Thursday, November 29, 2007

A System Predic

I never make predictions, but here is something to store in your memory: Ubuntu.
Maybe you have heard of it, maybe not. It happens to be a flavor of Linux. It was provided for free with a computer magazine I get here in Germany (c't is what the magazine is called).
Suddenly I realized that we are wasting our time with Windows and Macintosh.
This system does everything that you can do on a Windows machine, only faster, and without a single known virus.
Installation is fast and painless (it lives quite happily on a Windows computer; you choose your operating system when you turn on the machine), and it is the system you MUST choose if you want to give a computer as a present to the elderly aunt and uncle who have never dared to touch a keyboard. It is so simple.
Its native software is wonderfully and touchingly homemade, there is no glitz here, it just does the job and doesn't try to sell you anything.

I have tried a few Linux systems in the past, but there were a lot of hurdles to jump, mostly because the developers are (let's face it) geeks, and as such, prone to using Geekspeak, but (more seriously) it was impossible for them to anticipate the hardware that could be found in a retail computer, because it was changing every day on the component level.
But now there are a set of standards emerging, and components are more compatible.
In any case, on my laptop the system murmured to itself for 20 minutes or so and settled into a comfy corner of my hard drive. It had identified all the components of my system and could communicate with them.
The prompt to Log In is not a bombastic orchestra fanfare, but four soft bongo beats.
Not only is the operating system installed, but all essential software for everyday use: Browser (Firefox), email program, word processor, etc.... all free.
But the thing that warms my heart about it is the community.
If you have a problem with Windows, is it going to do you any good to send an email to Microsoft? The answer, in case you didn't know already, is NO. There are so many problems with Windows that the poor devils at Microsoft wouldn't get any work done if they tried to help mere users.
Their job is to kill the competition and find ways of making more money with their code.
Linux has a sort of Nouveau Hippy philosophy, where individuals write the programs and share them. OK, so they won't get rich this way, but strangely enough there are enough idealists out there, or at least, programmers who have an occasional spasm of idealism, that the operating system has been developing quietly and is now advanced in ways that the commercial systems cannot be. (It is no accident that the world's fastest computers, and most of the world's server computers, use Linux-based systems).
The Great Leap that Ubuntu has made, I think, is to integrate a package that can be installed by a complete dummy, and used immediately. It just works.

So try it. You may not migrate to it entirely (I haven't made that step yet either), but I promise, you will be grateful that you put it on your Uncle Joe's machine, because you won't have to spend so much time teaching him how to use it and putting anti-virus programs on, etc... and as far as I have been able to establish (and , believe me, I have been putting the system through some horrible tests) there is no Blue Screen of Death in Ubuntu.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Fly on Saturday

Not much time for blogging these days... I do try to read your posts regularly, but don't get around to commenting much. Hope you all will forgive me!
The Family Reunion is drawing nigh, I am sure we will spend far too much energy trying to decide what to do, and less energy doing it, whatever it is! We are all congenitally considerate, a fatal flaw if there ever was one.
A family group like us needs a strong type who will consolidate the various needs and desires and be the final arbiter-- this was my father, but he died far too young from smoking--, and for this, unfortunately, all look towards me as the Eldest Son.
And my problem is that I favor spontaneity and individuality, I despise the herd instinct and don't want to encourage a large group to go in one direction. This, as can be imagined, leads to a lot of desperate dithering.
I have these horrid visions of us sitting around for hours on end, saying things like, "Gosh, it is nice that we are all together here! What shall we do?" "Golly, I don't know, what do you want to do?" "I don't care, what do you think?" "Wow, there are lots of things we could do, shall we do something?"
My brother Ned admits openly that he prefers the family reunions with his wife's family, because her father is an ex-military man and orders are simply given, to be followed without question.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Impending: Family Reunion!

