Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: February 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010  §

I don't know what I thought 2010 would be like when I was a teenager in the early '90s. I know I thought about the future and the past a great deal—I've always had a kind of metaphysical tension running through me about the structure of being, what is often portrayed as the narrative of a life, but that often felt to me less like a narrative and more like an accumulative transcendental singularity, instantaneous as a black hole or dense and simultaneous as a neutron star.

And so today is today, and this is where things are, wherever and whatever I thought they'd be in the space of my dreams, decades ago.

Embodiment degrades, and so does mental capacity. Time passes and things and people pass as well. The entire world, as it were, passes. Everything, on the other hand, remains precisely where it is at the same time.

Nonsense. Yes, yes, narcissistic nonsense, all of it, of course. I don't know what I'm thinking or writing. It's unfocused, indulgent, speculative. But that is also where things are today.

And this morning, with a head full of echoes and a voice full of demons, I woke up wanting nothing more than to make a post for today, that speaks directly to today and says, in the most brash and confrontational way:

"I can see you, today! I can see you and I am not—not even for a moment—fooled!"

On walking dreams and long-lost selves  §

Every now and then it's good to be both shocked and transfixed by the sudden awareness of one's own mortality, as well as at the relentless and continuous abridgment (not for the better) of one's remaining quantity of time.

Oddly enough, such thoughts have nothing to do with my approaching birthday and everything to do with other major approaching events in my life.

Years ago I wrote creatively a great deal; today I seem to have forgotten this responsibility. Years ago I was something of an armchair philosopher (and not a bad one, I might add); today I seem also to have forgotten this responsibility, or rather, I seem to have sublimated the impulse beneath shelves of Hegel, Heidegger, Schopenauer, and Kant.

Armchair was better, as were my scraps of paper filled with free verse.

Not that the past was better on the whole; it wasn't.

But moving into the future need not (and should not) imply the loss of that which one found to be good in the past.

Time for all that is old to be new once again.

Balancing knowledge work  §

I'm struggling to manage knowledge work properly.

In order to produce anything of value, I have to collect. The role of the collector is the foundational role in the identity of the academic. (The role of the analyst comes next.) (Yes, I know that pragmatically and pessimistically, neither one of these even makes the top ten in the list of the roles of the academic, but work with me here.)

Thing is, I struggle to balance all of the forms of information flow and management that inhere in this profession.

  • This morning I have spent many hours so far typing and clicking rapidly, collecting a bunch of very useful stuff. (To collect is both to consume and to record at the same time; if either component is missing, then the act of collection fails.) Without this stuff, I would be unable to do the "real" work of the academy.
  • But at the same time, I do have my "real" work of formal writing that I am meant to be working on. I can't fruitfully pursue that, however, until there is some measure of redemption for my problematic of collection. But there is of course so much information in the world in a competitive marketplace of information production that you never catch up with your collection needs, no matter how hard you try. Meanwhile, whenever you are collecting, you are not engaging in writing.
  • Missing entirely are analysis and research (i.e. thinking and working, also separate from writing). Well there's clearly no time for this sorry shit. (1) You're busy working on collection because it is the founding task that is not done (you can't even manage to develop and hold on to a stable worldview with which to work; it jumps about and is full of static like a bad signal, and disappears altogether into obsolescence if you stop collecting for five minutes). (2) The only thing you can possibly cut collection short for (given how far behind you are on it, and getting farther behind with each passing moment) is writing, which is the deliverable upon which you'll be judged and for which you are entirely responsible, as well as the only thing the rest of the world consumes and/or cares about.
  • Meanwhile, where does reading fit into all of this? You know, all that stuff you collect? Plus the books on your shelf? Especially all of the rest of the "classics of the discipline" that you haven't managed to creep through and senselessly underline and take notes about yet, not to mention the "minor classics" and "cutting edge monographs?"

