The evolution will not be televised.
From the under-staffed Department of Updates, I should note that I have expanded my page on Slackware a bit – I thought it would be useful to write down what I do post-install to make it usable, to lighten the load of it a bit and to make it prettier.
A bit of standard Slackware in there, and some general distribution goodies.
I sometimes feel that I have the online equivalent of people who just shop to have stuff. I have an archive of articles I need to read – print to PDF just to be sure – if I had not deleted hundreds of hours, I would have podcasts to fill this year and the next.
I download Linux ISOs and feel I should keep them because someone may drop by who would need the latest Opensuse, Fedora, Slackware, Arch, Frugalware et cetera.
I find Youtube videos – documentaries, shows and movies I want to watch. I download them just to be sure.
If I focused entirely on all the stuff I have pulled down and have stored, I would be occupied for a month.
I was considering getting a new hard drive – my latest Thinkpad came with the 60 gig drive that was the default when it was new. It may just be a good idea that I do not.
The people who have been reading this place pretty much from the start will remember that I did a review of the Richard Feynman biography; I would like to share a brilliant talk by Feynman – it is an interview from the BBC published by The Science Foundation. It is longer than your average Youtube video, but Feynman is so intelligent, charming and uncompromisingly scientific in his mindset that this is a good view.
The file is available for download here.
The FSF announced they were receiving nominations for the Free Software Awards 2012.
I have sent the following nomination of Jonathan Nadeau:
I nominate Jonathan Nadeau for the 15th Annual Free Software Awards.
Jonathan has put great effort into promoting and advancing the efforts towards accessibility on GNU/Linux systems. The FSF will know him for this effort as part of his internship - http://www.fsf.org/about/interns/2011/jonathan-nadeau.
Jonathan has repeatedly stressed the importance of this effort as part of the Free Software ecosystem in particular and technological infrastructure in general. As a natural consequence of his focus on Free Software, he has worked with Trisquel GNU/Linux on this.
He has been the driving force behind establishing the Accessible Computing foundation – http://accessiblecomputingfoundation.org/ – for the purpose of promotion, fundraising and to serve as a rallying point for debating the implications of the issue.
Talks like his very powerful presentation at Ohio Linux Fest – http://frostbitemedia.org/node/156 – show his dedication, his humor and an always positive approach to this challenge, mixed with a firm belief that these efforts could change the lives of people all over the world as an example of how free software can help people overcome their challenges and help them provide for themselves.
The nomination of Jonathan Nadeau for this award is also a nomination of the ACM – and of Free Software as a driving force for freedom.
Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér
So as of recently, my name is my name.
That would be fairly straighforward for everyone else, but no such simple things in my household.
I married my Transsylvanian Hungarian wife, now Juliánna Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér, in September of 2007. We merged our names, and my Juhl-Johansen and her Zölde-Fejér came together as something which was ours entirely – and, of course, as some have pointed out, would be a challenge to pronounce correctly in its entirety anywhere. Be that as it may, it is ours, and it is not likely to be lost in a crowd.
However: A while after we were married, she had to get a new passport. And so, she ran into some difficulties. As it turns out, the Danish naming conventions – which had obviously been used, because the state church is actually the name registrar in Denmark – offered some challenges. Thing is: In Danish, you have a first name and a last name. Anything else is your middle name. Not so in Romania – Transsylvania, which was a part of Hungary, is now part of Romania, and no, it is unlikely you can come up with a Dracula joke we have not heard – They have first names and last names. So her Danish name document was rejected. After a bit going back and forth with various authorities on this, we simply pulled out my old last name, and after that was done, I was registered in the public registry as Morten Zölde-Fejer. They had also pulled the last accent.
After our return to Europe after living in the States in 2010, we started the process with my wife applying for a Danish citizenship. Since she was from a Hungarian family, she was not particularly connected to her Romanian citizenship; she had also never been part of the country of Hungary, so being a part of this country seemed equally irrelevant. We had come back to Denmark and decided to stay here, at least until the children are older.
And so, she became a Danish citizen recently, after a longer process. And at last we could actually go through the process of syncing up our names! So the name you see at the top, here – it is actually my name now. Again. Still. At last.
I was watching Network, a movie that was released (unleashed?) into the world the same year I was.
I have heard it mentioned quite often in the context of critical journalism and rising tension because of an an anaemic and malnourishing production by popular culture. It is a very strong movie when it comes to pointing out the inertia of established media megacorps that will keep running despite the mold-to-gold ratio going from 1:20 to 20:1.
Anyone who has seen my podcast list will know that I consume quite a lot of audio for the price of zero. But I would like to debate this price and whether all parameters are taken into account when applying the market forces to the formula.
And, of course, with this page being what it is, I will also tell you what I think is awesome.
