Linux and a MacBook Pro

A few months ago, I received a package in the mail from a mysterious benefactor. It contained two pieces of tech that were old, outdated, and abandoned. The first was a 17″ MacBook Pro, part of the first generation released with Intel processors.

It was missing a battery, but otherwise worked. An old (and now known to be insecure) version of Mac OS X booted up and hummed along. The screen, once cleaned, was magnificent, even without being “retina.” I had plenty of uses for this – a computer for Cian, a computer to work on or putz around with when I was in the living room, a school computer for my brother-in-law… in the end, I decided on making it a kid/guest computer for the living room. Aidan had lost the privilege of having a computer in his room, Cian wasn’t ready for his own yet, and many guests have borrowed Nikki’s or my laptop when they were over.

This laptop just missed the compatibility cut-off for OS X Yosemite, and I wasn’t going to leave a known insecure OS on it. The same incompatibility ruled out 64-bit operating systems in general, but its max of 3GB of RAM made that a moot point. So, I installed 32-bit Edubuntu on it, and it ran fairly well, as long as I avoided the Unity desktop. Still sometimes Firefox would chug or Minecraft would stutter – forget trying to play it in full screen.

I still felt like the OS was doing injustice to the machine, so I kept looking. My memory upgrade (to the full 3GB) came in, and improved things, but I was still dissatisfied. I had much better memories of this class of machine. there’s not a whole lot of info out there about old Macs and Linux shacking up together, but I stumbled on two distros that I hadn’t played with in a while: Bodhi and Xubuntu. (Xubuntu is really just XFCE on top of Ubuntu, so not really its own distro, but whatever.)

While I dug Bodhi’s goal and vision, it felt clunky and counter-intuitive. The laptop’s graphics capability seemed ignored, and I just didn’t like it. Xubuntu was the exact opposite. It was smooth, though long to boot, and had a simple and straightforward implementation of XFCE. Things were intuitive; they just worked. Firefox flew when compared to running in Edubuntu, as did Minecraft.

Full screen runs like a dream!

So, I settled on Xubuntu, and I haven’t been sorry. The younger boys play Minecraft on it (and Acelyn is already asking to try), browsing is fully-functional and quick (even on YouTube and Facebook), and it stores nicely under the couch, to be set on the coffee table when in use. No battery needed!

Thanks again to the mysterious benefactor, and wherever/whoever he got this from. It’s got a good home.

Review – X-Men: Evolution & Leverage

I’ve had less than my usual stellar luck with picking shows to stream, lately. I’ve been picking with the intent of having background noise; watching something out of the corner of my eye while I work around the house.

X-Men: Evolution

Normally, I would worry about getting sucked in to an X-Men cartoon. If this had been the one from the 90’s (Apocalypse!), I’d never get any work done. I figured, hey, it’s set in a high school, I can let the teenager crap just buzz in the background, and focus when actual story happens. That’d be fun!

I’m still waiting for the story.

I’ll keep it around in my queue, because I still hold of glimmer of hope that story will happen.

Leverage

I’d watched a couple of seasons of this show when it was airing, and I’d loved it. I figured that coming back to it would give me the familiarity to half-ignore it, and there would be enough for me to keep coming back. That worked perfectly, for the first season. Halfway through the second season, I was bored to tears and yoinked it out of my queue. Even my love for Mark Sheppard and my anticipation of Wil Wheaton’s character couldn’t keep me coming back.

Parker is a badass, though, don’t let anyone tell you different.

Supernatural

I’ve given up using TV as background noise. Though, as my wife has been healing from her injury, she’s caught up on the entirety of Supernatural that’s available to stream, and I’ve gotten sucked in far more than I’d liked.  Great show.

Worldbuilding – Susan’s Apartment

Adam’s Name in Chicago, from 18 July

Susan lives in a very nice high-rise apartment building in Chicago’s business district. It has a basement garage that is staffed with security personnel 24/7. The cars parked there are nearly all high-end luxury or sports cars, almost none domestic, describing the general wealth of the residents. Her apartment is about halfway up, and even the elevator has someone to push the buttons. The hallways are busy during the night, but not crowded. Susan and Adam aren’t alone with each other from the time they pull in the driveway until Susan’s apartment door closes. Even then, the impression of being watched follows them in.

