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Monday, July 23, 2018

A Freedom Perspective. Let's Catch Up

Yeah, it's been a while and no, this isn't the old Blog of helios. For reasons that Google cannot figure out, I no longer have the ability to interact with my old blog. It's a fairly new development, since I have logged in and made changes to my profile within the last couple of months. I have three tickets in to Google Help Desk and so far, this seems to be the mystery of the month. I'm tired of fighting with it. No matter. This new home is a bit plain for now, but I'll dress it up as I go along.

This is the new and official place for all things Reglue. And maybe other stuff of whimsy from time to time.

I got sick a year ago. More ill than I let on, and in ways that frightened me more than I cared to admit. I posted about it on Google + so if you want the specifics, you can go there to read it. I don't want to rehash it here. Done is done and things are better. Probably better than I deserve, and no...I have not been counting down from 9. Only cats do that, or so I'm told. I'm not even keeping track any longer.

While I was on a restricted duty status, I forwarded my emails to Evie so she could keep track of what I needed to know or who I needed to contact. Unfortunately, I discovered much too late that the default spam filters were set to paranoid, so I am still going through those emails and addressing them. If you emailed me and I did not respond, it wasn't because I was ignoring you. My email address is in the right margin should you need to recontact me.

Even with my part time status, we still remained acceptably productive. I spent much of the late summer and winter months, tracking down and upgrading/replacing computers already in the homes of Reglue kids. In that they are spread over a three county area, it took me longer than I anticipated but I'm happy that those I was able to locate, are up to date or replaced. As I have stated earlier, we will no longer be able to conduct any more of these upgrades. That is, unless they are close. The cost of doing so has severely depleted our funding and I can't justify the expense. At least for the time being. We'll be addressing that at a later date.

Although it was weeks ago, I want to tell you about this past 4th of July.

Freedom seems to be a relative term, dictated by context and perception, but I think most Americans realize what the the 4th of July is and why it is celebrated in the USA. In the larger picture anyway. Even if my friend Andreus from Sheffield thinks we're a bit cheeky for doing so. He faithfully emails me every 4th of July with the opening, "Dear Cheeky Yank"... 

This 4th of July presented an opportunity for me to demonstrate another level of freedom, as small as it may seem; this freedom is the cornerstone of a movement that has changed the world for the better.

Her name is Tanya and she's a single mother of two daughters. Micah, age 14 and Tanika, age 11. With a father that is incarcerated for aggravated assault and robbery, he's going to be out of the picture for a long, long time. Tanya works as a medical assistant at a hospital in Round Rock Texas and also works weekends and holidays as a server at a local eatery. She is currently taking online classes to earning her degree in nursing.

The girls, despite their situation are getting fairly good grades. Micah excels at mathematics and general science, and helps her younger sister with her maths, as she struggles a bit with it. Still, she works hard at it as she wants to follow her mom into the medical field and understands that good grades in mathematics is essential for her to enter college.

There is a computer in the home, but it's a laptop assigned to Tanya from the hospital and the kids are not allowed access. There was a home computer for a while, one that was given to them, but during a Windows 8 update, it blue screened and they were never able to get it to work again. A neighbor takes the girls to the library to use the computers there but there is often a line and only 1 hour's use per individual. The neighbor that shuttles the girls to and from the library contacted me to see if Reglue could help.

It's nothing fancy. A dual core i5 HP with 8 gigs of RAM and a 23 inch Asus monitor. It was 9:30 on the evening of the 4th and the family gathered around for me to introduce them to their new computer. We could hear the local city fireworks show begin with a salvo of booms and fizzle pops. As I opened the menu, Tanya explained that the computer they had was not supposed to do any updates, and that was the update that ruined their computer. The lady that gave them the machine told her that she had to do those updates herself and that it was safer that way. Tanya could not understand why the computer chose the middle of the night to update itself on it's own and then kill itself.

Talk about a segue.

I nodded sympathetically. It's a problem that's been plaguing Windows users for decades, I explained to her. When Microsoft deems it necessary to step in with a "security update", then they can bypass your do not auto update settings. She didn't seem to understand how anyone could just reach into her computer and do something that wasn't supposed to be done. That's when I posed the question to her.

"So if Microsoft or any other software company can access and change your machine against your will, then who really owns your computer?"

That hit home immediately, and thus began the discussion about GNU/Linux and Free Open Source Software and the driving force behind it. Not surprisingly, it was Micah who seemed to be laser-focused on my discussion. As I walked them through the basics of using their new Linux computer, I told them how the operating system with the Linux kernel came to be. No one will be accessing your computer, at least no one involved in creating your operating system. You can choose when and what to update and you most certainly have a say so in what software you want to install.

Since Tanya and Micah already had Gmail accounts, it was easy enough to set up the Chromium browser for each of them. Of course, both young ladies were more than ready to discover the varying levels of The World of Goo. I gave them a demonstration of The Gimp, and I introduced them to LibreOffice. By 11PM, I began packing up to leave when Tanya stopped me at the door.

"Are you sure there isn't a charge for this?" She was looking at me as if ready for the other shoe to drop. I told her that she had caught me...yes, I told Tanya. There's always a cost.

"You need to let me know when Tanika gets a B in maths on her next report card."

She smiled and nodded and quietly closed the door behind me. I could still smell the cordite in the air from the fireworks earlier that evening. It reminded me of what might have been the opening salvo of the Revolutionary War. A war for Freedom.

But more importantly, it reminded me of the Smaller Freedoms. Freedoms which now resided beyond the door that had just closed behind me.

All Righty Then...


Be nice. No politics, potty mouth or name calling. Just because we can't see each other doesn't mean that words have no impact. Most of all, have fun.