I sometimes wonder how the really productive people in the field do this. Do they just not bother to look around at all? Are they writing purely by pulling things out of their ass? Or? Do they simply not sleep? Are they all speed freaks? Do they all have a special grant that gives them 42 graduate assistants and a free brain implant for downloading PDF files directly to consciousness from the MIT media lab?

Is there a better, more organized road to scholarship?

Is there some kind of self-righting mechanism that I can download and install into myself (or even just into my GNOME panel) that will automagically act as an academic load balancer continually doing pseudocoded maxima-calculations to establish the best working ratios in order to be productive, given my particular typing speed and the stochastic properties of the files in my home folder?

I mean, WTF? This academics thing is supposed to be hard, but it isn't supposed to be continually and unapologetically nonsensical and protopostmetaphysical.

Or is it?

Rant over.

Aging + social networking = More rapid aging?  §

One thing social networking does well is age your conception of yourself very rapidly indeed.

The ecosystem of social networking appears awash in ever-younger individuals, balding, increasingly frumpy strangers continually appear with familiar names stolen from the friends you had in high school, and you spend more and more time searching for the pictures you can post that show you "as you really are," rather than these oddly middle-aged photos that keep coming out of cameras that have been pointed at you.

Meanwhile, all of the people that you've known for years are too young and immature to ever cook their own meals and do their own laundry seem to be busy inappropriately having babies and working strangely exotic jobs all around the world as if they're actual regular, adult people.

This regrettable distortion of reality is made all the more regrettable by the fact that perfect sense can be made of the lot with an adjustment of the way you see yourself.

You say "God, I'm getting old, I think" and the pieces fall into place with alarming rapidity and clarity.

A decade later, Leapdragon.net draws to a close  §

It's been 10 years, 2 months, and 27 days since the November afternoon in 1999 when I made my first online diary post at Leapdragon.net, which I didn't yet realize would become my longtime personal website. Since then I've published a small pile of books, earned a small pile of undergraduate and graduate degrees, lived in a small pile of places around the country, become a Ph.D. candidate, married a wonderful woman, held a variety of jobs, and basically grown up.

Not that too many people ever read my blog or anything like that. It's been a personal project, literally my diary/journal, a space where I kept track of myself and my thoughts and where at any given moment somewhere between zero and a handful of other people periodically stopped to check in on me, to see what I was up to and what I was thinking.

But it was really just my journal. And with my life becoming ever more a professional one, it was time for my journal to evolve.

The problem was this: I am becoming an academic. I need to keep an academic journal as well as a personal journal. Yet my personal thoughts often bleed into academic thoughts these days. Furthermore, I need to keep current files on my projects, and lists of resources in my files. And this are often indistinguishable from or connected to the aforementioned academic thoughts, which share the same relationship with my personal thoughts.

Personal Journal <-> Academic Journal <-> Activity Log <-> Files/Resources

Tricky, from a data management perspective. They all bleed into each other, have different core structures, and it was getting really difficult to figure out what ought to go where. Often my "files" would end up including what ought to have been blog posts at Leapdragon.net. Meanwhile, my blog posts would wax so academic that no-one would want to read them, yet these thoughts would be lost to my files, caught somewhere in the web of the web, which has been the only way for me to record thoughts and ideas when away from home.

At the same time, as I attempt to grow into professional life, I've found that I need to maintain a more professional web presence. So I opened AA-Hsiao.net (this domain), whose front page is a kind of resume and CV profile site to which I can send colleagues, students, and employers.

I was keeping my life data (which included a variety of data ranging from the personal to the professional) in a pile of different places: folders of varied data on my own Linux system, posts and thoughts and ideas at Leapdragon.net, all of these plus resources as well in another "academc journal" filing habit and system, and the AA-Hsiao profile site. And I was loathe to try to use some third-party "cloud" system that (a) I didn't design myself and (b) I didn't have total control over, especially in terms of the ability to back up and store my own data.

There was a lot of duplication, a lot of confusion, and a lot of unneeded, left-over complexity.

