Since last November, I've been missing from these pages because I've been spending the Australian summer out in the Back of Beyond.
You can get wireless broadband operating out here, but I couldn't afford the setup costs this summer.
Since the drought broke last year, it's mostly been too rainy and cloudy for the modest solar installation to keep my laptop charged, so, more of my evenings have been spent drinking plonk with a neighbour, from further down the track, than mastering the command line and working towards my LPI certification as I'd planned to do.
The results of all this are that the neighbour is now developing a belated interest in computers and we are now looking for a cheap computer to get him set up with Kubuntu.
Apart from that, I've sometimes been driving a 120 kilometres to a nearby town where I've been helping a friend set up a computer for his business.
He had an old P4 with the predictable XP on it and wanted the internet connected so he could get e-mails at his workshop.
I gave him the standard warning that without expensive protection programs his computer would be loaded with viruses within a couple of days of taking Windows online, not to mention all the spyware that Windows itself would promptly inflict on his system.
The additional bonus of almost unlimited extra Free Software being available made Kubuntu a logical choice and he agreed to have a Linux partition on the P4 for all internet usage.
I hadn't done a dual-boot Linux partition before but I had a how-to by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes called, "Dual-booting XP and Linux–it's really easy!", on my laptop. I got the new Belkin broadband modem connected then slipped my trusty Kubuntu 7.10 disk into the slot, re-booted, and, following Adrian's simple instructions, had a Kubuntu dual-boot installation connected to the internet within the hour.
Now he's getting all his e-mails at the workshop and we're working on a website so he can advertise his business properly. I was also able to take the opportunity to get all the Kubuntu updates done on my Thinkpad and to have a quick look at Free Software Magazine which looked pretty nice with its new look.
Spending four months, mostly without any sort of computer or any broadband, has certainly been a strange reminder of the bad old days, before we had this world-wide community and all the information in the world at our fingertips, night and day.
And all the wonderful free software, that has ensured that this miracle of communication and understanding has not been restricted to a wealthy elite, but can be enjoyed by anyone who can get their hands on the most basic of cheap computers.
I'm also working on getting another old friend, in a nearby nursing home, fixed up with a cheap Kubuntu laptop so he can e-mail his relatives in England, but that'll be a story for another day, hopefully.
The nights are getting cold already and an early winter will soon see me heading back to the dubious benefits of "civilisation".
I'll miss the rugged loneliness of the remote bushlands, but not a rainy summer of 10 billion flies and no Kubuntu.