Friday, November 27, 2015

One week with Solaris 10

For quite some time I've had a largely-unconsumated love for Solaris 10. The reasons for this are many, though for the most part it comes down to a sense of awe at the software and hardware engineering legacy of the late Sun Microsystems, a more basic urge to kick the tires on a corporate-driven UNIX (as opposed to the sundry open source "Unix-like" systems that I've been using for years), as well as an inexplicable crush on CDE, the so-ugly-it's-beautiful desktop GUI.

(The last reason is probably the most salient, as I've had more than my share of experience with OpenSolaris and OpenIndiana, which are indeed as SunOS as any of the "official" versions of Solaris, but with the Gnome desktop and bash as the default shell, these systems have always seemed - to me, anyway - like UNIX trying to woo the Linux crowd. Solaris with Red Hat Enterprise Linux window dressing, if you will. Having said that, OpenIndiana rocks my world, and is always the port of call to which I return after bouts of compulsive distro-hopping.)

Unfortunately, any time I ever installed it, it was never long before I bailed and installed something else over top of it. Why?

My best answer is that despite my self-proclaimed "catholic taste" in UNIX systems, I've become accustomed to the bells and whistles of the fancier systems, be it the SunOS 5.11 strains of Solaris, or even Linux Mint, which despite some unstable behavior (on my laptop, at least), puts up zero resistance for those who want to stop dicking around and simply get stuff done and have some fun afterwards.

And so whenever I had booted up a fresh Solaris 10 installation, I was left somewhat cold by a system I had yet to fully comprehend. (How do I install packages on this thing? How do I assign root privileges to myself? How do I enable wireless networking?) These brief forays into the world of Solaris 10 consisted of a few minutes of adoring the retro utilitarianism of CDE, and then retreating to whatever other OS had my confidence at the time.

A screenshot taken with the xwd tool while writing this post 
in my current Solaris 10 installation.

Particularly over the past few months, however, I've had this nagging feeling that I jumped ship prematurely, and have never given myself a chance to simply experience Solaris 10 for any extended period of time, and at least learn a thing or two about it and CDE.

With that in mind, I am commiting myself to keeping this current Solaris 10 installation for at least one week (starting today), and exercise a bit more patience in working through whatever roadblocks crop up. As the week progresses, I will pursue the following goals:

  • intalling productivity software (such as OpenOffice or LibreOffice, Scribus, Inkscape, etc.),

  • installing multimedia software (such as Audacity, Blender, vlc, etc.), and

  • enabling wireless networking. (This is nothing short of a moral imperative. My neighborhood Starbucks is chockablock with Apple-laden hipsters and yoga moms, and so I have this demented urge to boot up CDE in all of its unsightly glory on my refurbished ThinkPad T61p. In these parts I'm sure such an act contravenes some local bylaw. This is Kanata, after all.)

Along the way, as I try to resolve any problems, I'll report my findings here, thus guaranteeing no date to the prom as far as my readership (all three of you!) is concerned.

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My one caveat is that I reserve the right to boot up a Linux Mint live DVD for certain tasks that Solaris 10 simply isn't up to (yet) on this machine, such as word processing, watching YouTube videos with reasonable smoothness, or creating/handling multimedia files. As the week (or beyond) progresses, I'll work towards being able to do more (or all) of these things within Solaris 10.

In fairness, Solaris 10 reflects the needs of the late 1990's and early 2000's system administrator, rather than the desktop user here in 2015, and so while I'd love to get this system to a point where I can use it instead of newer, more Linux-like alternatives, for the sake of my one-week experiment I will ease up on my expectations and remember to experience (and appreciate) it on its own terms.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

My son, the teacher

Lately I've been playing a John Lennon compilation CD in the car in order to distract my four-year-old son from his Hotel California fixation. (Yes, back in the summer I scratched my once-a-year Eagles itch only to inadvertently create a pint-sized Don Henleyite. If I hear Hotel California one more time, I'll be like a wild animal caught in some steel trap, and chew off my leg to get myself free.)

In any case, I had been curious to see if any Lennon tunes would catch his fancy, and lo and behold, somewhere in the middle of Instant Kharma, he blurted out: "Daddy. I want the people song."

"The people song?"


I had to think for a moment, but then it occurred to me which one he must have had in mind, so I cued up Imagine. At the opening piano notes, however, his response was to indignantly shout "No! I said the people song!"

