Adapting Technology To A Brave New World


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    Steffano Webb Vacuum Cleaning Co. machine, Christchurch, New Zealand 1910 When I had some serious problems with my Mac earlier this year, I wrote that
    [See the full post at: Adapting Technology To A Brave New World]


    A great article. Some comments:

    • Some tablets are made intentionally to be very difficult to repair, with the hope you will buy a new tablet when the battery inevitably fails on it. Batteries fail both with age and use. Lots of glue makes repairing difficult. Notice that the Apple iPad Air only receives a 2 out of 10 repairability score in the iPad Air Teardown Guide. Perhaps in the next iPad model they will go all the way and solder the battery in too. Remember, repairing your own device or even changing your own battery hurts corporate profits. Some tablets are much easier to repair, so keep that in mind as a factor for purchasing consideration. Try to keep tablets, phones, and laptops plugged in and charged as often as possible to make the battery last as long as possible. The less you drain the battery, the longer it will last.
    • PC desktops are more repairable than laptops. Desktops usually have standard sized components that can be replaced. There are usually a large variety of replacement parts available. Laptops have customized parts for each model. Parts are customized for that particular model, and are expensive and harder to find. Macs have always been more difficult to repair in my opinion. Desktop PCs, perhaps running FOSS, will be the easiest and cheapest to keep running in the future.
    • Windows requires a lot of end user education to remain secure. The vast majority of users do not have this knowledge, which leads to most computers having acquired malware of one form or another. At the market leader, Windows, or software that runs on Windows, has most of the malware developer attention. This means there is much less malware for Macs and FOSS as there is much less of a user base to potentially infect.
    • The Automatic Earth, like most web sites, runs on FOSS software (WordPress and Nginx).

    I been with Ubuntu for four years. I’ll never go back to MS. I set my system up for dual-boot (easy when installing Linux/Ubuntu), and all of my old data is fully accessable to Ubuntu. I can still boot into Windows if I need to,, but I don’t. It’s that simple.


    Thanks Automan.
    This is a thoughtful and comprehensive article.
    Like Ghung, I have used ubuntu for many years now. Mainly out of principle. I would not rule out using a more commercial operating system, but I don’t think I will.
    I use Xubuntu because it’s what works well with my 9 year old desktop pc. Plain ubuntu (with the Unity windows manager) seems to be tied in these days with search engines which do a web search whenever you search for documents on your machine. (Correct me if I am wrong here) Some might feel uneasy with this. I do. I don’t like giving away personal information for free on principle, especially to the large multi-national companies.
    I set my mother (a computer newbie) up with winXP and xubuntu dual boot. I was really glad that I did. The windows installation was an old one that came on the computer. It failed almost immediately and won’t boot, so she uses the Linux.

    Linux is a good idea becaues it is not dependant on one company for support. one day the large companies will fail, and even before that, since you are tied in to their software, they have a certain amount of control and can render your sorfware obselete or broken, either by design or accident.

    The downside of Linux for me is the levels of hardware support. my computer uses very old Nvidia graphics cards and I have had lots and lots of trouble over the years with upgrading my Linux distribution. Advances in graphics have made my old drivers incompatible and Nvidia (understandably) have not focussed on keeping their legacy harware properly supported. The hardware is one place where FOSS meets the commecial world and that’s why hardware support goes wrong IMO. it’s getting better though. Maybe I should upgrade to a five year old computer!



    Roel –

    Are you going to tell us what your new computer is?



    This is absolutely excellent. Very glad you took this challenge on, as your article provides a lot of insight and a strong argument for why everyone who’s dedicated to the principles TAE espouses should consider FOSS-based technology/computing solutions, even if they are currently using more commercial options.

    Should you have the time/inclination to write another article, and should TAE be willing to host it, I’d love to get further insight on how FOSS-based technology/computing could be applied as solutions to some of the finance/energy predicaments we’ll be facing in the next few years. Perhaps there are some obvious applications (that are not so obvious to me) where technology/computing could support families in their homesteading efforts, and/or local communities in their time banking arrangements?



    Thank you all, for your kind words.


    You make good points regarding the repairbility of various devices. I certainly believe that the repairability and upgradeability of a device are important factors that one should consider in making tech decisions. It’s interesting that the new Mac Pro appears to be bucking the trend of less upgradeability (especially for Apple): <a
    href=””>Mac Pro CPU Upgradeability Confirmed With Processor Swap


    Those of us who wish that we could escape the tyranny of the not-free OSes can only envy your escape to Linux, like other prisoners hearing about the prisoner who got away.

    @Carbon waste life form

    I totally agree with you on being wary about Ubuntu sending user searches to Ubuntu’s publisher, Canonical. Richard Stallman called this feature “spyware.”

    Canonical supposedly disabled this feature by default in Ubuntu 13.04 (<a
    13.04 will disable Dash online search by default: Mark Shuttleworth” ).

    It’s also certainly true that Linux has suffered from hardware support over the years. However, this seems to have been changing in recent years. Also, I would hope that the commercial firms will deem it in their financial interest to support Linux, more and more.

    @ Variable81

    Regarding technology/computing supporting families in their homesteading efforts, I think the DIY electronics movement should provide some solutions in that regard. As I see it, the DIY electronics movement represents the application of computing technology to the real world. Some of that will be deflationary, unfortunately, since it may represent a loss of jobs. However, since we have no choice but to face that reality, I think it’s important to learn how to harness the technology for our own survival, as much as possible. The DIY electronics movement appears to provide the tools for that purpose.

