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We’re Getting Old: I’m Getting Old

Salmon Dinner

Our dinner consisted of 1 of the last 2-2 lb salmon fillets from Ilamna, fresh roasted asparagus from ProFarm, and Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend.

This realization does not come lightly. I have consistently resisted this thought. I’ve fought against it. I’ve argued it. I’ve stated that age is a state of mind. I continue to believe that life must be celebrated, not dreaded. But, slowly, in my 34th year, the realization has set: I am getting old.

There is something about 34 that rings differently to me. It’s one step closer to 35. Something about 35 is so close to 40. Those I know who have crept past 35 show their age in different ways. Some show it in their eyes. Some show it in their calm demeanor. Some show it in their resignation. Something about getting close to 40 that sets the perspective wheels in motion.

Today, it was technology that set off the thought. This thought has percolated since my birthday. I segment my 30s in threes. Between 30 and 33 it’s the first bit, the early thirties. 34 to 36 is the mid thirties. This is followed by the latter thirties with the age range 37-39. And, after 39 is 40. And, shouldn’t we have it all figured out at 40? I’m nearing half way through my 34th year. It’s another year of introspection, and today I was considering technology.

I don’t want to learn anymore technology. (More or less says the gal with the iPhone who covets a new Retina Macbook Pro and wants to integrate her house on the cloud with a dream kitchen of touch screen recipes perhaps sequenced into the stove.) I’ve mastered countless databases. I’ve learned expert levels of Word and Excel. I could navigate any Windows system (XP and earlier) like counting freckles on the back of my hand. I could trouble shoot any system to the awe of the computer frightened, walking in like the Savior to rescue a mis-saved document.

But now, my speech stutters to find the right terms. I’m tired of how it changes all the time. I don’t care about learning the new Windows (7), the new version of Ubuntu, or where the print icons in Mac are and how they differ. I just want it to stay the same. I want it to all be stagnate for a while.

But now, my speech stutters to find the right terms. I’m tired of how it changes all the time. I don’t care about learning the new Windows (7), the new version of Ubuntu, or where the print icons in Mac are and how they differ. I just want it to stay the same. I want it to all be stagnate for a while.

And, while I was considering this, with whatever technological gizmo that set off the thought, it occurred to me that I am old. I’m tired of the fast pace whizzing by. I am tired, and I can’t keep up. I want routines (4p dinner anyone?) and consistency so I can just work on what I want to work on. No longer do I care about the next new thing. No longer am I impressed with how fast our cloud-based app world moves. I am complaining about the speed of life, like an old person, so that must mean I am old.

My son has admitted that I’m old on a few occasions now. So, that gives further credibility to the claim.

And, then tonight, my friend pontificates over dinner the difference between smoking and Facebook. That’s right, she argued that Facebook has supplanted smoking in after-dinner routines (as I uploaded my dinner pictures to Facebook). She queried, “What? Are we so bored with our friends that we must look to our technological gadgets to entertain us?” Certainly not a new argument. I enjoyed the cigarette comparison where we are giving our idle hands something to do. But, “No,” I eventually countered. I think it’s just that we’re getting old. (My Facebook upload aside.) We are older so we can sit longer and be quiet longer. It’s these young kids (the person in question is 26) who need constant entertainment to grab them. They have not been thoroughly, or properly, introduced to quiet mediations and the importance of silence in conversation.

Yes, I think it is simply that we are getting old. And, you know, I’m finally okay with it.

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Toying with Technology

Camera Exlporations

I’ve itched to upgrade this laptop for some time. I like to experiment with technology, but I am limited in what I can do with our low-powered desktop. Instead, I like to play with the low-powered laptop.

First, it could be noted that my husband and I are cheap when it comes to technology. We don’t buy new: cellphones, computers, or tvs. We buy them used or get them for free because a kindly relative is upgrading and they feel sorry for our ill-begotten technology.

It’s a conundrum to be sure since I love it. I like to learn it, play with it, and toy with it. But, I don’t like to spend money on it. We received our first laptop, or rather, I experimented with my first laptop when I met my husband before he became my husband. At the time I was without mobile, without digital camera, and only possessed one desktop computer which I let be the “house computer”. When he came into my world, I mistakenly assumed he loved technology since he had a fancy (at the time) phone, snazzy digital camera, and a laptop!

I have since learned my husband loathes technology (those darn engineers are always screwing things up), and he got many of these items from his dad. Sure, he enjoys their functionality, but he really despises when they break. He can fix cars, but computers are getting harder and harder. I’m the software guru of this family.

