Sunday, June 7, 2009

Queen's Champion

The office of the Queen's Champion is an important hereditary office in the United Kingdom that apparently dates back to 1066. The duties to be performed in exchange for the 12 km² Manor of Scrivelsby are not manifold, but all the more dangerous. Until the coronation of George VI in 1821 his duty was to challenge to duel those who would not accept the new monarch.
At the coronation banquet he would throw down his gauntlet three times and a herald would issue a challenge among the following lines:
If any person, of whatever degree soever, high or low, shall deny or gainsay our Sovereign Lord George, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, son and next heir unto our Sovereign Lord the last King deceased, to be the right heir to the imperial Crown of this realm of Great Britain and Ireland, or that he ought not to enjoy the same; here is his Champion, who saith that he lieth, and is a false traitor, being ready in person to combat with him, and in this quarrel will adventure his life against him on what day soever he shall be appointed.
The champion was loaned the second best horse in the Royal Mews and an armor which was his for the keeping if anyone took up the challenge and the champion has won; otherwise he would get a cup from which the sovereign has drunk the champion's health.
There are no certain records that would show that anyone accepted the challenge, though there are some rumours about different Jacobites doing so.
After George VI the tradition of holding a coronation banquet in Wetminster Hall (the building of the Houses of Parliament) was abandoned and thus the life of champion became simpler, until the 20th century. In 1902 the then champion petitioned the Court of Claims -- the special court set up at every coronation to decide on who gets to perform what service at the coronation -- and since then his duty is to carry the Royal Standard at the coronation.

Find out more on Wikipedia; the painting comes from this website. A nice way to learn about chivalric traditions and the way a proper challenge was accepted and fought out is to read the Song of Roland from the eleventh century.

British Parliamentary archive as VOD

I just stumbled accross the online video archive of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, where meetings of the last 12 months can be watched. (The written records going back centuries are partially available online, as well.) In theory, this allows everyone who has a vague idea about the British Parliamentary style to experience it with their own eyes -- the only obstacle is to sift through the boring stuff where only one or two members are present and find the good debates between e.g. Gordon Brown and David Cameron.
Among the more interesting videos I found is the motion for a humble address in the Lords (at just before the 2-minute mark) and the state opening of Parliament by the queen.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Installing Ubuntu over and over again

For the past month every so often I played with Ubuntu by using the CD-on-a-stick and the Wubi solutions and finally I actually installed it on a dedicated partition. The one feature that has seen countless repetition in my short acquaintance with Ubuntu has been the installation and numerous reinstallation part. Fortunately I am getting better and better at it. Although reinstalling can be done quite easily on a clean system (delete partition, reinstall system in under 40 minutes) I would very much like a "restore system to the state of installation".

The main reasons Ubuntu has failed me have been its update manager, graphics and the installer itself.

A couple of years ago my first encounter with the autoupdater has been the occasion when after a restart there would simply be no graphic interface any more, very user friendly... My latest problems with the updater are still connected to graphics: at one time (I guess, after an update, but didn't reoccur yet) the screen would randomly flicker; most recently the update manager froze while updating an application that I have never used, and might never will. Naively, I killed the frozen update manager which has resulted in strange but unexpected results: after logging out and logging in the themeset was different, more exotic (although the system wasn't very operational which was accentuated with the fact that the graphical interface would not load upon rebooting).

A more frightening instance I had to take measures against a fresh Ubuntu install was when the installer froze at 97% completion. The good news is that the other partitions were not corrupted and even better is that the bootloader, grub works as it should and doesn't multiply the number of available OS's (as opposed to the expected behaviour of adding a new "Ubuntu" option next to the existing ones every time I reinstall Ubuntu -- at the current frequency this allows me some time to figure out how to remove grub once I decide to deinstall Ubuntu).

Today, after close to half a dozen installations I figured out how to enable the Wifi LED on my Acer Aspire One (with some help) although I still don't have a definite idea what the second LED is for (marked as number 8 on the image). Also, on the Netbook Remix edition, I discovered that the launcher actually has a translucent background, so if you set a background image, it will shine through (see image at the top).

The reason I am so resilient is that there are some very nice features in Ubuntu that interest me, but at the current rate of rei nstalling I am not ready to make the switch final (one of the biggest obstacles would be gettint used to the interface of and the lack of some Windows fonts).