The Future of Impact

•19 November, 2014 • Leave a Comment

There’s been a lot of doom-mongering about the future of TNA wrestling lately. For those of you who don’t follow the ins and outs of the company’s finances, or wrestling politics for that matter: things are looking a bit grim. But I wouldn’t be placing bets on its demise just yet.

In short, they’re not generating the advertising revenue Spike TV wants, so their contract for US network TV officially came to an end a short time ago. Yes, this is a major revenue stream. Yes, they have had to cancel any live shows that weren’t being used for TV tapings. But this situation needs putting in context.

Firstly, they are still pulling some of Spike’s biggest audiences. The advertising revenue issue is a problem all network TV has due to people watching on on-demand services and skipping the ad’s. This means that live sports are the TV jackpot. For some reason, going out live either didn’t remain viable for long, or didn’t produce the hoped-for results for TNA and Spike. However, wrestling is a virtually-guaranteed million viewers, and that’s not to be sniffed at in a saturated TV market. So Impact has been moved from Thursday, where it was up against live sports, to Wednesday. Negotiations with Spike are, last I heard, ongoing.

TNA has been here before. In fact, WWE (specifically Raw) has been here before. At least Viacom (Spike’s owners) have been careful not to release any damaging statements (an action that weakened WWE’s position in TV negotiations in the past). TNA have recorded shows that will take Impact up to sometime in December or January, so doubtlessly their position with Spike and other interested parties will depend on how they fare on Wednesdays over the next few weeks. One thing has to be said, though: Unlike WWE, TNA are not publically listed, so chaos won’t come from a sudden collapse in share price if a TV deal goes belly-up. And, crucially, US network TV is not TNA’s only revenue stream; Impact has been sold to 15 other broadcasters worldwide.

Honouring contracts that include a pay-per-view show each month has already meant that TNA have had to produce special shows for international broadcasters while they wind down their actual pay-per-view cable broadcasts in America. So, if a US TV deal is not forthcoming, the most likely scenario is this: Impact will probably continue to be made, and shown in the US on their on-demand website. It happened this way when Fox Sports Net dropped Impact in 2005. With a UK tour coming up, the cheapest way to produce episodes may be to tape the whole tour as they did at the beginning of this year. This would cover them for 6 weeks from the end of January, meaning that, at most, they will have to do a couple of US dates just to cover a TV gap at the start of the year. TNA is not dead and buried yet (but it appears to be very sick).

Adventures with a Heisenbug

•10 November, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As I said last week, I decided it was time to return to the arms of Red Hat. My laptop, seeing as I still have the necessary on a pen drive, will merely be put back to Lubuntu 12.04. However, I did have a bit of a soft spot for Fedora back when I was using it in 2007/8 so I wondered if it would be worth trying it out as an alternative. Seeing as this was a bit of an indulgent experiment, I also thought it might be worth trying to use the KDE spin, as I just like the way KDE works. So I’ve done the rigmarole of making a live DVD, and I’ve got everything set up. Two weeks later, I’ve tested some of the things I was worried about and I have to say I’m quite happy with Fedora 20.

The one issue I’ve found so far is that Konqueror 4.14.2 is shit. But we all knew that anyway, didn’t we? Specifically, it crashes if you so much as look at it funny, and corrupts any jpeg files that you download with it. Sure it’s designed to integrate prettily with KDE, like many other K programs, but Firefox 33 is far less hassle to use. Amarok could use some extra features and lose some of the ones it has, but it does the media player bit nicely enough. And I’ve set LibreOffice as my default suite because everything else seems to make a total hash of .rtf files, Calligra is no exception.

