Updating a (very small) fleet of computers to Fedora 39

I have been using Fedora Linux since 2008. I would update by re-installation my computers regularly to new versions after end-of-life. Complete, manual re-installs ended in 2018 or 2019 when I started using Fedora’s command line upgrade feature after having observed it in action. Throughout it all, I have sometimes experienced technology change adventures along the way.

I have five active computers, all which were ready to update to Fedora 39 in November, 2023: Three were running on Fedora 37, and two were running Fedora 38. Normally, I try to keep to the same version of Fedora on my fleet of computers — although I will format with the current version of Fedora mid-stream when I format a new or a new to me computer, or a new hard drive or ssd, and try to use a version (that of the majority of computers) until end-of-life, usually roughly 12 to 13 months. I settled on odd numbered versions several years ago, on Fedora 15, by happenstance, and a desire not to be reformatting different computers every six months depending on when their end of life fell.

As such, I proceeded to upgrade my computers.

Since the recommended method of update for Fedora is by the command line DNF upgrade command (here’s my archive), or to use the graphical method in the “Software” “App Store”, I proceeded to upgrade my machines on the command line.

(Note: Some of the screenshots and photos used in this post were created during the various upgrades, while some were re-created ex post facto for the sake of mounting this narrative.)

Webserver: Fedora 37, Workstation Edition, Legacy BIOS (Dell Vostro 420 Series)

First, I updated my home web server using the above-cited DNF upgrade commands (as root; see further down in this post) :

dnf upgrade --refresh
dnf system-upgrade download --releasever=39
dnf system-upgrade reboot

Note that the upgrade plugin was already present on the server, hence my having omitted the step of installing the plugin. Important note, minor in my head although critical to my experience, is that my webserver uses the Workstation Edition, not the Server edition.

All went smoothly, with one small quirk: After the upgrade and later that evening while at a restaurant, I wanted to check my website for something, and it was down. I thought little of it beyond the frustration in the moment. When I got home, I let my brother know in the hopes he might help … but in the process, I saw that the machine’s light in the power button was amber, and I had an idea that there was a software power management issue. I pressed the button, and the machine popped to life; I then went into the power management part of the settings in the gnome settings, and found the “automatic suspend” setting had been turned on to “when idle”.

This was odd. This was an established system I originally installed back in April, 2021, when I upgraded the machine’s mechanical hard drive to an SSD. To be clear, powersaving on idle was *not* a previous setting (ie. the server was always to be on to be a 24/7 webserver, the machine’s only active function, besides its passive function as a backup server), and it appears to have been a change in default settings somewhere around Fedora 38; it appears to be a power saving policy (here’s my archive).

VPN Server: Fedora 38, Server Edition, Legacy BIOS (HP Compaq dc7700 Small Form Factor)

My next upgrade was also fairly simple and straightforward. It was on a machine I found in a building slated for demolition in about 2016, and is a P4-3.4GHz single core machine, which I had been using as a world community grid node for years, but which had been inactive for months, after there having been little work for it for months when WCG moved from IBM to the University of Toronto. (I also suspect that the UofT may have decided to shift most of its tasks to GPUs, which I don’t think the machine possesses, and in any case I did not properly research let alone confirm this, beyond the apparent lack of work units being sent to it.)

A problem I’d been having for years with this machine was that it would not reboot without manual intervention, apparently due to a time error; this suggested a dead bios battery. I tolerated this for years, but this summer I finally installed a new battery in the machine, resolving the issue.

I reformatted the machine with Fedora 38 Server Edition given its age and lack of memory, and I renamed the machine, having some misgivings about its former name. I offered its use to my brother, who uses it as a VPN server for the household here, particularly to simplify assisting our mother in her computer use. I generally leave the machine alone: VPNs are a nebulous thing I don’t understand very much at all; I understand SSH filesystem tunnelling, and the parts between that and VPNs are too nebulous for me to understand.

But to wit: Up to this point I was neglecting the machine, letting my brother deal with it, but as a result the machine would often go unupdated for weeks at a time. In mentioning that I’d embarked upon the process of upgrading my computers all to Fedora 39, I mentioned that I liked to keep my fleet of computers all aligned on the same version of Fedora; I mentioned that at that time, due to new installs, I had two out of five computers on Fedora 38, while the rest were still on Fedora 37. With the comment that I wanted to keep my fleet on the same version, my brother encouraged me to maintain responsibilities for updates and yes indeed to upgrade this machine in particular, to keep it in line with the rest of my computers.

As mentioned, the upgrade went smoothly and with one exception was rather unremarkable: The suspend on idle mentioned earlier was not invoked, which I learned while researching the issue above is a feature not invoked in the Fedora Server Edition (here’s my archive).

