A Brief Word on Newtown

I don’t have ten thousand words to write on this topic.  Or rather, I could write ten thousand words on it, but no one wants to read that and I don’t feel like wasting that much of WordPress’ server space.  Besides, brevity is the soul of wit, as they say.

Further restricting guns treats a symptom, not the cause. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – cold and allergy medicines only treat symptoms, and that’s just fine for most cases – but it isn’t the end all and be all of stopping this sort of violence. There are serious issues with how we deal with mental health in this country. The US is the unhappiest “western” nation in the world. Suicide rates are astronomical compared to most European countries, especially among young men, who kill themselves here at a 7-to-1 ratio over women. Perhaps we need to focus on why there is so much suffering in this country rather than strictly on how it’s being inflicted.

Of course, that would require the right to admit that we need to actually fund public health and research programs instead of further slashing their budgets to make way for more tax cuts for the wealthy, and the left to admit that they can’t just poof all the guns away and have these problems magically disappear with them. Sadly, I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

So back to your regularly scheduled gun control and video game violence arguments, I suppose.

Update: Someone else did write those ten thousand words, far better than I could have.  Read this.

Just Too Close To Love You: The Internet Explorer 10 Review

Part One of the Windows 8 review coverage

IE10 About

There was a time when Microsoft’s web browser commanded about 95% of the global market. Internet Explorer was the way to browse the web, and deep integration into the equally-ubiquitous Windows operating system left Netscape without a leg to stand on. Internet Explorer got so big, in fact, that the federal government got involved, suing Microsoft for anti-competitive business practices. There was even talk of splitting up Microsoft, AT&T-style. Of course, that didn’t come to pass, but Microsoft was required to separate Internet Explorer from the core of Windows somewhat. In Europe, they faced even tougher restrictions: Windows 7 and up have to prompt the user which web browser they want to use on first boot, rather than shipping with IE installed by default.

The real decline in Internet Explorer’s market share, however, came of course from the explosion of two alternative browsers: first, Mozilla’s Firefox in 2004, and later Google’s Chrome in 2008. I have used Firefox off and on since the early betas (still called Phoenix at the time, before trademark issues forced Mozilla to change the name) and have been using Chrome as my primary browser for the last couple of years. I, like millions of others, eventually came to view Internet Explorer as “that thing that downloads Firefox/Chrome on new computers.”

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Apocalypse Never: The PC Market In Perspective

The third-quarter sales figures are out from the usual suspects at Gartner and IDC, and they show (as was expected) a dip in sales from almost every major PC manufacturer in the US – even Apple, who have until now managed to continue selling more units despite an industry-wide slump.  This time, only ThinkPad manufacturer Lenovo and famed king of reliability ASUS managed to keep their heads above the waterline – and did so spectacularly, with Lenovo moving up to 4th place behind Apple in the US, and taking the number one spot worldwide away from HP.  Despite Lenovo’s successes, however, the industry as a whole declined for yet another quarter.  The question on many people’s minds is obvious: why?  Computers are faster and cheaper than ever, so why aren’t they selling as well?  As it turns out, it’s actually a fairly complex answer that can’t be easily boiled down to something pithy like “iPad sales,” no matter how hard some members of the tech press might desire to do so.

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Why the New iPhone (Almost) Doesn’t Suck

The iPhone has never really been my first (or second, or third, etc.) choice of smartphone.  The recently released iPhone “5” has certainly not changed that opinion.  To be fair, however, it is a step (or several) in the right direction.  There are some interesting changes and angles here that haven’t seen as much press as they perhaps deserve.

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X Marks The Spot

Part Two in an occasional series on terrible puns minimal GNU/Linux distributions

I’ve already gone over the basics of minimal Linux distributions (“distros” henceforth) and what benefits they can impart on older hardware, so let’s just get down to brass tacks. Today we’ll be looking at another lightweight distro running on another old notebook computer. The distro is Xubuntu, a derivative of Canonical, Ltd.’s popular (relatively speaking) Ubuntu Linux and, by extension, another variant of Debian. Xubuntu forgoes Ubuntu’s heavier, “kitchen-sink” Unity desktop environment for the lightweight and highly configurable Xfce. Xubuntu also strips out some of Ubuntu’s meatier packages in favor of lighter-weight alternatives. Despite this, you still get access to the Ubuntu software center and the large selection of semi-curated packages therein, all driven by Debian’s robust APT package management framework.

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Out With A Bang: Breathing Life Into Older Hardware

Part one in an occasional series on minimal GNU/Linux distributions

For years, the typical lifespan of a computer was considered to be about 2-3 years. The rapid development of faster and more efficient processors and graphics cards, the ever-growing amounts of RAM that could be crammed into a single stick (and used up by a single program), and the massive size of mechanical hard drives (and again, the files and programs you would be storing on them) made it a simple matter of practicality: After roughly three years, your old computer simply couldn’t do what you wanted it to anymore. This cadence was also reflected in the release schedule of new operating systems. Microsoft would release a new version of Windows every 2-3 years, and Apple a new version of their Mac OS; in both of these cases it was often most economical to simply buy a whole new computer with up-to-date hardware, rather than pay in excess of $100 to upgrade your operating system to a new version that may not even run very well on your current machine.

Then, in the mid 2000s, something changed. Microsoft released Windows XP in 2001, and in that same year Apple released their completely redesigned Mac OS X. While both of these operating systems had the usual teething problems at launch, each would bring about something unexpected in the following years. Microsoft opted to simply keep the popular XP up to date with free service packs as the development of its successor, then code-named Longhorn, dragged on far past the initially expected release date. Apple, on the other hand, continued to release near-annual $130 updates to Mac OS X, but unlike in the past, these updates had an unexpected effect: Each new version ran better on existing hardware than the one before it, finally making the idea of replacing your hardware for every new OS upgrade obsolete.

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