Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Technology succeeds and fails

to impress me.

That's probably not a surprise, and familiarity is a big source of unreasonable contempt for me.

The prompt for this post was use of a cheap Lite-On external DVD drive. I've become less impressed with Linux Mint/cinnamon of late, and even though the machine I'm using is relatively powerful for most of my needs, stuff like browsing seems really sluggish and scrolling jerky and hesitant, so it's back to Distro-hunt again.

I just plugged the drive into this laptop, popped a blank disc in it, right clicked on the Debian-gnome .iso file and selected burn. The drive spun up with an amazing amount of energy for such a tiny, slender device, I was quite astonished - normally when used for playing DVDs it whispers away quietly to itself.

In half a minute the DVD was ready, and I'm presently installing Debian-Gnome on my testing drive, replacing elementary thats really had almost no use. I really liked the idea of Elementary: it looked a lot like Pear Linux (and that's a good thing) though somewhat cruder and less refined. But it seemed a bit glitchy, sometimes unstable, and coupled with the attitude of the developer I've not really been interested enough to pursue it.

So enter Debian.

The guys at Mint do a version of Debian that I'd tried a couple of times and found reasonably quick, but it was always MINT Debian, and seemed like more of the same. This time I wanted to try Debian 8 from the developers themselves, hence giving it a go. I've also been interested in seeing were Gnome 3 has got to with their desktop environment, so this was a chance to do both. I also have a Debian image with XFCE as the desktop environment, so if Gnome proves too clunky, as I suspect, there will be a lightweight alternative to evaluate.

I'm also feeling somewhat impatient. Several versions of Debian were available for download, and I'd *thought* that selecting the first would give me the default desktop on the disk, rather than core OS only as it turns out, and so I have another 30min to wait while Gnome is downloaded to compete the install.

Ho hum.

Might just carry on blogging then.

My good friend Marc Vandersluys, blogging at The Eagle And Child (link to the left) was puzzling recently about the point of SciFi, and not 'getting' what was interesting to make one want to read an entire book. He was struggling with being thrown into a sea of information without a rope of understanding to cling to and allow him to make sense of apparently arcane details:

Despatch 11437~990 to the vice Glorg, sector Syllaphis 2: Greetings Humpherl, the moon is now total and we await your teardrop.

I love this voyage of discovery, of piecing together and being forced to draw conclusions as to what's really going on, having to continually link evidence and information to create a picture and understanding out of words that are mostly familiar, but meanings that are not. It's somewhat of what I do for work, and it's somewhat like using Linux - a bit of trial and error, a bit of exploring new worlds and new ways of doing the same things. And in the end, scifi is pretty much ALWAYS about people doing the same things in slightly new ways, even when it incorporates aliens with apparently different requirements.

Now, I recogise I'm starting to ramble a little here, but the install is nearly over.

I read much less scifi these days and far more classical literature - which isn't so very different really - but I have recently stumbled across an old BBC TV series that I found refreshing and WAY more adventurous than I'd ever though possible for TV, though this was from the 80s, when people had more than 15 sec attention span for stuff they didn't understand.

I downloaded the first episode of Sapphire and Steel, starring David McCallum (ex-Man From UNCLE) and Johanna Lumley (ex New Avengers). There's a chemistry between them that helps overcome the wooden 80's style TV acting, but better than that, the story is presented in a way that makes you look for a rope in a tossing sea. Brilliant, and everything that Hollywood scifi isn't, including an absolutely miniscule budget and zero CGI. I strongly recommend finding, downloading & watching (it's >2 hours long).

Anyway, back to my title.

Last Saturday we went looking at tablet computers, not least in order that Chris might become familiar with Android so she could use my phone, and we had some tesco vouchers to use up. Tesco's Hudl 2 has a great reputation as a budget tablet with good performance and great screen, but in the store it seemed childishly gaudy, with a slightly laggy performance and uninspiring feel. The cheap windows 8.1 tablet next to it had a much lower res screen, yet felt so much better to use. I also tried a Lenovo Yoga 10" tablet in staples (very heavily reduced) and the performance and design again seemed much better.

The Chris asked me why I wanted a tablet.

That rather killed it, TBH. Tablets are primarily media consumption devices, rather than working tools, though they will double up for sat-nav, lightweight portable email platforms, e-book readers etc etc. And I've lost patience with my Kobo.

But I realised I wanted a toy, not a tool.

I'm typing this on an i7 quad-core laptop with 16GB Ram and QHD screen - it's a real workstation. Chris uses the Macbook for watching DVDs when sat on the settee, and it's my travel computer too. There's the livingroom desktop that I'm just fiddling with right now. Chris has another desktop computer upstairs for accounts and there's the little Philips 12" laptop that I bought for Africa (in case someone stole it - effectively disposable) that Ben used during the winter. We're computered out, but I'm fascinated to find out if a tablet can be more that just an overgrown phone, as well as replacing the Kobo.

So we didn't buy anything. That's not to say we won't in the future, but probably for the best right now.

And that Debian is STILL installing - makes Windows look positively rapid.

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