Sunday, March 19, 2017

 

The Promise of Linux

I've been hearing about Linux for over twenty years. The first time I looked into it, it was more of a "roll your own" operating system, you had to build and compile the kernel from scratch. I decided it was too much work at the time.  Periodically, over the years, I looked at it again, even tried "test driving" a few different versions. Ultimately, the lack of documentation, and the steep learning curve, dissuaded me from taking it too seriously.

I have an aging computer, the last of a series of older machines with Windows XP installed, and for one reason or another, the last remaining working computer is also one of the slowest that I've had. So in addition to the hardware being years out of date, the Operating System is showing signs of age. Newer web browsers don't work right, forcing me to use older versions that many websites declare "are no longer supported." A new computer is in the works, but not in the immediate future.

Part of my motivation for investigating Linux again, is Microsoft's total abandonment of loyal users like me. I have been using Windows for over twenty years, since Windows 3.1. Windows 10 isn't Windows anymore, looks more like the Apple desktop, which I hate, since it's counter-intuitive to what I am already accustomed to. I've already put in enough time on the Windows learning curve for over twenty years, I don't want to have to learn it all over again. I just want it to work. I don't want to fight with "versions" or drivers, or any other goddam thing. I just want to use it. I got things to do, and learning a new Operating System isn't one of them.

I also object to Microsoft's "business model," where you "rent" software on a yearly contract, instead of buying it outright, and possibly paying for upgrades. I've bought MS Office a few times, now they want me to pay for it every year, in perpetuity? No. Not going to happen.

So, Apple is out, Microsoft is out, what's left? Linux.

Started looking for a version that was easy to use, and would run on my aging and obsolete computer. One of the things I found was "Puppy Linux," which will run from a thumb drive. Which is a good thing, because my goddam CD player doesn't work anymore. Fortunately, whoever designed this machine, made the BIOS in such a way that it's possible to boot from a USB thumb drive.
Linux comes in many versions, and Puppy Linux comes in several versions, as well. The first one I tried was version 4.30, because it was easy. It worked fine, was lightweight, seemed to run fast, installed in a few minutes, and then i tried to access the internet. That actually worked, too, except the browser was so outdated, I was unable to login to my email, Google+, Facebook, or any other site that required a secure login. In order to update the browser, I had to update the version of Linux. (sound familiar?)

Tried a Debian install first, and after 3 hours gave up, I don't think there was enough room on the thumb drive, I have no idea. The first attempt took about ten minutes, this was taking hours, and I don't know why.

The next attempt was with "Slacko Linux 6.3.2" based on the famous slackware. Well, they said it was famous. I never heard of it.
Ok, did this, now try booting it up. OK, it installed in less than ten minutes, BUT, there seems to be some kind of video driver problem? click on something, it opens a window, but the window is missing stuff, there are buttons, but the buttons don't have any labels, can't figure out what I'm looking at or how to fix it. Very fucking frustrating. The good news is, it's on a fucking thumb drive, and I can just reformat and move on to:

Installed Tahr 6.0.5 PAE
everything installed OK. Tahrpup is based on Ubuntu. Help file is completely useless. Internet installed seamlessly.
The built in browser was a firefox clone called "Palemoon." the problem with it is that websites like Google and duckduckgo didn't recognize it. Kept getting weird errors. The forum had some "solutions" to fix this issue, mostly blaming the unfairness of life, etc... the actual "fix" was convoluted and you had to do it separately for each site, and ultimately, didn't fucking work.
Installed Firefox. imported bookmarks via a second thumb drive. This worked ok. Started using the browser, logged into yahoo mail, Facebook, Google Plus. I noticed it runs a lot slower than previous attempts and previous browsers. Sometimes it freezes up for half an hour!!!! this shitting thing makes windows look good!!!!

From the "Puppy Linux" official website

Puppy Linux advantage

    Ready to use → all tools for common daily computing usage already included.
    Ease of use → grandpa-friendly certified ™
    Relatively small size → 200 MB or less.
    Fast and versatile.
    Customizable within minutes → remasters.
    Different flavors → optimized to support older computers, newer computers.
    Variety → hundreds of derivatives (“puplets”), one of which will surely meet your needs.

