Solar Ricardo

Solar Ricardo

Friday, January 18, 2013

Linux MintPPC: New life for a G5

I recently inherited an old Mac G5PowerPC from a friend who is an I.T. specialist at a college. They were dumping a lot of old computers, and he was trying to find homes for some of them before they went to recycling. It's sad that so many perfectly functional machines get trashed every year- in a lot of cases by people who really don't need a new machine.

Well, admittedly, the old G5 has it's limitations, and there are no updates or new software that can run on it since Apple abandoned the PPC at OS 10.5.8. It is a bare-bones machine with no sound card, so I was wondering if it might not be of use as a dedicated machine for a future home-built CNC machine or a server for some yet-to-be-determined project, but in the mean time, I decided to see how it would run under Linux.

I went for Ubuntu first, which was a snap to install. Ubuntu is really newbie friendly and features a lot of features familiar to Mac and Windows users. However, the version for PPC turned out to be a little clunky, and lacked things like a flash plugin and a few other things that make it less than ideal.

Next, I installed Linux MintPPC, a version of the new Mint OS especially built for the Power PC. Wow. Nice! This stripped down Linux distro runs FAST on the G5. I did have some initial issues that required some forum surfing, some code modification and a few restarts, but once it was properly configured, it runs REALLY well. It comes with the usual suite of Libre Office Suite, Ice Weasel browser (ice weasel-firefox, get it?) etc. Many Windows programs will run under the WINE interface. So far, I have not been able to run myCNC on it, but I'm working on that.

If you are like so many friends of mine and have some sad old Macs sitting in the basement, you might want to give Mint a try. For a friend, neighbor or family member with limited resources, it would be a great gift. Or, it may give you a couple more years out of your old machine. If Mac OSX Lion is any indication, it may be time to take a break from your monogamous relationship with apple and see some other operating systems.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A poem for city councils everywhere

Iowa City's continued efforts to destroy its historic downtown reminded me of this poem by my father, Robert Dana.  He wrote it after attending a Coralville city council meeting, but I think it pretty much addresses how city politics works everywhere....


Last night, at the town council
meeting, what was it we were
trying to save? One council
member dozed; the other four
were glassy eyed; bored with
arguments they’d disposed of
months before. The air in the
brand new, stale, utilitarian
chamber smelled of done deals.
And anyhow, what do citizens
know? “We appreciate your
sincerity,” one member says.
“Yes, and you’ve brought a lot
of emotion to the issue,” says
another. “But you don’t under-
stand the figures.” The tongues
of the grass, though they be with-
out number, don’t speak to them.
They’ve had our figures. And
the grass has no rights. Trees
have no rights. The fat, base-
ball capped developer with his
shirt-tail hanging out
and suspect financing, and who
addresses council members
by first name, makes that clear.
“If there’s an alfalfa field
there now or a stand of trees—
anyone who buys from me
will know up front that that’s
not going to be an alfalfa
field or trees very long.
I bought this land to build on.”
So the deer in the meadow
along the nearby creek have
no rights, the creekwater no
rights, nor the air. No rights
for the hare or the hawk, red-
headed woodpecker, white-throated
sparrow; no rights for the fox.
And the farmland disappears
and then the farmer, and then....
If, as Paul Valery once wrote,
“Politics is the art of keeping
out of the process those who
will be most affected by it,”
 then I guess you could say
we got politicked. And pretty good,
too. By day, young brokers roar
on the floor of the exchange.
By night, to our north, suburbs
metastasize. Circuit boards of
a trivial and pointless future.
As we file out—Goodbye, Goodbye
—across the frozen parking lot
to our separate cars, thank god
it’s dark and cold and winter’s
first hard snow is blowing.

                                                Robert Dana