: 2018-01-24 Finished: 2018-01-24

The book had so many parallels to what I’ve learnt at DGPLUG that I decided to do this book’s notes here, instead of over at the home blog.

I want to grow and become known enough to find my thousand true fans. I was lucky then, to find this book that has the exact same premise.

You don’t really find an audience for your work; they find you. But it’s not enough to be good. In order to be found, you have to be findable.

Talk about finding water in the desert!

And then on it’s an awesome, rollicking, unputdownable ride across Austin’s ten rules of putting your work out there.

One of the best parts, when starting out was finding a Scenius.

If you believe in the lone genius myth, creativity is an antisocial act, performed by only a few great figures—mostly dead men with names like Mozart, Einstein, or Picasso. The rest of us are left to stand around and gawk in awe at their achievements. There’s a healthier way of thinking about creativity that the musician Brian Eno refers to as “scenius.” Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals—artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers—who make up an “ecology of talent.” What I love about the idea of scenius is that it makes room in the story of creativity for the rest of us: the people who don’t consider ourselves geniuses.

You know where this is going, right? DGPLUG is my scenius :)

As a shot of courage, the advantage us amateur punks have, over the likes of Kushal, Sayan & Shakthi (I kid guys, I kid :) )

We’re all terrified of being revealed as amateurs, but in fact, today it is the amateur—the enthusiast who pursues her work in the spirit of love (in French, the word means “lover”), regardless of the potential for fame, money, or career—who often has the advantage over the professional. Because they have little to lose, amateurs are willing to try anything and share the results. They take chances, experiment, and follow their whims.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities,” said Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki. “In the expert’s mind, there are few.”

The world is changing at such a rapid rate that it’s turning us all into amateurs. Even for professionals, the best way to flourish is to retain an amateur’s spirit and embrace uncertainty and the unknown.

“I saw the Sex Pistols,” said New Order frontman Bernard Sumner. “They were terrible. . . . I wanted to get up and be terrible with them.” Raw enthusiasm is contagious.

He speaks about the process of creation being messy, but there’s still incredible value in letting people see how it’s done, to let folks have a connection and an ongoing conversation with us, the creators.

And echoing Shakthi, here’s Austin on breaking down goals to the day.

rhythm

Overnight success is a myth. Dig into almost every overnight success story and you’ll find about a decade’s worth of hard work and perseverance. Building a substantial body of work takes a long time—a lifetime, really—but thankfully, you don’t need that time all in one big chunk. So forget about decades, forget about years, and forget about months. Focus on days. Seasons change, weeks are completely human-made, but the day has a rhythm. The sun goes up; the sun goes down.

While you might think, that you’ll make a better mouse trap and the world’ll beat a path to your door (or in programmarese, build it and they will come), you couldn’t be more wrong. You need to tell people your story. And if you aren’t already, you need to become a good storyteller.

The truth is, our work doesn’t speak for itself. Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work effects how they value it. “‘The cat sat on a mat’ is not a story. ‘The cat sat on the dog’s mat’ is a story.” —John le Carre

Obviously stealing what Kushal has been yammering on about for years, “শেখ এবং শেখাও”1

Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work. People feel closer to your work because you’re letting them in on what you know.

Best of all, when you share your knowledge and your work with others, you receive an education in return. Author Christopher Hitchens said having his work out in the world was “a free education that goes on for a lifetime.”

There’s a shit ton of advice in this small volume - The importance of owning your own domain, your own blog. - Crediting people you steal from - Being someone worth following - Being just selfish enough to protect your time and your work - Learning how to deal with life’s punches - on the importance of “selling out” to earn your daily bread and feed your soul - and the importance of paying it forward

“Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck—and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.” —Michael Lewis

00006 “Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.” — Dan Harmon

It’s lovely. It’s concise. It’s full of practical wisdom. It’s definitely worth many reads.


  1. Learn & teach others 

Carpe Diem!

(This is a rambling, introspective post, with no particular point to it, other than a reminder to my self to do better.)

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Kushal Das, wrote a lovely piece on inclusivity and generosity of spirit. What hit me though, (ergo this note to myself), was his thundering twist of a climax

He goes through the post talking about how his life’s been one roller coaster of highs and lows and people pulling him down like crabs in a barrel, yet other mentors pushing him hard to do his best.

And then he ends with

You don’t have to bow down in front of anyone, you can do things you love in your life without asking for others permissions.

Like Steven Pressfield, tells Jeff Goins

At what point can someone who writes call himself a writer?

When he turns pro in his head. You are a writer when you tell yourself you are. No one else’s opinion matters. Screw them. You are when you say you are.

I wish I had learnt this so much earlier in life. In a strange fit of domain blindness I somehow translated “Carpe Diem!” as seizing the day, doing my best work, but for others!

