Monday, October 17, 2016

UPDATED! Solaris 11.3: Firefox, Flash, and the distant dream of gcc

After a prolonged spell of flitting about with various distros, I have taken up once again with Solaris 11.3 as my main desktop, this time with an eye to satisfying two modest goals:

  • upgrade Firefox from the out-of-the-box 31.0 to something with fewer flies buzzing around it, and

  • a working Flash player for said upgrade to allow for audio streaming and use of websites that do fun stuff.

As for the first goal, the answer was under my nose for longer than I'd care to admit. As written about in this space previously, the good folks at UNIX Packages provide Firefox and Thunderbird binaries free of charge. I had gushed quite profusely at their Firefox 38 package on my last install of Solaris 10, but more recently had revisited their offerings, and saw no Firefox/Thunderbird options for Solaris 11.x. The available systems were for OpenSolaris and Solaris 10 (and older). Hmmph!

And then it hit me: Solaris 11.3 may be binary-compatible with (what had been) OpenSolaris, and so I took a whack at installing that package to this system.

As for the installation, simply download the package for Firefox 45.4.0 (the latest as of this writing), and then within the Nautilus file manager, right click on the downloaded *-pkg file and select "Extract here". Once it's extracted, use Gnome Terminal to get yourself to your Downloads directory (or wherever it lands in your system), and enter:

# pkgadd -d fire*-pkg

It goes without saying that you should adjust the wildcard as necessary if you have other files starting with "fire". (This moment of patronizing didacticism has been brought to you by the Ford Motor Company. Find the right Ford for you at )

Problem solved.

To make it run by default (at least when clicking the little Firefox icon in the top taskbar in the Gnome 2 interface), I right-clicked on said icon, selected "Properties", and changed the "Command" field to read: /opt/sfw/bin/firefox %u.

Akin to the goal of upgrading Firefox, a solution to my Flash woes had likewise been lurking about just beyond the perimeter of my patience and reading comprehension. Over previous sojourns with this OS, I had come to understand that Adobe had dropped Solaris support for Flash altogether (which it has), and that mummified versions of Flash were available in their archives, which is also true, though with God as my witness I was sure that said archives were now unavailable. Silly rabbit.

Once you have downloaded and extracted the files (be sure to look for version 11,2,202,223), you'll need to move to /opt/sfw/lib/firefox/browser/plugins. (I had to create the plugins subdirectory myself, as it wasn't there by default after installing Firefox.) Check here to confirm that it is working.

All-in-all, I'm quite pleased with Solaris 11.3 this time around, and am now readying my mind to tackle the real challenge, which is getting gcc installed after previous botched attempts. As it turns out, the gcc versions I've found so far can't be installed in this system due to licensing conflicts or some such, which is a drag because I'd like to then proceed with building packages from NetBSD's pkgsrc project to allow for at least a bit more variety of applications.

But that can wait for another day.


October 23, 2016 update: Eureka! The dream of gcc has now been realized! Install it as follows:

# pkg install developer/gcc-45

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Racism: available in soft and ultra-soft

When someone (often an old foreigner) says something with a soft racial undertone about another race that is not meant to be derogatory but often comes out in a way that may make others slightly uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed yet sympathetic for said old person.

Often it is because of a difference in social and cultural norms that they say something softly racist.
 -Urban Dictionary, "Soft Racism"

I'm sure we've all known someone who has stepped on the above-noted conversational rake without realizing it, and while it can certainly cause awkward tension in a group setting, anyone with even a little bit of emotional intelligence can finish blushing and then give the speaker a pass for their own cultural and/or age-related naïveté. For the most part it's easy to tell if the person was being deliberately hurtful or simply didn't know any better in the moment.

But there's another form of racism that is easy to miss if you're not looking for it. In fact, if you gaze into the mirror (so to speak), you may need to strain your eyes to notice it, and even then your mind may not recognize nor accept what is being seen. As for me, someone had to point it out to Yours Truly. Up until then I had been completely oblivious. What allows this racism to slip under our radars (generally) unnoticed is that it has nothing to do with any conscious intent to be derogatory towards nor marginalize a person or group based on their race, which in its own way makes it all the more insidious.