"But this one goes 'Imagine all the people...'"

"That's not the people song!"

At this point I committed the cardinal sin of parenthood, which is to let a four-year-old get under your skin. "Alright," I said, duly flummoxed, "how does the people song go?" And then, in a very recognizable melody, he sang:

"All we are give people chance."

At the dinner table that night I felt the need to correct what I considered his misunderstanding of the lyrics. "That song isn't saying give people chance, but give peace a chance. Do you know what 'peace' means?"

He shook his head no.

I awkwardly tried to define it for him, but with mixed results. "It's sort of like 'peace and quiet', but not really." I then referenced the idea of war, and peace being its opposite, but stopped short of talking about people killing each other in the name of geopolitics. Something just felt wrong about what I was doing, and I couldn't put my finger on it, so I simply let it go.

Later in the evening, however, I brooded over this parental faltering, and my inability to put such a simple song into the right context for my son, and then I realized I had been looking at things through the wrong end of the telescope, as it were. Instead of focusing on the obvious way in which my son got it wrong, I considered the ways in which he may have gotten it right, grammar notwithstanding.

Give people (a) chance...a chance to what, exactly?

-A chance to be themselves, or feel like they're in harmony with who they really are?

-A chance to live life on as much of an equal footing with their peers as society can allow?

-A chance to move past their own mistakes to some sort of redemption, or even a chance to freely make mistakes in the first place and then learn from them?

-A chance to give and receive love?

-A chance to exist from day-to-day without experiencing violence or exploitation?

-A chance to

As I mulled all of this over, I realized that although my son's rendition may not have been exactly what the words were saying, it may have zeroed in on exactly what the words mean. Furthermore, he triggered a thought process that made me examine the concept of peace through the lens of innocently misheard lyrics, thus helping me arrive at a more articulate and nuanced understanding. After all, what is peace if not the act of giving people (individually or collectively) a chance of any kind?

Needless to say, I no longer correct him on this one.

Friday, September 11, 2015


What always comes to mind when I think about September 11, 2001 is the overpowering sense of disorientation I felt. Like many other office denizen, I experienced the events of that day via the Internet, particularly through the low- to medium-resolution video streams offered by the CNN and Washington Post websites at the time. (I seem to remember the Post stream being smoother, perhaps due to lower bandwidth congestion.)

What started out as a minor (but manageable) startle at the initial footage of what at first looked like a much smaller aircraft hitting one of the twin towers gave way to genuine shock when the other tower was hit. What originally seemed (to me) like an unfortunate and small-scale accident was now undeniably a coordinated effort, particularly as we learned about the Pentagon being hit and what was originally reported as a commercial airliner being shot down in Pennsylvania by fighter jets.

The peak of my anxiety came while I was on the phone with a friend who had the day off. On my end, the whole office was abuzz with the unbelievable tragedy unfolding on multiple fronts, which meant the company's business was effectively ground to a halt. From somewhere in the commotion all around me in the cubicle village, I heard a voice say that one of the towers had collapsed. (Say what?) Before I had a chance to fully process that information, I heard my friend's wife in the room at the other end of the phone conversation say that it was just announced on TV that the other tower had now collapsed, too.

At this precise moment I had the feeling of falling down a bottomless well as the historical enormity of the day's events settled in. I couldn't give words to what was happening inside of me at the time, other than to say I was 'freaked out', but with the luxury of hindsight I can now say it was as if the glue holding my sense of the world together was suddenly dissolving, allowing that mental structure to break apart and fall away.

I can't remember how the phone conversation ended, but not long after some local news came over someone's desktop radio that a suspicious package had been found behind Parliament Hill here in Ottawa, and that a bomb squad was already on the scene. At that point the employer told us all to take the rest of the day off.

I drove home in a haze of anger and fear, as well as a frustrating sense of not knowing which way was up in a world I thought I knew.


All these years later, the uncertainty about the world I came to feel on 9/11 has long been shunted aside by a very cynical uncertainty about what actually transpired on that day. While I'm loathe to buy into conspiracy theories, the fact that the official story has always seemed like one of the less likely explanations only bolsters the 9/11 Was an Inside Job school of thought. And for all the dubious rhetoric at the time about the attacks having been provoked by Western rights and freedoms, it is now painfully obvious that the establishment powers never held those same rights and freedoms in high regard either.