Let me say that we are not a close-knit family.
We love and respect each other, but (except for the welcome exception of my youngest brother) we have communication issues.
Sometimes we go for a year or two without so much as a telephone call (or even email, and we are all geeks of some sort or another), and it is not because we have hidden resentments (although those certainly will exist), but there is an emotional reluctance, I guess.
We are 6 kids, 4 boys and two girls, and I am the oldest. My mother will turn 80 next month, and I decided to try to get over to the States for her birthday, and told my siblings I thought it would be nice if most of us could turn up for the event... and now it is actually going to happen! All six of us, plus my 3 offspring, plus my ex-wife, are going to be in one place for a week.
I am very worried. This hasn't happened but once in the last 30 years.
We have all gone very different ways and live widely scattered between west Germany and Hawaii.
Will we be able to communicate any better face to face? Am I doing a very stupid thing to set this up in the first place?
By the way, none of us has had the nerve to tell my mother this is happening. If she knew, she would feel personally responsible for cleaning the entire city of St. Paul Minnesota on her hands and knees for our arrival, and we think she deserves better than that.
I am scared.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Kind of Internet Quiz I like

Great quiz-- finished in 2 seconds flat and came up with an astonishingly close call (and thanks to Mausi and Jen for pointing me to this):

You Should Be an Artist

You are incredibly creative, spontaneous, and unique.

No one can guess what you're going to do next, but it's usually something amazing.

You can't deal with routine, rules, or structure. You're easily bored.

As long as you are able to innovate and break the rules, you are extremely successful.

You do best when you:

- Can work by yourself

- Can express your personality in your work

You would also be a good journalist or actor.

What Should You Be When You Grow Up?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

An Afternoon in the Park

Last week we went to the park, my daughter and I, I think she has inherited some of my love of taking pictures.
Although she prefers making videos.
I had bought her two big mirrors for her room at Ikea(she lives with her mother and sister about 5 miles away), but she complained that she couldn't see herself dancing. So I had to buy 2 more, now she has a mirror expanse about 2 meters x 3 meters. I don't like walking into the room anymore, I become dazzled by looking at myself. She, however, seems not to tire of admiring herself, typical girl.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Some reasons me and the ossie don't cohabit


If we were to live together, I would have to always pee sitting down. Now I don't mind that in principle; but ALWAYS? Seems like a form of slow castration.

She would have to put up with me making tea in the microwave. A disgusting habit, to be sure, but it is fast and eliminates at least one vessel from the process.

I would have to always eat smelly cheese at breakfast. She doesn't tire of telling me just to eat and not smell first, but old habits die hard.

She would be forced to witness my computer habits. I read my emails before breakfast, tatamount to a cardinal sin in her eyes.

I would have to reduce the number of grammar mistakes in my everyday speech. She cannot understand that I STILL have not been able to memorize the gender of every single German word. (And she finds it incomprehensible that I don't know all the names of plants and animals. And it does no good to remind her that my command of flora and fauna in English is similarly vague, that I still find it difficult to tell the difference between a rabbit and a hare)

The list could go on and on... does anyone else out there have similar problems?

But she has taught me what the flowers pictured above are called in German (Herbstaster), she has them on her balcony (where I took this picture last week) and they bloom splendidly every year around this time when everything else is turning brown and nasty.
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Saturday, November 03, 2007

New to the Cast of Characters

This is Doro, the latest lodger in my crazy boarding house.
What you need to know about her: she plays the violin, is doing an internship with my orchestra, lives mostly in Stuttgart with her boyfriend Marco, who is an Italian.
She gets on well with Max, my other lodger, but refused to have her picture taken with him because the Italian boyfriend could get very jealous.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Visiting the boy's room

Last night after a fantastic meal, I visited Lionel's bedsit for the first time. In a lovely old house, all ArtNouveau and original doors, sadly in a rather frightening part of town. As usual the room is full of electronic junk.

I am jealous; he has got this video projector that illuminates an entire wall (to increase the effectiveness he has blanketed up the windows) and we watched the film he did the music for, of the naked girls tearing up a painting. Very educational.
Really sensational though was watching him play a snowboarding game on the playstation with the display covering the whole end of the room. Terrifying!

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