Well that laptop died, and in one of our Michigan trips, his father allowed him to switch out the dead laptop for one of many IBM ThinkPad‘s he acquired when the local community college upgraded. My husband also despises tiny laptop screens, so the ThinkPad became mine.

When we made the switch to Ubuntu, I became even more excited about the flexibility I have with playing with software. I don’t have to worry about licenses since most of the open source software I use is free. I could word process, formulate, draw, and listen to music better than Microsoft ever allowed. And, I had the opportunity to change when the distribution changed… EVERY six months!

I enjoyed perusing tv shows with the laptop on my lap while I checked out Facebook, my email, and updated my blog. Then, a year ago, something happened. Suddenly, the wireless stopped working. We found a cheap Ethernet cord, so that worked to keep connected to the DSL. But, then, the battery got even slower. It was already slow, but it got even s l o w e r.

Suddenly, reformatting didn’t work. I thought I had made an Ethernet connection, but tonight I’m not so sure. The poor thing has even gotten picky about where it will work. It will, for example, connect to the wireless at work, but won’t recognize anything at home — and it’s even a new modem!

Tonight, I upgraded to the newest available, stable, Ubuntu distribution, 11.04. The laptop is too old to use Unity, but Chromium works. My system isn’t bogged down, and I am blogging. Yes! I can toy with technology.

That doesn’t mean I’m not craving a new $400 Acer laptop. Because I am.

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20 Years in Open Source

Okay, so this title isn’t completely correct. I don’t really know the beginnings of Open Source. I do know that I blog on an Open Source platform. I browse Open Source. And, at home, I compute Open Source.

20 Years of Linux: Then & Now
The Linux Foundation created this snappy graphic to detail our technological evolution over the last few decades.
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The Simple Life

Hiding with rabbit.
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I should probably say the simple-ish life. My husband commented tonight how much he appreciates our modest lifestyle. I absolutely agree.

Where we are not modest: we own three cars, we have two computers, we own a digital camera, we eat out monthly, we like to buy things like tools and books. I’m sure a simpler person could comment on all our lavish luxuries, but I’ll focus on those.

The cars, first, are all paid off. Two are identical in color, year, make, model. One was purchased as a parts car a few years after we purchased the first as wedding gift to ourselves. The third was a vehicle my husband needed at the time, so he splurged on something he wanted. He made the last payment on the modest loan a year before we got married.

We live in a 966 sq ft house on a 50’x 100′ lot. It is more cluttered inside than I like, and it’s not as cluttered as what my husband is used to. The funny thing is, we both have places of employment where our work spaces are nearly pristine and free of clutter. I feel a splurge on shelving/organizing tools could be beneficial for the home life. But, regardless, it is modest. I am using the $10 desk purchased before I met my husband, which is on a computer that I bought myself before I met my husband that has been swapped with parts from my father in law and redone with Ubuntu. Read: re-purposed computer with open source software. The digital camera was a gift. Our cell phones are hand-me-downs. Our table, that we love, was a Goodwill special that came with six chairs.

It would be a lie to say we don’t aspire to nicer things. But, we’re trying to keep our priorities in check by making sure my husband has the tools he wants/needs for work before his student discount goes away. We’re trying to keep those priorities in check by paying off my school loans a little bit at a time.

Much of the clothing for us or our son is gifted, from volunteer events, or second hand stores. (Save things like the Drunken Prayer t-shirt my husband must have.)

Lately, my husband has been riding his bicycle to work, which means Levi and I have been taking the car instead of the SUV. We’ve been taking the non-freeway route as it offers fewer encounters with other cars. These steps lessen daily stress. These steps encourage not wanting more. (Although, I do crave a VOLT if GM would get them out to the mass market.)

Levi got birthday/Christmas money. We haven’t let him spend it all in one spot. First, how many toys does a kid really need? Second, I received different budgeting lessons as a kid, but I want to make sure Levi’s are more obvious. So, we’ll stagger the spending.

Our neighbors use small space much more efficiently than we do. But, we certainly don’t really crave or seek the new tv, tivo, dvd, extra special system. I think in part it’s due to our location where thrift in many ways is more celebrated. This is one of my fears when we go back to Michigan (read: five year plan) – that the “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality will seep into our subconscious and consume. Instead of getting tvs for free, as I have historically done, will we find ourselves wanting to purchase one?

I sure hope not. I hope we can remember the stress-less-ness of this supposed simple life.

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Learning by Smartphone

Talking on the phone and using a computer.
Talking on the phone and using a computer. Image by alexis22578 via flickr.

I needed two phone numbers, right then – at that moment. I didn’t have them. It was a technical difficulty with a conference phone we were using. We had to patch our two callers in instead of using the call-in number.

