Archives for posts with tag: hack

You may have heard of Linux, an operating system for geeks, nerds, dweebs, etc. But rather than argue about that classification (which is unfair, but understandable based on some of the visible user base), I’m here to inform you that it no longer applies! I recently installed the newest release of Ubuntu version 11.04, a full-fledged operating system running on top of the Linux kernel (software for talking to your computer’s machine parts).

Not only is Ubuntu 11.04, nick-named Natty Narwhal, user-friendly–I’ve had to invent a new term here–it’s User-Lovely! Ubuntu is not perfect by any means–but neither is Windows or your favorite flavor of operating system. I encourage you to keep an open mind and remember that all your experiences with computers have shaped how you use them today. You have been trained to think in certain patterns and when something seems like it does not work correctly, it may just be different. In fact, you may like it the other way, or there might be reasons to know how to do both.

Before I get into more of the details, let me just say right now, if you are getting a new computer (laptop or desktop) there’s no reason you should think twice about installing Ubuntu right away. And if you have an old computer that runs poorly or needs a refreshing re-install (take for example the fact that Windows gets bogged down over time), you should consider Ubuntu as well. The best part is–you can keep your original operating system, and access it easily every time you turn on your computer!* Ubuntu’s installation procedure makes this “dual-booting” effortless.

Besides the new installation process, the other aspect of Natty Narwhal (11.04) that bowled me over and convinced me to write this post is the new Unity graphical user interface (GUI, pronounced “gooey”). A GUI is software that allows you to use, visualize and manipulate your computer’s software graphically. The ability to run a browser in a window, switch to your desktop, and browse a list of applications in a menu are all possible through a GUI. You are probably an experience GUI user, but you don’t even know it! Ubuntu used to run a GUI named Gnome, but Canonical decided to develop its own instead, to surprising success. (Canonical runs the Ubuntu project and is a company offering large (enterprise) scale services, but keeps Ubuntu available as a free / open source software for all!)

Ubuntu has become an operating system for the everyday user who just wants to get their work done. But on top of all that it’s run by Canonical, as well as supported by a large community of users who all want to help contribute to the project and help new users out! Additionally, Ubuntu has a new release every six months, so upgrading really means something, and you can count on it.

To get the most out of the Unity GUI, you should try these shortcuts out.

Essential process to run Ubuntu on a new computer running Windows:

  1. Research online: are there any issues with my computer [BRAND] [MAKE] [MODEL] and Ubuntu linux?
    http://ubuntuforums.org/
    http://www.linux.com/news/hardware/drivers/8203-is-my-hardware-linux-compatible-find-out-here
  2. Download Ubuntu disc image file (ISO image) or follow the instructions for a thumb / flash drive
    http://www.ubuntu.com/download/ubuntu/download
  3. Burn disc image to a CD (no DVD required) or a thumb / flash drive. Insert in your drive or in a USB slot on your computer.
  4. Restart your computer, and press F2 or F8 or whatever it tells you in order to enter the setup/BIOS menu.
  5. In this menu, find where you can change the “boot order” or which drives (storage devices) are used first to start up your computer. Put either the CD drive or USB drive at the top, depending on which one you chose.
  6. Save your settings and restart your computer again.
  7. Follow the on-screen instructions to a a User-Lovely operating system!

*Note: This does not mean you can access the filesystem from either at any time–in fact, the systems remain separate so you have to move documents over using another computer, hard drive, or flash/thumb drive. There is a seamless configuration, but it takes some more technical work (which means more time).

I have yet to post too explicitly about other people’s ideas here, but I have come across two stories that have brought me to the point of sharing.

First, a friend posted on “the book”:

I have made an iSummer Hours at UC Berkeley: "Research Institution"nfographic based on my complaint about summer library hours v. gym hours at Berkeley and my most recent status:

These are the MAXIMUM number of hours that you can be in either the gym, or the libraries with the best possible summer hours: 1) at the gym working out / 2) graduate (only) access to the law library / 3) graduate and/or undergraduate access to Moffitt.

