…Or, Why I Kicked Windows into the Bitbucket and Started Living.
My computing life began with Windows; I “grew up” in it. Sometimes I dual-booted one or another Linux distro, but Windows, whatever version, was my main workspace since early 2001. From 95 to Vista (and 7 at work), I slogged through Microsoft’s increasingly baroque file systems. The inadequacies of Windows’ default apps — and the cost of popular “Big Box” software — drove me to become an expert at finding and acquiring whatever I needed in the realm of freeware. I became the Queen of Free, the Crocodile Dundee of the Internet, exploring the hostile jungle of third-party software unscathed.
When 8 reared its ghastly hybrid head, I knew the end had come. However, I was reluctant to abandon the relatively comfortable work environment I had struggled for years to build. When I get my next computer, I said, then I will leave Windows behind.
But Windows secretly plotted its own demise. On October 31, 2013, I rebooted to a nasty surprise: I could no longer log in to my normal user account. As far as Windows was concerned, it didn’t exist.
My first thought, of course, was to restore or re-create it. Then I came to my senses. Why waste the rest of the day beating a dead horse? After backing up some files, I re-partitioned the primary drive and installed Debian.
The honeymoon was fantastic.
I still have to deal with Windows at my day-job and on client computers. I also have to use it now and then at home — but it’s not my home any more (if it ever was). For the sake of the one video game I’ve let myself get addicted to, I keep Vista on a small partition, booting in a few times a week to play and socialize with my clan. A virtual Win7 machine takes care of odd take-home jobs that require windows-specific software (read MS Publisher, aghhh). These occasional exposures to Windows remind me how good I have it.
There are occasional bumps in the road. Not long ago I did something dumb, during a groggy morning, that resulted in complex damage to my beloved Debian. Unable to log in, and knowing that what I had done had left more mess than I wanted to clean up, I simply re-installed the OS. There was no loss of significant data and very little need to re-configure anything. Programs lost in the process were re-installed on demand with no fuss, and with their old configurations. Can you imagine a fresh install of Windows coming back with the same color scheme and wallpaper? Browser bookmarks still there, custom spell-check dictionary intact? With anything not reverted to default?
What makes this possible is the file system. Windows hoards every scrap of data, keeping its precious secrets in deeply nested hidden places, and doesn’t even want its users to understand where their own files are. Linux is open and logical. You do have the option to toss everything in one place when installing, but if you at least give Root and Home separate partitions, your personal files and preferences are kept apart from the nuts-and-bolts of the system. You can fix a broken engine without ripping the seats out of the car; your maps and your sunglasses are safe in the glove compartment. A full Windows re-install is always more like melting everything down for scrap and buying a new car.
Windows is selfish, inflexible, and unforgiving. It’s a control freak. It protects itself first, at the expense of its users. You pay for it, you jump through legalistic hoops every time you install it, and it rewards you with uncaring disdain. It makes a great show of security, temporarily blocking your every move, while all the time it leaves itself vulnerable to the simplest hacks from outside. Because of its awkward complexity, nearly every slow, aggravating update requires a reboot. Why do people put up with it all, when most of them don’t do anything but email, socializing, and other system-independent trivia? Mainly, I think, because it absolves them of responsibility for their own actions.
Linux does not assume that you are a moron. It will not insult your intelligence by hiding 99% of its file system behind a facade of symbolic links. Nor does it try to keep you confused about what is on your computer and what is on the Web. It provides you with more tools right out of the box than you’ll ever see in Windows, including easy means of installing thousands more free utilities without risk. With a few mouse-clicks, you can add software that will do almost anything you can imagine. No need to sift search results for safe downloads–or clean up a mess if you didn’t sift well enough. Linux is certainly not foolproof, but it doesn’t try to fool you or make a fool of you.
My move from Windows to Debian involved no trauma or hardship; I was simply coming home. At last I had an operating system that welcomed me, inviting me in rather than arbitrarily restricting me. There was nothing that I was accustomed to doing that I couldn’t do as well or better.
How can I not love it? Debian is the only operating system I’ve ever lived with day-to-day that returns my love.
I was truly in love with Debian, and might still be using it now if the first major version upgrade hadn’t stripped away half of what I loved about it. “Jessie” was intensely disappointing. The beyotch didn’t last 24 hours on my computer. I downloaded the latest version of Mint and replaced the thing of horror! Again, my personal files were not affected [wink wink].
Since then, Mint has also had a major update, which I let it manage, with no problems and no uncomfortable or inconvenient changes. This is true love.
From the Department of Insane Hacks
On Halloween, Windows played a dirty Trick on me, so I gave myself a great Treat: I blew Windwoes to hell and installed Debian. Life has been wonderful ever since — but that’s not what this story is about.
Because I like playing World of Tanks, I ended up installing Windows again, but only as a slave chained in a dark little dungeon that I could access when I damn well felt like it. One day, when I had booted into my little slave Windows to play, I wanted to do something Internettish. I opened the portable version of Firefox that was in a shared NTFS partition. Windows blue-screened out.