If I’m totally honest, there’s a level of childish glee to my computing at the moment that I haven’t experienced in a very long time. KDE is a lot of fun, very customisable, and includes a lot of bells and whistles. I’ve got boxed-off folders full of visible files on one desktop, blown-up launch icons for my most used applications, and a massive fucking clock. I really love the Massive Fucking Clock widget. The point here is this: it all looks nice. It all feels nice. Some of it is pointless (why would you need to name your desktops anything other than desktop 1, desktop 2, and desktop 3? I named them Bureau, Switchboard, and Kitchen Table anyway…), and I can understand that some users might not like the way KDE works. Heck, the launcher menu is a little overcomplicated, but with panel customisation and drag-and-drop facilities to make programs launch from desktop widgets, who cares? The one downside in comparison to Ubuntu is that installing propritary software is a bit more fiddly. Installing Microsoft fonts has turned into a fight where it wasn’t a problem with Ubuntu. On the other hand, though, because the arrangment of user accounts is more traditionally ‘Linux’, I can see what’s really happening more easily – and I always regard that as a good thing.

The verdict? I still wouldn’t recommend Fedora for a novice, but it’s the next step into Linux computing from Ubuntu.

So much for ‘Trusty’

•4 November, 2014 • Leave a Comment

So, after my initial burst of enthusiasm, I discovered that Lubuntu 14.04 has one or two flaws. One is minor. Apparently, a few people have had their sound mysteriously disappear after a recent update of the Linux kernel. In at least once case, their sound mysteriously reappeared. I never got to the bottom of the problem and so submitted a bug report, but I wasn’t feeling confident that an issue effecting a handful of users was going to be fixed by an update. I can live without sound on my PC, at least for a few months while 14.10′s release version finishes teething, but the other problem was too much to bear. You see, Lubuntu 14.04 does not play nicely with USB memory drives.

I recently bought a new desktop PC. My laptop wasn’t doing my back any good, and a concerted job hunt was always going to require my spending hours a day at my own desk. So my mum loaned me the money to get my workspace sorted and comfortable. Before I got round to this, I transferred my files from my laptop (then running Lubuntu 12.04) to an external hard drive, installed 14.04 on my laptop, and put the files back. So far, so good. Obviously, I did a bit of work between this and buying my new PC, so I thought I’d transfer the current version of my laptop’s files to the new PC (which I had also installed Lubuntu 14.04 on). This is where the trouble began.

I shouldn’t have deleted the previous backup – it was only 20GB on a terabyte hard drive. Instead, I did, and started uploading my files from my laptop. The process kept stopping. Just stopping dead. Usually while transferring my photo files. I had to just pull the plug – pull out the hard drive and let the laptop run out of power. I tried reducing the number of files I transferred in one go. Same problem. Meanwhile, I was making enough of a mess that I ended up using Gparted to reformat the external drive.

Thinking that maybe it was a hardware problem, I decided to do the job piecemeal with a 4GB stick. This time, it corrupted filenames, and gave me a list of failed files with an error whose description I now can’t remember. Searching the forums, I found someone having a similar problem, and they were told that the error message in question was the sign of a failing computer hard drive. Brilliant. So I tried to transfer the files that made it onto my PC. More files not copying due to the same error. I was beginning to think that maybe it wasn’t my hardware at fault, and I don’t know enough to be able to convey what was happening in a useful bug report. So I threw my hands up in frustration and decided to look up an old friend I hadn’t seen in years: Red Hat.

Or is it?

•28 October, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This has been something of a frustrating week – my life marred (as usual) by my own shortcomings. I lost Sunday, where I was supposed to be attending a show by the ever-more-popular Kamikaze Pro Wrestling, to a bitch of a hangover that left me totally bed-ridden until 11pm. I am not 21 anymore. While I regret nothing about Saturday and the decisions I made, I need to cut down on my drinking so I can actually haul myself to where I need to be afterwards.

Not that that’s guaranteed. Despite no longer having the variable shift pattern to contend with, I can’t seem to regulate my sleep. Last night’s game was ‘being dog tired, then having a panic attack for a while, before falling asleep for 11 hours’. I just can’t seem to get this ‘regular sleep’ thing to happen no matter how hard I try. I mean, I have to keep trying, so I can pretend I’m a functioning member of society, but sometimes I wish I could just go with the flow and waver between bursts of activity and crashes.

