Archive for May 2011

Installing Google Chrome on OpenSuse with KDE desktop

While I am a political animal nowadays, I am, first and foremost, a geek and I’ve been indulging my inner geek this last couple of weeks by installing Linux on a couple of laptops.

I haven’t played with Linux for about 7 or 8 years so I went for one of the most popular distros.  It was going to be Ubuntu but it wouldn’t install on Mrs Sane’s laptop – a common problem with Ubuntu not liking the graphics card – so I plumped for OpenSuse instead and the KDE desktop.

The OpenSuse install went like a dream.  The Partition Manager wasn’t the easiest to understand but that’s largely down to me not really thinking about what I was doing properly so I ended up only partitioning half the drive (note to self: remember to resize the partition on the laptop).  The second install I did I did it properly – delete the Windows partitions, rescan the disk and go with the recommendations.

I encountered a couple of problems once I’d got OpenSuse and KDE installed which I’ll walk through below for the benefit of anyone else installing OpenSuse for the first time.

Changing your hostname

Figuring out how to change the hostname on KDE was the first thing that posed me a challenge but I found it eventually.  The hostname is the name of your computer as it appears on the network and OpenSuse randomly generates one for you.

Here’s how to change it:

Click on the Application Launcher button (where the Start button is in Windows).  Hover over the Computer icon at the bottom and then click on Yast.  You will need to provide your root password for Yast.  Select Network Devices on the left hand list and then Network Settings on the right.  You’ll get a message saying that the network is controlled by NetworkManager – just click ok.  Select the Hostname/DNS tab and put the new computer name in the Hostname box.  If your computer is part of a domain, put the domain name here, otherwise whatever you enter will be the workgroup your computer is a member of.  You may need to log off and back on again for the changes to take effect.

Installing Google Chrome

The other thing that gave me a headache was installing Google Chrome.  This one wasn’t as easy to resolve as the hostname thing but I got it figured out in the end.  If Google want to increase the take-up of Chrome on Linux then they really need to improve the installation process because it just doesn’t work on OpenSuse with KDE.  Here’s how to do it:

Go to and download Chrome.  Make sure you choose the correct installer – you want an rpm package.  Once the package is downloaded, open a Terminal window.  You need to be logged in as root to install Google Chrome so type in su – root, press enter and provide your root password.  The installer package will be downloaded to /tmp so type in cd /tmp.  Now you need to install the package – type in zypper – install google-chrome-stable_current_i386.rpm.

During the install you may be prompted for your root password and permission to install a number of packages – enter your password  and agree to the other packages.  Strangely, the installation package doesn’t actually install everything Google Chrome needs – without the png library, Chrome will load and then shut down without even displaying anything on the screen.  To install the png library, you need to run zypper -install pnglib12-0.

The case for a British Confederation

Yesterday I explained that I don’t want a vote on Scottish independence and predicted how Alex Salmond would approach “independence” for Scotland.

If I am right about my prediction of what form Scottish “independence” will take is right – ie. a confederation – then that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The ideal way to govern the UK is with a confederation where the home nations voluntarily pool resources and responsibility for matters that they choose to co-operate on such as defence and foreign affairs.  This differs from federation or the current system of devolution in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in that the powers the confederal government has are passed up from the countries that are part of it rather than being passed down from a federal government.  It’s an important differentiation because it means the members of the confederation retain their independence and sovereignty within parameters agreed by those members rather than being told what independence and sovereignty they are allowed from the centre.  But such a confederation would have to be between England, Scotland, Wales and perhaps Northern Ireland, not between Scotland and “Britain”.

This isn’t just idle conjecture on my part, I have been giving the idea of a confederation thought for some time now.  Here’s how I see it working:

An elected confederal “senate” would replace the House of Lords dealing with defence, foreign affairs and whatever else is handed up to the confederal government and an independent English Parliament would govern England as a sovereign nation within the confederation.  Scotland and Wales would similarly be governed as sovereign nations by their own government.

