Autodidact: self-taught


Unbroken Things, Fixing Them

by V. L. Craven

Normally, technology and I are pretty damn good friends. We may have a tiff every now and again, but, on the whole, I prefer zeros and ones to humanity.


Sometimes technology is a pain in the arse to the degree I begin to wonder if, perhaps, I’ve been unreasonable about the whole ‘going outside’ and ‘conversing with people’ thing; perhaps that would be preferable to shouting at an inanimate object. At least people change their behaviour in some way when cursed at like a drunken Irish truck driving sailor. At least humans don’t look at you impassively when you grab their face and scream, ‘WHAT THE BLOODY FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU GLORIFIED ABACUS?!’

But I get ahead of myself. Let me take you back to the middle of last week.

*going-back-in-time harp music*

So, at the start of January, I introduced my husband to Linux. (His not-very-old-Windows-7-running-6gb-of-RAM-having laptop crashed when he tried to run Python scripts. What. Ever.) I love me some Linux so put Mint 14 on his p.o.s. Dell Inspiron e1705 with 2gb of RAM machine. It was happy as Larry to run Python scripts and my husband, K, fell madly in love straightaway.

K dug the control and customalisability and immediately went about trying other distros to find just the right one.

Like any normal person, I like new and shiny software, and soon I wanted to try the distros he liked. This was the beginning of several days of technological problems. Here is an allegorical painting of those days:

I’m the girl. The Hellbeast is technology this week. When she walked in for the sitting it was a peekapoo.

Up until this point, Linux had been this to me:

You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ll never eat all your system resources just by being open. luvluvluv.


Then I decided to try a few other distros and this happened…



Um… I’m sorry?

For those playing along at home, this is what we tried:

Started with Linux Mint 13
Linux Mint 14 with KDE: Very shiny KDE 4, but damn, was it slow.
[I lose track of the order after that but the list includes:]

Linux Lite: It turned on my numlock and wouldn’t let me turn it off, so if I used the u, i, o, j, k, l or m keys I’d get 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 0. I couldn’t use a terminal (it didn’t recognise my password because of the numbers where there should have been letters) to do the things I needed to do to fix it.

Crunchbang Crunchbang, whose logo is to the right.  It’s perfect, because it looks like swearing, which is what I was doing when trying to install it. Wicd network manager can kiss the whitest part of my Anglo-Irish arse. This was a huge bummer, as it looked like that perfect system for me. (I tried the ethernet port and it worked for five minutes and then…stopped.)

Archbang: Very similar looking to Crunchbang, but when I went to install it, it wanted me to partition the drive using cfdisk, which I’d never done before and cocked it right up. Then I read the manual and saw gparted was included but by then… I don’t know what I’d done. (And what geek worth their cred reads the manual *before* doing something?) I tried partitioning the drive using gparted on a live USB from Linux Mint, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t even get Archbang to run from a live USB, let alone install.

Mandriva: Dude, if I wanted something that was going to be that slow, bloated and that much of a system hog I’d use Windows.

Linux Voyager (a flavour of Xubuntu): Seemed cool until it stopped recognising my wireless card the third time I booted up.

Ubuntu: Ugh. I switched to Mint for a reason. Thanks for reminding me.

Aaaaand back to Linux Mint 14, but using Mate. Fucking hell.

[There were two or three others I couldn’t even get to boot, but I can’t recall which ones anymore.]

The upside is that I now know our twenty-six digit alphanumeric wifi password off the top of my head. I’m considering using it for every password I need.

Wasting scads of hours on technology with nothing to show for it is annoying enough, but I’d had plans for posts for every day of last week in celebration of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. those will be posted this week. To get things back into the gloomy swing, the Poe Toaster’s replacement showed up on our man’s birthday… or I should say replacements, because it would seem many have taken up the mantle. Note: They’re supposed to leave bourbon, as well, but it looks like some people are cheap.

What drinking problem?!


iPoe on Your iPod

by V. L. Craven

Poe was old-school even in his own time, tending towards overly-elaborate language no matter the audience–but modern fans can rediscover some of his work in a modern way through the  iPoe apps for iOS.

iPoe Volume One They’re incredible, interactive versions of several of his stories and poems. The text is unedited, but there is music and artwork and elements controlled by the reader. Volume One ($1.99) contains ‘The Oval Portrait’, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ (which allows you to dismember the old man, whee!), ‘Annabel Lee’, and ‘The Masque of the Red Death’, as well as a brief biography and sketches from the making of the app.  All of these are excellently rendered, though I think Red Death is my favourite. Early on, you can make a Raven peck out a bit of a corpse, (which I had to do a few times, giggling every time) and the final arrival to the party is delightfully creepy.

iPoe Volume Two Volume Two ($2.99) contains ‘Hop-Frog’ and ‘The Black Cat’, with ‘The Raven’ being added at a later date. Bonus material includes The Edgar Allan Poe Route, featuring information about his haunts (apologies) and another sketchbook. The pages you read from are a bit more ornate in this one, but it felt like the illustrations were less interactive than the first volume. Part of that could be down to the fact that ‘Hop-Frog’ isn’t one of my favourite Poe stories, though the app brings it more alive to me than before. All of the selections in both collections are extremely well-done.

My only quibble is that you have to forward all the way to the end of the stories to loop back around to the beginning, rather than being able to access a menu after each tale. That aside, I’m looking forward to ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ though it’s quite long and don’t really expect it to appear.

Here is the tumblr account for the collections, which has illustrations both from the apps as well as other artists.

Dark Tales Rue Morgue

Other apps of interest to the Poe-ophile are hidden object games based on ‘ Murders in the Rue Morgue ‘, ‘ The Black Cat ‘, ‘ The Premature Burial ‘ and ‘ The Gold-Bug ‘. All four are made by ERS Games and distributed by Big Fish Games for the PC, though the first two are available for iPhone/iPod through iTunes.

I’m about halfway through ‘The Black Cat’ and it’s one of the best hidden object games I’ve played. Atmosphere, music, game play, story line, etc is outstanding. I have nothing bad to say about it. I’ve also started ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ which is similarly engrossing.

Dark Tales Black Cat

You can play free demos of all four and then purchase the full game, if you’re hooked. Prices are a few dollars for the apps and up to $15 for the PC versions, though Big Fish usually has some offer on that will bring that down a bit.

[Some people can get the PC-only games to work on Linux with WINE, but I’m having the devil of a time making that happen. If it works I’ll happily purchase both of the currently PC-locked games.]

I’ve looked at some other apps, none of which impressed, but if you find any with merit, please leave a comment.

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