Being a Danish citizen, I pay a national TV license. This covers access to the national TV channels, radio – access by internet included.
Now: Danish Radio is an interesting beast in itself – as I suppose all national broadcasting services are, a mash of history, traditions, transitions and rumor; as is common, it was the only TV channel offered here for a long time, and it had a hard time trying to renew itself. In a play upon the abbreviation, DR was referred to as Dampradioen (the steampowered radio). This impression seems to linger, but DR has made a great effort towards being a modern system – offering a number of digital TV channels with a strong range of programs – and on the radio side, the shows are released as an impressive array of MP3 podcasts with RSS feeds. I am quite pleased with that. I also find it appealing that we, the Danish people, this language minority, pay for the creation of these things and make them available to everyone who understands the language.
Elsewhere in the cultural spectrum we find the other TV channels, for which I pay considerably more. The international channels that provide us with evil crap like Survivor shows, talent shows, cheap sitcoms and the like. To get access to these channels to see movies, we have paid a substantial sum. So I have changed the default subscription that came with my apartment and now pay a quarter of what I used to, cutting around $50 off that bill.
I find that there is a tendency for me to lose interest in TV, to be honest. Perhaps it is just because the children leave me with few hours to spare, and I need something that lets me do other things as well. TV requires a lot of attention, if it is going to be worthwhile.
As I mentioned in my audiobooks article, I had started listening to audiobooks back when we had the dog. As I also mentioned there: I encourage that you donate to these people who give you all these good things for free. As I said, I have changed my subscription service, because they were feeding me crap. I do not intend to spend less – I intend to spend it right! So what I want to do is give some donations to the people providing me with hours and hours of enlightening entertainment. I also want to encourage you to do the same.
Okay, so – into the meat of the story, as they say. As those who know me and this site will know, I am into science, technology, literature and international politics. This focus makes for quite a spectrum, I know. I will start with what I assume will be of more general interest.
To The Best Of Our Knowledge (website, RSS feed) is the first great example. Okay: If you are a quick-fix infojunkie, these are too long – every episode is an hour – but if you are willing and able to listen, it will be a great reward. There are two shows, one centered around culture and more current events, another of a more philosophical nature. They did an excellent Alan Turing episode, a genuinely brilliant feature on the apocalypse with a discussion spanning from the Mayan calendar over a discussion of the cold war to a great interview with Slavoj Žižek. Another great one was an anniversary feature on the life and work of Marshall McLuhan. These are just a few examples of this show getting into culture, education, politics; the show is extremely well done, and it will suck many hours from the life of a podcast addict if you start going through the archives…
Compared to other shows, this one is a somewhat – if not somber, then certainly serious show, But it is solid and intelligent, and never disappointed with anything but the realisation that it is actually hard to find time to listen to them all.
Donations can be made on the Donate page.
Radio Litopia (website, RSS feed) is the next recommendation. This extremely intelligent literary podcast can only be recommended.
It is actually several shows. The primary one is Litopia After Dark, hosted by literary agent Peter Cox. The show covers news in writing, literature and the publishing world – and is rather entertainiFreang. Another show is The Debriefer, in which lawyer and writer Donna Ballman addresses current legal issues in the publishing industry as well as emerging trends in media and copyright. Between The Lines is an interview show in which Peter Cox talks to authors about their background and their works. Open House is a show where listeners and writers who participate in the site forums, the Litopia Colony, can call in and talk, along with a number of word games – intelligent and highly entertaining. Finally, on a more serious note (despite the name) – The Naked Book, a show hosted by Philip Jones, the deputy editor of the magazine The Bookseller. This goes into challenges of the bookpublishing industry – e-books and DRM, selfpub, agency model, the future of bookstores and the like. Interesting for those interested.
All in all, it is fair to say that these shows are intelligent, entertaining and insightful. Their discussions, both serious and humorous, are something I always enjoy listening to.
Instructions for making donations can be found on the Litopia Donate page.
Freakonomics Radio (website, RSS feed) is a podcast which came as a spinoff of the book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Their tagline is ‘exploring the hidden side of everything’, which means that they usually go into some sort of economic or consumption theme which, on the outside, seems to make little sense or to react differently than you would expect, but when explored makes more sense. A recent episode named The Cobra Effect refers to what happens when you make a prize scheme for fighting pests or problems, and people react soundly with the opposite result. The title refers to a concept in Delhi, where people were rewarded for killing cobras and bringing them in. The results were that people actually started breeding cobras – they actually speak of cobra farms – and when the plan ended, there were actually no change to that population at all. A good episode was on conspicuous conservation – a trend where personal consumption is used mostly to brand oneself; they measure the significantly higher popularity of the highly recognizable Toyota Prius compared to other hybrid cars end mention a trend in certain areas of putting solar cells on the roof on the side of the house facing the street – not because it is the sunniest side, but because it is visible!
