Monday, September 28, 2009

Best of the Month: Clippings

In the last couple years there've been several conclusive studies showing that running actually helps your knees. In June, by a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court ruled that a prisoner did not have a constitutional right to demand DNA testing of evidence in police files, even at his own expense. ... The court has never found a constitutional right for the actually innocent to be free from execution. ... In Scalia's America, ... we can execute a man for an accidental house fire. There are now nearly six workers available for every job opening, up from 1.7 workers per opening when the recession began in December 2007. Worse, hiring is not expected to rebound anytime soon, even if overall economic growth resumes this year. ... Without job growth and pay raises, consumer spending will not revive substantially .... And without an upsurge in spending, businesses will not add workers, and so on, in a decidedly unvirtuous cycle. While the Beatles were at the height of their success in the West, back in the USSR they were a forbidden influence. But that did not stop them from being heard. ... "I fell in love with the Beatles 40 years ago. They became my friends, my spiritual brothers." ... The Beatles turned tens of millions of Soviet youngsters to another religion. ... "They alienated a whole generation from their Communist motherland," he says. ... "They destroyed Communism - more than Gorbachev." ... They "made a quiet revolution in our brains. We had it in our hearts." ... "In Soviet times, my life was lived in fear. They were so aggressive I was scared if I said anything good about the Beatles, I would be arrested." ... In Kiev, Vova Katzman recalls being arrested by police who cut his hair. "I didn't care," he says. "I loved the Beatles. If something is illegal, people want it more and more." ... Tapes secretly recorded from Radio Luxemburg were copied and recopied. ... The most persistent myth was that the Beatles had played a secret concert at a Soviet airbase on their way to Japan. Everywhere, fans claimed it happened close to them. ... At the John Lennon Party a dozen tribute bands play Beatles songs to a packed audience of teenagers and grandfathers. They all sing along with every word. In Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor," written around 1602, the character Mistress Ford refers twice without any explanation to the tune of "Greensleeves," and Falstaff later exclaims: "Let the sky rain potatoes! Let it thunder to the tune of 'Greensleeves'!" These allusions suggest that the song was already well known at that time. The big downside to fish farming: It requires large amounts of feed made from wild fish harvested from the sea. It can take up to five pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of salmon, and we eat a lot of salmon. We’re trying to redefine what it means to be pro-Israel. You don’t have to be noncritical. You don’t have to adopt the party line. It’s not, ‘Israel, right or wrong.’ ... George W. Bush shared the views of the mainstream [Jewish] groups on Israel and Palestine .... In the Bush years, when Israel enjoyed a blank check, increasing numbers of people in the Jewish and pro-Israel community began to wonder, If this was the best president Israel ever had, how come Israel’s circumstances seemed to be deteriorating so rapidly? ... “There was kind of a cognitive dissonance,” Indyk says, “about whether a blank check for Israel is necessarily the best way to secure the longevity of the Jewish state.” When people get promoted, they suffer on average about 10 percent more mental strain and are less likely to find time to go to the doctor. [From The Onion:] "By our calculations, his most nutrient-rich layers will be washed away by the end of the decade, leaving little more than a desiccated, middle-aged wasteland." A national survey conducted by Louis Harris and Associates in 1966 found that rock 'n' roll was by far the most unpopular music in the country. About 45 percent of adults said they disliked it, with only about 5 percent saying it was their favorite. Compare that with today, when nearly two-thirds of those asked in a recent Pew Resource Center poll said they listen to it. Online courses alone, education experts say, will be used mainly to fill niches and will be most popular in university graduate-level and continuing education courses. ... But online resources, experts say, will increasingly be used to supplement and transform classroom education, moving from stand-and-lecture formats to project-based learning. “It’s a world apart from the old factory model of the high school with its rows of desks, textbooks and memorization,” said Ms. Martinez. The Egyptians used a wavelike symbol for water that the Phoenicians adapted and called mem—thus the letter M. I loved the soothing mindlessness of the [handwriting] exercises, particularly seeing the mmmm's break across the page—a tiny, rolling sea. Global climate change is presenting a threat to the world beer supply .... Perhaps we have at last stumbled across the very thing that could help bring about broad grassroots interest and action in making widespread changes while we still have ice at the poles, and in our coolers waiting to chill the beers that we still have left. A Johns Hopkins University student killed an apparent burglar with a samurai sword after discovering the man in his garage. A ship that may contain nuclear waste has been blown up by the mafia in a waste disposal racket, Italian authorities are told. Jessica Simpson's beloved maltipoo Daisy was grabbed by a wild coyote. An undercover investigation reveals that up to two gorillas are being killed and eaten each week in the Republic of Congo. Beijing sees another rise in birth defects, mirroring increases elsewhere in China, amid fears pollution is to blame. Sir Elton John cannot adopt a 14-month-old boy because he is not married and is too old, a Ukrainian minister says. In 1510, the respected French lawyer Bartholomew ChassenĂ©e made his name by serving as legal counsel for a horde of rats. The rats stood accused of eating through the province's barley crop. But the trial was tainted, ChassenĂ©e argued, for two reasons: First, the court failed to properly notify the rodents of the trial date. And second, the defendants could not possibly appear in court when getting there entailed risking a run-in with a cat. Barnard College president Debora Spar tells NPR that if women had headed up banks like Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Bank Of America -- all key actors in the market meltdown last fall – they might have saved us from disaster. Why? Women are more risk-averse than men on the whole. From fight nights to reggae music to video games and on-site tattoo parlors, the churches have helped make evangelicalism the fastest-growing spiritual movement in Brazil. An estimated 27 million human beings worldwide today are living lives of exploitation and humanity stripped bare beyond the bone of basic human rights. This is a bigger number than at any point in documented history. Books and movies with a decidedly surrealistic bent appear to bolster cognitive functions that govern our capacities for learning and problem solving.ooks and movies with a decidedly surrealistic bent appear to bolster cognitive functions that govern our capacities for learning and problem solving. [Two-thirds of the hungry people in the world] live in just six countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. A team of scientists has determined that massive scale projects in the Sahara Desert and the Australian Outback are indeed daunting, but within our reach. ... Ornstein and team have their collective eye on eucalyptus in particular, owing to its fast growth and heat tolerance. A fully forested Sahara would achieve up to an 8 degree Celsius localized temperature decrease. More and more athletes are starting to think [that group training helps]. ... The right workout companions, they say, can make all the difference. ... Recreational athletes can benefit, too, Dr. Coyle said. Many run by themselves or without a specific program. “They probably underestimate their ability,” he said. Group runs “would help them tremendously.” Activists commandeered thousands of parking spaces worldwide on Friday and transformed them into mini (very mini) parks to raise awareness about how the auto industry is often winning the public space battle in big cities. ... In New York City, Fordham University students staged a "Shakespeare in the Parking Spot" festival .... In Chicago, an architecture firm transformed two parking spots into a bicyclist pit stop, where cyclists could relax on a grassy knoll and refuel on drinks and snacks. ... [In L.A.,] a neighborhood association took up seven parking spots and set up a cool-sounding hangout complete with a grill, a kiddie pool and a gardening workshop to teach people how to grow drought-tolerant plants. Park(ing) Day, as it is known, began four years ago in San Francisco, and has since grown to include numerous cities on four continents. “Across the happiness data, the one thing in life that will make you less happy is having children,” said Betsey Stevenson, an assistant professor at Wharton who co-wrote a paper called “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness.” “It’s true whether you’re wealthy or poor, if you have kids late or kids early.” In a worse-case projection, a Vietnamese government report says that more than one-third of the Mekong Delta could be submerged if sea levels were to rise by three feet. Mice on a running wheel “usually show little improvements in the conventionally defined” measurements of fitness, like elevated muscle strength and improved aerobic capacity. They enjoy themselves; they don’t strain. Those on the treadmill, meanwhile, are forced to pant and puff. Jen says researchers suspect that treadmill running [at a pace controlled by scientists] is more intense and leads to improvements in “muscle aerobic capacity,” and this increased aerobic capacity, in turn, affects the brain more than the wheel jogging. Women who are unhappy with the way they look feel significantly better about themselves after being greeted with a grin. Chimps have been found to yawn when they watch an animated chimp do so. To extract electricity from trees and convert it into useful energy, researchers built a boost converter capable of picking up as little as a 20 millivolt output.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Installing a Brother MFC-7340 Multifunction Printer in Ubuntu 9.04