Dell XPS 13 Laptop: Fedora 37, Workstation Edition, UEFI

Next, I updated my Dell XPS 13 (note: 2021). Again, this was an easy process with the dnf upgrade command.

One of the items to do in a couple of lists to do after installing Fedora 39, “17 Things to Do After Installing Fedora 39” (here’s my archive) and “Things to do after installing Fedora 39 Workstation” (here’s my archive) was to do firmware updates, using the following commands:

sudo fwupdmgr refresh –force
sudo fwupdmgr get-updates
sudo fwupdmgr update

Which, of course, I did. (There were indeed some firmware updates to be installed.)

Here’s what the process looks like on my XPS13 (Screenshots and photos taken after the fact, on a subsequent series of firmware updates):

Firmware updates a few weeks after upgrade
Firmware updates a few weeks after upgrade
Firmware updates a few weeks after upgrade

At this point, I was invigorated by being able to perform firmware updates on my XPS 13 laptop (which admittedly had not been the first time I had done so under linux, but no matter.)

However, a couple of weeks later, I noticed that an extension wasn’t working: My XP13 has a touchscreen display, and Gnome has an onscreen keyboard that pops up contextually when text is to be entered, occupying a major amount of screen space; I had been using the “disable-touch-osk” extension by sulincix, which stopped working with the upgrade to Fedora 39.

On screen keyboard disabling extension not working

This leads to a gripe I have for the Gnome developers: Stop breaking extensions with each new version of Gnome, or provide *some* kind of stable API or environment or whatever is needed so that the extension developers don’t decide to abandon their extensions because Gnome keeps on shifting so much that they have to work excessively hard every six months just to maintain their extension.

This led to the next two computers I have, which are a 2015 Acer laptop, and a 2014 Dell Inspiron desktop.

Acer Laptop: Fedora 37, Workstation Edition, UEFI — but using Legacy BIOS

I have been having problems using UEFI in my Acer laptop since I received it new in 2015; the Fedora live media would boot up, and I could install Fedora under UEFI; however, it would never boot up afterwards. My only solution seemed to be to use legacy bios. Nonetheless, hope springs eternal, this was the time to try again to install under UEFI.

I should note at this point, as mentioned above, that my home server (2008) and my VPN server (2007) are both rather old computers and pre-date UEFI and use legacy BIOS, while my XPS 13, Acer laptop, and Dell Inspiron desktop, are all UEFI machines. I make these distinctions because of conversations I had in which on the one hand, it was suggested that I perform a baremetal reformat of the Acer laptop in order to sidestep a problem I had been experiencing when I’d allowed the battery to drain completely, forcing a reset to defaults in the BIOS and hence to UEFI boot, making my setup with legacy-BIOS unbootable; on the other hand, I concluded “It’s 2023; it’s absurd not to be using UEFI on UEFI machines.” (Of course, the use of older, legacy machines predating UEFI are a different issue altogether, and for them, said point is moot.)

In addition to this comment about using UEFI, and the potential to have any UEFI firmware upgrades as discussed above, I decided that my Acer laptop needed to receive a baremetal format, given the accumulation of a lot of software on the system that I didn’t use (many though hardly all installed because of a presentation I gave in 2021); I decided that instead of package hunting and manually uninstalling them all — including dependencies that decide not to uninstall — it seemed more efficient and effective to do a clean install.

Fast forward to this round of upgrades, I upgraded the installation using a downloaded Fedora 39 image, and I went through various upgrades and setups, such as Gnome extensions, and some software installations. Suddenly I remembered that I had not changed the boot sequence from legacy bios to UEFI, so … I started over.

Several installation attempts later, including trying Fedora 36 (with an intention of upgrading through to version 39) based on some advice playing around with the various BIOS settings trying to get just “the right” settings, none worked, and I finally resigned to reinstalling yet again under, and continuing to use, legacy BIOS. Sigh.

Setting the Boot sequence to Legacy BIOS

Before setting up in legacy mode, I had a flash of inspiration: Since I was nonetheless able to boot the live media under UEFI (which I knew wouldn’t otherwise be used afterwards), I attempted a firmware update as per the above. To my mild disappointment, there weren’t any firmware updates for my Acer Laptop:

I continued with the installation under Legacy BIOS mode, and set up the desktop with the various Gnome Extensions, installing software not in the base installation, and customizing settings and the like.

I once again faced a few pet peeves I have about how Fedora is set up (incidentally through Anaconda, but by itself not Anaconda issues, best I can tell):

  • Fedora uses sudo by default, which I don’t like: I go by the notion of “Don’t be afraid of root; respect it, but don’t be afraid of it” — when you have to do root-y stuff, log into root, do what you have to do as root, and then sign out of root. (Yes, I am aware of the advantages of sudo, even beyond its convenience and short term elevations of privileges, such as logging of *who* elevated their privileges to do *what*; I just wasn’t taught that way, and on a single user system, I don’t see much value to it; hey maybe that’s just me.) As such, with each new install I perform, I have to, ironically using sudo under my default user account, assign a password to the root account, and then, remove my default account from the wheel group.

