Category Archives: Turkey

Evolution of Reality

I enjoy and recommend Robert Wright’s Nonzero Newsletter, which presents thought on both American politics and thought itself.

Tiny green plants on red tile roof, cloudy day

In a 2017 post of this blog, I quoted Wright’s 1988 article in The Atlantic Monthly about Edward Fredkin. Somewhat differently from Fredkin, I spelled out my title, “What Philosophy Is,” without actually being a professional philosopher. I touched on a theme that I shall take up now: that thinkers today could benefit from knowing the thought of R. G. Collingwood.

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Computer Recovery

Part of this post is a laboratory notebook. I record how I fixed my computer, because

  • I am pleased to have been able to do it, and

  • I may have to do it again.

Briefly, when Windows on my laptop failed, I installed Ubuntu, but this failed. Somebody else installed Ubuntu again, and this worked for a while before failing. I managed to fix that problem for myself; but later an upgrade failed. Now I have fixed that. Computer on table by window at dawn

I am recording further issues in an addendum.


I recall Pirsig’s words on the subject of the laboratory notebook (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, chapter 9, bold emphasis mine):

Actually I’ve never seen a cycle-maintenance problem complex enough really to require full-scale formal scientific method. Repair problems are not that hard. When I think of formal scientific method an image sometimes comes to mind of an enormous juggernaut, a huge bulldozer—slow, tedious lumbering, laborious, but invincible. It takes twice as long, five times as long, maybe a dozen times as long as informal mechanic’s techniques, but you know in the end you’re going to get it. There’s no fault isolation problem in motorcycle maintenance that can stand up to it. When you’ve hit a really tough one, tried everything, racked your brain and nothing works, and you know that this time Nature has really decided to be difficult, you say, “Okay, Nature, that’s the end of the nice guy,” and you crank up the formal scientific method.

For this you keep a lab notebook. Everything gets written down, formally, so that you know at all times where you are, where you’ve been, where you’re going and where you want to get. In scientific work and electronics technology this is necessary because otherwise the problems get so complex you get lost in them and confused and forget what you know and what you don’t know and have to give up. In cycle maintenance things are not that involved, but when confusion starts it’s a good idea to hold it down by making everything formal and exact. Sometimes just the act of writing down the problems straightens out your head as to what they really are.

I used to maintain a lab notebook about installing and using Greek fonts in LaTeX. This was on my departmental website in Ankara. Other persons found and used the page (and told me so).

The random Ubuntu user may not find the present post, since Ubuntu problems are already covered on many webpages. However, none of those pages told me just what I needed to know. One of them came close, but I didn’t know that it did until, hesitantly, I tried out what it proposed.

My recent problem was with a laptop, an Acer Aspire S3. The model means little to me, but people seem to supply such information when asking for help. I bought the device used from Evrensel Bilgisayar, on Harzemşah Sokağı, where a sighting of an image of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party outside a café inspired “Impressionism.”

Evrensel bilgisayar means “universal computer.” The name is expansive, but the shop is small, and the Acer laptop was the only used one for sale at the time. It seemed OK to me, and my programming friend agreed, so I bought it. The keys were labelled with letters both Latin (in the QWERTY layout that I had learned to touch-type with) and Cyrillic.

I hope not, but maybe the computer was hot. When a flat in our building was broken into, the thieves took laptops, so there must be a market for them. We thought our flat was being broken into, one night while we were in bed. A drunken neighbor was only trying his key in the wrong door.

My new laptop’s operating system was Windows 7, in Turkish, though the keyboard had none of the specifically Turkish letters, Çç, Ğğ, Iı, İi, Öö, Şş, Üü. I knew where they would be, if I used the Turkish layout, which I normally install anyway, along with polytonic Greek and US international, in addition to the standard US layout.

I decided to live with the Windows, though at the office I had used GNU/Linux since the aughts.

I had wanted to use Linux since being a postdoc in Ontario at the end of the millenium. Somebody there lent me a CD for installing Red Hat Linux on my office computer, but I hesitated to take the risk. The lender offered to do the installation himself. He partitioned my hard drive, sending the existing Windows system into one half of the drive; but then he hit a roadblock. The CD did not recognize the monitor, or something like that. The person made a phone call, but this did not help. Then he said he had to go. I had to live with half a computer. A then-friend made fun of this; she thought it was my fault for getting somebody else to work on my computer.

