My Experiences Converting Users To GNU/Linux

“If you sit a child in front of a Linux computer, they usually just start using it. It’s an amazing thing to watch. Kids are curious by nature and they also have the added advantage of not having any preconceived notions when it comes to how a computer ought to work. I have found, on the other hand, that the hardest kind of person to teach Linux is the crusty old Windows power user.”
See My Mom Runs Linux!
My wife, TLW, runs GNU/Linux with few problems. She uses a tablet, an Odroid-C2 ARMed thick client, and a big notebook all running Debian GNU/Linux or Ubuntu and her Android/Linux smartphone and her scanner and printer all deal with Beast, my GNU/Linux server. I have her file-system plugged in via NFS so she can do IT in bed, in front of the TV, on TV, or in her office and all her thousands of pictures, documents, scans etc. are all in the same place.

She doesn’t even have much problem using Ubuntu or XFCE4 on Debian because she mostly uses the same applications all day long. It just works for her and memories of That Other Operating System are fading. She was locked to a single thick client with limited capabilities in those Dark Days. She had repeated crashes and malware. Today, her issues with IT are things like changing the name of a file on the FTP server or how to scan a light image or…, real problems, not problems M$ causes billions of people every day.

It was the same with users of old XP machines in schools where I worked. With GNU/Linux, students found they could do more faster with GNU/Linux and they just took off like young birds, flying fast and furious in all directions. Teachers were another matter. A few were extremely reluctant to make the move, reluctant to try new things, reluctant to leave the Devil they knew, reluctant to change. Old people are a bit like children. They may not ever have used much computerized IT so it’s all new and wonderful to them. GNU/Linux is new and wonderful to me and I’ve been using it 17 years now. GNU/Linux isn’t a problem, but an opportunity to have hardware to all it’s capable of doing rather than a straight jacket limiting what we can do.

I recommend Debian GNU/Linux for people who want software that works for them not against them.

Posted in family, Linux in Education, Teaching, technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

Small Things Make Big Changes

Last winter, I ordered a plant, a variation on our local wild hazelnut shrubs, from T&T Seeds, a local supplier. I planted it in our best-drained soil, right on top of our septic field… It started out as a bare root plant properly packaged and delivered to my mailbox. The thing did nothing for weeks, so I cut it back a bit and watered it very well. Eventually, a tiny bud formed, which led to the fine growth shown above.

Combined with other hazel nut shrubs I’m growing I will have fewer excuses not to pick some in future years. This year, I just never got around to picking wild nuts until after the nuts were shed… too much tree-planting. Soon I will literally be able to harvest the fruits of my labours.

Posted in food, horticulture | Tagged | 7 Comments

Good and Great News

Sometimes new things are amazingly good and sometimes they are frightening. Yesterday TLW rode the Chinese roto-tiller. Afterwards she said, “That was fun!”. Now, that’s frightening. The machine frightens me and she barely knows how to steer… On the good side, I’ve added an outlink to Button Soup, a site mostly about food, with some coverage of my favourite fruit trees and actually making stuff from fruit you pick. It’s from Edmonton, a city just south of the great boreal forest zone, just like Winnipeg. Weather is similar despite it being in a province quite different from Manitoba.

TLW and I discussed selling/re-purposing the giant roto-tiller and buying something much easier to use/maintain. We found a good used machine on Kijiji. It’s a smaller rear-tined tiller. She hasn’t decided whether to buy it or not. I wanted to recycle the engine of the beast but she knows someone who might buy it who has lighter soil, less weight and more familiarity with such machines.

Meanwhile I’ve finished fabricating two beams and five crossbars for the trailer for the alternator. If TLW sells the current tiller, I might buy another big diesel engine to run things.

UPDATE: Here’s TLW on the machine… Yes, it’s running… The darned thing shed its belts twice and broke two tines while she was figuring out how to steer…

Posted in family, food, horticulture | Tagged , | 49 Comments

Syria – The Time For Talk Is Over

“The UN has suspended all aid convoys in Syria after a devastating air attack on its lorries near Aleppo on Monday.
The strikes destroyed 18 of the 31 lorries, which were bringing wheat, clothes and medical kit to the area around Urum al-Kubra.”
See Syria conflict: UN suspends all aid after convoy hit
The time for talking is over. Russia and Syria are guilty of war-crimes in Syria, bombing a UN convoy which had received official permission to deliver aid to besieged Syrians.

If they won’t be reasonable nor humane, the only answer is to shut down Syrian airspace and to bomb the Hell out of any military threatening civilians there. The world can’t reason with these folks. The world can’t be complicit in their crimes by inaction. The world must act against tyrants who’ve surrendered their humanity years ago. Further, the Syrian regime should be considered and treated exactly as Daesch, murdering bastards, who need to be murdered or driven out of power. They are who they are and support by Iran and Russia needs to be brushed aside by the world. Enough!

