All systems: We suggested last week that, for many college students, a used laptop reloaded with Ubuntu is good enough. UberStudent, an Ubuntu installation loaded with student-friendly tools and customizations, is a smart pick for getting your actual school work done.
UberStudent looks a lot like Ubuntu in form and function, but you'll see the differences as you poke around. Firefox has a look that's customized for reading the web and grabbing notes from it, and also contains a host of bookmarks for textbooks, research, and other academic matters. The reference-tracking note app Zotero is included, as are text editing, mind-mapping, and presentation tools beyond what a standard Ubuntu disk offers. All in all, it looks like a handy disk, especially for those trying to use their computer for actual work, and save the fun stuff for the Xbox and smartphone.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
Monday, 13 September 2010
September 12, 2010
Scotland's future: a vanity project
This week Iain Gray, the leader of the Labour group in the Scottish parliament, said giving the people of our country a say in their future by means of a referendum was, in his words, “a vanity project”. Just think about that for a moment. The future of Scotland: a vanity project.
The word vanity has several meanings. One definition is futility. To wish for something in vain is futile. Not worth the candle. Vanity is also, according to the Oxford Dictionary, an “excessive belief in your own abilities.” Well nobody ever accused Mr Gray of a can do attitude. It’s fortunate for the Labour party that he wasn’t around 100 years ago to tell Keir Hardie his plans to create a new force in British politics were a pointless exercise...
When Iain Gray dismisses the desire for independence and full economic powers as “a vanity project," he is really saying it’s over ambitious to want Scotland to have the status of a normal nation. That ambition stems from having too much confidence in your own ability. He is saying it is futile to hope that in an globalised world, Scotland might speak for herself in The European Union, The United Nations, The OECD or The World Trade Organisation.
He’s even saying it is excessively ambitious to argue for economic power to create a prosperous and fairer Scotland. A Scotland where never again would we see average wages fall during a period of prosperity – as they did in The Scottish Borders between 2007 – 2008. Or where one in five households officially live in poverty and the same number are now workless. We desperately need to invest in infrastructure – in transport and for digital connectivity. To do that the Scottish government needs borrowing powers just like the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and local authorities. This is the bare minimum demand that Scottish government officials have tried to extract from The Treasury in the course of the current talks around the flawed Calman Commission proposals. Yet we are denied even that limited request. It is setting our sights too high.
So let’s take the advice of Mr Gray, Mr Scott and Miss Goldie and lower our ambition to a more realistic level. Let London do the talking for us in Europe, even though London bargained away our fishing rights and agreed to a CAP reform that discriminates against most Scottish farmers. Let’s not grumble that we have sent more than £155 billion worth of oil revenues south while the cost of filling up your tank in rural Scotland would feed a family for a week
Let’s shed our vanity. Let London continue to make the big decisions, like taking us into illegal wars. While we are on the subject of vanity projects – was there anything more vainglorious than the Iraq War which cost this country £9.5bill and killed upwards of 200,000? Actually I can think of one thing potentially worse - replacing Trident at a cost of £34bn. Now there is a real example of excessive ambition and futility. Is there anything more futile than a set of weapons that can destroy humanity several times over? Compared to these plans for mass annihilation, SNP ambitions for Scotland appear rather modest.
Of course they are not modest at all. With real power we could transform this country. That must always be our main focus. Yes we want to govern well. But not by abandoning our core principal. We are not about managerialism. We about lifting Scotland up to a higher level. The same level as everyone else.
Back in 1992, I was involved with Scotland United, a cross party organisation that campaigned for a multi-option referendum on Scotland’s future - the very thing the Liberal Democrats and Labour now spend much of their time and energy trashing . Back then, they had signed A Claim of Right for Scotland in which they acknowledged the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.
Where is the sovereign right of the Scottish people today? When did the Scots in the unionist parties abandon that solemn principle? Twenty years ago, The Scottish Liberal Democrats talked about the democratic deficit. Now they just talk about the deficit. And sometimes they seem even more rabid in their desire to cut it than the Tories.
