26 February 2023

Transitioning, maybe........

 A couple of years ago I set off on a journey to find an alternative computer system to replace my involvement with the MacOS. What started out quite encouragingly, with Elementary OS, limped along for a while until October of '22 when I gave up and went back to the MacOS. Why did I give up? A variety of reasons that really boiled down to two, a) Apple's integration of Mac and iPhone and b) my inability to find an alternative to PhotoShop/Bridge. However, everything changes over time and, today, I am once again trying the latest Elementary OS version of Linux, both on an HP laptop and also on a miniPC.

I returned to the Linux project because, whilst Apple do a remarkable job of integrating MacOS devices with iOS devices, I do feel trapped. Not only trapped but pissed-off that their continuing OS upgrades render older Apple devices less and less functional. My iMac is a 2011 machine which runs High Sierra and nothing beyond it and I am aware that, at some point it will give up the ghost and then what will I do? I could buy a new iMac (c£3k) but none of my existing software will run on it and Adobe will want me to have a subscription (no thanks).

Then there is the matter of my 2015 MacBook with its crappy butterfly keyboard. A nice machine, compact and light and ruined by Apple's effort to save 0.3mm in thickness. Apple also declined to repair it so thats another £1200 down the drain. So, for these reasons I decided to give Elementary OS another go and I'm glad I did.

It looks as if Linux developers are beginning to appreciate the need for software to be easier to load with the development of Flathub and Sideload. Apple have always assumed that users don't know anything about code and therefore hidden allthe nuts and bolts behind an automated OS. Linux developers seem to be following suit and its going to make Linux, in the consumer/retail sector, far more attractive.

Another factor that is influential is the availability of a number of software tools that work across many platforms, Apple and Linux in particular. I have been using Thunderbird (mail,contacts,calendar), Firefox (browsing), LibreOffice (writing, drawing, database) all on my Mac which makes it easier moving over to the same tools under Elementary. The hunt is still on for the elusive PhotoShop/Bridge alternative and Gimp may be the answer once its interface improves, but its not there yet.

So, the beat goes on and I am rather more optimistic about an Apple-less future.


21 February 2023

No 'peace in our time'.

So, its now a war of words between, in the blue corner, Joe Biden and, in the red corner, Vladimir Putin. A year ago, Putin must have expected to drive straight into Kyiv and hoist the flag of the Russian Republic yet, here we are, a year later with Putin nowhere near driving into Kyiv and what looks like a stalemate on the battlefield.
The battle for Ukraine looks more and more like a proxy war between the west, represented by Ukraine, and the Russian Republic, represented by the Republic's armed forces. Its unclear just how much support the Russian forces are receiving from other nations, certainly drones from Iran and other armaments from North Korea but, at present, China seems to be on the fence. So given the huge disparity in size between Ukraine and Russia, its pretty clear that the arms going into Ukraine from Europe and America, are holding the Russian at bay, if not pushing them back.

The question is, how long can this effort be sustained, either by Ukraine (and their supporters) or Russia and it may come down to who has the most to loose. Comparing the two sides, Ukraine has nothing to loose and everything to gain. Putin, on the other hand, has everything to loose. He cannot back down because it would be a catastrophic loss of face and he would probably be six feet under withing minutes. So, we probably face a war of attrition to see who gives up first and it makes me wonder about the purpose of war, in the modern age.

Many years ago, Edwin Starr posed the question, 'War, what is it good for?' and answered his own question thus, 'Absolutely nuthin', but it still seems like a popular activity. What I don't understand is the unbelievable cost of warfare where the strategy would seem to be to lay waste to the country which you fight against. The images from Syria showing the country after Assad's war (supported by Putin) which left towns and cities in ruins. Where was the point in that? And the same is happening in Ukraine. If Putin were to be successful, what would he inherit? A country with little infrastructure and a huge well of hatred for its attackers/invaders.

Other commentators have observed that Crimea was the problem. Putin started with Crimea and, had Europe and America supported Ukraine in 2014, Putin might not have tried again. No guarntees of course but it would certainly have been less likely. Neville Chamberlain's 'peace in our time' is an example that we might do well to pay attention to.

10 November 2021

Happy talk, keep talkin' the happy talk.........

Happy talk, keep talking happy talk,
Talk about things you'd like to do,
You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?
(South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein)

Some time ago, maybe a couple of years, I came to the conclusion that, based on pretty limited research, humanity was doomed. Why? Well, in simple terms and based on my own observation, the human species is unable to act in its own best interests. There are just too many colliding agendas: consumerism; capitalism; competition and, possibly most importantly, population.