Northern Ireland is a bit of an oddity and might not choose to take part in a confederal government in the same way.  Clearly unification with the Republic is not the answer – it would alienate and antagonise at least half the population and it’s not in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement – so why not give Northern Ireland the same status as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and make it a Crown Dependency, governing itself as it does now with the confederal government responsible for its defence and jointly for foreign affairs as it is for the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man?

The confederation would be the legal successor to the union, taking over the UK’s seat on the UN, NATO, the EU and any other organisation the UK is a member of unless the members agree that one of their number should become the successor state instead such as Scotland taking over the UK’s membership of the EU as the most europhile nation in the UK.  It would also mean that the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories (Falklands, Bermuda, etc.) would work in the same way and could even become members of the confederation on equal terms to England, Scotland and Wales.

The confederal government could be funded by subscription from its members or by direct taxation.  A customs union and Shengen-type agreement would maintain the free movement of goods and people.  A confederal government would need very few politicians, perhaps even being made up of appointees from the national governments and the national governments should be unicameral, resulting in a net reductions of politicians.

A confederation also neatly sidesteps the issue of a federation being unconstitutional under English law.  One of the key properties of a federation is that the existence of the devolved legislatures are protected by law in perpetuity.  Under the English constitution, no British Parliament may bind its successor making it impossible to legislate in this way.  A new English Parliament for an independent England wouldn’t need an Act of the British Parliament to protect its existence, nor would it need an Act of the English Parliament to do so as its existence would be implicit in the fact that England would be an independent, sovereign nation voluntarily delegating powers to a “British Confederation”.  The English and Scottish Crowns can remain united in a personal union as they did before the 1707 Act of Union and the Queen can remain Head of State either through being Head of State of the confederation or the members in their own right.

The members of the confederation would be free to pursue their own economic policies, raising or lowering taxes, increasing or decreasing spending.  Scotland can become the socialist republic it strives to be, England can continue down the road of free market enlightenment.  Scotland can go nuclear-free, England can keep the lights on.

One of the criticisms of supporters of an English Parliament is that they never come up with anything other than a nebulous idea about self-government.  In the case of the Campaign for an English Parliament that’s deliberate because, to paraphrase the Scottish Claim of Right, they quite rightly say that it’s for the people of England to determine the best form of government for themselves.  Well I’m a person of England and I think this is the best form of government for my country.  Discuss.

I don’t want a vote on Scottish independence

So it’s a couple of weeks since the SNP romped home to a comprehensive victory in the Scottish Parliament elections and there’s still no sign of an independence referendum but there is still plenty of talk about what the “independence” will be and who should have a vote.

Alex Salmond Laughing

So I sez "Aye, give us a coupla billion and we wunnae hold the referendum". I didnae expect him tae do it!

Scotland will never be independent, even if it leaves this union because the SNP intends Scotland to be a member of the EU, leaving a union it has a disproportionate amount of control over for a union in which it will be a tiny irrelevant voice.  But that’s a decision for the Scots to make and if they choose to take that path then more fool them.

Alex Salmond has already been talking down independence and suggesting what will be, in all but name, a confederation of Scotland and “Britain” in which Scotland remains in a union voluntarily and on their own terms with “Britain”.  Presumably he has looked at Dubai’s bailout of Abu Dhabi and decided to hedge his bets.

Lots of people are demanding a vote in Scotland’s independence referendum, arguing that if the union is to be dissolved then it’s not just the Scots who should  be able to vote on it.  I disagree for two very good reasons:

Firstly, whether Scotland decides to declare independence or not is Scotland’s business – a declaration of independence is an affirmation of sovereignty and you can’t affirm your sovereignty by asking for someone else’s permission.  The UK or “Britain” isn’t a country, it’s a union of countries and if one of them decides it no longer wants to be in that union, it’s nobody’s decision but their own.