Furthermore, I have been trying to work myself up to writing fiction again. It may not seem like much of a big ask, but I’m getting a sense of paralysis every time I think about doing it. It’s probably just the usual writers’ angst: the belief that one’s writing is shit that is usually only overcome by the fear of disapproval when deadlines are missed. Or alcoholism, but, you know, see above… As such, I probably ought to try some exercises. Like sitting in front of a blank page and not fucking move until I’ve written something, no matter how execrable. But then, I’m confronted by the usual set of anxieties about how I ought to be doing something that’s somebody else’s idea of contructive will start rearing their ugly heads. As they do when I try to do anything that isn’t reading buzzfeed links from facebook.

So my jobhunt crawls on slowly, while I get annoyed with myself that I’m not doing enough for self-improvement and watch entropy consume a bedroom that I spent three days solid cleaning not so many weeks ago. And (speaking of writing) yes, this is just another rambling, stream-of-consciousness post while I try to fulfill a personal quota.

I don’t know what conclusions to draw from all of this. Sometimes I think I’m tired of life. I’ve felt passively suicidal a few times recently, and that’s starting to worry me a little. I want to think I’m starting to wake up again, as I said over a week ago, but I just feel like there’s a stretched void of nothing inside me right now. And maybe that’s as much of a barrier to my doing things as the anxieties. I don’t like feeling as though I only exist, but freedom from the mistakes of the last couple of years isn’t turning out to be a magical cure…

It’s Alive!

•14 October, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’ve recently discovered that I haven’t been alive for these past two years. I have merely been existing. This came as a bit of a shock to me at first, but I suppose it’s understandable, given the circumstances I’ve sleep-walked into.

My parents offered me the money to do a Masters degree. Even 12 months later, that money wouldn’t be enough, what with tuition fee rises, so I took it. I needed a part-time job so I could eat, so I took the soft option and went back to The Cinema. My course ended, so I tried to leave The Cinema and ended up in a six-month temping Hell. And then I made the real mistake.

I quit temping to look for a permanent job. I could afford to languish on the dole until I got a permanent job, but The Cinema was recruiting again. So I figured more money couldn’t hurt. The difference was that I had moved house during the temping fling, and now the commute to The Cinema was 95 minutes. Assuming that I would get some kind of better job soon, I spent recklessly on a credit card. That meant that my monthly bills increased. Before I knew it, I had moved to another cinema in the chain, with a 105 minute commute, and was spending all the proceeds from a working week that I couldn’t afford to dip below 21 hours plus breaks. My job hunt was barely happening. This new site was very stressful and I allowed myself to engage with trying to improve the place. Suddenly all my waking time was being taken up with The Cinema. I got up, I went to work, I came home, I tried to vapourise my brain into submission so I could sleep, I started the cycle again.

I walked like a zombie through my days off, not being able to bring myself to any kind of creativity. Desperately craving validation, I’d spend a lot of time on facebook. I wasn’t writing, and I wasn’t even remembering. Seriously, I’ve forgotten so much in the last couple of years. This zombie existence plus a brain fried with insomnia has left my memory in shattered fragments. The only times I faded into life were when I was in active social company (thank God for wrestling and Dungeons & Dragons).

Now that I’m no longer walking through the grey mists of a mere existence, it’s time to take stock. Put in place the things that are important before I return to the world of work. Become myself again. I’m having a painful relationship with sleep at the moment, but I’m sure that will pass. Even so, I’ve taken the opportunity during some of the sleepless hours to read Sæmund Sigfusson’s Eddas, so I’m already starting to reconnect with parts of myself that I was losing. Normal service may well be resumed shortly.

Adventures with a Trusy Tahr

•29 September, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’m not a technical computer user, despite the nerd points I get for using Linux. I’m comfortable doing text computing to fix the occasional problem, but I don’t have an immediate and ready knowledge of text commands for things. As such, I keep it user-friendly. So I use Ubuntu, and since they brought in Long Term Support I tend to stick with those releases so I only have to upgrade my software every couple of years.

