8 June 2021

Eventually, it proved quite easy to install Microsoft Office on the office computers, under the company's donation plan for non-profits.  I just needed to ignore everything that it said about only being suitable for Windows 10 Pro computers.  While that would be true for their integrated online solutions, it isn't true for just the basics; all we are interested in at this point is their 10 free licenses for MS Office programs. Once I understood that I can simply enroll users and download the programs to their computer, my problem was solved.

I spent a bit of time yesterday evening setting up LibreWolf, a privacy-oriented re-packaging of Firefox. It works quite well, though I still don't feel like I have found my ideal browser.

My Thinkpad has been running hot lately; I might need to get it seen to.  In the meantime I've placed it on an old cooling pad that I had lying around.

Afternoon-walk thoughts

On my afternoon walk I thought a bit about principles; how we get attached to them, and how they are simply tied to our egoism.  We take a concept, a value, or an ideology and then decide to adhere to it.  Then it adheres to us.  We become attached to, identified with, and enslaved by it.  If someone insults our values, we take it as a slight to ourselves.   It is better not to become attached to values and ideas.  They anyway tend towards rigidity, and mimic the essential rather than express it. There is a verse in the Tao Te Ching: "When the Tao ceased to be observed, benevolence and righteousness came into vogue. Then appeared wisdom and shrewdness, and there ensued great hypocrisy."  The more that we become identified with values and principles, the further we wander from the wisdom expressed by Lao Tsu.  "The Sage has no decided opinions and feelings..."

Links

Xi’s change of heart is too late to stop China’s collision with the west - The Guardian

All around China’s borders, from India and South Korea to Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia, a grim story of intimidation, impunity and aggression is unfolding, as opposed to the confected, made-in-Beijing narrative of neighbourly co-existence.

Don’t expect Netanyahu’s departure to alter the course of politics in Israel - The Guardian

The burning desire to depose Israel’s longest serving leader is certainly the driving force behind the disparate eight-party coalition that hopes to replace him. But another factor also unites them – by default, if not by design: the consensus that in determining the future of the Jewish state, the conflict with the Palestinians can be managed in perpetuity.

It’s time to ditch Chrome - WIRED UK

When you sync your Google accounts to Chrome, the data slurping doesn’t stop there. Information from other Google-owned products including its email service Gmail and Google search can be combined to form a scarily accurate picture. Chrome data can be added to your geolocation history from Google Maps, the metadata from your Gmail usage, your social graph – who you interact with, both on and offline – the apps you use on your Android phone, and the products you buy with Google Pay. “That creates a very clear picture of who you are and how you live your life,” Fielding says.

Uyghurs are being deported from Muslim countries, raising concerns about China's growing reach - CNN
Palestinians aren't alone in feeling let down by Arab nations. Muslim Ughyars are being routinely extradited from Egypt, the UAR and elsewhere in the Middle East as China's dominance in the region grows.

13 May 2021

Violence all around

I sympathize with those posts in social media that call to boycott Israel, but the trouble is, the world only notices what's going on here when there are people getting killed. The violence is ongoing; the occupation and the closure are violence; the ongoing expropriation of Palestinians from their homes is violence, and it's been going on for a hundred years. When there's a sudden outbreak, there are accusations from both sides about who started it. Well, the Palestinians "started it" but staying quiet doesn't exactly help their cause, and doesn't mean that Israel will stop doing what it's doing or change its systematic policies of settlement and expropriation. It can only continue because the world turns a blind eye to all that or stays mum.

As for me, I can't boycott Israel, because I live here, as it happens, in a place that tries to work for equality and peaceful change. Right now I'm dismayed, not only by the possibility of a ground operation. That itself would be horrible. The last one, in 2014, killed around 1,500 Gazans, and turned whole neighborhoods into rubble But even worse is the upsurge of violence between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel itself. There have already been lynchings, pogroms, riots, and they are only getting started. More is planned for tonight. It is turning out worse than the year 2000, when 12 Palestinian and one Jewish citizen were killed in the internal violence. The damage then caused to the fabric of Jewish - Arab relations in the country took years to heal. I don't know who would want a situation where people on either side would feel endangered simply by entering the wrong neighborhood or town, but evidently there are those that love that prospect.