Brother provides a webpage to guide the process of setting up an Ubuntu 9.04 installation with certain Brother brand printers. This post describes the steps I took to set up my Brother MFC-7340 Multifunction device. I decided to work through one function at a time, starting with the MFC-7340's printer. First, I downloaded the printer drivers. It looked like I was supposed to get both the LPR driver and the cupswrapper driver, so I did. I chose the Debian rather than RedHat (.rpm) format for these and other downloads. The LPR driver installation instructions recommended using the CUPS driver rather than LPR, if CUPS was working. On my system, it wasn't. I took that as a cue that I should begin by trying to use the LPR driver instead, though possibly it should have told me that I should try again with CUPS, to see if I could get it to work. The LPR driver instructions told me to begin by attending to certain pre-installation requirements. On my 64-bit Ubuntu installation, this involved going into System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager, where did a quick search for the ia32-libs package. It was already installed on my machine. If it hadn't been, I would have checked it and clicked on Apply. In Ubuntu's Applications > Accessories > Terminal, I navigated to the folder where I had put the LPR driver download. The easy way to navigate there was to find it in Nautilus (i.e., Places > Computer, what Ubuntu calls "File Browser"), copy its address from the Nautilus address bar, and paste it into a CD command (e.g., CD "/downloadlocation/folder/downloadedfile.deb"). In that folder, I entered the following command in Terminal:

