Archive for digital culture

Linux Comes Through Once Again

From a hobby to a computer geek favorite to a major operating system, the trajectory of Linux has been nothing short of amazing. Major companies, especially Red Hat, Canonical, and SUSE, exist because of Linux. The ecosystem that grew up around Linux eclipses all other software.

There are a number of reasons why Linux has become such a force in IT but the one that really stands out for me today is it’s building block design that creates incredible flexibility. There is a Linux for every purpose, every taste, and all types of hardware. One of the best things about Linux flexibility is that it allows us DIY types the ability to repurpose old, perhaps ancient, hardware. Here’s an example.

I have a 14 year old PC that has, for years, been attached to my stereo so that I play digital music from a real amp. My relative new desktop PC has decent sound, owing to a good pair of speakers plus a sub-woofer. Even so, compared to the sound of my 25+ year old stereo system, it sounds terrible. Nothing beats a real amplifier with speakers that have their own woofer and tweeter combos for sound. Even when the source of that sound is a 14 year old sound chip in a laptop, the sound is so much better. In addition, my desktop computer sits in my office, not my living room where I have (or had, pre-pandemic) parties and like to hang out.

The weak link has not been the stereo, it’s been the PC. It ran Windows Vista, which hasn’t had a release since 2008 and went end of life in 2012. Even worse, modern software including the Spotify application and Firefox browser, no longer could be updated on it and ran poorly. In a nutshell, the PC OS was pulling down the whole system.

I could have substituted another PC that I don’t really use any more, one somewhat newer, but I had a feeling that this old workhorse still had some usefulness. So, I decode to update the operating system. I thought that finding a recent 32-bit OS was going to be a chore but not at all because – Linux!

I settled on Lubuntu 18.04 LTS, a Ubuntu distribution for low resource PCs. I knew that the Spotify Snap App for Ubuntu wouldn’t run on it (there was no 32-bit version) but Firefox ran like a dream. I was able to use the Spotify Web Player in Full Screen mode, presenting the appearance of a Spotify kiosk. The sound is great, and network connective works like a charm, so no drop outs. The system run perfectly. I could have run Plex as well, if I wanted a more thorough digital media experience.

Any other OS would have no option for a modern experience with such old hardware. Instead of heading to a landfill, this old PC has new life and can continue until hardware failure over takes it. I’m betting it can last until the 20 year mark. All thanks to Linux. Linux to the rescue of my sound system and the environment.

How Are You?

Tom Petrocelli

It’s the first of April here in Western New York where I live. The sun is shining, days are getting a little longer, and the trees are budding. It would be a lovely Spring if not for this horrible Coronavirus. While we can still go outside to enjoy nature, we can’t congregate with friends and family that are so much more beautiful than any tree or flower. That can depress us more than any gloomy, winter day. I am grateful for the video calls I have with so many wonderful people that I only see a fraction as much as I wish. That’s a silver lining.

For the past month I have found myself dispensing practical advice to those who are working from home for the first time. I can do this because I have worked remotely for the past 10 years and many times before that. Setting up separate spaces, learning to budget time differently, and techniques for managing remote teams is all in my wheelhouse. My colleague, Hyoun Park, has a series of blogs about remote work up on the Amalgam Insights website. He also had a lot of experience with working from home. There’s a lot of good stuff there.

Of course, self-care is a unique part of working from home during a pandemic. The emotions are different than when you do so by choice. All the jokes about working in pajamas (most of is remote work veterans do not do that) wear thin. It’s natural to feel a sense of loss and disruption of identity when you are used to going to an office full of people. It’s lonely. Even for us remote work types, these are sad and frightening times.

So, there is something more important we can do. More important than having the right video software or camera. Infinitely more crucial than learning how to reduce the amount of Slack disruptions. We can ask each other “How are you?” I have had so many people ask me that over the past month. It warms my heart to hear that phrase. It recognizes that these are not normal times. It provides the human element to our interactions. A simple phrase, “how are you?”, lets us know that we are still connected, that business isn’t everything, and our individual lives are still important.

So, “how are you?”

If you want to DM me or respond in Twitter, public or private message in LinkedIn, or send me an email, feel free. I want to know. Even if you don’t want to, can’t, or are simply uncomfortable with reaching out, remember this – you are not alone. You are never alone. How you are matters.