Sunday, November 28, 2004

Beatles and Shit

There was a thing on the telly, yesterday, about how wonderfully influential (to understate it somewhat) the Beatles were. I only saw the last part of it, and I can't remember what it was called, or what channel it was on, and I'm too lazy to bother looking it up. But it was good. And it was true (or, at least, I'm a believer (or was that the Monkeys?)).

I've also got the grimble-grumps about computers.

So, now, reminded of how good the Beatles were, I'm listening to Revolver. Except for Yellow Submarine, 'cause that's a crap track.

My other Beatles CD is 1 (the one with all their twenty-seven number one hits on it) (for I am a Beatles CD deprived person). But, due to how they've crammed them all onto one disc, it doesn't play properly. Particularly the later tracks. That really disappoints me, 'cause it's the later ones that I like the most.

(By the way, what does 'grimble' mean? I looked it up, sort of, on, but without success, and on Google, but was too lazy to actually follow the links. I think of it as meaning little, often petty, grumbles.)

When it comes to the Beatles, I much prefer the later stuff. The early stuff is good, given its contemporary context, but it's the later stuff that's truly amazing. I really should buy more of it. Two CDs is simply not good enough, especially as one is a compilation of hit singles anyway.

Oh, and my printer is now working. Or, perhaps I should say, my computer is now working with my printer (as the printer itself was always fine). But I really don't like RedHat Linux 9.

Just the other day, I was remembering that song, Maxwell's Silver Hammer. It's such a fun, happy song about a mass-murderer committing his murders.

But now I've lost my flow with this post. Too much interruption.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Who'd be Calling at This Time?

Shit! That was scary.

It's three in the morning, and someone just rang the doorbell. Who would ring the doorbell at three in the morning?

A trouble-maker? The police? Osama bin Laden?

Was it some sort of disaster or emergency? Had an identity thief been doing all sorts of criminal stuff in my name, with me about to be arrested for crimes I did not commit? Was it something so terrible I hadn't even thought of what it could be in those few moments in which I thought and feared the things that I did think of?

I made my way - very cautiously - out into the hall. Leaving the light off. Making sure I didn't cast a shadow on the front door. Hoping they, whoever they were, wouldn't notice me.

Standing silently in the darkness, I watched the patterned glass in the front door, looking for shadows of whoever was out there. There was no unusual shadow, but all that meant was that they weren't standing right up against the door.

Oi! came a male voice from outside. You've left your light on!

That was the beginning of relief. It could so easily be that a neighbour had left their car lights on (and as we have no car at present, it could not be ours). But I needed confirmation.

Putting the lounge's dimmer-switched light on to just its lowest setting, I made my way to the window. Like a peeping tom hoping not to get caught, I peeked out from behind the curtain. There was no one on our drive, no one standing right outside our front door. Another curtain, and, again, no one. A third (looking straight out in front), and all there was to note was an empty car with its courtesy light still on. And it was parked right outside our house.

So, that's all it was. No trouble-maker, not the police or other emergency services, and certainly not an international terrorist. Just someone letting us know that a courtesy light's been left on.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Where Did Those Britons Go?

Many years ago, in a history lesson at school, there was a little bit of a mystery.

We were doing a sort of sweeping overview of the last two-thousand years of British history. First, there were the Romans, who ruled the Britons for a few centuries. Then they went away, and these Angles and Saxons arrived, and settled in what became England. Oh, and there was some mention of Jutes (but the Angles were Jutish, so it may have been them). After the Saxon age (there was, perhaps, a local emphasis, and this is a rather Saxon region), there was 1066, with William the Conqueror and the Normans (but they decided not to tell us that he was previously known as 'William the Bastard'). And then just 900 or so years of history since that last successful invasion.

(Oh, and I should, perhaps, mention the Vikings. I'm sure they must've had a mention in there somewhere. But it was a long time ago, and I can't really remember it all that clearly.)

But there was a little bit of a mystery. The Romans, who had been ruling over the Britons, left. Fair enough. Then the Angles and Saxons arrived, and settled in what became England. Okay. But what about the Britons who had been ruled over by the Romans? Where had they gone? What happened to them?