sudo dpkg -i --force-all brmfc7340lpr-2.0.2-1.i386.deb
where everything after "force-all" was the name of the downloaded LPR driver. Note: this won't work if Synaptic or some other program updater is still running. Then, to test whether it worked, I typed this:
dpkg -l | grep Brother
which gave me something resembling a positive reply. Next, I edited the configuration file:
sudo gedit /etc/printcap
where the instructions told me to verify that, under the MFC7340 heading, the line beginning with ":lp" would say :lp=/dev/usb/lp0. Mine actually said :lp=/dev/usb/lp0:\ with an ending backslash, but I doubted this was crucial, so other than that it looked good. Now I needed to restart the print system by typing this:
/etc/init.d/lpr restart
But that appeared to be mistaken; I got "No such file or directory," and if I prepended "sudo" to it, I got "command not found." At this point, I plugged in the USB cable to the printer, realizing that there was probably no Ubuntu counterpart to the problem of screwing everything up by plugging in the USB cable before you've installed the drivers. And when I did that, something interesting happened. Ubuntu started looking for drivers, and wound up at a New Printer dialog that said, "Choose Driver." I chose the (default) "Select printer from database" option, and it defaulted to the Brother MFC-7225N BR-Script3, which it seemed to think was close enough to my MFC-7340. But it wouldn't proceed because it believed I was entering the wrong password for my local system, which I definitely wasn't. I couldn't get past that, so that was the end of the automated process. The "Printer configuration - localhost" dialog was showing a green circle with a check mark on an icon representing another, working printer that I had previously installed on this Ubuntu system, but there was no mention of this Brother printer. When I entered the command to print this page on which I am typing these words, I got a Print dialog showing options for that other printer, as well as a Print to File option and the nonworking CUPS PDF option, but this Brother printer did not appear there either. I decided to try the CUPS option. Its instructions seemed to continue on from where the LPR installation left off, so I had essentially completed the first several required steps to install CUPS. My next step, then, was to type this:
sudo dpkg -i --force-all cupswrapperMFC7340-2.0.2-1.i386.deb
where everything after "force-all" was the name of the CUPS driver I had downloaded. (Terminal was still parked in that same folder that I had navigated to earlier.) This gave me some error messages, including "Directory nonexistent." So then I ran this:
dpkg -l | grep Brother
and it gave me a list that mentioned both the LPR and the CUPS wrapper drivers. So it did look like they were installed. Next, in Firefox I went to http://localhost:631/printers." This gave me a cool HTML information webpage about my installed printers. Under the MFC-7340 entry, I went into Modify Printer and changed Device to "LPD/LPR Host or Printer" (an alternative would have been "AppSocket/HP JetDirect"). I left Device URI at "lpd" because this was a local printer, directly connected via USB. But it wouldn't let me go beyond that. The instructions said I needed to type this:
lpd://(Your printer's IP address)/binary_p1
So, OK, what was my printer's IP address? Someone suggested using nmap, so I installed that in Synaptic and typed "man nmap" at the Terminal prompt to view its manual. On the basis of what I read there, I concluded that I had no idea whatsoever how to use nmap. I probably spent an hour screwing around and ultimately tried this:
and that didn't work. My printer didn't seem to offer an option of printing a test page, or at least I couldn't find any reference to it in the manual. Only then did I realize that the cool HTML page (above) had already told me what the URI was: usb://Brother/MFC-7340. I don't know why the cool HTML page didn't just default to that, instead of giving me "lpd" on a line by itself. Now I was supposed to specify its model, but their list of options didn't include my model, so I chose the MFC-7225N BR-Script3 (see above). Then it was asking for a username and password, so I entered my ordinary Ubuntu username and password. But this was not what it wanted. So I tried again, entering nothing, and this gave me a completely blank page. I tried to print from the menu in Firefox in Ubuntu, and this gave me a dozen completely white pages. I tried with a different webpage and got 19 blank pages before I yanked out the paper tray - the Stop button on the printer wasn't stopping anything. I tried printing one page of a PDF and got the same thing. At this point, I had run out of time. I concluded that the Brother MFC-7340 was not, in practical terms, compatible with Ubuntu 9.04. Not to deny that people couldn't make it work. No doubt some could. But even with the devotion of a considerable amount of time, at present I could not.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

