Google Health closing due to lack of effort

I read just a bit ago that Google Health -- which I had just started using to keep track of my mother's medications -- is being shut down due to seeming lack of interest...which is nonsense. So, I commented in their moderated Google Health Discussion post about the closing:
It's no surprise that there was a *seeming* lack of interest... I'm a highly active Google user, I hang out on Open Source & tech sites, I usually check the Labs area every 6 months or so -- yet about a year ago was the first I'd ever heard of Google Health! I've never seen any link from the main list of tools or iGoogle or Chrome apps, and actually getting to GH was enough of a pain that I eventually set up a separate bookmark to do so.

There is a HUGE community of disabled adults & caregivers (of disabled kids or parents) -- 1 in ~6 Americans alone -- that would have been using Google Health if you'd actually bothered to do even a tiny amount of outreach, and usage would have grown from there as we enthusiastically told our aging Baby Boomer relatives/friends all about it. That includes our older Baby Boomer relatives, who now are keeping an eye on ailing parents and/or a disabled adult child. Boomers get attached to products long-term, tend to not install things like Ad-Block Plus (if only out of loyalty), and are used to paying for services -- neglecting them as a market is a profoundly bad idea.

Sad thing is, I remember a day when Google *really* did their work in making users aware of a new product, so that we'd learn about it through Slate, Slashdot, TechCrunch, Salon, etc. interviews & articles by tech writers given sneak previews or allowed interviews. Once we all had access, we then saw incremental improvements as we turned in suggestions or requests... It made folks happy to work with Google even as we became a bit wary of your power.

Instead what I see now is that you've dedicated time & energy setting up a new "look" for your pages, ignoring the riot of protests from users now on the verge of leaving. Watching one service after another be closed with only a half-hearted effort to gather users while you try to be "successful" by rebranding & color changes, and seeing search quality go down the tubes in the meantime I feel the same. Those are signs of a company that's privately in distress, and thus not one to trust with one's personal data, simply put.

Disneyland said something long ago that you should heed: every individual that takes the time to contact a company represents 1,000 individuals that felt the same but kept quiet. We're only a few thousand here based on this discussion, but that's just those of us that found out right away by visiting Google Health itself -- and it'd be a whole lot more if you'd bothered to rope in more users to begin with.

Logitech Marathon m705 mouse works in Linux 100%

A couple of weeks ago, my much-loved Logitech mx600 mouse died after a few years of extremely heavy use. So I went on a semi-obsessive research hunt for a replacement that would give me the features I wanted and a decent price.

I learned that the Marathon m705 was probably the best bet in terms of size, features, and price, so I was all geared up to buy one online...and then I saw conflicting reports on whether the thumb button registers in xev or not. Arrgh. More research didn't help matters, so I eventually just went out and picked one up at Staples to find out firsthand; if it didn't work, I'd return it.

Answer: yes, it works perfectly, the thumb button registers in xev as button 10 (same as on the Performance MX).  I'm in Debian Squeeze, but that shouldn't have anything to do with it. Hopefully noting this up on the web will save someone else frustration & research time (I've seen my posts show up on Google in similar circumstances before).

Ding Dong, Kevorkian's Dead

Shame the damn topic of assisted suicide won't die with him... Of course, there's articles cluelessly praising him all over the place, and here's my response to one:

[Writer] & fellow readers, PLEASE do some research on this guy. I did, and have bookmarks here:

To summarize:

Kevorkian made it very clear in his book "Prescription: Medicide" and in court that his real goal was "making possible the performance of invaluable experiments" he described as "creative" and "of any kind or complexity" on disabled people from infancy onwards, because "...self-elimination of individual and mortally diseased or crippled lives taken collectively can only enhance the preservation of public health and welfare."  If the person wasn't capable of consent, it'd be "suicide by proxy."

He stated: "Intense emotionalism engendered by the concentration camp atrocities of World War II has unfairly stigmatized [human experimentation] and cloaked it in silence...Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that a few of the medical criminals did the right thing..."

In his plans, if the experiment wasn't lethal, "death may be induced" by things like "removal of organs for transplantation" or "lethal dose of new or untested drug to be administered by an official executioner." He proposed the idea of auctioning off the organs of people that were "hopelessly crippled" and giving a portion of the resulting proceeds to relatives, "whose financial burdens would be eased."

His first idea was to make it legal to perform fatal experiments on prisoners; when that failed, he realized that he needed to get society used to the idea of deliberately killing humans first, and chose to promote assisted suicide as that path. He placed advertisements offering to help "cripples" commit suicide, then picked "subjects" for their publicity value.

Repeated investigations showed that only 25% of those killed were terminally ill, most were not in untreatable pain, and some had no diagnosable condition.  Many had untreated depression or anxiety, were grieving the loss of a loved one, were in serious debt, or feared being a burden -- all things that aren't best handled by death.

