Ideology vs Getting Stuff Done

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I’ve disliked ideology as a personal philosophy. Nothing ever really applies in all cases. This is why, while I think of the idea of open source software is awesome, it is not awesome if you have to sacrifice doing things you need to do in the name of philosophical purity.

I share the views stated by Evan Liebovich in a video he made last year. He is more of a proponent of open source than I will ever be, but he has had to reckon with the fact that Linux is falling behind on the desktop, is a low priority for developers, and if you actually need to get things done for many ordinary use cases, you need to install Windows. Evan’s video was shot from his Windows 10 desktop.

Linux will still be the low-cost desktop solution for developers, sporting a plethora of sophisticated programming tools. In that one area, they are way ahead of all other operating systems. However, in other respects for example, Microsoft can support the latest scanners and media cards, which Linux is often slow in adopting.

The reason they are slow is, as of 2021, according to Evan, Linux is installed in only 1.8% of all desktops. This ought to be regarded as minor, considering Linux’s unquestioned dominance in android devices, Chromebooks, business infrastructure, and internet servers all over the world. Linux has scored dominance in nearly every platform imaginable. Just not on the desktop PC.

People writing software and drivers for the Windows PC are likely to stay programming in that domain, since that is where 98% of the market is. It is not very likely that most companies, especially small ones, are going to write drivers for hardware or peripherals such as adaper cards, printers or scanners since there is not enough money in it. But even if they do, it is not as likely to fully take advantage of the hardware.

Nowadays you can download licences for Windows 10 which had been taken from old, discarded machines. This is legal if a legitimately purchased licence was on one machine, is no longer used there, and is transferred to a new machine. Microsoft will have a problem if one license is on more than one machine. Otherwise, there should be no problem. Ali Express sells licences for as low as CAN$3.50 by some vendors. Some sell with DVD, others sell only the license code. In the latter case, you can go to and download your own image to a USB stick, 16GB minimum.

Xemacs, xcalc, xclock, and TeXStudio, all running on Windows 10 using an X server called “vcxsrv”, all thanks to WSL2.

Microsoft has, in the view of many, moved on from the “OS wars”, and have allowed users to incorporate WSL2 (Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2) into their base operating system. This has allowed users to run Linux applications, and even X-Windows applications, on their Windows desktop. Another gesture to open source is their purchase of GitHub, and have also joined the Linux Foundation.  MS Teams also has a version made for Linux.

Even without WSL2, there are many open source (FOSS) applications that have windows versions. And chances are, they run better in Windows, since writers of video drivers, for example, likely have better support of graphics acceleration. The same can also be said for audio, printer support, network card support and scanner support. Such FOSS applications which do not use WSL2 can be found on sites such as TTCS OSSWIN Online (Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society collection of free Open Source Software for WINdows), which has one of the most comprehensive FOSS archives for MS Windows.

It is still possible, by and large, to have a FOSS computer where the only “large” software expense is the Windows OS itself.

Google Reviews of the Quality of Service at Mount Everest Base Camp IV

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A screenshot of what I saw when I looked up Mount Everest. It seems to have a new set of pictures, and gave me the left panel when I clicked on “Everest Base Camp IV” on the map. This is in Sattelite View.

Base Camp IV is the camp nearest to the summit of the tallest mountain in the world. It is situated at 26,000 feet above sea level, in the oxygen-deprived region of the mountain called the “death zone”. It gets its name from the fact that at that altitude your body is consuming oxygen faster than you can breathe it in. When you surf there on Google Maps, you get a map of the summit, and depending on how much screen you have, the snow-encrusted Base Camps III and IV. If you went there on a search, Google likes to present you with a panel with hopefully useful information on the left-hand side.

With that, some rather questionable user options that seem out of place here. One of them is a phone number (do they really have phone service?), and a checkbox to “Claim this business”, making assumptions that are really unsuitable.

But the least suitable of all is that Google Maps offers a “Review” section, as if this is some kind of swanky hotel or neighbourhood restaurant. The people who climb Everest aren’t going there for room service or good food, and are probably assuming that Base Camp IV doesn’t have any kind of entertainment or any other reference to normal urban civilization that most of us are used to. To anyone not in the know: that isn’t why you climb Everest.

The truth is, one-third of climbers never make it to the summit, and 2% never make it back alive. If the weather is unfavourable to climb the rest of the way up after 48 hours at Camp IV, climbers are forced to return, effectively giving up their bid to make it to the top.

Then came the reviews. The authors of the reviews knew that the review section was out of place, and decided to put absurd, obviously fake, reviews which may be found here, and some zingers are given below:

From David Bell: The pool was closed when I checked in and they didn’t know when it would re-open, which was very disappointing. I also found it concerning that there was no bellhop available to help with my luggage and i had to carry it all myself. As for my accommodations Camp IV was rather cold and had a horrible draft. I was also told I would be given sherbet each day, orange is my favorite, yet when I arrived I was assigned a Sherpa who wasn’t sure what I was inquiring about. Pro tip: Don’t bother bringing ice for cocktail hour, there is plenty to be had. Overall I have to rate the local 5 stars for its location and scenery alone., simply majestic views and wildlife. The Yeti were very welcoming!

