Linux, Mac, Google, Apps: What Is Wrong With Me?

Why do I have this need to change everything about my technological environment and change it back again? I’ve spoken of the futzmonkey, but seriously.

Over the past couple weeks I made two big moves in my technological life: the move from primarily desktop-application-based mail and news reading to primarily web-based the same, and the move from using my mac to using my linux-based laptop. Both were fun. I was pleased to see how very functional I could make my ubuntu laptop (working better than it ever has before for me on that hardware, seriously).

I really enjoyed the Google mail paradigm. As web-based mail goes, it’s probably the best. I found a way to import all of my old mail into gmail, which I hadn’t been able to do successfully before (there’s a lot of it). I set up forwarding from my regular email address to gmail, and changed my “from” address in gmail to my regular address so there would be no need to mess with changing email addresses.

I also moved all my subscriptions from NetNewsWire to Google Reader, which is a pretty outstanding mail reader.

It was all nice and pleasant.

Maybe it was hubris… I tried to run Google Earth on Linux, and got a black screen where the graphics should be. That kinda bummed me out. Then I realized I probably couldn’t run Second Life either, and while I’ve hardly ever logged on to Second Life, the thought that now I couldn’t bothered me for some reason.

Then… I drifted back.

First I got on my mac. It took mere minutes for me to get the keyboard finger memory back.

Once I was on the mac, I found it distasteful to use web-based applications. They worked the same, yes, but there are better options on a mac. I’ve paid money for some of those better options (I have licenses for ecto and netnewswire).

And it gnawed at me that although I was keeping a mirror of all my incoming gmail in my account, my outgoing gmail was stuck in gmail somewhere, not mirrored anywhere. I had to change that. Had to mirror that stuff. Set up a pop account in OS X Mail, pulling it all down…

I forgot to mention that within the midst of all this flirtation with ubuntu and google, I also flirted with using vim as my main text editor instead of emacs. I have returned to the church of emacs, having done my penance.

So now I’m spiraling back to my default OS X state. What have we learned today? Ubuntu is great. Google apps are great. Just kicking back and using my mac is better.

And I wish I knew what is wrong with me that I waste so much time on this sort of thing.

American Conservatives Love Hateful Blondes

You know all the hubbub about Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a “faggot” this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference? She was supposed to do that. That’s why they invite her. American political conservatives love this stuff. They eat it up.

You think this came out of the blue? She’s been doing this for seven years now. Via Orcinus:

CPAC 2007 — “I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards.”

CPAC 2006 — “I think our motto should be post-9-11, ‘raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.'”

CPAC 2005 — “Liberals like to scream and howl about McCarthyism, I say let’s give them some. They’ve have intellectual terror on campus for years….it’s time for a new McCarthyism.”

“Since they’re always acting like they’re oppressed…I say let’s do it, let’s oppress them.”

“In addition to racist and Nazi, how about adding traitor to the list of things that professors can’t be? And yes, I realize I just proposed firing the entire Harvard faculty.”

CPAC 2004 — “You can never be too scandalous in talking about liberals. These people are animals; they want to destroy the country and they support the Taliban and al-Qaida the way they supported Stalin in McCarthy’s day.” (She also characterized the Democratic Party as being run by “breathtakingly stupid women”).

CPAC 2003 — “Why not go to war just for oil? We need oil.”

CPAC 2002 — “In contemplating college liberals, you really regret, once again, that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals by making them realize that they could be killed, too. Otherwise they will turn out into outright traitors.”

According to PFAW, in this same talk Coulter also accused U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta of being consumed with hatred for America, belittled his experiences in Japanese-American internment camps during World War II, and appeared to imply that she would celebrate if he were killed.

CPAC 2001 — From PFAW’s coverage: Ann Coulter informed the crowd that George W. Bush has done a spectacular job during his first month in office, and speculated that perhaps he is far more clever than people had believed. In less than a month, Coulter stated, Bush has managed to totally disarm the Democrat’s most cliched criticism: that Republicans are mean. Coulter suggested that Bush has apparently figured out that “all you have to do is go around calling yourself nice,” making it surprisingly “easy to hornswoggle liberals.” Bush has managed to control the agenda, and will continue to do so, said Coulter, as long as he continues to “treat liberals like small children having nightmares.” According to Coulter, it seems as if “the mistake Republicans have been making for years was to treat liberals like adults.”

CPAC 2000 — Coulter received CPAC’s annual journalism award. (Hard to believe we’ve endured over seven years of her already, isn’t it?)

Calling John Edwards a faggot? She has talked about EXECUTING LIBERALS at this convention before. Her favorite word to describe liberals is “traitor” — and guess what, treason is the only capital offense specified in the U.S. Constitution. “Oh my, how could she possibly have said something hateful?” BECAUSE POLITICAL CONSERVATIVES LOVE HER HATEFULNESS AND WANT TO HEAR LOTS AND LOTS OF IT. HATE IS HER JOB. And the major conservative convention in America invites her back again and again and again.