As with all of the WNYC productions, it is extremely polished. Like Radiolab, the show weaves interview with commentary. The hosts are intelligent, educated and definitely worth listening to. The shows vary in length – some are shorter and are fit in as a component of the show Marketplace.
You can support this and the other WNYC shows by donating on the WNYC donation page.
StarTalk Radio (website, RSS feed) As mentioned in the opening of this article, there is an incredible amount of extremely cheap crap sold extremely expensively in this world. Pop in every sense of the word.
I believe then increasing disgust with this means is the reason for the trend of the rockstar scientists. I suppose that this is not exactly new, but in recent years there has been an increasing focus on a number of high-profile scientists. The most famous example would probably be Stephen Hawking, in part because of his unique situation as someone who has overcome a severely challenging physical situation to become one of the leading scientists in the world. Carl Sagan is famous for his television shows, Richard Feynman for his lectures on physics, Bill Nye as a broad science communicator.
Interestingly, I was unaware of a lot of these people until I came across the Symphony of Science, which managed to convey some very strong feelings about scientific discovery.
One of the most charismatic scientists would be astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. After I first became aware of him, he seems to turn up everywhere! Frankly, I sometimes wonder how he manages to get any work done when he turns up on talk shows, debates, news. And I recently came across Star Talk Radio.
Star Talk Radio is a good combination of entertainment and an introduction to topics on space exploration. Dr. Tyson will take in experts and discuss subjects like sending humans into space, black holes, cataloging the stars and similar topics. Occasionally he will invite actors – he interviewed Morgan Freeman on his TV show on space, Whoopi Goldberg on science interest and recently Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton on the science of Star Trek and the reason they got interested in space.
It is a lively show, and the host is eager to share his broad knowledge. As he is quoted in the Symphony of Science, sometimes you hear scientific discoveries that make you want to go out and shake people in the streets and yell “Have you heard this!?”
Work in progress.
‘casts in the description queue:
Stuff you should know podcasts
On The Media
Kim Rasmussen has made me think of layers of society.
Many of the people in the circles I frequent are high-volume consumers of Ted Talks and podcasts like Radiolab, Freakanomics, To the best of our knowledge, Stuff To Blow Your Mind, Skeptically Speaking and a truckload of technology casts – just to mention a few examples. There is a huge load of such programs of educational entertainment.
I find that this occasionally leads to a mental disconnect where I mention things to people in passing – things that completely blew my mind when I learned about it. A recent example was a conversation I was having where I said “it is like that Dawkins thing about considering your childhood memories, where the remarkable thing is that all of your cells have been replaced over the years, so no part of your body was actually part of this memory, even if you remember experiencing it physically” – and then I continued – until I stopped, because I realised that the person I was talking to was having a mental expansion experience.
In many ways this is what happens when a politician says that there are fairly simple solutions to piracy or child pornography like, say, DNS-blocking. Since this is clearly useless, the conversation completely disconnects my brain between the starting point and an actual solution.
Same thing happens when a teacher is associating freely and comes to the epiphany that it is actually a question of making the children engage in the learning the same way as when they play video games. So I pull out maybe 15 podcast episodes discussing this, or I say ‘Since this is already being done, we should probably focus more on…’ leaving the other person disconnected.
I am not trying to guru myself here, I just have this experience frequently – and I find that this makes it difficult for me to discuss things with a lot of people who actually have an executive role where I have only just grasped the basic principles behind it.
So I have a dilemma with what I use as my computing platform. It is a silly thing, but I suspect that others experience a similar thing, and that makes it something worth considering. It is a technical issue mixed with, or undermined by, aesthetics.
I have been a Linux user for a number of years – in various incarnations. I started out as a Red Hat user – back then I dual-booted between Windows and Red Hat, partly because getting a working internet connection was a challenge. I changed to Mandrake Linux which was impressive enough to let me change entirely. After that I tried out a large number of Linux distributions as well as variations of the BSDs. I settled on Slackware with Slackware 10.0 and enjoyed the Slackware philosophy: You can set up this system to do and be anything. I learned to rewrite the boot scripts, recompile the kernel to only support the hardware I owned but do that well. It was a great satisfaction.
However, with my two most recent laptops, both Thinkpads, I have experienced difficulties with wireless as well as power management. It seems they have the same issues with suspend, and the wireless connection is consistently dropping. The first aspect I have found an explanation for and solution to, but not the latter.
As a result, I have had to leave Slackware and look elsewhere for the most fitting system for this old X32. And this leads me to an embarrassing problem with making an appropriate choice.
I guess it comes down to a perception of hierarchy. Plainly, everyone will agree that Slackware is a distribution for Linux users who know their way around the basic Linux system, simply because if you don’t, you are not going to get an installation that is usable.
