One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for January 2020

[VIDEO] Linux Laptop Screencast

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about tuning up my Linux laptop for writing.

Via YouTube, here’s a very quick (20 minute) screencast.


Written by gordondym

January 21, 2020 at 1:30 pm

Why Supporting Chicago Neighborhood Small Business Matters

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Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

One of my 2020 blogging resolutions was to highlight Chicago neighborhood small businesses as part of the Meet Your Neighbor series. I had even chosen my first business to highlight: B-Sides Coffee and Vinyl, a really cool coffee shop at 99th and Walden Parkway across from the Metra Rock Island Line station. I had frequented B-Sides Coffee (including many cool shots on my Instagram account)…and then read on Facebook that B-Sides Coffee & Vinyl will be closing on January 31st. 

It’s not the first time I’ve encountered a local business closing: both Peace of Pizza on 95th and Wood and Ellie’s Cafe at 107th and Hale also closed within the past three months. Although this blog has highlighted local small business efforts in the past (like Local First Chicago and Small Business Saturday), it’s hard not to grieve when a neighborhood small business like Cas Hardware in Andersonville closes its doors. It’s like a beloved member of the community dies…

Because, quite honestly, it is.


Community and neighborhood-based small businesses don’t just empower others. (I have consulted with organizations like Greater Southwest Development Corp, and have attended events at the Beverly Area Planning Association). A community or neighborhood-based small business drives tax revenue, fosters employment, and serves as an anchor for the community. Although there are many programs to foster entrepreneurs (like this collaboration between LISC Chicago, NLEN, and Sunshine Enterprises), those who start a small business in their community face multiple challenges.

One of those challenges is the attitude that local businesses are more expensive – and less convenient than – than their larger competitors. “Big box stores” like Walmart and online retailers like Amazon serve as an excellent example of this attitude, since ordering online is much easier than going to a physical location. However, customer convenience comes at the cost of the community.  Although technology makes acquiring certain goods easier, the result is lesser interaction and connectedness. (Case in point: I live within a half-block of a Starbucks, yet chose to walk down four streets to B-Sides. It was a more relaxing atmosphere, they served excellent Metropolis Coffee, and I was more productive in writing and social interactions). Small neighborhood businesses also solicit business from other local neighborhood vendors, fostering a greater sense of community within any Chicago neighborhoods.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski - Taken at B-Sides Coffee & Vinyl

Photo by Gordon Dymowski – Taken at B-Sides Coffee & Vinyl

Unfortunately, one of the other challenges comes from the “crushing it” mentality of startup culture. This “lone wolf with a vision” mentality focuses on ‘hustle porn’ as gospel truth, choosing to follow “gurus” like Gary Vaynerchuk and Tony Robbins rather than the dictates of logic and smart business sense. WeWork’s issues over the past year are one example of this attitude’s potential destructiveness: the “win-win” business mentality applied to social change is another example.

(Before you argue – yes, some neighborhood and community-based small business owners are not immune to these attitudes. Yes, some tech startup entrepreneurs don’t subscribe to the above mentality. But both types of business deserve support and effort. Running a non-tech-oriented, brick-and-mortar business that is neither franchise nor multi-level marketing requires time, effort, and resources. A neighborhood small business owner commits to serving the larger community, and that requires greater support from members of that community).


So what’s the solution? Simple: Support small business in your neighborhood sooner rather than later. Although I had supported the three Beverly-based businesses I stated in the introduction, they were not immune to the challenges facing community-based small business owners. Many Chicago neighborhoods face the challenge of driving economic development and small business growth. Although some entrepreneurs are succeeding in their efforts (see Good Tree Capital and cannabis-based businesses in Chicago), many others still require ongoing support. It is never easy, but it’s the neighborly thing to do.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to plan a final visit to B-Sides Coffee and Vinyl. It’s the least I can do.

Please leave your comments below or join the conversation on Facebook. If you have a suggestion for a Chicago-based small business to highlight on this blog, please contact me via email.

And thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

January 16, 2020 at 12:48 pm

Tuning Up the Linux Laptop for 2020

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Between increased caregiving responsibilities for my mother, looking for freelance work, and the holidays, my Linux-powered HP laptop went by the wayside. (It’s not my only laptop, thankfully, but the keyboard is great for writing). However, the past few months have seen me slowly repair and upgrade the laptop to the point where my Linux laptop is working very efficiently and becoming my go-to writing computer. It’s a good argument for adopting open-source computing, and my Linux-powered HP 8530p Elitebook laptop is a great example of reusing and repurposing technology. (I’m writing this post on the HP laptop)

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Two of the most pressing issues for my laptop were long booting time and overheating resulting in slower response time. The former was easier to handle; after some experimentation within Linux Lite, I switched to Linux Mint 19.3 with the XFCE desktop environment. (My Linux-powered Panasonic Toughbook CF-29 was relegated to “emergency backup” unit and was switched to MX Linux). Both laptops had low RAM (the HP laptop has 4 GB, the Toughbook was upgraded to 1.5 GB) and were over ten years old, so I chose operating systems that worked in lower spec machines but had the processing power to spare).

Overheating was a more complicated issue…after checking out various YouTube how-to videos, I opened my laptop, removed some of the cooling apparatus (including a large wad of dust in my fan) and replaced the thermal paste. (Part of the delay was finding the right paste for the job and waiting for the order to arrive…it was hard finding a local place that sold thermal paste. In retrospect, perhaps I should have checked out Free Geek Chicago).


So other than the pride of repurposing and recycling a machine, why would anyone switch towards adopting open-source computing via Linux? There are three reasons why I have adopted Linux for my creative writing and blogging:

Dependability – Both Linux Mint and MX Linux are distros that work well once installed with a minimum of tweaking. (We’ll talk about that in a later point). With the diverse range of Linux distros available (as well as a site where you can test Linux distros online), there is a Linux distro for anyone that works well out of the box, and that provides excellent performance especially in older hardware.

Adaptability – Not only can a user customize the appearance and functionality of the Linux distro to their specification (the desktop screenshot was a photo from a Beverly-area restaurant), but Linux provides multiple open-source software options for a variety of computing needs. By integrating LibreOffice, GIMP, Calibre, and Scribus, I have easily configured my Linux laptop to become a production machine for blogging, creative writing, editing, and self-publishing. (Many distros integrate a package manager/software center that makes it easy for users to download software). With privacy and data issues around Windows 10, Linux has some edge in that many distros do not share user data.


Productivity – The major advantage of my Linux laptop (especially when writing) is that I spend more time getting things done. The software works smoothly, I am not dealing with major glitches in my operating system, and I’m enjoying the process. My HP Linux laptop does very well for an over-ten-year-old machine, working as well as a regular laptop. (My Toughbook also performs well with MX Linux, but that laptop will only be used in an extreme emergency). Although I’m reliant on Windows 10 for freelance work, I find Linux an easier, more user-friendly operating system to use.

As a strong advocate of open-source software, I believe that Linux adoption can promote greater digital literacy and digital excellence. With Windows 7 ending security updates and greater numbers of older computers going to waste, Linux provides an opportunity to extend computing ability and provide a needed resource for underserved communities. And all this resulted from wanting to turn an older, slower machine into fully-functioning writing and publishing Linux laptop.

What your thoughts and perspectives on Linux and open-source computing? Please join the conversation via Facebook or leave them in the field below. Please use this email contact form to contact me privately.

As always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

January 9, 2020 at 11:50 am