I've been going around the OS ferris-wheel for about a year now. Last year I got rid of my PowerBook G4 and bought a lighter thinkpad X41. Apple is a great company (heck, I worked there) but the lack of a light notebook left me scrambling. There are millions of people who walk to work or take public transportation and we need laptops too.
After unwrapping my matte-black-beast I needed to figure out what to use with it. Naturally, since it came with Windows XP that was the default choice. Being a long time mac user it took a while to get used to XP but eventually I did. Unfortunately there are a lot of UI issues that plague XP and, unlike Linux, there is no recourse for fixing them without delving into the registry. That, and the fact that I'm a huge nerd, led me to load linux on the lappie.
I've been using Linux since 2001 so it's not like it's new to me. At the same time I've never done a laptop install and so many things are different. All over the web there are reports of various drivers not working or features that are incomplete. Still, I gave it a whirl.
I went though several distros to see which one I liked best for the laptop. I use Debian on my servers but like any objective user will tell you, it's all about the right tool for the job. I started with Arch, headed over to Ubuntu, went to Debian, tried OpenSuse, went back to Debian, again to Ubuntu, and finally I am back to Arch.
There are great things about each of the distros above. Debian gave me lots of flexibility and a great selection of packages while Ubuntu was very solid. (It was, and remains, the only distro that just worked 'out of the box'.. suspend to ram, wireless, sound, and all.)
But Arch has me hooked. The clean style let me accomplish a lot more in a way that was easier than the other distros. Most importantly, when I have a problem the forum residents are relentless in helping me sort them out. It is fantastic.
I still have occassional issues with sleep not working though it seems to be getting better with each kernel release. I am happily typing away on an e17 desktop comforted that my fully configued fluxbox environment remains just a short uncommented line away.
I'm living as close to the edge of the latest community software while still feeling secure and that, amigos, is a great feeling.
If you've seen the proliferation of chains in the US you'll immediately recognize that the identity of many towns and cities is in jeopardy. Who goes to Cleveland because they have a great Starbucks? Do you visit Chicago for the Pizza Hut? Of course not. The sad fact is that Anywhere, USA is a reality now. Small, indepedent companies are extinct in many places and on their way out in others. (A notable exception is SF which somehow manages to thrive.) Just try to find an independent grocery store and you'll see what I mean. But is there more at stake beside the landscape? Yes.
Sure, you can be a regular at Starbucks and develop a friendship with the barrista in the same way you might with the person who ran that nice diner. And, you say, the coffee at Starbucks is way better. True as that may be, ask yourself what happens when the only place to buy coffee is Starbucks, and another chain or two. Fierce competition you say? Possibly. Or maybe just a carving of the market and higher prices.
Then what happens when those 3 chains decide that coffee beans are too expensive and that they're going to substitute them with a genetically modified knock-off? You'll scream, you'll holler, but you'll have to accept because, you know what? Starbucks and that other chain may by then sell 95% of the coffee in America and what they dictate to the grower (or to Congress) could become the norm.
And let's not forget the producer of the food or product in question. Chains are fabulous distributors. They push products out to consumers in ways that the producer cannot hope to achieve. In this way, they are the focal point between the mass of producers and consumers (who unfortunatley will be screwed unless they too somehow band together). What you'll be left with is a few companies that produce and distribute products all cramming it down your throat at high margins.
The producers will fight it though. They'll consolidate to the point that if Walmart wants vacuums they won't be able to play lots of companies against each other. Yup, it'll be Hoover at Walmart and VacuumCo at Target. And you know how Hoover will cut their costs? You guessed it, they'll outsource the jobs to low cost countries. And if they don't? They'll get played like Vlasic and end up bankrupt.
But will consumers band together? To a degree, through the most that will do is slightly offset the massive spending by chains and big business. (Plus, don't forget that big companies also have organized like this.)