The solution was and is to consolidate. So as of today, Leapdragon.net is over (though it'll remain online just for historical purposes). The academic profile has moved to AA-Hsiao.net where there is now also a new "blog" called Leapdragon § Academe (this thing you are reading right now), which looks the same to the outside world (like a blog), but which under the hood (i.e. for me) is a vastly different system.

Unlike my other "blogs," Leapdragon § Academe is a fairly deeply specified relational database that holds my ideas, projects, courses, files, research, reading resources, index of books, funding sources, online bookmarks, and a bunch of other things that are tagged in a semantically powerful and interrelated way. It is my professional workspace and system, now hosted on an unlimited storage/unlimited bandwidth account. It currently already has records numbering in the thousands.

Like my previous blogs, however, 

Leapdragon § Academe can also be used to communicate with those few family and friends that want to drop by every now and then and see what I'm up to.

From now on, whenever I am logged into my database at AA-Hsiao.net and mark something as "public," it will appear for the rest of you on the Leapdragon § Academe blog (right here), as well as in my academic resources, since they are now one and the same system.

Meanwhile, everything I "post" publicly is also entered into and contextualized within my single, unified semantic world of files and resources.

In short, my personal journal, academic journal, and "files" have been married into a single, web-based system that allows me both privacy and publicity, connects to other online resources, and can be accessed from wherever I happen to be in need of note-taking facilities or of access to my records.

It's all based, for those who happen to be interested, on Drupal and MySQL, and is hosted at 101sitehosting.com, who I've been with for a very long time now and who are inexpensive, responsive, and reasonably robust for my purposes.

I am a bit sad to see the end of Leapdragon.net, I have to admit. It is a domain that has served me well and been my online identity for fully a third of my life. Others have in fact come to identify me with it and I've already heard several cries of "Noooooo!"

But all good things must end if new good things are to arrive.

And AA-Hsiao.net and Leapdragon § Academe will hopefully quickly acquit themselves as good things for me, for my academic career, for (by extension) my state of mind and organization, and (by further extension) for everyone that knows, relies on, or is interested in keeping in touch with or abreast of me in this thing called life.

This Blog is Closed!  §

Leapdragon 2010 has officially drawn to a close and given way to

Leapdragon § Academe, which is where my blog will live from now on.

Please go there if you’re looking for anything current.

Eccentricity:  §

A measure of the departure of an orbit from perfect circularity. A circular orbit has an eccentricity of e = 0, an elliptic orbit an eccentricity of 0 < e < 1, a parabolic orbit an eccentricity of e = 1, and a hyperbolic orbit an eccentricity of e > 1.

It begins to dawn on me (more than begins really, but now it’s a fully conscious thought) that I cannot be both creative and scholarly at the same time.

This is not my shortcoming. It is rather a shortcoming of everyone else.

In the telluric depths and the volatile outer reaches I am suspect because of my social-scientific aspirations. These make me a stoic, a modernist, a colonialist, a male chauvinist, a shallow and unreflective empiricist, colorless, odorless, an impostor, a cynic. The rational mind in me—the coder, the statistician, the analyst—undermines any veneer of the essential or the transcendental, of the luminous aura of the sort that is meant to pour forth from the gaping pores of the inevitably slightly mentally ill creative genius. (Nevermind that K&R C has always seemed transcendental to me, Lambda calculus and its semiotic relationship to Newton’s calculus doubly so; the others don’t see it this way.)

Meanwhile, in the white halls of the secular and the profane, precisely the opposite is true. For me to make pronouncements about murderous peaces, cannibals and drunken stupors, balloons and bitches and weight-loss transylvision wonderlands, innuendo and crescenuendo, bodily fluids and the battle between good and evil is—to say the least—a non-starter. Whatever they think of the speaker of such words as a quantity (and it is not, to say the least, a body of edifying thoughts that they have), they are even more perturbed by the effects of these, by association, on their veneer of rationalist infallibility and The Waxing Seriousness Of The Only Tribe Of Instrumental Wisdom, as well as the on the dreary wads of cash that they hope to bring into the fold in the pockets of starry-eyed adepts and astute and self-congratulating policymakers.

