Boris Mann’s Microblog

On the Sunshine Coast near Roberts Creek for a short bit of downtime. This was public beach access down a steep set of stairs by Marlene Road.

My bmannconsulting site is now a Jekyll-with-backlinks public notes garden #secondbrain, and it’s running on @FissionCodes.

🚧 I’m doing some funky DNS things so likely a little slow. 🚧

I just backed @doctorow’s Kickstarter for an audio book version of Attack Surface, the third Little Brother book.

DRM-free to fight Audible, which has 90% of the market.

Had a great get-to-know-you call with @JacobSayles, intro’d by @LeeLefever.

Jacob has a long history with coworking, and we ended up jamming on Community Land Trusts and related models for #Vancouver.

If you’re interested in creating new shared housing models — get in touch!

Picnic in the park yesterday. Smashed cucumber & pasta salad recipes on @ATBRecipes.

Hello #pickling friends! A quick stovetop pickle with golden beets.

Fall 2020 Chromebooks for back to school in Canada

I always work across multiple machines and operating systems. I wrote up my laptop choices back in Feb 2020, and I ended up dipping my toes back into Windows with a laptop. Before that, I had bought two Chromebooks in a row, and I still think they are some of the best value.

Ryan recently asked me a question about Chromebooks:

I’m thinking of getting my 12 year old a Chromebook for back to school and wanted your input. For context, most of what they’ll be doing is google docs driven and she’s not a gamer.

Yeah, the Chromebooks are solid. And now that you can put Linux on them as a built in feature, there’s lots more that can be done with it.

You can also game on it: with streaming services like Stadia or Geforce Now, or Steam and some Linux games.

I usually follow the Wirecutter recommendations – I have personal experience with buying two ASUS Chromebooks and have been very impressed.

Looks like the ASUS Flip C434 is available at London Drugs for $700CAD.

The Lenovo model that is current WireCutter top rating looks to be good and available for about $560CAD.

If you see Chromebooks for less than $500CAD – they are usually way too underpowered.

And then Greg emailed me, so I’m turning this whole thing into a little Chromebook FAQ:

We’re wanting/needing to get something for my kids to use for school, and since they use the GSuite at school a Chromebook seems like a good idea. However, they still want to be able to play Minecraft.

Is there a site you would recommend for me to go to, in order to figure out what Chromebook to order? What Chromebook are you running?

Today, you don’t need to “dual boot” into Linux any more. Like WSL for Windows, you run any flavour of Linux that you want and you can run graphical apps like Minecraft no problem. This site on installing Minecraft for Chromebooks has too many ads on it, but basically – Linux stuff installs directly on Chromebooks these days.

Having a really solid browser environment, plus basic apps you can install, makes for a good stable system that is very inexpensive for what you get. You need to pay more for a Windows or Mac laptop – approximately 2-4 times the price of a solid Chromebook – to get equivalent performance.

My current Chromebook is the ASUS C434, but as I said at the top, I’m also switching between an ASUS Windows laptop and a Mac desktop.

I still wouldn’t pay more than $1000CAD for a Chromebook (and even that is pretty high).

Custom Bags and Shipping IP vs Products

I’ve just ordered myself a custom Timbuk2 messenger bag.

Custom? Yes, custom: you pick and choose fabrics and colours and various other options. This is mine.

I have had a great red/gray reversible messenger bag for many years that my sister Gaby gave me. First one of the inside clips broke so it needed to stay gray, now the outside closing clip broke.

I still use it while walking, but open bag flaps and biking don’t mix.

Asking the Internet about bags is hard, so I went to Wirecutter and they said Timbuk2.

When I was looking earlier the custom options weren’t as obvious, and I kind of wandered off. Did I want a bag the same as everybody else, especially in drab colours?

Which led me over to Freitag, which my current bag is sometimes confused for.

Colourful, unique, up-cycled bags? Yes! Well, except for two things. 1. Fashion is pricey — about $350CAD before shipping 2. Did I really want to ship up-cycled bags across the ocean?

For a well-made, relatively unique bag that I intend to keep for a decade, price isn’t the barrier.

But (2) got me thinking: can we ship IP rather than products?

Especially as the pandemic has people thinking about supply chains and supporting the local economy, what would it take to collaborate with someone locally in Vancouver and make a bag?

Vancouver has lots of apparel, outer wear, and other gear designers, so that’s a plus.

And in fact, when I asked around and shared the idea a bit, both of the people I talked to had a 1-degree connection to people who had made bags. And then I even found a 1-degree connection of my own who had made his own bag and was making more.

So let’s say I budget $400-$500 for a customer one of a kind bag. Could I find 10 or 12 other people locally who would be interested?

And once I did this, could I make the design (and sourcing of materials and manufacturing/sewing, etc) available for others to do in their local areas?

