Episode 57: Free To Succeed?


Is the decision to listen to this really up to you, or is it predetermined by chemistry and physics? Can mobile Linux ever succeed beyond a small niche?

Plus hoarding physical media, terrible books, and extreme weather.

00:00:35 #AskError: What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?
00:04:45 Physical media vs streaming
00:11:29 Can mobile Linux ever succeed?
00:27:02 #AskError: If you could get rid of summer and winter and just have a single meh season, would you do it?
00:32:25 Is free will an illusion?


From what I can tell, the Hobbit is a children’s book, and it should only be read by a child or to a child.

Streaming media is excellent if one has an internet connection capable of streaming media; otherwise, physical media is king… and that is why I get my videos from Netflix DVD.

Android is proof that mobile linux can succeed in a significant way.
Although it pains me to say it, I would never consider switching from Android to any contemporary GNU-ish Linux mobile option because the resulting user experience on my pocket computer would be far too un-GNU-ish compared to my experience on either my desktop computer or my current pocket computer setup.


Alan, I’m not sure your thought experiment about giving two identical twins exactly the same “inputs” over their lives is correct. I think you can’t compare the brain to a complex algorithm taking inputs and producing an output like a classical computer. I’ve read a bit that there may be non-trivial quantum effects going on in the brain function - so you can never say with certainty what an output will be, maybe just how likely it is.


Aye, me too, fascinating stuff. Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch-Or) theory of consciousness (Sir Roger Penrose & Prof. Stuart Hameroff):


Regarding free will: Anesthesiologist Prof. Hameroff (co-author of Orch-OR theory, above) was recently talking about experiments that seem to demonstrate a backward time effect, where the brain “reacts” to stimuli before the signals could have had the time to travel from the source.

These involve real-time monitoring of electrical activity in the brain, as images are flashed on a screen, sound is broadcast, or the hand touched. Hameroff claims that regions of the brain appeared to become active in response to the event before the signals could possibly have arrived at the brain in the absence of quantum effects.

According to Hameroff, a real world example of this effect is evident in verbal communication, where a quick response to what someone has just said is often given before the sound waves have had time to reach the ear, be converted to electrical signal in the brain and be processed.

Seems feasible to me … always had a tendency to speak before I think :grin:

Orch-OR is a contentious theory and not without its critics, but current modelling of the brain doesn’t come close to explaining the mechanisms by which consciousness could be manifest as an emergent phenomenon (i.e. entirely a product of chemical and electrical activity in the brain). As to what all this says about “free will”, who knows, but classical notions of time, space and causation go out the window in the quantum universe, so even if mind/consciousness is purely physically emergent from our grey matter, I don’t think we can assume it necessarily follows that our actions have to be the result of a linear, functional progression from stimuli to reaction.


It is hard for me to reconcile how much of their professional and personal lives Dan and Alan have devoted to desktop open source software with how pessimistic they are about the prospect of a Linux mobile OS. Most of their criticism of Linux mobile OS’s carries over to the desktop to a lesser extent. Perhaps they were focused on the criteria of a Linux phone being generally available in stores next to Android and iOS phones. By that criteria, I don’t think Linux has much chance in the near term, but I do think it should be possible for mobile Linux to reach a level of success similar to Linux on the desktop, and for me that would be good enough. The biggest blocker is finding hardware that is compatible with open source. That has been difficult in the past, but Moore’s Law is ending and that gives more manufacturers a chance to catch up, and makes it more feasible for developers to target certain phones for several years as the upgrade cycle slows. There are definitely risk factors – Fuchsia could lead to OEMs not releasing any code for their phones which would make porting Linux very difficult; as Moore’s Law slows, Google and Apple will pour more money into scaling out datacenters with lots of resources to stream compute power to phones in various ways, making it difficult for a community led OS to compete.


Regarding books - I liked Moby Dick, a glutton for punishment I’ve read it multiple times. It’s got really boring bits and it’s completely anachronistic, but as a historical account it is interesting, and the story of Ahab’s obsession leading to (spoiler!) his and his crew’s demise is timeless. And LoTR/Hobbit do have those terrible poems, I just skipped 'em. The only bad book I remember reading recently was one of The Expanse books, Cibola Burn. It had people being stupid for no reason, was grim and dreary, and added nothing to the whole saga.

Physical media… Oh man, I have boxes of CDs and video games that I just know I won’t ever use again. I don’t want to throw them away, and selling them would be a right hassle. Who’d buy a heavily used CD of Radiohead’s “The Bends”, or a copy of Tomb Raider for the PS1? I don’t buy CDs very often now, and I don’t think I’ve ever bought a DVD. I went from renting films on VHS, to DVDs briefly, and then to torrents. I still buy games on cartridge occasionally because I have a Nintendo 3DS and Switch, and Nintendo are terrible at digital. Games on consoles digitally tend to be more expensive than physical ones, and have fewer offers. Also the last couple of years I’ve been inspired by Joe’s anti-gaming min-rants. No, seriously. I’ve taken up guitar and stopped wasting so much time on video games. Just the odd half-hour on my commute to work, or a quick game of “Roblox” with my kids.

Meh Weather all year round would be horrible. Isn’t that pretty much British weather anyway? :wink: You’d get so sick of always having to wear the same sort of clothes. Crops would die out if it was always overcast. I live in southern Europe now, and it is cold in the winter, occasionally snows, and very hot in the summer getting up to 40 deg C often. We get to wear jumpers and scarves in the winter, but in the summer can go to work in shorts and a t-shirt, and everywhere has A/C. The changes are great. Then around May-June, and Sept-Oct you have a few weeks of just nice weather. Mid-20s. Lovely. There’s this thing here that I never experienced growing up in the UK where in the summer you put your winter clothes into storage because you won’t need them! Nah, you can keep your meh weather.


You’d be surprised who’d want them - I ripped all my CDs to FLAC & offloaded boxes of them a few years ago to charity, and they fetched a pretty penny at their sales & charity shop - including The Bends. I kept my 1st ever CD, that I purchased back in the days when they were the latest cutting edge tech, for sentimental reasons. “Fine Young Cannibals, the Raw & the Cooked” showing my age :grin:.


The worse physical media you could buy are PC Games. Pretty much all of them require Steam activation and require updates to be downloaded.

I think CD’s are still valid. But the technology behind DVD’s is aging badly, I don’t feel like Blu-ray really took over (at least not in Australia). Streaming is the next best bet, even if you can only stream 480p you are using better technology then a DVD.

Books vs Ebooks is still a question mark for me, I tend to prefer the psychical, Although I feel like a need a good e-reader to really judge this though.


I still like my proper books. I read an interesting piece of research a while back that was talking about how many people tend to absorb information easier from a physical printed text, than from an identical digital copy. The theory is that, for evolutionary reasons, the brain tends to find it easier to remember information if it can be located in a physical landscape, than simply as an abstract dislocated concept.

Reading a physical book involves more visual cues, that signify difference in context and location, than a single screen: the spatial location of that page in the book as seen and felt through comparison with the entirety of all the pages together; the look and feel of a page; how the text is laid out; unique page markings; the smell; the texture, etc.

These subtle differences create a richer "environment’ in which to contextualise the information on the page in a spatial setting, which apparently aids in the memory encoding process. I guess it works similarly to those memory tricks, where you devise a “mental landscape” and story about whatever abstract facts you’re trying to remember.