What consumers can do is vote. Your vote it the equivalent of chains and other big companies spending millions of dollars to influence a politician. Vote at the ballot box for politicans that represent your interests (not a conglomerates). Secondly, vote with your pocketbook. Every time you purchase something it says 'I like this and I'm willing to give some money so that it sticks around.' Don't believe it? Do you think there would be so many McDonalds if they weren't making lots of money? Sorry friend, money and advertising make the world go around now.
So, next time you have a choice try to pick the little guy. Not to be different - not to be anti-establishment; do it because they're worth keeping around even if they're not the cheapest. One day you may miss that diner in the midst of all those Taco Bells.
Now granted, I feel that the majority of people can use a regular sized automobile for their daily tasks. Why is it we need a 10,000 lb car to carry around 200 lbs of person and 20 lbs of groceries? It's a bit absurd isn't it?
That's why I am proposing that cars come with mandatory keys that weigh 1% of the vehicle's gross weight. Now, if you want to drive a hummer, you have to carry around a 10 pound weight with you everywhere you go. Heading to the movies in your BMW X5? Make sure you don't forget that 60 pound key under your seat else it'll be a long walk home.
Now I'm sure the airlines will balk a bit. "Sir, you'll need to check in your car keys."
Granted, that even the average car driving citizen will have to lug around 10 to 20 pounds with them everywhere, but hey, it might mean we all get into better shape. Either that or think about once and for all ditching that car and heading for the metro.
First off, SUVs are hideously big. SUVs produced back in the early 90's now look miniature compared to the monstrosities we see on the roads today. One should ask whether it is really necessary to use 7000# of vehicle to carry 250# of people and groceries? Seems a bit ridiculous if you ask me. Also, let's not forget that when you drive behind a car that big the visibility you get is almost non-existent. It's as if the driver of the SUV is thumbing their nose at you, proclaiming that they are more deserving of safety than you.
But are SUVs safer? Not even close. In fact the death rate of SUV driver is 6% higher than that of car drivers. We must also touch on SUV rollover too. The higher center of gravity and greater mass of the vehicle makes it much more likely that your SUV will flip. Frankly, if you're in an SUV I think it serves you right, but unfortunately my tax dollars pay to have you shipped to the emergency room.
And what about my safety? Yes, that is a concern too. You see, if I get hit by somebody in an SUV I am four times more likely to be killed. The fact that the responsible one is killed by the selfish one is a long-standing tradition in wars fought by governments and corporations. It's a shame it's been brought down to the individual, human levels.
Despite not having touched on fuel economy or pollution standards, I feel there are still strong reasons not to buy an SUV. To those people who drive an SUV, I hope you get over your feelings of insecurity, gain some confidence, learn to think about other people, and buy a regular car next time.
It is such a great disappointment to me to hear this. What the United States needs is an economical method to get people from place to place. This includes work, school, and business trips. While lowering gas prices is one way of doing this, it is not the only solution. In fact, it is the worst solution.
Historically, the US has enjoyed gas prices less than half the price of the Europeans and Asians. While we can only speculate that this is correlated to our economic progress we can be sure that the giant SUV's and the poor average fuel economy of our vehicles are directly related. The sad fact is that gasoline in the United States has never been taxed to the level required to compensate for the environmental damage is causes.
It is for this reason that I am happy to see fuel prices on the rise. The time is long overdue for Americans to understand what a tragedy it is to need a car to go grocery shopping, attend school, or to visit friends.
The railway is one obvious solution for knitting together our society again. To restore the courtesy that once existed between commuters before they insulated themselves with their massive Escalades and Explorers. The train provides an environmentally safe, accessible, and potentially inexpensive method for transporting people.
Furthermore, trains contribute to a construction philosophy less centered on automobiles creating great potential to improve or sustain the surroundings when development is required.
That is why Mr. Kerry and President Bush would be wise to look into finally giving Amtrak enough money to expand into a rail network the US could be proud of. This, combined with a healthy curbing of suburban sprawl and a restoration of the independent business, are badly needed in a country becoming more plastic, neon, and outsourced every day.