Yes, I could. And we might just have a little network of locally made goods. Never mind connected links of makers and supporters interested in this sort of thing.

Are you interested in the Vancouver custom bag experiment? Is there another custom thing you’d like to see created locally? Let me know!

More on co-op models and small business peers and shipping IP another time.

Bike Ride to Riley Park and Van Mural Fest at River District

Starting from the north end of Commercial Drive where we live, we did a grand loop and various adventures on the e-bike today.

We started at Woodland and Venables, going up Woodland to the 10th Ave bike route and headed west.

Federal Store, Quebec at 10th

Federal Store stamp on take out cup

First stop was at The Federal Store, on 10th just before Ontario.

Rachael’s tea latte cup had a lovely little stamp. My cappuccino just had “The Federal Store” stamp. Note: The Federal Store has Johnny’s Pops and is open most days until 6pm.

Then headed south on Ontario Street.

Main at 28th

Rad Utility Bike on Main Street

Rachael went across the street to Jasmine Mediterranean Foods for fresh limit (Turkish bagel) and picked up a few other things.

Riley Park (Ontario at 30th)

Rad Utility Bike at Riley Park

We lay in the grass at Riley Park. It was a gloriously sunny day, but with a bit of a breeze blowing. We had our coffee & tea drinks with limit and hung out for a bit.

Looking at the map, it seemed like a pretty straight forward route south on Ontario and then east on Kent to the River District, which is a new Van Mural Fest neighbourhood.

Rachael and I have never been down in that area at all, so seemed like a good adventure destination.

East Kent Avenue

We drove down Ontario until we hit Marine Drive. We passed by Coupland’s Infinite Tire and continued on a couple of blocks into an industrial area and a set of east - west train tracks. There’s a great bike path all along Kent Avenue.

It’s a bit confusing at times which side of the tracks you need to be on. Both are East Kent Avenue, labeled S or N. In some places there is a clearly marked and dedicated bike path, in others you’re going along the road.

Gladstone-Riverside Park

Panorama at Gladstone-Riverside Park, Vancouver - looking at Fraser River

We stopped at Gladstone-Riverside Park – we made it to the Fraser River! Across the river is Richmond, so this is the southern edge of City of Vancouver.

There are a variety of both bike paths and walking paths, again on either a northern “road” path (which had bike paths, too), or a mixed pedestrian - bike path walk ways on parks and green space that is right next to the river. Several other bikers and e-scooters were stopping and looking at maps.

Google Maps Gladstone Riverside

You can see in the map the dotted green paths along the river, as well as East Kent N and S. We stayed on the road (which had a separated two way bike path), as the park paths had a lot of pedestrians.

It was very interesting to see the mix of single family homes but really quite a lot of condos and townhouses either newly built or under construction. This is an area that I know nothing about. It was nice to have bike paths, but it seemed like where we were there was no transit at all, and no retail either. I guess all of that runs along Marine Way.

River District Murals

Here’s a custom Map label for roughly where the murals are (you can see it in the screenshot above on the right hand edge).

It’s in the middle of a ton of construction, and there are detours and fences that will guide you in a loop through the construction. If you’re following audio map directions, they will be very confused and insist that you u-turn :)

Rachael did a much better job capturing the murals and artists, so I’ll embed her Instagram here:

The murals are great and many of the artists are at the end of their epic week or so of painting. Apparently they will be up in this temporary space for about a year or so – installed along fencing and the path that detours through the construction site.

The photos I captured below really were about me thinking about this construction and neighbourhood and some of the contrasts.

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I asked this artist how they got here, and they said Uber. I continue to have questions about how we’re still building car oriented dense housing in Vancouver.

Caitlin Mcdonagh

Caitlin Mcdonagh - River District Mural


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This and the next murals were along an east-west path, fencing off a construction site with a few abandoned industrial buildings still remaining.

Rachael looks at an unfinished mural

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The sketched out design looked super cute!


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Overhead Power and Construction

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You see old, original poles, skinny and weathered brown, and the new, larger, treated greenish poles. And this ridiculous jumble of overhead wires that we have all throughout Vancouver. Even in this new area, I guess they’re not burying lines and laying fibre for Internet?!?!?

Van Mural Fest River District Sign

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Lists all the artists. More discarded building materials and some sort of hangar or industrial building in the fenced off area.

Looking west, Rachael looks at a mural

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The fence to the north (right in this photo) blocks off rail tracks, then East Kent Ave N, with condos, townhouses going up on the north side of that avenue.

Blackberries, Barbed Wire, Power, and Construction

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Kerr Avenue

After seeing all the murals, it was time to head home. There are a couple of different south / east routes, the most straightforward looked to be heading back along East Kent, and then going north on Kerr Avenue.