The first suggestions that the Industrial Revolution might cause environmental change came in the very late 1800s. Langley&Very looked at atmospheric CO2 and that work was developed by Arrhenius which resulted in Arvid Hagbom establishing that c1896, industrial CO2 production roughly matched that in nature. In the following 125 years, industrial CO2 production has far outstripped any naturally occurring CO2 and science is quite certain that this level of CO2 production is causing Climate Change by warming the atmosphere.

So what has driven this explosion in industrially produced atmospheric CO2? The answer is simple - human activity. The Industrial Revolution changed the relationship between human population and the planet or, more accurately, the Planet's resources. Before the Industrial Revolution, one individual could only do a limited amount of work, limited by hours of daylight, limited by the amount of energy the individual could expend. But the Industrial Revolution changed that relationship because machinery could be worked 24 hours per day especially with the advent of gas lighting then with electric lighting. Importantly, agriculture mechanised, which created more and cheaper food meaning that larger families no longer lived in hunger (if they had visionary employers).

All of this resulted in a parallel explosion of global population estimated at 1Bn in 1804 then reaching 2Bn 120+ years later, around 1927. But this explosion in population did not follow a straight line graph with 3Bn being reached 33 years later and 4Bn reached in only14 further years. Today, in 2021, global population is estimated to be in excess of 8Bn and whilst the increase may well slow, the central question is whether or not the current population level is sustainable. From where I sit, the answer to that question is 'NO'.

We have just witnessed the latest episode of the Global Climate Conference, COP26, and, based upon various statements by interested parties, limiting global warming to +1.5˚ may be already impossible. Some suggest that an increase of +2.0˚ is not too far away and the consequences of a rise of even 1.5˚ will have dire consequences for many around the world. But humanity is nothing if not resourceful.

 Since 'climate' became generally recognised issue (say, from the 1960s onward), industry has been looking to turn the challenge into an opportunity. In colder climates, the focus has been on reducing energy loss (double glazing, insulation etc) whereas in warmer climates, the focus has been in moving energy around (via air-conditioning ). More recently, the focus has been on what has, euphemistically, been on 'renewable energy sources' like wind, solar, geo-thermal, hydro-electric, hydrogen and other more arcane technologies. The only problem with these technologies is that they are focused on allowing humankind to carry on as before. And the major problem there is that global population is today at such a level that, with climate change, it is easy to consider a situation where the planet will be unable to support humanity no matter what technologies humanity deploys.

As a consequence, some politicians, notably our own Boris Johnson, indulge in 'happy talk' where we (humanity) are all 'equal to the challenge'. This suggests that we will come up with some magical technology which will save us from 'burning our house down', probably with us in it.

26 December 2020


Transitioning seems to be something of a trend these days and I decided to explain my own transition. Yes, I’m transitioning from the MacOS environment to Linux. Its been a long time coming because, if I'm honest, I’ve been uncomfortable in my work environment for quite some time but I have never had the courage to come out and admit it, until quite recently that is.

So, what has driven me to embrace the world of Linux? Well, in part its been my growing dissatisfaction with being manipulated by Apple who are, quite clearly, determined to shackle their consumers (I almost said ‘users’) to their own, monolithic and monocultural ecosystem. This was made abundantly clear to me when I mistakenly upgraded my 2015 MacBook to Catalina. A lot of my existing software simply stopped working and ‘the Cloud’ took centre stage in setting up this new OS.

Now, call me old fashioned but I like to know where my files/documents/images are stored and I want them stored at my place. I don’t want them floating about in the ether and subject to Apple’s custodianship, something that they will, in the future seek to monetise.

So that was reason #1 for me considering my options and reason #2 was my introduction to a version of the Linux OS called Elementary OS. Some years ago, I dallied with Linux, trying out the Ubuntu version and, at that time, I overlaid Ubuntu with Macbuntu which sought to deliver a Mac-like desktop. Unfortunately it didn’t obviate the need for knowledge of .rpm and .tar files or the use of………the terminal. This last terrified me as I have absolutely no knowledge or understanding of the command line and a belief that, if I make a mistake (highly likely) whatever device I’m working on will melt. But Elementary OS has changed all of that and it has the look and feel of a mature, push-button GUI where installations happen in the background once you have clicked on ‘install’.

