01 October 2015

Brown-bag update

  • Umpqua Community College in Oregon: perhaps 10 people are dead in today's mass shooting; as many may be injured.
  • Terrified residents of Kunduz, Afghanistan, are reportedly in hiding as Afghan and U.S. troops battle for control of the city.
  • Signe Wilkinson, Source.
  • In Syria, an evolving alliance of government forces, fighters from Iran and Lebanon, and Russian air support, faces at least two distinct enemy groupings ... one of which is supported by the U.S. See chart at right for instant analysis.
As I try to make heads or tails out of this chaos, I'm at least comforted by the fact that Moscow Meeting's clerk has come back safely from his fact-finding visit to the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine and will be talking to us about this at our next meeting.

I suppose that the possible discovery of water on Mars ought to be at least a diversion, if not a comfort. But as my way of confessing a total lack of wisdom on any of these topics at the moment, let me provide a brief update on my new laptop -- the one I bought a couple of months ago from Dell with a factory installation of Linux instead of Windows.

I'm disappointed to report that it didn't take me long to break the operating system, or at least render it frustratingly clumsy. When I updated Ubuntu to the newest version, it booted up into a "kernel panic" -- the unresponsive computer's caps-lock light was blinking but no login screen appeared. Rebooting took me to a recovery screen that allowed choosing an earlier kernel, which then loaded fine. But this long and clunky two-step process, which other users were also reporting after updating Ubuntu, was intensely frustrating. I can't imagine how someone even less familiar than I am with debugging Linux installations was supposed to cope with this sort of complication. After having praised Dell and Ubuntu for a consumer-friendly Linux laptop, I was not pleased.

To be totally fair to Ubuntu, I really didn't need to update. The installed version was a LTS (long term support) version, for which five years of security and maintenance updates were guaranteed, and it was working fine. For me, it's just temperamentally difficult to know there's a newer version out there that I don't have!

After doing some research online, I decided that the crashes probably weren't caused by a fatal hardware flaw, so I didn't send back the Dell laptop. Instead, as I anticipated when I wrote the earlier "brown bag" post, I replaced the hard disk drive with a new Toshiba 256 GB solid state drive (SSD) for about $100. With the new drive installed and tested, I replaced the original operating system with Linux Mint 17.2 Cinnamon edition, using a bootable USB flash drive I had prepared in advance. (Search online for "creating a bootable USB drive" and just follow the most intelligible set of instructions you find.) I'd already backed up the relatively few new files I'd put on my new laptop.

After six weeks of strenuous use, the Dell laptop with Linux Mint is working fine. I use it as a portable laptop in my classes, and -- with an external monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers -- as an office computer. I'm not sure what will happen eventually when Linux Mint (which is based on Ubuntu) is updated -- will those kernel panics happen again or will things have been sorted out upstream by the programmers by then? In any case, in the meantime I'm enjoying three of the benefits that solid state drives claim: faster performance (including much faster boot times: 15 seconds to the login screen, about 15 more to full operation), a quieter laptop (less heat, so the fan is rarely on, and the SSD is completely silent), and longer battery life between recharges.

Now, thanks to a smoothly running laptop and good Internet access, I have to face the real world again.

All Nadia Bolz-Weber could do was "cry for all my inconsistencies."

Why white churches are hard for black people.

Sean Palmer: Your pastor is not as edgy and provocative as your favorite blogger or writer, and that’s a good thing.

Quaker Vs. Goliath: A leading political periodical profiles Kate Gould of the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Tom Engelhardt: It's safe to be paranoid in the U.S. (Latest link in my "perpetual war watch.")
If you were to isolate the single most striking, if little discussed, aspect of American foreign policy in the first 15 years of this century, it might be that Washington’s inability to apply its power successfully just about anywhere confirms that very power; in other words, failure is a marker of success. Let me explain.

Hans Theessink and the Valentinos, performing a song I'll always associate with the immortal Junior Wells.


Edouard B. said...


maybe you know this already, but for SSD drives one has to consider enabling TRIM, if it's not already done, for this improves their lifetime. Here's what I found about that for Mint: http://mintguide.org/system/323-optimizing-linux-mint-for-the-solid-state-drive-ssd.html you might want to have a look yourself!


Johan Maurer said...

Just spent an enjoyable half hour learning about TRIM. Thank you!