Saturday, May 21, 2011

Multimedia Computer: The Ubuntu Mindset

Last Monday I wrote in this space that I had succeeded in getting my Multimedia Computer running and that I had installed Ubuntu on it.  This was a great victory for me.  At the time, it gave me a great feeling of victory that I didn't want to dilute.  A few days have passed now, so I feel I can share more of the truth without spoiling that feeling of victory on my part.

It is still running and functioning fine as a computer, but I there are certain issues involved with making it function as a Multimedia computer.  One of these is the fan.  The original fan that it came with didn't have a plug to attach it to the fan plug on the motherboard.  I thought I'd fixed that by buying an adapter.  The adapter arrived; it is male.  I needed a female. (Insert joke about Ubuntu computer geeks here.)

No problem.  I had an old cheap fan purchased for an old project laying around.  I installed it.  I now remember reading a review of it with PROS--it is cheap, CONS--it is noisy.  That noisy part is being glossed more me even as I write this.  I currently have a female adapter on order.  Ten minutes of work will suffice to fix this.

The next issue is software.  Windows 7 comes with Windows Media Center installed.  You just sit down and run it.  The Ubuntu experience is different.  And it now becomes clear to me what the Ubuntu experience is all about.  To fully explain it, at least to my own satisfaction, I need to go back to the Bible.

In Genesis, when Jacob and Esau are introduced it says: And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. To me this says that Esau like to push the edges of existence and do things that were hard.  Jacob, on the other hand, liked to enjoy the fruits of what was then modernity.  Were this written today, the description of Esau would remain the same while Jacobs might be described as a man who like living in houses with beds and indoor plumbing.

Some of you may already be ahead of me in transferring this to the context of computers.  Esau would be pushing to that more challenging mode of existence with Linux while Jacob would use Windows 7.  (Macs would correspond to whatever they were using in the fleshpots of Egypt for those of you who wish to push this a little farther.)

I grew up on the frontier, starting with a TRS-80 and moving to an Apple IIe and then finally hitting the PC river, as it were, more than twenty years ago.  I've been watching the frontier disappear ever since as we've moved from floppies to hard disks and CDs and DVDs and USBs.  Then came the Internet and the Cloud may supersede it all.  I've gone through all of the contortions that we had to back in the good old days just to get something to print for Heaven's sake.

All of those contortions are why we developed things like Windows 7 and Snow-frickin-Leopard and all of those other things.  Friends, let me tell you, as much as we gripe about these OSs, they ain't so bad.  They beat the Hell out of walking three blocks across campus to access your e-mail from a Unix account and download the file that was sent you using Kermit.  I was younger then, everything did work right, but that rosy glow doesn't make me think I'd like to do it that way all over again.

That being said: This is a hobby.  We do hobbies to stretch ourselves in safe, controlled ways.  I can pretend that I am back on the Computer Frontier as it was in the days of old, but do it while safely living in the modern world.

In other words, I've moved out of the hardware faze and into the software faze which is presenting a new challenge to me.  I will keep you updated, but now the smell of the spring flowers is calling to me.

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