“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for January 2008

Time to Spring Clean that PC.

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Throw away that old Micro$oft rubbish, rejuvenate your tired old PC with Linux.

Choices, choices? But which particular Linux distribution to pick?

Preferably a free one, one that you can download and one that fulfils its function.

There is a myriad of Linux distributions to choose from at DistroWatch, and here are a few that I like:

Ubuntu, which comes in many different varieties, from KDE, Gnome based to the lightweight Xfce in Xubuntu.

Kubuntu is well designed, but a bit top-heavy on eye candy for my taste. The Gnome version is a good compromise, plenty of functionality without the KDE bloat.

Xfce is positively sprightly compared to Kubuntu, requires a little more work by the user, but is practical on lower specified machines. Ubuntu derived distributions benefit from extensive repositories and plenty of community support, having said that, I was underwhelmed by the recent releases of Ubuntu and I am still running 7.04, instead of 7.10 or the latest Alpha (Hardy Heron). Still a good choice to start with.

MEPIS is an interesting variety, set-up is very easy, quick, just point and click with good hardware support.

For a faster alternative try, AntiX, a cut down but fully serviceable version of MEPIS. AntiX is based on Fluxbox with IceMW thrown in for free. Fast and usable. It had no problems with my strange wireless set-up. Recommended.

My current favourite is Midiflux, which is based on PCLinuxOS, a Mandrake off-shoot, and TinyMe. Midiflux is small, very fast but will run KDE applications if needed; it is an excellent compromise between practical application support and small size. It takes about 10 minutes to install, however, Midiflux is still beta. Installation is simple, although I think that MEPIS’s installation is slightly more polished, just boot up the Live CD and click on the Install icon.

Other appealing distros are Damn Small Linux, GoblinX and Zenwalk.

Written by modernityblog

31/01/2008 at 15:59

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Closer Than You’d Think

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Years ago if you wanted to study the Far Right, neo-Nazis or Jew haters it was difficult, you had to purchase, preferably indirectly, their literature and look out for the recurring genocidal themes and expressions of hatred, along came the Internet.

The web made it much easier, scanning newsgroups was a piece of cake, and if you have the stomach you could even visit their web sites, although the spectacle of swastikas and Nazi paraphernalia normally limited such trips, unless your stomach was particularly strong.

But time moves on and so does the Far Right, instead of trawling disgusting web sites their ideas are closer to home, at the Guardian’s Comment is Free.

Such a change isn’t to be welcomed but it is noticeable, and more so when Guardian readers have to express a degree of empathy with the victims of Nazi persecution.

You might suppose that the Guardian as a liberal newspaper, with a largely liberal and university educated readership would be the last place that you would find excessive levels of anti-Jewish racism, nevertheless that is the case, as a recent article by Stephen Smith on the Holocaust indicates.

The comment boxes at CiF are littered with racist filth and barely concealed Far Right sentiments.

So sadly studying Jew haters and Far Right nutters is easier than it ever was, and closer to home, than you’d think.

Written by modernityblog

28/01/2008 at 13:58

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Imagine…Remember, Reflect, React

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Written by modernityblog

27/01/2008 at 02:08

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Open Thread on Anti-Imperialism.

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Anti-imperialism is the watchword of the new millennia. You can barely pick up a newspaper or scan the Internet without the word “anti-imperialism” popping out.

And yet what is really meant by anti-imperialism?

1. Is it anti-imperialism when roadside bombs kill Iraqi or American troops in Iraq?

2. Is it anti-imperialism when the UN office in Iraq is blown up?

3. Is it anti-imperialism when aid workers are deliberately targeted in Afghanistan?

Do you support any of the above? And if so, why?

4. Pressing on, is it legitimate anti-imperialism to rain down rockets on Israeli civilians in Sderot?

And do you agree with those attacks, or not?

Finally, if you’ve agreed with all or any of the above as legitimate, or in any way acceptable expressions of anti-imperialist sentiment, then please explain why the Scottish National liberation Army‘s campaign of poisoning random English civilians isn’t anti-imperialism too?

And if not, why not, when compared with the above examples?

I hope that some anti-imperialists will have the courage of their convictions, digests the above and describe what is acceptable in their views and more importantly, what is not?

I’m genuinely curious, because it seems to me to be nothing more than dressed up nihilism, and I would like to receive a logical explanation as to what is reasonable for the sake of “the cause”?

Written by modernityblog

26/01/2008 at 02:41

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Keeping an Eye on the Extreme Right

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Following the goings-on of the extreme right is hard, the devious little bleeders are always changing, ducking for cover, putting on suits or stirring up hatred somewhere.

So it’s good that some dedicated antifascists keep an eye on these scum, the Lancaster UAF is a good site to read along with Kirklees Unity Exposing the Far Right.

Not forgetting Searchlight, Stop the BNP or HateWatch.

Written by modernityblog

25/01/2008 at 21:10

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Open Thread on Zionism.