Posted in politics | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Collecting Recipes

I often cook without recipes. It saves time, I usually get it right and it’s just the kind of guy I am. However, with lots of fruit-bearing trees in the ground and a few more as seed and in pots, I’m heading towards a more mature future of fruit-processing. Preserving fruit on such an industrial scale raises the cost and inconvenience of not “getting it right”.

So, I seek recipes. I’ve long had ~100K recipes gleaned from the Internet in “MealMaster” format. I rarely use them quantitatively but simply as ideas for cooking. I was looking for information about Nanking cherries when I stumbled upon a blog containing recipes and related ideas. As a plus, it’s Candian…

I was pleased to read another authour who shares my taste and can thicken stuff without using retail pectin. A couple of days before I read those recipes, I had ordered some vegetable seed, Saskatoon, high bush cranberry and sea buckthorn seed. Life is good to have so many choices. I’ve rarely met a berry I didn’t like and along with apples, grapes, rhubarb, hazelnut, apricot and other cherries already growing here, my future is well fed.

Posted in family, food, horticulture | Tagged | 22 Comments

Tactical Routing

“Rather than replacing routers when they literally stopped working, I increasingly needed to act earlier—swapping in new gear because an old router could no longer keep up with increasing Internet speeds available in the area. Famously around the Ars forums, this problem soon evolved into our homebrew router initiative. In January, I showed my math as a DIY-Linux router outpaced popular off-the-shelf options like the Netgear Nighthawk X6 and the Linksys N600 EA-2750. And in August, I shared the steps necessary to build one of your own.”
See The Router rumble: Ars DIY build faces better tests, tougher competition
It wasn’t in my plan. Our router worked. It was old but it worked. Then, TLW was inspired to increase our speed of connection to the ISP… Suddenly the router was a bottleneck. It maxed out at only 100 megabits/s, not good enough in the 21st century, apparently.

So, as a stop-gap, I’m making Beast III the router and later will switch to an Odroid-C2 which will be able to keep up. I’ll have to add a USB 2.0 Ethernet dongle to add a second NIC. meh… It’ll give me something to do while I wait for my Cello to replace Beast, put away my plants in pots, weld the new frame for the alternator and go hunting…

Posted in family, technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 41 Comments

The Plan – Saskatoon Berries Galore

I have one untouched region of the yard where I want to plant Saskatoon berries. They grow wild around here but I’m going to buy seed from Sheffield’s. Their variety is known to thrive in Manitoba and produces lots of large berries. I’ve bought both seed and plants in other years.

Plants are faster to produce but seeds are far cheaper if you can get good germination. I haven’t had good yields stratifying in the refrigerator so, this time, I’m going to plant >100 seeds in a 2mx2m plot of good topsoil well mulched and protected from drying winter winds. If I get 50% germination, I will be happy. If I get the 90% they quote, I will be overjoyed and hard-pressed to find places for them all. Fortunately they grow slowly, just a few inches the first year. Some I started indoors this year barely filled a 6-inch pot with roots. This little guy is two years old, started indoors in January 2015.

Anyway, in a few years, perhaps as little as three or four, I will start to have production and in five or six years crowd the freezer with berries. They are delicious. I love them and I want to eat them raw or in pies or dried or candied or… All I have to do is keep the weeds at bay and apply a little fertilizer and water.

Posted in food, horticulture | Tagged | Leave a comment

No Matter How Charged With Punishment The Scroll… *

“The Republican Party has actually nominated for president an irresponsible, unrealistic, naive, petulant, childish, vindictive, prejudiced, bigoted, racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, fascistic, authoritarian, insensitive, erratic, disturbed, irrational, inhuman individual named Donald John Trump.
This…is madness.”
See 176 Reasons Donald Trump Shouldn’t Be President
TFA quoted on the right itemizes 176 reasons Trump should not become POTUS. You’d think a few would be enough, but no, USAians being polled are split four ways and it’s about even in the popular vote Trump v Clinton. This is madness. Let’s hope USA learns from the exercise and never does this again for a long time. While Clinton is far from perfect, her list of errors can be counted on one hand and stem from trying to be a public servant for decades. Meanwhile Trump was womanizing, bullying, bankrupting, and boasting about it all the time. Her foundation has saved millions of lives. His has paid out bribes and merely puffed up his ego. Trump has accounted for almost nothing of his accomplishments while Clinton’s are very public. What’s he hiding in his taxes? If Clinton had a conflict of interest connecting to a charity and US Dept. of State, how much larger will be the conflict when Trump’s empire of hundreds of businesses is run by family members? Every decision he makes will affect those businesses. Think he might lean to help them out? It’s a matter of scale. Clinton may have had $thousands of reasons to do something, Trump has $billions… Just do the maths.