This tension has not, for me, been a positive one.

What was once a natural juxtaposition—creative writing and code writing, literary analysis and social analysis, ecstatic reflection and reflective extraction—has become an uncrossable gulf. As I have tried to straddle it, I have increasingly lost my footing on both sides.

All you have to do to get along is get along. So you keep on getting along. And somewhere along the way, you begin to realize, you got a little too far along, and now there is no going back.

In short, I sometimes worry that the essence of a self that I rather liked is either dying or being ruthlessly dulled; I certainly don’t feel either as wildly creative or as easily and inherently cogent as I was as a young person, and the work that I do now, in juxtaposition, often appears to pale in comparison, on both fronts, despite clearly involving effort and labor several orders of magnitude more intense.

What has changed is that I have been forced to grow up. I feel all around me the pulling from both directions—the demand to choose. One can be successful as a Serious Rationalist only if one gives no hint of being one of the Adherents of Critical Lunacy and Freakish Ur-Concession. And vice-versa.

You can either be Antonin Artaud or Talcott Parsons, but you can’t be both because neither industry will tolerate your being both. Is it culture? Political economy? Pollution? Oppression? In any case, if you’re a person for whom such abilities depend each in turn on the exercise of the other, it becomes increasingly unclear to you just what is to become of your once comfortable eccentricity, not to mention your productive capacity.

As an aside, just in time for 2010 the 2010 blog may be going away very soon, to be integrated (in the most self-imposed of totalitarianisms) with academic work and social networking data into a single, all-encompassing Drupal-based system that I began by calling the “academic life aggregator” but that I increasingly want simply to call my “life aggregator.”

We’ll see if this new and wondrous tool can do something about restoring an imposed and synthetic unity on what has become a rough series of fragments indeed.

Being == Data  §

It begins to feel as though all of life is data entry. The database is, of course, everywhere. It can’t be seen, but it peeks through the cracks here and there, often through electronic displays, sometimes through other forms of information or encounters that have the vague whiff of connectivity and its consequences about them.

There is much data to input. Connections, purchases, preferences, relationships, histories, grade point averages, employers and employees, phone numbers, birthdays, letters, records, taxes, images, songs, keywords, tags, categories, archives, essays, waves, wall updates, networks, links, bookmarks, budgets, and on and on.

The benefits of this massive data entry project boil down to a few things:

(1) More of what you like, provided magically. More theory or more anti-theory, more football, more handball, more Renaissance art, more postmodern travelogue electronica atonal music recorded as a series of visual artifacts in an otherwise unremarkable Warhol replica. You can have in ten minutes what you once had to spend a lifetime discovering; you can have more in a lifetime than once spanned a civilization.

(2) More people to share it with, more of the time. You know them and they know you, now not only in theory, but in practice! All of those “wonder what happened to so-and-sos” and “we really ought to keep in touch mores” can turn into “we check in with each other on Facebook and get together sometimes.”

(3) More self-insight, self-actualization. There is more of you to reflect on; more of your strengths and more of your weaknesses that, when remembered, turn into strengths. There is no better way to remember them.

(4) More control. The ability to move material objects with a few electronic thoughts. The ability to become financially independent from behind your own desk. The ability to learn all about Poland and then go there, modes of actualization that were once unimaginable to the masses, now made mundane.

(5) More reliability. Never miss another birthday or anniversary. Never lose another receipt come tax time. Never get lost anywhere in any city anytime. Never waste an hour trying to find a gas station or a day trying to find the holiday gift that you want because it doesn’t seem to be in stock anywhere. Never lose track of your finances and bounce a check. Never be out of reach for those loved ones that need you, no matter when that happens to be.

