Humble Beginnings + Industry = Growth

A few years ago, a relative donated a bowl of plums grown on a tree in her yard. I knew exactly what to do with them. I cut each one in half to remove the stone and made jam of the flesh. I planted the stones a few cm. deep in the earth along two sides of my property spaced a couple of metres. About half of them yielded tiny seedlings as seen on the right of the header. This year such plants look more like the new image in the centre, nearly 3 feet tall and skinny. I’m always amazed when anything survives another year in my yard. Poor soil, dreadful winters devoid of snow until January, deer, mice, hares and rabbits… It’s a wonder anything is left. We have lost many but there are a dozen or so showing promise, new growth.

It’s somewhat like this blog. I started it because I was kicked out of several forums on the web for holding the views I have of IT. Some thought I was plain wrong for avoiding M$. Others thought there’s no point in reminding folks of history, water under the bridge. Those plum trees and this blog show otherwise. Sustained effort does pay off. I’ve made thousands of posts and visitors have made tens of thousands of comments, some actually useful/interesting. It’s all good.

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Getting Things Wrong From The Beginning…

“a severe security issue in its implementation of the NetBIOS protocol that affected all Windows versions ever released”
 
See BadTunnel Bug Hijacks Network Traffic, Affects All Windows Versions
How many times do you have to see “affects all versions” before you decide that M$ should not be running your information technology? I made that decision in November 1999 when I had five PCs in my classroom that I wanted to be my “major domo” but they randomly needed to reboot every few hours… I replaced That Other OS with Caldera eDesktop GNU/Linux and never had any problems with software the rest of the school year. I’ve been using GNU/Linux ever since and have had no regrets. It’s been the right way to do IT. My wife saw the light a few years ago. She was tired of years of TOOS failing every now and then and needing re-installation. Once her business started using a web application, she had no more need of TOOS, none.

If you want to try GNU/Linux, read all about it at www.debian.org.

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Liberating Crippled Chromebooks

“Chromebooks are everywhere. Google’s little Linux based PCs have been booming since their introduction several years ago in everything from homes to businesses, and even educational settings. Many users, especially Linux users, can’t get past the fact that the devices are hopelessly hamstrung by their ChromeOS operating system which both cuts down on the number of apps the device can run and makes it dependent on an Internet connection to get anything done.”
 
See How to Install Any Linux Distro on a Chromebook
This seems like a great idea for anyone already confident in their use of GNU/Linux. Liberate the Chromebook from the straight-jacket of Chrome OS. It is a GNU/Linux OS but anchored to the browser. This procedure should permit full use of the hardware to run general applications. Amen.

NB: TFA quoted on the right is about Intel-based ChromeBooks. Some variation of the process should work on ARMed ChromeBooks

Unfortunately, I don’t own a ChromeBook but I do have a legacy system of PCs and servers in my home which I will soon convert to running GNU/Linux on ARM. I started today to purchase components needed to revitalize my own IT including UI and storage. Over the next weeks I will document the complete migration from x86-64 to ARM64 in this blog.

A neat item I’ve ordered is a nice quad port PCI-e V2 x2 SATA 3 card driven by a Marvell 88SE9235 chip. That will allow me to replace my current stack of 512MB SATA2 drives with some nice newer faster 1TB SATA3 drives on ARM. This will complement the Lemaker Cello or Huskyboard motherboards running AMD A1120 CPU. One or both should become available in the next month.

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I did a bunch of errands today including driving into town. I visited my MD and found he could provide a good home to two of my surplus Manchurian Apricots (Prunus mandshurica). In the morning I dug some holes for TLW to plant some Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia). I waited out the heat of the day and then decided I should repot some maples that were getting crowded in their current pots. I had three Manitoba Maples (Acer negundo) and two Tatarian Maples (Acer tataricum). I want to keep them in pots until the fall to maximize their chances of surviving roaming deer and hares chewing on them out in the yard.

