28 July 2008

The OS Problem

I recently purchased a new laptop.  It's a Gateway M-6843.  It's wonderful!  The very first thing I did, of course, was install Ubuntu 8.04.1.  I plugged in the laptop and booted from the Ubuntu CD and clicked the install icon.  After about a week, I saw this blog detailing how this person got a refund from HP because he didn't want to use Windows Vista.  So, I started the process with Gateway.  It's been about a week and it's going to be a long process.  Customer Support at Gateway gave me the run-around so I am in the process of writing a letter to the Corporate Office.

The reason for all of this is because of the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) from Microsoft.  According to the EULA, if I choose not to use Vista, I should contact the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM, in my case this would be Gateway) for a refund or credit.  But this begs the question: Why don't people get this option before buying the system?  That is, instead of having the customer pay for the OS, why not show them the EULA first?  That way, the customer is not out any money if the customer doesn't want to accept the EULA.  Or, have Windows installed like trial software 'bundled' with the hardware.  Then, after the trial period has expired, the customer has to purchase a license from Microsoft if they want to continue using Windows.  This is how trial software works.  This way, the customer is in charge of their purchase and not Microsoft.  And that's why it might not ever happen.

Right now, the customer is forced to purchase the software first and then fight the battle of getting the money back.  This will be a long, tedious process and most people won't even try.  The ones who do try will probably give up.  The current process is not about the customer.

This is why I'm such an advocate of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).  Most of the FOSS operating systems come on a live CD.  You can boot your computer from the CD and play with the OS for a while -- put it through the paces, make sure it works with your hardware, see all the applications available, etc.  Then, if everything works (or if there are easy to follow instructions to get the hardware working) you could install it on your system.  I believe that if most people had the choice, if they saw what they could get with FOSS, they would choose it almost every time.

At the same time, however, this is also why Linux won't ever get a big slice of the computing pie.  If the masses of people aren't given a choice, heck, if they don't even know a choice exists, they will be locked into Microsoft forever.  It will take more and more people demanding fair treatment before anything ever gets done.

But what about Apple and Mac OS X?  You used to be a big supporter of that platform.

Good question and comment.  It's true, I used to be a huge Apple fan.  My wife and daughter still use an Apple laptop.  Plus, we all have iPods.  However, I am beginning to see that Apple might be worse than Microsoft.  That is, not only are you locked into an OS (it comes pre-installed on your computer), but you are also locked into the hardware (the only way to get the OS is to purchase the hardware).  The difference is a person knows what she is getting with this deal.  She specifically sough out this hardware and the software (or for the software).  That is, she is tired of Windows and want something else.  However, she believes that her only alternative is to switch to Apple and Mac OS X.  But what if she knew she could keep her existing hardware a lot longer than she is told and could upgrade to an OS that is at least as secure (if not more so) than OS X and it wouldn't cost her a thing?  That sounds pretty good to me and most people I know.

But for Linux to get any type of respect and public attention, it must be show cased.  Right now, most of the plug for Linux is from it's user base, i.e., word of mouth.  There's nothing wrong with that.  But when people go to the store, most of the time, all they see are Windows PCs.  If they turn on their TV's they see Microsoft and Apple commercials touting their products.  Even in the print ads, it usually a Window's system that is shown.  Heck, even the companies that sell Linux powered systems have '<company name> recommends Windows Vista'.  You have to go digging in their web sites to even find Linux.  In other words, Linux, on a large scale isn't being promoted.  Granted, there are some PC magazines that are running ads for it or have articles about it.  But, these are specialty mags.  Only the people who like looking at those mags will see the ads/articles about Linux.  But what about the average person?  What about the parents that are trying to find a reasonably priced system for their child?  Or the grandparent that would like a system to email their grandchildren?  Or the college student that needs an inexpensive system for school?

Like it or not (and I don't) the average person will have to settle for Windows and continue to put up with the crap that Microsoft spews out.  For Linux to become the viable alternative I believe it is, it needs to be thrust into the public eye so people can see it in all it's glory.  It has to have it's time in the spotlight.  It needs print ads and TV commercials.  People need to see the great features and security and the applications that they can have.  They need to be able to walk into a store and see the hardware they like running Linux.  They need to have knowledgeable sales staff that can show off Linux.  Then and only then will people really have a choice in their computing needs.  Right now, they are still at the mercy of Microsoft.  And that's a problem.