As an assistant professor in Ankara, I got one of our department’s computer assistants to install Linux on my office computer. The first installation was of Knoppix; eventually, Ubuntu. When Ayşe and I moved to Istanbul in 2011, and my new office computer ran Windows 7, I finally installed Ubuntu for myself. However, I used Wubi, the Windows-based Ubuntu Installer, so that I was still somehow running Ubuntu within Windows. I had not the nerve to jettison the latter, since the university offered no support for anything else.

Why use GNU/Linux at all? The reasons are practical and moral. As a graduate student in the 1990s, I had learned to use Unix, and commands in Linux are the same. It’s not a big deal to learn the corresponding commands in Windows, when they exist; but then Windows does not encourage use of a command line anyway. Windows also blurs the distinction between one’s own computer and the web, as by letting a “shortcut” take you to either place. In general, I like the GNU Manifesto as I understand it; probably I first encountered it in the emacs editor, which I used to write my dissertation. I enjoyed a talk by Richard Stallman in Ankara in the aughts. Unfortunately Ubuntu cannot be endorsed by the Free Software Foundation; maybe some day I can move to a system that is.

My problem

As for my recent problem with my used Asus Aspire S3 laptop, support for the Windows 7 installation that had come with the computer was going to end with the current year, 2019. Also, the laptop started crashing. I could still use it with an Ubuntu live CD—in my case, the live USB that I made. I used the live USB to write this blog’s posts on the last ten books of the Iliad, while Ayşe and I were at the beach in September. Back in Istanbul, I installed Ubuntu on the laptop itself, using again the live USB, now wiping out Windows.

The installation worked only once. When it failed, I did not know what to do, besides visit the shop where I had bought the computer. When I picked it up the next day, Gökben Hanım had installed Ubuntu again. This worked for a while.

Her installation was of 19.04, “Disco Dingo,” the latest Ubuntu version. I had been using 18.04, “Bionic Beaver,” the latest LTS (long term support) version. Somehow I never saw 18.10, “Cosmic Cuttlefish.” Neither did I fully understand the numbering and naming conventions, until preparing this post: “18.10” refers to a release date in October of 2018, but before this was known, the developers needed some other name.

My computer eventually crashed again. As I recall, the file system become read-only, and a web search suggested a hardware problem. Probably this had been the reason for the first Ubuntu failure, but I didn’t know then what to do, other than visit the shop. This time I somehow learned to use fsck, file system consistency check, as told in “On Translation.” I quote my words from there:

an error message told me that the problem was in /dev/sda1, and I should run fsck manually; I somehow could not understand for a long time that what I was supposed to do was type fsck /dev/sda1, hit enter, and follow the prompts.

With Disco Dingo (or rather the hardware it ran on) thus repaired, I could go about my business for a few weeks. Then, after updating my system, I was invited to upgrade to 19.10, “Eoan Ermine.” Almost a gigabyte would have to be downloaded over my wireless modem, but my monthly quota of 12 GB was high enough to allow this. The quota had been 8 GB, until we found out that, by agreeing with Turkcell to subscribe for twelve months, we could raise the limit to 12 GB. Apparently we could have been doing this all along, after signing up for wireless service at the beach, a few hours before the coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

When I approved the upgrade through a GUI, the new Eoan Ermine files were downloaded, no problem. The actual installation of the files failed, and the computer became unusable, until I spent a day figuring out what to do.

I had nothing to lose on the laptop; everything was backed up with SpiderOak. However, just installing Ubuntu 18.04 again would be shameful, not to mention wasteful of my time and of the energy that had gone into downloading that gigabyte of new files.

Buying a new computer would be another waste.

I thought there might have been another hardware failure. I ought then to be led again to the message about using fsck. Turning on the laptop, I would get a GRUB menu (GRand Unified Bootloader); I just could not use it to open Ubuntu, even in read-only mode. I could run a memory test though. This found a couple of errors, but I could see no way to fix them.

Back at the GRUB menu, I could press C for a command line. A webpage (accessed from my mobile as needed) called “How to Use GRUB Rescue on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS” told me some things I could do then. I tried them, as best I could, though without ultimate success.