I never wrote their numbers down.

My boss grabbed her smartphone and started the email check in – need your numbers now please. I called the office to get data from the database. The president began emailing on her phone to further the queries and check the data in her address book.

It was another moment where I wished I had a smartphone.

I covet the dastardly little devils. I enjoy technology, playing with it, learning it, exploring it. But, I also prefer open source technology which often comes with a low or no cost option. So, not buying a smartphone hasn’t been that difficult given the price tag it adds by years’ end.

I also enjoy stories and learning from other people. I haven’t purchased a smartphone for many reasons.

  1. Because of this techonology love, a weakness is staying on the computer too long.
  2. Because of my drive to try to do a good job, I tend to be on the computer too long.
  3. It’s good to take a break and it’s easier to do that when I have the gumption to turn the thing off or not have the thing – I know it will be hard to turn the thing off once I have it.
  4. As such, I’m not on all the time, so why would I want to receive messages all  the time?

After the missing numbers and the smartphone exploration two members reiterated my concerns.

  1. I have had clients email me at midnight on Friday, then complain on Monday when I didn’t respond.
  2. I really don’t like getting emails with questions I can’t answer when I’m not at my desk. It actually makes me feel more efficient.

Yes, thought I, this expands on why not.

So, this simple post is twofold. First, reiterating why I won’t buy into this covetous technology. But, also describing how we can learn.

Recently, someone close to me tried to argue that it is impossible to learn from other people’s mistakes.

She stated, repeatedly, that she felt it is not possible for another to learn from the mistakes I made.

She didn’t have to explain why she felt that way because intrinsically I knew where she was coming from. It’s like the father-son relationship. Father can explain to son all the bad things he did and how it affected him, but at some point, son needs to experience it for himself and come to his own conclusions.

On that intellectual level, I will buy that. I can buy that. I do buy that.

But, if son was a smart boy, after experiencing it for himself, he would be wise to compare his experiences with his father’s. “Oh, Dad explained that and this happened. And that just happened to me. I should be cautious that this other thing could happen.” (I’m reticent to give examples lest I think too gory for my own mind.)

So, this smartphone example will have to suffice. I know I covet the expensive toy. I know there are limitations to what I will realistically be able to accomplish with this expensive toy. It was refreshing to hear other stories of how people use their expensive toy to inform any future decisions I might make regarding it.

I have learned from their stories. I will compare my situation to further educate myself . I will be a part of progress for the better evolvement of our human society.

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Ubuntu 10.4 LTS

Ubuntu 10.4 TLS with Shutter
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

The computer is doing several things right now. Email is up. A file browser is up. A picture, describing these processes is up. An archive is open, awaiting the WordPress 3.0.5 update. Filezilla is up, downloading the most recent copy of this blog. Evolution is up, restored, and checking messages – all mail filters and calendar functions working. Gadmin-Rsync is merging external hard-drive music onto this limited hard-drive.

The joys of our technological age.

I’d show you that picture that’s waiting, but I don’t have the correct write permissions on my wp-content folder. Olivia, I can hear you thinking, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah,” in Charlie Brown fashion. Bear with me, this is a tech report.

I don’t even have Zemanta installed to connect with my flickr to by-pass these permissions and give suggestions to older posts where I discuss my computer woes. Alas, the old fashioned way will have to do tonight.

Some time ago, almost a year and a half ago, I got rid of Windows and opted for Ubuntu. I am the tech person in my family. Upgrades are my decision, and I teach others how to cope. I troubleshoot problems, I figure out what’s wrong, I backup data. That is my role because that is my skill. Sure, I know more than enough to be dangerous, but not by much. So, this morning, when I was cleaning out unused programs, I also deleted something that depended on something else. I got rid of a dependency. One I shouldn’t have.

Suddenly, my menues weren’t working, I couldn’t move windows, and the computer was moving even slower than before.

It’s time, I thought. It’s time to do what I did for a friend: Boot it, nuke it, redo.

Ubuntu 10.4 TLS, the background.
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I was told sometime ago that computers can benefit from that annual purge. I haven’t done it on this, even upgrading from the networked version to a higher Ubuntu version, on the hope that Linux will power over all. The problem, I fear though, with this set up is the inconsistent hardware. Proprietary video cards, old mother boards, and certainly not enough USB ports. But, alas, we’re cheap, and we’re not buying new, so this will have to do.