Someone asked the teacher, as it did seem to be a little bit of a gap that needed filling. But, intriguingly, she just said that the previous Britons had been replaced by the new arrivals. She said that this sort of thing happened sometimes, that peoples sometimes moved around, and one bunch would replace another that had, well, gone away. But where had they gone? What happened to them? What made them go away? No real answer. It was just something that happened.

There was something about this that just wasn't quite right. Something was missing. There was something we weren't being told.

A dirty secret?

Well, many years later, I was nosing through a book about King Arthur from the library. And guess what? It gave an answer to that old, hanging question: ethnic cleansing!

Basically, the Angles and Saxons had gone on a land-grab, killing, enslaving and expelling Britons in the process. At least, that's roughly what legend says. It was ethnic cleansing of the most horrible, barbaric kind, and that was the answer the teacher didn't give.

But how much truth is there in it? After all, it isn't just legend, but legend from the Dark Ages. And much of it comes via Geoffrey of Monmouth, one of the great liars of history. So, there's plenty of room for doubt.

But, although I haven't really looked into this in any real detail, I've noticed the occasional news story of potential relevance. For example, I noted, just the other day, that while only about ten percent of the ancestors of the English were Anglo-Saxon immigrants, almost none of the male ancestors from that time were Britons. That fits rather too well with the rumours of legend about the invaders enslaving and raping the Britons.

I can just imagine the news reports on telly.

Well, it's chaos here. No one knows who's in charge, but the Saxons seem pretty confident that they are. Further north, it's the Angles who claim to be taking control. But, no matter who is in control - if anyone - of one thing there is no doubt: Roman control is certainly at an end.

Rumours of killing and other atrocities abound. There are tales of a whole village just a few miles from here being driven from their homes. From elsewhere, reports that Britons are being taken into slavery by the foreigners. Refugees are fleeing west in their thousands, with stomach-turning stories of how the invaders, as they're calling them, are killing the men.

Some Britons are fighting back - or at least trying to. But they're disorganised, with rival leaders pulling the province apart more than they're pulling the people together. It's difficult to see how they can defend their homeland when they're so disunited.

They came here to defend us, one woman said to me, referring to the time when the Angle and Saxon mercenaries first arrived on this island. But now they're killing us, and the Romans have abandoned us. She was clearly distraught, and broke down in tears by the roadside. Someone else told me that her children had been killed only two days ago, along with their father.

The Saxons tell it differently, blaming the Britons themselves for the chaos. After all, part of the reason the former overlord hired the barbarian mercenaries was to reinforce Roman rule on an unruly population. But it's hard to believe that this is any kind of a peace-keeping, or peace-enforcing, operation. The foreigners regard the natives as the problem - and a problem they are determined to solve.

Upgrade Gripes

Well, I've now got RedHat Linux 9 installed on my system. It was just supposed to be an upgrade of my previous, 7.2 installation, but a full installation turned out to be easier. I kept my existing /home filesystem, though, and made two, complete backups of it (I only meant to make one, but it seemed like four more coasters, until exactly the same 'error' occurred with the second (so now I've got two backups - extra safe!)).

It's not the most recent Linux distribution, but it's really just a temporary upgrade until I'm familiar enough with FreeBSD to actually move over to it. It's just for my new printer.

Alas, it's not working with my printer (yet). And the desktop environment seems to have been dumbed down.

One of the things that really annoys me with computers is how we get faster and faster machines, but then that extra power gets wasted on useless flashiness. Do we buy faster, better machines just so that our desktop throbbers can throb more smoothly? Do we invest in the latest processors just so that we can maximize and minimize our windows with swish special effects? Do I want a 'simpler, easier' window manager when it means I can't quickly and easily drop windows behind other windows?

When I minimize a window, I want it to get out of the way - quick!. When I upgrade software, I still expect to be able to do everything I could do before, not find that things have disappeared in the interests of 'increased usability'. Sure, simple, user-friendly interfaces are vital, but that doesn't mean that the more advanced features have to be dumped completely, or hidden away where they can't easily be found.

RedHat Linux 9 came on three CDs (not including the documentation CD, source CDs (which I didn't download), etc), while 7.2 came on just two. 'More,' you would think. 'More, and better.' But, instead, it feels like less. My system feels smaller than it did before.

