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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Linux Mint 12 Live DVD

After a lovely Thanksgiving, I plugged in the Linux Mint 12 live DVD, 64 bit version (on my System 76 desktop unit.

It seems rather obvious and intuitive to use. On the one hand, there's the familiar panel below (with Window pager), and the familiar start button. This is Mint's response to the outrage and outcry of Linux users who can't deal with Ubuntu's Unity or Gnome's latest version (3.0).

On the other, I can ignore all that and just click on the infinity symbol (upper left) and find myself in the middle of Gnome 3. Which is also rather obvious and intuitive, although it may take an extra click or two.

Linux Mint 12 started rather rapidly, and seemed to have no trouble at all finding the network; it even felt a little faster than 11.

I can take a screenshot of the usual (familiar desktop), but can't find a way to take one of the newer Gnome one. But this may be because I've been sick, and have run out of steam. Time to turn in early.

Of course, it still can't display my modest 1280x1024 screen size, which sucks. So there's no compelling reason to jump on the train now. Still, another day, another download, another distro.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Scrooge and Starlighting

Last year I had the privilege of playing Ebenezer Scrooge for the Front Range Theatre Company's "The Education of Mr. Scrooge." I was also asked by the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce to write a brief history of Castle Rock's "Starlighting" ceremony -- a longstanding tradition for my home town. So I wrote a script, a skit, really, to tell the story. Originally, my "character" was Scrooge, and I wound up with a plug for the play. This year, the Chamber fiddled with the script to make me "Horace Ebenezer." But I thought putting this online somewhere might make for a nice bit of local history. My thanks to the many real life officials who performed this last night. The usual big Starlight crowd seemed to enjoy it, hokey though it was.

I should say, by the way, that I've got a heck of a cold, or flu, or something. So I hope I did my part OK. But the advantage of writing the script is that you can give everybody else the long bits. In the picture below, Gary Shapiro is on the left. I, wearing an awesome Mad Hatter hat, am on the right.



5:08 p.m. Gary Shapiro — Telling of the Starlighting Story

“Let me tell you a story, a tale that you may find sounds rather familiar. Just last night, a grumpy old man, Horace Ebenezer, whose alias around Castle Rock is Jamie LaRue - director of the Douglas County Libraries and longtime Castle Rock resident - asked himself,”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)--"Why is there always such a fuss downtown in Castle Rock, every year, just to turn on a showy star that wastes taxpayer dollars? Humbug!"

Gary Shapiro—“At that moment, a Voice chimed in--Ebenezer, you will be visited this afternoon by three Spirits."

Just then the Perry Street clock struck ONE. And almost immediately, another voice materialized, this one accompanied by a body and a beard."

Commissioner Steve Boand — “I am the Spirit of Starlighting past!”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer) — “What are you talking about?”

Commissioner Boand — “I have come to tell the story of how, in 1936, a group of hardy firemen scaled the sides of the Rock, without benefit of roadway or footpath. They carried with them heavy pipes, rods, torches and fuel tanks.”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer) — “Whatever for?”

Commissioner Boand — “Upon reaching the windswept heights, they constructed a star, welding it in sections, tilting it upright, wiring it for electricity, and completing the project with 100 light bulbs of 25 watts apiece. When lighted, it was visible for a distance of ten miles!”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer) — “And I suppose this light blazed all through the night?”

Commissioner Boand — “No, for many years, the lights of the star were turned off by midnight. But no longer!”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer) — “It's been up there ever since?”

Commissioner Boand — “The Star was dark during World War II, honoring the government's request to save electricity. But, in 1945, it again shone out over the land, a 'V' of light. In 1949, the brave firemen again scaled the Rock to replace the original star.”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)—“But what's all this infernal racket downtown?”

Commissioner Boand—“In 1965, an enthusiastic group of citizens worked with the Volunteer Fire Department to prepare an inspirational ceremony to accompany the turning on of the lights. The first Starlighting Ceremony took place on Sunday, November 28, 1965. And so it has continued, so that 'the Yuletide travelers who pass along this way between the hours of dusk and dawn may know that this star, so like that other Star of long ago, radiates its warm and sincere message of Hope for Peace on Earth and Good Will in the Hearts of Men.'"

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)—“Whose idea was all that?”

Commissioner Boand—“Originally the dream of Golden Dobbin owner Anne McConnell, it was adopted as the joint vision of the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Town's Fire Department. 

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)—“And the idea was just to kick off the Christmas shopping season?”

Commissioner Boand—“You have much to learn, Ebenezer." (fades back)

Gary Shapiro--Then the clock tolled Two. And the Second Spirit appeared.

Mayor Paul Donahue (Spirit of Starlighting Present)--“Ebenezer”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)—“Who are you?

Mayor Donahue—“I’m Paul Donahue, the Spirit of Starlighting Present!”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)—“Has anyone ever told you you look just like the Mayor of Castle Rock?

Mayor Donahue – “I get that all the time. But that's not why I'm here. You asked about the revelry of Starlighting. Today, as has been the case for so many years, we will sing carols together, have a benediction, count down together to turn on the light, and then adjourn for a chili dinner.”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)—“I don't suppose there's a chance we'll see Santa? I've always liked Santa.”

Mayor Donahue – “Yes, Ebenezer, Santa will be here tonight, as he has been so often before. Actually here is the Santa Chair—we will be seeing him very, very soon”.

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)—“But what else goes on here today?”