Almost four hours after Duke was inserted, we had a clean slate. The first try of the install failed because it had nearly-Four-year-old finger smudges. Once those were cleared away, we had a clean install, well mostly – I think some of those hardware errors have reared their ugly head stating some I/O Error on sd0 (the default name, I believe, assigned to our hard-drive). But, it restarted fine, and the rest of the evening in between dinner, bedtime, and laundry folding, has been getting the programs I do use installed, and then the file migration.

Thank you, WordPress for adding to the computer restart day. Once I get that situated, maybe I can show that picture.

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Tux, the Linux penguin
Image via Wikipedia

One of my first jobs was at Michigan State University in the computer labs. Working as a Lab Monitor Service Provider. I was eventually promoted to a Lead Lab Service tech-person. I have many years experience in a multi-platform computer lab. Yea. I have Windows, Mac, Unix, and now Linux experience. Yippee. (Snood was made for Macs, originally, and free, and lots of fun.)

Now, we live in a Linux household. This is my doing. This is my choice and my direction. One which my husband acquiesces too with the disclaimer that he wouldn’t do so if it wasn’t for his “Tech Tweety Beans (that’s me).”

A friend recently asked me to help her put Windows XP back on her 5 year old laptop. She didn’t like Ubuntu 10.4, Lucid Lynx, too much of a learning curve from MS Office 2007 down to Open Office 3.2, I presume. Granted, it is different, but I prefer it because of the Windows headaches, and I find the learning curve easy and made easier with the benefits of Linux (integrated note system, the icons, the Gnome panels, the true plug and play nature of it all).

So, she wants to go back to Windows, creature of habit, I get it. I don’t have time right now for Ubuntu lessons (teaching), so let’s get her up and running. We took Duke and Nuked her machine, wiping it clean. Did the Windows install, and she left to finish up on her own.

The Drivers. This was Reason #1 why I switched. She couldn’t get all the drivers to load. She got some, she found some Internet connection somehow, but her wireless wasn’t working, so she asked for more help. I was reminded, full force, why I switched. Neither of us enjoy the “you must buy new to get it working” mentality our computer society operates under. The motherboard we are currently using was built in 2001. We have our own hardware mistakes, but at least our computer runs.

So, my friend brings over her laptop, and we plug it in. We were able to upgrade the various drivers, and it recognized her wireless, finally. So, we tried it out. For some reason, when it came to her wireless connection (my friend is two doors down), it wouldn’t let any alpha entering of a password, only numeric. My wireless connection worked, so we weren’t really sure what the problem was. So, I asked if she didn’t mind if I started over. She agreed.

So, I took Duke’s Boot & Nuke and erased her hard-drive again (the original erasure to Ubuntu was to attempt to correct a virus on the her hard-drive). Installed Windows, and went to do a few updates before I updated the drivers. Windows circumvented: the first drive that needed to be updated was for the Ethernet. So, I go to my Ubuntu PC to Dell’s page to download her drivers manually. (She doesn’t have the recovery CD.)

Dell said I needed to be on a Windows machine. No joke. I could add things to the queue, but I could not even download individually.

So, I logged in remotely to work. And, I began the process.

While on lunch at work, when I finally got there, there were still problems with Dell’s queue and the Windows XP machine! I was able to get most of her drivers, hoping they were the correct ones since – of course – the names didn’t even match! I couldn’t load the ISO, and I couldn’t get the ISO to save correctly on my Dropbox, so I opted for loading it all on my jump drive.

I get home, I plug my jump drive into her laptop, and do you know how many times it asked me to restart her computer? No less than 10. I am not even kidding.

I go through all that, get the Ethernet working, etc, and then have a brainstorm. Maybe the Wireless software only wants a numeric passcode (as it is written), so this alpha-numeric thing really won’t work. We try it through the phone, two doors down. It works to a point and quits. I attribute it to the distance. But, when she tries it at home: still no go.

So, Ubuntu worked, but Netflix did not. She can’t get into OpenOffice (and how can I really encourage it when they have their own problems with Sun and the split to LibreOffice?).

What’s a girl to do? I suggest she call Qwest since it is a Qwest modem. That will likely have to wait until Monday. But if that doesn’t work? My friend will likely find herself trying to buy a Mac. That’s right, no more Windows. Why? Because of problems like these.

  • I broke the drink holder.
  • It won’t give back my credit card.
  • It won’t turn on (monitor, printer, computer).
  • It erased my document (replaced by new Doc2).
  • Some favorites from the “Top Ten Things a Tech Person Hears.”

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Fiction: Vision

Homemade Tacos
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I wrote this for my food club in December.

December 2010

Veronica closed the walk-in cooler and loaded the six crates into the back of her lime green Volvo. Another sort done. She locked up the building, got in her car, and began the 2 mile drive to her neighborhood.