All along, I was able to use the Live USB that I had used before. However, I had not realized that I could use the USB to get access to the system installed on the computer itself. The webpage called LiveCdRecovery did not make this absolutely clear. I decided to give the instructions under Update Failure a try anyway. Suitably modified, they worked, as follows.

  1. The instructions say, “Boot the Ubuntu Live CD.” I had already done this, in order to read them in the first place. Less conveniently, I could have read them on my primitive feature phone (a Nokia C3-00 from 2011), or on Ayşe’s laptop; or I could have taken my own laptop to the office, in order to use the desktop computer there.

  2. “Press Ctrl-Alt-F1,” one is told. I did, and nothing happened. Looking around on the web, I couldn’t see that the key combination would do more than give me a command line. I already had an icon that would open a terminal, and I used this to enter the remaining commands in the present list, exactly as given (usually I cut and pasted them).

  3. sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

  4. sudo mount --bind /dev /mnt/dev

  5. sudo mount --bind /proc /mnt/proc

  6. sudo mount --bind /sys /mnt/sys

  7. sudo chroot /mnt

  8. apt update

  9. apt upgrade

Before going through the last steps, I ran apt update independently, without the mount commands. The updating involved files with “bionic” in their names. Evidently then the USB’s own system was being updated.

When I ran apt update after the preliminaries above, I saw “eoan” where “bionic” had been. This gave me confidence to go ahead with apt upgrade. Come to think of it though, I don’t know why I did not see “disco.” Maybe I did, but didn’t notice; I had not been aware that the old installation was called Disco Dingo.

The apt upgrade command installed the gigabyte of files that I had already downloaded. The process complete, I turned off the computer, removed the USB, and turned the computer on again. There seemed to be some action, but ultimately nothing but a blank screen. I did what I had learned to do when Ubuntu froze up in the office: hold the Ctrl and PrtSc keys while typing the letters R E I S U B in turn. This worked to re-start the computer, and this got 19.10 working, at least in some primitive mode. After another re-start, everything seemed fine, and I could use the laptop to compose this article.


August 22, 2020

Since first composing this article, I have had hardware issues at least twice more. One of them happened today, and I could not remember exactly what I had done before, except that, as in the previous experience noted above, it involved fsck.

Today I edited a couple of files, without connecting to the internet. I took a break, putting the computer and myself to sleep. When I came back and plugged into the internet, the file I was working on wouldn’t save anymore. The file system had gone read-only. SpiderOak wasn’t managing to upload the changes that I had made and saved before the break. I was able to email to myself the file with significant changes, and also to upload it to Dropbox from the website.

I had the computer restart itself. When I looked again at the screen, there was a message about BusyBox (saying in particular that typing help would give me a list of available commands), and there was a blinking cursor next to the text, (initramfs).

The scene was familiar, but I could not remember what to do.

A web search with my mobile suggested typing exit, which would show where the problem was (such as /dev/sda1). Then I ought to be able to type fsck /dev/sda1/.

Typing exit didn’t work. I came back to the same command line with no new information.

I turned off the computer (maybe by holding the power key down). After turning it on again, I hit <F2> when given the option. This gave me the GRUB menu. I ran a memory test, which took 40 minutes or so, but uncovered no problem.

Back at the GRUB menu, I tried now starting Ubuntu. This time I was told there was a problem in /dev/sda1; so I ran fsck /dev/sda1/, typed y at the prompts and eventually a when this was offered. That solved the problem for now.

November 30 (Monday), 2020

Similar issue: file system became read-only. Tried restarting and pressing <F2> but was told to wait, and nothing happened. When I didn’t press <F2> I got a screen with a message like

error: attempt to read or write outside of disk 'hd0'. 
Entering rescue mode... 
grub rescue>

I’ve just copied the text from an Ask Ubuntu page that I looked at in my feature phone; but then the page did not seem very promising, and anyway the keyboard stopped having an effect.

When I restarted again, I got the “Busybox” page that I described above. I did what I wrote then, and it worked. I might note that restarting the computer and hitting <F2> then didn’t immediately give me the GRUB menu (and probably the same happened before); it gave me “that other menu,” exiting which gave me GRUB.