Ruling elites always accuse those who challenge them of having ideas above their station. If you are a radical – and you do not get any more radical than wanting to break up the British state – you need to get used to name-calling, exaggeration and distortion. It is a distortion to label as vain those who walk tall in the world.. There is absolutely no shame in believing in yourself. It is essential if you want others to respect you. First though, you must take responsibility for your own life, your own future and your own country. That is not a vanity project. It is a self-respect agenda.
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Years ago, I was an ardent Skye bridge scam anti toll bridge campaigner. One eminent Tory politician, Hamilton by name had the crass ignorance/arrogance to call me a luddite and a lunatic!! I took great exception to that ill conceived utterance. Firstly, because I was a professional engineer engaged in the repairing, servicing and maintainence of erm ...machinery which I heaped tender loving care on.
Secondly, being called a lunatic because I strongly disagreed with both Tory and New Labour flagship policies and their application in Scotland and elsewhere *. How dare they presume to dictate policies to the folk in Scotland which goes against what they would wish for themselves and their communities. How dare they treat us with contempt as if we were too wee, too parochial and too lacking in ambition to think and act for ourselves. We're too stupid and immature doncha know. Little childen should neither be seen or heard apparently. Even when those little childen mature, have intelligence and independent thought, deviant from what Westmidden considers to be appropriate to our station in life.How dare they continue with this nonsense in this enlightened age when education is universal in Scotland and folk can think for themselves. Don't they understand contempt breeds comtempt. Aye ...and resentment.
*see George Monbiot's Captive State for short biography and ...list of resentments.
Posted by: Tom McAlister | September 13, 2010 at 10:25 AM
What scotland needs right now is for those of us who want independence, and in particular our elected representatives, to stop being defensive and to stop appeasing the uniuonists. we need to be on the attack constantly to counter their lies.
To give just one minor example, the Dumfries Courier had an editorial on Friday that stated with no hint of irony that the coming custs were being administered by the SNP Government. That sort of lie is nearly transparent but it will fool some. Labour is attempting to blame someone else for everything, even the disaster of the trams in Edinburgh FFS.
Off your knees, Salmond, and start kicking their arses. We know you can destroy them with your eyes shut, so it's time... to attack.
Posted by: Alastair | September 13, 2010 at 08:26 AM
Good post, I will mention it on my blog.. Cheers
Well said Joan!
Go lassie go!
Posted by: Neil | September 13, 2010 at 07:38 AM
Great article Joan, but is it only me that despairs of the SNP's publicity unit? Why are they not hammering out the message, for instance, about Edinburgh Trams, which was forced through by the Unionists and is now a huge white elephant. Do we want Iain Gray as FM. I think I would have to emigrate out of embarrasment!
Thats another great article from you joan, brilliant stuff. A point that should be hammered home by the SNP on peoples doorsteps between now and may, and its a very simple and powerfull point, is, when you put your x next to the SNP on a ballot paper you are doing far more than simply voting for a political party, you are stating a belief, you are saying you believe in the PEOPLE of scotland! the unionist partys dont, they constantly tell them it would be a disaster if they ran their own affairs, what a low opinion the have of the people of scotland. believe in yourselfs people! believe.
ps. sorry i missed you in moffat joan, I had to go to glasgow! hope you got on ok.
But how, Marian? I sincerely hope that the SNP have something up their sleeve for the election in May, but at the moment all I see is a fairly naive attempt at consensus-based on the received wisdom that the cuts in public spending we're about to see are A Bad Thing. I don't agree with that, but let's put that to the side for the time being. The SNP ought to be going in hard-for example, by repeating again and again and again that the Labour party wants to increase council tax-let them deny it with any credibility.
Salmond, Sturgeon et al should be attacking the Labour party, not mollifying them-for what? For the possibility of a Lab/SNP coalition next year? That would destroy the SNP. The thought of Labour in government from 2011-2015 makes me shudder...I cannot imagine the economic and social wasteland they'd leave behind.