I spent close to ten years of my life learning skills, getting better yet lacking the courage to do what I wanted to do. Maybe if I wasn’t so chicken or worked extra hard for myself, things might have turned out differently for me too, instead of me being here, all of thirty-nine, wondering where the years went.

But thanks to the wife and her courage, I was inspired too!

I realised that I could not wait for life to hand me opportunities on a platter. I could not wait for all my problems to go away, before I could make a risk free change. I have only one life to live, and I don’t want to see myself ten, twenty, fifty years down the road, once again ruing the choices I made and the chances I did not take.

And the other related thing / flaw / weakness that I got over last year, was that I stopped waiting for people to give me permission. I used to think, that if people were older, more experienced, they would automatically be more wise, in all domains of life.

Now I know through bitter experience that, that is simply not true. I am smarter, much smarter than most folks in some areas and dumber in most others. The same holds true for other folk!

So it’s all up to me, to build myself up, to learn more, put myself out there and make something of myself, trusting in myself and amor fati.1

Like Horace wrote over two thousand years ago …

dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

In the moment of our talking, envious time has ebb’d away. Seize the present; trust tomorrow e’en as little as you may.

And to wrap it up even more succinctly, here’s Steve Jobs2, driving the point home (transcript below)


So, the thing I would say is … When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your … your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

But life … That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is …

Everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

And the minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.


  1. The fates will bring what they will. All I can do is accept it, love it

  2. part of my circle of the eminent dead 

An Idea to Get Me Writing Regularly

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I struggle to write regularly.

Sometimes, I struggle to write, because I can’t think of anything to write. And sometimes, I struggle, because I have a deluge of ideas.

So I want to get this wisp of an idea down on the page, before I lose it. 1. If I think it is of any interest to me, I should write it down in my own words. 2. I will not pick up another book, before I write what I think of it, or write down the notes I highlighted. Even if it’s only a line, I ought to write it down, instead of just using Librarything or Goodreads to say I’ve read it. 3. If I learn it, I should write it. I’ve already forgotten, how I got a carousel installed on my personal blog. I should write shit down. 4. Drastically reduce twitter and rss use. 5. Copy Kushal and have a regular weekly cadence. That’ll give me at least fifty two posts a year.

Well, that’s the idea … written down.

All I have to do now, is do it.

On Resilience and Persistence

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Kushal Das, on developing his writing chops …

It boiled down to one thing. One has to write more. This is no short cut. So, I tried to do that throughout 2017. If I just look at the numbers, I wrote 60 blog posts in 2017, which is only 7 more than 2016.

Austin Kleon, on trying to get his son to draw …

Several times a day since October, ever since the Halloween decorations went up, my two-year-old son Jules has asked my wife or me to draw him an “x-ray.” (That’s his word for skeleton.) … We’ve drawn hundreds of skeletons for him, over and over and over again. He flat-out refuses to attempt drawing one for himself.

Seth Godin, on doing the work

Slow and steady The hard part is “steady.” Anyone can go slow. It takes a special kind of commitment to do it steadily, drip after drip, until you get to where you're going.

Several times, during my programming journey, I tear my hair out over things I just do not understand. I fall off the wagon due to ill health. I’m old; no match for today’s young, smart, kids I feel so dumb, like I’m not cut out for this.

Yet, I have dreams. I have ambition. I’ve loved the way software has changed my life and I’d love to solve people’s problems by doing the same thing I have my back against the wall, literally, in terms of the risk, this current change entails. I want, nay, yearn to do this.

And the three wise men above, give me hope.

Here’s Kushal, on the results of his year long writing journey

Did your writing skill improve a lot?

The answer is no. But, now, writing is much more easier than ever. I can sit down with any of my mechanical keyboards, and just typing out the things on my mind.

If I just look at the numbers, I wrote 60 blog posts in 2017, which is only 7 more than 2016. But, the number of views of the HTML pages, more than doubled.

And Austin, on when his little one, started to draw

What happened? What convinced him it was time? The construction paper and the markers have been there at his disposal for months. Was it that we had visitors in the house for Christmas? I can’t come up with any convincing external factor that might have caused him to finally pick up the marker. He just decided he was ready.

As is so often the case with parenting, you do the same Sisyphean, seemingly meaningless task over and over again, wondering when the heck it will add up to anything.

And then, one day, often without warning or fanfare, the meaning arrives, and you still can’t believe it.

After all, you don’t get to blog post 7000, in a day. You do it one day at a time, drip after drip after drip.

The secret to writing a daily blog is to write every day. And to queue it up and blog it. There is no other secret.

And so, I grind away, filled with hope.