All that is required for this to come about are one or two small sacrifices in privacy that most are willing to grant and have been willing to grant throughout history in one form or another. This is endlessly discussed, but the discussion is largely academic; when someone offers you telekinetic control, cyborg memory, and global xray vision at the expense of a little overexposure, you take the deal. It’s not a bad deal. We are all today superheroes, and all we had to do is let Google have a peek at our unremarkable, massific traces of activity.

Oh, and one more thing: you have to actually get your own data, your own “data self” into the system.

For tomorrow’s children this won’t require a second thought; it will happen automagically. They will be databeings from the very beginning and their growth into adulthood will be congruent to and inextricable from their data growth and systemic entanglement (which is the same thing as systemic power).

For today’s adults, however, this is not such an easy feat. After all, for someone like me, years and years of data have accumulated in random nooks and crannies scattered around my life. Scraps of paper, lost notebooks, fragments of memory, a smattering of digital files in a dozen digital devices, “stored” in social networks to be “retrieved” only through months of long labor in person or on the telephone trying to mobilize our (now clearly) primitive early form of collective memory, mediated and managed as it is not by MMUs and algorithms and electron flows but by archaic symbolic systems that must be acted out in party-game-charades of voice and motion.

There are so many ways of getting the data in: voice recognition, handwriting recognition, big keyboards, little keyboards, bluetooth and WiFi and ether and token, downloads and uploads, smartphones and smartpens and scanners and digital cameras, mice and trackballs and trackpads and trackpoints, social tagging and social bookmarking, waves and tweets.

And if we had been doing this all along, all of our lives already, the accumulation would be functional, adequate, and transparent.

But we haven’t been.

And as a result, we are too far behind to ever actually catch up on our data entry while at the same time managing to have a life.

We will be the generation that just missed digital fruition, that just missed an entirely new mode of being. We can touch it, taste it, hear its pulp music dancing through the ambient mediation of the ecosociotechnosphere, but we will never properly wear it, live it, identify with and as it, in the same way that our children will. There just isn’t enough data in the system of us, and there is no way (or no time) to get it all entered.

We are the liminal generation, caught between analogue and digital, trying to catch up to the new loci of the self as the old ones dissolve away. We will always be a step behind.

Too bad; the new life promises to be—to coin a phrase—rather cool.

How to (almost) brick your iPhone 3Gs  §

Scary, scary times.

I have been syncing my iPhone using iTunes running in VirtualBox. After all, Apple doesn’t make an iTunes for Linux. And tonight I nearly bricked my iPhone and erased it of a lot of data in the process. Brilliant. I hate it when that happens. At least it’s not dead.

See, I figured backing up was good policy. Who wants to lose all the data in their phone? And virtual machines are pretty standard fare these days. My VirtualBox is running XP. I used to sync and restore Palm devices all the time, no sweat.

And I’ve been doing the “backup” sync and using iTunes to transfer music to my iPhone from VirtualBox with no issues.

So I hadn’t thought much about it.

Until tonight. I decide to back up. I plug in the sync cable. iTunes tells me there’s an update for the iPhone 3Gs firmware and asks me if I want to install it.

“Well why the hell not,” I figure, “can’t hurt.”

Wrong.

Turns out that throughout the update process, the iPhone resets itself repeatedly and disconnects from USB each time. This is not a problem in Windows or Mac OS, because the system would just re-detect it and iTunes would pick up where it left off with the next stage of the process.

Of course, with me running iTunes in VirtualBox on Linux, it works differently. Every time the iPhone is inserted into USB, Linux owns it. I then have to tell Linux to give control over to VirtualBox, where iTunes can then find it.

I didn’t realize the phone would silently disconnect and reconnect, without any indication from either the phone or from iTunes.