The kind of racism I'm talking about is typically expressed when you're telling a friend about an encounter you had with someone earlier that day, and you include a certain detail that has no bearing on your story. For a white person, it could be something like "I was in the express line at the grocery store and the black guy ahead of me had nine items instead of eight".

In this case, the guy's skin color was of no relevance. We are all guilty of going over the maximum number of items in the express line at least most of the time. (Personally, I usually treat the "8 Items or Less" sign as a suggestion rather than a rule.)

To test the absurdity of this paradigm, tell a similar anecdote to someone of your own race, but make the person in your story the same skin color as you and your listener. I think most of my friends or family would at least be momentarily taken aback if I said "I asked a white guy for directions."

I truly don't think any of the above is evidence of antipathy towards any one race or other races in general, and thus my intention here is not to equate it with overt racism. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if there's a sincere and committed anti-racist or two who make this mistake with no harm or insult intended.

For myself, I used to chalk it up mental laziness. After all, skin color can be the most noticeable thing about a person. You may not recognize their identity from across the street, but you sure can tell their race. Perhaps referencing the person as "some black guy" (or "Asian guy", or "Indian guy", etc.) is a quick and dirty way to add descriptiveness to your story, and to some extent I believe this forms the basis of such a practice. However, if the person in the story is white (assuming you and your listener are also white for the sake of this example), then their skin color would lose all descriptive value.

I can't speak for races other than my own, but as a white person I can tell you that when we are describing someone to one of our own "kind", the default assumption is that the someone in question is white unless otherwise noted. By doing so, intentionally or not, we set ourselves apart from others along racial lines. While not "racism" as practiced by "hate groups" nor cause for self-flagellation, it nevertheless hints at tribalism (or what I would call "ultra-soft racism"), which to me would seem to be a precondition for hard racism in the same way that unchecked nationalism clears the way for fascism (soft or hard).

Nowadays, I make daily decision to not draw needless attention to a person's race when talking about them in the third person unless it's pertinent to the story. Sometimes it comes easy, other times it feels momentarily awkward and requires conscious effort, and then there are moments when I transgress and resolve to try harder next time.

While I wholeheartedly aspire to be an anti-racist, I also realize I have work to do. And although part of me thinks this is all a matter of making a big deal out of so very little, I wouldn't want a little thing leaving the door open for something bigger and uglier.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Your 2016 Presidential Nominees: Hillary Trump and Donald Clinton

Cruise Night (July 19, 2016)

The following pictures were taken at the weekly Kanata Cruise Night at the Hazeldean Mall. Proceeds from the event go to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

This experience reminded me of how I've always preferred natural light photography over studio or flash photography. (I'm not knocking studio photography, as great art can occur there. It's just not for me, as I prefer to venture out and search for the unexpected. As for flash photography - it's fine for ribbon cuttings or shots from the office Christmas party. However, it imposes an artificial blast of light on the subjects and obliterates whatever mood was set by the existing light.) Sometimes working with natural light is matter of navigating low or highly selective lighting conditions to find a compelling focal point, like a beacon in the darkness. Other times, as with this event (which I attended in the early evening), there is an overabundance of light, and so in addition to providing uniformly adequate lighting (where appropriate), it also presents opportunities to use the excess light to great effect. After all, chrome is meant to gleam, and so if you position yourself to catch the sun glinting off a shiny surface, it can give a picture the extra something it deserves, be it an enhanced sense of depth or contour, or merely a sort of photographic 'jewelry'.

Although I have always been infatuated with the overall forms and lines of classic cars, the graphic design and calligraphy geek in me has also become increasingly fixated on details and markings that hark back to an era where industrial design and lettering could be by turns brash, delicate or swanky, or some combination of all three. This was a time that was more free hand and open-ended, in thinking as well as execution, whereas today is an age of point-and-click plasticity.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gay discrimination is not a right, even for the 'religious right'

There is a childlike phenomenon among Christian conservative commentators, namely the indignation they express at the fact that their business-owning brethren cannot use their 'faith' as an excuse to discriminate against gay customers. And in order for their followers to buy into their logic, these commentators engage in intellectual dishonesty by way of conflating gay discrimination with Christianity itself.