First, a password was set for the root user:

Then, after logging into the root account, I edited the /etc/group file (here’s my archive) …

… by removing my user account from the wheel group (highlighted):

  • The next thing that irked me was that in Fedora Workstation Edition, it seems that Anaconda no longer has an option (read, without the qualifier “it seems”) to set the hostname during the installation. While I understand that it is a trivial enough thing to set as per the following, under the default régime of the default primary user having sudo privileges … it seems to me that this is the kind of thing that should still be in the system installation part. (As in, I wonder how many new users have “fedora” as their machine name for a significant amount of time if not forever, being unaware that it is (only) a default placeholder name, unaware that it can be changed, and unaware of how to change it.)

Fortunately, this is easily set in the Settings / About menu, *if* you don’t remove your default user from the wheel group, or at least haven’t yet, and therefore still have sudo privileges:

Note that in the above screenshot, the option appears shaded out because since I had already removed the primary user from the wheel group, effectively disabling sudo, my (default user) account did not possess the requisite permissions to edit the hostname.

Changing the hostname on the command line is also not particularly difficult, using the command “hostnamectl set-hostname new-name”

… or, editing the /etc/hostname file, by entering the command “nano /etc/hostname” as the at the command line and as the root user:

Then, once in the /etc/hostname file, enter the host name you want (in the case of my Acer laptop, “reliant”, as in the USS Reliant from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan movie.)

(More on changing the hostname can be found at the Fedora documentation page (here’s my archive) and techadmin.net (here’s my archive), among many other sites)

And on this install, I noticed that the extension Vertical Overview by Ralthuis, which among other things, allowed for the dock on the Activities page to remain vertical and on the left edge of the screen, instead of on the bottom of the screen, was broken, something I hadn’t noticed when upgrading my XPS13. Note: Check lower down in the section for my desktop.

Dock moved to the bottom of the activities screen due to a broken extension (note screenshot recreated after the fact)

On this point, I installed a number of Gnome extensions that I like, unfortunately not the one mentioned above, as well as adding apps to the dock, and other optimizations I commonly perform.

After these items, I installed Gnome Evolution, modified the installation’s setup such as pinning apps to the dock, and checked the power management issue listed above. During the install process, I was able to specify that third party repositories could be enabled; after install, I installed the free and non-free repositories from rpmfusion, as well as Rémi’s RPM repository. I transferred my data from the backup I had created earlier onto my laptop. (See next section on my Desktop).

Finally, I had to activate the flathub repository (here’s my archive) in order to be able to install software that I use that is distributed as flatpaks, such as Signal (a secure texting app):

… and then Signal was installed from the Software App:

Minor note: I don’t recall having to enable the flatpak.org repositories before, although I may be wrong.

This leads to my final computer to upgrade, my desktop:

Dell Inspiron: Fedora 38, Workstation Edition; installed Legacy BIOS, Machine UEFI

When I purchased the computer new in 2014, Fedora 21 installed easily under UEFI.

In the summer of 2023, I upgraded the mechanical drive to an SSD, and I had installed Fedora 38 the SSD; the Dell Inspiron had difficulty recognizing Fedora 38 media, so I took an old pre-UEFI computer, inserted the SSD, and installed Fedora on the SSD. I don’t recall if I knew to change to legacy BIOS once I transferred the SSD to the Dell, or after an error or two, I realized the error, and made the change in the setup. The installation worked, although I was slightly irked.

Come time to upgrade to Fedora 39, I performed the command line DNF upgrade covered earlier, dealing with some of the consequences like the power management and idling issue above. Additionnaly, I noticed something else that irked me regarding the power button (changing it from “Suspend” to “Power Off”:

“Power Button Behavior” setting changed from “Suspend” to “Power Off”. Call me old school …

However, in the intervening time I had experienced the UEFI crisis above, so I first performed a backup of my data to my backup folders on my web server, mildly surprised by how much I was behind in my manual backups.

Unfortunately from this point on, my desktop proved to be the most challenging to upgrade properly.