1. Let's take them one at a time. Yes, it's ready to use, and Yes, there is some version of a word processor, a web browser, and a bunch of other commonly used stuff. But, it's all stuff you never heard of, and it doesn't work quite the same as whatever you were using before. Again with the learning curve. And it's a learning curve for each and every program, and even things like Firefox, which I am intimately familiar with, is different under Linux.

2. Ease of Use. No, it's not easy to use. Easy to install, yes, it's done in about ten minutes, unlike windows, that used to take hours just to get back to where you were before it crashed. They jokingly say "grandpa friendly certified." I'm a grandpa, and it's not friendly, its not easy to use, the help files are useless, and documentation, if you can find it, may not even apply to whatever version you are using.

3. Relatively Small Size. Yes and no. The initial installation is small, yes. Then you install a browser that actually works, and this inflates the installation quite a bit. There is a swap file on the thumb drive that takes the place of the swap file on the Hard Drive. So you are restricted to the speed of your USB card, internal memory, mother board, etc., etc.

4. Fast and Versatile. Meh. Not that fast, in some cases, much slower. "versatile" is a relative term. Compared to other versions of Linux? Maybe, I have no idea. Compared to Windows? There's the fucking learning curve again. It took me a week to set the clock in Linux. Again, finding relevant documentation is nearly impossible, again, the internal help files are not very helpful. Followed one of the many procedures I found for setting the clock, nothing worked! Then, maybe a week later, I had at it again. I'm not even sure what I did, something to do with the "time zone?" Now it works! What a fucking pain in the ass!

5. Customizable withing minutes. Seriously? I'm afraid to "customize" anything, because it might stop working altogether. If it took a week to figure out setting the goddam clock, why would I even attempt to customize it? You've got to be kidding me.

So, let me sum it up here:

Pros & Cons:

Puppy Linux
Pros:
It's not Windows!
It's not Apple!
Will run on a thumb drive!
Has a FREE native program for just about everything

Cons:
It's not as fast as the claims
Some shit is hard to get working
Some of the browsers just don't work right
It's always "behind the curve"
The learning curve is brutal
The documentation sucks




Saturday, January 14, 2017

 

Alexa, The World's First Artificial Stupidity

A six year old girl in Dallas asked the Amazon Artificial Intelligence Alexa to buy her a dollhouse and some cookies. Apparently, there was no fail-safe set to prevent such things, even though the settings exist in the device. Yes, because of a parental oversight, one of the most popular AI's on the market today was confounded by a six year old girl. Not high marks for AI in the 21st century. The parents were puzzled when an expensive doll house and 4 pounds of cookies showed up a couple days later. Eventually they questioned the girl, and she confessed to sharing her desires with Alexa. It is unknown if the girl is grounded or what at this time. (read the story here:)

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/05/health/amazon-alexa-dollhouse-trnd/index.html

Then, to add insult to injury, a news reader in San Diego apparently set off an avalanche of doll house and cookie orders by merely reading the story on the air. It is unknown at this time exactly how many Alexa-equipped households were ordering dollhouses and cookies. Maybe Amazon should have better setup instructions? Way to boost the economy, eh? So the six year old's parents weren't the only stupid people in the world, apparently, there's a whole pile of them in San Diego! (read the story here:)

http://www.cw6sandiego.com/news-anchor-sets-off-alexa-devices-around-san-diego-ordering-unwanted-dollhouses/

Not an auspicious beginning for AI. The problem appears to be, the designers keep trying to make it more user-friendly, and easy to use, and wind up making it unusable. Now some sort of security codes or passwords or something have to be implemented to prevent the thing from just randomly picking up words off the TV or the Radio and acting on them. The problem in past was in the voice recognition, it had to be "trained" to identify a users voice, vocabulary was limited, and complex commands like "Alexa, buy cookies," were a little beyond it's capabilities. With the technological obstacles removed, it now becomes a problem of common sense. Was no one on the design staff able to foresee this might become an issue? If I tell Alexa that I really want a Rolls Royce, will it actually attempt to have one delivered? How do you draw a line that it cannot cross without human intervention, without rendering it so inconvenient that you're better off just using your computer or smart phone? I don't believe these challenges to be insurmountable, but we're going to have to do a lot better than this moving forward. AI is here to stay, how do we integrate into our already tech-heavy lives without letting it take over? Perhaps "AI" is too strong a term, the thing isn't really intelligent, it's basically a voice-activated personal assistant. Strangely, the hardest part has been getting the voice activated interface to work reliably. Now that we seem to have that obstacle removed, maybe we should be trying to make the thing more intelligent.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

