Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm an Ubuntu (part 2)

There's an organization in Portland called Free Geek, which is dedicated to providing computers to "schools and charitable organizations in our community who in turn benefit others." They also give free computers to people who agree to volunteer with them. They have a great thing called the "build program" that takes volunteers through a series of stages of how to learn to build a computer. After the volunteer has gone through the steps, he or she then builds five computers to be donated, and gets to keep the sixth one.

Free Geek's computers all run Ubuntu. I took the volunteer orientation tour one day - my partner is going through the build program, so I wanted to check it out - and the tour guide explained that they originally wanted to use Windows, because people are familiar with it and that would make things easier. Unfortunately, Microsoft refused to give them a deal on software, and it was not an affordable thing. So Free Geek decided to use Ubuntu, and they install it on all of their machines. As I understand it, they also teach free Linux classes.

The point here is that Ubuntu isn't just for geeks. Everyone can learn how to use it. And, while this may not be the case for everyone, I at least felt a real sense that I owned this operating system, after I took the time to install it, configure it, wrestle with the wireless card and other compatibility issues, and get it to look, feel, and act the way I want it to. Sure, it's still got its quirks - mostly because, again, it has some issues when installed on laptops originally designed for Windows. But those are all fixable - all I have to do is take the time, read the Ubuntu forums and help documentation, and I can make this computer do whatever I want it to. Except fly.

I'm an Ubuntu.




We've all seen the ads on television, "Hi I'm a Mac. Hi I'm a PC." The Mac always ends up making the PC look like an idiot because the Mac is so superior and so much more stable and just better and more shiny in every way.

Microsoft has recently come out with ads where they give people $1500 to buy a computer, and these people inevitably find that a PC is a better value than a Mac.

Well, as it turns out, both ads are correct. Mac software is more stable and works better than PC software. PCs, on the other hand, are, without a doubt, a much better value. The trouble is that you can't put the wonderfully stable Mac software onto a PC, because Apple has decided to hoard its BIOS in a secret cupboard somewhere, thus forcing consumers to buy Mac hardware with their Mac software. And anytime anyone cracks the code, builds their own computer and puts OS10 on it, Apple sues them.

The trouble is that if you compare a $1200 IMac to the PC you can build for $1200, well, it's just not a competition. A $1200 IMac is a base system, with very little RAM, a small hard drive, a very basic graphics card, and you absolutely cannot expand, customize, or change the hardware in any way. Ok, sure, you can add RAM. But that's it.

If you're an intelligent person who knows how to shop for hardware, you can build a rip roaring gaming or productivity PC with 4 (or more) gigs of ram, a screaming graphics card, and a cavernous hard drive for much, much less than $1200. Hell, we got a refurbished Dell tower that cost $1200 new for $600, and it's much, much better than the base IMac.

But then you're stuck with Windows. Which sucks.

Or are you?

Hi, I'm an Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is an open source Linux build that is designed for people who don't really have the time or energy to learn all of the technical jargon that is normally required to use Linux. It's free, and all of the software that goes with it is free. It looks and feels a lot like an amalgam of what's best about the Mac OS and the few things that are good about Windows. Best of all, it can run on either PC or Mac hardware.

We recently converted both of our Windows laptops to Ubuntu. The laptop that I'm using now has 2 gigs of ram, a pretty fast processor, and a decent graphics card. It CRAWLED when I had the enormous resource hog known as Vista installed on it. And it was buggy as hell. Now that I have Ubuntu on it, it just simply works, and it works well.

Alright, that's not quite true.

Ubuntu isn't as "plug and play" as you might want it to be. You do need to learn some Linux to get around and do certain things. It also works a whole lot more smoothly on desktops than it does on laptops. I had a hell of a time getting the wireless networking card on this laptop to work with Ubuntu, and getting Java on here was a bit of a headache as well. But the Ubuntu website links you with its support community, which has message boards, knowledge bases, and all of the stuff you need to make your computer yours.