Her post garnered 11 “likes” (including mine) and 43 comments (albeit many of her own, responding to others’ posts).

The elegance of her table goes a long way to highlight not that there is some causation between gym hours and library hours, but rather, that by comparison the value we are placing on our campus libraries as “third spaces” over the summer is incredibly low–especially for a “Research Institutition.” There are many possibilities for why hours are distributed this way, as well as possible implications.

I think the graphic at the very least helps remind us that the apparatuses of institutions need not be only one way, they can be configured and re-configured to reflect values and priorities. No, this doesn’t mean I want to close the gym and open the libraries, and neither does my friend.

My second story for this one blog post is still a bit of a mystery. I have yet to locate the original post since I got this story from word-of-mouth, but I think I will find it soon enough. Heck, sharing it here might even help figure it out.

So this blogger writes about how he does something really clever whenever he signs up for a new service–a website like a forum, or something like Reddit (be careful with the latter). He shares his email address, his preferences, all the necessary personal information, except… his first name. Seems kind of useless right? The first name is probably the easiest to guess if given enough of some other personal info, like last name and email for instance. But the rub (or the hack) is that instead of his first name, he uses the name of the service he has signed up for. So when exploitative-company.com sells his email address or otherwise violates his privacy, he gets a message that says, “Hi Exploitative-company.com Smith! We thought you would like this PENIS ENHANCING MEDICA…” You get the picture.

I thought this was such a neat and elegant hack. It really is the best experiment to see what is happening with your contact information. The best part is that it even feels like it’s barely the tip of the iceberg, and it is so important to understand how deep issues of online privacy go!

That’s all for now, I will try to update with the actual original post.

Knowledge is locked in the ivory tower. Access to knowledge is restricted and the lines feel more and more arbitrary.

Today I tried to borrow a book from the UC Berkeley Library. I was sent to the “privileges” desk upstairs, where one man, sitting in front of a computer, helps patrons manage their privilege.

The long and short of our conversation is if I want to borrow a book, I need to pay a $100 membership fee. Otherwise, I could join the Cal Alumni Association for which the cost is $500 total, or $30 for the year with steps toward the full cost. The $30 plan isn’t bad, but it’s a lot of work and fact-checking just to get through it (am I going to have to pay the rest? will I get a bunch of spam asking for money?), which is at the very least another barrier.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, I cannot get privileges to access electronic resources. At all. Ever. (Unless I pay tuition again.) This means no ability to read research or articles from any academic journals that are licensed by the University (they pay fees to middle-persons who turn a profit on keeping knowledge scarce). I hit my head against the research pay-wall this spring trying to write a paper for the International Journal of Communication’s open call on Piracy Cultures. Luckily my co-author had access and we went through him for important papers, though my ability to research in great depth was severely restricted.

On the other hand, say I’m just an average person, not a former or current UCB Student. The cost for me to check out UCB library books is a flat $100 a year. That’s a pretty penny for access to a few books–many of which will sit on the shelves for months and years at a time. Plus, there’s no way in hell I’m going to get access to scholarly research at any reasonable scale.

Complaining about this today, a friend pointed out a little hack I’d like to share. It’s not complete, but it’s a back door to sneak into the Ivory Basement for now. (Note: I just wrote “ivory basement” off-the-cuff, but now I’ve added it to the title because I liked the ring of it so much!)

The Berkeley Public Library runs two awesome services for getting books from other libraries: Link+ and Interlibrary Loan. The latter has a base fee of $2 per book and additional fees depending on the institution lending the book. Link+ is a special service that allows you to access books (at a pretty reasonable waiting interval of 2-4 days) from various academic institutions and libraries in California and Nevada… you guessed it, for free!

But, not UC Berkeley’s books. Those are still locked up, though theirs is the absolute closest research library to Berkeley Public.

Also, don’t expect access to electronic resources, especially if you’re a regular, everyday person.

FYI, this is the book I want, including a list of the Link+ libraries that have it… all 15.