Poor Biff’s Almanac — On Sundays, Linux, and Cagney

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1


What is it about Sunday nights that just makes them suddenly appear out of nowhere?

One minute you’re driving away from work on Friday afternoon thinking you have a never-ending weekend ahead of you in which to finally knock out that never-ending to-do list that’s been hanging over your head since 1985 … and the next thing you know it is Sunday night and time for bed and the only accomplishment you can claim without laughing is that you finally managed to polish off that box of Christmas cookies you got as a gift and were worried you wouldn’t be able to finish before they went stale.

But enough about my accomplishments.  I don’t want to come across as bragging.  Sure I’m humble, but I don’t want to flaunt it.

Actually, now that I think about it, I did manage to complete something.  It wasn’t on my to-do list, but I accomplished it anyway.  It was on a to-do list I had back in, I think, 2014 or 15, but that I accidentally threw away in 2015 while executing a New Year’s resolution I’d made myself to clean up my home office.  That “clean the office” activity also lost steam after I’d thrown out the to-do list.  At that point there was no evidence that I’d ever made it so I felt confident in abandoning it.  The coppers had nothing on me, see?  Yeah.  Nuttin’ at all, see?  Yeah.

OMG, where was I?

Oh yeah, the thing I managed to accomplish tonight.  Yesterday, I excavated a relative’s old Dell laptop out of the depths of my office closet.  Since I am an electrical engineer, all of my relatives think that I collect old, defunct, or obsolete laptops.  The conversation usually goes something like this:

Relative:  “Hey, you’re an engineer.  You should take this old laptop of mine.  I got a new one.”

Me:  “Oh … um … thanks.  I guess.”

I haven’t the heart (or the courage … or the brain … or some other Oz character) to tell them that I know next to nothing about laptops outside of how to turn them on and swear at them while they do interminable Windows updates.  My inability to speak up has netted me a cache of useless laptops.

Anyway, I took this aged Dell laptop that weighs an impressive 20 pounds (whose lap was THAT designed for?) and is abysmally slow and fired it up.  It booted after about 30 minutes and then set about doing about three years of Windows updates.  I just left it and came back to it the next day (today).  Then, while laughing maniacally while lightening lit up the room intermittently, I installed Ubuntu 17.10 (with Gnome) on it.

Take that, Microsoft!  Your precious laptop is now a Linux machine, see?  Yeah.  A Linux machine, see?  You coppers will never take me alive, see?  Yeah!

[Why the heck to I keep slipping into a Jimmy Cagney mode?]

So yeah … I now have a 20-pound Dell laptop running Linux.  Sure, it boots about 30 minutes faster than Windows did.  Sure, the cooling fan doesn’t run as fast as a 747 jet engine’s any more.  Sure, the new Gnome desktop is pretty.  Sure, it’s got LibreOffice on it (which is almost as good as MS Office … just like a Kia is almost as good as a Lamborghini).  But it still weighs 20 pounds.   And looks like something from the 1980s.

But now I can write “Extensive Linux experience” on my resume.

And, really, isn’t that what life is all about?



  1. Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve even thought about Linux. I was a Suse/KDE person back in the day and never did get comfy with it compared to Windows. Now it’s mostly OS and I’m a happy camper. Perhaps my friend with the “extensive Linux experience” can inspire me. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve poked around in Linux … not enough to be an expert. I think the Ubuntu distribution feels very “Windows-like”. I don’t know if they did that on purpose to lure in people who are fed up with Windows … or if that was just the natural evolution of the OS. When I first attempted to use Linux back in the early 2000’s, it was the most user-unfriendly experience I’d ever had in my life. So, I stayed away from it for nearly 2 decades.

      Back in the late 90s I developed software on a Unix system and … wow! Talk about user-unfriendly. It was actually user-hostile.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It sounds like we were playing with Linux around the same time period. I had many friends who were Linux converts and they were ever so patient in trying to bring me into the fold, but I was more of a geek wannabee and they were true geeks. I haven’t had the “pleasure” of working in Unix, but I’ve heard horror stories. I’m old enough that I remember programming in Pascal in the late 70’s on computers that were the size of a love seat. It’s amazing how far we’ve come.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I never programmed in Pascal, but I’ve done Fortran and lots and lots of C. My favorite, though, was assembly language. I like being down as close to the hardware layer as I can get. Too many layers of abstraction bore me pretty quickly.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Seems to me I may have an old 20 lb Dell laptop laying around somewhere with Windows XP on it. I keep meaning to bring it to Free Geek, a local business that recycles old electronics and loads Linux onto the laptops. (Open source, you know). Now I know of another destination…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Dave! I installed the Linux myself quite easily. There is a magazine on newsstands now called “Linux Format” and, glued to its cover is a CD. The CD contains a sort of “try before you buy” collection of Linux distributions as well as some different desktops. The CD is actually bootable, so you boot it up, run the disty and desktop you want, kick the tires a little bit, and then try another one. All without having to touch what’s on your hard disk! Then, when you decide which one you want, you can actually install it onto the laptop using the CD. It was all pretty painless. The accompanying magazine has some good articles about it. Also, you’ll need to verify if your laptop is 32-bit or 64-bit.

      I ended up going with Ubuntu with Gnome desktop. It seems clean and easy to navigate and I really didn’t want anything fancy.

      Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I hear ya, Mr. Johnson. I spend all week looking forward to Friday, and then as soon as Friday gets here, I spend Friday to Sunday dreading Monday. It’s no way to live!

      Congrats on escaping it.


  3. Hey i enjoyed that! Quite often a task will lead me astray. I accomplish less than if I had done nothing. It’s like quantum mechanics.

    You know what they say, Biff, the contented man enjoys the scenery on a detour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Wilt! I feel better now.

      I’ve never heard that expression before, but I really like it. I’ve often found the detours in life are more interesting than the main road.


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