 
https://www.yahoo.com/style/tranny-granny-halloween-costume-recalled-by-164654452.html

you've got to be joking. Are we so ultra-sensitive that the slightest deviation from the

mainstream is considered offensive? Are we so easily offended that this fairly innocuous

costume is the source of such controversy, yet police in other states continue to gun

down unarmed civilians. We're one election away from an Orwellian Dystopia and THIS is

what you're upset about? This is the most important thing in the news to report on?

The article further states; "Fortunately, college student Mahala Herron has some pretty

sound advice for avoiding controversy, specifically in regards to cultural appropriation.

“Halloween is coming up, so everyone please remember that my culture isn’t a costume,”

she tweeted. She shared this alongside an illustration of three figures symbolizing

different cultures: One head is adorned in a hijab, another is wearing cornrows, and the

third is in a headdress." Since when is 'Mahal Herron' the goddam costume police?
I see things that are offensive to me ALL THE TIME and nobody gives a shit that I'm

offended. Seriously, this PC nonsense has gone too far. If you find this offensive, DON'T

BUY IT!!! seriously, WTF?

Monday, January 18, 2016

 

My New (Old) Iphone 4

I was informed by my spouse that we could save ten dollars a month on our data plan if
I got a "smart" phone instead of the stupid flip phone I've been using for the last 8
years. My step daughter had an Iphone 4 she wasn't using, and so we set out to get it
registered and set up. Now mind you, I was an early adopter of computer technology, my
first computer I got in 1979, and proceeded to teach myself how to program. But
nothing could have prepared me for the level of frustration I was about to experience.
I have a podcast I listen to, and since my mp3 player croaked, I've tried to load it
onto an ipod, which I believe I succeeded, but I can't find the goddam thing, since
there is no readout, just a big button. Nice design, Apple.
Next I tried to put it onto the iphone, but for some reason, two different computers
were having two different issues and I couldn't do it. It should be a simple thing,
moving a file from one device to another. But, Apple's convoluted and counter-intuitive
system is completely foreign compared to Microsoft's convoluted and counter-intuitive
system.
Research into my desktop conundrum shows I need to download Service Pack 3. See if
that does anything.
So, I downloaded service pack 3, big time consuming pain in the ass, still can't
connect to the goddam iphone. Get an error saying the device "times out." Whatever the
fuck that's supposed to mean. If it was a Microsoft compatible device, you could just
drag and drop the files, like I did with the MP3 player. But since it's Proprietary
Apple nonsense, you can't perform simple functions like that. I was never a big fan of
Microsoft, but Apple is downright pissing me off. Reboot, AGAIN.
Ok, finally got the computer and the iphone talking, itunes can see the device, was
able to sync it. Now, where the hell are my podcasts? The 274 page manual is
absolutely no help. There is no icon for podcasts, anywhere.
Further searching reveals I may need a specific podcast app for iphone 4, altho it
does have IOS 7.1.2. Why? I can' listen to any mp3 on my computer, whether it's a 3
minute song or a two hour podcast. Why do I need a specific ap for this?
Ok, downloaded two different aps, still not seeing anything on the phone, even though
I was able to sync it multiple times. Now, itunes is not seeing the phone, for some
reason. Trying another hard reboot. This is getting frustrating.
Ok, now it sees the phone, in the middle of syncing it gets an error saying the backup
failed, now it doesn't see it anymore. However, the battery icon is still green, which
means the phone is seeing the USB port, and is charging off of it.
I've been fucking around with this for a fucking week. All I wanted to do was listen
to a podcast on my goddam "smart" phone. I guess it's not all that smart. It shouldn't
be this hard. It's a simple thing. I don't know why I can't get it to work. I followed
all the instructions on line, it' looked like I was making progress, but, ultimately,
for reasons unknown, it still doesn't work. As a phone, it's only fair, the microphone
points down away from your mouth, so it tends to pick up ambient noise. Haven't tried
it with a headset yet, that's frustration for another day.