I went out through the garage and picked up my outdoor shoes only to receive a shot in the middle finger of my right hand. At first I thought it might have been a spider but it was a bee. It didn’t have to sting me. I learned that lesson 60 years ago. Don’t mess with them! I guess it had become lost in the garage and crawled into the shoe for shelter. I must have pinched it between my finger and the inside of the shoe. It could not fly or crawl afterwards so it was in a pretty bad way. My attention was immediately drawn by the intense pain. I fled to the kitchen and applied ice. After ten minutes or so the pain subsided and after 20 minutes I resumed puttering. The trees seem happy in their fresh soil, free of weeds, fertilized, watered and placed in full sun. They’ve already grown 20cm or so. They will be real trees in a few years.

Sigh. Just when you think you’ve mastered life and have control of your environment, Nature gives you a kick to remind you how insignificant your wishes are.

Posted in food, horticulture, Teaching | Tagged | Leave a comment

Oh my! Walmart Plans To Boycott VISA

“Walmart says it intends to join the list of retailers in Canada that don’t accept Visa cards, citing high fees for transactions. It’s a move one retail analyst has said will cause “pain on all sides.””
 
See Walmart Canada to stop accepting Visa cards due to ‘unacceptably high’ fees
Oh my! TLW and I do a lot of business with Walmart and our favourite cards are VISA… I’ve even bought peanut butter and jam from Walmart and paid by VISA over the web. The product was great even though one shipment was delivered to my door and the other I had to drive a few miles to pick up at the post office. For in-person shopping we can use another banking/debit card but I have a card that is both VISA and debit, so I’m bound to have a few awkward moments at the till. Sigh. Stuff changes and it isn’t always for the better.

Posted in food, technology | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Apparently Someone Still Uses Floppy Drives

“up to vanilla kernel 4.4.13 floppy functionality performs like it should.(On an x86 PC that is. With a 1.44MB diskette drive.)>From kernel 4.5* and up it changed to barely usable.”
 
See Linux-Kernel Archive: dysfunctional floppy driver in kernels 4.5, 4.6 and 4.7
I’m not surprised that modifications to the Linux kernel sometimes introduce bugs but I am surprised to find someone who still uses floppies. I know there is some specialized equipment that may still be in use that has floppy drives but I haven’t used a floppy since working in my last school using then 8 year old PCs… Even before that, I remember going around a lab with a bootable floppy to boot a lab and needing two floppies because the first one literally wore out after 12 boots. There was a visible groove in the surface. I used to have ~100 floppies with various bits of data and software but these days I don’t have even one. Beast still has a floppy drive but it’s unplugged. It’s the same with CD drives. I don’t remember the last time I used one. Everything now is networked or USB.

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Firefox 48! Hallelujah!

“we’re using project Electrolysis to split Firefox into a UI process and a content process. Splitting UI from content means that when a web page is devouring your computer’s processor, your tabs and buttons and menus won’t lock up too.”
 
See Firefox 48 Beta, Release, and E10S
It’s about time! Firefox is a great browser already but it too often loses control on certain web-pages and has to be killed. The idea that different pages and the UI might be different processes opens the door to much better behaviour.

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Unintended Consequences Of Slavery In IT

“The University of Calgary has admitted to paying out $20,000 in Canadian dollars to a cyberattacker that infected the institution’s systems with malware.”
 
See University gives in to $20,000 ransomware demand
This is sad news. A big Canadian university gives in to extortion. It’s probably compounded bad news that the university gave in to Wintel’s wishes that they have a monoculture of fluffy software foisted on the world by monopolists.

Obviously many use That Other OS for valid purposes but few would do so if this incident was on their radar. There are hundreds of such malwares. How many times will the university pay up for permission to use the hardware they own? They’ve already likely paid Intel double the value for their chips, M$, even more for permission to use Intel’s chips and now a steady stream of cyber-criminals.

I recommend the university use Debian GNU/Linux, software that works for them, not against them. It worked for me and my schools when I was a teacher. I had thousands of issues with That Other OS and very few problems since migrating to GNU/Linux.

Posted in Linux in Education, technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 361 Comments

M$ Enslaves Not Only Users But Also Their Networks

“We have had reports now from several people, not all our clients, reporting that their Internet connection is brought to a standstill and the common thread is that they all have Windows 10 machines recently installed.”
 