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Well, it turns out Kerr is an incredibly steep climb from East Kent to Marine Drive, and then keeps going up with Fraserview Golf Course on one side and Everett Crowley Park on the other. The area at the top is called Champlain Heights :)

Anyway, got off the bike and walked it up a good chunk of this. Not enough power for getting both of us up here. There are a couple of epic hills in Vancouver, where a slightly more powerful motor would really help.

We stayed on Kerr until it turns into Rupert next to Killarney Park, then west on East 45th which is a bike route.

Then right and north on Earles Street, crossing Kingsway at the Purdy’s Chocolate factory.

Left and west on Vanness, which turns into BC Parkway path, and a little left along the edge of Slocan Park.

Right and north on Slocan, which is a long down slope. You’ll pass Banana Grove Market at 22nd, and keep going down and north until you hit South Grandview Highway.

Cross that, and you’ll hang a left and be heading west on North Grandview Highway, which is the Central Valley Greenway.

The CVG has been another common route for us, we’ll often head out to Burnaby Lake. But heading home and west we go to Lakewood, and then head right and south until we hit Adanac, and then turn left and west until we’re back at Commercial Drive and home.

We were at one bar of power by the time we made it home, so one of the longest trips we’ve made. Doing a rough map calculation shows about 30km. There are a couple of mega hills in there as well as just long continuous slopes that are rough with two of us on the bike.


At home now, I’m doing a little research on this River District. This is a “planned community” being built by Wesgroup. Here’s one article:

The River District is located along the Fraser River, just off Marine Way, west of Boundary. It is a brand new, award-winning, master-planned community created by Wesgroup – a Vancouver based builder that has been building in the Lower Mainland for over 50 years. Wesgroup has spent the last decade carefully planning River District, the last waterfront development in the city. Spanning 130 acres, it is three times the size of Granville Island and will soon become a vibrant destination for living and shopping when complete in 2017…

It’s now 2020, and there are lots of new homes completed, but as you can see from my photos, lots of new buildings still going up.

Went for a tour of the in-progress @vanmuralfest murals and met animalitoland at 7th and Ontario.

Applying free shipping as well as a 100% discount in Shopify

Shopify Shipping Rate Settings Screenshot

There are 20 pages of requests for multiple discounts for Shopify to be able to apply free shipping.

The way to do it without a plugin, is to add a new rate, label it “Free Shipping”, and set the conditions to only apply when the min and max are both $0.

Any other paid shipping options will still display – and be selectable by the customer! – but obviously they can just pick free shipping and there won’t be a charge.

So to give a “free” item to someone, make a dollar value discount code of the price of the item, so that the cost is zero, and then this free shipping rate will appear. Note: if you are dealing with multiple currencies, sometimes the conversion means that your dollar value discount code makes it not quite $0. You’ll need to experiment and set a discount $ value appropriately.

Sean @coates wrote up how he checked Canada’s COVID Alert app and submitted a fix.

Thanks Sean, & thanks to the Canadian Digital Service for source code availability & responsiveness!

Montecristo Magazine talks about East Van alleys filled with oregano and other Mediterranean herbs. And yes, 6ft tall rosemary bushes are definitely common too.

The Tyee’s story of how the Himalayan blackberry came to North America is really interesting. Attached are pictures of three different kinds I took on Bowen.

I’m a fan of the Ghost blog in part because you can easily run it with one-click “Deploy to Heroku”.

Mike Haynes documented how to set Ghost up to support microblogging with title-less asides.

Made my first salt-baked salmon tonight. Full step-by-step photos on @ATBRecipes. Definitely want to try more salt-baked things ;)

Zettlr, an #opensource desktop markdown editor. Zettelkasten support, tags, and more.

via @brianwisti

Made it into Columbus Meats for the first time in a long time. Their prepared roasts and other items are SO GOOD — although I didn’t buy any this time.

Biked around Stanley Park, using the new bike lanes on the road. Relaxing and an awesome ride.

Photos are bike & chestnut tree at Brockton Point, and view to North Shore.

Success with the lactic fermented tomato 🍅 #pickling experiment! Less garlic next time.

I found @hecker’s “thoughts on Mozilla for people who don’t know Mozilla” to be a good read.

If you’re not in the tech industry, this adds lots of background.

At the Riley Park Farmers Market. Stopped in at Farmhouse Cheese for quark and curds, and big line for Scavenger Coffee.

“Lost in this billionaire slapfight…is the salient point that Epic is not actually wrong here.“

@imranzomg, writing for IGN on Epic vs Apple and Google’s app store policies.

“If we want to maximize opportunities for safe social interaction, and build up physical and mental health, we need to socialize in parks”

Parks and Bars: Socializing with Lower Risk, SFU MAGPIE Group

LinkedIn 1746

Chris Fralic of First Round Capital explains how to figure out what your LinkedIn member number is.

Basically, go to your own profile, “view source” to look at the code for the web page, and search for “member”.

I’m member #1746. Yes, I was early to social networks :)