Monday. So, I accidentally figured out how to get this crap to work. I don't even know what
the hell I did. I don't know why it worked today, and I couldn't get it to work for
the last week. My earbuds work ok, too. Not very loud, however. I keep getting errors
from itunes saying that sync has failed. Yet, somehow, I got it to work. The manual
(all 274 pages of it) is completely useless, as is most of the online info I searched
out for this phone. You would think that after five or six years, there would be
accurate and useful info on this phone compiled on the web. No such luck. It's been
immensely frustrating, to say the least.
So, overall, I'm not impressed. The only thing that surprised me was the keyboard, it
actually works surprisingly well. The swiping thing is very frustrating, inasmuch as
it's unreliable. Sometimes it does what I think it will do, and frequently, it does
something else. I'm still finding my way around this thing, so it may take a while to
feel comfortable with it. Either that or I'll smash it with a hammer until I feel
better.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

 

Spoiler Alert! Star Wars Episode VII

From a technical standpoint, it was well made, well acted, and well done. It did, however, have some serious flaws. The problem with the new Star Wars movie is it's the same as the old Star Wars Movie. The plot of Episode VII is exactly the same as the plot to Episodes IV thru VI.

There's a young person on a desert planet that get's caught up in the bad guys looking for a droid. (plot point from episode IV) 
The droid has info vital to the good guys plans.
The bad guys have a scary leader in a mask.
The guy in the mask has a scary boss.
There's a cantina scene with weird aliens. (another plot point from episode IV) 
One of the characters has father issues.
A mentor type character is killed by the bad guy in the mask. (another plot point from episode IV)
The bad guys have a giant space weapon that can destroy worlds.
The good guys must destroy the space weapon.
Somebody has to disable the shields.
There's a sword fight at the end.
And so on...

There's more, but I hit the high points. ALL of this crap has been done before, by different characters, in the original trilogy. Seriously, with all the money and resources that fucking Disney has, they couldn't have paid some writers to come up with an original plot???

I was disappointed that they killed off Han Solo. One of my favorite characters, and iconic to the series. Harrison Ford is elated, however. He believed the character should have been killed off in Episode VI. And Luke basically gets a cameo, right at the end. So you don't get to see a reunion of Luke, Han, and Leia, which is the one thing I was looking forward to since I learned the original cast would be in the film.

What Lucas should have done is make Episode VII thirty years ago, instead of the "prequels" which, while technically superior to the original trilogy, suffered from having a lot of stupid stuff included. Young Aniken Skywalker having built the droids R2D2 and C3P0, really? And the stupid race. And fucking JarJar. All of this should have been a cartoon, and the events directly after Episode VI should have been the next movie. If Ford didn't want to be in them, fine. He's not the only scruffy looking nerf herder in the galaxy. If Leia is a princess, why isn't Luke a prince? If Luke is the last Jedi, why didn't he train Leia in the ways of the force?

I was cautiously optimistic prior to the release, now that I've seen it, I'm a little disappointed. It could have been so much better. I don't know how Disney is going to release a movie every two years if they can't come up with an original plot. After all the hype dies down, I'm sure there will be backlash. This movie made tons of money for Disney, will the next one?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

 

I Hate Xmas

Three days out and I'm done with it. If I see one more bellringer, I'm going to commit homicide. If I hear one more bastardized xmas carol trying to sell me something I'm going to have an aneurism. I would like to enjoy the holiday but the constant bludgeoning by radio and tv ads makes it distasteful to me. I'm so sick of it, I don't ever want to hear another xmas carol again, as long as I live.
Satan Claus says:
"In hell, every day is christmas!"

Sunday, September 13, 2015

 

Changing the Look

I read a lot of blogs, and one thing I noticed with the white-on-black look is that I get a headache trying to read it after a few minutes. I have come to hate this on other people blogs, so I figured I should change it up on my own. Finally...

Nothing much else new here. Waiting for the above average temperature blazing frigging hot summer to end. Any day now will be the last hundred degree day of the year.

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