Sunday, December 25, 2011

Trying to Buy a Linux Laptop

So my old lappy is giving up on me bit by bit, and it is clear that I need to invest in a good replacement.

Of course, I am a Linux geek, and I want to avoid the Microsoft Tax and all the garbage of pre-installed software that comes with OEM systems.

The bad news is that finding a Linux computer isn't as easy as it sounds, and sometimes downright disappointing.

Now, lemme first say what I am looking for. I want a bit of processing power, so Intel i3 processor or equivalent is a must. 4 GB of RAM and 320 Gb HD is also a minimum. And I would appreciate a bill less than 600$.

When it comes to the big players, the selection is poor.
HP: We cannot buy those systems online. Huh??? Serious? Or if it does, you are sent to a retailer with no customization possible... so back to windows.
Dell: Underpowered systems... not gonna help me build LibreOffice any time soon.
Acer: their interface make choosing based on OS near to impossible. Man! So clicky clicky click... nope, no FreeDOS or Linux
Toshiba: Same as Acer.
Asus: At least their 'compare' feature is somewhat usable... only to NOT tell me what the OS is half of the time. But since I am comparing product families, I can do some good guesswork. If only they didn't have a gazillion products... And what a bummer... even the eeePC is with windows.
Lenovo: The website makes getting the data easier. But still no luck. And then I found out that they won't sell those directly anymore.
MSI: Meh

Specialty Shops, thanks to LXer and TuxMobil:
Linux Certified: USA stuff, doesn't seem to mention north of the border so much. Oh well.
System76: A bit on the pricey side, but notices Canada off the bat!
The Linux Laptop: Looks US-centric, again. And they are charging me to install Linux on it??? Dude!
Sub300/Sub500: Oh boy is the performance/price ratio plain wrong.
Zareason: Also a bit pricey, and some are out of stock.
EmperorLinux: Super expensive.
SWTechnology: Pricey
ERacks: Even pricier
GamePC: Even pricier... I need a better word here.
Alvio: underpowered
Puget: underpowered
PCsforeveryone: Decent interface. But 49$ for installing Linux? Duuuude! At least they make it simple to choose no OS.
PowerNotebooks: Make No-os easy. It looks like they are starting at i5 processors.
AvaDirect: Interesting starting prices, but underpowered. Decent hardware is expensive.
8Virtues: I like the no-nonsense website.
Alpha PC: underpowered
Think Penguin: I like the obvious jab at Apple in their names. It is attractive, but cranking it up to spec really hurts fast.

The leading contenders are, in my sense, System76, Zareason, PCsforeveryone. They are all above 600$, whereas my local store will send me Windows-infected hardware below that.

So I got myself a Gateway laptop for much below my price target and now I'll fight for a Windows refund

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Catching Back on North American Movie Pop Culture

So I am married with an Indian lady, and almost nothing that is my pop culture is in hers. How can we catch up? With a lot of movies, of course!

Here is a variant on the classical top 100, as I don't want the very scary stuff.

Feel free to suggest some in the comments.

Some classics:
Braveheart ✓
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark ✓
The Matrix (1 only!) ✓
Apollo 13 ✓
Star Wars 4 ✓ -5-6
Star Trek
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Leon the Professional ✓
One Elvis movie
2001: A Space Odyssey
Apocalypse Now
Blade Runner ✓
Citizen Kane
3 Stooges ✓
Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times
The Godfather
The Good, the bad, the ugly
Groundhog Day
Its a wonderful life
Lawrence of Arabia
Rocky 1
Saving Private Ryan
Schindler's List
Terminator 2
Wizard of Oz
Robin Hood
Mrs. Doubtfire

Children Movies
Snow White and the 7 Dwarves
Sleeping Beauty
101 Dalmatians
Lion King ✓
Finding Nemo
Toy Story
Alice in Wonderland
Beauty and the Beast
The little mermaid
Monsters, Inc
Peter Pan
Winnie the Poo
Jungle Book
The Incredibles
Hunchback of Notre Dame
Lilo & Stitch
Home Alone series
The Iron Giant

Some less classic
The Book of Eli ✓
House of Sand and Fog
All the Narnia movies
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Die Hard
Dr. Strangelove
Monty Python's movies
When Harry Met Sally
Inception ✓

Some Manga
Howl's moving castle
Castle in the Sky ✓

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Joys of the Passport Office

This is an old story. As you know, the matter is resolved now... But it gives an idea about how hard it can be for the common people of India to deal with the government.

And this one story is about the 'simple' matter of getting a passport.


Lagaan is an interesting mix of cricket and Indian nationalism in a single movie. Of course, with the mandatory love triangle :)

As with every Aamir Khan movie I saw so far, I greatly enjoyed it.

The story happens in the 19th century, at the time of the East India Company. The British are, as usually depicted in Indian cinema, abusing their power and cashing in big time. The story is about 'lagaan', an agricultural tax that gets doubled that year because the local Raja has begged the British commander to broker some treaty allowing his people to access a temple.

Of course, the people are not happy about that, especially since there is no rain that year.

The British commander is a prideful guy, and he decides to gamble a bit: he'll waive 3 year's worth of Lagaan if the local villagers can beat his team in cricket, but will make them pay the triple tax if they loose. And the villagers take the gamble.

The rest of the movie is about them trying to make sense of a game that has layers and layers of complexity built into it, trying to convince others to support them, etc.

Of course, there is a love triangle... one British lady falls 'in love' with the hero, who is himself about to get married to a village girl.

The dialogues are in pure Hindi, which means that even native speakers can hear words that won't sound familiar to them.

The storytelling weaves many threads together very nicely, and I enjoyed seeing an actual scenario after a few a-dime-a-dozen Indian movies lately.

Watch it, it is a must!


Singham is one of those typical 'hero-style' Indian movies.
If you want to have a taste of it without paying, it is legally available on Youtube.

The plot is simple: an incorruptible village police inspector is transfered to Margao, Goa, after crossing a well-connected criminal.

Said criminal is trying to make him breakdown, and his police work is interfered by his superiors, who are in the criminal's pocket.

In short, it shows the kind of immunity that people can get through corruption.

Oh, and it struck me as 'Telugu people won't leave me alone', since two major actors are Telugu movie actors ;)