Xubuntu 16.04 LTS on black MacBook (2008)

I have a MacBook now.

Granted, it’s a almost obsolete as it’s 8yrs old and has an un-updateable version of Mac OS X, but I have one. And it’s one of the rarer black models from early 2008. A bit of spit and polish has made it almost as good as new. It also has extra value in being from a famous friend, who now has a gorgeous MacBook Air.

The battery doesn’t last quite as long as it must’ve but it’s been fun to tinker with OS X on my own, and it’s not hard for a nearly-25yr Windows veteran to get to grips with. But to really make this more usable I decided to mess with its metaphorical brain. I partitioned the disk and put Linux on it. Which is a bit sacrilegious to some.

I first used Ubuntu 10 years ago and last used it 4 years ago, the last iteration being the very lightweight Lubuntu for my sold-off netbook. I decided to put Xubuntu on this MacBook as it’s capable of running heavier than Lubuntu, but classic Ubuntu with the Unity GUI might be pushing it.

After a bit of reading, installation was pretty painless. I burnt a Xubuntu CD, got the MacBook to boot it up to test all was good (it was, apart from WiFi which needed a proprietary driver that was acquired on installing), told it to install to the free space from partitioning, and I was good to go. So as well as respectfully keeping OS X on there I can (with the aid of rEFInd) now boot in to a modern OS with modern applications. And it looks better than the OS X which was last updated in 2009!

I’m not whooping too much though as I know that a machine approaching a decade is unlikely to last too long on the hardware side, but hey, it was free. I didn’t have a laptop. I didn’t have an Apple, and I didn’t have Linux. I have it all in one now. Let me enjoy my parade.

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Sectarianism

Nearly 3 weeks ago an Ahmadi Muslim shopkeeper was murdered by a fanatical Muslim who claimed that the man, Asad Shah, had “disrespected Islam”. Mr Shah was known to wish Christian customers well on events and sometimes handed out gifts, and this was reasonably connected to the murderer’s motive. And today “Kill Ahmadi” leaflets were found in a London mosque. It goes without saying that killing over any sort of any sort of political or spiritual disagreement is stupid and barbaric, but I want to play the Devil’s advocate on an issue: Are Ahmadis Muslim? (For disclosure, I’m a religious heretic so I’m not on any side, fanatics would have my head cleaved too).

The premise of being a Muslim is based clearly on the statement that you believe in one god (Allah) and that Mohammed is his messenger, and that he is the seal of the prophets; that is, there can be no more.
Although Ahmadis are Muslim in that they put Mohammed as the primary prophet, therefore accepting the Qu’ran and Hadith (sayings), they put the Indian-born Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a secondary/returning prophet, and it’s Ahmad’s added influence that sets apart Ahmadis from Sunni and Shia Muslims. Though there is a dispute between the latter two it is not over the prophet but who should succeed in leadership.

The problem for Ahmadis is quite obvious (but, to repeat, not any justification for intolerance or violence). If being a Muslim requires you to believe that Mohammed is the final messenger of God, then believing a subsequent different-looking prophet makes you non-Muslim from the perspective of those who follow the majority orthodox pre-Ahmadi teachings. You can make an analogy: If a Christian says he believes in God and that Jesus is his prophet (or son), but adds on that he also believes in Mohammed, he cannot be a ‘Mohammedan Christian’; actually, you could say that, but pre-Mohammed Christians would not except that heresy. It would be easier if Mirza Ghulam Ahmad designated a new religious name, but then again his idea was to keep within the framework of Islam.

There’s an analogy with open-source software. We call derivatives of an original work forks, and it might be easier to think of Ahmadism as a fork of Islam. It maintains links with Islam but is a separate product even though it maintains much of the same belief and practice. It’s easier to respect upstream than downstream. Islam itself could be thought of as a fork of Christianity which was a fork of Judaism, and derivatives of each are what leads to sectarian clashes. With this in mind it is not irrational for Ahmadis not to be accepted as Muslims, in the same way that Jesuit Jews and Mohammedan Christians is a logic error for the other Abrahamic religions. Can you be a monotheistic Hindu? But disagreement’s not a good reason for discriminatory and violent behaviour (in fact, there’s no good reason for that); why dirty your hands with blood when your creator can sort that out later? We even see many women who cannot relate to or support men who have had a sex change. (“I’m a born-female, you’re not.”), but they’re not killed.

