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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Two days ago, Fedora 14 was released, and I decided to give it a try. In a previous post, I was using openSUSE 11.3, and I was proud of it. Well, I was, but now I have moved on. I shift between Linux distributions as my needs and desires change, and I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that.

All operating systems come with their own ideology, whether their users are actively aware of them or even care. These are all generalizations, but…

Windows users are usually sticking with what is familiar with them. Many don’t know that Windows and PC are not interchangeable terms, nor do they care. They expect everything they see online or in stores to be able to run on their computers, as long as they pay the right price. They either don’t care or don’t notice that every program on their computer tends to look and function in a different way, and they tend to be fine with pouring money and trust into Microsoft’s coffers.

Mac users are willing to pay more money for what they think is a superior product. They believe Mac’s interface is easier to understand than Windows, and they’re forced into understanding that not everything they see in stores can run on their computers. They’re more comfortable with pouring their trust and money into Apple than Windows users, because Apple controls every aspect of the Mac, from the hardware to what kind of software is installed on it to how that software looks. They don’t necessarily know what an operating system is, just that a Mac isn’t a PC, and for many of them, not running Windows is an attractive enough statement in its own right.

Linux users are an entirely different breed of people. They know what an operating system is — after all, they likely installed Linux themselves. They understand that most of what they see in stores can’t be run on their computers, but many are willing to tinker with it anyways just to be certain. They know that buying anything, from buying a printer to a digital camera to a voice recorder, may require research on their part, since these products do not go out of their way to say whether they are Windows or Mac capable, and for good reason: Linux is a mess. Linux challenges the notion that computers are products and that our use of them should be limited to what the computer manufacturer or software designer decides. Linux users want the freedom to compute in the way that they desire, without unnecessary — some would deem scary — restrictions. As a result, no single entity controls or speakers for Linux, nor is there one form of Linux. Sometimes, Linux users themselves are the loudest speakers on behalf of Linux, and for them, that can be empowering.

How do Fedora and openSUSE fit into all of this? Well, they are both Linux distributions. To grossly simplify, Linux is developed by individuals from all over the world, varying from hobbyists to corporations. Since no one entity controls Linux, no one entity collects and distributes the software made for it. As a result, other groups have to fill this role. You can’t go online and download Linux, but you can download Fedora, openSUSE, Ubuntu, etc., which will give you access to what Linux has to offer. Thus, Linux distributions are less like products, like Windows and Mac OS X, and more like communities. I could have taken my openSUSE computer and changed it so that it looked identical to how my Fedora computer looks now, if I so desired.

Why, then, did I switch? This is largely because I’m a curious individual. I will wipe my computer multiple times in one day, just to see what a new Linux distribution has to offer me. I have wiped my computer dozens of times since my last post, and again, I’m okay with that. What ultimately attracted me to Fedora was not its product, but the ideology it espouses.

In this day and age, I see computing as more than the use of a product. In a world where entire relationships can take place, pictures can be taken and shared, research papers can be typed and formatted, bills can be paid and communities can form all from behind a computer screen, to treat operating systems and the software they run as mere products poses a large risk. This places too much power over our lives into the hands of a few companies and the size of our checkbook.

Lets say you type a letter to a friend and save it as a .docx file, the format the latest version of Microsoft Office Word uses as default. Your friend may be using an older version of Microsoft Office and cannot open the file. Sure, they could fork over the money for Microsoft Office, but they may not have that money available. Now lets assume that you want to look back at that letter ten years later, but you can’t because Microsoft has gone out of business and their Microsoft Office format is now unsupported. You’ve now lost access to your own data.

Fedora doesn’t sell itself as the best product out there. Different people have different needs and desires, so there is no reason to try to be all things for all people. Instead, Fedora tries to be at the forefront of open source software — that is, software that is free to use, share, and modify. They desire to be the distribution that makes it easiest to access the latest open source software without going through too much effort to place their brand everywhere. They give users the tools to use open source software to set up their computer however they see fit, and that’s attractive to me. My setup currently looks and functions quite differently from the default setup shown on the Fedora website. Fedora doesn’t task itself with getting its product in the hands of everyone, but instead pushes the advancement of open source software as a whole. All of the art for it and its webpage are created using open source software as a testament to how capable the software is. It also doesn’t ship software that isn’t open source, such as proprietary multimedia codecs. This comes with its own set of difficulties, but I feel good knowing I’m using an operating system that is free to use, free to modify, not trying to limit what I can do and not trying to sell something to me — a peeve of mine whenever I find myself using Windows nowadays.