Having downloaded a copy of the install media for Fedora 39 and burned it onto a usb stick, as well as still having the Fedora 38 Server Edition DVD (which I had forgotten was the F38 Server Edition, instead erroneously assuming that I had gone to the trouble of burning the F39 Workstation Edition onto the DVD), and I tried to install Fedora 39 from both media. I tried several settings in the setup menu, to no avail: The motherboard categorically refused to recognize either, simply displaying an error message vaguely communicating a sense that it didn’t like the media. In looking through the internet for pages on the subject, including the Dell website, I was mildly piqued that solutions commonly referenced burning the usb stick using particular software under Windows (to which strictly speaking I have access, but not on the computer in question), and often just assuming that there would be a Windows partition on the computer. Putting aside knee-jerk reactions, I assumed that this would not address the issue since the solutions appeared to assume a conflict with Windows which could not exist on my machine, or that the Fedora media-writing tools were inherently unable to operate correctly.

I gave up for the moment, changed the boot settings back to Legacy BIOS, and used the untouched Legacy BIOS install for roughly a week while dealing with other upgrades and life in general.

After roughly up to a week, I remembered something I’d read a week or two earlier that said that the UEFI shim for Fedora versions 37 and 38 (and I presume, given my experience, Fedora 39 as well), was not working for some motherboards “due to a difficult certification process for this component“, (here’s my archive) and that a workaround was to install Fedora 36, whose shim was known to work, then proceed through the command line upgrades to Fedora 39.

Fedora 36 was downloaded and burned on a usb stick, and the settings in the boot menu were changed back to UEFI. Fedora 36 was installed — successfully! …

… and the updates were performed, after which the command for the version upgrade was performed, to bring it to Fedora 38. However, the system would not reboot on its own; a quick fsck command corrected some “dirty code”, which it corrected, and I changed some boot settings about booting and automatic on at certain dates. Once this was done, the upgrade to Fedora 38 continued:

DNF upgrade command working; yes, my screen is dusty!

I again performed a dnf upgrade to Fedora 39, and had to repeat the fsck command in order for the system to properly reboot.

To correct this rebooting issue, an empty file named “fsck” was created in my home directory.

Backups were restored, and work similar to what I’d performed on my Acer laptop were performed regarding sudo, root, renaming of the box, evolution, extensions, pinning apps to the dock, and the like were performed.

After yet another week or so, I noticed that my backups had not fully been transferred, and began transferring the balance. In the process, my computer indicated that it did not have enough space on the hard drive; I suspected that during the previous install that I had not correctly removed the previous install, so I reformatted yet again.

So I repeated the installation and upgrade process, this time ensuring that all space on the drive was reclaimed, and repeated the above processes, both specific to the computer as well as other things generally required as part of the upgrade.

During the initial setup, I discovered an extension that brings back the vertical view: V-Shell (vertical workspaces) by GdH, and it seems to do what I want, although on the desktop there is a setting that brings up the (vertical) dock, workspaces, and app search space over the workspace; comparison with another setup allowed me to find the setting I wanted.

And, to repeat myself: Gnome, do you hear me? Stop breaking extensions!

Now — so far — the computer seems to be working, but as this whole process over a month has shown, I should give it at least a week to find out if there are any other issues.

Final Thoughts

I don’t read the upcoming changes for new versions, nor do I research in advance problems that people have been having. I discover the problems, changes, and challenges along the way, and as such for me Fedora reveals itself as per my usage and discoveries — no doubt leaving a lot hidden to me — not only over its roughly 13 month lifespan, but also over the first few weeks of using it, and, interestingly, over the installation process itself, especially when it’s over several machines of different eras and manufacturers and technologies.

As this round of upgrades in particular has shown, as well as years of using Fedora Linux, using Fedora Linux is an exercise in bleeding edge.

Now, barring unforeseen changes, additions, and the like, I’m looking forward to roughly a year of Fedora 39 goodness!

Shows on the Star Trek: The Cruise II, a.k.a. Paging The Squire of Gothos

During the Star Trek: The Cruise II, I was often wondering about licensing issues related to everything that was going on around me. Besides amusing me, there was a particular reason: Early during the cruise, Michael Dorn (Worf) made an uncanny quip while introducing Nana Visitor and René Auberjonois for their show: “You would be still be clapping even if I were reading from the phone book!”

From that comment on, I was frequently commenting to myself what later gelled in my mind into “Phone Book Recitals”. As such, I was often wondering about licensing issues and the economic choices which were made during the organization of the cruise regarding each and every show, event, and detail on the ship.

