MahJong GUI

Well, I survived the gallop to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. And the gym was pleasantly sparse this morning. More seniors than educationalists or weight bouncers. Not that any of us seem inclined to much converse this early in morning. Those who rise that early do not waste time in idle noise.

The podcast was an episode of Linux Luddites and the criticism of Canonical, Mark the Mokita, and the abomination that is Unity was delightful, putting my mind to consider the question of tile gui versus the conventional windowed ala Xerox SPARC gui.

I should comment that I do use a tile gui. Or rather, more of an icon gui. Evevry day. After all I do have a “smart” cellular telephone. It is not smart except in the definition that refers to the sensation of a wound. And it is rather painful. The gui is unpleasant, inefficient, and difficult, to say nothing of persistingly contrary. I liken it however to the gui of my HP calculators.

The form factor is quite similar. Even the modern calculators have better keys than the touch pad. I do not try to program either. It is enough struggle to get them to do waht I want without consuming my attention span away from matters of real worth. That, fundamentally, is the problem of til gui. They are so difficult to use that one must be mindful and thus one cannot have other thoughts than working the gui. Such a thing is quite all right for a motorcar or a main battle tank but not a tool. So it fails and thus do all tile gui seem to fail.

I was reading an article the other day on Make Use Of. I don’t have the citation because the article was worse than ground tarrantula hair. The thesis of the article was that everyone should use Winders because the majority did. It was an exaltation of being an asentient, irrational herd nebbish over any degree of individuality. The journalist was definitely a Katarina and I had no desire to spend any time and attention span further.

Is KDE/XFCE/LXDE/MATE/CINNAMON/… perfect? No, but they all are vastly superior – small number divided by zero – to Unity/Metro/Gnome3.


Discontinued Distribution

There are times, I am told, when only violence will settle a problem. No, I don’t mean pogroms or what is inaccurately called genocide. Since the only genus we have left is homo, what with the Romans being reduced to not a city state, so genocide only applies if we are going to extinguish humanity. Which is a bit much for this nuisance.

My primary gripe with Linux is upgrades. They are the riskiest aspect of using the OS. They are what almost completely generates the term “nuke and pave”. Which I hope is self-explanatory? 

Anyway, I have been doing a lot of N&P (hopefully that is also self-explanatory) the last year. Mostly due to a combination of hard drive failures and something really whacked in an install of Ubuntu with KDE grafted on since Unity is so painful and aproductive. But for the last two months I have been getting increasingly stressed as a new Long Term Support release loomed, arrived, and I waited for the upgrade release.

Several years ago the hassle of selling actual media got to be too much for Canonical, probably offended some financial delusion of Saint Mark, and they started trumpeting the idea of direct by internet upgrades. Updates direct by internet were working pretty well, as they still do, but that’s nominally a few Mb rather than a few Gb! But they offered downloadable CD/DVD image files of the upgrades as well.

That turned out to be a necessity for me. Being a good user, I tried the direct by internet upgrade. I forget the numbers but it was one of those half-year things. If failed spectacularly. I downloaded a DVD image of the new release and did an N&P. Six months later I tried again and again downloaded a DVD image of the new release and did an N&P.

Thereafter I downloaded an upgrade DVD image and that worked pretty well. But when the next LTS (Long Term Support – read organizational version) came out I camped. And when a new LTS came out every two years I downloaded an upgrade DVD image and upgraded.

This year they announced that they were discontinuing the upgrade DVD image. Exclamation point. I was left with three choices: do nothing – not a good security strategy; try the direct internet upgrade; or N&P. I opted for the latter since if it failed, as I expected, I would have to exercise the third anyway.

So I did all the back up stuff, engaged the upgrade process, and it failed spectacularly!  The good news is that I now have statistical significance! The direct by internet upgrade process does NOT work! At least here in the hinterland. The other good news is that I am cutting ties with Canonical. If they can’t support me minimally with an upgrade DVD image then I ain’t going to support them. My deskboxes are now Ubuntu-free. They are still running Debian based distros but not Ubuntu based. And the few lapboxes I have still running Ubuntu based will be replaced as I can touch them. 

Canonical, you are herewith discontinued in Castellum SCP. The pony to poo ratio has finally gotten TOO low!

Not Programming

Still rather shy at the gym. Strange? Quite low temperature this morning, at least for August. More like October. Omen of busted pipes?