Is Linux suitable for the masses? Well, yes and no. The software is definitely capable. There is very little that I could do back when I was on Windows that I can’t do now, and for my purposes, the benefits definitely outweigh the setbacks. However, using open source operating systems such as Linux, FreeBSD, etc. requires a certain amount of knowledge that the average computer user currently does not want to have to deal with when the dominant culture around them is comfortable with plunking down dollars for everything. Personally, I rather save money using free alternatives, even if I do have to take the time reading up on them. At the end of the day, Windows causes stupidity, and until the dominant culture changes, Linux is not likely to see mass acceptance, regardless of its merits.

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Three new archaeological finds have provided evidence questioning anthropologists’ previous theory that primates originated in Africa and pushing back accepted dates on migration to Asia and the origins of stone tool-making.

The questions start with a new study published in Nature describing newly discovered anthropoid fossils in Dur At-Talah in Libya. Anthropoids are the primate group including humans, apes and monkeys; the fossils, composed only of teeth but providing immense data for anthropologists, date to 39 million years ago and indicate the early anthropoids weighed between one-quarter and one pound. Furthermore, the fossils indicate at least three anthropoid species had already diverged from a common ancestor through evolution, corresponding to earlier described anthropoid species from Asia.

These new fossils appear suddenly in the archaeological record, researchers say, prompting one of two explanations. The first, and less likely, is a massive gap in Africa’s fossil record; scientists believe it to be unlikely because Eocene epoch sites in northern Africa have been thoroughly sampled and no diverse anthropoid fossils have been found predating these new fossils. Most likely, the study’s authors argued, is that these new anthropoids “colonized” Africa from another continent, most likely Asia approximately 39 million years ago, in the middle of the Eocene.

“If our ideas are correct, this early colonization of Africa by anthropoids was a truly pivotal event — one of the key points in our evolutionary history,” says Christopher Beard, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History and an author on the paper. “At the time, Africa was an island continent; when these anthropoids appeared, there was nothing on that island that could compete with them. It led to a period of flourishing evolutionary divergence amongst anthropoids, and one of those lineages resulted in humans. If our early anthropoid ancestors had not succeeded in migrating from Asia to Africa, we simply wouldn’t exist.”

Meanwhile, researchers working in south China have uncovered fossils pushing back the emergence of anatomically modern humans by almost 60,000 years. A partial jawbone and several teeth found in Zhirendong in 2007 have been dated to 100,000 years ago, well before archaeologists believed modern humans had made it from Africa to Asia.

Researchers say the fossils have a mix of modern and Neanderthal features. While the Daily Mail notes Chinese scientists may pounce on the fossils as evidence for a controversial theory that humans in China descend from a species called Homo Pekinensis rather than from the African-borne Homo Sapiens. The researchers say the Zhirendong fossils really indicate that modern humans and Neanderthals coexisted for some time in that region, mating and creating a hybrid species.

“There was mating between these ‘archaic’ and ‘modern’ groups across Asia, and not just in Europe and the remainder of Africa,” researcher and Neanderthal expert Erik Trinkaus said. “Of more interest than who had sex with whom is the fact that modern humans had spread across southern Eurasia by 100,000 years ago, and yet archaic humans remained across the more northern areas, and even displaced the modern humans in Southwest Asia for an additional 50,000 to 70,000 years. … It argues for very little adaptive advantage on the part of these modern humans.”

Although the find is exciting, anthropologists caution against reading too much into it as there is so far only one sample.

Back in Africa, a new expedition has found relatively sophisticated stone artifacts in a cave in South Africa dating back 75,000 years, 50,000 years earlier than prehistoric peoples’ tool use was thought. The tools, found in the Blombos Cave near the southern tip of South Africa, were created with a technique known as pressure flaking, which, according to Wired, “consists of trimming the edges of a finished tool by pressing with a bone point hard enough to remove thin slices of rock. This process creates the narrow, evenly spaced grooves found on flint tools from Europe’s 20,000-year-old Solutrean culture and prehistoric Native American groups.” The technique better controls the sharpness, thickness and shape of spearheads and stone knives.

