Monday, December 28, 2015

Computer plans for the kids

This is, after all, a parenting blog. I wanted to gather some notes while I was thinking of them.

Things are a bit in flux right now, but I've been thinking about the sorts of computer to get the kids when things settle down.

I have two kids. A male (4) and a female (7). The older has been using a Windows PC and has been enjoying the free software. She's also been extremely frustrated by how poorly it works. Her mother, however, wants something other than Linux. We're separating and this PC goes with her.

Finally, no more Windows machines in my house. But what to replace it with?

A Mac is cost prohibitive. The only reason she has a PC is because the whole thing -- with accessories -- cost under $100. (Local university surplus store.) She also has a Kindle Fire, which also cost under $100.

I have a choice to make. Another PC or go with a Raspberry Pi?

They both like games, so if it is a PC, I should at least look at a distro that makes that easy. Play-Linux is currently my favorite. If not that, I'd probably go with straight Debian or a Debian-derivative (which includes Ubuntu-derivatives).

The problem there, though, is that while it includes games, it may not include the sorts of games they want. The free Windows Store games set a really low standard for quality, though, so I'm not even sure that we need the power of a "real" desktop.

Which leads us to the Raspberry Pi.

The games she's used to playing are on the Kindle, mostly, or things that are on Android/iOS/Windows but she wishes they were on the Kindle. While BlueStacks allows folks to use Android apps on Windows and Mac systems, there isn't an easy solution for Linux. This is a negative for the Linux option, though the hope is that the native games could help offset the issue.

The thing is, though, if using a Raspberry Pi this may not be an issue. This is because Android is coming directly to the Raspberry Pi. Not available right this minute, okay, but I'm not looking for a solution right this minute. So the delay may align reasonably.

(If I were being impatient and wanted easy Android access earlier, I'd look for some sort of Android on a stick solution. These cost as much as a Pi and does less, though.)

There's a lot of popular options for the Raspberry Pi.

For NaNoWriMo (Young Writer's Program) with the kids, (the younger will be participating for the first time in 2016), we'd probably go with a general solution like Raspbian. This will also be the go-to operating system for allowing the kids to experiment with programming.

The thing is, though, that swapping out operating systems on a Pi is trivial and easy. The general purpose solution need not be the only solution.

We can get a selection of classic games by using RetroPie. Suddenly classic video games from my own youth become available.

So, one affordable device and three SD cards and you can have three distinct systems offering a wide range of games as well as all the traditional "general computing" options. The kids can experiment with programming, do their homework, play games both classic and modern, and...

If I want to do something with the systems, there's no risk of messing up the computers they need for homework. If we separate the "homework" general OS setup from the "playing games and experimenting" general OS setup, it becomes possible to pull access to the games without removing the needed computing functions... (This also removes the possibility of "but, I uninstalled LibreOffice to make room for this great new game.")

(And my personal uses for the systems may include things like OSMC for multimedia -- reducing the need for a standalone television -- or OpenMediaVault for a NAS -- reducing the need for a standalone NAS. These further drive down the total cost.)

And the core monitor and accessories? I should be able to get these at the same university surplus store that I would have gotten the PC. It might cost more than the Pi (and case), but it'll still be more affordable than the cheapest of the available HDMI-enabled televisions.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Brief overview of my spirituality

 A brief overview of my spirituality, lifted from a Facebook post (or two).

Religiously, I'm a Unitarian Universalist. That's the church I go to and best symbolizes what I'm teaching my kids. Spiritually, I'm a radical polytheist with humanist tendencies.

I believe in an infinite number of deities with an infinite number of forms and an infinite number of names. Do you want a deity that responds to the name "God" that hates pinball but loves trashy romance novels? I believe such a deity exists. Do you want one that hates all the same people you hate? That one's easy, too. (I caught an episode of "Toddlers and Tiaras" where a woman basically said she prayed until she found a God who wanted her toddler to compete. I totally believe such deities exist.) Who do you talk to when you pray? You talk to the deity that you know most clearly. A person full of rage will find plenty of deities full of rage, and plenty of those willing to be the deity they're looking for.

On a very core level, I don't believe humans are unique. This means, it isn't just humans that have spirits and deities, it is everything. The interaction between things in the form of systems and relationships also have spirits and deities. Perhaps that's the ecology of a small isolated valley. Perhaps that's your own circulatory system. Everything has a soul and deities from your individual cells through the complex interactions of your clan interacting with the environment or other clans. Of note, this means I believe that all spermatozoa and ova have individual souls (and deities) well before fertilization. I'm still pro-choice, however, because none of this is unique or special in any way. The individual grains of rice that go in to Rice Krispies have souls, too, just as Rice Krispie squares have souls. Do they cease having the souls of rice, once they become puffed, once they join together as a Rice Krispie treat, when a piece of puffed rice is cut when slicing individual squares? For me, that's a legitimate question.

And, I believe in things like past-life experiences without believing in even a separable soul, let alone a "real" past life. There's a notion that there is only One, and all of reality is just the One trying it understand itself. If everything is ultimately the same Oneness, then why would the ability to remember someone else's memories as if they were your own require actually owning that person's life? It's an implicit part of being an aspect of the One. I've also experienced a vision in dream that further elaborated upon how this is the case.

I don't believe in an "after" life, so much as I believe in multidimensional beings, parts of which transcend space and time. So our spiritual aspect can experience what we might consider an "afterlife" concurrent to our physical lives being all full of blood and poop. It goes one better, I believe that on a person's death, their reference for time becomes reset to the point of their birth. In effect, they are reincarnated to the same body. They're free to make other choices, but without knowing what happened previously, they rarely make different decisions. Then deja vu becomes a memory of a previous iteration seeping through. This has direct consequences for my views on depression-induced-suicide as well as terminal/assisted-suicide. In one case, pain can only be transcended by living, and in the other a return to a joyful childhood is nothing to spurn.

I have a simple concise reason for life, the universe and everything. It is universal and inescapable: To experience and to be experienced. If your life amounts to a repository of experiences for the universe, what sorts of experiences do you want to store? What do you cherish and cling to?

I firmly believe in a biological basis for what could be called the soul. (Technically, this makes the "soul" references previously states more accurately described as "spirit". Changing that language in myself to be more clear is still a challenge.) What is a person's soul? It is that which would still be like the person if the memories and experiences were stripped away. Two people with the same soul would be a lot alike, even if they lived in different places and times. It amounts to humans being "value engines", and the formula with which we assign value to things is our soul. I know my own formula, and it is simple enough that it could easily be encoded in my DNA, if not an expression of the DNA combined with developmental hormones.

More recently, and a bit more surprising for me, I've stumbled upon what could be a biological basis for the concept of original sin.

Some of these things are, for me, decades-old ideas that I've lived with and that have gradually permeated deeper and deeper in to my being. Even I didn't really believe some of them when I stumbled upon them. It was just a matter of, "Woah. This idea has merit, even if it is totally wrong, the fruit of it is good."