This isn't the first time I've written about this phenomenon, and I thought I had already said what I had to say last year, but a recent opinion piece on the Charisma News website by Janet Boynes (Gay Agenda's Attacks on Christianity Leave Former Lesbian 'Frustrated') betrays more of the same dishonesty, and so I think the time is ripe to revisit this topic and clarify my thoughts in this regard.

In her piece, Boynes laments that Christian Mingle (a 'Christian' dating site), has been 'forced' to accept gay singles as members and to pay a fine to two gay men who had previously been denied membership on the basis of their sexual orientation. In keeping with the same logic espoused by others (such as Breitbart's John Nolte), Boynes wrings her hands and wails in despair at the prospect of the “Christian businesses/organizations that have been targeted and shut down or people who have lost opportunities because of their Christian beliefs”.

For one thing, discriminating against or publicly insulting one's gay brothers and sisters does not constitute practicing one's 'Christian' beliefs. Furthermore, engaging in or encouraging homophobia is not made any better or more noble if done under the guise of 'Christian' beliefs. In fact, there are some branches of Christianity who are more accepting of the gay community than others. Here in Canada, in fact, some churches even allow gays to join the clergy. And so it cannot be said that anti-gay beliefs are consistently promulgated across the Christian denominational spectrum.

As for the Christian Mingle case, the dating service in question is a business operating in the public sphere. Anyone should be able to be a customer without being discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality, even by businesses marketing themselves to the wider Christian community. But if 'Christian' beliefs are truly being targeted here, let's look at this case in a larger context by posing some questions:

  • Does Christian Mingle vet its members to ensure none of them will have pre-marital sex with each other? Do prospective members have to click Agree or Disagree in a pop-up window containing the statement: “I promise not to pass second base with fellow Christian Minglers”? (I don't know the answer to this, as I do most of my mingling with fellow Christians after Divine Liturgy during coffee hour in the church hall.)

  • If Christian Mingle members are using that service to engage in the sin of pre-marital sex with each other, then wouldn't that fact alone render a ban on gays in the name of 'Christian' beliefs somewhat hypocritical?

  • Does everyone who becomes a member of this service do so with the explicit purpose of having pre-marital sex, or do some use it to engage in platonic relationships? If the latter is true, then how 'Christian' is it to prohibit gay people from participating in a community that is Christian (in name, at least)?

  • Suppose a similar service was being run by a business whose owner(s) belonged to a heretical Christian sect that considered it a sin to be black (as offensively incompatible with any true Christianity such a notion would be), and thus made it their standard practice to ban blacks from doing business with them. Would this be easily forgiven as a simple matter of the business owners practicing their 'religious' beliefs? Would this be considered a 'freedom of religion' issue? If not, then why should it be any more acceptable to discriminate against gay people in a similar fashion?

And no matter how justified business owners feel in discriminating against gays, such practices have a deeply negative impact on the human beings on the receiving end. According to (in answer to the question What are the potential effects of discrimination?):

The potential effects of discrimination may also affect work and social relations between people of differing religions, cultures, gender, race and sexual orientation. For example, if a Muslim is discriminated against by a Christian, he may be less likely to interact, cooperate or associate with other Christians as a result. The feelings associated with discrimination can lead to stereotyping, which can discourage people from networking or associating with those who are related to a particular group based on race, gender, religious preference or culture.

The potential effects on a person's health and well being are also significant if discrimination continues. For example, the stress of being excluded and passed over for a promotion or job opportunities can lead to financial stress, mental strain, anxiety or depression. Self-confidence and self-esteem are potentially affected by discrimination as well. Stress can further ignite physical health symptoms due to discrimination, such as a rapid heartbeat, cold sweats and even stomach pain associated with ulcers.

Furthermore, the way I see it, when you discriminate against someone you assault their basic human dignity, and as seen above you are potentially causing mental, emotional and/or physical harm to that person. This would not seem to pass the What Would Jesus Do? test.