He had *no* credentials in any field working with patients, and only worked with them as required for his residency to become a pathologist.  He wanted to be around death whenever possible as a student, liked to take pictures of dying people's eyes, and cadaver blood in his paintings.  His death videos show a lack of any emotion, totally the opposite of videos made by any orgs worldwide that truly do care about the patient.

As far as assisted suicide is concerned, there are solid reasons that most disabled people & virtually all of our orgs are against it... Rather than restate them here (this is long enough) I'll link to it:

If the real reason people want to legalize euthanasia is to alleviate poor quality of life, then they would advocate measures that uphold quality of life for terminal & disabled people and for more research into ways to alleviate suffering while science hunts for cures. 

Right now, the advocates end up discovering at the end that they don't really want to die unless they're depressed, and the folks that do ask for it (or in some cases, didn't ask) do so from the same motives as Kevorkian's subjects, often after subtle or blatant hints from others around them...

Why call them service *animals* if they must be dogs?

I'm lucky that I live in my childhood home my family owns, and that I don't need to rely on my cats as service animals (I did have a pair that showed a strange ability to detect & mitigate/halt meltdowns before I did, though).  I just read and responded to a sentence in a blog post on a pet site hosted by our paper:
"In simpler language, dogs who provide emotional support are no longer considered service animals."
No, that isn't what it means... A lot of disabled people rely on trained miniature horses (for blind guides), cats (detect/warn for seizure, blood sugar, limited fetch/retrieval, etc.), and other animals for a variety of reasons.  Common reasons include dog allergies and a home/life that isn't good for dogs (tiny non-ground-floor apartment that the person rarely leaves), or phobias/aversions.

The change means that everyone that relies on those other species will either lose their service animal (even if they've worked together for years) or their home.  [Edit: miniature horses will be allowed in a few rare cases.]

There's little reason to restrict disabled people this way if another meeting the same standards is more appropriate; they aren't infringing on any other citizens' rights (at least not in any way that a service dog wouldn't).  From what I've read, it's a matter of our government being pressured by corporate interests to restrict American rights (as any of us could become disabled and need assistance) to make things run more smoothly for their businesses.

According to ABC7-KGO, California is considering adding protection for other service animals as they regard the federal law a "floor rather than a ceiling".  (On TV they also said that public comment will be taken, just didn't say where. I'm still trying to find it...)

The San Francisco Mayor's Office on Disability is having a meeting on the topic in May where they want to hear comments from disabled people with service animals, particularly emotional support animals. Anyone interested can contact the Mayor's Office on Disability at 415.554.6789 voice, 415.554.6799 TTY or via email at

Fedora's back online, but can I install anything else?

Well, I finally discovered the solution for my self-inflicted problem with Fedora failing to go online...  My guess that it was Network Manager was semi-right: the update I chose was a scheduled one that somehow conflicts with the acer-wmi module.  The immediate solution was to log in as root and type
modprobe -r acer_wmi
Once that was done and proved that it worked, I edited the /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf file to include a line that said "blacklist acer_wmi" so it'll avoid loading in the future.

I also discovered (with some embarrassment) the reason for a serious problem I was having with trying live distros.  Almost all of them (including Gujin, which is more of a boot manager) would boot up to a point, then crash in some manner.  Turns out that even though there's nothing suggesting it on the little sticker, my netbook's processor is 64-bit! 

So I'm downloading Mint Debian Edition 64 right now... I wouldn't do it, but Fedora refusing to let me install Open Office instead of what they want me to use (and their devs' recent Ubuntu-team-like attitude) really annoys me, and working fighting with OpenSuSE's web-based live creator reminded me how much I hate their repository setup.  So over to Debian-based distros (or Debian) I go...

When In Doubt, Switch Distros

So, rebooted Cecil back into Fedora in hope that OpenSuSE 11.3 turning on wifi would fix it...nope.  However, screwing around in the terminal, while iwconfig couldn't get the stupid thing to connnect, dhclient did.

Note I say "connected", not "working".  NetworkManager still insists it's not connected, and all attempts to ping fail.  I know there's a not-impossible way to fix that in the terminal, and since NetworkManager might work once I degrade it to the old version, I guess I have to look into it...

Okay, no, after another hour or so, I got sick of fighting with Fedora and ended up trying out the OpenSuSE-meets-E17 spin Petite Linux. Its creator hasn't quite finished the 11.4 version, so it's running from 11.3 right now -- but it got me online and came with a fully-functional version of 3.x.  This also neatly solves the problem of what environment I was going to use since GNOME's moving towards total suckdom.

