Friday, October 18, 2013


The announcement by Canonical that they are creating their own graphics stack called MIR has been inciting quite a bit of vitriol and drama among developers in a number of open source streams this year. The future of my preferred Linux distributions of late Kubuntu and Lubuntu is rather unclear at this point for future releases in 2014. I have already been plagued by broken graphics server updates a couple of times this year and it was not much fun.

As such I have been thinking about distro-hopping. Something with a big developer base, stable but not immensely fiddly to set up and maintain. After many years happily trucking along as a newbie with Ubuntu Linux and GNOME 2, and since migrating away from the "test our shiny touchscreen telephone interface with your mouse and keyboard desktop" paradigm of the Unity desktop environment, I have become a satisfied user of KDE 4 and its Qt based programs. I am much more comfortable with the command line and system management than I used to be. The enormous and easy to use Debian/Ubuntu/apt-get package tree is great, but . . .

As openSUSE is often remarked as the best implementation of KDE I started looking at that. Lots of good things have been written since the release of 12.3 earlier this year. Yast for all the system settings has often been disparaged in the past but upon testing so far seems to be great tool for nerdy total control. The rolling release Tumbleweed repository maintained by Linux hyper-guru Greg Koah-Hartman is also inviting, as well as susestudio. Lots of in depth documentation wikis are available for the things that I do not know how to do. Word is that they have reorganised the business side in a positive way under Attachmate, and openSUSE looks robust and secure as a community and foundation. They contribute a lot to the Linux Kernel in code and funds.

What are you using these days? Any comments or suggestions?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"It's the new Capitalist Realism."

Jerry Salz on the big four mega-galleries:

But we have to ask what kinds of pseudo-museums these institutions are, because in mega-­galleries, quality, quantity, availability, opportunism, and marketability are often interchangeable. One’s never sure whether these are shows of available product, stuff floating around the secondary market, collectors liquidating assets or looking to pump and dump, or the deeply felt personal passion of the dealer. One month the megas show gigantic installations of shiny crap and bric-a-brac. The next month they’re showing Reinhardt, Rauschenberg, or De Kooning.

New York Magazine

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Harlan Ellison on government surveillance

Harlan Ellison has a healthy attitude towards government surveillance. This video is worth watching, though you may want to skip the first sixty seconds of establishing shots and news anchor banter.

The crunchbang forums have some good posts about how not to be a stooge: Here's a security guide, and a link list. And the Debian project maintains a guide to securing Linux. I admit I've yet to work through these myself, but I find them very worthwhile. It's worth mentioning that the default installations of any Linux or BSD distribution are pretty secure. But we're entering a time where it's wise to have some street smarts regarding these things.

Now pardon me. I have to go plot the violent overthrow of McDonald's.

"Creativity is a business word"

This is one of my favourite David Hickey quotes, it's from this talk (Link., which is part 2 of 5.) An editorial in Salon today about the viability of the Creative Class and its place in management culture reminded me of it. (Link.)

These resonate with me because I have one foot in the applied arts and the other in the fine arts. My role in the applied arts is that of a technician, which makes me more of an observer than a participant in design decisions. One of the things that's bothered me about the design process is the extent to which excellence is not a goal. I've kind of decided that excellence can't be the primary goal in a commercial context because the foundation of excellence is failure, and the foundation of a business is repeatable success. Anyway, in design you end up in a situation where being honest will ensure you don't get work. This is when I thank my lucky stars I am a lowly technician.

A couple weeks ago I tied up my home and work machines rendering sixty colors, eight views each for a color selection on a building facade. Beige was chosen unanimously. Did I waste my time? Yes. It wasn't arduous to make the renders, and I didn't mind making them; it just involved writing a small script to swap out the colors and change views. I made them because I would have wanted to see my options in context, if I were the decision maker. This is the "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" effect.