For additional evidence of how misguided Boynes' logic is, look no further than two of the other 'examples' she cites of businesses or individuals being persecuted for so-called 'Christian' beliefs:

  • “Twin brothers David and Jason Benham lost their opportunity to host their own HGTV show.” These guys lost the chance to host their own house-flipping show on HGTV after one of them made disparaging remarks about gays during a rally. But here's the thing – because the two were tapped to host an HGTV program, from that moment on they would be deemed to be representing HGTV when in public. Even though they wouldn't have necessarily been speaking explicitly on their new employer's behalf, anything they utter in public could nevertheless be seen as a reflection on HGTV. And with anti-gay comments tending to polarize the viewing public, HGTV was well within its right to act in the name of its own best interests by giving the Benham twins the boot. (Make that two identical boots.)

  • JONAH, who ran the largest Jewish gay conversion therapy organization, was sued and shut down.” Firstly, I'll ignore the obvious fact that this organization was Jewish, not Christian. Secondly, however, Boynes doesn't go into any detail at all about the facts behind the story. To do that, after all, would entail revealing that the key 'therapist' in question was not a licensed therapist, had no post-secondary education beyond an undergraduate degree in music and theatre, and often had his young clients strip in front of a mirror and touch their genitals while he watched. The organization also hosted weekend retreats in the woods that featured group nudity and creepy 'rebirthing' ceremonies. If you ask me, it would appear that 'gay conversion therapy' was but a thin pretext for targeting vulnerable adolescents for sexualization, which in itself seems to be sexual abuse of a sort. Maybe I'm wrong. Boynes should understand that this 'gay conversion' group was not shut down for promoting values in keeping with her own 'Christian' beliefs, but for consumer fraud and commercial practices that the courts found “unconscionable”. Boynes further omits the fact that, based on new information gleaned at the trial, the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America concluded that it could no longer endorse JONAH, as the organization no longer met its standards.

In short, before lobbying for the 'right' of businesses and individuals to engage in dubious practices in the name of 'Christian' beliefs, Janet Boynes and her colleagues on the religious right would be much better off to first get the hang of more basic Christian values, namely respect for other human beings (gay or straight), respect for the laws of the land (especially regarding discrimination), and of course honesty, inconvenient though it may be.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dear ADL: Do Palestinian lives matter?

Israeli police initiate ‘friction activity’ on quiet streets in East Jerusalem - See more at:
The following is an email sent to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on July 13, 2016.


Israeli police initiate ‘friction activity’ on quiet streets in East Jerusalem - See more at:
To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you for the work your organization has done since its inception to combat anti-Semitism specifically and bigotry in general. I especially appreciate the news items, commentary and research provided on your website, which I have frequently sought out for the purpose of taking stock of my own attitudes and beliefs during times of turmoil on the international stage. In this way, the Anti-Defamation League provides an invaluable public service, and for that I am grateful.

While I myself am not Jewish, I do not hesitate to proclaim that despite obvious dogmatic differences, the Christian values that inform my conscience are in fact decidedly Jewish values, and that my faith is historically rooted in and continues to be indelibly influenced by Judaism. This is something I acknowledge and celebrate. I am also confident that these same values inform your own fight against intolerance.

In light of a recent news report, however, I am feeling the need to contact you directly for your insight as well as ask some pointed questions.

As reported by Nic Hasson in a July 12, 2016 news article in Haaretz (Border Police Deliberately Provoke Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Internal Reports Say), it would appear that at least some of the unrest among Palestinians (which is supposedly hindering the peace process in that region) is being manufactured by Israel. According to the article:

Border policemen initiate “friction” with residents of East Jerusalem to provoke a violent response from them, according to police reports. Just such a provocation apparently took place in Isawiyah earlier this year, sparking confrontations in which a boy was seriously wounded

On January 6, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Border Police troops who entered the East Jerusalem village. During the confrontations Ahmed Abu Humus, 12, was shot in the head with a sponged-tipped bullet. Suffering serious brain damage, he was sedated and on a respirator for three weeks, and since then is not communicating with his family.

The article goes on to say that Eitay Mack, the lawyer representing the boy and his family, fought (unsuccessfully at first) to secure the file for the internal investigation on this case, and was initially told by Israel's Justice Ministry that “there was no evidentiary basis of an offense being committed.”

