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About that: the Internet narrows minds, however open they start out

A commentator on a Slahsdot article reminds that the Internet is a double-edged sword for politics, and for information spread in general:

Rather than a world-wide network enabling us to reach and appreciate a far wider range of topics and beliefs, we’ve instead been largely enabled to find the most comfortable echo chamber to reinforce all of our crazy without having to listen to neighbors who might not agree with our increasingly detached beliefs.

Not that that’s always a bad thing, if you’re a persecuted minority, for example. But I think the edge facing us does more cutting than the other side of the sword most of the time. Just look at how partisan things have gotten.

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About that: Cracking down on sites like Ask.fm

A petition landed in my inbox today: “Shut down cyberbullying website, Ask.fm, in memory of Izzy Dix & 12 other teens globally

This is, alas, another misunderstanding of how websites work, but most importantly how social interactions, in general, work. I’m not saying that anyone is at moral fault in these cases; what I am concerned about is that the petition spreads the idea that any one site should be targeted for crackdown. Politicians can jump at this easily, scapegoat easily, and look like progress is being made. This is shortsighted, and ultimately leads us to rest on laurels until the next, identical, scandal arises.

(TLDR:) In brief, it’s not a crackdown on websites we need, but action on a large scale. We must be in control of the message that society projects to young people, the message must be on every wall a young person will see, and the message must be:

If you are a victim of BULLYING, it is never your fault, and you must always SPEAK UP immediately.

Read more for details. Read more

First look at Manjaro

Currently I’m having a go in a VM at Manjaro, a distribution based on Arch Linux.

There are a few things that make the Arch family particularly awesome, and a few things that make it quite daunting, but it’s really looking promising…. the following notes serve to document what I’ve learnt so far.

I’m using the 0.8.8 install release, 32-bit with Xfce in VirtualBox (the KDE ISO results in a blank/black screen after boot into LiveCD, both driver modes. Mouse visible and still possible to switch to tty terminals. Couldn’t be bothered troubleshooting yet). Read more

Drivers in Linux: ndiswrapper and the demise of Windows XP

With the impending demise of Windows XP (even though it has recently been announced that XP will now continue to receive updates until July 2015), the prime time for migrating casual Windows users to Linux is nigh.

However, one crucial aspect remains: driver support.

Some will be swift to point out that in-kernel driver support has come leaps and bounds lately, and most things just work “out of the box.” Unfortunately, that is not sufficient in the Real World. Read more

Response to: Foster Care After 18

The Guardian is reporting on new legislation for England where foster children will be allowed to continue to have foster parents until the age of 21, up from 18 previously.

This is not an effective solution to the core problem of dealing with adulthood, and an exposé of comments from some ex foster-children shows this: for those of us who are lucky to have our parents, they remain still our parents, whether we’re four, fourteen or forty. Read more

Response to: Will 2014 be the “year of the Linux Desktop”?

An open poll for opinions on Linux Voice.com asks whether the tired and still popular question “is 20XX going to be the year of the Linux Dsktop” is still relevant.

My take on it is as below – but in brief (TL;DR) it is no longer relevant technologically, it is relevant and in progress from an industrial point of view, and is is most definitely still relevant when it comes to users at home, with no technical skills. The question beyond that is, do we even want non-techies using Linux? Read more

Resource Forks, large files, and FAT32 – and still no cross-platofrm standard

Here are a few things I learned in a recent experiment in backing up, erasing, and restoring a Mac.

  1. Use HFS to back up from Mac to Mac (to preserve idiosyncratic Mac structures like the ResourceFork)
  2. If you want to allow access to the backup in other operating systems use FAT32 (the only file system which Mac/Win/Linux can all read AND write to)
  3. But you will lose the following:
    1. any file larger than 4 GB (hard limit on FAT32 filesystem)
    2. you will lose anything that relied on the presence of a ResourceFork in the file.

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The Surf

I was reading an article on why DRM has always been a bad idea, with mounting evidence to show it when the following came to mind:

Spread out your arms to stop the waves
From crashing into your lovely little sand castle
And be vanquished by its might

Or swim out into the unknown waters
Tussle with the ever changing unmarked currents
Fight to stay afloat in these tides

And then turn shorewards once more
Rush in with the swell and the implacable force of nature
Ride in on a wave of victory

Voila.

Response to: You and Yours’ Learning Special

You and Yours (BBC Radio 4) is currently doing a Boxing Day Special on learning – I agree with a lot of what is being said, but I feel there’s one thing they skipped over: rather than being task focused in learning, it is important to first know why we’re learning… This is what I wrote to them via their website (though they’re not taking listener input this time around – probably a reduced team):

I am self taught in a number of disciplines. Some of these I started with a basic course before taking the rest on myself (programming, guitar), some I bootstrapped my learning using magazines and online articles (photography, cooking, singing, computer administration). I was, academically, not very proficient… at all.

I find that learning only happens properly when you want to answer a question – even if you start out wanting to learn about an entire field of knowledge (mathematics, nutrition, English, an instrument, the intricacies of opera and ballet…), it comes down really to want to answer a specific practical question you are curious about. Using an Internet search engine helps to find more words to ask about, find other connected ideas, and forums allow discussion – even better if you find people to talk to in real life.

And, as with all learning, questions beget questions and soon you’re learning more than you set out to….

Of nesting Latin grammar in English

Are you That Person – the one who insists “you mean, there are viri going round, not viruses?” Or that “a single piece of data is a datum.” Whooptidoo – you took Latin in First Grade and now you’re an expert.

I find it rather preposterous to make deliberate use of foreign grammatical rules in the middle of an English sentence, not to mention pompous trying to “correct” other peoples’ use by introducing such jarring disjunction.

Latin words in English are loanwords, as from any other language. The English language, as you might already know, has appropriated numerous words from all over the world, but has long treated them as English grammatically.

You never say that you’re going to order two pizze with your friends; nor do you complain about a single pieróg falling off your plate; news reports might talk about “tycoons” even though the original Japanese distinguishes plurality by context (like the word “sheep” in English); and popular parlance has people talking about French chateaus, instead of the châteaux (note that the “x” is silent, such that there is no phonetic difference between the singular and plural forms). Read more