For instance:

  • The on-board PA system alternated between sound effects and music from mostly, as I perceived it, The Original Series, and pop music from the 1980’s. I noted several repetitions of tracks from the “Invisible Touch” album by Genesis, making me assume that the ship was rotating through the same play list of music. Part of me wondered how much of this latter part was targeting the likely demographics of the passengers, as in those of us old enough to both have enjoyed such music in our youth, and be able to reasonably comfortably afford being on the cruise, and how much of the 80’s music was being played due to a favourable music licensing deal. Despite this, I rather enjoyed both the sound effects and the music.
  • On the in-house television in the cabins, there were two channels which carried Star Trek; by the end of the cruise, I’d noticed that there were three. I typically would watch bits over three episodes of Star Trek a day when waking up or going to bed. On one channel, the second Abramsverse movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, appeared to be in almost constant rotation. On the other, there appeared to be a preponderance of DS9, with just enough Enterprise for me to notice. I only starting seeing some TNG near the end of the cruise. So: Are Star Trek into Darkness and DS9 lagging behind on broadcasting rights royalty income?
  • Near the concièrge desk, there were a number of video screens, apparently with constant and perpetual loops of the TOS episodes Charlie X, Shore Leave, and The Naked Time; another appeared to always have Star Trek: The Motion Picture playing. What was it about these episodes and this movie? Is it the same broadcasting rights royalty income conspiracy theory I mention above? Or just that the DVDs or BlueRays or digital copies got stuck in a perpetual playback loop?

Then there were the live shows and events I attended, almost all of which I otherwise found thoroughly enjoyable. Several of the shows had nothing to do with Star Trek, other than the fact that the performers happened to have been, well, the actors who portrayed Captain Sulu, Lt.Cmdr. Laforge, Odo, Major Kira, Q, The Doctor, and so on.

Given the several shows I saw, virtually all starring one or more Star Trek actors and / or personalities, while I was clapping at the end and otherwise (usually) thoroughly entertained, I was often scratching my head as to what the show I had just seen had to do with Star Trek, and (usually) expecting that I would have been equally entertained had the performers been any other performers, be they known stars, or career cruise ship entertainers.

Don’t get me wrong: With one exception, all were thoroughly enjoyable, perhaps more so because of who were performing. (I’ll even grant the one exception the courtesy of having been interesting in its own right, albeit beyond what I would have chosen had I known what it really would have been about beforehand.) However, despite rather enjoying the cruise and the shows I attended, I felt like I was giving a number of the shows and the performers a bit of leeway, while wondering where the “Star Trek” part was. Often enough, I was wondering how much a given show or activity was being presented because it passed muster based on the promoter’s entertainment committee’s (and I’m pretty sure the cruise line’s committee’s) “entertainment index” (though ignoring for Star Trek content), and how many licensing issues arose regarding more Star Trek specific shows, be it more Star Trek script readings (or readings of scripts that didn’t make it to screen), dramatic adaptations of fan generated stories, or more exposés on the inner workings of Star Trek.

For instance, John de Lancie and Robert Picardo (as well as other Star Trek personalities) performed a reading of a dramatization of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial (The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes) as well as individually in other shows having nothing to do with Star Trek. Robert Picardo also performed his current show called “BFF” with Jordan Bennett, (apparently) known for starring in Les Misérables on Broadway; except for a song opening at the beginning in which the Star Trek theme song is performed, it appeared to have nothing to do with Star Trek. Had the cruise been themed for the Stargate franchise, both John de Lancie and Robert Picardo, who also were secondary characters in that franchise, could have performed almost all of the same shows I saw them perform on the Star Trek cruise, and there would be little difference.

Yes, these actors have virtually all had acting careers before and after Star Trek. I imagine that at least a modest ability to competently sing and dance is a somewhat more common skill amongst actors than the general population, while generally, their portrayals on Star Trek usually had nothing to do with song and dance.  Yes, they do have lives outside of Star Trek. And yes, I don’t only watch Star Trek on TV, or only watch TV all day long; yes, I have other interests beyond Star Trek that have nothing to do with spaceships or TV. I understand that thirteen, sixteen, nineteen, twenty-three or forty-eight years after the end of the respective shows in which the actors appeared, they have gone on to other performing activities and interests, and in many cases actually have current shows – take Robert Picardo’s current “BFF” show, which I thought was remarkable for rating very close to zero on a scale of one to ten in Trekkie-ness.

But … I went to, I paid for, a Star Trek themed cruise. I did get part of it: Star Trek actors and personalities, and a number of Star Trek themed window dressings on the ship. And yes, of course, I got a great cruise!

Yet, from my perspective, the cruise felt like a cruise that happened to have an (almost merely nominal) Star Trek theme. I found it hard to immerse myself in Star Trek.

Yes, I got to see Star Trek stars. Yes, there was a good amount of gawking at “cool t-shirt” or “great klingon costume” comments (at least three of my Star Trek themed t-shirts drew attention from others).

