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undisruptable. Unsuppressible. Unstoppable. Unbreakable. Unconquerable. Indomitable.

Discover the power of running JupyterLab as a Linux systemd service with all the necessary and mostly uncompromising bits. Learn how to use Linux VMs to normalize paths, home directories, software versions, and more. Get to know the benefits of IP-cycling, web-browser automation, and other essential tools for SEO. Finally, understand the importance of free and open source tools for internalization skills and persistence of tools.

I'm determined to make sure JupyterLab runs in the background, powered by a Linux systemd service - and I'm not compromising on my principles!

By Michael Levin

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Undisruptable. Unsuppressible. Unstoppable. Unbreakable. Unconquerable. Indomitable. Do these things resonate true for you. You’d think they lead to perfection, right? Nope, if they did I’d put things like “unfailing” and “unerring” in there. But I didn’t. Ya gonna get your ass kicked and served to you on a platter. Just look at my last post. I was determined to get a result: JupyterLab continuing to run, powered by a Linux systemd service in the background even when the last Linux Terminal is closed. It has some benefits, which were the things I found to be the necessary and mostly uncompromising bits. They include:

Running JupyterLab server as a systemd service in an identical way as every other (non-Microsoft) systemd Linux would. Portability! This is important because the Mac version is coming up. And a native Linux version? IT IS native Linux. All my stuff is stupid VM-wrapper tricks that just became possible across all major platforms. This is a sea-change in tech as big as AI, but nobody really gets it. Finally the promise of Java (and arguably even the C-language before it) is being realized: Write Once, Run Anywhere (WORA). All you need is a Linux VM to normalize your paths, home directories, software versions, deployment techniques and all the rest.

The next thing that couldn’t be compromised on was making it run just as well as it would run anywhere else, because there really are some good Notebook hosts out there. It’s a testament to their success that everyone drops the word “Jupyter” when talking about Cloud Notebook hosts like Google Colab, Kaggle, Azure Notebooks, etc. But they’re all just JupyterLab servers. Nobody wants to admit it but Project Jupyter came from the same guy, Fernando Perez, who created the iPython engine that people are using as an excuse to not call it Jupyter. “No, they’re not Jupyter-hosts, they’re Notebook hosts.” Yeah, right. I think I outdid the data science company’s Anaconda, the Jupyter-Desktop MSI-installer, and all Cloud servers or reasons you can read elsewhere, like in the running install script.

The reasons tend to overlap a bit, but anyone running Jupyter locally, after first figuring out how the frig to do it on a Mac or Windows machine, have to deal with that strange little server-window you have to keep open all the time. Or when you can close it, how to deal with it still running when you do the frequent upgrades you should be doing with all the components. Like Jupyter-Desktop on Windows forces you to go into Microsoft settings and uninstall TWO components, one of which is a mystery background thingie, before you can upgrade. With the Linux version I provide, it’s running under a very formal, very hide-able, and still very monitor-able gnu screen session. Formal APIs, commands, documentation, and everything. Much cleaner and less mysterious than those black boxes and mystery background processes.

The Cloud you say? Ugh, I thought I covered that. No, you still want to use Colab? Fine, go use Colab, but I’m what you call an “SEO” or a search engine optimizer. That means I have 2 very specific things I can’t compromise on. The first is that I need to be able to change my IP from time to time, EASILY. Go ahead and try to figure out how to do it on Colab. Go through web proxies, squids or whatnot. Oh, and if you’re on a popular Cloud host like AWS, good luck with those IPs not being blocked on crawls. Me? This? I’ll just use one of the multitude of cheap VPN services out there targeting you on your Windows or Mac machine such as IPVanish or HideMyAss. Great UIs. Cheap. Automatable from scripts to cycle IPs and whatnot. Show-stopper for SEO. The other thing is browser automation through tools such as Google Puppeteer or Microsoft Playwright. The combination of IP-cycling and web-browser automation is what makes many things the true Kung Fu experts in SEO possible.

Did I mention undisruptable? You will be a person disrupted by an effect called planned obsolescence if you are in the field of tech. If you’re a young hotshot, maybe on your first round of being a hardware-modding, AI prompting crypto-mining dude, it probably hasn’t happened to you yet. But you’ve heard of Imposter Syndrome? You don’t start out as an imposter. You get that way because your favorite tool, no matter what it is an no matter how big and the center of the world you think it is today (read as: VSCode, Docker, NodeJS, etc.), it will be completely changed on you tomorrow. They may not change the product name, but they will change the interface on you. Not just Dev-tools either. Microsoft Office will switch to a “ribbon” user interface. Adobe will switch to floating docking panels. And all will break your hard-earned, long-practiced muscle memory. You will be disrupted. Then, you will be an imposter, likely forced into management because keeping up with the changes has become a young person’s game… hahaha! In the interest of not bloating this paragraph any farther: vim. Emacs, if you’re a powerful wizard. vim, if you’re like me.