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May 2008 is the 60th birthday of the State of Israel.

For some people this time will be a celebration, for others it will be bittersweet and yet more will rant, nash their teeth and moan about the crimes of the “Zionists”.

So this is an open thread, I will turn off the moderation and people can post whatever they want.

I would ask them only two questions:

1. What proposed solution or solutions would you suggest for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

2. Do you consider that the Geneva initiative is a potential blueprint for settling the conflict? And if not, what else?

Please give me your ideas.

Update: anyone in any doubt concerning Hamas’s racist credentials, should see the interview with Azzam Tamimi, Hamas’s unofficial spokesman in Britain at HP

Written by modernityblog

21/01/2008 at 02:33

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First Guest?

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My first guest post at HP has been put up

It’s on the topic of Ama Sumani and her inexcusable treatment at the hands of the Home Office.

I was provoked into this post and by an attitude that I perceived.

That attitude, although not fully articulated, implies that one, that other people’s human rights are of lesser value when they conflict with our own daily lives or an organisation close to our heart (in this case, the NHS). Secondly, it is interesting to see how often the NHS is viewed as a scarce resource and how some form of utilitarianism should be employed to preserve it, without addressing the real issues.

The thread at HP provoked some heated discussion, look out for Mettaculture’s contributions, he said all that I could wish to say and much more, with far greater eloquence, his posts are always worth a read.

Written by modernityblog

16/01/2008 at 23:45

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The Heresy of Galileo

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Who would believe it?

We are in the 21st century, and the Catholic Church still has problems with Galileo?

Readers will remember that Galileo’s crime was to suggest that the Earth revolved round the Sun, and not the other way around.

For that crime, Galileo was tried for heresy and placed under house arrest until he died in 1642. The Times reports:

“Sixty one Italian scientists have signed a letter protesting against a planned visit this week by Pope Benedict XVI to Rome’s Sapienza University because of his stated views on Galileo.

In a letter to Renato Guarini, the university rector, the scientists said the visit was “incongruous”. The signatories include distinguished physicists such as Andrea Frova, author of a study of Galileo’s persecution by the Church, and Carlo Maiani, the recently appointed head of the Italian National Council for Research or CNR.

The letter said scientists felt “offended and humiliated” by a statement made in 1990 by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the modern descendant of the Inquisition – suggesting that the trial of Galileo for heresy because of his support for the Copernican system was justified in the context of the time.

Written by modernityblog

15/01/2008 at 02:32

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Dusting off Old Plans

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Somewhere in Whitehall is the repository of all those politically unacceptable plans that Governments wish to push through but can’t, and if we could look at the shelf we would probably see: GM crops, Identity Cards and finally, Nuclear Power.

When an appropriate moment arises, the plan will be dusted off, brought up-to-date with a new gloss and tried again on the general public, but this week it’s not GM food, it is worse.

Climate change and the latest fad for being “carbon neutral” have given impetus to those dusty old plans for nuclear power in Britain, and it is a fine pretext.

Glistening new power stations, clean, environmentally friendly and above all carbon neutral. What more could the environmentally conscious want?

Hmm, sounds too good to be true?

Well it is.

For years, new nuclear power stations were delayed because of concerns over the decommissioning of older stations, the costs were unknown, the methodology unclear and where to store all the nasty radioactive excrement?

Banks and The City, always game for a risk, wouldn’t touch nuclear power with a 200 metre barge-pole, and with just cause.

However, times have moved on and our memory of leaking nuclear effluent has faded, along with the hundreds of leaks that occurred and were covered up.

But have no fear, it’s all changed, or so we are told.

The technology is essentially the same: nuclear fission

The same technology that led to nuclear contaminants in the sea and land around Sellafield.

The defenders of nuclear technology will say that they have the matter in hand and it won’t happen again, such errors were in the past and not reflective of modern advances, yet when we examine matters we see that even after 2004 there were problems:

No one knows when the cracks first started to appear, but as long ago as 2004, British Energy voiced concerns about fractures in the cores of its 14 reactors.

The cracks were spotted in graphite bricks in the cores of all the company’s advanced gas-cooled reactors, or AGRs. Collectively, they provide the country with nearly one fifth of its electricity. But the extent of the potential damage, and the consequences that might flow from it, were uncertain.

And let’s not forget:

A nuclear plant in Cumbria has been fined £2m after breaching regulations, which led to a radioactive leak. Acid containing 20 tonnes of uranium and 160kg (353lb) of plutonium escaped from a pipe and was found in a sealed cell at Sellafield in April 2005. Plant operator British Nuclear Group Sellafield (BNGSL) admitted responsibility and was fined by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). No one was hurt and no radioactive material escaped into the atmosphere after the leak at the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp) part of the site.

