Monthly Archives: May 2010

Welcome to Kubuntu 10.04 LTS

Today I finally upgraded my primary system to Kubuntu 10.04 LTS 64-bit.  I have performed two upgrades to 32-bit machines with no problems.  I waited this long to upgrade this system to see how the few weeks following the release panned out.  There have been hiccups sometimes, and I am more tolerant of those on secondary systems.

Flawless.  Smooth.  Painless.

My dual-boot configuration was unaffected, but that is a result of grub still being present as apposed to grub2.  With the rumors I have heard about the nuisance in editing the grub2 menu list, I’ll stick with the tried and true for now.

To use a favorite phrase:  The Way Life Should Be.


Facebook – what are our options?

I hope I look back on this post some day with a bit of a chuckle.  I want to chuckle at the fact that once upon a time privacy issues in social networking were a problem… and service providers recognized that problem, arguably an ethical problem, fixed the problems and let us move on with using such an amazing tool to stay in touch with people literally all over the world.  I want to move onto something that permits me to stay in touch with people without invading my privacy, and selling my information like a commodity.

I hope to look at that last sentence later and say to myself, and I found it.

So what are our options?

We can join a competing service.  We can blog.  We can dent or tweet.  We can email (in the tradition of newsletters).  We can return to live communication.  But each step of that removes features that have become useful and familiar — our network, visibility control such as it is, robust messages with pictures and video, easily finding friends-of-friends, or being able to stay in touch with people no matter where they are.

So what does this have to do with technology?

I firmly hold the opinion that technology, and the use of technology, is not absent of the need for ethical behavior.  Science is not without ethics, and technology is a result of science.  Science for the sake of science is wrong.  Doing something just because you can do it doesn’t mean it is right.  So the increasing seemingly unethical behavior of Facebook makes me look at other options, some of which I already know the trade-offs.  I have done my part to request they behave in a way I believe is more ethical, but with 400 million users, I’m not doing to do the math to figure out how small my voice is.

Micro-blogging by denting, tweeting, or similar is like having a conversation in a huge crowd.  Anything you say can be overheard.  Anything you share can be overheard.  Ultimately, I have no problems with this because these services are forthright in the way their service works.  There is no privacy except for basic account information like your password.  Anything else you share at will.

Blogging is almost the same way, though offering hosted of personal installations.  It is more like controlling the area of the crowd you stand in, but there is still practically no privacy outside of controlling whether or not a story is published; though some services offer “private” blog entries.  Again, not a problem because that is a known factor entering into the usage of such a mechanism.

Competing services have a wide range of options, though not all are like Facebook (e.g., Last.fm is a music site — I wouldn’t personally consider that a social networking site).  I am going to wager that some are responding in an opposite direction to Facebook to present a “more privacy minded alternative”.  Where Google typically seems interested in mining information, they have increased privacy controls in Orkut.  Outstanding.  Then there is Livejournal (which I used to use) which has a very well developed sense of public, friends, private, and certain-friends-only (lists).  But, of course, the issue with a competing service is the loss of your existing network — and can you convince everyone you want to stay in touch with to move over.

That is Facebook’s element of holding the users as a kind of voluntary hostage.  It was so easy to build a network of friends — and everyone seemed to jump on board (400 million users).  Now the question becomes focused on how much sharing of private information people will tolerate before they start abandoning Facebook at the loss of their easily built social network.


Learning Drupal

I am working on entering into the second decade of the 21st century and I am learning Drupal.  I have a local LAMP stack going, and kind of cheated and installed the packages from Ubuntu.  However, that wasn’t completely without challenges.  I even managed to make a contribution to the wiki to help out others.

I know very little about PHP, but it seems like that isn’t a great solution.  But… it worked.  And now I am able to kludge my way through Drupal.

On the surface, it seems relatively easy:  modules, blocks, primary and secondary links, themes, content, and other superficial things.

Then there are the nuances of permissions, how to make blocks visible to logged in users or anonymous users, and perhaps even fiddling with the theme a bit to get the layout to play nicely.

Ultimately, there is the step of diving into PHP and making new modules.  But that I think I’ll save for another week.  My goal at this point is to assemble my website with something, and in a way, that shows I can spell WCM, understand how websites are put together outside of vim/emacs, and can perhaps demonstrate a little of my developer skills simply through good design.

My next hurdle will be to work with my ISP to get Drupal working there.  I tried their canned installer and some special PHP file just for them (literally $_isp_providers_name.php) didn’t appear out of the can.  So, out comes the figurative fork, and in I went after the beans at the bottom… albeit in the form of contacting customer support with a polite “Hey?!  What gives?”

My feet are barely wet.  Drupal is pretty interesting.  My keener interest is how can I tie it into other things.  Can I tie it into DFS and make a folder listing module?  What about an Inbox module?  Would this be a viable light-weight interface?  Potential fun could ensue… be warned.