I need a faster network (and a Windows quote)

Gleargh. So, figuring out that OpenSuSE 11.3 can bring Cecil online kinda-sorta-somewhat handles it for the time being...because if there's anything I've learned from using Linux for three years, it's that what works today will likely break at the next release.  Which means I should download a recent prerelease of 11.4...

In the "making shit up while not throttling my download" department:
Mom: what is with the connection? I had to drop my picture quality all the way down to minimal
Xyzzy: I noticed it was slow too but only on some sites...means the backbone at the border is probably bogged (or normally it would, had I not been downloading a distro at full speed...)
Mom: are you downloading anything?
Xyzzy: I've been mostly playing "hit the wrong key" on the netbook (not quite a lie; I just didn't mention my other system had been downloading)
Mom: I have ben tryng to access some pages, but it is still loading. for about 10 minutes now. not just one, but two separate ones
Xyzzy: could both be in places that go through that backbone (she replied, whistling innocently)

Yes, she believed me.  Knowledge is power (or download speed and power over which computers get network priority, at least)... Also, from an Arch forum I ran across in my quest to fix Cecil:
"Got myself an Acer Aspire One 721 yesterday, booted it up, laughed hard at the Win7 Home Premium that was preinstalled and dumped it..."

Now it's working, now it's not

I'm starting to think the netbook is cursed or something.  I've discovered, first, that despite being listed as 11.6" it doesn't fit in 11.6" cases...and 12" cases are about three inches too big. 

More infuriatingly, my own screwing around has caused a deeply strange wifi problem.  I was annoyed at having to try repeatedly to bring wifi up, and updated NetworkManager...which promptly placed a block on wlan0 that I can't lift in Linux.  Of course the block doesn't appear to exist in Windows.

So far, I've tried booting other/older distros via USB to see if their NetworkManager/Wicd could control it (nope), then installed & asked rfkill to "unblock" it.  I now know from experimenting that the Fn+F3 combo controls a hard block on phy0, but that acer-wireless has a soft block that won't go the eff away.

Edit: evidently OpenSuSE 11.3 will lift it. That makes even less sense, but if it works, I'm installing it: I want to explore Linux when I feel like it, not when major components fucking break.

LibreOffice won't recognize the existence of its dictionary (I've tried more things than I can keep track of to fix THAT problem) and I can't get OpenOffice of any version to install.  Since that's not enough, while typing in hand-edited changes to my writing, I've noticed the computer copies don't match the printouts, plus a good quarter of them have inexplicably lost all text formatting.

A Fedora/RPM LibreOffice repo exists!

My other tiny triumph of the day concerned LibreOffice.  Thanks to Fedora's insistence on excising a tool I rely on from their copy of OpenOffice I spent too many hours Saturday trying to install either LO 3.3.1 or an unmolested OO 3.3.  If I followed the instructions and installed the damn things from RPMs, the program segfaulted after the registration screen with the oh-so-useful error $sd_prog/$sd_binary. (I found jackall useful about that online...) Copying a chunk of files from the RPMs on top of an existing Fedora-mangled install basically got me nowhere aside from several yards closer to dumping Fedora.

Meanwhile, I intermittently searched the web (and various RPM/app sites) aggressively for a RPM repository, but all I found were repos for other distros, and the knowledge that LibreOffice will be available in Fedora 15 (which doesn't help me now).  Finally, Sunday night I discovered a Fedora-based repository with LibreOffice, courtesy of an intriguing distro I've never heard of before called Kororaa.

Their repo file didn't work right away (package managers kept telling me the repository was inaccessible), but a lucky guess let me figure out how to fix it.  Open a terminal/console and do "su" so you become root, then download their .repo file per their instructions:
wget -O /etc/yum.repos.d/kororaa.repo
Once you've grabbed it, while still root, open the little bugger with your favorite text editor (I like nano):
nano /etc/yum.repos.d/kororaa.repo
On the "baseurl" line, change the part bolded here from the original:$releasever/$basearch
over to a more useful (as of right now; the number will change):$basearch/
(I'm not using Fedora 14 on this machine, but it doesn't seem to matter.)

All you should have to do from there is use your preferred package manager to remove any old copies of OpenOffice/LibreOffice and install the properly-functioning one from Kororaa.  I recommend also trying their distro out because it seems like a very good way to have your cake with Fedora and eat it too.

I love Exaile, shame it Has Issues

Exaile has been my favorite music player in Linux practically since my very first install three years ago.  It has what I want (usually including decent Shoutcast/Icecast radio support) without cluttering the screen up with stores, video interfaces, and so forth.

Today, I actually figured out the solution for a frustrating problem I'd been running into over the last year or two: when I clean-installed a distro and got Exaile set up, sometimes it would claim it was scanning my music collection for me, but never get beyond 0%.  As it turns out, this only happens if some aspect of Gstreamer -- I suspect either the ogg or mp3 codecs -- isn't fully installed.