The researchers analyzed 159 silcrete points and fragments, 179 other retouched pieces and more than 700 flakes from the cave. They also experimented with replicating the procedure for comparative purposes; pressure flaking can be taught to a novice in about half an hour, according to archaeologist John Shea. “It is, literally, so easy a caveman can do it,” he said.

Again, archaeologists caution, while this is an interesting discovery, it merely indicates the technique appeared earlier than previous thought and is not a game-changer on questions of origins or cognitive development.

Finally, some quick summaries of other recent anthropological developments:

  • A new paper will likely spark debate for arguing that the so-called Homo floresiensis, a 3.5-foot-tall, 15,000-year-old “hobbit”-like human species discovered in Indonesia in 2003, is actually an idodine-deprived Homo sapiens. The lack of iodine combined with endemic dwarf cretinism derived from congenital hypothyroidism gave the nine skeletons their short stature, the researchers argue.
  • Archaeologists from the Smithsonian, Southern Methodist University and the University of Oregon are concerned about rising ocean levels threatening seaside archaeological sites. In the Journal of Coastal Conservation they argue for using “quantifiable factors such as historical rates of shoreline change, wave action, coastal slope and shoreline geomorphology” to create an index of threatened sites in order to inform decision-making about preservation and salvageability.
  • Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer, famous for excavating King Herod’s winter palace and discovering Herod’s tomb, died at 76 years of age after accidentally falling at the site this week. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his death “a loss for his family, scholars of Israel’s history and the science of archaeology.”

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Scientists in the United Kingdom are celebrating today as government cuts to research funds have been frozen rather than slashed dramatically, as they previously feared. A comprehensive review of government spending, released today, promised that science funding would be kept at £4.6 billion annually, amounting to only around a 10 percent loss due to inflation.

“Britain is a world leader in scientific research, and that is vital to our economic success,” Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne said while announcing the review’s conclusions.

Nevertheless, that effective 10 percent loss has sparked fears of a “brain drain” as Britain’s top scientists flee for nations with better science funding, including Germany, France, Singapore and the United States.

“This is still a significant cut when other countries have recognised that if you want to go for growth, you have to invest in science,” Campaign for Science and Engineering director Imran Khan told the Guardian. “Flat cash means a 10 percent cut over the four-year period and the people who will feel that cut soonest are the young scientists, who we will struggle to retain in this country.”

Not everyone was thankful for the government’s concessions. Mark Downs, the CEO of the Society of Biology, a biology advocacy group, was critical of even the 10 percent loss.

“The government has failed to recognise what all charities know – an economic downturn is the time to invest in fundraising to ensure future prosperity,” he told the BBC. “It is research and development, coupled with skilled people that will deliver growth. Our international competitors have recognised that: the coalition government has yet to fully accept that reality.”

While the government review did largely protect science spending, other programs weren’t so lucky. In trying to close a £156 billion deficit, Osbourne identified £81 billion of public spending that can be cut. Among other measures, Britain will raise the pension age to 66 in 2018; local council budgets will be sliced by 7.1 percent; the Ministry of Defence will lose 8 percent of its budget and 42,000 jobs; a further 490,000 public sector jobs are to be cut; the BBC must freeze its license fee and absorb the Foreign Office-run World Service, amounting to 16 percent cuts; national museums face 15 percent cuts; and Arts Council England has been slashed almost 30 percent.

“Tackling this budget deficit is unavoidable. The decisions about how we do it are not. There are choices. And today we make them. Investment in the future rather than the bills of past failure. That is our choice,” Osbourne said. Along with science research, education and health care were also protected from serious cuts.

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Ironically, at the same time as government science spending has been spared, the U.K.’s only book award for popular science, the Royal Society Prize for Science Books, is also under threat. The 22-year-old award has yet to find a replacement funding partner for the Royal Society, which has announced it can no longer pay for the £10,000 prize. French pharmaceutical company Aventis had sponsored the award until 2007.

“Science is an integral part of our culture and it is immensely important that the joy, wonder and excitement of scientific discovery is effectively communicated to all,” Royal Society President Lord Rees said. “The [prize] has celebrated the very best science writing since 1988 and helped to encourage engagement with science. The Royal Society greatly values the prizes, however, in these tough economic times we have to secure a sponsor to ensure they can continue in future years.”

