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Saturday, June 27th, 2020, 10:28 pm

When the Desk is Too Narrow Go Portrait Mode, Not Landscape

Click to zoom

setup-portrait

Summary: The old workspace mode had one screen on top of another, which was sub-optimal (one screen was too distant to see properly). So I spent a few hours reshuffling the layout again, on a desk with limited width. My screens now stay in portrait mode permanency. It will not rotate into landscape mode on the right, as I have scripts that rely on that particular screen layout. This is so much better. I see a lot more without having to move the head, only the eyes.

Monday, June 15th, 2020, 1:12 pm

The ‘Second Phase’ in the UK is No Shopping Time (Unless You’re Really Desperate)

The Manchester experience, day 1

Main Line Railway Station 2

For the past two weeks if not longer we’ve sort of looked forward to some stores reopening. After about 80 days of lock-down some things in the house were broken and probably needed replacing. I expected the city to be packed with people and stores to have loads of discounts (sales). How wrong was I…

To be fair, we have no prior experience when it comes to this. The last pandemic that hit the UK (at a scale remotely like this) was over 100 years ago and a lot of things were different back then, so any shallow/superficial parallels don’t quite apply.

Today was my first time putting the mask on because usually, at least for food shopping, I chose small stores where isolation was super-easy and a mask barely needed (there’s already a plastic screen near check-out tills/clerks. Cash is OK as long as you don’t touch the face, even when it’s itchy.

The mask is really irritating. The heat in particular. Breathing isn’t too easy either; it’s kind of a nuisance. So you’re already uncomfortable just by ‘virtue’ of being there. Not for a few minutes but hours….

We left the home at 9AM and came back at around 1PM. I don’t think we’ll go back to these stores for at least a month. We just bought what we really needed. And looking back, maybe it wasn’t really worth the bother; we could wait a while longer…

The main observations worth making:

  1. There are very long queues, sometimes huge ones. It depends on the stores’ size and appeal. Hard to think of people so desperate to stand in line (waiting in those means being outside)…
  2. There were very few people in the mall and out in the streets. Like 10 times less whatever I was expecting. Even after almost 4 hours we still didn’t see many people. So it’s not about our early arrival time…
  3. Most or least at very many stores are still shut, they don’t bother even if they’re now formally allowed to reopen. Makes one wonder how many are technically bankrupt or may be too afraid to reopen for health reasons/or and expectation of dire sales. Maybe people aren’t receiving a salary, so they lack finances or financial security/confidence (uncertainty about the future).
  4. For each store that is open, bar few, the experience inside the store is like a guided tour; it’s so limited, losing much of the appeal of in-store shopping (permissible and impermissible walking routes)
  5. We got lots of hand sanitiser, as each shop advises if not forces you apply it. Again and again.
  6. Not only does store staff issue guidance; inside the malls (not stores), even while merely walking in the aisles, one has to follow some odd rules and instructions of mall workers must be obeyed

The bottom line is, unless it is really essential, like an item that must be purchased and carried in person (or paid for anonymously), I’d advise to not bother. The way things stand, the experience is painful, unsatisfying, and I think reduction in consumerism may be the best solution right now. We aren’t going back there any time soon; not because we don’t want to support local stores (we do!) but because there’s clearly a severe problem here. And if people are not willing to spend or lack the budget to spend (borrowings must be hard now), I dread thinking about what summer will look like for businesses, causing social unrest if not societal breakdown.

Sunday, May 31st, 2020, 5:10 am

COVID-19 Proves Brexit is Based on a Lie

“Brexit death toll” (or “cost of Tories”) might as well fit this chart

COVID-10 deaths in UK

THE myth of superiority — intellectual and practical (or economic) — has long been disproved by the current pandemic, which likely killed over 50,000 Brits already (source: FT). The British Empire romantics aside, it’s not easily provable nor demonstrable that Britain is better than the rest of Europe (on average). This was in fact the key premise if not promise of Brexit. And look where we are now… barely able to even reopen stores safely. We’re ranked second in the world for number of deaths after the US (just like the Olympic Games medal tally the same year as Brexit referendum). It’s a political blunder as well as a reminder that Brexit harmed the NHS by driving away many nurses, putting in charge the same demagogue who acted all arrogant about COVID-19 while privatising our healthcare, in turn causing a shortage of (not out-of-date) medical equipment.

With arrogance comes carelessness and in the long term self harm. Such is the nature of Brexit and the old generation that overwhelmingly voted for it pays the highest price. Us younger people will have to spend several more generations living with their short-sighted mistakes.

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020, 8:58 am

6 Heads Under $1000

My desk in May

WITH a bunch of low-cost hardware, some of which as cheap as under $200 (for laptops!) from displays or ‘pre-owned’ (slightly used), I’ve managed to build my workspace over the years. The cost may seem hard to believe; there used to be 4 laptops, but one died a month ago after 11 years (when it was bought by my wife in 2009 it cost more than those 3 laptops combined) and the remaining items — both screens and laptops — cost less than $1000. 3 screens, 3 laptops. The cost of the most expensive laptop — my main workstation — was less than the cost of the chair (224 pounds) and software costs are zero (GNU/Linux is free and all the applications I ever use cost nothing).

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020, 2:50 am

Nobody Benefits From COVID-19

THE crisis is not “fake” and it is not “manufactured”. Speaking for myself, based on extensive readings, it’s the latest epidemic of many and if people passed COVID-19 around by acting as if it’s “business as usual”, millions would already be dead, either due to weak resistance or lack of hospital/ICU beds.