And that's another nice thing about Ubuntu. Everything's free, everything's customizable, and you can really personalize your computer as much as you want, depending on how deeply you want to learn the system. You can even design your own operating system based on Ubuntu and use that instead, and distribute it freely to the Linux community.

Ubuntu is a good solution to the dilemma of how to get good software to work with good hardware. Build yourself a PC with everything you want on it, and do it for much less than you'd spend on a base model Mac, and then put Ubuntu on it. Dell is now actually selling laptops installed with Ubuntu instead of Windows. Good for them.

Now, one caveat. It is handy to have one computer in your household that runs one of the two major operating systems - Windows or Mac. Ubuntu isn't supported by everything, and especially for gaming, it's not a bad idea to have one of the others. Can you get, say, World of Warcraft to work on Ubuntu? Yes, but it takes a little work.

On the other hand, the things that do work work really really well. OpenOffice, for example, is a free open-source office suite that is easy to use and can open and save to any other format you want. You can create a document in OpenOffice and save it to Microsoft Word. You can create a spreadsheet and save it as Excel. You can open an Excel spreadsheet in OpenOffice and save it back as Excel. It's a snap.

Ubuntu's OS updates are also all completely free. Using Vista and want Windows 7? Prepare to empty your wallet. Using OS10 "Panther" and want to upgrade to "Cheetah" or whatever? That'll cost you. Using Ubuntu's "Hardy Heron" and want to upgrade to "Jaunty Jackalope?" It'll cost you a blank CD. That's it.

Ubuntu is a community of software geeks and programmers, who are dedicated to creating an operating system and a suite of software that everyone can enjoy for free, without the stupid restrictions that the Windows and Mac people put on their products because they're more concerned with money and marketing than actually making a decent product.

Ubuntu is an example of how capitalism can be beaten by people power.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

KATU at 11

featured parts of an interview with your humble sinister blogger on the issue of marriage equality. I had some good sound bites. :-)

In case you're wondering, President Obama

This moment is where you lost my vote in 2012. I've had enough of giving you the benefit of the doubt. I live in a swing state now, and my vote actually counts.



I'm re-registering as an independent.

You want my vote back, Mr. President?

1) Repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell
2) Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act
3) Come out strongly in favor of marriage equality, anti-discrimination laws, workplace protection laws, and adoption equality laws.
4) Apologize for Donnie McClurkin and Rick Warren.
5) Apologize for allowing your words to be used to pass Prop H8.

That's not a menu of choices, Mr. President. Do all five, and you'll have my vote back. Do anything less, and I'm finding another candidate.

Interesting counterpoint to the H8 decision

A blogger does a deep analysis of the court's decision today and comes to the conclusion that we may not have lost as much as we thought. Essentially, the Court said, "ok, you can't call same sex unions performed after Prop 8 marriages, but that's all you can't do. You can still call your spouse your husband, you're still entitled to all of the rights of marriage, and you can still call it marriage if you go out of state and it is recognized there. The only thing you can't have is the word." Interesting point. The word matters, but if that's all we lost, and the H8ers didn't win anything else, then maybe we haven't lost as much as we thought.

I'm still married.

but if you're a gay California couple and you missed the window, you can't be.

That's the essence of what the California Supreme Court just said.

Take it to the streets, people.

http://dayofdecision.wetpaint.com/?t=anon

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day of Decision protest or celebration - May 26

Tomorrow the California Supreme Court is going to decide whether to invalidate Proposition H8 and restore marriage equality. GLBT activists and allies all over the country will gather either to celebrate or protest the decision, and call for an end to marriage discrimination nationwide. PDXers - meet at McCall Waterfront Park at 6:00 PM, followed by a march to Pioneer Square and around downtown.

