February 27, 2002

Metaphor Starvation

One of my not-so-secret fears is that many people now are losing the ability to not just read and write effectively, but to deal with metaphor in any meaningful way. In many ways, our ability to interpret metaphor dictates how well we succeed in life. It's the whole signifier-signified thing: if I can make lots of rich connections between people, places, and things in my life, I can more readily incorporate new experiences.

That's one of the reasons why I lament the death of the so-called Classical Education. Reading the Greek and Roman classics, and being informed on the Judeo-Christian tradition, was considered vital to success in life once upon a time: no more. So when Sting in an old Police song complains of being "caught between the Scylla and Charybdis" I wonder how many people know what he is referring to (it's from Homer's The Odyssey, to save you a Google-check). The metaphor is completely lost to most of the listening audience. And this trend is only increasing in today's media-driven world -- our myths are based on athletes, movies, TV shows, and other such ephemera that probably won't survive the age we live in, much less survive for future generations.

One of the great hopes I had for the Internet was that it would drive people to create wholly new forms of art and discourse, things that would refresh our almost-dry pool of metaphors. This hope has not been fulfilled yet, and if RIAA and the MPAA have their way (via the noxious DMCA) it may never happen. To the image merchants, metaphors are product. They must be kept simple so they can be sold to as many people as possible. They must be free of real depth, so as not to challenge or offend anyone. And they must be ruthlessly recycled, over and over, until the Heat Death of the universe. I hope that we -- the netizens -- can take back control of the Internet and level the playing field with the BigCo's -- I will tell them to speak to me and not at me.

Give me some metaphors with muscle!

Blogging With Brio

I haven't been blogging enough lately. It's not so much that I have nothing to say; it's that I have so much to say that there's no time to just sit down and write it out in a thorough and thoughtful way. I don't want to become another one of those whiny, self-absorbed twentysomething bloggers who can do nothing but vent bitterness in every line they write.

When I first heard about blogs and blogging (via Advogato), I thought to myself, "So it's an online diary. So what?" However, reading stuff by Dave and Doc changed my mind: blogging is richer than that. The ability to link to other sites gives a whole new fullness to a given piece, to the extent that writing without linking should be considered rude.

February 21, 2002

Stupidity = laptop Problems

It turns out that the problem I was having with Linux on my laptop was (as usual) caused by my own stupid self. Part of the problem was that I wasn't running the apmd daemon, which can help to conserve battery power. Also, I hadn't tuned my kernel correctly for APM stuff.

Laptop working correctly now, so XP is now relegated to a distant shelf, where it can rot for all of me.

February 19, 2002

Windows XP wins the day, so sad

Sigh. I hate to admit this (really), but I had to put XP back on my laptop. Linux runs the laptop's battery down way too fast, and I don't want to be tethered to a power socket all the time. XP can drive the box for about 2 hours 30 mins on a full charge; Linux sucks the box dry in about 45 minutes. (And I have to confess -- those ClearType fonts sure are nice.)

Thank God for Cygwin -- I've still got my favorite GNU tools and command-prompt. They've even ported XFree86.

Six bodies found at crematory operator's home

http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/02/19/crematory.bodies/index.html is like something from a bad horror movie. What the hell is wrong with this guy? Ugh.

February 10, 2002

Windows XP

Okay, I gave it an honest shot. I got a new Gateway Laptop about a month ago, and it came preloaded with Windows XP. In the spirit of scientific investigation, I decided to give it a whirl for a while and see how it stacked up against not only Linux, but also Windows 2000. The upshot -- avoid Windows XP as if all the hounds of hell from The Hound of the Baskervilles were after you. Why?

First, it's slow. I mean, *really* slow. My laptop has a fairly zippy Celeron 850 in it, and XP makes it act like a Pentium 75 with 4MB of RAM. Everything just crawls. I don't know what kind of crap Microsoft layered on top of Win2K to get XP, but whatever it was, it slowed things down quite a bit.

Second, the "enhancements" are mostly eye-candy. Windows XP is mostly Win2K with prettier colors. If you already have Win2K, you'll be getting zero with XP. Don't bother.

Third, Microsoft's "product activation" (while relatively painless) is draconian and mostly unnecessary. The same for Office 2002 -- if you don't register, the product simply stops working after 50 start-ups. Forget that shit; Microsoft can take their software and jam it up their collective asses.

Fourth, the default Luna theme, while nice-looking, wastes a lot of screen real-estate to no good purpose. Microsoft *did* clean up the desktop a bit, but I don't know that they made it any easier for newbies to use. It seems like they were simply making the "skinners" happy without really addressing any of the usability issues. (For what it's worth, Apple made the same mistake in OS X.)

I should add that the best thing about XP was the ClearType font system. It really made the fonts on my LCD screen sharp and clear. After that, it was really difficult to go back to X's lousy fonts. I'm glad that anti-aliased fonts are getting more common in X these days. Fonts really are the weakest point in the X Window system these days.

Finally, I found that Windows XP's vaunted "usability" on the desktop was no better or worse than Ximian's GNOME. That's why I don't understand the constant refrains that "Linux isn't ready for the desktop". It is ready, and Ximian's GNOME is the proof.