December 5 (Saturday), 2020

Same as five days ago, but didn’t get the “grub rescue” prompt. File system became read only; restarting brought the “Busybox” screen. Turned off computer by holding down the power button; then turned on, hit <F2>, exited that menu, chose a memory test (no errors found), then got the screen telling me to run fsck manually.

December 6 (Sunday), 2020

It happened again today. I found a relevant page, “How To Fix Busybox Initramfs Error On Ubuntu.” The same operating system is discussed Ubuntu 20.04; but not those other screens, with the “grub rescue” prompt, or initramfs but where exit doesn’t work. Also the restart wasn’t so simple. I was hung up on a purple screen with primitive “Ubuntu 20.04” text for a while, so I used Alt-PrtSc R E I S U B.

December 7 (Monday), 2020

I cannot precisely report everything I’ve been through with the computer. The following happened, possibly in the given order.

Following instructions on an Ubuntu help page, I installed the smartmontools package and ran the program smartctl, which gave me a report of “the most recent five errors”; the last of these (shown first in the report) had the serial number 6984. Seven thousand errors would seem to be a lot; but then the capacity of the disk is measured in hundreds of thousands of thousands, and in any case the disk is still usable (I’m using it to write these words).

I ran boot-repair as described on the linked Ubuntu help page. I didn’t upload the report anywhere. I got saved somewhere, maybe /root/, but I couldn’t reach it then, even with sudo, and it’s not there now.

Once when I was restarting the computer, and the splash screen of the manufacturer (Acer), the one offering the option to press <F2> was not going away, I just left it alone, and eventually at the bottom was a display of a file system check. The names of files being checked were displayed. No error was found.

Maybe to get the Grub menu from that screen, one should use not <F2> but Esc. But I have learned to edit the file /etc/default/grub and then run sudo update-grub in order to display the Grub menu automatically.

I also learned, from an Ubuntu help page on Grub2/Displays, to name a background image file in the grub file.

If from the Grub menu I choose “recovery mode,” the screen of options (one of which is to run fsck) is corrupted; still I can select fsck. So far, this quickly gives me a new screen, asking if I want to mount the file systems; and I cannot continue without saying Yes. Then I get a clean screen of options, but “unfortunately” fsck now does not work, since the file systems are mounted!

I have to infer that the program found no errors the first time around; it just didn’t say so. This is what happened when I used an Ubuntu Live USB. I used an Ask Ubuntu answer to learn to do the following:

  • In a terminal (which can be opened with Ctrl-Alt-T), run sudo fdisk -l to learn the device to check.

  • I guess I already knew I would be checking /dev/sda1.

  • Therefore I run sudo fsck /dev/sda1 (the linked page says to use fsck -f but there is no entry for -f on the man page for fsck).

So far, this says there are no errors.

I have learned to make a persistent Live Ubuntu USB using the mkusb program as described on a How-To Geek page.

December 8 (Tuesday), 2020

Yesterday I edited this post, adding the section above. But then today I couldn’t find the edited file in my computer. I also could not find the report created by smartctl that I had emailed to myself with the name smartctl-report-sda.txt: this is the report that seems to list the last five of almost seven thousand errors, though it also says,

SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

I couldn’t even find the smartctl program itself. Now I installed it again, using

sudo apt-get install smartmontools

getting no warning that the program is already installed.

The edited file underlying this post must have existed, because it had been uploaded to the blog, and I don’t edit online with the WordPress editor. My current practice, initiated with the composition of “LaTeX to HTML” three months ago, is to edit a text (txt) file, using “Pandoc’s enhanced version of Markdown,” then to convert it to html using pandoc. I remember yesterday making the dates of my additions to this post into actual headings (rather than just italicized text) using the prefix ### (which at first would come back as \#\#\# when I used pandoc to convert from txt to html and back again; but eventually this problem was somehow fixed).

I have no clue how my computer could have reverted to its state as of Sunday morning (if that is what has happened), unless it has to do with letting a live USB take it over. First I made an old HP 8GB USB into a persistent live USB; then I did the same to the newer Toshiba 32 GB USB that I had already made into an impersistent live USB with Ubuntu 20.04 (for use on my wife’s new HP computer, which had come only with FreeDOS).

For teaching my class yesterday with Microsoft Teams (the program selected by my university), performance was better with the live USB than it had been with the computer’s own installation of the same version of Ubuntu.