This country has everything it needs, in terms of land, resources and skills to be a paradise for Jews and Palestinians alike. They do much better when they are working together than when they are fighting one another. The only thing lacking is wise leaders. But every wrong that is perpetrated creates another bad memory and fuels feelings of hatred and revenge. The prospects of creating a just and peaceful society only recede.

Image/photo

Links


hosh31.81782, 34.97896, 3 days ago   The sign says it all. The welcome isn't to the UK, but only to the bloody border.

EU citizens arriving in UK being locked up and expelled | Brexit | The Guardian

Hostile UK border regime traumatises visitors from EU | Brexit | The Guardian

Cory Doctorow's linkblog wrote the following post 4 days agoKim Stanley Robinson's 2020 novel "The Ministry for the Future," is a fierce imaginative work. Robinson doesn't just depict a future beyond the climate emergency and capitalism itself, he depicts the specific, wrenching transition that takes us there.

"As I wrote in my review, the (variously attributed) maxim "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism," isn't quite right."

Download, never "open in"

Update: the described behavior depends on the browser. I was using SeaMonkey. Chrome browsers don't seem to place the document in /tmp. Firefox makes the opened document "read only".

Here's something really stupid that once every few years catches me unawares:
I download a document from Google Drive in .odt format.
The dialogue box asks whether to "open the document" in LibreOffice, or to save it.
I click to open in LibreOffice.
I work on the document. Looks fine; it has a name and everything, and I carefully save it before closing.
I turn off the computer.
I open the computer the next day.
The document has vanished.
It went into /tmp/mozilla_ , a folder that is completely erased every time the browser is closed or the computer is shut down (I'm not sure, but the result is the same).

Of course, the solution is not to (not ever!) "open the document in LibreOffice" but to save it, then open it. But every so often I forget that. And then, like now, it can result in the loss of several hours work. There are no warnings against this behavior, either in the browser or in LibreOffice. It's something you just learn the hard way.

11 May 2021

The Conflict

I haven't felt like blogging after last week's meditation retreat got me out of the momentum. And this week, we have the latest conflagration in the Middle East to worry about. I can hear more booms in the background as I'm writing this. We haven't had any alarms so far in our locality, but the skies were lit up this evening by the Iron Dome system missiles that try to intercept the rockets from Gaza. Tonight's attacks killed three in Israel - ironically, one of them was a foreign care-giver from a small town in Kerala. Tomorrow, school is cancelled for children in our area. Naturally, Israel is responsible for fanning the flames of the latest conflagration, though the Palestinians don't need a great deal of motivation for their tempers to flare, considering the dire situation they are in. There's also a real danger that relations will break down between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel itself.

Chromium seems to use similar resources to Vivaldi

I don't like any of my browsers. Vivaldi, which I've been using lately, takes too many resources - it seems to heat up my laptop, while none of the other work 100% properly, except Chrome, which I don't like to use. Today I downloaded Chromium, but there was one website, from which I needed to retrieve invoices, which wouldn't work in anything except Chrome. I wonder why it accepted Chrome but not Chromium? Interesting, but eventually tiresome. I'm writing this post in SeaMonkey.

I have installed an appimage of LibreWolf, which is a version of Firefox with improved security settings. One site which I often look at, the John Hopkins University COVID dashboard, doesn't load properly.

Various articles report that Vivaldi's resource usage is low, and indeed with a few tabs open it is using about 15% of the CPU and 10% Memory, so I still only have my personal experience that the computer heats up more under Vivaldi. I will see if Conky has a temperature sensor or in some other way try to test this more thoroughly.

18 March, 2021

Image/photo


Barbed wire, left behind from one of the wars. (There are also trenches, bullets and other detritus.)