GPG Error - Public Key Not Available

In 64-bit Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope), I received this message after clicking the Check button in (System > Administration >) Update Manager:

W: GPG error: stable Release: The following signatures couldn't be verified because the public key is not available: NO_PUBKEY F9A2F76A9D1A0061
The recommended solution was to type this into Terminal:
gpg --keyserver --recv [last 8 characters of code]; gpg --export --armor [last 8 characters of code] | sudo apt-key add
In my case, as shown above, those last eight characters were 9D1A0061, so that's what I entered into the command just given. This gave me a message, "gpg: requesting key 9D1A0061 from hkp server" But then we went no further: after several minutes, I got this message:
gpg: keyserver timed out gpg: keyserver receive failed: keyserver error [sudo] password for ray: gpg: WARNING: nothing exported
and then it just seemed to hang there. So I tried a different approach. Although "apt-key update" was supposed to work, it didn't; it gave me this:
gpg: can't access `/etc/apt/trustdb.gpg': Permission denied gpg: fatal: can't init trustdb: trust database error secmem usage: 0/0 bytes in 0/0 blocks of pool 0/32768
Continuing, then, with what looked like an earlier approach at that same webpage, I tried this:
gpg --keyserver --recv-keys F9A2F76A9D1A0061 sudo apt-key add /root/.gnupg/pubring.gpg apt-get update
. . . using, in other words, the full key from the error message in the first of these three command line entries. This approach appeared to be working better: the first line got me an indication that a key had been imported. But the second line ("apt-key add ...") resulted in an error: "gpg: can't open `/root/.gnupg/pubring.gpg': No such file or directory." I was still getting the error when I clicked "Check" in Update Manager. A comment added to the instructions cited above suggested using this:
sudo apt-get install debian-archive-keyring
but I still got the same error in Update Manager. Another comment said this would work:
apt-key list apt-key del [last 8 digits of key shown as expired in the apt-key list output] [repeat this del command for each such expired key] dpkg –purge debian-archive-keyring apt-get install debian-archive-keyring
I got tired of typing "sudo" in front of each line, so I just typed "sudo -i" and then started down this list. I only got to the first command: it appeared that I didn't have any expired keys. So this wasn't the fix for me. Still another suggestion from the comments in that same webpage:
sudo apt-get update -o Acquire::http::No-Cache=True
This ran, and then advised me to run apt-get update. I ran that twice, but still got that same message about the Opera key, and the same error message persisted when I ran Update Manager. From a Debian page that I located by doing a search for the specific NO_PUBKEY error message (above), I got this:
wget -O - | sudo apt-key add -
and that seemed to solve the problem.