Later I copied my SpiderOak Hive file to the live USB and installed SpiderOakONE itself. Synchronization took an hour or two (I didn’t explicitly time it), but this was not surprising; I had had a similar experience with changing computers at my university office.

Today on the live USB I went looking for the latest version of the present file. It wasn’t there; but then neither was the version that I downloaded from the SpiderOak copy of the computer’s own version the latest one that I expected.

Meanwhile, SpiderOak on the USB seems too slow to be practical.

A Final Statement

This concludes the series that began with “An Indictment” and continued with “A Defense.”

Ayşe and Meriç her lawyer

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We the Pears of the Wild Coyote Tree

This is a preliminary report on two recent films:

  • The Wild Pear Tree, by Nuri Bilge Ceylan;
  • We the Coyotes, by Marco La Via and Hanna Ladoul.

The report is preliminary, not because there is going to be another, but because I have seen each film only once, and I may see one of them again. I remember that François Truffaut liked to see films at least twice. I would guess that I read this in The Washington Post, in an appreciation published when Truffaut died; however, he died on October 21, 1984, during the first semester of my sophomore year in Santa Fe, when I would not have been reading the Post. While in college, I did enjoy seeing some films twice, or a second time; Truffaut’s own 400 Coups was an example, a French teacher having shown it to us in high school.

The two films that I am reviewing concern young adults trying to find their own way in the world, in defiance of their elders. We all have to do this. In every generation, some will do it more defiantly than others. Heraclitus can be defiant, he of Ephesus and thus one of the Ionian philosophers, whose spirit I imagine to haunt the Nesin Mathematics Village. A further reason to bring up Heraclitus will be—gold.

Eva Brann, The Logos of Heraclitus, on Marmara Island, July, 2012

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The post below is a way to record a passage in the Euthyphro where Socrates say something true and important about mathematics. The passage is on a list of Platonic passages that I recently found, having written it in a notebook on May 23, 2018. The other passages are in the Republic; Continue reading

NL XLIV: The Turks

Index to this series

The last part of Collingwood’s New Leviathan (Oxford, 1942) is “Barbarism.” The first chapter of the part is “What Barbarism Is”; the remaining chapters describe examples of barbarism in turn. The fourth and last example is the one that Britain is fighting as Collingwood writes.

Sun behind mosque on cover of The Ottoman Centuries (Lord Kinross, a.k.a. Patrick Balfour) Continue reading

A Defense

Here is the defense (savunma) of Ayşe Berkman before the 36th Heavy Penalty Court (Ağır Ceza Mahkemesi) of Istanbul, January 10, 2019, against the charge of making propaganda for a terrorist organization (terör örgütü propagandası yapmak).

Crowd of mostly smiling people outside a courtroom

The crowd from the courtroom when the session was over.
From a tweet of the Peace Academics

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book X

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

In Book X of the Iliad, Diomedes and Ulysses go to spy on the Trojan camp at night. When they return to the Greek camp,

  1. Then entred they the meere maine sea, to cleanse their honord sweate
  2. From off their feet, their thighes and neckes…

I can enter the same sea now. After more than ten months, I return to my reading of Homer, and Chapman’s Homer, as I have returned to the place where I was doing it last year, on the Aegean coast opposite Lesbos, after the sweat-soaked struggle of—teaching in the Nesin Mathematics Village, south of here, in the hills above Ephesus.

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Eastern Black Sea Yayla Tour

Here are some photos from our recent tour (July 21–29, 2018), in chronological order. More then ten times as many photos, along with a verbal account, not always in chronological order, are on a page of this website (as opposed to a post, like the present one); the page is called Karadeniz, which is the Turkish for Black Sea.

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An Indictment

Free speech continues to matter for this blog. Here in Turkey, the “Academics for Peace” are signers of a petition calling for an end to what the petition calls a “deliberate and planned massacre.” On July 17, 2018, three more of these Academics were given suspended sentences of fifteen months for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.” There is a story on this by Tansu Pişkin on Bianet. A suspended sentence means the convicted person is on probation for some years. When I met up recently with a Peace Academic who had already been given a suspended sentence, he laughed it off.

The bill of indictment (iddianame) for each Peace Academic is 14 pages long. Continue reading