Mar. 29th, 2008

peterbirks: (Default)
I finally got around to trying to install Ubuntu on one of my old machines. I downloaded it without any problem and I used Roxio to burn an iso without difficulty (although the latter would almost certainly cause problems for a complete computer novice).

Then I tried to install it on the other machine.

A couple of hours or so later, all that I know is that I have failed. I get the start-up screen, I try the various options. It seems to start, and then nothing happens, for ages. I just get a screen with a pointer. I actually had an hour's nap wwaiting for something to happen.

I'm sure that I'll get there eventually, because I'm determined. But, what if I wasn't? I'd just say "oh, sod it. I'll stick with Windows".

I found a site with an article on how to install Linux. None of the options that it says I should see has appeared. However, here's a classic piece illustrating how computer people have absolutely no idea how non-computer people think.

From the top of page 1:

I have tailored the material here to beginners. No special sophistication in computers is needed

From about half-way through the piece (btw, none of this article was of any use whatsoever, and yet Google had this listed quite near the top):

From Page 12:

Most Linux distributions do not include your current directory, ‘.’, in the PATH variable. Thus if for example
you compile a program and then type
the shell may tell you that a.out is not found. You are expected to explicitly specify the current directory:

If you consider this a problem, as I do, to remedy it in the case of the BASH shell (the default shell for most
distributions), edit the file /.bash profile In the line which sets PATH, append “:.” (a colon and a dot) at the
end of the line, with no intervening spaces. Then log out and log in again, or do
source ˜/.bash_profile

Huh? That's meant to be stuff "tailored for beginners"? (BTW, I've just reread it and I now understand what he is saying. But why put that paragraph in the article at all? It just doesn't belong there.)

And what does the phrase "or do source" mean? It doesn't even qualify as illiterate or English. It's a dialect.

In the old days, dialects were geographically based. Now they are occupation-based. A broad computer-speaker is less comprehensible than somewone with the broadest of broad Geordie accents.

Woohoo. Live update. I've managed to get some kind of "examples" screen when running it from the disc in safe mode. That only took 15 minutes to load. Life really is too short for all this shit.

The problem with computer installations is that you never know how long you have to wait. What bright spark decided to put one of those bars with the percentage completed of an installation (although the linux one doesn't even have this for much of the time)? Has anyone pointed out that, since you can get very "slow" periods, when the bar crawls from left to right, followed by very speedy periods, when it zooms along, the "percentage completed" is absolutely useless as a guide of how long you will have to wait?


Lex in the FT this morning had a final sentence that should send shivers down the spine of anyone who thinks that everything will be fine (John Authers was making a similar point in another section). That it merely supports the Birks stance of many years ("inflation will return") and the Butler stance of many years (Buy gold, the system is about to collapse!) is by-the-by. The article refers to high inflation in the Bric countries and the significance of rising prices in wheat, rice and corn.

...dirt-cheap consumer products from abroad have been central to keeping western prices low. There is a credible risk that this is an inflection point. Monetary authorities sohould be firm -- and yet this is precisely the stance that they are unable to adopt because of the banking crisis.

Politicians, meanwhile, are asking "what's the solution?". And you have to tell them that, well, there isn't one. Or that, the one that there is, they aren't going to like.

I'm not a fan of Thatcherite or any other silly economy-lite-ite comparison of the individual to large economies. It isn't just a matter of "scaling up". However, in this case, an example from an individual household isn't that bad.

Think of the US economy and the UK economy as a couple of 25-year olds. For six years they have been spending more than they produce. They have financed this by increasing their credit card debt. This has never been a problem. The lenders have been happy to increase their limits. And there's always another credit card to apply for. Sure, servicing the debt is a bit of a pain, but, hell, their wages are going up. They can cope.

Now, all of a sudden, the lenders will not increase the 25-year-olds' credit limits. And no new cards are available. In addition, the interest on the loans in place is going up. What is the solution?

Well, the solution is to cut down on your expenditure. You pay back the money that for the past few years you have been borrowing from the future.

However, if everyone does that, then consumption drops. And let's suppose one of our our hypothetical 25-year-olds works in, say, the entertainment industry, managing a chain of bingo halls. Suddenly, people stop their discretionary spending. The bingo halls close. He is out of a job. Now he can't even service his debt.

In other words, they may well be no solution apart from the horrific "I wouldn't start from here".

There are chinks of light in this scenario. One is that inflation could come back to wipe out debts. That would be a horrible solution for some sections of the economy (not least our banks, who are, any way I look at it, fucked when it comes to future profits) but would at least get us back to "year zero" in a way that would avoid revolution.

A second possibility is that we persuade the Bric countries to start consuming. The developed world cuts back its own expenditure, the Brics start buying luxury goods. We export ourselves out of trouble while living an austere life. Anny chances of that? Not really.

The likely solution? Politicians will look for annything that appears politically acceptable, without concern about whether it makes any economic sense. And therein, I fear, lies the root of all our problems.


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