Sunday, October 21, 2007

Installing Ubuntu 7.10

It almost went flawlessly. The default boot from the live CD gave me hashed squiggles all over the screen, so I rebooted and chose 'safe graphics'. Fine. Then I installed, and tried to resize the partition on my largest drive. I got an error saying the resize didn't work. So I booted to Windows and defragmented my drive. More free space at the end of the drive, and presto, this time the partition resize worked. So I take out the live CD, and boot, and I get:

GRUB Loading stage 1.5.
GRUB loading, please wait...
Error 17

And it stops. What? and my PC won't boot! Yikes!

Of course I'm actually a geek, so there are two other PCs and a wireless network in the house. Forums suggest checking whether all drives are accessible in the bios. They are, but the 300 Gb drive is showing up as 137 Gb in the bios. Hmm, very suspicious, because my new Ubuntu partition is in the last 70 Gb of that 300 Gb drive. Sigh. I look carefully at the bios, and discover I have an Intel motherboard. Search for bios updates, and lo and behold, one of the new features of the newest bios is 'recognize big drives'.

But how do I install the bios? I don't have a floppy, and the directions don't match what I download - there's no 'run.bat'. Well, someone is promoting the Super Grub Disk to solve boot problems. I try to put it on a USB stick, but the computer won't boot off that, even though USB boot is enabled in my bios. So I finally get a CD .iso, burn it, and boot from that. One of the options is Boot Windows. It works, yeah! Now I can go to the Intel site and get a different version of the bios update, which will install from inside Windows.

Reboot, take out the CD, and I've got a menu for choosing to boot Ubuntu or Windows. Victory!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Creative Destruction vs Team Rodent

I've rarely read two books that can comment directly on each other the way Creative Destruction by Tyler Cowen and Team Rodent by Carl Hiaasen do. Cowen argues in a relatively scholarly work that trade generally increases cultural benefits, instead of decreasing them. Hiaasen says that Disney is a blight, a destroyer, and a homogenizer of the worst sort - they are nice. I find it fascinating that Team Rodent directly illustrates many of Cowen's points. Disney moving into Orlando completely shook up the local culture, just as Americans moving into a foreign country often do. Disney World brings a huge amount of money to Orlando, mostly in the form of tourists - the equivalent of the population of California visits Disney World every year - which is targeted by tourist traps ringing the park. The people of Florida now have a much bigger economy, much more choice; and some of them, like Hiaasen, clearly resent the cultural change. The question is whether the change was worth it. If your cultural choices originate either in a stretch of farms and swamp pre-Disney, or in the cluttered sprawl around Disney World, then there is obviously more, varied choices in the sprawl. It's hard to put a value on them, though.

Team Rodent's opening example is the transformation of Times Square from a haven for sex shops to a safe family friendly shopping destination, centered on the Disney store and theater. Except for that nasty sex shop that is still hanging on a block from the Disney store. I think Cowen has it largely right - Disney is there, but so is the sex shop, and a consumer has a wider choice because of it.

Hiaasen is a reporter that lives near Key West, and despises the sprawl, congestion and traffic from Disney World and the resulting tourists to his town. I think that most business people would disagree. I sense, however, a missing piece in Cowen's positive assessment of trade. Stress. What does the stress of choice do to the individual?

I'm discovering why I value books like these - analysis is hard!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Coffin for Dimitrios, by Eric Ambler

I believe this book was originally copyright 1934, and I got it on this recommendation from Marginal Revolution:
"I reread Eric Ambler's Coffin for Dimitrios; few people know this novel but it is one of the best spy/detective stories, period."

Overall, a fun read. Pretty quick, some nice spy-suspense elements. It made me think what it would be like for an ordinary person, the novelist narrator, to stumble into the world of spies and killers.

I found it mildly grating that the narrator had only a mild sense of danger, and didn't seem to take seriously protecting his own life.

Info at PBSwap

Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge

wow. WOW. What a phenomenal book. This story is so far out, yet believably set just 20 years in the future. Not once was I brought up short thinking "nah, that couldn't happen." I was completely sucked in, and I'm left with an ache trying to decide whether I want it to happen, or whether I should work to stop it from happening!
Info at PBSwap.