The only mystery is why this time people are acting surprised and disapproving.

Taking a Fancy to Ubuntu Again

I don’t know why, but I’ve been feeling like using Linux. I tried to satisfy this with Parallels on my Macbook, but it just wasn’t the same. I went over to my hallowed Gateway Mx3215 laptop, about which I’ve blogged a few times over the last couple years. Fired up the ubuntu. It worked OK. Just like before. Thought I’d try upgrading it to the latest, almost-ready-for-prime-time release, codenamed “Feisty Fawn.” A lot of important things totally stopped working. I’d completely broken it.

OK, what then? Well, this was an opportunity. I could try any linux distribution on it I wanted! Most of my work is done on the macbook so keeping it operational for that purpose wasn’t as important as it once had been. I tried the “SimplyMEPIS” livecd.

Eh. All KDE. I’m not ready to go there. I’d hoped it would do something spiffy like autodetect the widescreen monitor and maybe make the builtin wifi work out of the box. It decidedly did not. Ah well.

Feeling saucy, I installed Debian. I used to love Debian and grew to hate it. I got Debian installed, but could not after considerable wrestling get it to use my widescreen (1280×768) monitor. The screen looked terrible at 1024×768 all stretched out. Yucko. Turns out Debian still hates me. OK.

I reinstalled Ubuntu 6.10, codenamed “Edgy Eft.”

Time to make things work. To make the widescreen work, I just edited the little file that tells it what resolution to use and changed it to the one I wanted. A half minute’s work. I later found out it could have been done even more automagically than that.

Wifi: I tried to make that work using “ndiswrapper” to sneakily use the proprietary windows wifi driver. It didn’t work at first. I googled on the error it gave me and came up with this page, which told me I needed to use a different version of ndiswrapper. Installed it and all was well. Neat!

Now, the serious challenge: getting it to take advantage of the UniChrome Pro graphics card in this beast. I mean, it worked out of the box, but it didn’t do 3d or render things fast or anything like that. I found this lovely page which told me how to compile and install a special open source driver which takes advantage of the card, and it actually worked. Soon I was running 3D screensavers and stuff gloriously fast and smoothly.

Final step: let’s try “suspend” and “hibernate,” which had been the banes of my existence before with laptops and linux in general, and this laptop in particular.

Both worked without any effort whatsoever on my part.  Just clicked on the buttons.

All told it wasn’t what you’d call easy — I had wrestled with ubuntu on this laptop before, so I came forearmed with a lot of knowledge about it — but it was easier than it ever had been for me.  This is not a really high-end laptop and a lot of the hardware involved isn’t stuff that has been well supported by Linux in the past.  Suspend and hibernate functionality in particular are new technology where the hardware does not always follow the specs very well so it’s hard for linux developers to address it.

And now I’ve got this linux laptop where everything works.  Everything.  Works well.  Wow.

I might have to use this thing for work for a while, just for fun.

Web 2.0 Startups And Underpants

I’ve been interested in photo services like Flickr and Picasa and stuff and I heard tell of this thing called Zooomr which was supposed to be cool.  I checked their page a couple days ago and they had this announcement that in a day or so they’d have their new spiffy service up, with a thousand new features and stuff.

I thought, “wow, I showed up at the right time,” and checked back the next day.  Instead of a new service, there was a youtube video where the CEO and the CTO sat on a couch in somebody’s living room and sheepishly explained the technical problems that were making it take longer than they thought to get everything ready.

As I watched the video all I could think of was:

“I have underpants that are older than these guys.”

300: They Left Out the Helots!

According to historian Ephraim Lytle, the graphic novel and movie “300” have little to do with the facts, as we know them, regarding Sparta and Persia in general and the Battle of Thermopylae in particular.

For example:

We know little of King Leonidas, so creating a fictitious backstory for him is understandable. Spartan children were, indeed, taken from their mothers and given a martial education called the agoge. They were indeed toughened by beatings and dispatched into the countryside, forced to walk shoeless in winter and sleep uncovered on the ground. But future kings were exempt.

And had Leonidas undergone the agoge, he would have come of age not by slaying a wolf, but by murdering unarmed helots in a rite known as the Crypteia. These helots were the Greeks indigenous to Lakonia and Messenia, reduced to slavery by the tiny fraction of the population enjoying Spartan “freedom.” By living off estates worked by helots, the Spartans could afford to be professional soldiers, although really they had no choice: securing a brutal apartheid state is a full-time job, to which end the Ephors were required to ritually declare war on the helots.

Yeah, the Spartans weren’t obsessive warriors because they might have to defend the noble West from the swarthy Persians at any moment… but because they might have to put down an uprising from their brutalized slaves at any moment.  That’s worth knowing.