GRUB Error 17

Almost exactly a year earlier, I had been wrestling with Error 17 in the GRUB bootloader in Ubuntu, and now it was back. (Back then, I had been running Ubuntu 8.04; now I was running 9.04.) One difference: back then, it seemed to have been accompanied by additional information, but this time I was only getting the bald "Error 17" report, with no other text. I didn't know why I was getting this error. I hadn't changed anything. All I could imagine (based on a HowToGeek article) was that possibly I had installed some Windows XP security updates since my previous reboot, and maybe one of them had messed up GRUB. Following the advice in that HowToGeek article, I rebooted with the Ubuntu 9.04 Live CD. In Terminal (i.e., Ubuntu's Applications > Accessories > Terminal), I typed "sudo grub" to get into the GRUB prompt. The instructions assumed that I had installed GRUB into the first partition on the first hard drive (i.e., hd0,0). I wasn't sure if that was correct, and I wasn't sure how to find out. The notes from my previous year's go-round (above) seemed to say that I could use "find /boot/grub/stage1" for this purpose. But it seemed likely that, from the Live CD, that would just tell me where GRUB's Stage 1 files were (or something like that) on the CD, not on the hard drive. It seemed that I would have to gain access to the Ubuntu boot partition in order for that command to work. So I started with Nautilus (i.e., Ubuntu's Places > Computer menu pick, which opens up the Nautilus program that Ubuntu calls File Browser). There, I saw icons for my various partitions, including one labeled "Mass Storage Drive." When I double-clicked on that, I got "Unable to mount location. Can't mount drive." Ah, so this suggested a different theory. Maybe GRUB wasn't damaged after all. Maybe the problem was that the boot drive was screwed up. To learn more about that, I went into GParted (i.e., System > Administration > Partition Editor) and looked at my partitions. And this was truly remarkable. In place of the Ubuntu and WinXP partitions that I had installed on my first hard drive, there was now . . . nothing! The Ubuntu and WinXP partitions were completely gone, wiped out. Instead, I just had a disk consisting of one big unallocated space. Well, that would certainly explain why there was no GRUB boot menu. How could that happen? I tried a Google search, but that didn't point out any obvious explanations. I tried to recall what had happened when I shut down the machine the previous day. But there didn't seem to have been anything remarkable. Nothing stood out in my mind particularly. I would usually shut down that computer at night, but maybe this time I had left it running, and some mysterious virus had done this overnight? I wasn't sure. So, OK, it was time to start over. Fortunately, I had made Acronis True Image 11 backups of the program partitions onto another drive, so I rebooted from the Acronis CD and restored those. But then - what's this? The WinXP backup was there, but it looked like I had not done an Ubuntu backup. This was possibly because the Ubuntu installation on that machine had given me endless problems; apparently I had intended to start over. So, OK, that's exactly what I did. Not at this point - for now, I had a hard drive with only Windows XP installed - but later. Unfortunately, this did not solve the problem. Even with the Ubuntu partition completely gone, I still got GRUB Error 17 when I rebooted. GParted on the Live CD was telling me that no, I actually had not succeeded in restoring WinXP to that empty drive just now, despite the opinion of Acronis to the contrary. I rebooted with the WinXP installation CD, and it concurred: there was no Windows installation. I tried again with Acronis, this time trying to restore only the program partition, not the MBR. Also, this time I indicated that the restored partition was a primary partition, not active, as I had done on the previous try. While I was still in Acronis, I checked, and sure enough, the drive did now definitely have a Windows XP partition as its only formatted partition. I rebooted, and this time XP ran normally. No more Ubuntu (until I got around to reinstalling it); no more GRUB Error 17.

Friday, September 11, 2009

How to Keep Up with Everything: RSS

Problem: I want to keep up with what they are saying at a hundred different websites: New York Times, craigslist ads for Dogs for Sale, UM SSW blog, etc. But I can't keep checking all these sites every hour. What can I do? Solution: RSS. Many websites now let you "subscribe" to their RSS "feeds." (This is all free, by the way.) A feed keeps feeding the stuff to you, as soon as it is posted. So, for example, you can have a Facebook feed that lets you know when something has happened on Facebook, without actually having to go to the Facebook webpage. In other words, you can get up-to-the-minute articles from a hundred webpages, all delivered to one RSS feed webpage. You read your feeds in an RSS reader. I use Google Reader. So instead of having to keep all those websites open, I just keep that one Google Reader webpage open. It shows me what's happening in the feeds that I have subscribed to. If I want to see the details, with two clicks I can open the full webpage where the item was posted. But even if time is short, at least I can scan the headlines and, if I wish, the summaries. To add another subscription, just add another RSS feed. To find RSS feeds, search webpages or websites for "RSS" or for "feeds." Example: at the bottom center of the New York Times homepage, you'll see a little orange RSS button. Click on that, and you're taken to a page that lists dozens of distinct NY Times feeds. For instance, they have an Opinions feed (or, if you like, you can subscribe to individual columnists), as well as feeds for Health, International, etc. Examples of a few other feeds and feed webpages: Mental Health & Addiction Treatment BBC Ann Arbor News UM SSW Social Service Review You'll develop your own list, adding and dropping feeds, as you learn what's available and observe what you tend to find interesting. So what about that craigslist ad for a dog? Craigslist Ann Arbor does have a Pets community, and - like most craigslist pages - that one does have an RSS feed (in the upper right-hand corner). But maybe you don't want to see a thousand ads for the wrong kind of dog; you want to see only the ads for a five-year-old borzoi. Is that possible? Yes, with an RSS filter. But that's a story for another day.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Reply to Spitzer on Free Speech