The apartment is perfectly clean. Metal and glass surfaces gleam, wood flooring has the perfect luster, vacuum lines in carpet are undisturbed and straight. Books on shelves are arranged and artwork is hung precisely. Anyone would feel like a slob in contrast to this place, and Adam is no exception.

The artwork is all photography, and is a tasteful mix of famous photographers and Susan’s own work. There are a few floating shelves with books on them, again a mix of classics and an unknown writer named John (the hell was his last name?). The furniture is arranged in matching sets by room, nothing stands out or grants a room any special personality. It’s a two-bedroom apartment, with one windowless bedroom where Susan sleeps during the day, and a second bedroom that has been converted into a darkroom and workroom. The latter is Susan’s most precious space, and Adam will not be allowed in… at first.

The kitchen is unusually small for an apartment of this size, except for the refrigerator. Susan’s is filled with various brands of synthesized blood, a couple of beers, and a water filter jug. Her freezer is empty, save for some ice cubes (re-usable).

In reality, this building is a home for troubled “young” vampires. Susan was “invited” to stay there after her second attempt to flee Chicago and return to Michigan. Security serves the second purpose of keeping tabs on the comings and goings of all of the residents. They report anything troubling and take care of any remains from lethal feedings that happen in the building. They are extremely well paid, and are likely also blackmailed in case of any bouts of disloyalty. The dangers of housing so many vampires in one place, in addition to the natural territoriality that comes with being a vampire serve as motivation for the residents to earn their way back out into the city at large.

Review – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Nikki and I have finally caught up on the second season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Several of the episodes on our DVR were rendered unwatchable by digital interference, but it was available to stream on Netflix, so we watched it there, instead.

I’m going to do my best to review the season without spoilers. Why? I hate spoilers, that’s why.

If I had to sum this series up in one word, I’d choose tension. It showed up in all kinds of varieties: interpersonal, world-ending, engineered, sexual, and my favorite – inner conflict. Lots of doubt, lots of misleading, a healthy dose of misunderstanding, plenty of preconceptions, and one notable case of overreaction to fear.

Strike that, there’s a lot of overreacting to fear.

The characters hurt each other more than they ever have. I wondered, at times, if there was a team left to save.

If I had to pick a second word, I’d pick triumph. S.H.I.E.L.D. succeeds in so many places where they could have failed, making some major headway. The writers timed it well; just when things were about to get overwhelmingly bad, the characters Got Shit Done.

While this season was missing a lot of the team cohesion that took so achingly long to build in the first season, I give it an unabashed thumbs-up. Now I ahve to wait until late September for season three.

Ah, well. I am happy to comply.

Writing Journal

Adam’s Name in Chicago, from 18 July

How strongly do I want Susan (so glad I re-named the character in the last story) to come on to Adam? Unlike with Julia, where Adam’s extra realness triggered a very human you’re-different-than-me fear response, Susan’s entranced by him despite her best efforts. She hasn’t had any real blood in over a month, instead living off of synthesized bottled stuff, marketed to her and her brethren. And yet, her struggles with her thirst immediately take a back seat to her fascination with Adam and his bike. Does she have the steadfastness to resist him AND her thirst?

I don’t think she does, and I think that she’s got plenty to rationalize with. Chicago is controlled by vampires, who hide in plain view throughout the city. In this Chicago, organized crime became the human face of the blood-drinkers, and so you have people, acting like mobsters, but in legitimate positions of citizen control in addition to actual organized crime. This makes the city even more dangerous to do-gooders.

What the hell was that task force thinking, going up against this? Is ignorance of the puppetmasters a possibility; are the vampires incredibly good at keeping low?

Then there’s Walter and his demon, who have disrupted the city’s status quo. The hornet’s nest is on high alert, making the city yet MORE dangerous. Definitely a pattern here.

Being a relatively new puppetmaster herself, Susan is aware of all of this except for Watler and his demon. She knows something has everybody spooked, but has been kept from the details. Her sister went crazy at about the same time, so she suspects a connection, but had resigned herself to playing the long game. Now Adam has fallen in her lap, and his aura is alight with strangeness.  He’s as good a chance as she’s had, and she can’t pass up the opportunity.

So, to protect Adam, she’ll offer up, then insist on him coming home with her. This feels contrived and obligatory, but is there anywhere else in the city that he’ll be both safe and unable to be poached by her “second family”? No, she’s too new to be able to assure his safety anywhere else.

So, he’ll go to her place, and sexual tension will ensue. Good times!