Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Month: June 2006


For quite some time, I have desired a portable Internet device that i could carry when I traveled, as I admit to being such a hopeless Internet junkie and I much prefer to have my own computer for such activities. (My PDA/Mobile is an Internet device and useful in a pinch, but it’s not really the best application for serious websurfing or journaling.) Using other people’s computers is like using other people’s kitchens. You can get done what you need to, but nothing is where you expect it to be and you have to rummage about to find anything.

tarkrai kindly donated me a couple of ancient, but working, laptops from his collection of derelict computer parts, but for various reason neither was able to transform into what I really needed. Then baiku announced his intention to divest himself of a similar crop of old tech for anyone who’d be willing to come take them away. Since I had a DVD full of 2006 Doctor Who episodes for him, we made arrangements to meet up and he handed me two Dell Inspirons of unknown status. Neither of them turned out to work, but I figured it was worth the $30 that Ginstar would charge me to find out what it would take to repair one of them. So the Inspiron 4000 went into the shop, was determined to have a bad motherboard, and completely repaired for $200.

When I got it back, I ran diagnostics and found that the hard drive had bad sectors, so I pulled the hard drive out of the still non-functional 3500, and found it was perfectly ok, so I transplanted it into the 4000 and installed Ubuntu Linux 5.10 on my now fully functional Death Star laptop computer.

I have to say that Ubuntu has impressed me greatly. I’d already been using it for sometime on my workstation at the office, but given the horror stories I’d heard about getting Linux working on laptop computers, I was unprepared for how utterly seamless it was to install. I didn’t have to recompile any thing, hunt for drivers, twiddle with my settings. It installed, brought up the X display, let me log in, and *everything worked*. Well done.

Having gotten the laptop up and on the network, there was one last critical accessory to make this laptop perfect. I wanted to install a WiFi card. Even with the tremendous ease that I got the base OS installed on the machine, though, I wasn’t expecting this to be easy. Everything I’d read about getting wifi to work on Linux laptops led me to anticipate a lot of fiddling ahead.

I got some advice from fleetfootmike and rinioth, who said that my best bet was a card with a PrismII chipset. rinioth also sent me a great chart with pretty much all the cards that were on the market and the state of drivers for each of them. So I printed that out and headed down the local Best Buy. Unfortunately, none of the cards they had in stock were PrismII cards, but I did find a Netgear WG511T, which uses the Atheros chip and which the chart said had a good driver. Knowing I had 30 days to try it and bring it back if I couldn’t make it work, I decided to take a chance.

Brought it home, plugged it in. Booted up. Ubuntu recognized the card immediately. Is that supposed to happen? Interesting. Looked up the commands for configuring the card. Attached to my AP, got an IP from dhcp, and was surfing. Just like that. I didn’t have to install any drivers. I didn’t have to struggle or swear or do anything at all. it just plain worked the way it was supposed to. I even found that the GUI Network Configuration tool in Gnome already knows how to talk to it and feed it its necessary configurations.

I believe the appropriate word is “squee!!”

I now have a working wireless laptop. I am a happy cat.

The stupid, it burns!

You know, every time I think I can no longer be utterly dumbfounded by the stupid things that politicians get up to, along comes a story like this one in Atlanta’s Creative Loafing:

Lawmakers want to punish bank for stiffing scouts
Bank of America quit donating to the Boy Scouts for its policy on gays

The Boy Scout motto is, “always be prepared.” And in an election year, one should be prepared for a flurry of grandstanding. So maybe we should have seen this one coming.

In April, Bank of America’s Charitable Foundation declined to give money to a local Boy Scouts council, citing the scouts’ national policy barring gays from serving as Boy Scout troop leaders.

Now, Sen. John Wiles, R-Kennesaw, and Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, say they will introduce a bill during the next legislative session that would punish Bank of America by allowing the state to refuse to do business with any company that “practices discrimination.”

Basically, what Wiles and Ehrhart are recommending is that the state be allowed to discriminate against a company that discriminates against a group that discriminates.

Wiles, who is a former scout and who has three sons in the Boy Scouts, says Bank of America has the right to donate to whomever the company wants.

“But we as a state,” he says, “we have the right not to do business with people who discriminate.”

Of course, the next legislative session is months away, and talk of a proposed bill at this point is a bit premature. But the announcement comes just in time — less than two months before the state’s primary elections — to send a message to the social conservatives in Ehrhart’s and Wiles’ districts.

Bank of America officials say the company is just trying to be consistent with its policy not to fund groups that discriminate on the basis of age, race, sex or sexual orientation. A letter from Bank of America to the Valdosta-based Alapaha council instructs the troop that if it were able to “depart from the current discriminatory practices of the national organization” the bank would consider donating to the Boy Scouts again.

Wiles says that’s not good enough. He calls Bank of America’s decision extortion.

“This is a new policy Bank of America’s taken on and they’re forcing local Boy Scout councils who rely on their money to change their policy,” Wiles says.

Lynne Hogue, a Georgia State University law professor, says it seems more like Wiles and Erhart are the ones trying to wrench money from Bank of America for the scouts.

“It sounds like an extortion plot,” Hogue says. “They’re saying, ‘If you want to do business with the state we’re going to stick a gun to your head, and you’ve got to give money to these groups that we want money given to.’ The mafia couldn’t do a better job.”

Hogue also says he believes it’s unlikely that Wiles’ and Ehrhart’s proposal would make it onto the House floor for a vote.

“I think this is just bluster and political pandering and not much else,” he says. “It’s hard to imagine that this is a serious legislative proposal.”

I don’t even know where to begin. Unbelievable. How do people like this manage to tie their own shoes?

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