On September 4, 2009, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer posted an editorial arguing against political speech limits on unions and corporations. The issue he identifies is this: should corporations and unions be able to fund electioneering communications within the period of 60 days prior to a general election? "Electioneering communications," for this purpose, includes broadcast, cable, and satellite comunications that refer to a clearly identified federal officeholder or candidate. Spitzer feels that these large, typically Democrat (union) or Republican (corporate) organizations should be allowed to fund political broadcasts in the days leading up to an election. Before replying to that, I offer the incidental observation that Spitzer may have made a mistake in taking a position as a journalist. This observation is based upon what is, I guess, the rumor that he is considering running for governor again. If that rumor is correct, I suggest that remaking himself as a temporary journalist was a decidedly ungovernorlike thing to do. This is not the remaking of Richard Nixon, who succeeded somewhat in rehabilitating his post-Watergate image by becoming an elder statesman. Nixon's voice was worth hearing and, on that level, he retained or recovered some respect. Be that as it may, the first reason for my disagreement with Spitzer is that unions and corporations do not, in fact, have voices. A voice comes from a throat, which in turn belongs to a human being. Being human is important, from a human perspective, because people do sometimes learn from each other and refine their own views when they try to speak and listen for themselves. A corporate or union message, by contrast, is a lecture. You can't get to the person who actually came up with it. The spokesperson and the speechwriter are generally not available for individual debate; and if they were, they would be speaking as individuals who are paid to say what they say. The spokesperson is paid by management, and management is acting upon behalf of its constituency. In a corporation, that constituency is the stockholders; in a union, it is the union members. This acting "on behalf" of the membership is not perfect. Nobody can consistently represent the interests and views of all members of an organization, because members disagree among themselves and even within themselves. Strictly speaking, that is, management and the spokesperson are not conveying the full story of what the members would say. To do that would require many hours of explanation and clarification of all of the various threads and streams in members' thinking, some of which would tend to contradict the simplified organizational message. The simplified message is deliberately designed to understate (i.e., to misrepresent) the uncertain and confused parts in what the members think. The organizational message tends to be designed to shrink, not expand, the number of uncertain areas in which dialogue and flexibility would provide the most appropriate responses. In short, the organizational message commonly denies the existence of doubts and uncertainty, and also conveys the impression that political debate is about winning, not about searching together for the best solution. Small wonder that organizationally aligned adversaries commonly consider one another stupid: they often portray themselves as being impervious to common sense. Moreover, an organizational message is often a corrupt message. Lawyers, speechwriters, spokespersons, marketing departments, and others collaborate in the creation of that message, not because it states their own beliefs, but because they are paid to say it. But nobody admires the trial witness who testifies according to what s/he has been paid to say, or the spouse who professes love because doing so is financially shrewd. If the law protected the spokesperson who suddenly admitted that what s/he has been telling the public is a load of crap, that would be one thing: there would be the purchased service, but also the preservation of the individual spokesperson's truthfulness and self-respect. After Enron, after Big Tobacco, after the recent global financial crisis, the last thing we should do is to protect the organizational "voice" that silences real-life and potentially truthful voices of employees. Spitzer correctly points out that there is no real difference between political broadcasting by a palpably biased news organization and political broadcasting by a palpably biased corporate or union organization. Palpable bias is not appropriate in broadcast media. There are many different political biases, and too few people with the resources to publicize their own personal views. With the power to influence public opinion comes a responsibility to influence it in correspondence with the best available information, viewed dispassionately from multiple perspectives. As Spitzer puts it, "There is . . . no dispute that limiting the ability of huge entities—corporations and unions—to aggregate dollars and bombard us over the airwaves with their political views would make it easier for less-well-funded citizens to make their political views heard." Spitzer argues, however, that being heard is not the point. "The First Amendment," he says, "should not be construed to create voices of equal strength: It should merely ensure that all can speak." He accepts, that is, the model of a forum of public debate in which some voices will have the ability to drown out others. If you can merely speak - if you can whisper; if you can talk to yourself - then, in Spitzer's view, you have what the First Amendment guarantees. And that makes the First Amendment meaningless in political debate. There is an alternate model. Instead of accepting that some loud (and perhaps unreasonable and even stupid) voices will invariably drown out others, one can assume that political normalcy involves intelligent compromise and reasonable accommodation toward actually getting things done. A good first step in facilitating such an environment is to reverse course, on the subject of corporate personhood: to recognize, that is, that organizations do not speak and, as politics of recent years have demonstrated, organizations do not tend to facilitate compromise and accommodation. Rather, they seek to preserve themselves. In that sense, they have a certain innate conservatism, even when adopting classically liberal stances. Contra Spitzer, the voices being drowned out are not random fringe voices. They are the voices of individuals, across the spectrum, who cannot compete with the resources available to the managers of status quo organizations. People are free to speak up in many ways; but when they (a) offend the party line and (b) do so visibly enough to draw a response, these organizations have many ways to shout them down, ridicule them, and otherwise shut them up. Spitzer's approach would further oppress the actual human voices for the sake of the fictitious ones.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Configuring 64-bit Ubuntu 9.04 with Vista Dual-Boot

