Kelson Reviews Stuff - Page 1

Thunderbird (Email and Calendar)

★★★★★

Background

I used Thunderbird way back in the day when it and Firefox split off of Mozilla/Seamonkey, later switching to KMail on my Linux desktop (since it ran a lot faster) and then just using Gmail through the web. Recently I’ve been trying to reduce my dependence on Google, and since Thunderbird was familiar, cross-platform, and had just updated its UI (codename: “Supernova”), I figured I’d give it another shot.

Running It

It’s worked out great! More stable and capable than Microsoft Mail and News on Windows, fewer system complications than KMail on Linux (especially when running it on a non-KDE desktop), more capable than Geary on Linux, and more respectful of my privacy than the new Outlook. (That said, Geary is a great choice for low-resource systems.)

The new UI is a lot cleaner than it used to be, and most setup can be done without digging into the advanced settings. But the advanced settings are still there in case you need them.

Easy to set up multiple email accounts including Gmail and Outlook.com, can fully manage an IMAP account, and can even move messages between accounts (which is really helpful when migrating).

Also works well with Nextcloud calendar and contacts. Old directions will say you need an extension, but CalDAV and CardDAV support are built in now. The hardest part was looking up the right URL on my Nextcloud server!

I haven’t used it much on macOS, since the lighter-weight Apple Mail is good enough for most purposes, but it’s my preferred mail application on Windows and Linux these days.

Tech Notes

For email troubleshooting purposes: Thunderbird does not alter the raw source of messages when it saves them. This turned out to be crucial when debugging a 7bit vs quoted-printable issue because I could see what was actually being sent!

Also: For some reason, Fedora’s packaged Thunderbird launcher doesn’t auto-detect whether you’re running on Wayland or Xorg like Firefox does, so it runs in XWayland. You can install the thunderbird-wayland RPM package to get a launcher that runs it directly on Wayland.

Finally: Thunderbird, like Firefox and other Mozilla projects, is free/libre open-source sofware. You can audit the code, modify your own version, suggest bugfixes, or use another project that’s based on it. (Note to self: Try out Betterbird. Hat tip to Susan Calvin for the suggestion.)

Prickly Pear Trail

Alta Vicente Reserve (Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA)

★★★★☆

Narrow dirt trail going steeply down, paddle-like cactus immediately on each site. A tree or bush grows just past the cacti on the left. In the distance, past a brown field, trees, and a road, you can see the wide green grass of a golf course, a line of trees, a line of roofs, and beyond them the ocean and a blue sky.

Narrow dirt trail going steeply down, paddle-like cactus immediately on each site. A tree or bush grows just past the cacti on the left. In the distance, past a brown field, trees, and a road, you can see the wide green grass of a golf course, a line of trees, a line of roofs, and beyond them the ocean and a blue sky.A hill runs diagonally downward to the right, with low bushes nearby. In the middle distance is an expanse of green grass. Beyond it: several coves and promonitories with seaside cliffs, with a gentle hill sloping up to the left, the dark blue ocean looking calm below an empty blue sky.

Nice views of the ocean, Point Vicente Lighthouse and (on clear days) Catalina island. Short loop within Alta Vicente Reserve but with some steep sections. Keep your balance! This actually goes through a thick grove of prickly pear cactus at one point – downhill if you go clockwise! Today it was well-maintained, but I read that it can get badly overgrown at times. Not much shade except where it goes through was appears to be an abandoned farm.

A promonotory, roughly triangular or trapezoidal, with the ocean beyond it and a road curving along the near side, separating it from dry brown grass and low green scrub. The point is lined with bushes and dotted with palm trees. A handful of low white buildings with red roofs are scattered around, and a narrow lighthouse tower is just visible next to one of the palm trees.Two-wheeled metal contraption with a trailer hitch, rusting in dry grass. A stand of castor bean plants is silhouetted in the background by a blue sky.

You have to take the Alta Vicente and/or Nike trails to get to it. Park up at the city hall, go to the grassy park area, and look for the brick cube with the plaque. Rock-marked dirt trails lead off to the nature reserve.

The Alta Vicente trail, at least, allows bicycles and horses, though parts are a bit steep for cycling in my opinion. And I wouldn’t recommend biking downhill through the prickly pear grove, or riding a horse through it in either direction!

