Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 231. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: email@example.com  From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.230: limitations of devices (28)  From: Jonathan Reeve
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.230: limitations of devices (108) -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: 2018-11-27 18:10:18+00:00 From: email@example.com Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.230: limitations of devices Willard You raise an ethical question in the context of individual acquisition of a machine (or the parts to build one): > And how could any computer be morally unstained? We ourselves can't. Is > there a doctor (of ethics) in the house? If one enlarges the scope to consider the making of machines, the distribution of machines, their disposal, then one can contemplate system-wide interventions i.e. the redistribution of wealth, the creation of meaningful employment, ecological preservation. These considerations may seem far from the daily concerns of humanities computing. However consider how the institutional and individual are imbricated in the global. A computer could be untainted in a world that bridges its digital divides. Imagine... -- Francois Lachance Scholar-at-large http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance https://berneval.blogspot.com -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: 2018-11-27 22:24:11+00:00 From: Jonathan Reeve Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.230: limitations of devices Hi Willard, I agree very much with your two points here, concerning operating systems, and I find it interesting that those are two of my reasons for choosing Linux over a proprietary OS like Windows or MacOS. Regarding design and aesthetics, I think you're right that a lot of this is subjective, but I wonder how many of our emotional experiences of design are conditioned by advertising. Windows and MacOS, with millions of dollars of ad funds at their disposal, can manufacture familiarity, without necessarily earning it. In contrast, Linux OSes, as the product of volunteers rather than a company, has virtually no advertising money, and might initially strike some users as unfamiliar. But I'd argue that not only are the design principles of Linux-based OSes at least equally pleasing as those of its competitors, but that most of what we find pleasing about Windows and MacOS began in Linux, anyway. New design features in MacOS are, for example, are likely inspired by Linux features that the Apple developers had been using on their personal Linux-based laptops for years. One case-in-point is the "dark mode" [https://www.apple.com/macos] that Apple has been touting so loudly lately, which has long been in use on Linux OSs (see [https://github.com/DH-Box/dh-usb] the screenshots of my own Linux OS for the Digital Humanities, DH-USB). Other examples include Windows 10's new split-screen mode (tiling window managers in Linux have had this since the 90s), uniformly-colored square icons, multiple desktops or workspaces, full-screen apps as workspaces, and more -- they have long been Linux features. Regarding one's operating system's time demands, I hear you -- I use Linux precisely because I don't have the time or energy for MacOS or Windows. That labor is usually invisible to us, since we're so habituated to it, but consider the typical process for installing a program in those systems. First, you search around on the Internet for programs that will do what you want. Find one, then click around on the developer's website until you find a download page. Download the program's archive. Open your Downloads directory. Unzip the archive. Click on the installer. Tell your operating system that you assume the risk of a program downloaded from the Internet. Click "next" a bunch on the installer. Sign whatever seventeen-page agreement they make you sign. Choose where to install it. Then clean up all the installers and archives from your Downloads directory. You're lucky if you don't have to face malware, popups asking you to register your new software, or requests for you to pay for a license for the program. In Linux, (in DH-USB, for example) just open the program called "software" and click on the "install" button next to the one you want. No licenses to agree to, no malware risks, no installer programs, and no money exchanged. It "just works," as they say. This model is so powerful that both Microsoft and Apple have released their own similar app stores, although they don't yet have wide adoption outside of mobile platforms. Many other computing tasks take about half the time on Linux as they do on other systems. I created DH-USB, and my colleagues created the cloud-based Linux server DH-BOX, in part to solve the nightmarish difficulties of installing software stacks in Windows and MacOS. Most of us that have taught a Python-based Digital Humanities course are all too familiar with these difficulties. Perhaps more importantly, since almost all Linux software is free ("free" as in "free speech" and in "free beer," as they say), I can make and distribute an entire text analysis platform -- operating system, drivers, programming languages, software, language models, test corpora, and a polished user interface -- without breaking any copyright laws. This is crucial for the reproducibility of text analysis experiments. If you want a copy of my entire digital humanities laboratory, you can download it right now from GitHub. You just can't do that with Windows. While there are certainly many Linux users who, like your son, are operating systems experts or hobbyists -- I certainly have been guilty of tweaking my system too much, on occasion -- I'd like to dispel the notion that one /need/ be a hacker in order to use Linux, or to install it. I've installed single programs on MacOS that were harder to install than entire Linux operating systems. One need only watch one of the Linux installation videos on YouTube, [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jmELj9MvVc[ like this one, to appreciate how little effort it takes. Once installed, the simplicity of the system is remarkable, which is why developers often install it on their grandparents' machines -- it's so much more intuitive. "If Linux is so great," one might wonder, "why isn't everybody using it right now?" Technically speaking, it's actually the most common operating system in the world: used on most of the world's servers, most of the world's mobile devices (Android is Linux-based), and virtually all supercomputers. But as for desktop/laptop adoption, this brings me back to my first point about advertising. There are so many options for computer software these days, that we have grown to trust only those with which we are familiar. That's to be expected. But for those brave souls that want to try something else, or who value freedom, and have an hour or two for learning something new, that hour is repaid a hundredfold in the workflow efficiencies it provides. Sure, we can answer an hour's more emails if we don't do that, but the long-term gains far outweigh this short-term setback. But maybe I really shouldn't be talking about efficiency, since I've been writing this message for the past half hour, instead of writing my dissertation. So back to the drawing board for me! Best, Jonathan _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: firstname.lastname@example.org List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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