However, I did not happen upon any impromptu “heated” discussions about anything Star Trek. The type I might have in mind would be the likes of ethical discussions over the Dominion War, which episodes were the best (or worst), or whether or not they should have actually killed Kirk onscreen (which I think was a mistake, both in and of itself, as well as how they did it; that he wasn’t with Bones and Spock at the time isn’t the point.) Admittedly, I do recall, more as an afterthought, having one brief conversation with someone: “Which starship would you see yourself on?” I replied that I’d liked to be on Enterprise-D, but if I were really lucky, I might end up being one of Janeway”s lost sheep (a reference to an episode in which she takes a personal interest in three under-performing crew members.) And to be fair, I was often running from one show to the next such that I had little time to sit back and seek out these kinds of bar conversations.

Basically, I felt that at the core of the cruise, there wasn’t actually enough Star Trek. It was like Trelane in the “Squire of Gothos”: So many of the trappings, but not quite enough of the actual substance.

Do you think that instead of reading the Scopes Monkey Trial, they could have read through another Star Trek script?

Could Robert Picardo have sung (at least one of) “My Darling Clementine”, “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “You Are My Sunshine”, and the Doctor’s fantasy version of “La donna è mobile” in his show, since these are songs he sang onscreen in Voyager?

Do you think that Viacom or CBS or whoever deals with the licensing could have made the shows more Star Trek like?

Star Trek Cruise 2018

For the past year, I have been looking forward to a cruise from which I have just returned.

Being a long time Trekkie (please don’t start talking about Trekker vs. Trekkie, I find the argument as silly as Trekkie is purported to be pejorative) and now, well let’s say able, my brother and I bought berths on the NCL Jade for this year’s second sailing in the Star Trek Cruise.  We had a great time!

Here are my pictures.

UPDATE January 21, 22:45:

Ports of call included:

  • Roatan, Honduras (suffice it to say that beyond the small and minimal but adequate tourist zone, we turned back within minutes, disappointed in the overly ferocious solicitation by the locals);
  • Harvest Cay, Belize, a private island owned by NCL best described (positively so!) as Gilligan’s Island run by Mr. Howell for tourists (yes, I am aware of “The Castaways” Resort);
  • Costa Maya, Mexico, where I hope that the haggling over the price of a “Mexican” blanket in the large tourist zone, both of which I expect are about as authentic as the deed to a bridge in Brooklyn — but both of which I liked anyway — made me a little less of a mark than anyone who may have paid the original price I was quoted (assuming anyone else was labelled to be one of a given number of “marks of the day”, and outside of which I got to go out to see genuine Mayan ruins!

Actors on the ship:

On the cruise, we got to see many Star Trek stars, of course all of them anywhere from 15  to 50 years older than when they were first on TV.  On the first day, we managed to get a seat around the pool with a poor view onto the temporary stage where the stars were introduced, but we had front-row seats to the open air green room where the stars waited to go onto the stage!

In my personal view, the “hard workers” amongst  the actors were:  René Auberjonois (Odo), Robert Picardo (The Doctor), Ethan Phillips (Neelix), Robert O’Reilly (Gowron), John de Lancie (Q), and Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun, Shran, Liquidator Brunt, and others).

And to a somewhat lesser degree:  Max Grodenchik (Rom), Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar and the Romulan Commander), and Nana Visitor (Major Kira).  (I learned that the correct pronunciation is “Nuh-naw”, emphasis on “-naw”, not “Nay-na” with emphasis on “Nay”).

The “Invisible Cast Members” whom I don’t recall seeing at all after the first day’s introduction of the actors:

  • Karl Urban (McCoy from Abramsverse) — who apparently possibly became ill, as well as apparently developed contractual conflicts after the first day, requiring him to leave the ship prematurely, and all of which I knew about early on, although not from official sources, at least not those to which I was paying attention;
  • Vaughn Armstrong (Admiral Forrest, and apparently 11 various other Star Trek characters over various series).  After a bit of research into the daily schedules, I learned that he:
    • hosted a celebrity bingo earlier in the week during my dinner seating;
    • appeared often in the “Rat Pack” musical group who played late at night, after I usually went to bed;
    • hosted Gorn’s Gong Show, when I was at another show with George Takei,
    • hosted a karaoke night the last night of the cruise, to which I tried to convince myself to go, but ultimately didn’t bother doing.

Which leaves Jonathan Frakes (I saw him in two shows), George Takei (who was actually all over), Michael Dorn (whom I only saw introduce a show once, but whom I bumped into one evening), Connor Trineer (whom I saw in the Star Trek Squares game, and who apparently hosted a Karaoke night as well as the Gorn Gong Show with Vaughn Armstrong, see above), Brent Spiner (who was the star of one shows that I saw), and Gates McFadden (who was in one show I saw but who did do at least one session teaching tap dancing basics).

