Digital Stupidity Confirmed

Starting early cleaning tabs. First, a grievous evil may have been righted. [Link] The Lenovo people are usually pretty good about supporting Linux. It has been fairly easy to take one of their lapboxes, blow away the cancer that is Winders on it, and install the Linux distro of choice. Even though they have gone to UEFI, their implementation works well with uncertified distros.

But not recently. In an apparent subjugation to MegaHard, their YOGA lapboxes have been untouchable. Which has likely hurt their business. The Two-Percentum are not without a certain Linusesque inclination to expression. But supposedly the exclusion was an error (???) and has now been corrected.

I tend not to buy latest and greatest. Mostly because I’m frugal. And the one time in the last year I bought a new, contemporary box, it was as rotten as cardboard shoes in a monsoon. So I crated it back up and saved it for some needy Winders serf.

In the same scan, I noted a rather overdone article on the security of internet appliances. [Link] Too much of this article is about physical burglary angst, which is quickly, less than one sentence in, boring. The sort of boring that makes you wish the author had been mugged in the burglary.

But the point, not well associated with the burglary, that we can’t trust the manufacturers of IOT appliances is valid if untrustworthy in such a sob sister.

ANyway, my natural distrust of things BOGish is being confirmed in the wake of the recent DNS DOS assault. I am – barely – willing to accept microprocessor controlled appliances but not if they’re connected to the internet. Or even to my network.

Especially since I turn my cellular telephone off as soon as I get home since it won’t work under my metal roof.

Ice Cube DNA

Seven Day. Decidedly on the upper edge of a phase transition in BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! According to the temperature sensor it was 49 degF but my Southron body is still summer (?) adapted and was clothed in three outer layers. And I was decidedly chilled. Still chilled in fact even five minutes after returning to Castellum SCP. 

But it was a good walk. If a bit boring. The edge of BRRRRRRRRR! kept me from thinking much and besides I have to reassay outside in half an hour to obtain breakfast supplies for FD SCP. 

So I will limit myself this blot to one article [Link] entitled “Windows 10 market share fell in September”. This was actually a quite informative article even for the Register which is much more informative than Amerikan news rags. Hard to admit but Amerikan journalism has shaded over from Yellow to Orange. Which now gives us a handy rhyme of Journalism with Orange. Why? Because they are. 

Also why I blew away the American news app on my cellular telephone and replaced it with a British one. 

Anyway, it seems that the fraction of measured/sampled PCs running WX actually went down last month. Not by much. Depends on the measuring agent for one thing. But at most about 4E-3. So no disaster for MegaHard quite yet. But they do appear to be in deepening kimshe. 

The primary informative part of the article is that WVII is still the primary instantiation of Winders at somewhere between 0.35 and 0.55. The combination does not bode well for MegaHard. The ship of Bill has struck an ice cube, size yet to be determined.

The variation has to do with uncertainties and measurement assumptions. Like that every box hits their server harvesting. And their data is accurately representative. But it’s the only game in town. So we live with it.

Of course the big thing is slablets, most running Googleoid. Which pretends to be Linux but isn’t. It’s evil linux at best and every thing I learn about it makes it worse. But again, only a few choices and the other are worse. Like the Amerikan presidential candidates.

One of my colleagues made a joke this week. He claimed that Bogs were Junk DNA in Action. Not very accurate but definitely appealing. It would explain a whole bunch. 

But the presidental candidates go far beyond Boggery and Junk DNA. They go to levels that make pond scum seem like higher life forms. And like Android, we’re gonna be stuck with one of them. 

In Praise of Degeneracy

As I stood in the gym this morning watching the clerk fumble in OS-frustration to get whichever flavor of Winders was on her box to function, I reflected on two things:

  1. How Winders has been a steady progression of degeneration from NT onwards; and
  2. How much I appreciate and take joy in Linux.

There is still a bit of joy left in the world after all. 

The whichness of code

Five Day and a bit of an adventure already. In keeping with my want of challenging my earlier analyses and assumptions, I took myself off to gym this morning. Previously I had ceased on Four Day because of feeling burned out rather than a lack of hours of availability as on the Bog “weekend”. So I went off this morning and aside from needing a bit more preparation for what podcast to listen to, it went well.