From Cheyenne Nicole Philips: Broke a nail on the way up! Very long walk from the parking lot! No cell service, wore the wrong shoes. Was told I would get a king size bed. When I showed up they only had sleeping bags. Didn’t pack a colorful enough outfit. Wind messed up my hair. Starbucks was closed! Will have to try again in the summer. Hopefully pool will be open, the views were average too.

From Shawn Speller: It was, well, alright I guess. Complimentary breakfast was alright: toast, jam, various fruits. Played bingo at the pavilion in the afternoon which was fun, although I have to say the sherpa caller was a little hard to hear so it made for a couple false bingos which was a little annoying. As far as the views, I mean, you get what you get. It’s a little cloudy in the mornings by mid day it clears up a bit but all you’re seeing is a rock and yeah I guess it’s a big rock but as other reviewers said too the brochure makes it look a lot bigger (false advertising). I’m giving a 3 star review simply because cell service was not an issue, I got 3 bars at the top of the mountain and was able to chill for a bit and binge watch Game of Thrones.

From Nick Randall-Smith: This is the 21st century and there is absolutely no provision for the disabled at this camp, there was no place to charge the battery on my wheelchair. All was not lost as I persuaded a Sherpa to carry me up to the viewing point at the top of the mountain, thank goodness I remembered my American Express card because the Sherpa charged a fortune with the feeble excuse that he was risking his life to get me up to the summit, and he had a problem getting the card machine to work too. The view was pretty good but I was hoping to see the sea from the top but you can’t so that was a disappointment. When we got down I offered the Sherpa a $5 tip but he rudely told me where to shove my good American dollars, ungrateful brute.

From Justin Mehoni: Bit rocky for sunbathing. I could feel the stones below my beach towel. And when I got up some darned yeti stole all my clothes!

From Martino Keates: No proper rooms, just TENTS!!! Food very boring. Asked for an omelette and salmon, received a biscuit. Worth noting that evenings can get very cold. Bring a cardigan.

From Kelly Zitterkopf: It was pretty cool, but the mountain wasn’t as tall as the brochure made it look. The camp didn’t provide wifi and cell reception was terrible. I was able to get one bar at the top of the mountain, but I found it tedious to walk up to the summit every time I wanted to update my twitter.

A composite of some reviews: No pets allowed. The wi-fi was pretty bad. Also the local CVS said they didn’t sell cigarettes anymore. Poor sea view. You have to go through Everest to the nearest TESCO. Also – I was under the impression that there was to be a “wise man” or some such personage at the summit. There wasn’t; instead I was subjected to the inane yammering of a veterinarian from Brisbane who kept calling me a “tough little sheila” whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean.

More reviews: Too far from the nearest parking lot, and no beer store. Starbucks was open when I came, but they couldn’t fill my order for “Double Ristretto Venti Half-Soy Nonfat Decaf Organic Chocolate Brownie Iced Vanilla Double-Shot Gingerbread Frappuccino Extra Hot With Foam Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended, One Sweet’N Low and One Nutrasweet, and Ice”. Oh and there is no cell service or wi-fi. This is the 21st century, how can there be no wi-fi? Won’t go back any time soon.

Still more: OK, I suppose, but the views were ruined by a great big mountain in the way. Also, there is poor signage and no ski lift. When I complained, they said they expected me to walk to the top of Everest! Do you know how freakin’ high Everest is? Apart from that, the toilets smelled and there were no antibacterial wipes either. I misread the equipment manifest and as a result brought tanks of helium rather than oxygen. As a result, the sherpas never took my commands seriously due to my now high-pitched voice. I had to put up with the sherpas, since they wouldn’t let me drive my camper to the summit.

Remarks on LaTeX editors

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Nearly three years ago on another blog, I wrote about a comparison of LaTeX editors. Soon after, I began to use a third editor which, if you are a latex expert, you almost certaintly would have heard about, and are probably in fact using TeXStudio, an editor that has been around for close to a decade, but never appeared to show up on Linux installation packages. The editors that showed up, at least for me, were LyX and TeXmacs.

TeXstudio, once I discovered it, I installed it everywhere I could: on my Windows 10 and 7 machines, on my Linux installations, and even on Cygwin, even though they already had a Windows installation. To this day I have not seen any difference in output or functionality. All invocations of TeXstudio require a lot of time and packages for an installation of enough features.

This is TeXstudio, with the horizontal toolbars shown, along with part of the workspace. There are two vertical toolbars there, also partially shown.

First thing’s first: the editor. In LyX and TeXmacs, I needed to bail out of the editor, and export the code to LaTeX whenever I needed to do any serious equation editing or table editing or the like. In contrast, TeXstudio leaves me with no reason to ever leave the editor. First of all, the editor allows for native latex code to be entered. If there are pieces of Latex code that you don’t know, or have a fuzzy knowledge about, there is probably an icon or menu item that covers it. For document formatting, a menu item leads to a form dialog where you can fill in the form with sensible information pertaining to your particular document, default font size, paper size, margins, and so on. The ouput of this dialog is the preamble section to the LaTeX source file. To the rest of that source file, you add your document and formatting codes.  It is a kind of “notepad” for LaTeX, with syntax highlighting and shortcut buttons, menus and dialogs. It comes close to being WYSIWYG, in that “compiling” the code and pressing  the green “play” button brings up a window with the output of the existing code you are editing. It is not a live update, but it saves you the agony of saving, going on the command line compiling the code, and viewing in seeminly endless cycles. Now you can view the formatted document at the press of the play button.