So what happened? Well, iTunes erased the damned phone in preparation for the update, then reset the phone. This promptly disconnected it from USB, then reconnected it, which gave ownership back to Linux without me knowing it. The iTunes display in VirtualBox, of course, just showed the mid-point progress bar, slick Apple production, without bothering to tell the user “there was just a USB remove and re-insert event and the phone doesn’t seem to have come back!”

So I didn’t know to click on the little status bar icon and tell VirtualBox to take ownership of the iPhone from Linux. So iTunes sat there dutifully waiting for the phone to come back as a tabula rasa… and it never did, because it was sitting connected to Linux instead.

Meanwhile, the phone now shows a scary screen that just says “iTunes” on it and has a picture of a USB cable (not something you normally see on your iPhone). Not realizing what has happened, I let it sit there in that state for hours.

Eventually iTunes times out. There is no retry option. It just fails and gives me an Apple web page about things to try next, which ultimately include contacting customer care to see about warranties, exchanges, etc. I’m thinking something along the lines of “Oh… shet.”

Reboot phone.

Nothing. Same “iTunes” graphic and image of USB cable, and nothing else. Plug cable in. Remove cable. Phone is unresponsive.

I finally realize that the iPhone is connecting to Linux, not iTunes. A light bulb goes off, and I realize what has happened. So now I tell VirtualBox to take ownership of the iPhone again. Fingers crossed. iTunes finds the phone. It’s restoring! Hooray!

Sort of… The same kind of foible happens several more times before I get the hang of the fact that actually in a single “restore,” the iPhone will reset itself (disconnecting from USB, then reconnecting) maybe half a dozen times! Each time, Linux will end up owning it when it comes back, rather than iTunes. This will interrupt iTunes’ flow.

Shades of Newton and the Newton connectivity utility that doesn’t work with any known system any longer (which is the only reason why I stopped using my Newton 2×00, after years of having to use it with a virtual machine just to get it to work at all).

Apple, sometimes you get too God damned fancy for your own good.

It takes me a while to work my way through the restore process, which, if you’re running iTunes in a virtual machine, turns out to be about as un-automatic and hair-raising as you can imagine.

And when it finally tells me that it’s successful, hours later, I let out a whoop of joy, unplug the phone, unlock it, and find…

A bare, as-new iPhone 3Gs screen in some kind of “fresh from the factory” state with the few icons for Apple’s default apps spread across four screens. No customization. No saved preferences. No downloaded apps.

Bare phone.

🙁

Well at least it’s not dead, which it could have been. So I plug back in again and it tells me it’s going to synchronize. Whew! Maybe I can get my stuff back automatically after all!

More waiting.

When all is said and done…. well…

All music: lost. Must be re-selected, re-copied.

All app updates: lost. Many dozens of apps need updates. These apparently have to be downloaded over the air, rather than through iTunes.

All configuration information: lost. I have to re-set-up things like Google sync and my notification preferences and alarms. Total pain in the ass.

This sucks, and it is definitely a lesson to me: don’t get too comfortable about virtual machines. Take more seriously the fact that the devices in common use were not designed to work with Linux. Don’t overestimate the consequences of not being like everyone else.

And don’t run updates unless absolutely necessary.

I’m not a tech tweaker any longer. At this stage of my career, I’m a production environment and need production-level stability. No updates unless it’s critically necessary, and then only using the most conservative configurations/arrangements possible.

An anti-Linux rant  §

From someone that has used Linux since 1993 and wrote six books about it, and that has been using (and, a long time ago, writing) free software since the mid-’80s…

I’m a Unix guy. I’m NOT necessarily a Linux guy. I value the transparency, modularity, power, predictability, stability, and general programmability and informational model of Unix systems.

The thing that kept me using Linux all these years was that it was the most driver-rich and performance-oriented of the free Unixes. But I am sitting here posting this on an iPhone because my laptop hit 34 boots and thus I’m in the middle of a 750 gig fsck.