What this means is that Slackware is an endgame distribution. If one looks at the mailing lists, people have been using Slackware for ages, and people who end up with Slackware are going to stay there.
However, if you have to become a refugee from Slackware, the original Linux distribution, it is going to be an extremely ambivalent process. Because you already made it all the way.
I am using Fedora 16, the Lxde respin. And actually, this is a lovely distribution. It is lightweight, it is up to date, it will do the nice things you want without too much customisation. However, it goes through a lot of stuff before it is ready to log in, and I have no way of gettng a feel for the system. And it gives the distinct impression that one is not supposed to. A lot of stuff works automagically on this system, and it does seem a bit sensitive to tampering. I should not neglect to mention that one can get quite spoiled using a system which will do a lot automatically compared to a distribution where one has to do a lot of work before using it will be smooth and simple…
Now of course, the most marketed hobbyist distribution is Ubuntu. But that is a mainstream beginners’ distribution with a questionable approach to community and going for the mindshare. Leaving aside that Gnome3 and Unity will not run on my hardware, Ubuntu simply does not appeal to me. While Linux Mint is considerably more appealing visually and when it comes to functionality – I just downloaded their new Lxde release, and it works quite well – but I always get bugs with these Ubuntu derivatives, and somehow a couple of lines of terminal output will always peek out. If one is running an OS where this is intentional, that is not a problem, but with these, it just looks sloppy. I can also choose to see it the way that they can’t be bothered to support the older hardware I have chosen to buy. This does not make it more appealing.
Recently, I have installed Chakra and Arch – they both had some boot issues I could not track down. They would boot, but they would be probing the hardware for so long that it was pointless. I tried FreeBSD, GhostBSD and PC-BSD – they give a strange boot freeze error. The Red Hat Enterprise/CentOS/Scientific Linux family will not accept my machine because it has to go with PAE – which my CPU does not. Since this is an older machine, I am not even going to attempt to make Gentoo play on it. It would take me a week to build a usable system on this old iron. Dragora, while interesting as a Free-as-in-freedom-FSF-approved take on Slackware, simply won’t give me a good X.org implementation.
I mention these because they are respectable systems. Arch, FreeBSD and RHEL are distributions for technologists. Fedora gets a few bonus points as a member of the Red Hat family with a healthy dose of community.
Long story short, I feel a bit like a phony, and the more I use this, I feel less of the feeling that made me happy about running an open source craftsman’s OS. For the time being, I will stick with Fedora. I have Debian Live sitting on a USB stick next to me – Debian is a respectable community tool. A bit of work would be needed to really get into it. When I used Debian way back, it seemed very elaborate, but powerful.
The quest continues…
I have recently become aware of an RSS reader called Newsbeuter. It is quite different from the tools I usually use for the task, so some observations are in order.
RSS – Really Simple Syndication – is a way of getting updates about a site or service. I use RSS feeds for two distinctly different things.
First, I use the feeds for site updates, which I do for two reasons. One is for friends and people I know and respect who update their weblogs and the like, or magazines. It is good to be on top of things. The other side of that is that I receive updates to software I use, applications like Uget, for instance, which I package for Slackware.
The second major thing is podcasts & podiobooks. Ever since we got a dog and I had to walk endless miles with him – and later on with our son – I have been listening to a lot of podcasts and podiobooks. The latter is an audiobook released as a podcast – as in chapters released one by one.
Now, there is a truckload of RSS readers. The principles are simple – an RSS file is basically an XML file. But the application is done differently. For my particular purposes, most programs for the task have been a frustrating acquaintance. Until recently I was using the plugin Newsfox with Firefox, but I have discovered an even better tool: Newsbeuter.
As you see, there are two sides to using Newsbeuter as a podcatcher – there is the main Newsbeuter interface, and if you are going to download files from it, you enqueue them for download and access the Podbeuter application (which is packed with Newsbeuter). Podbeuter will work as a download manager.
To be honest, Podbeuter is really very good – as a download manager. Frankly, if I could find a way to push download links to Podbeuter, I would use it as my main download manager for all other kinds of files, too! In the background, it uses Curl for the download.
Newsbeuter is quite well-documented at the website documentation section, but primarily you will need the files config and urls, which I put in ~/.newsbeuter:
Config – here is my config file:
# Newsbeuter config file. # To be placed in ~/.newsbeuter or ~/.config/newsbeuter always-display-description true auto-reload yes browser firefox cleanup-on-quit yes download-retries 10 download-timeout 20 refresh-on-startup yes reload-time 10 download-path ~/Downloads max-downloads 2
Is is probably fairly self-explanatory, but I go into the reasons for the setup in the video.
- and of course the urls file. You can probably guess what it contains. Here is my urls file – basically just a link list.