I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

the other day and I took reflection on it. I have come up with the conjecture that DVRs (and microwave ovens and like appliances) are deliberately manufactured to be difficult for everyone to program. I asked several of my programming colleagues, the actually acomputate folk, and they all reported that they had problems with appliances. Not as much as the acomputate, but some. The consensus is that the “programming” interface is not designed but a hash constructed by someone who knows how the hardware works but has no idea how to interface with humans. From there the opinions diverge, ranging from the organizational klutz who cannot be permitted to interact directly with the hardware to an intern who is likely related to senior management but has no other credentials and must be given something that appears important but isn’t.

Regardless, the result is the same. An interface that is almost unworkable. The closest we could come up with was the programming interface for a nerd calculator, probably not RPN, but we all agreed this was a poor comparison by at least 10 dB. No calculator interface is as bad as the best appliance’s. 

So actually “programming” a DVR or other appliance is indeed bragging rights. Unless one is some form of idiot savant.

I was pleased to hear that one of the IT types had started a project to develop a way to connect appliances to computers and actually program them. Using real programming tools. Great idea. Won’t work for bogs. Good reason to proceed.


One of the most wonderful and enjoyable things about buying a refurbished computer is powering it up, inserting a Linux DVD, booting it, and overwriting Winders Ate with a usable and enjoyable OS. 

Its rather like taking a horrible disease and making something wonderful and useful out of it. 

I think Temujin said something about this sort of thing?

Towers Toppling

Summer endeth! Schule resessions tomorrow and the educationalists must report today so in the most local of terms, thus endeth summer. And I rather regret it in a way. Now the gym will be flooded with arrogance and people and noise and annoyance and bullying and all those things that have been absent the last couple of months. And being thus depressed I turned to matters of similar gloom.

The first is a gloom for Apple and MegaHard and even, amusingly, Mozilla. It seems [Link] that android OS cellular telephones make up 0.85 of the global cellular telephone market. Since this is greater than 0.793, android may be considered to hold a Lanchestrian monopoly of the cellular telephone marketplace. So long as they have this monopoly they dominate the marketplace. Which means things are pretty dismal for the other players.

What is amusing is that the previous Lanchestrian monopoly in the digital electronics/computer market was held by MegaHard with Internet Stumbler. And that monopoly was broken by Mozilla with FireFox. So these monopolies don;t last forever but they do last too long – usually. And have rather nasty effects.

I have to admit that I use an android cellular telephone. Can’t abide Apple. Dark side from my POV. And MegaHard is worse. But I would switch to FireFoxFone in a flash if I could.

The second gloom is that tablet sales are somewhere between even and declining. And the flagship manufacturers are definitely declining. Apple is close to hurting, making this gloom 2 for them. And MegaHard is evidently irrelevant except among anal retentive corporations who buy employees MegaSlabs that get left at office. The antithesis of BYOD evidently. And I suspect totally ignored beyond the bullpen?

What is not clear is whether we are seeing the beginning of the end of MegaHard? They are fast losing ground in all theaters. Unless they have a “wonder weapon” hid back they are likely going to be overrun or, at least, marginalized.

And I shall be happy. At least as soon as Scientific Word 6 comes out.

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Fifth Horseman

End of gym week. And the place was even less populated than is usual for a Thor’s day. Of course it is the end of summer. By the only metric that counts in Greater Metropolitan Arab. Not seasonal or meteorological or scientific. Bureaucratic. The resumption of schule

This is a mirror of human existence today. Nature is a nuisance, not an environment. What counts is society and organizations. And for all of us, a bit more so for parents, fall is when schule resumes. Vacations end. Traffic clots. The internet is actually accessible in the daytime. And screams and nuisance take on a less fiendish face. 

And illness returns. [Link] This is how the world ends, not with a bang but schules providing the vector. Kids spreading disease among themselves and then  sharing with parents. Positively makes boarding schules seem an excellent idea.

And the educationalists go overboard so if it isn’t disease, it’s auto-immune disorders resulting from too much use of hand sanitizer. And the Triclosan gets into the water supply and poisons the water cleaning bacteria in the treatment plants.

So much for wisdom. More like homo stupidus.

Chernobyl looks Green and Healthy

Not a good day so far. When I got to gym I discovered that the management – if I may use that term so inaccurately – had once more performed one of their favorite stunts of removing machines preferred by the membership. Gaping emptiness greeted us. And replacement by hated machines is the next step. One has to wonder how long this place would survive if it were not the only game in town. And how it can pretend to be part of a hospital. Except hospitals are once more factories of death and pain.

