Weeknote, Sunday 8th May 2022

With the demise of the ivy on the back fence came the discovery there wasn’t much in the way of a back fence left. The ivy has grown over it; it’s evolved through it. In fact, the ivy was really all that was holding up the fence. So technically, the fence isn’t ours: it belongs to our neighbour at the back. However, our neighbour at the back is a student house where the landlord really hasn’t done much to maintain the garden (hence, of course, the demise of the fence). There’s already one fence panel which has collapsed which he hasn’t replaced. I suspect getting him to replace these will be another long, drawn-out affair.

Two days in a row in London left me feeling drained. I’m not sure if it’s post-covid effects or just a combination of getting older and my body not being well looked after, but I have much less energy now than I had even a handful of years ago. So the only thing to do is try and push through it as gently as possible and be more active.

For me, that means gentle walks and making more of my bike. I miss cycling: it’s something that I never really took up in London but had done a lot of in Brighton and before that in St Albans. I have to keep reminding myself that it was long ago. It’s about seventeen years since I moved from the coast to the city.

Adventures in Linux

I have converted my ThinkPad into a dedicated Linux computer. I always had half a mind to do this — it is one of the reasons I went for a ThinkPad rather than a more exciting Windows laptop — but I was surprised by how much improved Linux was since the last time I used it in anger. Then I remembered that would have been about fifteen years ago; I would be surprised if Linux hadn’t improved.

At first, I just partitioned the drive and left Windows on there, but after a day of tinkering, I realised there was absolutely no need to keep Windows about. For emergencies, I have other Windows laptops (my gaming machine may sound like a jet engine, but it’s a more than capable computer), and Linux was running more than smoothly enough.

At first, I installed Zorin OS, an excellent distribution if you are coming from Windows and still want to run Windows apps. It has a nice feature which lets you just double click on a Windows application, and it will install Wine and any other bits and pieces you need to run it. You can also make it look like Windows 10 or 11 if you want, and it comes with plenty of software pre-installed.

When I decided to nuke Windows entirely, I also saw that the latest long-term support (LTS) version of Ubuntu is out, 22.04. I like LTS versions of open source software. You’re not at the cutting edge of things, but it will work well for a very long time. Canonical supports LTS versions of Ubuntu for at least five years.

Hence, I’m typing this using Typora, my Markdown editor for Mac and windows, which has a Linux version. I’ve shifted to using Firefox as my browser across the board, and there’s even a version of Microsoft Teams for work. So far, so good.

Ubuntu took a bit more tweaking to get looking how I wanted than Zorin did. In particular, fractional scaling (which bumps the size of the UI up and which is needed for me on a 14in 1920×1200 screen) made text annoyingly fuzzy. The answer was to keep scaling at 100% but use the accessibility features to switch to large text. I wouldn’t call it large, but it’s definitely bigger (I’d say about 125% of normal) and sharp.

I will write something longer about why I wanted to start using Linux again. The short version is that I’m not thrilled about the direction of travel of either Apple or Microsoft is building in more and more integration which ties you into their software and services stacks. Just using Apple or Microsoft or Google is incredibly convenient, but there might come the point where switching costs become so high that it’s really impossible to do. Using Linux and open source software as much as possible is less convenient — anyone who pretends otherwise is wrong — but you are paying a long term price.

Related to this, I’m shifting my saved web reading from Matter to Pocket. That’s no criticism of Matter as an app or a company, but I do not want to convert reading into another platform, yet another social network. Pocket is now owned by Mozilla, and I trust them to do the right thing. Also, I pay them, and I’m generally favouring paying for services rather than relying on generosity (or, more likely, advertising).

Reading

I haven’t done enough reading this week, partly because I’ve been tired (see above). As a result, the book stack gets ever higher. However, there have been a few long reads online which have kept me reading.

The first was this 1998 interview with Steve Wozniak. Woz, as always, comes across as just a gentle soul. And speaking of tech, this interview with Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger suggests there is still life in the old dog.

Writing

I wrote a piece on the prospect of Keir Starmer resigning and how this being a story driven hard by the Tories shows how much they are failing to think strategically.

Watching

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness was good, but not excellent: so far, of the latest phase of MCU movies, I think only Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings has been an out and out success. Next week it’s Everything everywhere all at once, which I am looking forward to immensely.

Timey-whimy universe bending stuff is all the rage right now. The season-ending episode of Picard managed to bring all the parts of the plot together in a satisfying way, but it still felt like there was far too much going on. And, of course, you can now watch season two of Russian Doll. If you haven’t watched season one, you’re a fool, just go and watch it now.

Meanwhile, on the internet

Blah blah blah Elon Musk blah blah Twitter blah blah clueless.

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