Peace be with you.


25 July 2008


[For] every act of evil there are a dozen acts of goodness in our world that go unnoticed.  It is only because the evil deeds are less common that they are 'news'.  It is only because we believe that people should be good that we despair when they are not.  Indeed, if people condoned the evil, we would be justified in losing hope.  But most of the world does not.  We know that we are meant for better.

The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu

23 July 2008

Political Signposts

I've been trying lately to describe why I like the Democratic party better than the Republican party and it's been difficult.  I just don't seem to have the right words.  But, I'm going to try.  Also, I have to emphasize that I do not believe that the answers to the questions I raise lie within any political party.  I am fully aware that the grace of God is the hope of creation (Romans 8).  My struggles are about which party best points to that hope.

I guess it all starts with a way of seeing.  In a very broad brush stroke, I have come to see things as 'very good'.  I see all created things, at the deepest possible level, filled with the Life and Light of God.  As St John wrote, 'God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it' (1.3-5).

In our place in history, this view is the only way forward.  It sees the goodness of God even within our enemies who may have deep falseness within them (and who doesn't).  It also sees that we can't do this by ourselves.  We have been 'existing' long enough.  But to live, grow and love we need all of creation.  One group should not be getting better and better at the expense of other groups.  We need people who are willing to passionately, unshakably live the 'Sermon on the Mount' (or the Plain, whichever you prefer).  Creation needs people to live unquestionably thinking of others more than themselves; of going the extra mile; of not returning violence with violence; of self-sacrificial living and giving for others.  That is the only way forward for the cosmos.

It is through this way of seeing that I am looking at the two main political parties in the US.  And only one comes to close to those ideals.  The Democratic party.  Yes, I know.  There are plenty of Republicans who would answer yes to (most of) what I wrote above just like there are plenty of Democrats that would answer no to (most of) what I wrote above.  But, party wise, the Democratic party seems more inline with my way of seeing.  They seem to be are more concerned about community as a whole (be it the local community or the global community).

The Republican party, or perhaps the conservative branch of it, doesn't quite see things this way.  They seem to look more grimly on society (and creation).  They seem to believe that only the individual matters.  They seem to believe that the individual must take matters into his or her own hands.  That 'you gotta look out for number one, 'cause no one else is'.  That the resources of creation are there for the taking and let the 'best man win'.  This way of seeing doesn't seem to go past the present generation to our children or grandchildren.  It seems that some are only concerned about themselves.

Not only is the focus on the individual, but the 'right' individual.  Our enemies are seen as inherently 'evil' instead of being 'very good' at the foundational level.  And those 'enemies' can range from homosexuals to illegal immigrants to 'Muslim extremists'.  All of these groups (and more) are said to be the worst problems for our 'national security'.  And by the way, 'national security' seems to be a collective way of saying 'my way of living'.  Some of the Republican party think what's best for 'nation security' is to wall us in on all sides and keep everyone else out while we tell the rest of the world how to behave.  This 'us versus them' mentality will no longer work.

I know not all Republicans are like this.  I get it.  But, again, I'm not looking at individuals.  I'm looking at communities; at groups.  The whole 'guilty by association' thing.  This is both good and bad.  When things are going well, it's nice to be part of a group.  But when things are going poorly, well, it's not so good.  This is true of both parties.  But this idea of community is something I have been seeing a lot lately.

Biblically speaking, there is a lot more emphasis on community than on individuality.  For example, when Israel (the community) committed 'adultery' by worshiping other gods, they were sent into exile.  Now, individually, there were obviously 'faithful' people within Israel who did not go after other gods (e.g. Daniel and Jeremiah).  But that didn't change the fact that God looked at the nation as a whole and the entire community was sent into exile.

Likewise, St Paul wrote that the 'church' is the mystical body of Christ, a collection of different 'members' making up one body.  'When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer', he wrote.

But, for a lot of Republicans, the idea of community sounds too communistic, too socialistic.  And that scares them.  And rightly so.  There have been some horrible things done in the name of socialism.  But the same can be said about democracy -- colonialism comes to mind.  Injustice is injustice no matter if it's community based or individually based.