Mayor Donahue – “we have seen all afternoon many, many wonderful non-profit organizations around our local streets and the singing of Christmas Carols, horses and carriages clip clopping along, in addition to a new skating rink and wait you will see our grand finale—the lighting of our great Star.”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)—“So all of this is just a government boondoggle to sing old songs, visit Santa, and eat chili?

Mayor Donahue—“Ebenezer, You just don't get it, do you? (fades back)

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)—“Bah!”

Gary Shapiro “And then the clock tolled Three. And who should appear but…”

House Rep. Carole Murray—“Ebenezer, I am the Spirit of Starlighting future.”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)—“You mean this just goes on and on?”

Rep. Murray—“I'm here to unveil the true meaning of Starlighting, Ebenezer. Through our honoring of the past, and celebrating the present, we create something new and vital.”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer)—(suspiciously) “And what's that?”

Rep. Murray—“We create community. From our shared experiences, our gathering with children, our hopes for the future, we build an enduring and inviting Town, truly an inspiration, a light, for the entire state."

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer) (starting to smile) “You mean, the past, the present, and future of Starlighting is not only about economic development, but also the development of a common bond?”

Rep. Murray—“Yes, Ebenezer.”

Jamie LaRue—(Ebenezer) “Why, that's .... not bad! God bless us, every one!”

Gary Shapiro—“And forever after it was said that Horace Ebenezer kept the spirit of Starlighting in his heart, and never missed a single ceremony for the rest of his life.” 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Douglas County Libraries hits USA Today

Check this out.

Cute kid plays ukulele

This has only had about 49 million hits since it first went up in Dec. 2009, so I'm guessing I'm not the first to blog about it. But I love this kid. He doesn't know the words to the song, and it doesn't even matter. Attitude is all. THIS is content creation that counts. Watch this when you need not only to be reminded of the indomitable spirit of humanity, but you need a laugh.

Thanks to Maddy for finding this. Wonderful beyond words.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

More musing on older technolgoy

I mentioned in my last post that I finally broke down and upgraded my Acer Aspire netbook from its original Linpus Lite (Linux) OS to a new Linux Mint 11. It is MUCH better (and yes, I got tkoutline to work -- just had to apt-get install the file it told me it couldn't find). But Mint also told me that I have an older and never more than 34% charged battery. Truth is, with this 3 cell battery, I don't think I ever had more than an hour before I had to plug it in. Which is pathetic, given that this computer doesn't even have a hard drive. (It uses an 8 meg SD card, which truly has always been plenty for my modest needs.)

So I noodled around on the web and found a 9 cell battery that promises 10 hours of charge. I ordered it. That will be an interesting thing, if it works. It is certainly much easier to write on the netbook, and do various other computing tasks, than it is to use an iPad.

But the point of this posting is to underscore the advantage of holding onto equipment past a few hardware cycles. Recently, I replaced my old Palm Pre smart phone battery. Originally, they cost $20-30 dollars. Now, you can get them for $2.

The 9 cell battery I just ordered retailed originally for $121. Now it goes for just under $30.

There comes a point when you don't actually NEED all of the computer equipment you have around the house, and I just might be there. On the other hand, I actually do a lot of writing, and it's good to have a backup. Or two.

But it's a lot cheaper to hang onto something till it really does die, doing the odd repair as needed, than to replace everything all the time with something new.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Time for an Acer Aspire update?

I guess the issue is Google. It seems to have upgraded some things in Google Docs, and suddenly my old Acer Aspire netbook, running a version of Linpus Lite (based on Fedora 8, which is WAY back there by now) doesn't work that well with Google anymore. Not only that, I couldn't get it to load Chrome. It's the problem of maintaining an aging platform.

I haven't been updating the little netbook because (a) it wasn't broken, so I couldn't see a reason to fix it, (b) Linpus Lite does boot VERY quickly (20 seconds), and 3) I hadn't backed it all up first, which of course I should do first.

So I burned a CD of Linux Mint 11, and launched it as a Live CD to see if it worked on the Acer. It did. No customization was required at all. I'm using it right now. I was working through the files to see if I could get it all set up, and then started reading about Linux Mint 12.

I aked myself this question: Do I upgrade to the last stable version, based on Ubuntu's Gnome 2.32? Or do I step it up again to the underlying version of Gnome 3.0, but customized by Mint to look a little familiar?

And I suppose asking that question answered it for me. I want the netbook to be stable, which means (usually) that it has to be based on a version or two back in the world of OS's and applications. Mint 11 seems up-to-date enough for another year, I would think.

OK, time to back everything up.

---
Later. I dragged key files to a flash drive, then did have some struggles "reformatting." When I chose a location, the installer crashed. I got past that by launching the installer again, and just waiting awhile before I selected the location option.

It takes a little longer to start up the netbook now -- from 20 seconds before to 40 or 50 seconds now. Now, the OS requires me to type my password before I can use it. I traded convenience for security.

Then I spent some time downloading a few programs I use a lot (Notecase Pro, Xmind, Kompozer), and transferring my address book into Thunderbird, etc. I haven't gotten it to launch tkoutline yet, for reasons that are mysterious, but I'll figure that out soon enough I imagine.

But once I log in, it looks good, is reasonably responsive, and lets me do want I want to do.

My new desktop looks like this:


Incidentally, Linux Mint did tell me that I probably have a damaged battery. It's the original, which never did last long. I can probably track one of those down, too, allowing me to wring another year or two of use out of it.