Robert (gurdonark) wrote,
Robert
gurdonark

go karts and faster computing



Saturday at 8 a.m. I picked up my young friend. He suggested we head to McDonald's for breakfast. Though most McDonald's fare is too high calorie and high fat for me to eat, I like McDonald's oatmeal. Its calorie content is ideal, and the flavor is pretty good. My only difficulty with it is portion size (too small), but that may be because I like my oatmeal
to be forthright and generous.

When I placed my order though, the cashier's banter was along the lines of "would you like to try our eggwhite egg mcmuffin? I suddenly found myself saying yes. The mcmuffin was pretty good. The lack of the yolk,a less fatty cheese and a few other tweaks reduced the calorie count under 300, while the fat count was only a bit high. I would have been better served with the oatmeal, but I liked the variety that ordering the mcmuffin added to my life.

I do like that McDonalds has bowed to the new rules and puts detailed calorie and fat counts out for all its meals. I find this user-friendly. I remember from my Weight Watchers days that one can have a workable modest meal of a hamburger and a modest fries, such a meal falling pretty close to the normal number of points I was allotted for a lunch. I hope that McDonalds will do a more wholesale conversion to better food at the same low prices.

The sky was overcast, but we wished to get some exercise. My young friend suggested we walk in the Asia World Market. We went there, on Legacy Drive in Plano. and walked in the huge grocery store. We enjoy looking at the exotic-to-us wares there, all of which, to my eyes, look remarkably tasty. I noticed how the pork bellies were more prominently displayed that at my neighborhood Kroger supermarket and how they looked good. I felt the live tilapia were too crowded in their tank to be appetizing. The variety of cool tofu products was amazing, and the
bakery goods looked, as ever, quite good.

We then determined to head to Half Price Books in Plano. We drove to Parker Road and Independence. The Plano location there was gone. The store was now a Condoms to Go. I later tweeted on twitter how this was a good summary of the 21st Century so far.

I knew that Half Price was not simply closing in Plano, so I asked my young fried to use my smart phone to find the new location. He used the google thing in which one speaks the question and it recognizes one's voice. Soon he found the new one on Preston Road. We drove there. It's a bit nicer than the old one, though I will miss the old one. As I sit here, I think maybe I remember, on my last visit, a clerk talking to another clerk about a potential store closing, but I am not sure if this is an accurate memory. I had forgotten it until now.

We left the Half Price Books and crossed busy Preston Road. We then looked in a Wolf Camera. Most of the stores in this chain are gone now. I like the vibe there of being a kid in a candy (camera) stop. I have enough cameras, but somehow still want more. I like cheap,on-sale point and shoot digital models, particularly older technology ones with lots of zoom.

We walked through a Whole Foods Market. The healthy items and the plethora of hot food items was interesting. I tried to remember if Whole Foods was the one whose CEO disparaged giving his workers health care.

I then drove my friend to Adventure Landing in nearby Richardson, on Coit Road. This establishment features miniature golf, batting cages, an indoor video machine and games arcade and a go kart track. We bought tickets to ride the go karts. We waited for what seemed like forever (but was 5 minutes) for the previous burst of riders to finish. We then got our ride which seemed to last 1 minute (but was 5 minutes). This was a really fun track, even if the industrious blonde girl of 12 or so manage to pass me twice. I kept my foot fully down on the gas after the first lap, after a bit of getting used to the steering. We played arcade games with little success thereafter, donating our prize tickets when we were done to a young boy and his mother.

We then headed back to Plano to Snuffer's Cafe, an outlet in a local burger chain. I had a very nice chicken sandwich,though I had to scrape away unwanted mayonnaise. I dislike it when a condiment is not spelled out in the menu,but I should have simply checked on that when I ordered and eliminated it on the front end. I had to take a business call or two on my cell phone just outside the cafe, but it all worked out.

We next came to the important mission part of our day. Some few months ago I had gotten a used laptop on eBay very inexpensively.I had then installed Pear Linux onto it and given it to my young friend, who lacked a laptop. The gift has worked out well. My young friend took to Linux and has enjoyed experimenting with the operating system. Once choice I made,though, proved to be a poor choice. The operating system I chose, Pear Linux, features an Apple-inspired (though not really a very Apple-implemented) desktop environment, based on the Gnome shell. This is very attractive even to me, who uses Apple's Mac computer only when I must rent one at FedEx Office because the Windows machines are taken.

The operating system, though, ran very slowly on my friend's computer. The computer has only a single-core 1.2 Ghz CPU processor. The system ran like a low-speed early wi-fi computer or like a very very very high speed dial-up modem. He could listen to music and watch videos, but sometimes implementing a program would involve a delay.

I had shown him how to install a new desktop environment, the LXDE. I use an LXDE environment in my Fedora setup. It is very lightweight. We added LXDE to his computer several weeks ago. This slimmed-down desktop environment made an immediate impact. I was impressed, too, when my young friend began tweaking on his own to eliminate some residual Pear Linux components from the set-up. I like that he is "getting" that Linux is something designed for him, as a user, to customize.

He and I had via facebook message been exploring if it were possible to improve his computer's speed even more. I suspected that components of the gnome desktop environment shell were still working in the background. I suggested he try to uninstall them.

Unfortunately, he uninstalled a bit aggressively. He somehow managed to uninstall the wi-fi network manager and the package manager (a package manager gives one the ability to get free programs from a package library called a repository without having to type in package names at the command line).