I had a Compaq CQ60-420US laptop. It had come with Vista pre-installed. I didn't like that, so I wiped it off. This led to a whole ordeal in trying to get the hard drive to work with WinXP, for which I had developed lots of tricks and tweaks. That effort ultimately failed, and I wound up with Vista back on the thing after all. I had wanted to get away from dual booting, but I still needed some flavor of Windows for the occasional hardware interaction, e.g., updating the BIOS and other firmware. So for now, I was going to leave Vista in place and set up a 64-bit Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) dual-boot with it. This post describes the process of setting up that dual boot. A review of some guides gave me the general impression that installing a Vista-Ubuntu dual boot was much like installing a WinXP-Ubuntu dual boot, unless you used the wubi alternative. The approach I took was as follows:

  1. With Vista already installed, insert the Ubuntu program CD, reboot, and go through the ordinary installation sequence. If you do nothing, the CD will pretty much take you right to the Install icon. If your BIOS isn't set to boot from CD before hard drive, hit F2 or Esc or Del or F8 or whatever key it is that gets you into your BIOS setup, promptly after the computer first starts up, and adjust the boot priority there.
  2. You may find that the bootable Gparted CD provides a clearer view of hard drive partitions than does the partitioner in the Ubuntu installer. If the partitioning step leaves you dazed and confused, you may want to back up, download Gparted, burn yourself a CD, boot with that first, set up your partitions as you like, and then come back into the Ubuntu installation process. Note: if you're going to run Windows in a virtual machine, you may want to give it an NTFS partition somewhere, so you have a place to store data. Windows can't read Linux (e.g., ext3) partitions.
  3. After the initial installation, make sure that Vista starts up OK. No point spending hours refining a system that isn't ready for prime time. Then restart and go into Ubuntu, and make various adjustments, including these: (a) Nautilus > View > Show Hidden Files. (b) Nautilus > Edit > Preferences > Behavior > Always open in browser windows.
  4. Go through the steps described in my previous post on configuring Ubuntu 9.04 (including comments). That post updates the first part of an earlier post on how to configure 9.04. After running updates, type "sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst" and put # symbols in front of each line (i.e., older Ubuntu kernels) that you don't want to appear in the GRUB menu.
  5. Before continuing with items in that earlier post (as explained in more detail there), I initially thought that the next step would be to install and configure Thunderbird (just plain old thunderbird, not mozilla-thunderbird) and Lightning-extension via Synaptic. But then I decided I would just use web-based e-mail and calendaring (probably via Gmail) on the laptop, and would download and archive my e-mails solely on my desktop, thereby sparing the need to synchronize the two computers.
  6. Now refer back to the earlier post, to install programs that came via individual downloads rather than through Synaptic. For me, these included Google Desktop for Linux, Adobe Reader, and VMware Workstation 6.5.3.
  7. I installed .deb files by double-clicking on them in Nautilus, and .bin and .bundle files by running "chmod +x [filename]" and then "sudo ./[filename]." I didn't have any .tar.gz and .tar.bz2 files to install this time, but if I had, I would have moved them to my /home/[username] folder, navigated there in Terminal, and then used a tar unpack command (e.g., tar -vxf [or tar xvfz] filename.tar.gz, or tar xvf filename.tar, or tar yxf filename.tar.bz2).
  8. To install Google Earth, continuing to follow my previous notes, I typed two lines: "wget" and then "sh GoogleEarthLinux.bin." This gave me a Google Earth installation, but with flickering and basically nonfunctioning display. I tried System > Administration > Update Manager, and at first that program assured me that my system was up-to-date; but when I made it check again, it reported errors related to Wine and Opera. I ignored these for now, since they did not seem relevant. People seemed to be experimenting with the flickering video problem in Google Earth. There was a relatively complex tutorial that apparently fixed it in some cases, at the risk of messing up the system. Choosing instead an easy fix that seemed to work for some, I went to System > Preferences > Appearance > Visual Effects and downgraded from Extra to Normal. That didn't help. Following another tip, I downgraded further, from Normal to None (i.e., no visual effects), and also turned off the Atmosphere feature in Google Earth (View > Atmosphere). That fixed it.