Was it really terrorists with a hatred for America (and all it represents) who were responsible for the 9/11 attacks? For the sake of argument, let's say “yes” unconditionally. That understanding is, in and of itself, a tragedy beyond measure, if that's how it really went down. Just as troubling, however, is how the events of that day served to break the seal, as it were, on darker, more fascistic instincts in a part of the world that had long prided itself on being the official representative of humanity's best behavior.

We're now in a world where torture and undue mass surveillance are not only up for debate but largely accepted as a given by many as the price we pay for living in an Age of Terror. Forget that far fewer people per year are killed by terrorism than, say, automobiles. Or spoiled cheese. It's not that we're really that much more threatened by terrorism than we ever were, but that we live in a time where fear of terror (however remote) is the de rigeur state of mind.

On the other hand, the countless mass shootings that occur with sickening frequency in the U.S. pose much more of a “clear and present danger” to public safety, and yet the establishment mindset is that these admittedly unfortunate events should not serve to curtail gun ownership rights one iota. But then these shooters are never called “terrorists” by the authorities – unless they happen to be Muslims. (In this New McCarthyism, “terrorism” and “Islam” have replaced “communism” as the kneejerk scare words for the unthinking.)

Taking all of the above into consideration, I'm just not sure how I'm supposed to feel whenever another 9/11 anniversary rolls around. What I do know, however, is that the anger, fear and disorientation I felt that day as I drove home has never been the kind of emotional nor intellectual foundation upon which our society should rest, either in general or in how we respond to unexpected attacks.

I'd like to think we're better than that, but I'm often left with the feeling that for too many of my fellow citizens, anger, fear and disorientation constitute a preferred societal frame of reference, rather than a passing malaise.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

I am Mike Huckabee's secret weapon

The following is an email sent to Mike Huckabee.


Dear Michael,

I want to thank you for your September 9 email in which you told me about your visit with Kim Davis at the Carter County Detention Center. I always enjoy your sparkling insights and your way with words. One beef I have, however, is that you address me simply as 'Friend' - while I certainly treasure our friendship more than anything in these woebegone times, I think we've reached a stage where you can call me 'James', 'Jim', or even 'Jimmy'.

While I can live (for now!) with the impersonal 'Friend', there is another aspect of your email that I think may cause trouble with the sticklers of the world, and that is your assertion that Kim Davis' detention is "removing all doubts about criminalization of Christianity in this country." Yowzers! I'm glad you ran this text by me first because if you let this puppy out into the wild without proper oversight, there's no telling what kind of confusion it could cause.

That is why it's good you have the kind of ace up your sleeve for which any American presidential hopeful would kill without remorse: a Canadian like me to guide you around the many pitfalls that await your more capricious rivals. So if you find yourself suddenly drawing a blank on how this glorious American system works, don't sweat it, brutha - a Canuck has got your back. (I can picture that Trump kid yelling "Unfair advantage!", but we'll just have to deal with that as it comes according to our usual issues management plan. This is no time to lose sleep over a weird little monkey like him.)

Now that you're heaving a billowing sigh of relief, let's get back to the unpleasantness pertaining to Kim Davis, as alluded to above. If someone were to call you out on your implication that she was jailed because she is a Christian, they may try to say au contraire, she was jailed not for her status as a Christian but for contempt after having defied a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They may further point out that she is unfairly singling out gays - after all, as far as I know she didn't refuse marriage licenses to any other committers of grave sins, including murderers, adulterers, thieves, bearers of false witness, defrauders, or dishonorers of fathers and mothers.

All things being equal, she should be refusing marriage licenses to fornicators of any description, or so those heathen constitutional types would have us believe. What they don't realize is that when the constitution of your great country was drawn up, it was simply understood that any clauses therein, as well as any amendments added by way of future legislation or legal decisions would have to be filtered through the specific tenets of the Apostolic Christian Church. What damned fool would need such obviousness pointed out to him? The fact that this denomination didn't yet exist is entirely beside the point.

In any case, I realize that the story behind the story here is not Christianity, per se, but toe-curling satisfaction that you and your brethren get from oppressing gays. Of course, in today's climate you can't just come out and say you hate the homosexual and will use your public office to fulfill that hatred at every opportunity. That would come across a little déclassé, particularly to the New England Biffs and Muffies, whom the Evil One has long seduced.