AS should stand up now and say that the SNP will never, under any circumstances, go into coalition with Labour. As a party, the SNP needs to look like a clear contrast to Labour, not a close relation.
Posted by: Lox | September 12, 2010 at 10:14 PM
Well put Joan.
I was out delivering my MSP's annual report today and one older guy called out for me to wait as he opened the door. He handed me back the report and I said it was OK it wasn't aflier fr Pizza delivery. 'Don't care!' he said. Itold him what it was; 'Don't care. Don't want it!'. Isn't this just typical of the problems the SNP has in convncing Scts to listen?
Posted by: Donnie MacNeill | September 12, 2010 at 09:48 PM
I wish this could put on advertising hoardings all around Scotland... so everyone had the chance to read and ponder.
Righteous indignation - love it. We need more of that attitude.
Posted by: Drew Murray | September 12, 2010 at 02:59 PM
A printed copy of this succinct analysis should be delivered to every household in Scotland.
Posted by: Birnie | September 12, 2010 at 02:44 PM
Positive consensus lies with Soverainers from all political parties and none.
Posted by: el el | September 12, 2010 at 11:55 AM
More power to your pen. No chance of getting The Hootsmon to publish thsi I suppose? :-)
Posted by: Tom | September 12, 2010 at 10:51 AM
Well said, Joan. The Lib Dems in particular are bereft of ideas, and did nothing to counter the economic decline in the Scottish Borders, which saw a huge decline in GVA per capita during their period in office.
However, it is the Gray man's comments that once again demonstrate that Labour are completely out of touch with the aspirations of Scots and use of the term "vanity project" is an insult to Scots that should be noted by the substantial number of Labour supporters who support Independence for Scotland.
Posted by: Paul Wheelhouse | September 12, 2010 at 09:12 AM
Spot on analysis of the quicksand that the unionists are walking upon.
The SNP must pull out all the stops to ensure that it swallows the unionists up completely at the 2011 Scots government elections.
Posted by: Marian | September 12, 2010 at 08:12 AM
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Friday, 10 September 2010
Microsoft has released a free—and lengthy—ebook covering a wide range of security topics. Although intended for teenagers, the book offers a solid enough look at using the internet safely, and it's suitable for anyone looking for a primer on internet security.
It's difficult to write books for teenagers that don't fall into the "trying too hard to be cool" trap, but Microsoft has done an admirable job. The text is a comprehensive guide for teenagers (and new computer users) that covers everything from how to spot phishing tactics to setting up your browser to protect against browser-based exploits to dealing with cyber-stalking and bullying. It also provides interesting history and real world examples of the harm that can come from security vulnerabilities.
FontPark is a great big database of free fonts—for personal and/or commercial use—that'll work on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
With 70,000 free fonts it can be hard to narrow it down, so FontPark has a bunch of filtering and sorting options so you can browse only the top fonts, for example. You can also search the site if there's something you're looking for in particular. If your typographic gluttony doesn't cap off at 70,000, you can also find great free fonts at DaFont (our take), The League of Movable Type, and Urban Fonts.
Thursday, 9 September 2010
Free webapp OtherInbox wants to do the job you loathe doing daily—looking through all those semi-regular news alerts, coupons, account updates, and other non-personal mail. Give it the keys to your inbox, and OtherInbox can summarize and prioritize your bacn.
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Although we'd previously given a nod to Incompetech for their free graph paper they have a vastly more interesting collection of royalty-free music. Check out the huge selection and add some quality tunes to your next presentation or video.
It isn't hard to find Creative Commons licensed music online but the majority of CC-licensed music is non-commercial. What if you need music for a presentation for work or a video for your new business? Incompetech has a massive collection of high-quality musical tracks that are free for use in any context so long as you provide attribution. Every song has the same license so you don't need to dig through the archives looking for a perfect song that's also available for your specific type of project.