Sometimes the two miles meant 20 minutes, if the lights didn’t work in her favor, so she always used this time to reflect on the day or evening. A blur of scenes flashed in her mind. Giggles. Children scribbling wildly on small, vibrant tables. Crates stacked, loaded. Doors slamming to walk in coolers. Moms chatting. Printer printing. Keyboard keyed as invoices were updated.

Sometime ago, the club decided to make two days a month a mass sorting day. That meant, there were four sorting days total, with alternating weeks having the big orders. The first and third weeks were eggs, milk, and Azure. The first week added Frontier, and the last week added Hummingbird. Extra orders for coffee, herbs and supplements, butter, big meat orders, berries, bread, and produce were worked into the schedule. Delivery day varied, but pickups were limited to Thursday and Friday.

Food, always food was provided for or arranged. The club had non-profit status now, for three years, so sometimes fatigue required asking for a donation. Several local food providers were on the Rolodex and happy to accommodate the group and their sustainable, local desires.

Veronica thought about how much more convenient having the walk in coolers made preserving these fresh goodies. She would often giggle at how the club started, in the soggy rainy months under covered porches or not. The club really worked hard, and thoughtfully to ensure the community element remained a big part of how food is integrated. Most people chuckle at the “come for the food stay for the community” (stolen) tag-line because it’s so true.

Advice is swapped from parenting to cooking to sewing and knitting to just general life concerns. Most of the women, and while there are men, most of the members are driven by women, by default shared so many similarities that community was a natural born prodigy.

Veronica had six deliveries. 1 three streets over, 2 lived behind her, two on either side, and the sixth was hers. Other club “hub” representatives had taken their neighbors orders a few minutes before Veronica locked up. There were 20 members there tonight, and a good turnout of kids. Samantha made a delicious vegetarian pasta with a donation from a local pasta shop, another way the commercial-grade kitchen proved invaluable.

Some of the kids have grown up with the development of the club, and ones who used to wear training pants, were doing homework tonight, on Ubuntu based computers. Because the group opted for non-profit status, they were able to get computers, free, from a local computer resale non-profit. Finding inventive ways to keep overhead low is always an interesting challenge. The club was fortunate enough to work out a deal with the local development commission to get the space donated for 18 months while a plan was created to incrementally roll-in a leasing fee.

The space that is used was a restaurant, over and over, that never stuck. The real estate company could never get a good fix on a good tenant. Veronica, now having lived in the neighborhood for over a decade, was able to sell them on the 5+ years community and strong-hold the club has built. The space is big, and since the club doesn’t use it all the time, the space is shared with some entrepreneurs. Mondays it’s another taco-Mexican-food space, Tuesdays sandwiches, and Wednesday through Sunday a coffee shop.

It always makes Veronica’s heart beat a little faster and she feels flushed when she thinks of how far they came from all good intentions to making this stable community service. Sure, they provide food to 150 families, but that’s not all who’s serviced. So much knowledge is folded into the group, and they were finally able to establish a class schedule with members teaching their own specialities and raising funds for the club too.

Next year, the club will unveil its political action committee where they will really begin making policy changes.

Susan’s light is on as Veronica pulls up.

Another great sort, another great night. Buying together so together we do buy better.

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BloGTK 2.0

This is BloGTK 2.0. It’s a front-end program that will allow you to post to your blog… kind of with out trying. I don’t know how image/video management will work.

I decided to remove my beloved window manager, Compiz Fusion. With the computer running so hard so often, and when I would check the processes that were taking up space – compiz fusion came up every time. Too many hitches, programs not working, possible conflicts with my proprietary driver… So. I uninstalled it. Super Tux, Secret Maryo, and Gcompris all seem to work or work better now. I read that low-end hardware could be the problem… and we know this mother board is 8 years old. So. It’s sad, but maybe it’s just a reality I need to accept.

We’ll see how this works… 🙂

A Wiki Guide that provided some suggestions.

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More Karmic Koala

Ubuntu wordmark official
Image via Wikipedia

If you’ve read this blog, you know we installed Ubuntu after or vacation in September when windows kindly gave us the Black Screen of Death (NTLDR Missing).  Peter has a love hate relationship with it, but he had a similar relationship with Windows.  Granted, I wish he’d love Ubuntu 9.10 as much as I do, but I’ll take what I can get.  And, what I can get is free.  We’ve had a combination of hardware and software problems, so it’s not always easy to diagnose.  Thankfully, Ubuntu has a terrific user’s forum where kindly users offer needed help.  Today, I’m going to include some of my favorite things about Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala.  Continue reading More Karmic Koala