Previous winners have included physicist Stephen Hawking, anthropologist Jared Diamond, zoologist Stephen Jay Gould and travel writer Bill Bryson.

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A new study from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication gives more than half of Americans a failing grade on the specifics of climate change. When questioned about the greenhouse effect, the difference between weather and climate, fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, skeptic arguments and solutions, fully 52 percent of respondents received a failing grade. A mere one percent received an A; 7 percent, a B; 15 percent, a C; 25 percent, a D.

“These misconceptions lead some people to doubt that climate change is happening or that human activities are a major contributor, to misunderstand the causes and therefore the solutions, and to be unaware of the risks. Thus many Americans lack some of the knowledge needed for informed decision-making about this issue in a democratic society,” the report’s authors, Anthony Leiserowitz and Nicholas Smith of Yale and Jennifer R. Marlon of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, wrote.

Some of the results:

  • 63 percent understand global warming is happening; 19 percent say it is not
  • 13 percent have not heard of the greenhouse effect
  • 83 percent know weather often changes from year to year; 74 percent knew “climate” refers to average weather conditions in a region
  • 55 percent incorrectly believe Earth’s climate is warmer than ever
  • Given the current surface temperature of 58 degrees, respondants were asked about the average temperature during the last ice age. The correct response is between 46 and 51 degrees; the median response was 32 degrees, the freezing point of water. Many responded 0 degrees.
  • 80 percent identified coal as a fossil fuel; 76 percent identified oil as a fossil fuel; 60 percent identified natural gas as a fossil fuel; 28 percent said wood (not a fossil fuel)
  • 47 percent incorrectly said fossil fuels are the fossilized remains of dinosaurs
  • 49 percent incorrectly believe the space program contributes to global warming
  • 42 percent said that, because weather cannot be predicted more than a few days in advance, long-term climate forecasts are unreliable
  • 35 percent said that, because Earth’s climate has changed before, the current change is not related to human activity
  • 18 percent believe the record snowstorms last year disprove global warming (climate change models actually predict such storms as more water from the poles melts and is dispersed in the atmosphere)
  • 21 percent know most of the glaciers on Earth are melting
  • 43 percent incorrectly believe that stopping rocket launches from punching holes in the ozone layer will reduce global warming
  • 27 percent said climate change is extremely or very important to them personally
  • 75 percent said schools should teach the causes, effects and possible solutions to children

The report’s authors caution against reading too much into the grades, however. Some questions were more difficult to answer than others, they note, and perhaps even more importantly few Americans have taken any formal course on climate change, instead getting their information from the mass media.

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“Mad Men” is on tonight (and make sure to check back tomorrow for analysis from ACG Blog contributors). You are almost certain to see someone have a drink at the office. Probably not a good idea, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan say.

Scott Rick and Maurice Schweitzer conducted six experiments in which observers

  • “judged the intelligence of targets photographed consuming or merely holding an alcoholic beverage, a non-alcoholic beverage, or nothing”
  • “watched a video clip of a speaker making a persuasive argument, while holding and consuming either an alcoholic or a non-alcoholic beverage”
  • “judged the intelligence of a target photographed without a beverage” after being exposed to alcohol-related advertisements
  • were job managers watching dinner job interviews where the only difference was whether the interviewee, the interviewer, both or neither order a drink
  • were “mildly intoxicated MBA students” giving mock interviews to actors who drank either alcohol or a non-alcoholic beverage
  • “viewed a hypothetical job interview that manipulated the boss’s drink choice.  Participants were then asked what they would order if they were in the job candidate’s position.”

They identified an over-generalized link between alcohol and cognitive impairment—one that exists, but which produces a bias in the observers brought on by just seeing someone holding a drink, or the implication that person has had a drink, despite whether the observer herself has had a drink. Rick and Schweitzer call this the imbibing idiot bias.

The researchers found that

Consuming, or merely holding, an alcoholic beverage reduced perceived intelligence, in the absence of any actual reduction in cognitive performance. We observed this bias even when the person consuming alcohol had his beverage selected for him, suggesting that the bias does not reflect a belief that less intelligent people are most likely to choose to consume alcohol, but rather an implicit association between alcohol and cognitive impairment. We even found that implicitly priming the concept of alcohol caused observers to view targets, holding no beverage at all, as less intelligent. These findings are consistent with an implicit association in memory between alcohol and cognitive impairment.

