August – September 2010 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


Well, there you go. I’ll bet you’re wondering what I did on my summer vacation. In fact, I’ll bet you’re wondering why I never mentioned that I was taking a summer vacation. I’ll explain after the jump.

First off, thanks to all the folks who expressed condolences on the loss of our kitty Harry. He is sorely missed.

Secondly, we now have a couple of hundred fans on our Facebook page, which is awesome, although I’m still not sure why we have a Facebook page. It was my assistant Edith Freedle’s idea, and she went on an “emergency vacation” right after she set it up. She’s been on vacation for a long time, and her cell phone seems to be busted, but I’ll ask her about it if and when she ever comes back.

I kinda like Slate’s tech columnist, Farhad Manjoo. He’s certainly better than the relentlessly smarmy and ethically-challenged David Pogue at the NYT. But this is a seriously silly article. Nobody needs to have 200 browser tabs open at once. First of all, there is at least one Firefox extension, Tab Mix Plus, that makes it easy to save “sessions” (groups of tabs) so you can reopen all of them later. I do a lot of research online, often involving dozens of tabs, but I don’t leave them open all the time. That’s like trying to wear all the socks you own at once.

Secondly, it’s nice that he built himself a speedy computer, but his biggest problem with performance in his old machine (apart from the tab nonsense) was almost certainly Windows 7 (aka Vista II) itself, most particularly in its need for some kind of resource-hogging anti-virus software. Dude, seriously, I hate Macs personally, but get a Mac for pete’s sake. That anti-virus stuff (especially the bloated Norton, McAfee, etc.) eats more processor speed than most viruses and malware do. Any Mac with similar specs is gonna run faster. And Linux is gonna run much, much faster. The secret about Linux is that it’s a great way to revivify an aging PC. I have an eight-year old Dell cheapo single-core Pentium running Ubuntu that runs snappier than Windows 7 on a brand-new laptop.

Speaking of such things, I’ve been using the latest version of Ubuntu Linux since last spring and I’m very impressed. I’ve been using Linux since I dumped Windows about six years ago, and Ubuntu has finally gotten to the point where I’d be willing to recommend it to just about any PC user. You can try Ubuntu, incidentally, without installing it on your hard drive, and as soon as you reboot your computer it’s gone, leaving no trace on your computer.

There is one part of the current Ubuntu which does not work, however, and that’s the Ubuntu One online backup service. I tried using it on three different computers and it really just isn’t reliable enough to depend on. Having been bitten by the idea of an online backup service that would allow me to painlessly share files between computers, I went looking for alternatives and discovered Dropbox, which differs from Ubuntu One by actually working the way it’s supposed to. Now I can turn on any of my computers and know that I’m looking at the latest version of my columns. Dropbox works on Windows, Mac or Linux, a 2 gigabyte account is free, and if you use this link to sign up, you and I will both get an extra 250 megabytes of storage space for free.

And now, those of you interested in my lame excuses for missing deadlines can follow the link below…

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