The way of individualism as the answer is dying.  A person who is sick goes to the hospital.  It takes the whole hospital staff to aid that person's recovery.  If I removed a finger, it doesn't survive on it's own.  It must be reattached to my body for me to be whole.  The same goes with the future of the world.  It takes all of us, working together, to make the changes we need.

So, for me, the Democratic party points more to the Gospel than the Republican party.  It wants to believe in the good and wisdom and light within all things, especially people.  It seems to understand that it takes all of us, collectively, to succeed.  And not only succeed but to live and grow and love.  It recognizes that it takes all of us working for the good of others; to help set the captives free from darkness and releasing the light within; that makes the future bright.

Peace be with you.


22 July 2008


Lughnasadh is the ancient Celtic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season.  It is a festival filled with community gatherings, horse races, reunions with distant family and friends, the blessing of fields, fairs, trading, bonfires, dancing and celebration.

Now, when the days grow visibly shorter and the sun seems to decline, the crops ripen.  So too, when we work for justice, when we have expended huge energies to bring about change, the results often come only when the tides of enthusiasm and urgency seem to be ebbing.  When the marching and the shouting die away, public opinion quietly shifts.

Some traditions call this festival Lammas (meaning 'loaf-mass'), a time when we honor and celebrate the grain and the food that sustains our life.  In a just world, no one would go hungry.  All people would have access to good quality food - organic, fresh, local and truly nourishing.

The grain stands golden in the fields, but has not yet been gathered in.  We stand poised between hope and fear.  Lughnasadh is a time of consequence, when we reap what we have sown.  Globally, we are now reaping the consequences of decades of injustice, of the neglect and exploitation of the earth.   Will we make the change, in time to avert disaster?   Will we reap destruction, or harvest a new world based on harmony, balance, justice and love?

Our choices and actions will tip the scales.

Just a bit of info on Lughnasadh coming up on 1 August.

Peace be with you.


A New Expression of the Lord's Prayer

Ground of all being, Mother of life, Father of the universe,
Your name is sacred, beyond speaking.

May we know your presence,
may your longings be our longings
in heart and in action.

May there be food for the human family today
and for the whole earth community.

Forgive us the falseness of what we have done
as we forgive those who are untrue to us.

Do not forsake us in our time of conflict
but lead us into new beginnings.

For the light of life, the vitality of life, and the glory of life
are yours now and for ever.


07 July 2008

'It is I, be not afraid.'

I had the great pleasure of attending a two day teaching/meditation seminar with John Philip Newell.  As you recall, I have made some brief comments about his latest book, Christ of the Celts.  In one of the sessions, John Philip told a story about a 20th century Celtic teacher from France named Teilhard de Chardin who became a Christian during the first World War.  While caring for the wounded, Chardin heard deep within himself, 'Ego sum, noli timere' ( 'It is I, be not afraid' ).  He knew that it was Christ and his life changed because of the encounter.

Later, during the meditation time, we were to meditate on Isaiah 58.11 'You shall be like a garden, like a deep spring where waters never fail'.  While meditating, I saw light cascading over water.  The water appeared amber in color and the light reflecting on the many waves and ripples were every color imaginable.  As I breathed upward, I kept seeing the image and hearing 'It is I, be not afraid'.

This was significant for me because for the past several years I have inherited a phobia regarding local water -- ponds, rivers. lakes, and streams -- to the point that I would have a panic attack.  The fear -- from what I do not know -- would overtake me and I would become petrified.

This 4th of July weekend we went to visit my Dad in Eufaula.  Eufaula has a huge lake and my Dad has a boat.  Now, I normally don't have a problem with being in the boat so seeing my dad hasn't been an issue.  It's when we beach somewhere and my wife wants to walk along the shore or it's time to shove off again that problems arise.

This year, my plan was to find a secluded spot and slowly make my way into the water all the while repeating Christ's words to me, 'It is I, be not afraid'.  But I didn't get the opportunity.  And furthermore, I didn't have to.  I went out more than waste deep in the water without and issue.  My wife and I were pulled behind the boat in a huge inner-tube with water splashing us and I put my arms in the water as we were being pulled along.  We took our walks and had to wade out into the water to pass from one part of the beach to another.  All without a hint of anxiety.