I did however, run across this cartoon: [Link]

over the weekend and I was taken by its accuracy. As I have commented on previously there seems to be a conservation law of television that the total quality of what is broadcast (?) on television is a constant. It may be a slowly changing constant, but we can safely take it as close to a constant for our discussion.

This means that the product of number of programs/channels and their individual qualities is equal to a constant. Hence, the more channels/programs the lower the quality of each in the mode. 

FD SCP and I are in the midst of a transition from our old, analog, clear cable connection to a new, digital, encrypted cable connection. The number of channels will increase largely because the television provider has been steadily reducing its analog channels over the last few years. We currently have 40-50 channels, the exact number is uncounted, but only watch maybe 8 channels regularly. Vast swatches of channels – spectator sports for example – are unwatched but must be endured because there is no cafeteria option.

The new system, assuming it can be installed and works as claimed, will have many more channels but I rather suspect that the number of channels we watch will actually diminish since sometimes it is better to turn off the television than to put up with stercus.

I think I may be looking forward to the day when the number of channels is effectively infinite so that I may get rid of television entirely. 

STEM NERD Writing 2

Higher temperature. But somehow more clement in the park for constitutional. Nagged by wondering where the “Pen Addict” podcast is going now that it has dropped out of sight.

When I went through high school in the Sixties, there wasn’t much writing in ink. We, or, at least, I, used a ring notebook with punched paper. I wrote mostly with a mechanical pencil that used large leads, about 2 mm or so. I am sure there were some inked essays and such but my memory of them is fuzzy, probably due to a fundamental dislike of essays. I dislike to read them – in the mode – and hate to write them. Probably because no one ever got across to me what they were supposed to do.

So all complacent in this, I went off to college. In reptrospect the whole thing of paper and writing was a vacuum. My parents didn’t think of it, and I didn’t think of it. And somehow the pundits who intruded with off-to-college advice missed it. Or maybe they told my parents that it would wait for classes to start and they didn’t tell me. Or I was oblivious.

Anyway, I got to college a few days before classes started. Part of freshman “orientation”. I was put in the nerd dorm. To this day I am unsure of whether that was to protect us from the bogs and extros, or them from us. Not that all of us were intros. I discovered early on that there were nerd extros and even nerd jocks. But they were few.

My roommate was a modal intro nerd. He was one of those transparent people who majored in pre-something in those days. Sometimes it seemed like half the male student body was majoring in pre-medicine or pre-law or both. And almost none of them were much more than nebbishes worried more about grades than learning. I honestly do not know what happened to this guy. He was a passing blip – thankfully. If he made a physician, which I doubt, I feel sorry for the profession and patients.

But he did perform one mitzvah. He lectured me on note taking. I did not take many notes in high schule. Mostly just assignment notes: lists of problem numbers, dates, that sort of thing. My memory and the text book were more than adequate. So I came to college as a notes neub.

Anyway, this fellow rather lecturing to a neub told me to go to the college book store and purchase a notebook for each subject and a BIC pen. I was told to buy textbooks at a private bookstore but evidently the notebooks were better at the college bookstore. My education had already begun; I was learning how to be a discerning consumer.

The notebooks were quite nice. They were spiral bound, heavy cardboard covers, and real 8.5×11 inch^2 heavy paper with real “college” ruling – lines so close together I often skipped. And I went off to class so equipped.

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STEM NERD Writing 1

A fair start to the day. Lower temperatures. Almost pleasant. And I listened to part of an episode of the “Pen Addict” [Link] podcast during my constitutional. One of my colleagues, Total Angular Momentum Magnetic Inductance, put me on this, which I share with another common colleague, Magentic Inductance Force, because we are all rather interested in pens and/or pencils and paper. The podcast started out as an attention diversion but after I commented a couple of times on the hosts’ grammar, it improved considerably and the podcast is – part of the time – enjoyable and informative.

I listen with some latency so the recent announcement of the podcast shifting (?) has caused some stress. And it has provoked me to reflect a bit on my own history with pens and writing and such.

So while this is not becoming a penphenalia blog, I am going to be doing some blots on the subject. Somewhere between reminiscence and history.

