Robert (gurdonark) wrote,
Robert
gurdonark

Alien Encounter

Sunday I took an hour's walk on the Chisholm Trail, starting at Orlando Street and heading to the Plano Senior Center and back.  I was down 2 pounds when I weighed in during the Weight Watchers meeting. I walked at Shawnee Park in Plano.  Part of the circular walk around the pond is closed off with a chain link fence.  Construction is underway--a small wooded area has been halved, and right now it looks as if the small pond is being doubled in size. But it is hard to tell for sure. I have mixed feelings about the wooded area being cut. It was not pristine woodland, but I am not sure pulling it out was the best solution.

I had an odd encounter with low-key road rage. A driver got irritated because he or she was trying to pull out leftward onto McDermott Street, and wanted me to either yield right-of-way or to change lanes to allow that new car to turn in front of me. The flow of traffic made both courses inadvisable. The disappointed driver honked at me, and the proceeded to tailgate me when I turned. When I pulled into the bank parking lot, the driver honked and then sped up. It was not scary, but it was annoying that the the driver tried to scare me.
 
I saw disc golfers spinning discs into disc golf baskets.  At church, the Reverend Jessica Wright spoke and gave a good sermon.

Sunday afternoon I relaxed until the late afternoon.  My wife called and asked if I could help her friend Malika.  Today we had given one of my spare eBay computers to Malika, as she had left her laptop in India by mistake when visiting family. I had the eBay laptop I got for 15 dollars or so at hand, with the Q4OS linux operating system installed.  So we gave her that one.

She had one Windows program that she needed to install. It was a proprietary program that allowed her to view a particular type of document called a .pfa document.  Its manufacturer, Cisco, had created a Linux version.  She had downloaded the Linux version. But she did not know how to install it.  The package she downloaded was in tar.gz format, while Debian-based Q4OS needed the package to be in .deb format. So we downloaded the software package called Alien. Alien allows one to convert tar.gz packages into .deb packages. It worked beautifully. But it turned out that the Linux version was 64-bit, and this inxpensive eBay laptop was 32-bit.

I had another trick up my sleeve.  I downloaded the Windows versions.  Then I used the software package WINE to try to run it in Linux. WINE used to stand for "Wine is not an Emulator".  That package tricks the Windows program into believing Windows is running, by providing the expected interfaces as if Windows were running.  I was unable to get the 32-bit windows version of the 7.0 current version of the software to install using WINE.  I dropped down one version to the 6.3 version, after reading that others had been able to install this in WINE.  Then the software worked beautifully.  But the class documents Malika needed to run did not work on version 6.3.  The whole experience was like a bad dream in which a university uses a vendor's software and imposes a hardship on it students.  While Linux users are only about 2 percent of the population, Chromebook users, who are a growing minority, would be excluded from using this software (unless a Chrome extension ran the software. If it ran on Chrome, then I could have installed Cub Linux, because it runs Chromium, the open source version, in a way very similar to Chrome).  Students who run iOS or Android on their tablets would be also excluded from using this software. I cannot recall even seeing a Mac version, though surely there must have been one and I just did not see it. I am not sure.

I am not one of those people who "hates" Windows or Mac. I use Windows at work. I find Mac easy-to-use. I am okay with proprietary software existing, though I prefer the sharing of freely-licensed software. But I do think that schools and government bodies would better serve people if they used universal formats that are open-source.  Allowing vendors to control classroom software is just silly, even if Cisco is a company that makes good software.

It was a curious feeling to successfully convert the tar.gz but have it not work due to the 64-bit thing, and to get it to run on WINE, but not have it work due to the older version thing. It was like achieving so much to achieve nothing.  But proprietary software is neither a horse shoe nor a hand-grenade.  So there is no extra credit for a close try. 

Malika will contact the school to see if she can get from its IT department one of those dirt cheap versions of Windows 7 that students sometimes can get. Microsoft no longer likes people to use Windows 7, but I am not sure if its new offering Windows 10 will run on 32-bit systems. It's a shame in a way to install Windows on a 32-bit system, as the Q4OS system is so light and runs so well on it. This system has an older CPU. Had I known Malika needed 64-bit, I could have resurrected another eBay purchase, and tried to make it work. Worst case, of course, Malika could get a refurbished computer for not much money (maybe the HP Stream for $ 120 or less) that will be 64-bit and will run what she needs in Windows or in Linux. Malika is an engineer, so she can do that easily. But another student might not have the money.

My reading this morning tells me that I perhaps could have focused instead on software to convert  .pfa files to a better format, but I do not see an easy fix in that direction.


The experience was kind of fun, even if it did cause me to cancel a planned bicycle ride to help out for a couple of hours on this minor failed mission.  After Malika left, my wife and I took a nice walk in the park, bringing me over 11,000 steps for the day.  Then we went to Firewater Grill for dinner. We put on a Harry Potter movie, while my computer updated me on scores of a game in which the football team at the University of California at Los Angeles came back from a huge deficit to beat the team from Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University.

I have some time today to get some walking or cycling in, and some time today to do a little work on Labor Day.

Breakfast: Kix cereal and skim milk
Lunch: 2 pieces fried fish, green beans, a roll
Dinner: cheese flatbread pizza



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