No Unix machine should ever have to be rebooted 34 times in it’s lifetime, for God’s sake. And yet here I am, frustrated as hell after spending 2 hours trying to diagnose a problem that I ultimately trace to SELinux rule changes that came down through recent updates. These has the great effect of disabling all Nautilus (desktop and file manager) extensions, including Dropbox (which I use continuously) and my second monitor (which I also use continuously) without so much as a warning or an error message. When I finally traced it back to SELinux and used the SELinux tool from the administration menu to disable SELinux as a quick test, the system stopped booting with a blank screen.

By hitting ‘A’ at the GRUB bootloader, then backspacing over the “rhgb quiet nomodeset” options, I was able to see that the kernel was hanging at SELinux initialization now (with the damned thing supposedly disabled). So I powered down and repeated the process, supplying “SELinux=0” to GRUB.

I feel sorry for any non-Linux people who install Fedora, try to use the included administration tools to disable SELinux for some reason, and end up with a non-booting system that offers no clue as to why it’s refusing to boot.

Two hours. For a rule change that disabled desktop extension scripts and external monitor detection. Whose wrote these rules? Who was responsible for testing them? Clearly nobody I want to deal with as (these days) a user of this operating system.

Two hours.

I do not have two hours to waste on this, nor do I (for any RTFM weenies that ever happen to stray across this page) have the time to spend becoming an expert on all of the umpteen new and vaguely non-Unixy subsystems that have infected production Linux like a series of viruses in the last half decade.

Solution: I have disabled SELinux permanently by passing a kernel arg, I’ve disabled updates from the Fedora repos (because evey other week or so they break something critical, and this from “updates” and not “updates-testing”) and I will be looking for alternatives to Linux rather than going to Fedora 13. Mainstream Linux has grown too big for it’s britches and stability and the general Unix way are no longer a priority, if they are even important at all.

I’m tired of distro maintainers that break the current “stable” release with every other batch of updates, but that seem unable for years on end to patch things like a simple Radeon screen corruption fix that I re-enter and recompile by hand every time I go to a new version or they send an update for the driver down the pipe. It’s exactly ass-backward: they’re supposed to patch the broken stuff (screen corruption) and ensure stability and compatibility with regard to the working stuff (i.e. no new subsystems or major policy changes in a non-beta/non-testing release and installation).

I love the technology of Linux and the idea of open source, but I really can’t stand technology people any longer, with their pedantry and careless disregard for users. Clearly I have unbecome one of them.

OS X is a prime candidate as the replacement.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

I love free software, and I love OpenOffice. But  §

social reality is a powerful thing.

It may be time for me to divorce myself from OpenOffice’s native format (*sob*) and use MS Office instead. The thing is, I have access to tons of computing resources in the world, many of them cloud resources.

I can keep the files I’m working on online using Dropbox and then access and edit them wherever… in theory.

For example, right now I’m sitting in my office/cubicle in the department holding “office hours.” (You know, it’s that thing that no college kids ever come for, where they theoretically chat at length with the instructor they don’t really want to see outside of class anyway.)

And I have a PC at this desk (actually a Mac). There are also PCs for use in the labs in my classroom buildings, in libraries, and even on my stinking iPhone, which I can use anywhere to edit documents that are current.

Except one thing…

They don’t do .ODT format. Of course. Naturally. They speak .DOC, maybe .DOCX and .RTF as well. Microsoft Office formats. And of course while OpenOffice is fully capable of saving in .DOC format and I know intellectually that when I save to my Dropbox folder, I ought to be saving in .DOC format, I always forget to do so.

More to the point, even when I do so, file imports/exports between disparate products never work quite as well as one needs them to. This is especially true when there are multiple platforms involved (Linux, Windows XP, Mac OS, iPhone).

So, I suspect it’s time for me to grit my teeth and start using MS Word for things. I don’t really savor the idea, but here I sit in my cubicle posting on my blog instead of working on my Ph.D. actively.

Why? Because the relevant file(s) in my Dropbox account were saved this morning in .ODT format. (Oops.)

So we’ll see.