When I grew up, basically in the ’50’s and early ’60’s, I lived a pencil existence. We didn’t use pens much in schule. Even in high schule. But I do recall that I greatly disliked “wooden” pencils. They had to be sharpened. That meant you had to get up and walk over to the sharpener – a manual device in those days – and use it. I am not very mechanical. I have struggled all my life to learn to use tools, almost always unsuccessfully. In the Sowth this type of handicap is seen as gender incompetence. No male is tool incompetent.

Also, when you go to the pencil sharpener, people look at you. Not agood thing for an introvert in schule. Extro handle it naturally; intros get nightmares and contemplate suicide, or planetary destruction.

I recall getting my first mechanical pencil at about age seven. About the same time I got my first slide rule. It was a gift from my paternal grandfather. He was an insurance executive and got lots of pens and pencils given him and since this was an advertising pen I suspect it was a birthday gift of convenience. But successful and exciting and pleasing all the same.

It took the large – 2 mm? – leads of the day and had a clutch mechanism similar to those used in drafting pencils. The body was green plastic, a very warm feeling pen and not uncomfortable in my juvenile hand. I can’t recall what happened to it. Probably superseded or broken but the loss was emotionally decoupled so it could not have been traumatic. But that pen strated me on a road of NOT using wooden pens. The only time I used wooden pens after that was when I took those horrible standardized tests with the optical scoring forms for the selected answers. The ones where one had to use a “Number 2″ (what hardness is that?) “lead” (not graphite-clay mixture) pencil. The teachers were always pedantic about reminding of that I would have to go buy pencils specially for the exam. And abandon them as soon as the exam was over.

But I didn’t use a pocket protector. Never associated with anyone who used one until I went to work for the Yankee Army.

And there were pens along the way, but I don’t recall them. Pencils were the thing until I got to college. Film at Eleven.

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Return of the Jeddack

To quote someone whose name I cannot recall, "I’m back!" The last few days have been quite trying.

Sadly it has been such a blur that I can’t recall dates too well, but basically, I did an update on Kubuntu and did the required restart. That’s when things went from mediocre and annoying to flaming pit of Tartarus bad. Basically I got advised that the system couldn’t find the boot sector or several other sectors. I ran repair and finally, after a liter or so of perspiration, got the system to boot and immediately was confronted with the direst SMART warning I have ever seen. According to that, my hard drive was breathing its last.

This is not the first time this has happened. It’s the third. Once with Ubuntu running KDE and Unity, twice with Kubuntu running just KDE. So yes, the correlation is that KDE or some foible of (K)Ubuntu is to fault. Happily I don’t store anything on my OS HD in the way of data than I have to. (There’s also this thing under Ubuntus that the data drive periodically (?) loses its permissions and I have to reset them.) So I decided that I needed to expand the range of the experimentation.

I went into the corpus and extracted the old HD, still bright and shiny but with really RED SMART indicators and implanted a new, smaller HD. Incidentally, it is getting harder and harder to find small (100-500 Mb) hard drives. And I switched from Kubuntu to Debian Wheezy. Still running KDE because I do like my eyecandy. (Hey, I’m an ORF. I have an inalienable right to moose heads and antimacassars!) And that has been a bit of an experience.

I have always been told by colleagues that Debian is a somewhat stogy distribution favored by power users. The last few days have given me great insight into this. Or at least, more insight than I would have liked. The stogy is demonstrated by the lack of "APT-ADD-REPOSITORY" from the catalog of Python scripts. The distro also installed without either an app store or a discrete package manager. Right there about half of my vectors of working with repositories were in a null space.

Happily, I could add Synaptic and Apper is better than Manjaro’s Octopus (or whatever it’s called?) But finding repositories has proven to be harder than Livingston to find. And the version is a bit antiquated, at least compared to the Ubuntus. I can’t even install Typecatcher because the library won’t support it. And it is still using FF 17. Which is great because I want to use ScribeFire old version. Although I am using Blogilio now and it’s actually got spell check which I have NEVER seen before in any other distro.

I keep think of Goethe and his "That which does not kill us makes us stringer." Definitely applicable. I now have a growing appreciation of how the Ubuntus are for nebishes and wimps, and I don’t mean particles in the latter. Shuttleworth is definitely a democrud. One of the "I’m an aristocrat and everyone else is mentally incompetent" variety.

Anyway, maybe now I can get back to issuing some blots. They won’t be any better, but my Heinlein sense has been renewed.