    Regarding “time banking arrangements,” the cryptocurrencies, such as BitCoin, may provide some solutions to the banking problems that the brave new world will bring. That appears to be where the “action is” right now, anyway, regarding technological solutions in the world of banking and money. The BitCoin software is, of course, a product of commons-based peer production, and the peer-to-peer nature of the network operations presents another type of commons-based peer production.

    Interesting times.



    Re: ” …being wary about Ubuntu sending user searches to Ubuntu’s publisher, Canonical.”:

    I’m using Firefox with “Startpage” as my search engine. I also clear my cache fully (browsing history, search history, etc.) every day, or more often. Startpage lets one search without one’s ip address and other info being recorded. It acts as a filter between your computer and other search engines (that’s the claim, anyway). It seems to be working well.
    I also use “Collusion” (free) which creates a realtime map of which sites are sharing your info; sort of scary – the map grows geometrically. I do most of my browsing without being logged into any sites (cache cleared), because that’s one way your info gets propagated. My Ubuntu setup requires permission and a password before any info is sent to Canonical, including error reports. Updates also require admin (root) user permission. Of course, they could be doing it without my permission, but what can one do? At least I’m not getting a lot of unexplained hard drive and IP activity while online, like I did in Windows.

    As for hardware drivers, I’ve had few issues, but I changed out my mainboard to a tiny mITX board; very efficient (essentially a laptop board for desktops). Uses less than 15 watts. I also changed my power supply to a DC direct (“carputer” power supply – see which is running directly off of my solar batteries (24 vdc); no AC conversion needed. Saves energy and will run on DC from 10-36 volts. No sense converting DC to AC and back to DC.

    Still on ubuntu 12.04 LTS; working great.


    Correction to my above post: The site for DC direct power supplies is There are other vendors.


    Carb waster,

    I have no new machine yet, running on two old ones for now, had the broken one repaired (new battery, HD and fans), but it’s all just temp. I need to relaunch Firefox 10 times day because Flash keeps loading up and slowing it to a crawl. There’s a 100+ tabs open, but I know no other way to work as much and as fast as I want to. I run 10.6.8, since any newer Mac OS invalidates my Photoshop, I can’t work without that, and a new version is more expensive than any computer I can think of. I’d like to be able to work faster, but I’m getting by for now.


    Hi Roel

    I bet Photoshop is the thing which you’d find hardest to replace if you used linux. You would probably have to learn Gimp instead. However, Firefox would work the same in Linux as it does on your mac. What did you do before tab browsing?

    Hi Ghung.

    I like the sound of your computer setup. My old PC uses loads of power and it would be nice to replace it with a passive cooled system. I am so worried about power consumption that I don’t keep it on for long periods. My router and NAS server used to run from seperate 12V wall warts and I got a measurable saving of power by powering them both from the same one. I guess I could have a low voltage power supply which could be battery based for all of my 12V ish devices. It would keep them all going in a power cut.

    A couple more power consumption points;

    1 For power cuts, as I can’t afford a whold house battery backup system, I have standby batteries and inverters close to important devices like the central heating and the internet router. Since you should not be wasting precious battery power on standby losses from the house, it seems sensible to just power those devices you need directly. I needed to wire my boiler to a plug and socket rather than directly to the house supply so I can swap it to an inverter quickly.

    2. A question: you know Bitcoins? From what I understand, they are ‘mined’ by long calculations which need significant computer resources. Won’t this use lots and lots of power for no tangible wealth increase for the world’s population? I have the feeling that the world’s dwindling resources would best be used on getting us ready for a low energy future.

    Charles Alban

    i love ubuntu . been using it for several years now on my pc. i can meet all my needs with opensource apps, or the wine emulator, or i can run win xp in virtualbox if i need to, but that’s almost never.

    i have an Asuz laptop that came with win7 on which i tried to put ubuntu, but it had the uefi boot system that thwarted me. this is clearly a conspiracy between microsoft and the hardware manufacturers to prevent the installation of alternative operating systems. i’ve now completely wiped out the hard drive and it won’t boot at all. i’m considering changing the hard drive to start afresh. good riddance to companies that behave like this.

    Ake M

    Thanks Automan!
    A really good article about Operating Systems and the pros and cons. Definitely no exaggerations about Linux.
    I am running Fedora and before that Mandriva. Mandriva was very good and easy to install.
    Fedora is excellent but somewhat puristic and excludes software that may be commercially tainted and is therefore somewhat difficult to install. But there is an OS called Korora, that is based on Fedora, but includes the commercially tainted software like Firefox etc. ( ) . I haven’t tried Korora, but from my experiences from Fedora, I believe it would be a good choice. You can chose between two desktops, Gnome and KDE, it is only a matter of taste.

    But before you do anything at all, copy the content of your computer to an external hard disk or USB-stick, preferably two, stored at different locations. Even if you don’t intend to do anything, make the backups. You don’t know when your computer gives up and then it’s to late.

    Hi Charles Alban

    As for your problems with UEFI. I would like to refer to Adam Williamson’s blog:

    UEFI boot: how does that actually work, then?

    At the end you have a heading:
    Installing operating systems to UEFI-based computers
    which may be of some help.

    My advise if you are interested in Linux:
    Get an old computer, download some different Linuxes and burn the DVDs. ( Please note, burn images not copies. Your burning program will probably help you. ) Test them and see which ones you like. When installing, do some mistakes and see what happens. That way you will learn a lot and get some confidence.

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