So tonight, while typing in handwritten edits to one of my stories/novels, I wanted a particular tone to match what I was working on, but could only think of one song offhand that applied.  I decided to try Exaile's "dynamically add similar tracks to playlist" button with Danger Zone from the Top Gun soundtrack -- and was served up Take It On The Run by REO Speedwagon after it!  Well, if nothing else, it's good for entertainment value, even if it has absolutely no clue what songs sound like...

Fun screenshots and quotes...

While wandering the web today, I've managed to capture two screenshots that raised my eyebrows enough to make me chuckle... The first one came while I was doing a search over at Borders:
Gee, think we can get that in paperback?

Second one was actually just a few minutes ago... Realizing that I need to set up an AIM account for my netbook, I ran a Google search in hope of leaping straight to the account-creation page.  Normally its suggestions are based on typos or alternate spellings, but not this time:

No, I didn't, why do you ask?
I also ran across a number of comments that really amused me...

Regarding the controversial upcoming GNOME 3 environment:
oOarthurOo: The gnome mystics promised me it would transform the my relationship with the desktop, and it has; I’m using KDE now instead of Gnome.
Dan: ...the first few things which came to mind as I was wandering my way through a shockingly counter-intuitive interface were:
-- What the 'ell were these guys thinking?!
-- ... Or drinking?!
-- ... Or smoking?
Dan and his partner: After her machine was shut down [after trying G3], and I had the marker in my hand to label the disk, she saw what I was doing and offered the following by simply spelling it out verbally.  "A-B-O-M-B-I-N-A-T-I-O-N."
Dan again, later: In short, this is what you get when you subject Nautilus to a frontal lobotomy.
In an old review for Mercedes Lackey's book Exile's Valor, which takes place a bit before the original Valdemar book Arrows of the Queen:
(hockey plus lacrosse plus polo equals SHUT UP, I DON'T CARE)

I am eagerly anticipating the horrifying disaster or quiet fact of life that makes [Lackey's Mary Sue avatar] completely absent from her supposed role as Herald-Chronicler by [Arrows].
...the robes of the karsite priests, for example, are a mess, and so is this book.

Up and Working!

Well, my Acer Aspire One 721 (or AO-721) "Cecil" is now sitting happily in Fedora 14 and fully functional.  I switched to using Unetbootin (rather than Gujin) to make a liveUSB of Gparted Live (I'd been using System Rescue CD) -- that gave me no problem at all about resizing the partitions and adding new ones.  I then used Unetbootin yet again to create a new Fedora 14 live USB, booted it...boing, no problem at all installing!

After setting up some very normal things (turning on tap-to-click, etc.) I discovered something really problematic: it couldn't come out of suspend/hibernate, and once rebooted after such an incident, it couldn't turn wireless on.  After a few days of periodic searching, I found these instructions, which also works in other distros like Linux Mint:
1. As root, edit /boot/grub/grub.conf (mine was .conf, theirs was .cfg) in your favorite text editor.
2. Search for the word "quiet" and add these words after it, then save: 
noacpi apm=on noapic 
However, wireless was still off!  If I held down the function key and hit F3 to turn it back on, it didn't light up, even though all of the other function-F# keys were working just fine.  After some searching and experimenting, I noticed that after hitting Fn-F3, "Enable Wireless" in the NetworkManager tray icon was alternately an option or grayed-out; if I clicked on it when I could, surprise surprise, I was suddenly back online!  Turns out that the bleeping thing is toggling the wifi off & on just as it should, but due to some glitch, the light is only being turned on if NetworkManager also enables it.

If only all of my problems were this easy to fix...

Is this a gift or a curse [Edit: It Works!]

Evidently my brother got fed up with hearing about my various failing computers -- ages 6, 10 and 11 -- because to my shock, when I came home from seeing the Wavy Gravy Movie with Dad & his partner, there was an Acer Aspire One 721 here for me.  It's currently being used to stream old Grateful Dead videos for me, because... far, the three Linux installers and Gparted on its own have all been unable to resize the hard drive partitions, which is required to install Linux. [Edit: Working OK now, see next post.]  Fedora 13 & 14 yell "FIRMWARE BUG" at liveboot, which evidently never happens with netbooks other than the AO721 (lucky me).  Fedora and OpenSuSE refuse to boot off USB keydrives created by my Averatec (only option at the moment).

I'm learning that I still don't care much for Windows, but that for some reason, it's able to connect to my wifi router -- Linux has recently been forcing me to type in the IP, DNS servers, gateway, etc. and I don't know why.  I can't think of anything redeeming to say about Firefox 4, which I've avoided in Linux thus far as 3.6 has mercifully been the default on my preferred distros.

Better get back to figuring this thing out (after some aspirin for the headache the netbook or frustration has caused both days thus far).