Starter Villain

John Scalzi

★★★★☆

A fun, fast read, parodying the James Bond Villain archetype. The main character is dropped into the deep end of supervillain society, complete with double-crosses, triple-crosses, assassination attempts, blackmail, framing…and of course the secret volcanic lair, superlasers, talking dolphins (who are really unpleasant and cranky) and a management layer of typing spy cats (who are much less so, depending on how well you feed and pet them).

Everyone knows he’s way out of his depth and wants to take advantage of him. But he knows it too – and between a background in business journalism and a willingness to listen to people with expertise (always considering that they have an agenda that might not be his own), he’s able to manage better than anyone expects.

Of course, the skills that get you to the top of the backstabbing, chaotic world of villainy…aren’t necessarily the best for financial stability. Or stability of any kind.

The Daughter of Odren

Ursula K. Le Guin

★★★★☆

A small, stand-alone tale set in Earthsea. Somewhere between “On the High Marsh” and one of the folk tales glimpsed throughout the series, only told by people who were there when it happened. Betrayal and revenge drive the plot, but underneath it all are themes of kindness, power, of living your life as best as you can under circumstances you can’t change, and the cost it sometimes takes to change them. And sometimes, figuring out what your best life is.

Star Trek: Picard - Season Three

★★☆☆☆

I did not like Picard: Season 3.

There were some elements that I liked, but overall?

If season one was like The Last Jedi, this is The Rise of Skywalker, complete with gratuitously resurrected villains, young characters freaking out about their genetics, a family/found family theme that only sort of makes sense, and a galactic-level threat that can only be defeated by taking out that one resurrected villain.

First I should talk about some of the things I did like about the show.

  • It was cool to see the cast reunited.
  • There’s some great acting buried in there. In particular the section where the crew thinks they’re stuck in a no-win scenario, with nothing they can do to even try changing it, and all they can do is wait for the inevitable.
  • Brent Spiner is clearly having fun with a sort-of-new character, who actually is fun to watch, as is his banter with LeVar Burton. Also, the way one character played by Spiner deals with the threat posed by another character played by Spiner is quite nicely done.
  • Worf as the old warrior who can still dish it out when he needs to, but no longer feels he has to prove himself all the time.
  • Seven of Nine figuring out herself and how she can fit into a “normal” Starfleet crew.
  • Raffi finding a way to put her rabbit-holing tendencies to good use.
  • Geordi finding a place where he can keep tinkering with technology for as long as he wants.
  • Captain Shaw is a horrible person who should never have been allowed anywhere near command track, even if he had dealt with his PTSD. But as a character he can be really interesting to watch when he isn’t just there to be in the way.
  • The creeping vine imagery actually does make sense eventually.
  • Looking for all the clues in the end credits sequence.

Before I get more into what the show is, here’s what it’s not.

  • It’s not a continuation of Picard: Seasons One and Two. We’re finally back on a Starfleet ship, but half the cast has been jettisoned to make room for the TNG crew to return, major events are ignored or simply handwaved away when they might contradict this season’s story (yeah, yeah, S2 was all time travel, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey ball and all that), and character development gets rolled back because the theme requires it.
  • It’s not ST:TNG Season 8. Yes, the crew is back and there’s a Starfleet ship, but like the earlier seasons of Picard, it’s one long story.
  • It’s not a “celebration of Star Trek: The Next Generation.” This is not a tight-knit crew of competent people working together to solve interesting problems. It’s not even put your heroes’ feet to the fire and see what they do. The crew is broken, in more ways than Discovery’s crew under Lorca. Beloved guest stars continue to show up just long enough to get killed off. And the big finale is basically Star Wars with a side of Battlestar Galactica.
  • It’s not fun to watch (except for a few bits).
  • It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. Forget fridge logic, this was full of “why would anyone do this?” moments. This isn’t a madcap comedy like Lower Decks, it’s trying to be serious, and it undermines itself at every turn.
  • It sure as heck isn’t a “love letter to the fans.” Or if it is, it’s to fans who liked something different about the show than I did. I’m reminded of Flash: Rebirth, when a lot of fans were thrilled to have Barry Allen back after a quarter century, but I just didn’t see the Barry I knew. He had the same name, appearance and job, but that was it. (It wasn’t just disappointment in Wally being sidelined, either. I quite liked “The Dastardly Death of the Rogues” once the series got going, and it felt like Barry was actually back.)