We also found that alcohol selectively reduced perceived intelligence: Targets were consistently rated as less intelligent, but no less likeable, honest, or genuine, when consuming alcohol.

In interview settings, candidates who consumed alcohol were judged to be less intelligent and less hireable. We document the imbibing idiot bias in informal interview settings with both experienced managers and mildly intoxicated MBA students who assumed the role of a boss in a mock interview.

Prospective job candidates largely fail to anticipate the imbibing idiot bias. Candidates in informal interview settings follow the boss’s lead, even when the boss chooses to consume alcohol. Our demonstration of a robust imbibing idiot bias suggests that this form of mimicry is a mistake.

Their conclusion:

Although people often choose whether to consume alcohol based on its anticipated pharmacological effects (e.g., Capell, 2008), we identify a very different factor that decision-makers should consider. Our work reveals that consuming alcohol can diminish perceived intelligence even when it has no influence on actual performance. Unfortunately, people in a position to be judged largely fail to anticipate the bias. Taken together, the results suggest that what we drink may say more about us than we think.

Essentially, seeing someone drink alcohol makes you think less of their intelligence. It’s not something you consciously decide, and it’s not something you apply to yourself, either, as evidenced by bosses drinking at interviews but thinking less of the candidates who drank. The bottom line, apparently, is don’t drink during any sort of job interview or situation where you’re to be judged, even if the interviewer is enjoying a nice chardonnay.

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America’s energy policy is often dictated by short-term requirements: increasing need, lags in the development of alternative energy sources, the discovery and exploitation of new sources of fossil fuels. Environmentalists have typically cautioned in the past that such short-term thinking is progressively more detrimental to the global ecosystem and responsible energy policy will account for long-term considerations.

Okay, said George F. Will. Let’s look ahead a few hundred thousand years. What we’re doing now, he concludes in this recent Newsweek column, has no effect on the earth in the long term. His column is based on (read: largely a rewrite and oversimplification of) a recent American Scholar article by Nobel-winning physicist Robert Laughlin.

What humans do to, and ostensibly for, the earth does not matter in the long run, and the long run is what matters to the earth. We must, Laughlin says, think about the earth’s past in terms of geologic time.

Will doesn’t seem to have the greatest grasp on science or its deeper policy implications.

For example: The world’s total precipitation in a year is about one meter—“the height of a golden retriever.” About 200 meters—the height of the Hoover Dam—have fallen on earth since the Industrial Revolution. Since the Ice Age ended, enough rain has fallen to fill all the oceans four times; since the dinosaurs died, rainfall has been sufficient to fill the oceans 20,000 times. Yet the amount of water on earth probably hasn’t changed significantly over geologic time.

Will is correct that there is approximately the same amount of water on earth as there ever has been. That’s because of something called the water cycle (or the hydrologic cycle if you want to get all science-y), which unless I’m mistaken is taught to every second grader in America.

Since, according to Will, the ocean levels have stayed roughly the same despite significant rainfall in the last few billion years, the earth will be just fine in the long run.

Someday, all the fossil fuels that used to be in the ground will be burned. After that, in about a millennium, the earth will dissolve most of the resulting carbon dioxide into the oceans. (The oceans have dissolved in them “40 times more carbon than the atmosphere contains, a total of 30 trillion tons, or 30 times the world’s coal reserves.”) The dissolving will leave the concentration in the atmosphere only slightly higher than today’s. Then “over tens of millennia, or perhaps hundreds” the earth will transfer the excess carbon dioxide into its rocks, “eventually returning levels in the sea and air to what they were before humans arrived on the scene.” This will take an eternity as humans reckon, but a blink in geologic time.

Again, Will is right only technically. But energy policy cannot be dictated by geologic time scales — a stretch of time useful only in academic research.

In his original piece, Laughlin, whose work has been in theoretical physics, does indeed reframe clime change in geologic time.

On the scales of time relevant to itself, the earth doesn’t care about any of these governments or their legislation. It doesn’t care whether you turn off your air conditioner, refrigerator, and television set. It doesn’t notice when you turn down your thermostat and drive a hybrid car. These actions simply spread the pain over a few centuries, the bat of an eyelash as far as the earth is concerned, and leave the end result exactly the same: all the fossil fuel that used to be in the ground is now in the air, and none is left to burn.