From the other perspective – leaving Devil’s advocacy – if Ahmadis want to call themselves Muslim that really is nobody else’s business. If there is a divine creator, only they know who is truly Muslim and self-definition is of little worth. You may call yourself Muslim and do little or nothing worthy, but your saviour, you believe, is that you were born under (or accepted) non-Ahmadism. I think it’s easy to see who wins between a murderer and an innocent.

There’s an easy truce. Sunnis and Shias don’t have to accept Ahmadis on an intellectual-spiritual level but they should treat them like human beings because that’s one thing we all are. Ahmadis, for their part, should probably abandon ever being wholeheartedly accepted by the majority as valid Muslims. I hold that thought with sadness. The pessimism is warranted because fanatics of totally different faiths don’t make life easy either.

Patty wars

I don’t eat much fast food, so when I do I think I might as well go upmarket because it’s a rare expenditure.

I was first introduced to Gourmet Burger Kitchen about a decade ago and since then I barely remember entering the Golden Arches. They have a wide variety of choice and it’s all fresh stuff. Likely as good as can be for the body as it is on the tongue. Of course it costs, on average 3x more than from a cheap place, but you feel satisfied. Habanero’s my fave.

GBK isn’t the only ‘posh burger’ place though as competition has been encroaching. However, they remain a favourite.

I’ve been to Byron a couple of times and they really just seem a slightly more snobby McDonald’s. I think they’re alright but they would always be a choice below GBK and my other favourite:

Which is Honest. Honest don’t have a huge menu but the restaurant environment is pleasant and the food is just as good, maybe slightly better than GBK’s. I also can’t resist the cola bottle gums-like premium Karma Cola.

Yesterday I was at Boom Burger and I had high hopes for this Jamaican joint because the menu looked tantalising and I expected an explosion of flavour. But while perfectly edible I found the taste rather bland, on top of which the seating is limited and shoddy and you have to compete with fairly loud music when placing your order. I had to point to menu items in fear of being misheard. I tried plantain fries; too sweet for my palette. The mango sauce in the burger was nice though.

I think my days of trying new places is over (mainly as I don’t know anymore). I’ll stick with GBK and Honest.

Windows 10 Mobile upgrade

I’ve been a Windows Phone user for 5yrs now, from the nearly earliest days of WP 7.5. I’m not sure why I should admit that as iPhone and Android have been the phones to have due to their vastly bigger app stores.

The Lumia 640 is my third phone (oddly, the first two died after nearly 2yrs each) which I picked up at Xmas, and after a few months of continued use of WP 8.1 I’m now on Windows 10 Mobile. Not as catchy as Windows Phone but it reveals Microsoft’s plans for having a unified system for all their devices and services.

In aggregate, W10M doesn’t seem that different to WP, which most people will find comfortable. It looks a bit different but works the same. I, however, did have some upgrade niggles. My People/address book was emptied, and despite my Microsoft Account being tied to my email address and calendar, the Mail and Calendar apps kept asking to add my account details even though they already existed! I tried various things, sought official technical support, but in the end I just reset the device – which wasn’t too painful because a backup managed to restore apps, data and settings in largely one action – and the problem was solved. I don’t know what happened but it’s working. A friend of mine who joined WP last year also had a few upgrade issues, dissimilar to mine, so I’m sure there’s quite a few for whom upgrading was stressful. I remember the only hatred for going from WP 7.5 to 7.8 was that 8.1 wouldn’t given to my first phone (and WM10 wouldn’t have been given to my second phone).

I think W10M is a bit more of a battery drain on my high-capacity battery and there’s still some app niggles, but overall it’s doing all the things I want it to do. Of course, the reason for this upgrade is also to entice developers to make Universal apps that work on PCs, tablets etc. in order to ramp up the Windows ecosystem. Whether they’ll achieve this goal, I don’t know. I thought WP8.1 would make a big difference and it didn’t. I’d like to continue being a W10M user as I love the interface and I’m sold into all things MS, but I have to admit that I wouldn’t hesitate to leap to iPhone – at least the new, cheaper SE – if there’s no compelling long-term benefit, and it might be nice to have a change. But I do like WP/W10M.

I’m just sorry for all the people who won’t be getting W10M, it’s the second time old Windows Phoners have been abandoned. And who knows what the deal will be when the Surface Phone(s) replace the Lumia range later this year?