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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Fri, 25 Nov 2011

Updating Debian Squeeze on a 1999 Compaq Armada 7770dmt

I decided to pull what I call The Laptop out of its bag and update the Debian Squeeze installation that has been running on this 233 MHz Pentium II machine since soon after the most recent Debian release went Stable in February 2011.

Prior to that, the now-12-year-old laptop -- which is as solid as a tank except for the weak joints where the screen pivots -- ran Debian Lenny for a long while.

I've written many dozen blog entries about Linux and BSD systems running on this machine, which I bought for (I probably overpaid) back in 2007 (or was it '08?) when I wanted a laptop but couldn't find anything I could afford.

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Tue, 22 Nov 2011

A salute to Vim from ArsTechnica's Ryan Paul

As much as I dislike his Gwibber social-networking application, I'm that much more of an unabashed fan of Ryan Paul's tech journalism for ArsTechnica, itself a bastion of high-quality reporting and writing.

While I think Paul's a little too close to Ubuntu to write about it objectively, he's just too good not to read.

A recent article, Two decades of productivity: Vim's 20th anniversary, shows Paul at his best:

Vim has been my editor of choice since 1998, about a year after I started using Linux as my main desktop operating system. I’ve used it to write several thousand articles and many, many lines of code. Although I’ve experimented with a lot of conventional modern text editors, I haven’t found any that match Vim’s efficiency. After using Vim nearly every day for so many years, I’m still discovering new features, capabilities, and useful behaviors that further improve my productivity.

Vim has aged well over the past 20 years. It’s not just a greybeard relic—the editor is still as compelling as ever and continues to attract new users. The learning curve is steep, but the productivity gains are well worth the effort.

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Steve Jobs would cry to get his way

One of the best Apple-covering journalists out there, ArsTechnica's Jacqui Cheng, looks at the Walter Isaacson-penned Steve Jobs biography to analyze Why Steve Jobs Cried.

A sentence for all (holiday) seasons

A Kohl's Black Friday parody ad inspired the following from Gizmodo's Mat Honan in reaction to the ad and Kohl's in particular, and the consumer culture in general. It is, as the title here states, a sentence for all holiday seasons:

It makes me want to get rid of all the crap I've already bought, to throw all my shit out into the street and set it on fire and shed my clothes and run naked through the neighborhood with a goddamn hammer smashing out all the lights and setting all the dogs free and upending all the mailboxes and cutting the power lines down and stuffing the HVAC systems with leaves and throwing dead fish in the vents and just going utterly feral as I let my hair grow out long and my teeth rot from my mouth because when I see cynical appeals to shop shop shop, done with a knowing wink to how utterly vapid and annoying the commercial itself is, without caring that it's like a steel toe boot to the teeth because it's got an earworm that will burrow itself into your head until you find yourself standing outside of a fucking Kohl's store at eleven thirty on a Thursday night when you should be at home in bed after spending a lovely day with your family, I worry that we are at the very end of America and I think that you, Kohl's, you are the Lt. John Pike of television advertising spraying me with your indifferent contempt and I wish you nothing but failure and a grim season of declining sales and the flu.

Read the original entry, where you can also see the "parody" video.

Unity and GNOME Shell are more alike than different

I've been spending time each day working in Ubuntu 11.10's GNOME 3/Unity and Fedora 16's GNOME 3/GNOME Shell desktops.

They're more alike than you think. Rather than do things the GNOME way, Ubuntu/Canonical decided to take its own direction with Unity, which is now, like GNOME Shell, built on top of GNOME 3.

They look and work more alike than you'd think.

I find it puzzling. But in a way it makes sense.

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Mon, 21 Nov 2011

Navigating in GNOME 3/Shell in Fedora 16

The more I figure out how GNOME 3/Shell works in Fedora 16, the more I like it.

I'm not at the point where I can say, "Oh, it's totally better than GNOME 2," but I'm increasingly able to do things the way I'm accustomed to doing in the GNOME Shell environment.

I will refrain from comparing how things work in Fedora 16/GNOME Shell vs. Ubuntu 11.10/Unity until I spend more time in the latter. But this comparison is at the forefront of my thinking about which direction my Linux desktop use will go in during the year ahead.

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Sun, 20 Nov 2011

It's becoming their Internet -- it should be our Internet

Responding to Rob Reed's Google+ post on the dark side of huge corporate entities -- read: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube -- controlling what we see and don't see on the Internet, I wrote a couple of responses (instead of one because you can't edit an existing post or comment on Google+'s Android client), which I will repeat here because, a) they're not bad and b) I'm against "giving away" content to social networks and c) the irony of us having this discussion about Facebook on the newest, shiniest corporate-created social network, Google+ is particularly rich (and I acknowledge my part in it).

Here is what I wrote:

The whole idea that blogging, the phenomenon, had its year in the sun, and now the idea of regular people writing things on the web is all about Facebook and Twitter, is terrible.

That so many abandon what they're doing for another thing because that other new thing is posited as the solution to all of life's problems speaks to our society's continual fascination with the new.

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Fri, 18 Nov 2011

Using the GNOME file manager's FTP capabilities to manage my Ode site

I've traditionally used stand-alone FTP clients like FileZilla and gFTP to interact with the servers I use.

Only recently have I decided to start using the GNOME Nautilus file manager's FTP/SFTP capabilities to manage the content in some of my servers.

Including my Ode server (a shared hosting account). Rather than write up text files in my favorite editor, save them, then start up FileZilla and transfer those files into the proper Ode documents folder, I've been using the file manager as my "window into Ode."

(For the record, I'm running the Debian Squeeze distribution of GNU/Linux with the default GNOME 2 desktop.)

You know about Ode, don't you? If not, start here.

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I got rid of HootSuite, Ping.FM, RSS Graffiti, the Twitter-Facebook-Identi.ca bridges in favor of a simpler solution with dlvr.it

I try to automatically send links to my blog entries to all the social networks on which I maintain accounts (the exception being Google +, which I'm still updating manually).

Over the past couple of years, I've had a thicket of services set up to do this. Some work along, others work together. Some social networks themselves will push their entries to other social networks.

It can all be extremely confusing.

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Ubuntu 11.10 live from USB -- first impressions

Since I spent some time running Fedora 16 with GNOME 3/GNOME Shell via a live image, and I judged it as working well but not as polished in the design department as Ubuntu 11.04/11.10 with Unity, I figured I should give Ubuntu 11.10 a try with its live image and see what I thought.

So I grabbed a 64-bit Ubuntu 11.10 ISO. Since I was already in Debian Squeeze, and Debian and Ubuntu ISO images these days are "hybrid" images that can be burned to CD the usual way, or easily (very easily!) dropped onto a USB thumb drive, I found the 4 GB drive I used for my Ubuntu 11.04 test and put 11.10 on it.

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