Eventually, the lawyer received the full file. According to Hasson, the file:

...included 10 reports made by police who were involved in the clashes. Nearly all of them reported that the events began with a “friction activity” or an “initiated friction activity.” One policeman named Timor said, “During the afternoon shift we launched an activity in Isawiyah to create friction with the residents.” Two other policemen reported that they “were asked to come to the Menta gas station in Isawiyah for a friction activity in the village,” and that they were briefed before getting started.  

From the above I believe we can assume two things, namely:

  • With said internal reports including consistent (and bureaucratically euphemistic) terminology such as "friction activity" and "initiated friction activity", it would appear that deliberate provocation of Palestinians is a standard sanctioned protocol. The fact that two police officers were instructed to attend to a "friction activity in the village" only further underscores that this incident was not a one-off incident by a group of rogue police officers.
  • The initial efforts of the Justice Ministry to conceal the truth of these events by denying that any offense had been committed shows that these police activities are state-sanctioned - otherwise, I'm sure that the Israeli state would have launched a vigorous and objective probe into police activities that serve no purpose other than to keep the region destabilized, thus placing Israelis and Palestinians alike at risk. But from what I can tell, this didn't happen.

It goes without saying that while your organization is pro-Israel, I don't expect it to necessarily be a knee jerk apologist for the Israeli government. Furthermore, I trust that your definition of 'anti-Semitism' doesn't hinge on whether one supports or objects to every decision of Israel's politicians, military or law enforcement officials.

Having said that, the chain of events referenced above (assuming they are being reported accurately and objectively), when viewed alongside some of the materials on your website, strikes a rather dissonant chord. Take for example an article in your Israel: A Guide for Activists section, entitled Response To Common Inaccuracy: Israel Is Not Interested in Compromise for Peace, which states:

Inaccuracy: Israel is not interested in or prepared to make meaningful compromises to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Response: Israel is committed to pursuing a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians so that it may finally live in peace and security. Israel was able to reach historic peace agreements with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) in which both sides made serious compromises for the sake of normalized relations.  

While Israel has made great efforts to promote serious negotiations and a final peace agreement with the Palestinians over the past two decades, peace has proved elusive primarily because there has not been a Palestinian peace partner willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and able to uphold peace commitments

If Israel is indeed "committed to pursuing a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians", then why is the Israeli state, via its police officers, engaging in "initiated friction activities" to deliberately provoke Palestinians into a violent response? Perhaps a "Palestinian peace partner" is too much of a threat to Israeli expansionism for the police to forgo such tactics? (I realize I'm making a leap here, but in the absence of a more satisfying explanation it is all-too-tempting to draw such conclusions.)

At the same time, your July 8, 2016 press release (ADL Welcomes DOJ Investigation of Death of Alton Sterling) decried the death of Alton Sterling at the hands of Baton Rouge police officers, and welcomed a civil rights investigation into the case by the U.S. Department of Justice while urging a similar investigation into the death of Philando Castile.

Given that you abhor and decry state violence perpetrated against vulnerable minority populations, and also given that there are elements or organizations that are quite happy to capitalize on such state violence for the purpose of radicalizing said minority populations, would it not be in the best interests of the people of Israel for the ADL to lend a voice of stern protest against the police tactics described above, and lobby for the civil rights of Palestinians?  Or are Palestinians even entitled to civil rights in your estimation?

You are quick to decry direct violence against Israeli citizens by Palestinian extremists - would it not demonstrate moral continuity to take Israeli authorities to task for deliberately making a dangerous situation worse for G-d knows what purpose? (From what I can see, your organization has not commented on the events in East Jerusalem as they pertain to these tactics. Please correct me if I've missed something, or if the events in question are recent enough that your position has yet to be formulated.)

And so, taking all of the above into consideration, please clarify your position on the tactics of the Israeli police as described above, and explain whether or not you agree that the safety of the people Israel (and the wider Jewish diaspora) is threatened by actions that appear to further what the ADL considers the 'inaccurate' view that "Israel is not interested in peace with the Palestinians".