So, with a lot of encouragement from my brother, I now have a mini PC loaded with Elementary OS, hooked up to a 27” screen and a bluetooth keyboard, all of which work seamlessly. As a consequence, I can see a point in time, in the near future, when I might be able to sell my MacBook and maybe even my lovely 27" 2011 iMac and move to a world where subscriptions are a thing of the past and my files are mine.

Watch this space.


9 October 2020

Six months ago.........

Looking back at the last entry I realised with a shock that it was more than 6 months since I commented on Boris' pathetic effort when compared to Jamie's and the intervening 6 months have done very little for Boris' reputation. Contracting Covid-19 doesn't seem to have changed him all that much although I would say that some of the wind seems to have left his sails, probably not helped by the Dominatrix's cavortings.

What has changed though is that 40,000+ citizens have paid some of the price for the Tories fixation with GDP and The Economy. And now it seems that they are going to quietly take the brakes off and let Covid-19 rip through the UK because, 'we're all in this together'.

I did wonder, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, if Covid-19 could save the planet and there is plenty of evidence that the environment has benefited from the significant reductions in pollution arising from travel restrictions. But Covid-19 has also thrown into stark relief just how dependent society has become on 'consumerism' for employment and tax generation. The Government seems, at present, to be more concerned about the hospitality industry than it is about the health of the population - even in the face of hard evidence which shows that people who have had a drink find it harder to 'social distance'.

Covid-19 offers us the chance to learn about our current social and economic structures and how they may benefit us and how they may also threaten. The question is whether or not we are capable of seeing beyond our fixation with fiscal profit or loss to establish what is truly in the best interests of society. 

23 March 2020

And the winner is ....................

The country held its collective breath in anticipation of our Great Leader's address to the nation. The clock moved relentlessly towards 8:30pm and suddenly, there he was in all his jelly-like glory. I can't remember much of what he said but I was left with the distinct impression that he thought he was at assembly, addressing his fellow pupils about some jolly jape or other. To say it lacked gravitas is something of an understatement and I was left wondering what the fuss was about.

Gary Gibbon, C4's political correspondent, did his best to make something of it but, again, I was left with the feeling that I had missed something which was meant to be important, but wasn't.

Then, after a brief ad-break Jamie Oliver took over and I was captivated. He came out of the gate storming, throwing together a few tasty recipes focussing on the sort of stuff that you might have tucked away in the larder. He understood the problem that we all face - we're stuck in the house hoping to avoid the grim reaper and Jamie stepped up and tried to help. He's a fucking chef for God's sake and he left a huge impression on me, heightened by the stark contrast with the total absence of anything constructive offered by the Prime Minister.

Jamie - 10/10
Boris - report to the headmaster.

22 March 2020

Will Covid-19 save the planet?

What is the greatest threat to humanity? Covid-19 or Capitalism? Since the late1700s, Capitalism has turbo-charged population growth, consumption and exploitation of natural resources. Just before the advent of the Coronavirus, sections of the global population were signing up to Greta Thunberg's message which was, roughly, consumption/waste are the issues and we need to stop both. Greta isn't the first individual to propose this message but it's fair to say that she is the first to have energised a national or international movement and debate. But all of that is in the past now since Coronavirus has rewritten the front pages of every media.

Joke about loo paper.
Shopper: Oh, there's no bog paper
Me: Don't worry, get a copy of the Sun or the Mail
Shopper: Good suggestion but there's so much shit in them already!

So now, we need to consider just why Coronavirus is having such an impact. Firstly, humanity's lifestyle made it possible. Air travel spread it around the world extremely effectively. Secondly, individual governments were slow to respond, believing, I assume, that it couldn't happen here (wherever here might be). Thirdly, whilst it originated in China (an authoritarian society) it has gained a stronger grip in capitalist democracies which are less able to invest in future proofing (because there's no profit in it).

So the Coronavirus is tearing through organised societies, aided in large part by population levels and density and a cultural resistance to considering the good of wider society over the demands of the individual. And this gives me an opportunity to remind everyone that, "I blame Margaret Thatcher" and, by implication, her progeny in the Austeritory Party.

Thatcher, rather than believe in society, believed in the individual. And now we face a challenge that cannot be met by the individual and can only be faced by society as a whole. To do that we have to see ourselves firstly as a society and secondly as individuals within society. But, looking at the supermarket shelves, that is an ability that has withered in the years since Thatcher here, and Reagan in the USA, spread their poisonous, greedy and self-interested view of the world.

But don't worry, Coronavirus is proving that capitalism is no match for Mother Nature, where society might be.