Monday loldog

Happy Memorial Day. I had to go in to work today because my boss is prepping for a big trial.

funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mancow may have been "waterboarded"

But his experience was nothing like the real thing. Someone who has experienced real waterboarding had this harrowing account:

Your body begins to convulse, convinced in the most primitive of reflexes to try to do anything to get more air! You thrash but the ropes and shackles have you completely immobilized. You feel the water hitting your face, as the person on the bench presses down on your diaphragm, forcing what little air you have out, not in. You are now sure that you are going to die, that you are going to drown, not an abstract, but for real, and right now. Your chest buns with the need for more air, your eyes tear under the blindfold as you struggle to get one more breath.

You are no longer a rational human, you are now just a survival machine, ready to beg anyone, do anything to make the pain stop and get just one more breath. The water stops falling on you. You suck air in through your nose and try to suck it in through you mouth. Both bring more water along with the small amount of air you can get. You hear the hose running again and know that this is not over, it is just starting. Your heart is going like a trip hammer, and you are in a state of terror, like nothing you have ever experienced or thought of. You know if and when they ask you something, you will do or say anything, anything to prevent them from doing it again. Then the hands push on your stomach, and the water starts falling again.

You struggle, trying to hold your breath, but the gag reflex kicks in again, and again you become more animal than man as you struggle for breath your body wracked with pain and convulsively struggling to get free to breath.


If what Mancow experienced convinced him that it was torture, then what's this?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Alright, Sinister readers

Amazon Kindle. Great innovation for reading books and newspapers etc etc, or something you'll never buy because you read books and newspapers and that's good enough? And...GO!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Heartbreaking diary about marriage discrimination

A horrible diary about a man who had to sit in his car in a hospital parking lot and say goodbye to a photograph as his husband died in a hospital room that he wasn't allowed to enter.

Because of marriage discrimination.

This is what right wingers don't get. Marriage discrimination doesn't touch them at all. They can claim to be the righteous ones because they're protecting marriage from the dirty dirty homos. The problem is that if the dirty dirty homos get married, it won't actually affect the right wingers' marriages in the slightest.

But by denying us the right to marry, to be equals, to have the same legal protection for our love that the heterosexual community takes for granted, these bigots cause this to happen. They cause husbands to be denied the right to say goodbye to the one they love. To be forced to sit in a car in a hospital parking lot and say goodbye to a photograph of the one they love.

Marriage discrimination is evil.

Monday loldog

Off work today - parents are in from out of town and we're showing them all the great things about Portland.

funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures

Friday, May 15, 2009

Happy Friday!

I'm a bike commuter now, so here's this:



I like the guy with the bike bumper sticker that says, "My other bike is a bike."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek. Brought to you by Nokia, Budweiser, and Chevrolet, apparently.

But besides that, it's a damned good movie.

Ok, but seriously.

How the fuck do Nokia and Budweiser still exist 300 years into the future, after the eugenics wars, in a post-capitalist utopian society? Answer me that, J.J. Abrams.

Also, fire the guy who did the score.

Still, though - go see the movie.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bonus Happy Friday video

Hate government regulation? Here's an idea:

Happy Friday! (Stardate...um...Friday)

Yes, these posts are back.

In honor of the new Trek movie, I present you the following two (2) videos:

First, the Onion has an interesting prediction about how real Trekkers will react to the movie: they'll hate it because it's wonderful, accessible, and entertaining.


Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

And, a classic video:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Marriage equality victory in Maine; now let's push New Hampshire!

Here's a note I wrote to the governor of New Hampshire, urging him to sign the marriage equality bill coming to his desk.

Please support marriage equality. New Hampshire is a state known for its commitment to civil liberties. Please honor that tradition by showing that New Hampshire is a state where freedom and equality really mean something.

The current patchwork of state laws granting or denying same sex couples the rights associated with marriage is a travesty, but until the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed, it's up to individual states like New Hampshire to decide that marriage discrimination is as un-American as segregation before it.

My husband and I, who can't get legally married in our home state of Oregon, implore you to do the right thing for New Hampshire families, and support marriage equality.

Thank you very much for your consideration.


You can send your own note to Governor Lynch here:

http://www4.egov.nh.gov/governor/goveforms/comments.asp

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Yeah, CNN, it's YOUR FAULT.