Legs

I gave in and restored the legs to my desk, the other day. I don't mind sitting and working on the floor, but getting up and down is a pain, and I do think I should stand up or change my position every twenty minutes or so. One thing I've never much needed is a chair back; when I'm typing or doing any work, I almost never use back support.

Screen

My laptop screen suddenly started fluttering today. After restarting the computer, the phenomenon continued and I realized I might have to get the laptop fixed. But later it stopped again, so the jury is out. I think what happened is that sometimes when connecting the two external monitors, or detaching them, there are several seconds of screen chaos; this might have shocked the laptop screen; may even have damaged it. I will have to be more careful and turn the computer off when making these changes.

Vivaldi

I like how, if one opens a secondary window in Vivaldi, this creates a different icon, so it is possible to differentiate between the real application and the new window.

Image/photo


I've never liked flags for designating keyboard input languages. In fact I've never liked flags at all. As a child I was appalled when I saw flags hanging in churches. I couldn't convince my elders that this was highly inappropriate. On XFCE it took me quite a while learning how and where to replace those stupid flags with letters. Languages do not correspond closely to nations or their flags.

Image/photo
Image/photo


I had to make these specially.

COVID

Israel's high court has overthrown the government's travel restrictions on the basis that preventing them from traveling or returning to the country contravenes their civil rights. It says that what is needed is better enforcement of regulations governing isolation on their return to the country. Among the measures that are already being taken is the attachment of electronic tracking bracelets.

Links

The ICC and Israel’s Charge of Anti-Semitism - CounterPunch.org

"We are at a critical historical juncture in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to criticize Israel without being branded an anti-Semite. You are an anti-Semite if you support the International Criminal Court’s recent ruling that it has jurisdiction to open a war crimes investigation against Israel. But you are also likely to be called an anti-Semite if you reject the logic informing the court’s decision."

Israel’s upcoming election: Where did the occupation go? | Middle East News | Al Jazeera
“who wins Israel’s upcoming election, and forms its next government, is of little consequence in regards to the most fundamental questions facing not only the Israeli society, but also the Palestinian people who have been living under occupation for almost 54 years. For peace and democracy lovers, after March 23, with or without Netanyahu, it will be business as usual.”

The Necessity of Dismantling the U.S.—A conversation with Ajamu Baraka - CounterPunch.org
"The whole logic and rationale of capitalist society has to be looked at in a new way. There are a number of movements that are in fact doing that. That make an argument that we’ve got to completely reorganize every aspect of society if we’re going to be able to survive, because one of the obvious contradictions and consequences of the industrial processes we have is that we’re basically destroying the ability of human beings to sustain themselves on this planet."

He talks a lot about euro-centrism and how we have become accustomed to regarding contemporary European (and North American) society as the pinnacle of civilization. I think we all consciously or unconsciously do, and shudder at the illiberal others who denigrate the freedoms and privilegeswe have come to take for granted. At the same time, we realize that this same supposedly advanced civilization is despoiling the planet, wiping out the species, and endangering our future existence.

Anyone who departs from the consensus, talks about decolonizing our minds, dismantling nations and finding a different way deserves to be listened to; they may be on to something.

Tanzania's Covid-denying president, John Magufuli, dies aged 61 | Tanzania | The Guardian

"Magufuli had repeatedly denied that Covid-19 was spreading in the east African country and claimed without evidence that vaccines are dangerous, suggesting instead that people pray and inhale herbal-infused steam."

‘The best cops’: Indian state recruits its first transgender police officers | Global development | The Guardian
'“They are sensitive, have a high emotional quotient and know not just how the other half lives but what it’s like being on the other side of the law,” said Awasthi.'

Plummeting sperm counts, shrinking penises: toxic chemicals threaten humanity | Environment | The Guardian
'The chemicals to blame for our reproductive crisis are found everywhere and in everything.'
Sperm counts have dropped by 60% in the past 50 years. If it continues at this rate, the human race will be over before climate change can finish us.