Here is a review of the various shows I saw, and other activities in which I participated:

The first evening’s show

  • Michael Dorn introduced Levar Burton, who read a children’s book he’d written, as well as an essay he’d written.
  • Later when he introduced René Auberjonois and Nana Visitor, one of Michael Dorn’s quotes was “you’d still be clapping even if I were reading from the phone book” — a comment I found fascinating, and which followed me and the shows I saw all week long, since so many of the shows were NOT Star Trek related at all beyond the actors starring in them, but were still rather entertaining.
  • René Auberjonois and Nana Visitor reading various humourous quotes and a scene from DS9.

Day 2:

  • Photo op with George Takei (basically, 15 seconds with Mr. Takei)
  • Star Trek’s Script Secrets Revealed with Lolita Fatjo.  Interesting points:  Star Trek The Next Generation had an open invitation for the public to submit scripts, virtually unique in the TV world.  And, at 10AM, people were ordering noisy-to-make margeritas.
  • Scopes Monkey Trial with John de Lancie, Ethan Phillips, and Robert Picardo.  As I recall, Mrs. de Lancie, René Auberjonois and Jeffrey Combs participated as well, and three people from the passengers, amongst whom one who was a dead ringer for Col. Sanders of chicken fame, who also dressed the part.  The show was a dramatic reading / stage play based on the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 in Tenessee.
  • T-shirt party with DJ Needles:  Basically, a pool party on the pool deck offering free punch and carbonated barley water (oops, I think they called it Budweiser and Coors Light) to all those wearing the cruise T-shirt.
  • A Visit to the Galley:  Cooking Demo with Nana Visitor — Three recipes easy to prepare in advance party items:  A crab meat dish, kiwi and tequila in watermelon cups, and a third dish I have forgotten.  Apparently, Nana Visitor once was a co-owner of a catering business in New Mexico.  During the presentation, Nana Visitor played the comedian, and the ship’s executive chef played the straight man.
  • Interstellar Improv: An episodic overdub with Denise Crosby and Friends (René Auberjonois and Robert Picardo) — a really dumb show with the three of them ad-libbing dumb comments to a silent viewing of “And the Children Shall Lead”, including some shady comments about Captain Kirk.  (Ahem, NOT along the lines of “Spock is better!”)

Day 3:  Roatan, Honduras (see ports of call)

Shows:

  • A Visit to Original Trek with Gates McFadden and Jonathan Frakes (and Picardo, Philipps, Auberjonois, de Lancie, Mrs. di Lancie).  Reading the script to “The Trouble with the Tribbles” — Hilarious!  And, having had a good amount of time on my hands, I had showed up about 50 minutes early to get a good seat.  Good call, it was an overflow crowd!
  • Gow-Rom:  A skit and then Q&A with Gowron (Robert O’Reilly) and Rom (Max Grodenchik) — in full costume and makeup, and during the first part, in character!
  • In Search of Lost Time:  Brent Spiner performing Broadway hits.  As it turns out, despite having known about “Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back”, I learned that Brent Spiner is actually a decent singer!

Day 4:  Harvest Cay, Belize (see ports of call)

  • “High Lord Cuckoo Face, 3 Little Klingons & O’Reilly Too” — a very deceptive title which, lacking any further explanation or context, unless one already was familiar with the reference, ultimately only relayed that the presentation would be given by Robert O’Reilly and have a vague reference Chancellor Gowron.  In fact, the talk was indeed given by Mr. O’Reilly, firstly explaining that the three little Klingons referred to his three triplet sons, who at a certain point in their childhood decided that “Chancellor Gowron” was a silly name for their father’s character, and that it should be “High Lord Cuckoo Face”.  After which, Mr. O’Reilly recounted poetry, and personal vignettes from his childhood.  I mentioned the deceptive nature of the title in conversation, and a cynic responded to me sardonically that it might well have been better titled “Poignant stories from Robert O’Reilly’s Life Experiences”.  Overall, it actually would have been a better and more accurate title, and in the process not have set me up to expect a hilarious slapstick routine.
  • Star Trek Squares, with George Takei as the centre square, and a Gorn with (intentionally) unintelligible speech.  The Gorn was definitely the hit of the show.

Day 5:  Costa Maya, Mexico (see ports of call)

  • Notes on the visit to the Mayan ruins:  The guide was excellent, and at least trilingual (she spoke French with me, to my pleasant surprise).  I learned that in a very flat area, not only were the ruins all built by volunteer labour (trying to get more “points” to get to the Mayan equivalent of Heaven), but also a low mountain!
  • Star Trek Online presents Gameshow Night:  The Liar’s Club with Jeffrey Combs, Phil Plait and Robb Pearlmann
  • Evening with George Takei:  George Takei spent an hour recounting his experiences in a WWII Japanese-American internment camp as a child, his path to becoming an actor, and as a civil rights activist both surrounding the Japanese-American internment camps as well as LGBT rights.