  9. To configure Firefox, I went to another computer and used the FEBE extension to make a full backup of that machine's Firefox installation. I copied the folder containing the FEBE backup to the target computer (i.e., the one where I've been doing all this installation stuff). I installed FEBE in Firefox on the target machine, restarted Firefox, started to watch the tutorial on restoring with FEBE, turned to the instructions on manually restoring with FEBE, and then took these steps on the target machine: Close Firefox. Go to the FEBE backup directory (i.e., the one where I put the FEBE backup folder that I copied over from the other computer). Copy its .fbu file (in my case, profileFx3{default}.fbu) and rename the copy as a .zip file. I called it Extract the contents of the .zip file (creating, in my case, a folder called FEBErestore). Move the contents of the FEBE restore folder to the Firefox profile folder, which I found in Nautilus at File System/home/ray/.mozilla/firefox/[random name].default. In my case, for example, I moved the contents of the FEBErestore folder to this .default folder. When it told me that a folder already exists, I said Merge All, and Replace All for the "file already exists" message. During this process, I got an "Error while copying 'febe.jar'" message. The details of the error said "Permission denied." I canceled and tried again as root (type "sudo nautilus" and then do the move in the Nautilus session that opens that way). That worked. Then I closed everything else and started Firefox and, yeah, it looked like all the extensions were there, configured and everything.
This was the extent of my Ubuntu configuration for now. During these processes, I came across some miscellaneous issues:
  • I wanted to change login passwords. This, I thought, would be under System > Administration but no, eventually I found it instead under Applications > Accessories. Double-clicking on that did not work; I had to right-click and choose Change Password; but then the password that I changed it to did not work for login. I thought the problem might be that I hit Enter instead of clicking on the button after doing the change; that is, possibly the default was Cancel rather than Change. I could not tell; neither button seemed to be highlighted by default. So then it turned out that I had changed the password to unlock the keyring, rather than the password to log in. It looked like I had changed that properly, second time around; but still no.
  • As in other Ubuntu installations, panels did not readily allow me to move icons to the locations I would designate. Sometimes they would not move; sometimes they would not go exactly where I indicated. On the bottom panel, for example, I could not rearrange them in the far right corner. It turned out to be easier to move things *out of* the corner (where the Windows system tray would be) than to move them *into* the corner. It turned out that I had to unlock every item that I wanted to drag another icon past. Tooltips came up, irritatingly enough, when I was trying to move icons, making it difficult to see what I was doing.
  • The bottom panel failed to show icons or buttons for my currently running programs. The solution was to right-click on the bottom panel, choose Add to Panel, and choose Window List. But then, on reboot, it did not work again. I fixed it by right-clicking on the end of the Window List item on the bottom panel and checking Lock to Panel.
  • When trying to view the contents of some hard drive partitions, such as a partition I called DATA, I got "Cannot mount volume. You are not privileged to mount the volume 'DATA'. Following my previous notes, in Terminal I typed "sudo mkdir /media/DATA," thinking that perhaps I had not yet created the mount point, but this gave me "cannot create directory `/media/DATA': File exists." I typed "sudo nautilus," went to File System > /media/DATA > right-click > Properties, and verified that I (i.e., user "ray", not just root) had full permissions. I typed "sudo fdisk -l" (that's an L, not a one) to get a list of devices. That showed that the DATA partition was being recognized as an NTFS device at /dev/sda4. I typed "sudo gedit /etc/fstab" and saw that there was no line in the fstab file for /dev/sda4. Following some notes from a few months earlier, I typed "sudo ntfs-config." (Note that this was one of the programs I had installed from Synaptic, above.) This detected the VISTA programs partition (i.e., drive C in Windows), but not the DATA partition. I ran ntfs-config again. This time, it didn't mention the VISTA drive, but as before it did give me the option to enable an internal drive. I accepted that. Now I saw that there was indeed a line for the DATA partition as well. While I was here, I used blkid to find the UUIDs for each partition (e.g., "sudo blkid") and replaced that portion of the relevant line in fstab. For example, the line that previously read "/dev/sda1 /media/VISTA ntfs-3g defaults,locale=en_US.UTF-8 0 0" now began with "UUID=19142FAA142F8D35" instead of "dev/sda1." Following the format of other lines in fstab, I preceded this one with a line that said, "# Entry for /dev/sda1 : " and followed a similar procedure for the DATA partition. I rebooted and was now able to view the NTFS-formatted VISTA and DATA partitions. On second thought, I went back into fstab and removed the line for the VISTA partition, since I didn't expect to need it normally in Ubuntu and didn't want to expose it to accidental deletions and such.
This seemed to give me a basic working dual-boot 64-bit system. The next step, for me, was to configure VMware, so that I could run any Windows program within Ubuntu.