Thursday, September 29, 2005


The half-started and half-finished draft blog posts -- there's a difference, though subtle -- are beginning to pile up and looks like I'm not going to get another post on here unless I force myself. So here goes. This what I could write, on my Blackberry, with my two thumbs, in the time the time it takes me to get home. Pardon the typos.

Work is heating up, as it always does this time of year. I run a team of journalists covering courts in Europe and, with the exception of criminal courts, the news flow drops dramatically in the summer. It even stays quiet through most of September as lawyers reacquaint themselves with the half-finished (and half-started) cases -- "What's our defense, again? Oh, right, he didn't do it." -- and judges take practice swings with their swords of justice -- "Off with his head! Nah, just joking with ya." And both re-powder their wigs, at least in the U.K.

But suddenly, near the end of September, the mad dash starts and will continue to Christmas. I barely have time to go to the bathroom for the 14 hours a day I spent either in the office or traveling to or from. It doesn't leave much room for thinking, or spotting interesting articles, or talking with the family.

On top of that, I'm doing my (now traditional) twice-a-year dive into the Linux community. My flavor of Linux is Ubuntu (pronounced oo-boon-too), which gets upgraded, come hell or high water, once every six months. I find six months perfect for me. After that long, I start itching for a change in my computing environment -- new versions of software to explore, for example.

I get so much out of Ubuntu, though, that I feel a bit guilty. Free software such as this depends on volunteers -- not exclusively, since the core developers are paid, but it wouldn't be possible to put out a free operating system as powerful as Windows or Mac OS X without tender loving care from several hundred or thousands of others. And the truth is I give back very little. I just don't have time.

So the computer sits in a corner, dutifully running for months at a time, handling homework assignments for five children, backing up every file in the house each night, retrieving and distributing email for everyone, acting as our second TV for playing DVDs, playing our music and Internet-based radio stations and finally, and most taxing, acting as my personal play box for new software (also created by mostly volunteers) and programming languages (my version of
crossword puzzles).

(Later, I'm home now, and to wrap this up quickly...) So, to give at least a little back, about a month before the developers of Ubuntu put out a new version, I download and install the half-finished (not half-started) version and bang away at it, trying to find bugs and filing reports. I've even submitted one "patch" (a file that shows changes needed in source code that may solve a problem), although I submitted it in the wrong format and it was only for the most minor of cosmetic bugs. I also subscribe to the the user support mailing list and weigh in as much as I can to help new users solve at least the simplest problems. It may not be much, but it's something.

Anyway, 14-hour work days, tinkering with the computer and answering tech-support questions is filling up my time, just about all of it. Typing my thoughts into a Blackberry on the way home, however, might be a way to squeeze out just a little bit more.

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