Short rounds and leftovers:

Hello, readers! Here’s hoping those of you in the US had an enjoyable Thanksgiving on Thursday. I thoroughly enjoyed the company of my cousins, though I did rather poorly in our board game of choice.  I blame the dice.   Throughout the week I finished up a couple of titles and wanted to comment on them.

First up is The Cathedral and the Bazaar, which is less a book and more of a long essay on Linux, an open-source operating system — and specifically, how Linux’s bottom up, emergent order approach is much different from the controlling top-down approach of Microsoft and Apple.  I was interested because I recently used a boot disk with Ubuntu (a Linux variant)  to access a computer and extract files from it after it stopped booting Windows. I was pleasantly surprised by its intuitiveness, because I’d previously regarded Linux as something of interest chiefly to programmers and system administrators. Everything I had to do I managed through the graphical interface, just like Windows or Apple, and I made another boot disk with another Linux variant (Mint) to test next time.  An interesting quote from the book:
“The Linux world behaves in many respects like a free market or an ecology, a collection of selfish agents attempting to maximize utility which in the process produces a self-correcting spontaneous order more elaborate and efficient than any amount of central planning could have achieved. Here, then, is the place to seek the ‘principle of understanding’.
The ‘utility function’ Linux hackers are maximizing is not classically economic, but is the intangible of their own ego satisfaction and reputation among other hackers. Voluntary cultures that work this way are not actually uncommon; one other in which I have long participated is science fiction fandom, which unlike hackerdom has long explicitly recognized [ego-boosting] as the basic drive behind volunteer activity.”
Although a lot of the content of The Cathedral and the Bazaar is over my head (given my status as definitely-not-a-programmer),  I like the idea of the open source movement, and not just because it produces good programs that are free of cost, like VLC Media Player, LibreOffice, and the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), two of which I use.   Developers are becoming insanely clingy about controlling users, and about what they allow users to control; these days the proprietary software on computers isn’t so much owned as rented.  And some of the software produced by these places isn’t even that great: my favored music player, Winamp, makes it far more easy to build and edit playlists than iTunes or Groove, and it’s been using the same simple approach for all the 15+ years I’ve been using it.  

Also up is Coffee to Go, a truck-driving…journal from a Scottish author who drove principally between the UK and western Europe. This book was recommended to me on the basis that he travels to Russia, but no such trip was recorded here, with the farthest reaches being Austria and northern Scandinavia. (There may be multiple editions?) Although I like trucking memoirs generally, this one was….well, less a memoir and more of a journal. Hobbs records every bit of his trip, from how much he paid for coffee to what he said to the fellows as customs, and I found it tedious. The last fifth of the book are recollections of his trips from before he started keeping a diary, and those are much more interesting to read because of all the play-by-play action is absent, replaced by a general narrative with thoughts on traveling to tiny places like Andorra. Easily the most interesting chapter were his memories of driving into Western Berlin during the Soviet era, when  the western side of the city was a pocket surrounded by the dismal DDR.  Hobbs seems like a nice guy, but this wasn’t one I’ll remember much about, I’m afraid.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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11 Responses to Short rounds and leftovers:

  1. mudpuddle says:

    condolences on the culmination of the board game affair (you maybe needed to make a sacrifice to the board game god…, like buttered toast upside down on the floor or equivalent… lol @ my own imagination: sorry) the linus experience sounds enlightening but mysterious; it's too bad the truck driving was blah; it sounds like it would have been better than it was.. eclecticism is good, however, on to the next, i surmise….

  2. CyberKitten says:

    Dice are tricky buggers…. Better luck next time! No travelogues coming up from me but I do have a few IT related books coming (comparatively) soon. In fact I'm starting a new on on Sunday….

  3. Stephen says:

    Oh, yes…I've got a couple of brain books in the wings, and am currently reading a book on morality and evolutionary psychology as expressed in economics. Sounds complex, but the author is one I've read and liked before — an AVID bicyclist, by the way, one who owned a bike shop before he decided to focus on his doctorate.

  4. Stephen says:

    Sounds good! I've ordered a couple of interlibrary loans on the social influence of GPS and smartphones, respectively. Hard to believe I have to start thinking about next year already..

  5. Marian H says:

    Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! Board/card games are the best. We've been playing Chronology for the first time and having a blast.I highly recommend Linux Mint Cinnamon if you are looking to get away from Microsoft (can't speak for Apple :)). This past spring, I put Mint on an old Dell laptop we had lying around. I used a couple of online beginner's guides, mostly followed this one: than one or two hiccups, it's been running great for my purposes (internet, video/graphics editing, remote desktop connection). It's much faster than Windows on the same laptop, but keeping dual boot is a good option if you still need Windows for anything.

  6. Stephen says:

    Cinnamon is the one on my second boot disk, haven't got a chance to try it out yet. I've been playing with the idea of installing Linux on a second drive just to learn and explore it, so thanks for the link! I couldn't use Linux as a daily driver because of the gaming I enjoy…although it's come a LONG way in that department, I understand. I actually like the way Microsoft/Windows have been going, at least until the 2018 update debacles. Hopefully they'll cut back to one good update a year.

  7. R. T. says:

    Hmmm. As I resurrect myself from the ash heap of blogging, I have rediscovered your excellent blog, and I look forward to reading about your reading adventures. However, I confess that I will pass on both of the books you've highlighted here. Well, best wishes from the old goat on the Gulf coast.

  8. Stephen says:

    Hey there! Welcome back. 🙂

  9. CyberKitten says:

    Just posted a book review on Revolutionary Iran you might find interesting.

  10. Stephen says:

    Thanks! (I swear I'm still alive…just finished Shermer's book on morals and markets.)

  11. Unknown says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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