In the short term, Laughlin says, of more immediate importance is the human population, which has been growing exponentially for some time. Humans are taxing earth’s resources to the limit and have already initiated what scientists call the sixth great extinction (the previous five being less serious extinctions, including the dinosaurs at the hands of a massive asteroid).

However, carbon dioxide, per se, is not responsible for most of this extinction stress. There are a handful of counterexamples, notably corals, which may be especially sensitive to acidification of the ocean surface, and amphibians, which are declining noticeably for unknown reasons. But, except in these few isolated cases, keeping carbon-based fuels in the ground a while longer won’t make much difference in mitigating the loss of biodiversity. The real problem is human population pressure generally—overharvesting, habitat destruction, pesticide abuse, species invasion, and so forth. Slowing man-made extinctions in a meaningful way would require drastically reducing the world’s human population. That is unlikely to happen.

Laughlin’s article is really quite academic in its scope, not useful to policymakers and politicians.

Energy procurement is a matter of engineering and keeping the lights on under circumstances that are likely to get more difficult as time progresses. Climate change, by contrast, is a matter of geologic time, something that the earth routinely does on its own without asking anyone’s permission or explaining itself. … The geologic record suggests that climate ought not to concern us too much when we’re gazing into the energy future, not because it’s unimportant, but because it’s beyond our power to control.

Will posits that Laughlin is telling us to simply give up on preventing climate change, something he is absolutely not promulgating. Laughlin is simply reframing climate change in geologic time, something that reveals some of the silliness around arguing to “halt” climate change. Extreme climate change not caused by man is going to happen, eventually — but not for any of us, or even our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren to see. That’s why Will has to shift from a short-term outlook to a geologic timescale; climate change is relevant largely in between those extremes, in the next century to millennium. Planning for less time than that would be disastrous; planning for more would be pointless.

The earth will be around in a few million years, Laughlin says — but will humans? Will hijacks Laughlin’s article (which, admittedly, presents climate change as a constantly changing and not-at-all-certain field, which it is) for his own anti-climate change purposes, and it borders on hubris.

Ultimately, Will’s argument is semantic. But “Save the planet” is not a literal mantra; instead, it advocates protecting the current environment from change so drastic and swift humans do not have time to adapt.

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I heard this story on NPR today as I was driving home from Target, and it made me rather sad. Apparently, Russia has made it a policy as of late to raid groups that oppose its government and confiscate their computers, claiming that they are investigating whether or not the group is using pirated Microsoft Windows software. What bothered me was not that the Russian government is allegedly harassing those who disagree with it — which I do think is not cool — but that it can be considered a crime to use and share software needed to function in today’s world.

Most of you probably think this is no big deal. After all, if these people didn’t pay for the software, then they shouldn’t be allowed to use it. That’s the way our world works. But the problem is that this system puts too much power into the hands of too few corporations. If I have to use the internet to communicate with colleagues and type up documents in order to pass a class, and my only avenues to do so is to buy either a Windows PC or a Mac, then this gives Microsoft and Apple a lot of say so in aspects of my life that they really shouldn’t have any say in.

I’ve given this a lot of thought, you see, because I run Linux on all of my computers. Currently, I use openSUSE Linux, and while I won’t digress into the nitty gritty about what the various distributions of Linux are, feel free to read this blog post I wrote about openSUSE a while back.

Linux has changed the way I view computing. First of all, I’ve come to see computing not as a service we pay Microsoft or Apple to let us use but rather as a right needed to function in today’s world. Linux instills this ideal by being entirely open source. People are free to contribute to it, copy it, and alter it until their heart’s content. At the same time, most of the software designed to run on Linux can be installed for free, legally, on as many computers as you want. I currently run openSUSE on all of my computers, can type up whatever I want for class using OpenOffice, browse the web using Firefox, manage email using Thunderbird, and kill hours of free time playing the Battle for Wesnoth. I am providing these links because this software is also available for both Windows and Mac, so you should check them out, even if you’re not at all interested in installing a Linux distribution. In the meantime, if something goes wrong on my computer, I can repair or reinstall openSUSE without having to purchase another version or input a serial key. I merely have to redownload or reuse my previous installation CD. You see, I can do all the computing I need without having to pay Microsoft a dime or worry about the feds knocking down my door. I just wish more people were in the same boat.

And that is why the current raiding situation in Russia moves me so.

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