Secondly, Scottish independence won’t mean the end of the union, the Brits will keep “Britain” going for as long as possible in a sad parody of its former self like Serbia federating with Montenegro and calling itself Yugoslavia not because the Serbian people identified themselves as Yugoslavian but because the Serbian political class that dominated Yugoslavia refused to accept the reality of post-Yugoslav Serbia.  The same will happen in England – the British political class will refuse to accept the reality that they have put Scotland on such a high pedestal that the union will seem irrelevant without them and will do whatever it takes to keep “Britain” in existence that little bit longer.

To ensure that Scotland stays in some form of union with “Britain”, the Scots will be comprehensively bribed.  The union started with England paying Scotland’s national debt and a bribe on top to be shared amongst the Scottish people which was promptly stolen by Scotland’s great and good and the end of the union will similarly marked by a Scottish cash bonanza at the expense of the English taxpayer.

The day after the SNP won the Scottish election, David Cameron gave Scotland a £2bn bung for no other reason than Alex Salmond had won the election.  This is the first of many bribes from the British government and it won’t just be handing over billions on pounds of English money, it will be political concessions as well – more independence, a greater say in what happens in England, more Scottish representation at Westminster, more Scots in key British cabinet positions, more British (English) government departments located in Scotland, more “respect” for Scotland.  The divorce settlement will cost England dearly if it is negotiated between the Brits and the Scots.

I don’t want a vote on Scottish independence (although I would vote yes if I did) because it’s none of my business as an Englishman living in England.  I am agnostic about the union – if the union survives or if England stays in it or not is something I won’t lose any sleep over but if the union survives and if England stays in it then it has to be on equal terms with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with an English Parliament and fiscal autonomy, just the same as Scotland.  But if the terms of the union – and England’s relationship with the other members – are to be fundamentally renegotiated then that renegotiation has to be done between England and the rest of the UK, not “Britain”.

The British can’t be relied up to represent English interests, we must have an English government to negotiate on our behalf.

BBC revisionism on kids TV

Those of you familiar with the Horrible Histories books, you may be pleased to know that the BBC broadcasts a series of the same name and along the same lines as the books on the CBBC channel.

The Horrible Histories books teach children about history using cartoony pictures and by concentrating on the “horrible” history such as beheadings, torture and gross things like crushed rat and honey face cream.

The good thing about Horrible Histories is that it’s not just entertaining for kids, it’s entertaining for adults as well.  The bad thing about Horrible Histories is that it’s produced by the BBC and therefore revisionist.

Take the episode I watched with the kids this afternoon for example.  The programme made multiple references to “Anglo-Saxon Britain”.  There was no such thing as “Britain” when the Anglo-Saxons invaded in the 5th century, 1,300 years before the Act of Union.  The Anglo-Saxons invaded and conquered the myriad kingships that emerged in Sub-Roman Britannia (that’s Britannia, not “Britain”) and the resulting kingdom that followed the eventual unification of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms was called Engla Lond (Land of the Angles) which of course morphed over the centuries into today’s spelling of “England”.  There was no kingdom, fiefdom, principality, country, nation or any other form of state known as “Britain” or “British” in the 5th century, nor was there a people that called themselves “British”.

In the same programme, they showed a Georgian sailor using the 1801 version of the union flag, incorporating the St Patrick’s saltire.  While that flag was used towards the latter end of the Georgian era, the  majority of the Georgian era used the pre-1801 flag.  The sailor was wearing a tricorn hat which fell out of use after 1800 so the flag he would have used would have been the pre-1801 version.  It’s a small thing but the idea is to educate people, not mislead them.

The BBC is fond of calling claiming England for “Britain”.  A few years ago I successfully got the BBC to revise several of the country profiles on their website which claimed they had been settled by the British when they were part of the English Empire before the first Scottish bailout (aka the Act of Union) in 1707.  But then what can you expect from an organisation that doesn’t even recognise the English nation?

Election result

Well, what an interesting night (or to be more accurate, morning).  Labour have won back control of Telford & Wrekin Council after just one stint in opposition in the history of the town by taking control of 33 out of 54 seats.

No UKIP candidates got elected to the borough council but where UKIP candidates have stood before, they increased their vote.  I tripled my vote from last time and encouragingly most of the votes I got were for me alone, not me and another candidate (I was the only UKIP candidate and there were two vacancies).