Something in that portable ffx was deadly. It may have come from an attempt to run it in Wine, or from an update done through ‘nix. At ay rate, it was thoroughly poisoned. I couldn’t run it, couldn’t delete the cache, couldn’t poke my nose into it at all without crashing Windoze. After three bluescreens, I stopped trying. It didn’t knock the virtual Windows over, so I tried to get rid of it from that.
Using Free Commander’s wipe function, I erased — oops, not quite all of it. The “Some files could not be deleted” dialog popped up. I looked. All that was left was a nested directory with NO FILES IN IT. OK, I step away from Windows and take a look with Nautilus. Yep, empty. But I still can’t delete it because it is “not empty.” Bash, what do you see? Nada. No files. It’s EMPTY. No command shows anything, deletes anything, does anything. It is empty, but it is “not empty.” I can even rename the top dir (from “Firefox” to “poison”), but I can’t delete anything!
I get mad. OK, you little SOB, you’re not empty — let’s see what happens if I put a real, visible file in you. Copy, paste. Ha.
Then I up-dir to the root of this odd family of not-emptines and…DELETE the whole shebang. No complaints. It’s gone.
I suspect a wee fukup in the Master File Table. Wottever, it’s just another one of those crazy hax where doing *something* shakes something loose and whothehell cares, it works.
The late perp:
in fleeting forms
in separate mind
what lies behind
This is probably around 30 years old. I ran accross it for the umpteenth time while looking for some particular song lyrics that I needed to digitize. It’s in weak pencil on poor quality colored paper, and wouldn’t be a good bet for long survival. But I can still remember the pleasure of writing it, and therefore thought that it deserved something better than a recycling bin.
I also found the sought-after lyrics, and got them on my hard drive with somewhat improved punctuation.
The image accompanying this piece is a product of Apophysys and The GIMP.
Published. On Smashwords.Yes, I did.
A Drum Is Empty is finally available to readers who have already waited too long. I also uploaded two short stories as freebies. You might say I celebrated Mother’s Day by giving birth to a litter of literature.
It was a day’s work. First, I had to make sure the manuscripts were formatted correctly. I was a good girl, I read the Smashwords style book. Then I slapped Word around for a while. Did Drum more than once from scratch to ensure clean formatting. Then there was the cover art.
I had taken some time previously developing the Drum cover. It only needed a couple of minor tweaks to be ready to go. The other two were hastily cobbled on the spur of the moment. I had to get up and take a photo of my hand for Grandmothers. By the time I got around to Tiwa’s tale, I was running out of steam. Obviously. Thank goodness for The GIMP in all cases.
Anyhoo, the “Meatgrinder” had no trouble digesting my perfect docs. I uploaded the short stories first, to get the hang of it. Then the Big One. It was fun to watch the process, the page refreshing over and over. Nothing like chocolate or sex, but a bit of a thrill for that first time. Yeehah, I had ebooks.
I had never intended to publish Kewarratiwa’s Story when I wrote it, but on looking it over one more time after a long hibernation period, I decided that it hung together well enough. I needed to read it again anyway. Tiwa is still a problem character, but I am coming to understand her better.
So…why Smashwords? Because I like how they do things. Because I loathe DRM. Because I could. I did it, and it feels good.
One thing that surprised me was how many times the short stories were downloaded in the first 24 hours. Not too many nibbles on the novel yet (and no sales), but I think I dropped my line into good fishing waters.
At least I finally got my bait good and wet 😉
I thought I got hacked yesterday. This line of text appeared — with no apparent cause — in a text file that was open but out of sight:
Cracked and cul De SAC and all will have some fun and this one th at a picnic
After finding no clues in any obvious way, I slept on it; modem and router unplugged, of course. Lying under my quilt this morning for some post-pee horizontal thinking, I went over my memories of events in the time between opening the text and being asked if I wanted to save it when I started to close it. The video player behaving oddly while the speech recognition software was still running…. I got up and performed some experiments. Uh-huh. The only hacker was in the movie.
I couldn’t reproduce the exact results, too many environmental variables, but oh teh lulz. That such a near classic neener line could result from a random series of coincidences. Must soak head more often.
My mother once told me I should have a budget. Many years later, I aquired a parakeet, and named him Budget. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep him….
What is the Tao of Budget?
To take an oversimplified view of the subject, let us say there are two basic types of budgeting: Big-Thingian and Little-Thingian.
Tom Chance is a Little-Thingian. He has some old debts and a few recurring bills. Today, he has a fistful of dollars (insert short snatch of movie theme). It isn’t enough to make a real dent in an old debt, nor is it enough to pay off an impending bill.
But Tom likes to think he’s a positive thinker. Wow, his glass is half full! So he drinks it. Literally.
When all the beer is gone, he still has debts and bills. And no beer.