On a more general note, your work is twofold: to fight intolerance and bigotry, as well as defend Israeli nationalism. In your organization's view, however, does the latter trump genuine concern for the safety of the Palestinian people and the overall stability of the region, or do you hold the Israeli state to be essentially blameless and therefore exempt from accusations of intolerance and bigotry (as expressed through state violence) towards its Palestinian neighbors?

On June 30, 2016 you called on the world to denounce the death of Hallel Ariel, a 13-year-old Israeli girl who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian extremist. Are you prepared to also denounce the deliberate (and potentially life-threatening) injury of 12-year-old Ahmed Abu Humus by Israeli police for purposes that remain unexplained and unjustified? Are you prepared to proclaim that Palestinian lives matter just as much as Israeli lives?

 Ahmed Abu Humus

Please note my refusal to adopt your own terminology ("Palestinian terrorist") to describe the Israeli teen's killer. If you are unwilling to label as "terrorism" the deliberate (and state-sanctioned) incitement of violence by Israeli police within a population vulnerable to radicalization, which agitates the very terrorist threat you decry, then I'm not going to play ball when it comes to highly-selective use of a term like "terrorist" for the purpose of advancing certain geopolitical interests. (Further to the twofold mission described above, it would seem the ADL serves two masters at once, thus putting itself in a moral conflict of interest on certain issues.)

Please note that this email will be posted in its entirety on my blog, as will any formal reply from you.

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to your response


James Deagle
Ottawa, Canada


Sunday, July 10, 2016

OpenIndiana Hipster: random notes of a distrohopper restrained

I'm still hanging in there with this installation of OpenIndiana Hipster, which I've been upgrading (via # pfexec pkg image-upgrade -v) at least once every other day, and sometimes every day.

Easy-peasy: rolling release upgrade with OpenIndiana Hipster

Here are some random notes from this leg of the journey:

Some like it (not as) hot

One thing I've come to appreciate is how this ThinkPad T61p seems to run at a lower temperature under OI Hipster than other operating systems. Whether it's Oracle Solaris, NetBSD or Linux Mint, normally you could probably fry an egg off the far left edge of this machine, right about where there appears to be a plastic 'grill' or something. With OI Hipster, however, it feels a wee bit warm after several hours of being on, but not nearly warm enough to cause me worry. (I wish I could report actual temperatures for the sake of scientific comparison, but this laptop tends to squirm and wriggle away at the sight of a thermometer.)

Ultimately, I can't say for certain that the lower temperature is a result of the current choice of OS, but nevertheless the coincidence seems too strong to ignore.

illumos + pkgsrc = the best of both worlds

One of the things that has kept me coming back to NetBSD time and again is the availability of certain increasingly-antiquated treats, particularly ones that only a fool for retro UNIX could adore. This includes many (if not all) of the classic window managers you'd ever want or need, including uwm, aka "The Ultrix Window Manager", from 1985, only for those who think twm makes for an appallingly decadent desktop experience, xearth (which turns the root window in Google Earth, though minus any interactivty whatsoever), as well as a decent assortment of games.

 As NetBSD as you wanna be: Motif Window Manager (mwm), with xearth 
running in the root window, as well as Scribus and xgalaga, courtesy of 
SmartOS' pkgsrc repository

On the other hand, one of OpenIndiana Hipster's (current) drawbacks is that it is somewhat light on applications, and until this is rectified, pkgsrc goes a long way towards bridging that gap. For Yours Truly this would mean Scribus for desktop publishing and layout design, though I recall reading somewhere that an illumos-native build was in the works in a tool shed somewhere in

The folks over at the SmartOS project have been working at maintaining a pkgsrc repository of pre-built binaries for those of us who just want to type $ sudo pkgin -y install xgalaga and be done with it. Just follow the prescribed directions, and keep in mind that if you're using gnome-terminal, you can copy and paste that long gobbledygook into your terminal session for accuracy and lower blood pressure.

Another beautiful thing about pkgsrc is that it allows me to run NetBSD packages, but much zippier. (I assume this is owing to the better hardware support on account of OI's ancestry in the commercial UNIX realm.)