The results of my election are:

Arnold England (Lab): 756
Jackie Loveridge (Lab): 746
Nicola Anderson (Con): 572
John Dixon (Con): 524
Stuart Parr (UKIP): 298

So I came last but I don’t really care.  Arnold and Jackie will do a good job – better than John Dixon who has been useless for the last 4 years and better than Nicola Anderson who lied her way through the very brief Conservative election campaign.  Of course of I would have preferred to have won or at least to have beaten the two lying Conservative candidates but that’s life.  I tripled my vote, I was just two votes short of 300 and I gave the others a run for their money.  I’m happy with what I achieved.

I think I’m allowed to announce now that I was elected unopposed to Stirchley & Brookside Parish Council so it wasn’t a complete loss!

I enjoyed this election and the count was very interesting.  Telford & Wrekin Council did an excellent job of running the election as they always do.

Election Day

It’s today!  I am standing for election today as a UKIP candidate for the Brookside ward of Telford & Wrekin Borough Council, having been elected unopposed onto the parish council as only 8 people contested the 8 vacancies.

It should be an interesting one this.  There are two seats on the borough council up for grabs and five candidates – me, two Labour and two Tories.

The two Labour candidates are the chair of the parish council and a former borough councillor who found himself co-opted onto the parish council when he lost his seat.  They’re actually nice people considering they’re Labour!

The two Tories are one of the current borough councillors and an failed former Tory candidate from 8 years ago.  The sitting borough councillor has been invisible for the last 4 years and hasn’t been seen at the parish council offices once since being elected 4 years ago.  They put out a leaflet at the last minute full of lies, claiming credit for the work of the local residents’ group – ironically delivering these leaflets claiming one of the candidates to be “a very active member” (came to 2 meetings and then disappeared off the face of the earth again) while myself and the rest of the residents’ group were clearing up rubbish on our monthly litter pick!

The Tories are fighting a losing battle to keep control of the borough council after unseating Labour who have controlled it since the day it was created but haven’t been putting in all that much effort.  Labour are pulling out all the stops and will probably win control of the council back again which is worrying.  Locally, I don’t want to try and call it.  The feedback I’ve had has all been positive so I’m expecting at least double figures on my own merit!  I’m hoping the protest vote comes to me as well – disaffected Tories won’t cast a protest vote for Labour and vice versa so I’m the only alternative.  It really is too close to call here so I won’t try!

Bin Laden dead … apparently

So … that Bin Laden person, eh?

Apparently the Americans have killed Osama Bin Laden  and buried him at sea after tracking him down to a town near Islamabad.

Now, I don’t normally go in for conspiracy theories that involve the Americans as perpetrators because they generally don’t have the intelligence for deceit but this story is – if you’ll excuse the pun – a bit fishy.

Firstly, Bin Laden was found in a fortified house down the road from Pakistan’s most high profile military training compound.  Surely they’d have noticed something a bit suspicious about someone building a house 10 times the size of other houses in the area with 18ft walls and protected by armed guards?

Secondly, no Americans were killed in the raid.  Since when have the Americans been capable of carrying out a military operation without killing each other?

Thirdly, Islamabad is 900 miles from the sea.  He was supposedly buried at sea to conform with the Islamic requirement to have a burial within 24 hours.  Could they not find a shovel and dig a hole?

Finally, they apparently tracked him down after a four year intelligence operation.  Intelligence.  American Military.  Uh-hu.

If Bin Laden really is dead then it’s great news but there will be many thousands more to take his place.  Until Islam catches up with the rest of the world’s religions, we will always be at risk from this modern-day Spanish Inquisition.  These nutjobs have lost a leader but they’ve gained a martyr.  The news is about as good as it gets for Obama and the American government but it’s not likely to make the world a safer place.

I don’t doubt that Bin Laden is dead or at the very least, no longer at large.  But the circumstances of his death being described in the news?  For me it doesn’t add up.