Saturday, April 30, 2016

Jane Pettigrew's Tea Companion

There are many books out there on tea and I would like to own them all. However, not able to afford them, I just own three; two audiobooks and one hardcover.  It turns out that I owned this hardcover even before I got interested in tea and this is The Tea Companion a Connoisseur's Guide by Jane Pettigrew. Today I wanted to give it a quick review.

It is divided into two parts, that first of which deals with the general aspects of tea, while the second one focuses on the different  tea regions & estates around the world. The information from the first part is just about enough for any newbie to get up to speed on history, current trade and production, accessories and, of course, preparation. Not any of these aspects is dealt exhaustively and much further reading can still be done, but as a primer it is an outstanding resource. The second part is a catalogue of the great teas by region. Each one has its own profile including its characteristics and preparation advice.  Following this, a word or two is mentioned on the less relevant, yet present, tea producing regions.

It is a small , profusely illustrated book. Very nice to flip through. In one sense  it is a coffee (tea) table book. However, as I see it, it is somewhat bipolar as to its intended audience. For beginners the first part is to the point and thorough, but the second seems useless as they are unlikely to have a chance soon to sample any more than a couple of the varieties mentioned. More experienced tea drinkers on the other hand can find new horizons to explore here, but will probably find that they already know the stuff from the first part, and hence, skip it.  As I write this I think that maybe, the intention after all is for the tea drinker to grow with the book. For my part I find myself consulting it more and more as I move into the pure varieties.

It is terrific to receive it as a gift and recommended if going seriously into tea, or if you're into book collecting.

There's a also an updated edition called The New Tea Companion which covers the same topics.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Crunchbang++ Linux

Not so long ago, Steve Gibson in his Security Now podcast intimated that he was looking for small sized, contained browsing experience. Thanks to his shows, I had already switched to a full-fledged virtual machine and had been happily browsing with no problem at all. However, his requirements for something that would not be too onerous resource wise kept nagging at me. I knew that Linux could do the work within a virtual machine, but the problem was finding the right distro for it. Now, I think I have found it: Crunchbang plus plus and I think I am in love.

Here's how I finally settled on it:

Started, and as many others with Linux Mint. For myself, my biggest constraint was disk space. Although fine, and useful, it took well over 10 GB. Something slimmer, had to be out there.

Swinged far to the other side and got Tiny Core Linux working, but YouTube wouldn't play with the newer flash versions. Also the mouse pointer wasn't as smooth. Similar experience with Puppy Linux which didn't support the Virtual Box additions and had way too many preinstalled programs.

Bodhi Linux, seemed like it, and has a focus on being minimalistic, letting you install your own stuff, but the Enlightenment desktop was too alien for me. And still, I guessed something smaller could exist.

Dabbled with taking snapshots of live CDs of Porteus and Lubuntu and these did work, after a fashion and might serve for specific purposes, but still the sessions wouldn't allow installing additions and rebooting and keeping it chugging from RAM seemed like counter purpose going forward.

Antix was another contender, but even changing the screen resolution from the menus was not straightforward. Also, an inserted DVD would have to be searched for manually.

Trisquel Mini was also one that worked, but for my purposes it's philosophy was more of a hindrance.

Finally Crunchbang plus plus gave me these benefits:

  • Small footprint (2.5 GB with additions and chromium already added)
  • A beauty (glass!)
  • Based on Debian, whose terminal commands I'm more familiar with and is on a stable version
  • Upgradable
  • Alive and well and actively (so it would seem) developed
  • Very few preinstalled software (but with options to add Libreoffice and the like at install time)
  • Stats (Conky) on the desktop
  • Nice terminal
  • Additions work
As I see it, and the only way to make any more gains, and these minor, would be to 1) try the Debian netinstall (on my first attempt the installer crashed; will try again later on) ;or 2) get head on into Arch Linux. I will still check these out, but I think I have already hit bull's-eye.

Should plus plus go under there are at least two other Crunchbang "twins" that might be just as good: the one from BunsenlabsMonara.