My advice is to keep working the Christian angle, and don't stop conflating the Christian faith with homophobia. The commoners seem to be buying it, so don't mess with success! If you want to strategize further in real time, just let me know. I'm here for you.

By the way...I'm having trouble with my hard drive, so just to be on the safe side I'm saving a draft of this on my blog,, just so it's within reach whenever I need it. Feel free to access it for reference purposes whenever the need arises.

James Deagle


From: Mike Huckabee - Personal
To: James Deagle
Sent: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 11:17 AM
Subject: I was in a jail yesterday

I visited Kim Davis in the Carter County Detention Center yesterday afternoon and had the honor of walking out with her as she was released.
When I warned that the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage would lead to the criminalization of Christianity in America I was dismissed by many as an alarmist and my comments were mocked by the chattering class. Now, just two months after the court's lawless ruling, an elected county clerk was put in jail by an unelected judge for refusing to issue a “marriage" license to a same-sex couple, removing all doubts about criminalization of Christianity in this country.
This threat to our faith is real and we need a President who understands this. I will fight for Religious Liberty and reject judicial tyranny. I am the only candidate with a detailed plan to stop this out-of-control Supreme Court. Will you help me win this campaign - so we can win back this country we so dearly love - by making a secure donation now?
$25 Quick Donate -->$25 
$45 Quick Donate -->$45 
$90 Quick Donate -->$90
Mike Huckabee

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Black-on-black violence is even more reason to say #BlackLivesMatter

I've been following the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Twitter, and any time I've entered the fray I've taken my share of licks from those who mistakenly see that movement as anti-white and anti-police. As I've said many times (on Twitter as well as the Craigslist forums), when black lives matter, so do the rest.

While the civil rights movement of the 1960's was in response to the institutional oppression of blacks, any good that resulted from those struggles applied to all races. The upshot of the movement was that you, whoever you happen to be, are a human being, not a skin color. The civil rights movement was only ostensibly about blacks because they happened to  be bearing the brunt of establishment intolerance to racial minorities - I don't believe any black at the time would have wanted resulting civil rights laws to exclude anybody. They, along with the whites and other non-blacks who locked arms with them, were paving the way for all races.

This was a time of necessary political disruption, and it appears that time has come back around.

One of the common online responses to #BlackLivesMatter is for non-sympathizers to say "all lives matter, not just black ones". While such a sentiment is true in one sense, it is cited only in response to "black lives matter", as if the intent of the former is to neutralize the latter. And in trying to neutralize the latter, the #AllLivesMatter crowd is denying the pain and anger that comes with being from a demographic with a history of oppression on this continent, and who feel at least some of their racial brethren are being targeted for state violence here and now.

And so in trying to squelch black voices crying out for equality (not to mention equal protection under the law), the "all lives matter" crowd is practicing racism, albeit a racism cloaked in a pleasant- and uplifting-sounding meme.

Yes, *all* lives matter, but some lives are characterized by far greater inequality than others. To just chirp "all lives matter" as a way to ignore social injustice is to aid and abet that injustice in a very Orwellian way: saying one thing (black lives don't really matter) by couching it in contradicting terminology (all lives matter).

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On a smaller scale, there are those who will cherry-pick individual cases of black-on-black violence, and add a comment like "I guess black lives don't matter to them". They are implying that the existence of black-on-black violence should somehow invalidate (and therefore erase) the reality of white-on-black state violence.

Not only does black-on-black violence not invalidate the mission of the BlackLivesMatter movement, it merits even greater urgency for the cause. While conservatives bristle at such a concept, there is a direct relationship between violent crime and social and economic inequality. This has never been a secret, and yet our political establishment carries on as if this weren't the case.

By ignoring the effects of inequality on violent crime rates, and to compound centuries of black inequality by further reducing access to the quality education and healthcare that would reduce violent crime among blacks, is to say unequivocably: "Black lives don't matter."

While the BlackLivesMatter movement is officially in direct response to excessive police violence against black youth, it is simply disingenuous and absurd for whites to use incidents of black-on-black violence as an all-purpose 'Get Out of Jail Free' card, either in instances of inappropriate police violence or in political disregard for socioeconomic inequality.

Taking all of the above into consideration, let's call the reactionary #AllLivesMatter meme for what it is: class warfare from above.