The podcast was more of that “Chips on Everything” series on the internet. Decidedly bottom drawer. Not obscene or anything, just rather low quality. 

Which gave me occasion to reflect on a rather surprising television advertisement I saw recently. While I try to ignore advertisement because of their inherent vacuity of trustworthiness, this one actually provoked some thought. It was an insurance advertisement touting the “technology of its app”. In actuality, its app is actually less capable than some of its competitors, but what good it did was to raise the question of whether code is technology?

To start with, I feel inclined to semi-cite the historian James Burke who did some marvelous television programming about information networks. That isn’t how it was portrayed but that’s what it was and it was only saved by Burke’s historyisms. One of which is that we humans tend to mistake engineering for science, technology for engineering, manufacturing for technology, and so forth.

But this is a bit of a different problem. Is coding technology? Technology is almost always a material thing like an electronic circuit (e.g., a CPU) and not a social activity. Thus social media is an interaction network facilitated by technology. But it isn’t a technology itself despite the statements of Bog Journalists. (Is that redundant? Probably.)

So what about coding? Is a steering wheel technology? No. It’s merely a means of controlling the operation of a technology. A tiller would work similarly and did in the early days of motorcars. So in the sense of controlling, code is not a technology. But what about embedded code? I have a microwave over – an appliance – that can be “programmed” with a simple heating/not-heating pattern. That pattern is empowered by the technology. I could stand about and do it myself, manually as it were, one step at a time, and I have done that in times past with simpler devices, but is it technology? Is complication technology? I think not. Embedded code does not have a separate existence from the actual material technology.

Code has a literature aspect, It is written, composed. Perhaps even in a functional sense, semantic. But is it technology. Clearly paper and pen and ink are technologies. And in my opinion, much more intriguing and worthwhile than most electronics. I can create many thing that are independent of what paper and pen and ink I use but that is not so of code. Code has no meaning outside of its material interaction. (I am excluding NERD coding here. Crunching science numbers is independent of its material but it is still not technology.)

I am not done with this but as of now I am of the conjecture that code is not technology but it is related. It is functional. But I suspect it is nothing more than a special kind of manufacturing process.

Tactile Trauma

I can remember, back when I was a young-adult, to reading a science fiction novel/novella, probable an ACE or some similar, whose central character/hero/protagonist had been raised in a fundamentalist – I forget whether religionist or naturist – enclave and now living in general society was unable to use its “advanced” technology without breaking it. 

I used to have a secondary report who was such a Komputer Klutz that we had to have three computers for him. (This was back in the DOS/early Winders days.) One on his desk, and two in or in transit to/from the shop. He was knowledgeable of computers, for someone who had to learn coding in the workplace, but never really made the transition from main frame to PC.

This is all a lead in to a rant: I Hate Touchscreens! I get bitten by them at least once a day. This morning it was my MP3 player at the gym. Used to we could buy good MP3 players that we could hack and get to do what we wanted and they had real button switches. Nowadays you can’t get MP3 players that aren’t almost useless and exorbitantly priced. This one is of this genre.

But I also get bit by my cellular telephone and my slablets. All running ANDROID which is saved from being the planet’s worst OS only by the continued existence of MegaHard and Winders.

I also am not really happy with keyboards and mice. The keyboards are expensive – Blue Switches – and between my fumble fingers and the spontaneous generation of crud under the key-caps, I get mistypes. Which I can usually – almost always – fix without a hard reboot. Similarly, my mousing dexterity is never up to what seems to being an ever decreasing pointer sweet spot on screen. And my mouse pad keeps shrinking.

But I reserve my hatred for touch screens.

Digital Direction

Six Day. Running a bit behind, mostly due to slow cognition. Anyway, ran across this article [Link] entitled “This Guy Made a Replica of The Computer That Helped the Robinson Family 50 Years Ago” yesterday and my thinking was led to the picture more than the effort of the individual.

Seems the fellow made a replica of an 1950 Burroughs box (mainframe?) that was used in numerous television programs as the computer character. This led me to consider what we should be doing with computers.