But the spillage, discovered in April 2005, may have gone unnoticed for eight months. In June, at a hearing at Whitehaven Magistrates’ Court, BNGSL pleaded guilty to breaching conditions attached to the Sellafield site licence. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the prosecution, arguing the firm failed to ensure safety systems were in good working order and that radioactive material was effectively contained. The operator of the Dounreay nuclear facility in Caithness, Scotland, has also incurred a £2m financial penalty after the spillage of highly active liquor at a waste processing plant in September last year. NDA has debited £2m from the annual fee the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) receives from the quango. The penalty was revealed on the same day it emerged that UKAEA could face criminal charges over rogue radioactive hot spots which have leaked into the sea from Dounreay. The magnitude of the incident led to it being registered on the International Nuclear Event Scale and resulted in enforcement notices being issued by HSE’s Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

To be continued…

Written by modernityblog

14/01/2008 at 02:48

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Time to Change

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Do your computers worry you? Are you scared of shopping online, or using your credit card for purchases

According to the BBC you should be:

Security experts are warning about a stealthy Windows virus that steals login details for online bank accounts.

In the last month, the malicious program has racked up about 5,000 victims – most of whom are in Europe.

Many are falling victim via booby-trapped websites that use vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s browser to install the attack code.

Experts say the virus is dangerous because it buries itself deep inside Windows to avoid detection.?

Computers running Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 that are not fully patched are all vulnerable to the virus.

Time to change!

Migrate your PC to Linux, get all the stability and security that is inherent in Linux systems without the hassle of Microsoft bugs or Windows-based viruses.

See Desktop Linux, Ubuntu’s migration assistantor some slightly more technical guides to migration, there’s plenty of help out there.

Written by modernityblog

13/01/2008 at 01:58

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Off With The Velvet Glove?

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Hezbollah are not know for subtly, but even the most gullible Western “anti-imperialist” must see through their latest pronouncements and destructive role in Lebanese society, the BBC reports:

“The Lebanese opposition group Hezbollah has said openly that it will not allow a president to be elected unless it gets a third of the cabinet seats.

This would give Hezbollah and its allies a veto over key decisions.

The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, blamed the US for obstructing a solution to Lebanon’s political crisis by opposing such a move.

The western-backed Lebanese government has repeatedly rejected the opposition’s demand for powers of veto.

The government has proposed reforming the cabinet to give the president a casting vote.

Hezbollah and its allies have been demanding a third of the cabinet seats since the 2006 war with Israel – which Hezbollah regards as a victory – but until now they had not publicly linked the issue to a presidential vote.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who is aligned with the government, said Hezbollah was making impossible demands and was more loyal to Syria and Iran than to Lebanon.

Only a 1/3? Why not take over the whole of the Lebanese government and re-start the civil war?

Sadly, that looks like just a matter of time.

Update: Judeosphere covers Norman Finkelstein’s tour of Lebanon. Rather predictably Norman is backing Hezbollah in its dispute with Human Rights Watch.

Written by modernityblog

05/01/2008 at 02:27

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Microsoft’s Own Goal or Potential Lawsuit?

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Microsoft are well known for their restrictive practices and shoddy software but the latest debacle makes you wonder if people in Redmond, Washington are suffering from too many booze ups or Christmas parties, as BetaNews reports:

“It seems as though the planned obsolescence that Microsoft committed so blatantly in Vista is now impacting Office 2003, too, with the arrival of Service Pack 3.

If you need to access old Microsoft file formats for early versions of Word, Excel, or Powerpoint — but you’ve suddenly and dramatically found yourself unable to do so — there’s an intentional reason from Microsoft behind that conundrum, according to a bulletin put out by Microsoft last month.

The reason for the unexpected incompatibility is that, by default, the SP3 update, which became available in mid-September, blocks the file formats used by these older desktop productivity tools from Microsoft.

Moroever, the same also holds true for the file formats used in older versions of products that just so happen to compete with some of Microsoft’s software offerings, such as the multiplatform Lotus Notes and Corel’s Quattro spreadsheet and Draw software.

The excuse given in Microsoft’s online document is that the earlier file formats from Microsoft and its rivals are “less secure” than the formats in Office 2003 and 2007…”

Written by modernityblog

03/01/2008 at 21:03

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New Years Resolutions 2008

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Xmas positively flew past and 2008 is with us, damn.

Still I am going to make a few resolutions that I might try and keep:

1. Take vitamins on a more regular basis, that cod liver oil seems to keep my brain going better.

2. Update blog links and reciprocate with greater frequency (Tami pricked my Conscience, as I have been meaning to add her thoughtful blog for ages, but seems like I didn’t, oh that poor memory of mine)

3. Turning out less drafts (currently about 102 still waiting completion) and more posts.

4. Shorter posts on technical subjects, some pointers to debates on blog and wider world.

5. More on disability and accessibility issues (and I really must finish off the ‘how to vocalise your blog’ guide)

6. that was hard, enough until next year.

a very happy New Year to all my readers

Written by modernityblog

01/01/2008 at 14:26

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