I had recently gotten an issue of Linux Forum magazine which had a"multibuntu" boot disk,which
featured several versions of the popular Ubuntu operating system. I intended to install Lubuntu, the LXDE flavor of Ubuntu.

We at first encountered lots of problems with something simple. The BIOS is the thing at the very beginning of the computer operation when one can set some settings to determine how the initial boot will go. I thought I had set the BIOS in a friendly mode to begin with, in which I had told the computer to boot from a USB if one was present,next in order to boot from a DVD if one were inserted, and then next to boot from the hard drive. Unfortunately, the BIOS kept ignoring the installation DVD, though it did show as "mounted" for use.

I finally used my smartphone to figure out I was hitting the wrong function key to get to BIOS, and hit F2 (as most Dells require). We got into the BIOs. Then looked at the multibuntu disk. It did not have Lubuntu on it. I puzzled over why the DVD had Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu, but not Lubuntu. It's such an easy thing to have done differently. But I knew that Xubuntu, based on the Xfce desktop, is also very lightweight.

At first, I could not get the Ubuntu disk to work right. I had a different disk with Salent-OS operating system using a lightweight Razor-QT desktop environment. It ran on live CD,so I knew we were making progress. It seemed a tad slow,though. I turned my attention back to the Ubuntu
disk.

I figured out that the 2-sided DVD had a 32-bit side and a 64-bit side. When it had hung up before, showing the word GRUB (the bootloading program) but not much more, I must have had it on the wrong side. I righted that to put it on the 32-bit side, and soon we were erasing Pear Linux and installing Xubuntu.

We got the install done in about two hours. The result was exciting. The computer now runs fast as a rabbit. I knew a lighter desktop would make a difference,but this was almost absurdly good improvement. My young friend was pleased, and I was excited. Even after I dropped him off at his house in the rural part of a very small north Texas town, he phoned me on my cell to tell me how much he liked the way that Xubuntu worked.

Xfce's approach to accessing applications is elegant, and a bit like E17: one just right clicks anywhere on the screen, and a simple menu pops up.

After I dropped off my friend, I stopped off for a half an hour's walk on Trinity Trail.
I heard lots of birdsongs, but got no bird pictures. Similarly, I saw lovely butterflies but captured none on film.

My wife and I went for a walk around Glendover Pond. We saw robins and mockingbirds, grackles, starlings, teals, a cottontail rabbit, and barn swallows.

I needed two new suits for work, so we then went suit shopping. I have for years used the J.C. Penney men's store in Collin Creek mall. I had despaired of it, though,when the store eliminated its knowledgeable mens' wear professionals and moved to a suited separates approach instead of proper suits. I like suited separates,but for me, buying a suit is about personalized attention leading to a great fit. In theory, one could go to Penney's, get measured, try on a jacket or two, and then use a computer to find the right colors and have perfect suited separates in a matter of days. In practice, the website is hard to use because it does not match components well, the store reps were earnest but not knowledgable, and nothing was set up as easily as any 16 year old with any tech savvy would do. I missed, too, the old-fashioned and preferable alternative of a real suit guy or girl.

I had tried Macy's and Dillard's near my work, only to find one did not stock big and tall and one was were trying to funnel all suit business to a single location in Dallas.So I needed to try something new.

I was aware of Culwell in the park cities, but had found it to drive the price higher than it should be. I used to use Jos A. Banks. but found its model required one to wait for one of two brief annual store sales to get a good price. I will say for Penney's, before a recent now-departed CEO ruined it,sales were frequent and grand. I also used to buy suits from a company that came to one's office and did personal sales. I stopped shopping there when
I suspected a column describing an anonymous lawyer who bought his own shirts rather than buying them from the company, described me. The column in a sales newletters seemed to me disparaging.

I had not been to a Mens' Warehouse since the early to mid 1990s, in Los Angeles. Then the chain struck me as having good service but not very good suits. Last night,though, things were different.

We went to the Mens' Wearhouse at the Shops of Allen, near my house. A man in a suit named Jack came up, introduced himself, and began to help me. He measured me, and immediately got what I wanted. I got not only the two suits but also a third suit and a sportcoat, two shirts and some shoes, at a price I considered more than fair. It was exactly the experience I wanted--personalized attention, moderate-priced suits of just the right middle-of-the-road
look, and a tailor to fit them to me. I think I have found my suit salesman from here on out.
The entire experience took 45 minutes. My wife and I were very happy with how the clothes look.
We dined at Silver Thai Restaurant.I had tofu garden, a simple stir-fry with tofu added. I enjoyed it very much.

At home, I sorted and began doing my laundry. I finished "The Ghost in the Shell", an older anime' movie from Japan (the version I saw was dubbed in English). This movie, based on a popular manga, tells the story of a dystopian future fueled with bionic alterations to people.
The resulting eternal question of what it means to be human was well-played. My first impression of the movie after watching the movie Friday night was that it was a pretty good slam-bang animation, a bit violent for me. Saturday night, though, the movie won me over.

I also triedout the webcam I got new on eBay for seven dollars and 6 or so cents (shipping and all). I set up a google+ hangout with my brother. I found to my delight that his family was spending the weekend at Disney World. I was so pleased that my last-year's-technology low-fi
webcam worked like a charm. I hope to use it to speak to a young niece and nephew, and maybe as a foundation of performing music "live" via the web.

I am up early now, running more laundry and thinking about a nice walk by a wooded creek.
I am pleased with myself for eating pretty close to correctly this week,avoiding entirely the office candy dish and fatty food in restaurants.

I have a busy week ahead, but I feel I used my Saturday well.
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