(The above is not, I believe, the replica because the article has an embedded video and I don’t need the overhead that goes with.) This is what we used to call a “Geblinkenen Kluge”. 

By the time I got to university, these Rube Goldbergs were pretty much replaced by metal pastel hued boxes on isolation flooring in frigid glass walled rooms. Some of them had as much as 64Kb of RAM. Hard drives were the size of refrigerators and cost as much as a college education. And you coded in FORTRAN (nerds) or COBOL (bog-geeks.) What we did was number crunching. The nerds were doing science and engineering stuff and we spent more time studying numerical methods than languages. The bog-geeks were doing accounting or inventory stuff and I have no idea what they studied since it was taught in the Business schule which was on a side of campus I only visited in summer term to watch old movies. The only things controlled by computers in those days were terminals and plotters.

In 1984, I bought my first box, an IBM PC with an 8086 CPU, 64Kb RAM (16 Kb on the MB) and two floppy disk drives. In 1986, after two years of budget whining, I got funded to buy a (generic) PC for half the folks in our organization. I had to have a blessing from the IT Tsar of the post, which took over a year, and I can recall him asking me “What can you do with one of these toys that a terminal off my mainframe can’t do better?” I answered “Are you going to let me run a word-processing program on your mainframe?” At which point he turned to his deputy and asked “What the H**l is a word-processing program?”

Once told the answer he cursed bluely for five minutes while trying frantically to approve my purchase.

Nothing, in my opinion, symbolizes the PC so much as word processing. Even more than spread-sheeting, word processing – not coding – is the epitome of the PC stage of computing. 

In those days, most STEM graduates learned to code in college. Their bosses either on-the-job or not-at-all. That was the peak of computer literacy. Since MegaHard took over the cardiovascular system of the corporate organization, it has been downhill to planned illiteracy.

So today, in the slablet age, computers have gone from tools to appliances, providing either entertainment or controlling our machines. Number crunching is arcana. Coding is a blue collar craft, if that.

So where did we go wrong?


Despite what my colleague Normal Angular Momentum claims, sometimes our mistakes surprise us. They fall into a category I label as wait-long-enough-and-you’ll-do-it-again. One such is being a chair – general, program, … – of a conference. There was a period in my life that I got mousetrapped into doing such. I found the long-enough was about five years. That was how long it took me to forget the pain and suffering enough to get talked into being a chair again. 

Anyway, the one that is the subject of this blot is Canonical and their tribe of ‘buntu. Canonical, with the help of competent volunteers that they are perpetually micturating, maintains a group of Linux distros/versions differing primarily in their GUI-Desktop. They all share at least some of the bedrock of a somewhat mutilated version of Debian.

The thing that bites is their over-the-internet updates. These occur every six months for most versions releases but every two years for the corporate long-term-support versions. Years ago they offered two ways to update: a downloadable ISO that one burned to a DVD/CD; and an over-the-web stream. Over a period of years I learned that the probability of failure in upgrading via the first method was very low, o(0.01) while the probability of failure using the over-the-web method was almost exactly 0.5. 

The level of my deep OS surgery skills is so low that when an upgrade fails I have to reinstall from scratch. That’s what comes of my priorities and I accept the burden. But I still rebel at Canonical’s negligence in this matter. I have run lots of other distro and none of them have failure probabilities greater than o(0.03). So when it comes to upgrade failure Canonical is the Linux equivalent of Alibam.

But I have this OLD Dell Latitude D420 lapbox that I like because it has a goon volume and mass and keyboard – unlike all more recent lapboxes except maybe the Lenovo just mentioned, I it had version 12.04 of a ‘buntu variant on it and I was a bit concerned of replacing.

So I did an update to 14.04 yesterday. Slow but successful.

Did an upgrade to 16.04 this morning. Slow and catastrophic.

Absolutely modal sampling, isn’t it?

Anyway, so I loaded the 32b version of LMDE on a stick, which is one of the few existing contemporary distros supporting 32b and non-PAE – that is, OLD boxes – and had it up and going in thirty minutes. It’s a bit slow but so was 14.04 and I can live with. And enjoy another five years of repulsion and horror for Canonical.