Tech articles have moved again after a brief sojourn at my author site. They were out of place there as that site focuses on my fiction work and articles about the publishing industry. My interest in technology has always involved a lot of political judgements and so the tech section has moved to Contextual Politics.

For a while I maintained a website called Tech dot MMMporium that was later re-badged as Tech dot Mercia. The idea was to discuss how computer (and possibly other) tech had changed during my four decades as an end user. Other writing projects have intervened and only a handful of articles were written, so that site has been abandoned and the articles brought under my general author site. One day the original idea for that website might become a book, but no promises this time.



Today is the 23rd birthday of Debian, the Linux based operating system established by the late Ian Murdock (1973-2015) on 17 August 1993 when he was just 20 years old. I was a relative late comer to the Debian party not adopting it as my Linux distribution of choice until Debian Slink, which came out in 1999. At the time using Debian was like being a radical die hard who refused to accept that proper Linux users used a distribution based around the Red Hat packaging system. Although Debian's radical edge would remain it became the de facto version of Linux packaging when it was adopted by Ubuntu and its derivatives like Linux Mint.

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On 5 March 2016 an iconic figure of the digital age died. Ray Tomlinson does not have the name recognition of Steve Jobs, but he has a role in the lives of all connected to the internet: he added the @ sign to allow electronic messaging to be sent between computer servers that are not physically connected to each other. He created this programme on Arpanet, the network that would form one of the components of what became the internet we know today. As with other articles on Tech dot MMMporium I will not regale you with the full history of email, but will focus on my personal experience, which is probably more useful in giving a sense of the era to those who did not experience it.

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I first encountered Linux about May 1992 when the first ever Linux distribution was released: Softlanding Linux System or SLS. A distribution went beyond just the Linux kernel and the GNU tools to include software for end users such as the GNU Emacs word processor. I downloaded the entire distribution on a 2400 bits per second modem in the days when that also meant paying a large phone bill. I was interested in the project, but I had only one computer and needed that for writing my PhD. I was using Microsoft Word for Windows and I did not fancy trying to learn how to use the Linux text console word processors, even though I had only recently switched to Word from the text based Protext. So I reinstalled Windows and Microsoft Office and decided that I would return to Linux once it had a decent word processor.

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Social Media

What has really killed the watercooler moment is the combination of social media and smartphones. No longer is the national conversation dominated by a small collection of blockbuster TV shows, but is fragmented into a series of different social media platforms that often appeal to very different demographics, e.g., Facebook has been bleeding youth usage ever since parents and grandparents began using what began as a student platform. Not only is the conversation fragmented by platform, but social media by its nature revolves around the people in your virtual social circle.

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