Now that my house has burned down, I have a much better view of the stars.

—(This post is a little dull. True to lawschoolin’ I’ve given it “point headings” so you can pick which sort of dull you feel like reading.)—

I.

A. (a bit dull but with some decent zombie metaphors)

Now, I had already attempted to distance myself from Facebook, although actually deleting one of those things is so near impossible that I’m now convinced Facebook is part of some kind of evil zombie data-mining conspiracy to track you down and harvest your brains to feed to marketers.

I intentionally didn’t know my Facebook password (I used a random jumble of characters I created by mashing my hands on the keyboard, and cut / pasting it into the field), which at least kept me from using Facebook on anyone else’s computer.

The thing is, when you attempt to delete your facebook account, it isn’t deleted – even if you go beyond the “disable” option to the “remove forever” option, it’s still there, and if you log in, it rises from its grave, hungry for brains.

I forgot to uninstall the Facebook plugin from my instant message software, Pidgin, to which I had also pasted my key-mash-password. So that reanimated my undead facebook, which was once again free to feast on my still-cogitating flesh.

B. (possibly just as dull, but more on topic)

Getting back to things, I also lost my RSS feeds. Though I’m still able to use a lot of what was on my computer, I’m not able to use any of my old settings, such as RSS feeds and saved passwords, which means that the internet no longer greets me in the morning with fifty things to waste time on. I can waste time on one thing (this blog post), just how Mother Nature meant the internets to be.

My computer didn’t crash so catastrophically that I’m totally ****ed, and I was also lucky enough to have Christine’s old computer available (which is what I’m using now). Clearly, this was a blessing in [thin] disguise; losing the ability to use the internet in the way I’ve been accustomed freed me to use the internet in the way that I wanted.

C. (also dull, a little technical, and a little grumbly)

In attempting to fix my computer, I wanted to burn an ISO file to a DVD. Since my computer’s drive was busy running the operating system from a live-cd, and Christine’s computer doesn’t have a DVD burner, I needed to use one of my roommate’s computers to do it.

Now, in Ubuntu, this is the kind of operation that you can usually do pretty easily – if you double-click an .iso file, the computer invites you to burn it to a disk. If you don’t have the right software to do that, it becomes clear pretty quickly, and you can look up “iso” in Synaptic, and you’ll have the software you need within a minute or two.

Nothing was nearly so simple on my roommate’s Mac or Windows XP box. Windows knew it was an ISO image file, but didn’t have any thoughts on what to do with it. I searched google for something to burn an ISO on Windows, but just got a jumble of software for sale and no easy way to tell what if any free software was reputable or safe.

I gave up on that and moved on to the Mac. The Mac recognized the file as an ISO, and let me mount it, so I could see the files inside. While I wasn’t able to burn a DVD as easily as I could using Ubuntu, I chalked it up to an issue of familiarity. Unfortunately, when my DVD finished burning and I popped it back in to check it, what I had was not a DVD of the contents of the ISO, it was a DVD with the ISO file just sitting there all by its lonesome. Eventually, after getting more or less nowhere either with the built-in or online Apple help, I burned my DVD by copying the contents of my mounted ISO into the to-burn folder, and retitling the disk appropriately.

This was not something I expected to be a challenge, but it took me hours.

1. (a little language lesson, a “cultural” moment, possibly a little interesting)

The concept of “ubuntu”, which is a word in Bantu languages, is not easily translated into English, apparently. The simple translation might be “community,” but the sense is that it’s not just community, but that your very existence and humanity are bound up in being supportive of, and supported by others. I’ve seen it rendered as “I am human because we are human”.

(I’m getting most of this from wikipedia.)

2. (a plug for an operating sytem – could be dull or not: your call)

Linux generally, and the Ubuntu distribution in particular, embody the meaning of the word “ubuntu” as I understand it; it works for you because other people want it to work for themselves, for you, and for other people. Although a lot of free software is produced by companies that make money, a lot is also produced – and a LOT of support is provided – by people who just want this thing to work well for everyone. I’ve been an XP user and a Mac user for years at a time, so I don’t think I’m enough of an alien to either OS for the experience to be bafflingly unfamiliar, but I do think I’ve been spoiled rotten. Synaptic is like magic compared to finding the software you need on google – you swiftly browse a list of programs which have been evaluated, and usually star-rated, pick the one that sounds best, and then you use it. You don’t have to worry about the software you want being out there but costing an arm and a leg. Unless you need something really niche-specific, it’s a pretty good bet there’s free Linux software out there to do what you want, and all you have to do is open up Synaptic.

The support that exists in the form of the Ubuntu forums and other BBS-type communities really rivals anything I’ve seen for Windows or Mac in terms of specificity and real-world applicability. Again, it’s the actual trials and tribulations of users that fuel support and development of Ubuntu. The software isn’t made, and the support isn’t offered by people who work in a vacuum. It is ubuntu that makes Ubuntu work.

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