Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Orleans Lower 9th Ward Coming Back

The Rev and I were in New Orleans this week for a wedding.  While we were there we visited the 9th Ward.  This is the part of New Orleans that was virtually wiped out by Katrina in 2005.  I've written a lot about the flooding in Cedar Rapids so you know I wanted to see how they were coming along in New Orleans.  After Katrina, the Rev went on two mission trips to the area to help out and actually had scheduled a third trip when Cedar Rapids got hit.  The lessons learned in the south went a long way in making things a little easier in our area so we were very interested in seeing how far New Orleans had come in five years.

I'm glad to say that we saw much to feel good about.  One of the coolest things we learned about is a program called Make It Right.  Brad Pitt has been instrumental in getting this initiative up and running.    It is fascinating the work they are accomplishing and how they are going about it.  Go to their site and check it out.  They can tell their story far better than I can.

Don't get me wrong, there is still a lot of work to do but you can see that this area is going to return.  One concern is bringing back the local businesses.  The neighborhood cafes and gas stations.  There are no stores on the corners to buy groceries or get a sandwich.  The residents are coming back but the shops are lagging.  This will be the next step.  Let's pray that the shopkeepers will be able to afford to rebuild as well so that the residents in the lower 9th ward don't have to drive across town just to pick up a bottle of milk.  You need all of that for the community to return.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Linux Mint 9

I have been playing with my desktop computer and I think I have now learned just enough to be dangerous.  Which means, of course, I’m going to talk about it.  I have made the leap and taken this box to the world of Linux.

I have been playing with Linux for a couple of years but always in a dual-boot set-up.  This an old box so it still had Windows XP on it.   I never made the transition to Vista but I did keep it up to date with all of the security patches and even had Service Pack 3 installed.  As we get down to the end of the life span of XP, I had several options.

- Do I spend $150 and go to Windows 7?  That would entail a clean reformat of my hard drive and a full installation of the operating system.  I have done this before so that didn’t really scare me.  But the idea didn’t excite me, either.  My netbook has Windows 7 and I am very pleased with how it runs, so I am not really a Win7 hater.  So I downloaded the little program from Microsoft that would check my computer and tell me if I could upgrade to Win7.  It said I could upgrade but I didn’t have enough machine to really take advantage of everything Win7 had to offer.  So, basically I could shell out a C-note but I would still be limited in what I could do.

- Do I get a new computer?  I would love a new, more powerful computer.  Like I said, this one is getting old.  And what guy doesn’t like a new toy?  But, I don’t really have 6 or 7 hundred dollars just laying around.  Somehow I don’t think the Rev would go for that.

Or.  .  . do I look for something entirely different?  As I said at the top, I have been playing with Linux for a couple of years but never really got serious about it until this summer.  So I figured it was time to give it a serious trial.  I had installed Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron in a dual boot set-up and was pleased with that.  It seemed to work okay on my computer and had enough programs to do what I wanted to do most of the time.  So I started to use it as my main platform.  Instead of just playing with it, I put it to work.  And what I found was that it worked just fine.  About the only time I really needed to boot into Windows was when I needed to use Quicken to pay some bills.  Quicken just doesn’t run in Linux and even using Wine didn’t work very well.  But all I really used Quicken for anymore was Quicken Billpay.  I have used Checkfree since the early days when it was a stand alone start-up, before Intuit bought it.  I really like the convenience of online bill payment.  But when we moved to Des Moines we switched banks and they offered free online billpay.  No more $10 per month for Checkfree.  I signed up for that service pretty quickly.

That, I discovered, was the last road block keeping me from dumping Windows.  So now I started to look seriously for a Linux flavor that I liked.  I first upgraded to Ubuntu 10.04 Maverick Meerkat.  That is a great program.  Everything just worked.  It has OpenOffice to replace Microsoft Office.  I could use Firefox and Chrome for browsers just like I did in Windows.  I even found that I liked Presentation better than Powerpoint for creating my slide show from our vacation.

Now I was hooked on Linux.  So I started looking around at others.  Puppylinux is a wonderful little program you can run off a disk on even the most basic computers.  I downloaded Fedora 13 and tried that from a live cd as well.  Very nice.

But I kept reading about these guys that were taking the latest Ubuntu version and tweaking and polishing it up.  They call it Linux Mint.  It was supposed to be the best distro for a newbie like me who had grown up on Windows and really wasn’t into programing.  So I downloaded the image and burned a disk to try it.  It had all of the power and strength of Ubuntu in a really slick, user-friendly package.  It was like being used to driving a Toyota and being handed the keys to a Lexus.  Everything seemed familiar and much like what I had become used to only it was nicer and smoother and full of pizazz.  I know - that isn’t tech speak, but I don’t claim to be a techie.  I’m just an old furniture guy trying to get another year or two out of his computer.

So two weeks ago I did it.  I reformatted my hard drive.  I wiped off all remnants of Windows from my machine and I installed Linux Mint 9 “Isadora” on this old box of mine and I haven’t looked back once.  I have been playing with setting this up exactly how I want it.  And you want to know the best part? There are literally thousands of programs to do everything I want to do and they are all free.  And they are easy to install.  The hardest part is choosing.

So you will see a new gadget on the right side of this page.  It is a link to Linux Mint.  If you are interested in trying something new, check it out.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.