23 January 2018

Of cruelty mistaken as cuteness and affection

People find weird things cute. They pluck off the reproductive parts of plants, sniff it and gift it to people. They enjoy watching animals perform tricks. They keep flight-gifted creatures as pets in tiny cages.

A little digression. This isn't similar to how vegans oppose the cruelty meted out to animals. We have to eat. Even the plants are mercilessly uprooted, made to suffocate during transport, chopped, boiled and killed when still alive. The eyes of the potato watch you as you approach it with a knife :-) But basically, we have to eat. So there's nothing wrong with being omnivorous. If you still want to oppose that, then the right way to end it is by manufacturing the chemicals that constitute food, 3D printing it into food and eating it.
When it comes to gifting and pets though, there are some things a sensible human can do:
1. Flowers: Gifting the dying carcass of a plant reproductive system is not a necessity.
2. Animal tricks: Unless the animal actually enjoys it (dog taught to fetch a ball), don't make animals do tricks.
3. Birds as pets: This is the main topic I was coming to. Many people, especially women and children, love the idea of keeping birds as pets. People; no matter how well you take care of your birds, it's sadist behaviour. A pair of budgie birds were gifted to a person I know, and she wanted to breed them. So the birds gave rise to five more baby budgies, and she's really happy. But I've observed the behaviour of these budgies for many months now. Although they are reasonably affectionate to humans, their natural behaviour tends to finding the highest perch available and flying away from human contact as much as possible. They are independent, intelligent, curious creatures that are denied their freedom because somebody thinks it's cute to own them.

Here are some things you need to know:
  • The bait: Pet shop owners sell budgies at Rs.150 per bird. One thinks that's reasonable until one realizes that for the duration of the bird's life, one has to buy it seeds from the same shop. So each bird sold, gives them a permanent customer. Now that they know they got you hooked, they charge exorbitant prices for the seeds. In Bangalore, bird seeds that are meant for budgies and finches, are purchased by shop owners for Rs.26 per kg and sold at Rs.50 or even at Rs.100 per kg. The same people sell it at Rs.220 or Rs.300 per kg on online shopping sites. Also sold, are vitamins etc. which the birds don't really need if you simply feed them with a natural diet of greens along with the seeds. Feeling cheated already?
  • The possible scam: The pet industry in USA is worth $66 BILLION. I've known shop owners India who deliberately or unknowingly keep pet birds and fish which have parasites, so that customers who buy it would come back to buy more when the pet dies. I've also purchased plants from a local seller who said he had medicines for plants if I ever needed them. I asked what the medicines were, and he didn't know. A week after purchasing the plants, powdery mildew started growing on them and it never went away. The plants were in a constant state of death. I'd suspect they deliberately sold us diseased plants so that there would be more business via "plant medicine" sales. Would the increase in pet cancer be from something deliberately introduced into pet food? Just speculating.
  • Don't set them free: Animals and birds raised in captivity do not know where to find food and how to defend themselves. They also do not have the stamina to escape predators. They don't even know how to escape predators when pursued (I've seen it happen). If you already have a pet, keep it with you and care for it. Don't let it breed and create more of its kind that will have to live a captive life too. If you have birds, give them a larger space to fly around. Don't think you are giving them sufficient opportunity to fly if you have an aviary or allow them to fly in your room. A bird enjoys flying only when it's able to flap its wings and then glide at high speed for a long distance. Breeding a bird and keeping it caged denies it of its fundamental right to fly free.

Having a pet was an old tradition. Of a time when cruelty was considered normal. Crazy behaviour was considered a normal part of a ritualistic, egoistic society. Of a time when people were a lot less civilized and immature.

We do not have to continue those practices. Please....stop buying pets. Stop breeding them. Stop forcing them to live an unhappy, bored life in captivity. If you've rescued them and are taking care of them, it's an entirely different thing. Just don't breed more captives for your pleasure/profit.

Your imagined cuteness is a heartless cruelty.

15 January 2018

Summary: Ubuntu's 17.10 bug 1734147 which makes motherboards unusable is now fixed

The last time I tried Ubuntu 17 was on a non-Intel motherboard, so nothing happened. But there was something that I didn't like, so switched back to 16. Now I read that Ubuntu 17.10 has a bug which corrupts the BIOS and prevents USB boot.

Why it happens: This happens because Intel's SPI driver (allows the OS to rewrite firmware's flash memory) causes the firmware to become write protected. This happens only in Intel Broadwell and Haswell machines with serial flashes with SPI_NOR_HAS_LOCK set.

If your BIOS is affected: Try the fixes mentioned on this page. If it doesn't work, you may have to replace the flash memory chip or the entire motherboard, depending on how it is manufactured.

Is it fixed? Yes. This page mentions the problem, the fix and the machines affected. You can now fearlessly download Ubuntu versions higher than 17.10, and you won't have any trouble.

Lesson: Although contrary to conventional advice, it helps to not have automatic updates enabled, and to upgrade to a new version of an OS only after some time has elapsed since its release.