* This title comes from Invictus, a poem about a proud person doing the right thing without regard to consequences. The poem is about noble causes and good things. Trump is just plain evil. The few times he’s said anything positive/uplifting in this campaign, it has been smoke and mirrors, not substance. His scroll is charged with way more than 176 egregious crimes. TFA’s list is just the beginning. Trump promises to do a lot immediately when he takes office. It would be a quick trip into tyranny and corruption.

Posted in politics | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Major OOPS With ARMed Devices

“On the ARM architecture, due to the split instruction and data caches, JIT engines have to clear the processor’s instruction cache to ensure that any freshly generated instructions are loaded and run.
Mono’s engineers noticed that, when flushing 128-byte blocks from the I-cache, only 64 bytes were being cleared, allowing the processor core to run stale and mismatched code and crash the running application.”
See Bug of the month: Cache flow problem crashes Samsung phone apps
Yes, ARMed devices are wonderful, but being different also causes different problems for programmers. The BIG-little architecture intended to optimize lifetimes of batteries has the unintended consequence of making caching of data and instructions a bit more difficult when processes move from one processor to another of different size. I’ve seen this many times. The more complex the system the longer it takes to learn it and the more mistakes are made.

Now, if only folks could fix the problem with the LeMaker Cello so that I could buy one sooner rather than later…

Posted in technology | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

M$ Softens Its Heart Against FLOSS

Sam Ramji:

  • 2006 – told M$ that M$ would never be able to compete in the longterm without embracing FLOSS
  • 2006 – started collaboration with FLOSS for interoperability
  • 2007 – killed “Get The FUD”
  • 2009 – GPL contribution to Linux
  • Well, M$ have have softened but they can’t undo the harm they did for decades promoting the EULA from Hell and monopoly. They’ve lost my custom forever.

    Posted in technology | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

    Canonical Shaky On Sharing

    “Many thanks for the majority of these patches to Sasha Levin, who dug them out of Canonical’s 4.4 kernel tree. I have no idea why they never sent them in for inclusion on their own :(“
    See Linux-Kernel Archive: [PATCH 4.4 000/192] 4.4.21-stable review
    Remember Canonical, the company that produces the distribution Ubuntu GNU/Linux? They have a hard time even mentioning “Linux” on their website yet they manage to customize the Linux kernel for their distro without actively contributing the modifications to Well, Sasha Levin, one of the players at, took the trouble to “dig them out” and do the deed. One wonders how much effort it would have taken Canonical to have done the same. After all, they start with the same source code. All it takes is a “diff” or two or …

    Sigh. Some people just don’t quite get FLOSS. Sharing is good, Canonical.

    Posted in technology | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

    The Last Charge

    In the 1970s, I began to do business by mail-order with a company called AmmoMart in Ontario, Canada. They supplied powder, primers, bullets, cases, reloading tools and scopes to shooters far and wide. I’m still using bullets, powder and scopes I bought from them and they still work almost as good as new.

    Today, I loaded my last charge of “44” surplus powder AmmoMart distributed back in the day. It was advertised as “5% faster than IMR3031” and it was but it was also finicky. I could get nice groups with it in 222 Rem, 308 Winchester and 8mm Mauser but little else. It needed near-maximum loads to work well too… But it was inexpensive, less than half the price of other retail powders. I bought many pounds of it. My last charge went into .30-’06 cases, 44 grains of “44”… behind 150 grain SP. It should work about as well as it did in 8mm Mauser. I should fire those rounds this fall. The powder is getting very old. When I was in the north teaching I didn’t store it safely and it was kept in an unheated building. Some was in a cardboard tub… That stuff was only half used when I had to dispose of it. The stuff I used today was in a steel can and still smelled like powder should, slightly perfume-like.

    AmmoMart has changed. The son now runs it as Higginson Powders and the prices aren’t quite as attractive but they do have inventory when many other suppliers do not and you can get a discount by ordering in larger quantities. You can buy 8 pound jugs of IMR powders for $290 CDN, $36.25 per pound, when my local suppliers charge $48… On large orders, shipping is included. You just pay the HazMat fee and pick up at a local freight terminal.
    “We offer free shipping on powder orders of 21 lbs. or more, to major Loomis Express depots. The base charges are covered in the free shipping. The extra $30.00 flat rate Haz-Mat fee is not covered as well as any additional surcharges applied to base freight charge, such as rural and residential delivery, additional handling and fuel.”

    I should shoot more, but I can’t afford the bullets at ~40 cents each, twice the price of the powder… 😉

    Posted in firearms, hunting | Tagged | 14 Comments