The economy is screaaaaaaammming at the moment; I speak to people every day about it. We barely leave the house and don’t meet anybody in person, except shopkeepers behind a plastic screen (installed last month). My wife and I are both remote workers and have been that for many years, so the pandemic didn’t take its toll on it. Yesterday I ran out of coffee again. We try to shop for food as infrequently as possible to keep healthy and keep others safe, too. My doctoral degree was in Medical Biophysics, so I know a thing or two about health. We also routinely urge people to stay home; it does in fact save lives. Here in Britain the true COVID-19 death toll is estimated to be somewhere around 50,000, based on a Financial Times investigation (the “official” figures aren’t complete; they hide how poorly our government has done, likely worst in Europe).

I am saddened to be speaking to increasingly ‘rebellious’ types, blaming the wrong things or the wrong people. Unemployment will drive more people we used to know as stable and rational into the verge of insanity and boredom will reaffirm this insanity of theirs. The Internet has anything one looks for (affirmation). YouTube has no lack of “cranks with webcams” in it…

I’ve given some thought to the economic situation right now, bearing in mind deep national and personal debts in the West. Hours ago our bank sent out an E-mail to everybody, calling a temporary relief from mortgage payments “holiday”. As if slavery till death (“mort”) is even remotely connected to a holiday…

But people are getting desperate. Our government sends out mixed and contradictory statements, e.g. that we’re getting this thing under control (the numbers suggest otherwise) and that we can reopen in 5 days (they mean very limited if not staged openings; without public confidence even open stores will remain vacant, costing them more to operate than they can earn!).

I’ve put down some mental notes, narrowing down the employment types/status right now to something like this:

  1. employed with job security (albeit clients, the revenue/supply, may perish and run out of funds)
  2. employed with uncertainty and prohibitive conditions/deadlines
  3. employed with reduced pay/time/benefits (I heard about those from some people)
  4. temporarily unemployed with real prospects of resumption later (usually no pay)
  5. temporarily unemployed no certainty of resumption (limbo)
  6. unemployed, cannot find job (not many openings and those that exist are competitive; cannot have face-to-face interviews, training etc.)
  7. retired (but retirement savings lose on interest, inflation)

Based on the above list, it’s hard to say that anyone is better off, either collectively/nationally or personally. And no, China isn’t benefiting either. Nobody is buying its stuff now; there’s no demand, resentment aside. What about the super-rich? Well, they might be drooling over bailouts (plunder), but one can think of these as compensation or insurance rather than a permanent alternative revenue source (which is practically a form of socialism for the rich, robbing the taxpayers to keep the super-wealthy almost as wealthy as before).

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020, 8:58 am

Three Quarter of a Million Tweets

750k tweets

MY decade at Twitter was last year. I joined it after I had posted a bunch of stuff in identi.ca, then decided to post copies in Twitter. 750k tweets later identi.ca is almost defunct and I primarily post in Pleroma and JoinDiaspora. Does that mean that I completely ignore Twitter? Not just yet. I check replies I receive there about once a day.

Twitter isn’t a good site, but sadly that’s where many people still are…

Sunday, December 8th, 2019, 12:00 pm

2 Decades Without Windows

“Windows 98 should have been released for free on Jan. 1, 1996 and titled Windows 95.1. If this were Hollywood, then Windows 98 would be the equivalent of ‘Heaven’s Gate’, ‘Waterworld’ and ‘Godzilla’ rolled into one. A huge, overhyped, bloated, embarrassment.”

Jesse Berst, ZDNet editor

MY GENERATION (I’m 37) grew up on DOS. Not necessarily Microsoft DOS, either. Just DOS. As a kid I used to work from the command line. We, as kids, taught one another new tricks; sometimes an adult would visit to teach us things and copy some programs for us (floppy disks with compressed archives). Various utilities like RAR were useful. Sometimes an infection (malicious program) needed to be removed. That was before the days of Windows 3.x — the days we used ncurses-type interfaces to type documents and send these to printers. Later on I did some programming with batch files and at around age 15 I started with Pascal (quite popular at the time owing to simplicity and relative elegance).

I mostly missed the BBS generation (some friends of mine used it; they’d copy for us files they got from there). When bulletin board systems were still popular many computers did not even have modems (few of my classmates had them, usually because of lack of a technical parent, and only one of them was a GNU/Linux user in the mid/late nineties). I think I got my first modem when I was 14 and IRC was probably the first thing I used “on-line”. After Windows 95, which many people used at that time, I bought my last Windows laptop. Actually, my father bought it. He used it and then passed it to me. It had only 32 MB of RAM and Windows 98. I carried it around and used it in university as an undergraduate student (at the faculty I used GNU/Linux at the time). It retired years later and I’ve not bothered with Windows since then. I wrote a great deal about it in USENET at the time. Memories from these days are mostly gone by now; I barely ever touch Windows and when I do it’s over Remote Desktop, typically to access a client’s network, e.g. to run PuTTY from a remote system. That happens about once a month (patching Debian GNU/Linux servers).

Was Windows 98 a decent operating system? No, it was unreliable, but at least it ran on modest hardware without much RAM. I ran Firefox on it, with a total system capacity of something from the mid-nineties (~400MegaHertZ CPU, 32 MB of RAM). That was before Microsoft added back doors to Windows (this was reportedly done in 1999), before the bloat of NT and before DRM (Vista).

With 3 weeks left before the end of this year (and this decade) I remember not so fondly the 90s, back when I used Windows. In 2000 I moved to GNU/Linux, helped by a Finnish friend, an exchange student at the university. In a sense, next year I become a 20-year GNU/Linux user.

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