The Guardian view on new work from Proust: more lessons from lockdown | Marcel Proust | The Guardian
"Rediscovered early texts offer fresh insights from an author who created his masterpiece in self-isolation"

Google Antitrust Suit Takes Aim At Chrome's Privacy Sandbox - Slashdot
"Google's new scheme is, in essence, to wall off the entire portion of the internet that consumers access through Google's Chrome browser," the complaint reads. "Google is trying to hide its true intentions behind a pretext of privacy," the suit continues. With Privacy Sandbox, "Google does not actually put a stop to user profiling or targeted advertising -- it puts Google's Chrome browser at the center of tracking and targeting."

March 1, 2021

Web browsers again

Image/photo

SeaMonkey is still there. It's a community effort and avoids the commercial decisions that FF has taken. It went for awhile without being updated but in the last year or two it has been getting some developer love and is currently based on FF 60 ESR. The last update is from late January. I won't use it for mail at present, because that's also at version 60.

I spent some time SeaMonkey. There's quite a lot that can be done to make it pretty and more usable. But to give it the functionality of today's popular browsers needs the installation of a number of potentially unsafe extensions. Unsafe because they are old and use an older extension method that gives them unlimited permissions. By itself, without those extensions, SeaMonkey can still do quite a lot. It has a degree of personality and polish that feel lacking in some more modern Chrome and Gecko based browsers. But although it is true that Google and Mozilla are engaged in various practices we don't like, they also add various features that protect our security. With a bit of tuning and tweaking, we can mitigate some of the privacy hazards and data leakages. I think in 2021, as things are, it's less a matter of idealism and more about doing what we need to maintain a reasonable standard of personal privacy.

Links blog

★ Astian is the organization behind the Midori web browser. They are FOSS and besides Midori offer cloud services and a free messenger service called Spika. They are based in Bogota and boast partnership with various corporations, including Microsoft. Midori is built on Elektron.

★ Delhi Muslims fear they will never see justice for religious riot atrocities | India | The Guardian
'Many have described this as a turning point in the BJP government’s crushing of democratic dissent. “The Delhi riots have been used by the police to go after all activists and anti-government protesters in Delhi in the name of a false conspiracy that has no basis in evidence,” said Nadeem Khan, co-founder of the activist group United Against Hate, which has had multiple members arrested. “The whole of Delhi civil society is living in a state of fear.”'

★ Arab community calls for probe after 35 hurt by police in anti-crime protest | The Times of Israel
'Umm al-Fahm residents have been holding weekly demonstrations against violence and organized crime for nearly a month and a half. Since the beginning of 2021, 21 Arabs have died violently inside Israel.'

★ Israeli Police's Crackdown On Umm Al-Fahm Protesters Gives A Green Light For Crime | Scoop News 'The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor strongly condemns the Israeli Police's suppression of demonstrations in Umm al-Fahm protesting the escalation of violence and crime in the city. Many protesters were injured while others were arrested.'

★ Eating meat raises risk of heart disease, diabetes and pneumonia
“results add to the growing evidence from researchers and the World Health Organization that eating too much meat, especially red and processed meat, can damage someone’s health.”

17 January, 2021

Couple of power failures in the house due to the rain. Something kept tripping the RCD. Trouble is we actually have two sub-households running off our board, and unless raising the fuses again trips the RCD again right away, it's hard to know in which part of the house the problem lies. Anyway, afterwards I forgot to turn on my server computer, so hubzilla was down for a couple of hours.

I'm quite happy with my new seiza bench* and low desk setup (just the setup is new, not the bench, which I have had for several years).

Right now, the "desk" is still pretty improvised, from an old magazine rack and a few plastic packing boxes for the screens, but I'll build something more professional soon.

  • (I also sometimes just sit on a cushion.)

Sitting here listening to Cafe de Anatolia and editing a couple of documents today. Earlier, we went and got our second COVID shot. In my age group (60 - 69), 67% of the population have had their first jab and 10% have had their second.

Links blog

✭ The Guardian view on Israel and apartheid: prophecy or description? | Israel | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/17/the-guardian-view-on-israel-and-apar
The crime of apartheid has been defined as “inhumane acts committed in the context of a regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups with the intention of maintaining that regime”.