Day 6:

  • Behind the Scenes Tour:  A two hour walking tour of the ship in areas such as waste disposal, laundry, galley, and other areas, where passengers normally don’t get to see anything.
  • Klingon Pub Crawl:  A pub crawl to three of the ship’s bars led by Chancellor Gowron (Robert O’Reilly) in full costume and makeup.  As a part of his act, Gowron told two great dumb jokes, feigning a lack of understanding of the humour:
    • Two cannibals are eating supper.  One says, “I don’t care for my mother-in-law.”  The other responds, “Try the potatoes”.
    • Two cannibals are dining on a clown.  One says, “Does this taste funny to you?”
  • (Second half of) The “Women’s” View with Mrs. de Lancie, Nana Visitor, Denise Crosby, Lolita Fatjo
  • Oh My!  With George Takei, hosted by Brad Takei — Q&A with George Takei
  • Wine Tasting with Casey Biggs:  As it turns out, Casey Biggs, who played Damar on DS9, owns a vineyard in California, and is involved in making his wine!
  • The Real Life Search for Planet Vulcan, a short presentation on Mercury’s orbit, which at times fooled historic astronomers into claiming to have found another planet in close orbit to the Sun.
  • “BFF” with Robert Picardo and Jordan Bennet.  A show starting off with the Star Trek theme lyrics sung, and a cute set of jokes, stories and slides, but which ultimately featured a ho-hum performance by Robert Picardo and Jordan Bennet with a string of recognizable songs that (armchair critic here) could have been sung better, and which had little if any discernable link to each other, the show overall, Picardo and Bennet, and obviously Star Trek in general, and which left me scratching my head as to why they were included beyond a desire to fill up a one hour time slot.

On ship television:

  • In the midship bar, there was an area displaying various props (and / or reproductions, no matter) from the various shows.  There were TV screens showing TOS episodes.  Specifically, every time I passed by, Charlie X, The Naked Time, and at least one more which I never bothered to identify, as well as Star Trek: The Motion Picture, were playing.
  • In the staterooms, where I perhaps watched the equivalent of about an episode and a half over perhaps three episodes per day (ie bed time or waking up in the morning):
    • On one of the two Star Trek channels, I noticed a preponderance of DS9 episodes, then a far second of Enterprise episodes, and then even fewer TNG episodes.  No TOS or Voyager episodes that I saw.
    • On the second Star Trek channel, Star Trek Beyond appeared to me to be in almost exclusive rotation until about the second to last day.

To be fair, of course I didn’t sit in my room 24/7 keeping track of the episodes being aired, but I would have expected to see a far more balanced airing of episodes over the week.

Food:

Firstly, we had decided not to bother spending the premium going to the premium restaurants on board — this trip was admittedly rather expensive, even though we could afford it.

We had also discussed going to the Irish pub, such as for a late night snack (since it was pretty much the only 24/7 option besides room service), but we never did go.

Which leaves the buffet area, and the dining room.

The buffet area was large enough, and rather long — and, finding empty tables normally involved a walk.

The breakfast menu seemed to be roughly the same daily.  My only observation was that the scrambled eggs were undercooked and slimy some mornings (no doubt a way of countering the hotplates on which they were being kept).

Lunch menus varied somewhat daily along with standard foods like burgers, hot dogs, pizzas, and the like.

The supper menu also varied somewhat daily, and had some nice though typical items.

Dining room:

The menu changed daily, save five or six items which were repeated.  Additionally, there was a special menu to the effect of “From Neelix’s kitchen”, with a special of the day.

The food was definitely better-than-most calibre (only to distinguish it from that food with price tags to make the afore-mentioned Mr. Howell shiver.)

My disappointing choices in the dining room?

  • Not having ordered the moussaka on the first day, which the wait staff claimed was not available a few days later.  It looked and smelled great, but I was concerned about which of the many varieties of moussaka I expected I might be disappointed in.
  • The cheese plate for dessert one day; a bit too frou-frou for my tastes.
  • The steak-frites I chose one day; rather pedestrian, instead of the lamb shank I should have ordered.

Geek factor:

Obviously, there were a lot of Star Trek related shirts — I had a different Star Trek T-shirt for every day.  And, there were a lot of Star Trek uniforms from the various series — some home made, mostly excellent while none of the expected worst costumes ever, and a number of obviously purchased from professional suppliers.

To my mild disappointment, I never happened upon impromptu hardcore discussions about anything Star Trek.  I figured that they would be hard to avoid.  Of course, Star Trek was being discussed.  However, no obvious friendly debates over which series was the best, or who was the best or worst captain, which ship was the nicest or sleekest or fastest, or the relative merits of holodeck training vs. traditional field training in real environments, or shuttlecraft vs. transporters ….