two kinds of suck
Thursday, January 13 2011
I finally got so sick of trying to get Linux working on the old Toshiba 2250CDT that today I tried installing Windows XP to see if it would work better. Linux partisans don't like to admit this, but XP is a significantly lighter operating system than any Linux attempting a graphical user interface. So I started thinking maybe XP was the way to go. I managed to get the WiFi working reliably and was about to start installing the music playing software (this is, remember, supposed to be some sort of MP3-playing jukebox). But then I realized that the graphic driver was some sort of lame least-common-denominator thing. Not only was it unbearably slow, but it would prevent the computer from being placed in standby. That alone was a deal breaker. I tried to find XP drivers for its video hardware, but as anyone knows who has tried to find drivers on the web in the past six years, this was a fool's errand. The hardware was made by a company called Trident, but, to the extent that they are still an ongoing concern, they don't provide any drivers. Toshiba's website was more helpful; they don't do what most hardware companies do when you try to get drivers for old equipment: harass you with warnings that you ait is obsolete and unsupported. They cheerfully supplied drivers, but unfortunately none of them were for an operating system more advanced than Windows 2000. There are, of course, plenty of spam sites offering assistance with your driver search. Some offer to sell you snailmail CDs or downloads. Others want you to register, without the promise that they'll have what you need. Nearly all want you to install something called a "DriverDetective," something only an idiot would do. In the old days getting drivers was a straightforward web task. These days it's like trying to buy heroin in Stuarts Draft.
So I had to abandon Windows. I also abandoned Knoppix, which was proving flaky. I seriously considered abandoning the Toshiba 2250CDT itself, but then I tried another Net install of Debian Linux. For some reason I managed to get a installation that reliably used one of my WiFi USB dongles, but only when plugged into the slow USB 1.1 on the Toshiba motherboard (the USB 2.0 port expander in the cardbus slot still worked, but not for that). It hardly mattered that the WiFi was coming in through such a slow port; the fastest I'd ever been able to get a network connection on this laptop was 8 Mb/s, which is doable within the USB 1.1 spec.
This evening I watched a recent Frontline documenting the chaos in Haiti that resulted from collapse of Haitian prisons during the earthquake of January, 2010. Many prisoners escaped and melted into the resettlement camps, where they terrorized and robbed many people already homeless and traumatized by the earthquake. They also raped a great many women.
In an attempt to reassert the rule of law, police units have been set up to catch some of these escaped prisoners, but the process is full of false positives and false negatives due to he absence of records (many of which were destroyed in the earthquake or never created to begin with). As disruptive and sociopathic as these escaped prisoners could be (though some seemed to have tried to turn over a new leaf since escaping), nothing in the program shocked me quite as much as the conditions they'd been living in prior to the earthquake. They'd been crowded into cells so densely that they'd had to sleep in shifts; there hadn't been enough room for more than half or a third of them to lie down at the same time. Many had been living in conditions like this for years while awaiting trial. I tried to imagine what that had been like, spending years of your life packed with other dangerous men like sardines and having to spend so much time standing that your legs begin to swell. There hadn't been any description of the sort of bathroom facilities the prisoners had enjoyed, though I can make a pretty good guess.
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