See Is Windows 10 ignoring sysadmins’ network QoS settings?
See? Freedom matters. Allow M$ to do what it wants on your hardware and things become unusable. You are a slave if you continue to use M$’s software. Be Free. Use Debian GNU/Linux or other FLOSS operating system.

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Fights

“In terms of actual use, Linux’s quo has more status than any of its early opponents ever had. Damn near everything runs on Linux, or on something so similar that you can open a shell on it and get stuff done. (Example: Apple’s OS X, which wouldn’t be what it is if Linux hadn’t already been the leading *nix OS.) Even Microsoft runs lots of its own stuff (such as Bing) on Linux. Bill Gates no longer cares. He’s a philanthropist now. Steve Jobs is dead. Linux’s old UNIX enemies are zombies or gone. And, most of the world’s smart mobile devices run on Android, a derivative of Linux.”
 
See What’s Our Next Fight?
Doc Searle is a thinker and strategist. He makes a lot of good observations in a recent writing but he’s bypassing the desktop PC strongholds when he declares victory for Open Source and Linux. The world is still in the wrong place when a legacy PC cannot be bought with FLOSS on it everywhere any time.

He also skips malware and security, plagues on all IT. You can’t be free if someone else controls your IT infrastructure, not just on the web or in stores, but in operation. There are plenty of fights in the future. I’m still fighting for the desktop and freedom to do what I want with the hardware I own. The opponents are not only the dinosaurs of industry trying to maximize profits but some governments that allow tyrants to control our IT for no good public reason. School systems that teach students how to be slaves of certain companies are still out there. I opened the eyes of many but I only touched a tiny minority of people. Android/Linux was a good win but corrupted somewhat by Google’s self-interests. ARM is also a big improvement over the Intel part of Wintel but manufacturers are all trying to carve it and users up one way or another to maximize profits rather than delivering great IT.

No, there are lots of fights remaining beyond Doc Searle’s vision but he has the big picture outlined. Everyone has to act locally and think globally these days. We are still at war. There is no time to rest on our laurels.

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Pests

OK, I’ve dealt with mosquitoes in the yard but in the last two days I’ve picked up several wood ticks. I don’t yet have mature trees. These guys walked ~100 yards or so from the neighbours’ yards. They climb up into weeds or grass and hitch rides on passing mammals who have such lovely nutritious blood. Damned evolution! There was no need at all for these parasites yet you invented them anyway. The weather the last few weeks has been ideal for them, my weeds, and mosquitoes too.

Still, most of my trees are surviving and I have a few rows of beans that seem ambitious. I planted my last vegetable seeds today despite muddy conditions. Gradually my soil is improving..

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Citrix Gets It

“People looking for that $35 HDX accelerated endpoint – with a Linux VDA and OpenOffice you have a seriously cheap yet capable VDI solution
 
Finance/Federal – so cut down this is an ultra-secure endpoint with no memory on it and nothing significant to steal (the memory stick can be stored in a safe when not in use)
 
Large enterprises – because cutting $250+ off the cost of each thin client on a 10,000+ endpoint deployment makes sense ($2.5 million worth of sense!)
 
Healthcare – those kiosks nurses/doctors use etc. become easier to maintain – so cheap an endpoint that you can pull it out and replace it rather than spending time trying to fix it
 
Military – because cheap to replace if blown up/lost/needs to be destroyed
 
Thin-client refresh cycles are long, often 5 years or more, so you can afford to upgrade and refresh more often and a Pi used for 3 years will cost less than a dollar a month.
 
See Citrix, Raspberry Pi2 & ThinLinx: High-res Graphics Client for $50!
For years Citrix has been M$’s “partner” in spreading Bill Gates’ joy, but today even Citrix admits everyone doesn’t need That Other OS or Intel to enjoy a PC. It’s all good.

I got it years ago on ancient legacy PCs in remote northern schools where one good/new/decent machine could run sessions for a bunch of others with Debian GNU/Linux running everything.

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