The vision I saw wasn't something I needed to create in order for it to 'work'.  Christ had removed my anxiety through the vision.

I must be honest.  As I write this, the falseness is right here ready to pounce.  The apprehension is there to make me 'second guess' what I feel.  So, which feeling is true?  The feeling of apprehension?  Or, the feeling that Christ has removed my anxiety?  To quote M. Basilea Schlink from my meditation this morning:

I praise the blood of the Lamb
that has power to free me
from all my bondages...

I praise the blood of the Lamb
that is victorious
over all powers that seek to
oppress me...

I praise the blood of the Lamb
that makes all things new.
Hallelujah! Amen

Peace be with you.


06 July 2008

Thin Places

I have written before about thin places.  One of my longings has been to find ways of creating thin places else where.  Thin places, as you know, are those places where 'heaven' and 'earth' meet.  The place where the 'thin veil' between the two is very, very thin.

However, through my recent studies in the Celtic Christian tradition of my heritage, my vision has been changing.  The Celtic tradition is about a way of seeing.  It holds the 'everlasting pattern' in both hands -- the 'mystery of Christ' and the 'mystery of creation'.  In this tradition, there are two books -- the 'small book' (Bible) and the 'big book' (creation).  The Western Church (some would say the 'Empirical Church'), has taught us well about the Small Book but has been negligent about the Big Book.  Because of the awakening I'm experiencing within my study of Celtic Christianity, I am beginning to see that I (we) don't need to 'make' thin places.  We need to 'see' that all of creation is a thin place.  God, the Life of all living, permeates all creation.  We just don't see it.  We have become blind.  May God, the One in Whom 'we live and move and exist' (Acts 17.28), restore our sight.  May Christ heal us of our blindness and help us see 'all things new' -- to see the Sacred, the Named-nameless-One, in all creation.

Peace be with you.



The prosperity and security of one nation should not depend on the poverty and insecurity of other nations.  ~ Buddha

03 July 2008


When I purchased an iPod, I found that it revolutionized my music experience.  The idea of having thousands of songs in your pocket is an amazing thing.  This isn't new, of course, but Apple has done it better than anyone else.  They dominate the market of portable music players.  The iPod has a very simple interface that makes it easy to use, even if your 'technologically challenged'.

But for a number of years I have been wanting to use my iPod with Linux, my OS of choice.  The problem comes because Apple doesn't make iTunes for Linux.  I can understand their reasoning.  There are different distributions out there and several of them have different ways of installing software.  You can't just use one type of package for all distributions (but that is something that I believe the community is working toward).  So I get it.  But that doesn't change the fact that I want to be able to listen to my music with my computer running Linux Mint 5.

There are a number of apps that will work with an iPod.  However, none of them does all that the iTunes app does.  Some work better than others but I haven't found any one of them that does it all.  But I was determined to find the best one.  In my quest, I stumbled across a web site that lists '10 Alternatives to iTunes'.  While the article is a year old, the links still work and the instructions are very easy to follow.  The app that had me the most intrigued is called 'Songbird'.  Now, I have played around with Songbird before but I found it too unstable to give it much thought.  Even though Songbird is still in development, I gave the latest version a try.  To my surprise, it was a lot more stable than the previous versions.

Songbird is based on the Mozilla project (the same group that does Firefox and Thunderbird).  It's an open source application that manages your music, videos, allows you to browse the web, and has a MediaFlow browser(similar to Cover Flow in iTunes). And just like the other Mozilla projects, it works with Linux, Mac, or Windows.

As you can see from the screen shots, it looks very similar to iTunes.

Here is a shot of my iPod mounted to it...

And here is a shot of Songbird syncing with my iPod.

Like I stated, Songbird is still in the development stages, but it is very promising.  If you are looking for an alternative for iTunes, I recommend giving Songbird a try.

Peace be with you.


A Celtic Prayer

O Christ, there is no plant in the ground
but it is full of your virtue.

There is not form in the strand
but it is full of your blessing.

There is no life in the sea,
there is no creature in the ocean,
there is nothing in the heavens
but proclaim your goodness.

There is no bird on the wing,
there is no star in the sky,
there is nothing beneath the sun
but proclaims your goodness.