If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck...
#israel #palestine

✭Alexei Navalny detained at airport on return to Russia | World news | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/17/alexei-navalny-detained-at-airport-on-return
authorities have so far avoided giving Navalny a long prison sentence, probably in order to avoid sparking a backlash.

Brave man.
#russia

✭ 'We are worried': Indians hopeful but anxious as vaccination drive begins | Global development | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jan/17/indian-hopeful-anxious-covid-va
"Bharat Biotech has also been accused of ethical violations for allegedly testing Covaxin on people in the slums of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, without them being aware it was a trial. Seven people have claimed they were told they were receiving a vaccine that would protect them from the virus, and were paid 750 rupees, with no awareness it was an untested vaccine or that they might have received a placebo."

Born in sin, just hope it works.
#india #COVID-19

✭ Mozilla VPN is Now Available to Mac & Linux Users - OMG! Ubuntu!
https://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2021/01/mozilla-vpn-is-finally-available-on-mac-linux
Windows, Android, and iOS users have been able to use this subscription-based privacy service since its launch in July 2020. Linux and Mac users however weren’t catered for at the time.
But:
"We currently offer Mozilla VPN in the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia."
#mozilla #vpn

✭ Firefox 86 Will Support Next-Gen Image Format by Default - OMG! Ubuntu!
https://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2021/01/firefox-86-avif-image-support
"A bug report shows Mozilla devs plan to ship Firefox 86, due in February 2020, with AVIF image support by default. AVIF images used on websites and web services will load in-page just like other supported image formats."
Yet another new format to worry about.

#browsers #graphics

✭ Trump social media ban sparks calls for action against other populist leaders | Social media | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/jan/17/trump-social-media-ban-jair-bolsonaro-narend
"After US president’s ban, some wonder if action will be taken against populists accused of using social media to stir chaos"
Without making false comparisons, I've been sometimes amused, after buying a sim-card in India, to start receiving text messages from Modi.
#social-media

✭ We're on the verge of breakdown: a data scientist's take on Trump and Biden | US politics | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/17/were-on-the-verge-of-breakdown-a-data-scie
“Societies are systems and they tend to change in a somewhat predictable way,” Turchin told the Observer. “We are on the verge of state breakdown where the centre loses hold of society.”
#US

✭ 'There's something terribly wrong': Why more Americans are dying in middle age [from 2019]
https://www.advisory.com/en/daily-briefing/2019/12/02/middle-age-death
"The researchers noted U.S. life expectancy has declined as life expectancy in other developed countries has increased."
#US

7 December, 2021

Laptop Displays

One thing I notice with my Thinkpad, is that, after a time, the keys leave permanent marks or scratches on the screen. I think this is the first laptop in which I've noticed this. I only ever met one fellow who owned a special clothe between the keys and the screen and conscientiously put it there every time he would close his computer. That was quite a few years ago and he owned a Mac.

Browsers and FOSS

@⚧POLⒶRIS⚧ has an interesting thread on browsers, beginning with Brave browser and the developers' efforts to prevent forking of it (though it's under an open source license; and comparisons with PaleMoon (whose developer is also very zealous about protecting its' name and LibreWolf (a Firefox fork that sounds similar to Waterfox before it's developer sold out). That's all information I wasn't aware of (though now I think about it, I think I did once hear reports about Moonchild Productions going after trademark infringers). I'm not at all surprised about Brave, and decided some time ago not to go near it. If I'm not wrong, it seems that Palemoon's main interest is in protecting its' branding: "Pale Moon rampantly abuses trademark law, they're perhaps one of the worst when it comes to this. They go as far as threatening people on AUR for "distributing unauthorized builds" that use their branding."