My current computer is a Toshiba Sattelite Pro 450, vintage 2007/8. It came with Windows 7, but didn’t run it spectacularly efficiently. And when I tried Unity-flavoured Ubuntu at around the 11.04 or 12.04 stage, that sat on my system like a hippo. So for the last couple of years I’ve been trying to use as lightweight an operating system as possible. I started with Xubuntu, but even that was a little slow. So I tried Lubuntu 12.04 and that was as good as it got.

So support was winding down, and I had a level of wariness about Trusty Tahr: two years on, my laptop may be virtually obsolete. Or so low-rent that I can only run Puppy Linux on it. So it was a real concern that even the latest Lubuntu would run slowly on my venerable machine. As it happens, I needn’t have worried.

The only real problem I encountered was during installation. I tried to go with the “encrypted hard drive” option, but it got upset with the hard drive cache and crashed, having already wiped the disk. Apparently, a small cache is normal now, to increase the speed of hard drives, so this is probably a flaw in Trusty, but I don’t have the expertise to even try to express this in a bug report (I suspect several of my computer programmer friends are probably laughing at my neandertahlish ignorance here…). Furthermore, despite my selecting the UK keyboard layout during installation, Trusty thought I had an American keyboard after installation. It had a ‘UK with winkey shortcuts’ option, but when I set that up, my calculator button brought up the Shutdown menu.

Those shortcomings are niggles. In every other respect, Lubuntu 14.04 is everything I want from an OS. Somehow, it’s even more lightweight than 12.04. Even the demo version (my mum, scared of deleting a Windows system on her netbook that’s full of viruses, browses the internet with an Lubuntu demo on a stick) is faster than Precise’s. This has probably been achieved partially by the removal of the screensaver options (who needs a graphical screensaver anyway?). This is fine. I could never get my chosen screensavers in 12.04 to stick after finishing a session anyway. At least now my choices as to when the screen goes blank actually save in Trusty. Plus, the panel customisation in Lubuntu 14.04 is intuitive and actually works. This is a first for me in 9 years of Linux use. Overall, I have to say “well done” to Canonical and the LXDE foundation.

Uncertain Futures

•24 September, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I have parted company with my on/off employers for good this time. The circumstances stink, frankly, but I’m not in a position to go into that in any greater depth right now. What I want to talk about today is the nature of the benefits system. I may find I have a lot to say about this as time goes on.

There are two persistent rumours that I’ve heard about jobseeker’s allowance, and I must admit that I had previously mistaken them for facts myself. One is that you must wait seven days before making a claim. The other is that if you leave a job voluntarily, you cannot claim for six months. The truth, according to the Department for Work and Pensions’ own literature is both more complex and more horrible. Bear in mind from the start that whistleblowers have recently confirmed the suspicion among the public that Jobcentre workers are now required to be as obstructive as possible to people who are out of work. So the following is not an idle threat by the DWP. I’ll quote wholesale from the hand leaflet:

“If you chose to leave your job, we’ll ask for the reason why. You need to show that you had a good reason for leaving. Your last employer may be asked to comment on any statement you make.

Jobcentre Plus will make a decision based on a number of things, which nclude whether it was reasonable for you to take the action you did.

If we decide that you left your job without good reason, you will lose your benefit for between 13 and 156 weeks (3 years).”

On the one hand, at least it’s not an automatic six months (although maybe that’s the time they strike off by default). On the other hand, three years!? Note also that you are still expected to claim as soon as you leave. So if you believe the rumours and don’t claim for six months, a six-month sanction could be slapped on you on top of your mistaken self-imposed benefit-free period.

If this wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse:

“If you were dismissed from your job, we’ll ask your last employer for the reasons. You will be able to comment on what they say.

Jobcentre Plus will decide whether you have lost your job because of the way you behaved. If we do decide that this is the case, you will lose your benefit for between 13 and 156 weeks (3 years).”

In other words, the only way to get Jobseeker’s allowance immediately is by getting made redundant. Fan-bloody-tastic. So, as if being in a minimum wage job wasn’t bad enough, if a petty management team sacks you over a minor transgression, you can be left up shit creek without a paddle because the government want to make a show of cutting a benefits bill that never really had any excess to slice. Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it?

 
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