Perhaps this is all to do with RedHat's leanings towards the corporate world. It's all those pointy-haired bosses they've got to appeal to.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

One of The Greatest Wobblies of All Time

One of the greatest wobblies of all time must surely be the wobbly which Richard M Stallman started throwing in 1983. He's still throwing that wobbly today. That's a long wobbly! This wobbly even has a name: the GNU Project.

He started throwing this wobbly when, in 1983, he had some problems with some printer software. The software for the previous printer was open and modifiable, so had been customised with some useful, extra features. They (the people in that lab) were able to tailor it just to their liking and convenience. But this new printer software was closed. The source code was not available, and so was not modifiable without going to all the trouble of reverse-engineering it. And it was all to do with proprietary control.

This was the straw that broke his camel's back. He felt the loss of freedom to such an extent that he threw what must now be one of the greatest wobblies of all time: he started the GNU Project.

But is it really a wobbly worthy to be called one of the greatest wobblies of all time? Yes! Stallman's wobbly has a central, even fundamental role in the protection of freedom against those who value their own control over others' freedom to choose. That might sound a bit far-fetched, but, with computers being everywhere these days, it's increasingly a 1984-esque thing of 'Who controls the computers, controls the world; who controls the software, controls the computers.'

Just imagine if there was no alternative to Microsoft. Just imagine if there was no possibility of an alternative (due to, say, software patents). Would Microsoft bother trying to improve Windows? After all, they'd have no competition. Would they respect your privacy? And if not, what could you really do about it? Not use their software? That would, they presumably would argue, be an option. But what else would you use?

With GNU and Linux, as well as the BSDs, etc, becoming more and more widely accepted, with IBM and others actively supporting this Open Source stuff, I don't think there can be any doubt about the true greatness of Stallman's wobbly. It's a wobbly that is even now only approaching its crescendo.

While My Download Gently Creeps

This CD burning malarkey is all to do with a new printer I bought the other day. It's an HP Deskjet 3845, and is more a sort of family purchase than just for me. (My mother, you see, likes the way that photos come out when printed on ordinary paper. She finds it useful, too, as an artist.)

Although I've now had the printer for two days, it is yet to print a single page. It's 'cause my operating system is just a bit too old, so I'm downloading a more recent one. Four CD's worth. And burning it onto CDs. And, to be on the safe side, I'm backing up lots of stuff, onto many CDs, lest something go horribly wrong during the upgrade. (My last big upgrade adventure was when I stuck a 40GB hard drive in my computer, and had to transfer lots of stuff from the old hard drive to the new. I did that by backup and restoration, and it went almost swimmingly.)

I'm now downloading the third CD, and thought I'd pass the time by telling you all about it. (That's you all in the sense of there maybe being more than one of you, not all about it in the sense of all the gory details.) Broadband internet access is a wonderful thing.

Dum, de dum...

Less than 300MB to go on this CD. I wonder if my ISP will notice? Or mind? It's not every day I download a whole, big operating system (although I have downloaded a couple of others recently, just to try them out on a spare computer as possible, future upgrades).

While I'm waiting, I'll tell you why I chose HP. It's because they're not a Microsoft-(and-Apple)-only outfit. Or, more accurately, they're actively supporting and contributing to Open Source software. In other words: they're friendly to freedom!

Oh, The Irony! (As If To Continue From The Previous, Laundry-Oriented Post)

Still got CD problems, though fortunately not of the coaster-making variety. I thought it might be just that the drive needs cleaning. I don't know if that would work, though, because it won't play my drive-cleaning CD.

Would that be Murphy's Law, or Sod's?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Compact Disc Digital Laundry

He's so slow!

My brother. He's just been hanging his laundry in order for it to dry. But he always takes a really long time about it.

He takes an item of clothing - an item, one, single item - and takes it from the washing machine to wherever he's going to hang it. And then he puts it on, say, the clothes horse. And, as he does so, he makes sure that he puts it on properly, with several little shakes if it's, say, a shirt, just to make sure that it hangs right. And then he 'walks' (shuffles) back to the washing machine for the next item.