So, what is Star Trek: Picard about?

  • Season One is about our heroes fighting against xenophobia, with a galaxy-ending threat for the finale.
  • Season Two is about finally dealing with unresolved trauma so you can move on with your life. With a galaxy-ending threat for the finale.
  • Season Three is trying to be about family, both biological and found, but is mostly about reopening old wounds so you can probe them again and see if this time they scar differently. With a galaxy-ending threat for the finale.

It’s like the show wants to pretend the first two seasons didn’t happen, but can’t because it also wants to use elements from them. For example: The first season tried to bring some closure to Data and to the Borg. Season two tried to bring closure to Q, and a different kind of closure to the Borg. And season three tries to bring yet another kind of closure to both Data and the Borg. It would work better if earlier seasons hadn’t already done these things…but it uses plot points from season one to do it.

Spoilers below!

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There’s a scene in one episode where Dr. Crusher asks out loud, have we really lost our moral compass this completely? And then proceeds to show that they have. At least she’s not trying to torture someone in that scene, like Raffi and Worf do earlier. Trek has explored a lot of morally gray areas, but when the “good guys” are stuck there, it’s usually about finding the least-bad option, not just the most expedient.

Some of the tech, IMO, should’ve just been handwaved. Why would transporters use standard DNA templates to save on data storage? It still needs enough room in the pattern buffer to handle unfamiliar lifeforms and other complex structures. And if it’s regenerating from the differences, wouldn’t the lack of the inserted code be part of the diff it was using to reconstruct them? Never mind that we’re still only talking about genes, not the structures they code for, which need time to grow. And if it’s set up that far ahead of time, a retrovirus makes a lot more sense, and doesn’t require retconning the way transporters work. (Or they could’ve just said the transporters had been reprogrammed to insert the actual structure.)

The part that really doesn’t make sense, though, is Frontier Day.

  1. The idea of gathering the entire fleet in one place is such a colossally bad idea that it should’ve been shot down ages ago, no matter how many high-ranking personnel had been replaced by Changelings.
  2. There’s no way that’s the entire fleet.
  3. The idea of giving every ship in the fleet a remote control mode that can’t be overridden and is run by a single system? I had literally just watched Lower Decks show how badly that can go with only a few ships. Who the heck greenlit the “Fleet Mode” project, anyway, Badgey and Peanut Hamper? (OK, that’s my headcanon now. Well, Lower Decks threw a wrench into that one.)

And by the finale, the centralization of the Borg is complete. When they first showed up, they were completely distributed, like a peer-to-peer mesh network. Take out half the nodes in that network, and as long as the other half could stay in contact, they were fine. Didn’t matter which ones. No hierarchy, no structure, no critical nodes to knock out. No node was more important than any other. By First Contact they had a queen. By Voyager the collective had hierarchies. And now, not only is there a queen, but she’s the same queen, and she’s sucked the life out of all the other Borg in her collective so that she, personally, can stay alive. And there’s one Borg who can broadcast control over their new drone army. And one transmitter that can amplify that signal.

The distributed collective has been reduced to a single point of failure.

(I suppose it could be a commentary on monarchy and wealth concentration draining the public dry, but I’m not sure I can credit them with anything deeper than “Hey, let’s bring the Borg Queen back! What a great villain to go out with!” Which is another thing: Star Trek stories can have villains, but they don’t have to.)

In the end, there’s only one ship that’s spaceworthy but old enough to not have the vulnerable upgrades (just like the Galactica!), and it has to fly into the center of this giant platonic solid so it can blow up the generator – I mean droid control center – I mean beacon – and they have to kill the surprise-resurrected emperor – I mean queen… It’s Phantom Menace, Return of the Jedi and, yes, Rise of Skywalker.

And now Starfleet has to handle an entire generation of ex-Borg dealing with the trauma of being forced to murder their crewmates.

And finally, there’s that teaser of the Enterprise-G, with Captain Seven of Nine, First Officer Raffaela Musiker, pilot Sidney La Forge, and, um, this Crusher guy that they made up a position for so he could be on the bridge. I was actually thinking, if they do a spinoff with these characters, I’d totally check it out. But then Q showed up. Which would’ve been annoying in any case, but after a whole season about saying goodbye to Q, it just felt like it cheapened the whole thing.