I feel more tolerant when an organization wants to protect their branding than when they are trying to keep ownership of the code. Developers who fork a project while keeping a similar name are exploiting familiarity with the name in order to advance their product. On the other hand, giving a nod to an existing product can seem respectful. Ideally I would use a browser that's completely clear of such interests like Epiphany, but it isn't very usable for me right now. Its predecessors were better - I was once a happy Galeon user.

What I do like about Palemoon and its sister Basilisk, which I'm currently using, is that the rendering engine is also forked (from Gecko); in terms of rendering engines we've now got Webkit - Blink - Edge and Gecko - Goanna. Goanna is the only one of those that isn't owned or backed by a big company, now that Mozilla is basically controlled by Google. It seems that KHTML, though it is still used in Konqueror, has not been actively developed since 2016.

27 November, 2020

Browser html tests

According to https://html5test.com/ on my setup:
Dillo: (Doesn't have javascript, so no results)
Tor: 409
Palemoon: 427
Epiphany: 437
Basilisk: 466
Firefox: 509
Vivaldi: 526
Chrome: 528
Results for various popular browsers are also at:
https://html5test.com/results/desktop.html
Firefox has everything that I need, so that's the one I have been using lately, with just Facebook Container, Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere. (MX Linux also comes with an ad blocker).

Mahabharata

Upamanyu is accused by his guru or rishi of being too fat, so the guru puts him on a diet, gradually depriving him of begged food, milk and the froth of the milk. He herded the cows and went without food. Having been forbidden [to eat] ... one day in the forest, starving grievously, he ate the leaves of the arka plant (calotropis gigantea). And by eating the acrid, pungent, hot, ripe arka leaves, he was smitten in the eye and went blind..." eventually he fell into a well. His teacher said, "Sing the praises of the Asvins. Those divine healers will restore your eyesight." They do. They give him some "cake" to eat, and promise him that his vision will be restored.
About this, van Buitenen says: "Calotropis Gigantea is a bush widely spread in northern India: it has some medicinal properties: that it may cause blindness is further unknown." However, Wikipedia has this to say:

"... touching the sap [of the plant] and then touching the ocular surface may result in crownflower keratitis. Damage (poisoning) of the cornea endothelium results in corneal stromal edema and decreased visual acuity. Although there is some permanent damage to the corneal endothelium with decreased endothelial cell count and irregular shape, the remaining corneal endothelial cells usually recover with complete resolution of the corneal edema and a return to normal visual acuity. The condition is usually self-limited and resolves faster with topical steroids... " Wikipedia also mentions the tale.

Managing browser bookmarks

I use many browsers and don't know of any service or addon that permits me to keep bookmarks in sync between one browser and another.   There are online bookmark managers and I have an account at Pinboard.in, but that does not really solve the problem for day to day use.

But there are some points of light.  It used to be that browsers were less standard in the way they handled bookmarks.  I remember being able to import bookmarks into Opera, but not export them.  There were even different formats for saving bookmarks.  Perhaps there still are - I haven't used Microsoft's browser for many years. There were browsers that had folders in the bookmarks bar and those that didn't.

Fortunately all the browsers that I use now permit the import and export of bookmarks as an html file, and all have bookmark bars with folders.  So it's easy to create a standard usage for bookmarks, back them up frequently and then import the backup file every time I start to use a new browser.  To keep things tidy, I first delete any  previous bookmarks, so I always have only the most up to date version of my bookmarks stash.

Because it's so easy to maintain bookmarks now, it also makes sense to invest a little time in organizing them.  So all my bookmarks are under folders and subfolders that I keep in the bookmarks bar itself.  I have master folders for News, Email, Services, Forums, Social Networks, etc. and then subfolders of those.  I don't claim to have perfected the perfect organization yet, and of course it depends on my personal use case, but I can say that I'm a lot more organized than before, and it's thanks to the fact that browsers themselves are more standardized in the way they handle bookmarks.

I still use Pinboard.in, but mainly for individual news articles that interest me, and to which I may like to refer later for one reason or another.

I don't so much use sync between browsers on different devices.  Mainly because I don't really need that and partly because it means creating a cloud copy of everything and then trusting the browser company to safeguard that information.