But wait, Mike! You’ve been talking about NeoVim lately, not vim. What gives? NeoVim is vim, for all intents and purposes. It’s just a fork of vim that supports Copilit, so you can have an AI-assistant typing along with you when you need it. It will to that fabulously powerful auto-complete trick you’re seeing all over the web these days, mostly in VSCode, but also available in NeoVim. And so that leads to the next uncompromising principle I had: the Linux VM I provide must support all my work. It must be a Noah’s Ark of all my secret weapons. With just an additional light touch or two after the standard DrinkMe install script, I’ve got my whole development platform, blogging system, journal and journaling software, and all the rest. Hope floats. My dev platform floats. This is better than Docker because it’s a full VM, and you have complete control when you want it: no kooky “compositing” API to learn, make everything more difficult and lock you into a proprietary container format. Just let a server-build script rebuild from scratch. No work for you either way. The script does all the work. Be the ghost in the machine. Make no particular instance of host-hardware (or OS) of any consequence. Nor even any particular Docker or VM-image.

Big paragraph, huh? Hard to grok? Give yourself 20 or 30 years in the industry, and you’ll get it. Oh, you’ll want to cash out by then and retire at 50? You’d rather BE management than the guy who’s managed? I guess that leads right into the last thing. With local-running software under your control and so standard that it’ll run on any host hardware, you can develop and refine those technical skills, those carpentry skills, those labor skills that previously were a source of anxiety and negative conditioning because they were always being reset on you. Imagine if your tech toolbox was not much different than a carpenters toolbox. You’d have a hammer, a saw, a screwdriver, a drill, and a few other basics. You can throw in a proprietary power-tool or two to get the jobs done faster, but you don’t really need them. And with all that time to develop your craft and indeed master it, you will also find the love in it. Because your tools are actually free and open source software with good licences and without the traps and pitfalls of faux-open-source software, they won’t be able to take it away from you, or change the APIs on you to force you to retrain, relearn, retool, re-buy or retire.

I’m getting ready to do what I call “cut catapult ropes”. If I’m really as good as I think I am, now that I want to sort of be successful, popping my head up above the radar-level, perchance to be shot-down by the air-defense systems, it’s all about releasing the built-up potential that’s already there. Not doing too much new, but rather connecting the dots on everything I already do and know, maybe sprinkling in a little accelerated and amplification effect now because of Copilot, ChatGPT, Bing, Code Whisperer, the new one from Google. But watch your dependences. I guess that’s the last point. If your abilities come from what is within, and free and open source tools definitely helps with the internalization skills because of the persistence of tools.

This all comes up because I’ve been experimenting with the name Magic Trick Linux for the heir apparent to Levinux, which is currently codenamed DrinkMe, merely an install-script name. But it’s coming together rapidly enough that it’s deserving of a new name and the concept of undisruptable is as near and dear to my heart as magic tricks. Magic tricks occupied much of my youth, and still resonates with me and gets to some of the essential vibe of what I’m doing with DrinkMe. I don’t need to use an Alice metaphor because sprinkling just a few of those images will carry convey that as an attribute of the distro. But undisruptable… undistruptable really gets to the heart of it.

Bad people try to disrupt you. They make drama and try to disrupt your life. The economy can do the same thing. It’s often about resources, and fear of losing them, thereof. If someone’s used to the easy flow of money, products, lifestyle and the things they like and got used to and things become scares, be prepared for disruption. People will want what’s yours, so stuff you already have is at risk. When things break and you have to buy replacements, you’re forced to re-settle into new hardware and be out the money. That’s double-disruption. So wheter it’s a bad person or a bad economy, you want to be undisruptable, and that means your particular “host hardware” is not important. You can run on anything. You should apply this to your mobile phone and tablets as well. Hardware doesn’t matter.

Most humans don’t think so. They covet the hardware. They get mad for matter. They’ll try to use it as power over you; a land lord. Primitive emotions like jealousy and envy are the root of it. Of course projection, and if I do any disruption like I did with Scala, it’s the disrupting of an abstract notion like the status quo. Am I jealous or envious of the status quo? Perhaps being the kind of person who can life a life of dull drudgery, never challenging myself… Emotions like fear motivate me too, it just doesn’t feel that way. Wait, I know! I’ll close with one of the most wonderful disruptive characters in semi-modern Sci-Fi and Pop Culture: Q.

Let’s dig up a YouTube link. Oh yes, The Best of Both Worlds. You can’t do more by playing it sage. Ciao!