First things to do with a new PC

c/o Revision3’s Tekzilla

First, plug it into a Surge Protector.

Then, get it connected to the Internet.

  1. Find the OS install disk (not a restore disk)
  2. IF it’s a Windows-based machine, format (wipe) the hard drive, and do a clean install of the OS – to get rid of all the “cruft” from the manufacturer.  Alternatively use pcdecrapifier.com
  3. Update your drivers, OS, and applications
  4. IF it’s a Windows-based machine, install Microsoft Security Essentials and update it.
  5. Install applications: Chrome, Pidgin (IM for Windows) or Adium (IM for Mac), Skype, VLC Player (video for Windows), Picasa, Sumatra PDF reader (for Windows), Dropbox, 7-zip (decompressor/compressor for Windows), OpenOffice.org, iTunes, Miro (an internet video RSS downloader), a BitTorrent client…
  6. Alternatively, ninite.com creates a customised installer for you to install all this in one go without having to sit at the machine for ages.
  7. Once everything is installed and configured, make an image of the entire HardDrive.
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90 percent of the internet is amateur crap

so 10 percent is good, and the bigger the internet becomes, the bigger that 10 percent becomes. Just read an interesting article called The Internet is 90% Amateur Crap…and therein lies its greatness (by Kevin Kelly, May 31, 2007).

Greater participation leads to a lot more of everything – crap, and good stuff too. And the more good stuff there is, the more very good stuff there’s likely to be.

This is about content – articles, blogs, YouTube videos etc. How does this correspond to the “products” of Community Development, if it does? Is it analogous to Social Capital or cohesion, or community projects undertaken, or jobs created or training courses undertaken, or votes cast or debate contributions made or campaigns undertaken? (Wow, there are lots of “products”!)

My initial answer to my own question is that the analogy with the “90 percent of the internet is amateur crap” story is to the democratic participation “products”. So it goes like this: 90 percent of any democratic participation is amateur crap, so as democratic participation increases (more people vote, participate in debates and consultations, and undertake campaigns) the 10 percent of the democratic participation that is good gets bigger (along with the 90 percent that’s crap) so there’s more chance of some democratic participation that is very good.

Advice on a new laptop for students – October 2007

Firstly…
At the moment, if you want a Windows-based machine, I’d suggest running WindowsXP – if you have to buy a new laptop in the near future, this is a good idea, and I think you can still buy one with WinXP. Ask Dell first if they will do it. They are the best of a bad lot for support – DO go for their service packages if possible. Lenovo (was IBM) might be a good second option to try after Dell.

Vista (the new version of Windows) is problematic. Some of the problems (e.g. hardware with drivers that won’t work on Vista, even if they are designed to) will be solved in time (I guess 3 to 9 months). The ones that remain will be about “DRM” – ways that Video and Music files are restricted to the person who legally owns them: Vista is very picky about them, and is known to stop your sound card and/or video card working if it thinks you don’t have the rights to the music or video – and it often thinks you don’t have the rights to the music or video, even if you do but you’re using legitimate copies or you’re using versions without DRM etc. Boo-hiss Micro$oft.

Eventually however, WinXP won’t be available, and eventually won’t be supported by new hardware and software, and eventually won’t be supported by Microsoft.

Secondly
If you can possibly find the money initially, an Apple MacBook is a good option – more expensive initially (though there is a student discount at some places e.g. krcs.co.uk), but cheaper, faster, more reliable, more secure in the long run.

Thirdly
I recommend OpenOffice.org – a free open-source equivalent to MSOffice. It can open and save in all the MSOffice formats, except for the newest one, and that is about to be solved in the next release. It comes with equivalents of Word (called Writer), Excel (called Calc), and PowerPoint (called Impress). You can download it at www.openoffice.org It is similar but different. Though the newer versions of MSOffice are more different to Office 2000/XP than OpenOffice.org is.

Quality versus principles?

I want to support open source software. I want free software. I want good quality software. Are all three desires always able to be met?

I’ve just been deciding on programs to install on a new computer. In some cases, I’ve gone for free software that isn’t open source because it is of a higher quality. Have I “sold out” in my support of open source, if I choose non-open software when there’s an open source alternative?

Is it always right to stick to the pure ideals of Community Development process, when there might be high quality solutions available from outside the community (e.g. in a top-down model, from the private sector) that result in a better end product?

An example might be choosing someone to produce a community newspaper (from content driven by the community): you could put the effort in to get some people from the community to produce it and live with the spelling mistakes (and how this might undervalue the community and the content they provide), or you could pay an external company to do the production and get a glossy newspaper (and enjoy how the quality makes the community value themselves, their news, and the newspaper).

Or maybe this isn’t so black and white, or the distinction is wrong?

OpenSource development

Open Source software is computer software which is open and freely available to anyone else to use and modify as they see fit. Traditionally, computer software code is “closed” so you have to pay or get specific permission to use it, and have to buy a licence for the code to even look at how it was written and how it works let alone be able to modify or add to it (and you’d still have to pay the original creators to use any such modifications). Typically, Open Source software is written by a community of people around the world doing it for satisfaction rather than monetary gain.

Attempts are being made to use this Open Source philosophy to create other things, like cars and encyclopedias.

In terms of philosophy, there are obvious similarities between Open Source development and Community Development. But as models and methodologies, I wonder how close they are? Open Source development doesn’t prevent a single company (or individual) doing all the work, excluding others from their decision making, and tailoring the product and process to meet only their needs. Once they had what they wanted, other people could potentially adapt the product and invent a new process to take it forward but they would have been excluded from the development of the product with which the company was involved. Indeed, if you think of a smaller chunk of the product development, Open Source software often succeeds precisely because the “founder” has done the initial work and set things in motion without reference to anyone else. It’s clear then what everyone is working to, and what everyone can do to take it further.

Maybe it’s the sitting-in-front-of-a-blank-sheet-of-paper scenario: there has to be something done to prime the project and get everyone else to be inspired and to get working together at the later stages.

So as Community Development strives to involve everyone from the first stage, what is it that starts things off? Is there a limit to the ideal of including everyone from the get-go, and do we need someone to write a brief and make a few decisions about the nature of the project before the Community gets fully involved? Is Community Development the same as Open Source development, or does it really go, ideally, further?