Ben Buckmaster, a Big-Thingian, also has a fistful of dollars (insert short snatch of movie theme). He has old debts and recurring bills too, and not enough to pay off anything yet. Oh well. He leaves his half-empty glass under the tap. It will gradually fill if the faucet drips, and, if nothing else, it will still be there if he’s thirsty tomorrow. Ben has seen a lot of thirsty tomorrows.
Some days later, both Tom and Ben have found odd jobs that leave them with (insert short snatch of movie theme). Ben now has enough to pay his most pressing bill. He does so, and promises himself that if there’s a bit left over from the next paycheck, he’ll treat himself to a beer.
Tom, however, is in the same place he was before. Enough for beer and pizza, but not enough for child support.
Guess what Tom does. Again.
So…Ben is a negative thinker, right? A pessimist, a Scrooge, a tightwad, no fun. He won’t party because he can’t “loosen up” and forget his problems. Big-Thingians are No. Fun.
Tom is a great guy to hang around with. Too bad he’s in jail right now.
To sum up:
A Little-Thingian budgeter is in constant motion; he spends whatever he has. If it isn’t enough for the Big Things, he spends it all on Little Things.
A Big-Thingian budgeter rests in the Tao. His money grows through his inaction and his bills are paid.
A great Master once said, “It’s the priorities, stupid!”
I went into a programming frenzy yesterday. Couldn’t do what I wanted with what I had, so I downloaded AutoHotkey. Found the commands I needed, and after a few near misses I had a wee proggy that worked, either by sendto/drag-n-drop, or through the context menu after a bit of registry diddling.
Then came the hard part. I wanted an idjit-proof installer so I could share this handy widget. Some easy-peasy install builders are pretty dumb about adding stuff to the registry — not deep enough for my baby. I didn’t feel like learning another scripting language before midnight either.
The one I finally decided to stick it out with was SSE Setup. Again, I found the registry part a mite sticky. Trial and error took care of that after never mind how many (un-)installs. But the worst thing was that SSE hates Vista! I had to do the compiling in a virtual machine. The completed installer is pretty slick. So far it’s been tested in Vista, XP, and 7. It is not for older winderz, though maybe I could adapt a version.
What the fluff is it, you ask. It’s called FileMemo. It plops down an empty text file with the name of whatever file you right-clicked to make it so. And what good is that, you ask. Well, have you ever downloaded something and forgot why and/or what it does, or wanted to find the site you got it from again? Or lay down a shipload of details about a photo without having to dig inside it or use some damnable “album” crudware? How about a file memo? A simple, system-independent plain-text file with a bit of info. Not bad, for what ended up being nearly two days work and enough frustration to stick my head through a wall.
It’s here if you want to try it out:
Note: Requires admin privileges, installs in C:\FileMemo with no options ’cause I wanted to keep it simple.
Amazing what one runs across when cleaning out surplus stuff. Also amazing what one never notices until…when one notices it. I rescued this old label some time ago from a box that had been used for storage since whenever. Then it knocked around here and there and was buried, until I dug it up yesterday and scanned it.
Today, I took a close look at the scan image while touching up the color. There it was. The street address of my grandfather’s gas station. Yes, the old postcard that I spoke of here does show it.
I don’t know why the package was sent there instead of to my grandparents’ residence, but it makes a remarkable contribution to my growing collection of digitized memorabilia. In all the stuff I have gone through over the years in this house, it is the only thing I can recall that has that address on it.
I’m sure that I will discover more occurrences of the address as the “house arcaeology” progresses — and plenty of other interesting things long shoved aside. I also dread finding them after they have been destroyed by mice, silverfish, and leaky roof. 🙁
Minding one’s own business doesn’t pay very well.
I’m pretty quiet. I don’t have loud parties, don’t play a radio outside, don’t have a constantly barking dog.
Many of my neighbors do.
I don’t throw trash in my neighbors’ yards — although I may sometimes “return” something that I know is not mine.
My neighbors habitually toss cans, broken things, and sometimes tree limbs into my yard.
I do not vandalize my neighbors’ property.
My neighbors trample my fence, and one has cut my roses to the ground.
What a nice place to live is Sturgeon Bay.
It can’t be envy; I live so far below poverty level that I will never see over the edge. So what is it? Do they hate me because I’m not young and live alone? Is it because I’m not healthy and wealthy?
Is it just because I don’t make a lot of trouble?
Variations on an old rant.
You have no idea how to construct a decent sentence and really don’t care.
You can not or will not use sensible formatting, and stick your readers with a mass of run-together text and/or other discourteous and inhospitable barriers to comfortable reading.
You misspell characters’ names. Really, this stuff is in print, it’s in a book, you can look it up. This is supposed to be fanfic, for cryin’ out loud, it’s all about the characters.
You don’t have a story, just an “idea”, and it’s never going anywhere. You will either peter out after a dozen posts or natter on into infinite boredom.
You believe what your readers say about your great story and your great writing…and because of that, you will never get any better.
Most of this could be recycled under the title: Why I Won’t Beta Read Your (Unfinished) Novel.