Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Interesting things

# I've just spent the best part of today re-installing a clean dual boot system, the better part of which is Karmic Koala Ubuntu 9.10. There has been a quantum leap forward from Jaunty, from file system through to software management. While the Synaptic Package Manager still lurks for the intermediate user, the new Ubuntu Software Center (sic) makes it so straight-forward even a Windows user could use it.

There's still a few things you need to know. Various lawyers have caused needy bits and bods to be excluded from Ubuntu point blank; Adobe, which is currently getting passive aggressive with Apple, has some exclusion principle with the Ubuntu distribution. Proprietary codecs have similar issues.

But where there's a law there's a loophole. The Silent Number has an excellent list of what is missing and where to find it. There's also a whole heap of stuff for everyone. OK, I don't have a need for an atomic clock widget, but the Restricted Extras are a must, the media centre gear is useful, and the real beauties are the Electric Sheep Screensaver and the Themes Kit. Very very nice.

# The Economist has a very good look at the multinational conglomerate of Nestle. It looks at the mass customisation of food, as well as the perils that can arise. It's not just milk powder in Africa that should be a worry, but also right here in NZ. Breast is best but stuff all Mums do it these days, seeing how convenient the formula is.

# Michael Coote at the NBR looks at another angle on the food commodity trade. It really amazes me how much of the world's diet is reliant on eight varieties of crop:

• Coffee
• Corn
• Lean hogs
• Live cattle
• Soybeans
• Soybean oil
• Sugar
• Wheat

Talk about putting all your bananas in one Cavendish.

# New Scientist has a beautiful and enlightening photo essay on the rise and fall of American mental asylums, including the Gothic inspiration for Arkham Asylum. Out of curiosity, I went looking for our little NZ experiment, Lake Alice.

# Johann Hari looks at two recent Ayn Rand biographies over at Slate, shedding light on what could only be described as a cult of personality. On the subject of deconstructed personalities, Ron Rosenbaum goes to town on Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger.

HT Andrew Sullivan.