Sunday, August 31, 2014

Signs of the Times

(source: Times of Swaziland)
This photo was in the Swazi Times during the week, showing some of the maidens arriving to participate in Umhlanga (the Reed Dance). At the time, I thought nothing of it, but earlier today I was down in the Lobamba area and I realised just how significant the photo is. There were plenty of girls around earlier today, even around the Gables supermarkets, and they all looked liked this: western clothing, with emahiya (traditional patterned cloth) packed away to be worn only during the ceremony. I was fortunate enough to experience an Umhlanga during King Sobhuza's time, and in the country in those days emahiya and even emajobo (part of traditional male clothing) were common everyday sights even in the towns and cities; not now. Even just a few hours before today's main event (today was the 'real' day of course, the delivery of reeds) emahiya-wearing was about 2% everywhere I was. Times have changed. Umhlanga is now an event like AIDS day or Valentine's day, not something arising naturally out of our country's culture. (& BTW, have you noticed how the numbers of girls attending -- according to the papers' headlines -- have been decreasing by between 10 000 and 15 000 each year?)

It would be interesting to know how many Swazi folktales and other fundamentals of oral literature these modern girls know; for sure they know all about Rihanna, Lil' Wayne, and Niki Minaj (whose recent video has already been downloaded 100 times more than Swaziland's total population). As we move more and more towards a global village, so the unique details of a culture tend to disappear, swallowed up by the greater whole. Or, as some have put it, we all know more and more about less and less.

Friday, July 25, 2014



 Everybody knows that Apple is the Rolls-Royce of computing. When I encountered my first Mac, back in early 1985, every computer I had ever used before became a second-class citizen. And even when Apple's fortunes hit rock bottom in the dark nineties (do you remember a pic of a Windows install disc with the legend, "One OS to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them"?) the Mac refused to die. Why? I've always believed it was a combination of three things: 

a Mac always worked straight out of the box; 
a Mac always expressed the Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) that stood behind it; 
and, if you had the courage and a little bit of skill, a Mac could always be tweaked

My favourite Mac OS was OS 7; my favourite Mac program was the experimental but amazing Cyberdog (an Internet suite built to demonstrate the concept and power of OpenDoc). Cyberdog was a joint project of Apple and IBM and it was killed off c.1997 by Microsoft pressure; Windows 8 reminds me of it everytime I see a new WinBox. Anyway, now it's 2014 and I still have my Macs. But I now also have linux. My first linux love was Bianca (2.2) and I still use Mint (Quiana 17 is on a partition of this machine). But now linux also has its own OS 7. It's name is elementary OS.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I was so happy

I was so happy I was so happy
seeing you again
seeing you again
that the image
now haunts my brain
like a watermark
or the acidic stain
left by an accidental spill
of the choicest wine.

In time
the image
may fade
but I wouldn't count on it;
your life
your life
is in that image
and everything that you were
or ever will be
to me
is there
for me to see
on the other side of my eyelids
whenever I close my eyes.

c Kenneth Rowley 2013

Saturday, July 27, 2013

How to disable Windows 8 'Secure Boot' etc and install Ubuntu, Mint or Peppermint

You've bought a laptop that came with Windows 8 pre-installed on it and now you're tearing your hair out? There's hope (though maybe not so much with the hair replacement). Although Windows 8 ships with a 'Secure Boot' setup that suggests you can't install anything else on the machine (not even go back to Windows 7 or good ol' XP heehe) it's actually quite easy to disable this and install whatever you like. All you need to do is turn the computer off and restart it with the F2 key held down. This will active the BIOS, where you can switch off the 'Secure Boot' and switch to Legacy OS, which means you can use your installers CDs just like you used to, or gparted or whatever. It took me just a few minutes...

I'm posting this from a Lenovo G580 running Linux Mint 14 (Maya). No problems.

Friday, July 26, 2013

for the record

Just for the record, currently I use a MacBook, an iPad, an Android phone (Samsung S2), and a cheap box that came pre-installed with Windows Vista but  now has Linux Mint 14, Peppermint 4, and Ubuntu 14 installed on it (no Windows).

Why Windows is in trouble...

Many commentators think Windows is in trouble because Windows 8 is proving so unpopular that some companies are making money by uninstalling 8 and replacing it with 7. Others point to the fact that Microsoft's Secure Boot option (sic) is really a way to try and stop users dual-booting their machines by installing linux, for example, on a new partition. Still others claim that desktop machines are already obsolete and Windows has very little mobile presence.

But the real reason that Windows is in trouble is that OS X and Android are close cousins.

Consider, for example, a mobile programmer. Let's say he writes his new app in python, a flexible language for such apps. He writes it first for iPhone and iPad; which means it will run on a UNIX core. If he then wants to release an Android version, it's not that difficult (I'm not saying it's easy) because Android is a LINUX flavour, and linux derives from unix. But if somebody then asks him for a Windows version...

This is the main reason why Apple and Google are the two giants fighting for mobile dominance at the moment.

Apple struggled prior to OS X, but the switch to a UNIX core helped reverse its fortunes. And Windows 8 boxes-- such as the Lenovo Thinkpads--are ideal platforms for running linux.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I See Hawks in LA: 'Mystery Drug' Review

I See Hawks In LA Mystery Drug:

I first came across I See Hawks when they released their second album, years ago, but because I live in Swaziland, all I could get hold of were a few songs on the band's website including I See Hawks In LA and Humboldt. I thought they were a neo-Flying Burrito Brothers and told them so. More recently I was in London and found a copy of last year's New Kind of Lonely. I'll be honest; I'm a fan. But, like the Burritos, they're still likely to appeal more to musicians than the general public. (I bought two copies of the Burrito's Gilded Palace of Sin when it was first released and gave one to my brother. He appreciated the gesture but was bemused by the music.) But how can I not like a band who releases songs with lyrics like these:

“Stop driving like an asshole/ You know who you are/ Did you think when you cut me off it would help you go farther? / You’re an accident waiting to happen, a flipped over SUV/ On the 405, at six o’clock, your carcass on TV…. The angels will sing/ sha-la-la, sha-la-la/ he drove like an asshole"?

That's on Mystery Drug. For many bands it might be seen as a cheap throwaway, but it's typical of the band's leftfield approach. The Hawks are listed as Alt. Country, or hippie country and it's rare for a reviewer not to mention the Burritos, but they have this whole other dimension that I call Zen Country, an off-the-wall insight or irreverent comment that lingers long after you've heard it. 

Already I love this album. And when some other driver cuts me off...