After a week of headlines about the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, many emergency rooms and hospitals are crammed with people, many of whom don't need to be there.

The visits by the "worried well" have triggered concerns of overburdening the nation's hospitals and emergency departments, several health care professionals told CNN.


Well, CNN, I wonder how people started getting freaked out about this thing? Could it be that you and your buddies in the stupid media, um, oh, I don't know, WAY OVERHYPED this thing?

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day in Portland

This kind of thing is one of the reasons I wanted to move to Portland.

Portland has a massive May Day rally every year in which thousands of workers, immigrants, anti-capitalists, and labor activists of every stripe come together and march through downtown Portland. This year's activists were focused largely on the rights of immigrants, fighting corporate bailouts, and working for labor rights and specifically passage of the EFCA.

I find protests like this interesting. I know, for example, that this rally isn't going to lead to a large scale mobilization of the working class, a general strike, or really, any kind of cohesive message. The huge unfocused coalition of people that marched today do not have a real concrete common goal, and after the rally each of the groups involved is going to go back to its own projects and lose a lot of the supposed momentum that these kinds of rallies are supposed to build.

But there is good stuff that can be achieved by these kinds of rallies. They're great recruitment opportunities for the sponsoring groups. They bring media attention to a whole host of issues and give voice to political minorities that would not otherwise be heard.

One thing I found interesting was the makeup of the various anti-capitalist groups involved in the rally. There were a number of different groups present, all of whom I had encountered at one time or another at other, similar rallies over the years. The Freedom Socialist Party, a kind of "feminist-Trotskyist" group, was handing out newspapers along with their offshoot Radical Women. The International Socialist Organization was there with "Workers of the World Unite" banners. The IWW had balloons and anarcho-syndicalist flags. Perhaps the most interesting conversation I had was with a member of the Socialist Workers Party, who were also there handing out newspapers (I think Lenin said something about educating the working class by shoving newspapers in their faces). Anyway, this Socialist Workers Party member told me, when I started talking to her about all the different anti-capitalist groups present at the rally, she said, "Oh, we're not of the left. We're of the working class." This took me by surprise. Apparently, the SWP believe that their particular version of socialism is the one that is going to succeed in recruiting the working class to global revolution.

Which brings me to a very important point. So do the ISO. So do the FSP. So do the IWW, the CPUSA, the PLP, and any other leftist acronym you want to throw out there. The only difference between most of them (with the notable exception of the IWW, who have a totally different idea of how to organize workers), is what they think about what happened in Russia in 1917, whose side they take in the Stalin v. Trotsky debate, and exactly where they stand on incredibly complicated and arcane ideological points.

But I mean, really. At this point, who the hell cares what happened in Russia in 1917? Who the hell cares whether Stalin or Trotsky had a better idea of how to organize the Soviet proletariat? It's 2009, folks. Workers today want to be sure that their jobs are secure, that they can organize a union without being intimidated by bosses, that they can get decent healthcare, and all of those nitty gritty every day concerns. Ideological squabbles over stuff that happened 80 years ago aren't going to win you much support.

Which is why most of these groups are tiny ingrown little political toenails, completely inconsequential in the greater political scheme of things. If they could all kind of get together and endorse a broad set of principles, focus on their common goal of organizing and radicalizing the working class, educating people about the structural problems of capitalism, then they can worry about how to bring about revolution after they've got enough people to have one.

For example, today's May Day march could have had a very visible radical anti-capitalist contingent, marching together in solidarity to show that "a better world is possible." Instead, it had tiny pockets of different kinds of socialists and anarcho-syndicalists, all throwing around competing newspapers full of arcane ideological spewage. Nothing is accomplished with that kind of petty divisiveness.

Marx wasn't a Marxist. Marx believed that the working class would organize on its own, without needing an ideological vanguard to "pave the way." If we really want to radicalize workers, then we need to stop bitching about what Leon Trotsky said in 1930 and go out and actually do it.