Consequently, it takes quite a bit of time.

I find it irritating, but I can't really mention anything, for various reasons. Partly, because I smoke.

'You really do have an irritating way of doing your laundry,' I could say.

'You smoke,' he could say. I don't think he would, but he could. 'You could give up smoking. That's a far more serious issue than how I hang my laundry.'

I am also irritated because I've just wasted five CD-Rs for no good reason. Just some technical problems (now, hopefully, solved). It's particularly annoying, though, in it's own, small way, because it now seems the burning went okay after all, but that my computer was having trouble mounting them afterwards (which was why I'd thought the burning had failed). So, I've burned and thrown away five CDs quite needlessly. It's a good job I bought a pack of fifty just the other day.

My brother will probably want to practice the piano soon. Perhaps I'll set another CD burning while I go and have a smoke.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Pseudointellectual Nineteen-Year-Old Pipe Smokers

I have a stereotype in my mind, for those pseudointellectual often-students who spout seemingly postmodernistic crap without knowing what they're talking about.

There's the densely-haired bloke who smokes a pipe, 'not that it's any big deal' that he smokes a pipe. He's only nineteen, it turns out. He smokes a pipe. And is sometimes seen reading his books in the coffee bar (really just a smallish cafeteria on campus). Possibly with his pipe.

Perhaps I am making more of his pipe-smoking than there really is to be made, but it does seem that he actually does place a lot of stock in how his pipe-smoking is 'no big deal'. Naturally, it turns out that the whole thing is a metaphor for postmodernism, but I'm just not interested in how or what exactly. It's just exceedingly irritating that he has this arrogance to smoke a pipe as if to enlighten others as to how there is no enlightenment. That's, supposedly, what he means by his pipe-smoking being 'no big deal'.

Well, I can beat that. I'm a smoker, of cigarettes, because it would've been stupid for me to stub them out on myself without smoking them first! Beat that!

Then there's the woman who obviously has deep-seated, and deeply-buried, 'issues'. This is manifested in her actually-condescending - though you wouldn't notice it at the time - attitude towards you. There's something somehow seemingly patronising about how she tells you things - about yourself. There's something that you can't quite put your finger on about her. Something that she's managing to pull-off that the nineteen-year-old pipe-smoker never manages to achieve. And something about the way she dresses! It just confirms the aura of clouded darkness.

Her attitude towards you, of course, is her projection of how she has 'issues' onto you. She is 'sorted', or so her dark fantasy goes, and she's seeing how you've got progress to make, lessons to learn in your life, but it'll all come in time. At least, that's what her atmosphere of 'knowingness' suggests.

Naturally, these two characters refer to each other, each expressing the view that the other hasn't understood something rather fundamental. Of course, it's the woman who is the more formidable of the two, as the nineteen-year-old pipe-smoker is obviously just a jerk. She is much more formidable.

But you agree with her wholeheartedly when she quips about his pipe.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Restoration of Mental Sovereignty Confirmed

There are some things I used to react rather self-destructively to. But I have recently found that this is no longer the case. It's like being free from a tyranny.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


Like when you realise that freedom cuts both ways.

Like when you realise that you don't have to accept the GPL if you don't want to.

Like when you find that you can make up your own rules.

Like when you find that there are rules to follow.

Like when they stop injecting things into your brain and give it back to you.

Like when it occurs to you that you don't have to do whatever it is that you've been procrastinatingly avoiding.

Like when you get sacked!

Like when you take the clamp off your heart and let it break.

Like when it occurs to you that your MP is there to represent you!

Like when you realise that they only have power within their borders - so you will be safe from them if you go beyond them.

Like when you get your own room.

Like when the choices have been made for you, so you don't have to.

Like when the Anglo-Saxon Wars were revealed.

Like when there is no option.

Like when you get your first car.

Like when you find that the person you can't stop 'being in love with' has already found someone else.

Like when it occurs to you that spreading butter on your bread isn't mandatory.

Like when it's too late to do anything about it.

I feel free.

I am free.

Like when you discover that you don't have to belong to a party to participate in politics.

Like when you discover that freedom is something we're stuck with.

Like when you discover philosophy.