Friday, October 29, 2010

How Big is God?

It's been quite a while since I last gave a peek into my life more than just a quick sentence or two on a certain well-known social networking site (which shall remain nameless here). At school, I have two bulletin boards in my classroom which I have to update each month. One of the two that I put together for November is entitled "How BIG is God?"

Of course, any time that someone mentions God out in the general public the radar of those within hearing goes on alert. Religion, as most would call it, is a controversial subject and, like politics, everyone has some sort opinion on it. If you ask many people of their opinion on God, you typically get answers ranging from "I don't think he exists" to the Deists' Clockmaker God and all sorts of other things, but it's not often that you come across someone who has an answer that really conveys who He really is.

The CCM artist Chris Tomlin popularized the song, "Indescribable." The God of the Bible, taking the book as it's written, is a great many things, but most of all, He is holy, as in different in a good sort of way -- set apart. In fact, He is so different and so far beyond us that there isn't any way for us to completely wrap our minds around Him.

How hard is God to imagine? Let's take a look at His power. Without getting into philosophical debates about whether or not He is all-powerful, imagine what it took to create the universe. A very rough guess puts it at 1022 to 1024. That's a lot of stars --way more than 1000 times the estimated number of grains of sand in the world (7.5 quintillion). That's enough thinking to give me a headache. Then there's the topic of the largest star, which is what my bulletin board was about.

The largest star known is VY Canis Majoris, a red hypergiant star. It's about 1000 times bigger than the sun. To put it into perspective, that's like comparing a dot a little less than an eighth of an inch (2mm) to a circle 6.5 feet in diameter (2m). At that scale, the Earth is about 20 microns, which just happens to be half of the width of a human hair. If the Earth were the size of a golf ball, Canis Majoris would be around the size of Mt. Everest. Ponder that for a moment. That's mind-bogglingly large such that there is no word in the English language to describe that kind of size. It leaves you speechless. What's more? God made it and all of the rest of them. When you talk about power on that kind of scale, it debating the specifics of a term like 'all-powerful' seem more than a little pointless.

I gave all of this a lot of thought after putting up my bulletin board and something even more marvelous dawned on me: someone this powerful loves me. To say that God loves each of us a lot is like saying Canis Majoris is kinda big. Something like that should leave you dumbfounded. It sure did me.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lego Indiana Jones for PC: Total Crap

Early this summer I bought my almost 5-year-old son the game Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga for the PC. Aside from a bug, which prevented me from completing one puzzle in the game, it's a great game. Expecting the same experience, when my mom asked for recommendations for gifts for him, one of those that I mentioned was Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. She got it for him and since then, I've been playing it, off and on, for a little while. I now refuse to play it because of multiple infuratingly bad experiences. The cause? Bugs in the game. Two years later, there are NO patches for any of them or the one well-known bug in Lego Star Wars. In playing through five levels of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I have found three different bugs which put the game in a state where the only option is to bail out of the level, losing all progress. One of those bugs is 75% of the way through the level. It's both pathetic, indicative of bad QA, and totally, utterly inexcusable. I doubt I'll ever buy another one of the Lego-related games ever again. Sad, too, because the gameplay is great.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Westboro Baptist Church...sigh

Apparently the folks over at Westboro Baptist Church have had another incident, this time at Comic-Con. I vaguely remembered seeing its protesting in the news some time ago and was intrigued when I saw the post about this on Slashdot. When I read the article about Comic-Con, I was both amused and saddened.

There are a wealth of things I could say at this point, but nothing would put it as succinctly as saying that this is a great example of people -- I'm not sure they can be called Christians -- acting in a very un-Christian way. If even half of the information on the Wikipedia article about WBC is to be believed, I have to question their motives, let alone their theology. Their actions give proper Christians a bad name, no, a very bad name. As if Christians needed to do more to be disliked / hated.

Most American Christians have no idea how good they have it. Read through some of the entries over at Christian Persecution India. These are real events happening around the world, and CPI is only one blog and only covers one country. I'm sure there are a plethora of other atrocities being committed against Christians because of their beliefs in India that aren't mentioned there. These are people who being maimed and/or killed merely for the fact that they say that Jesus is the only way to be saved. They do not run around with signs saying "God hates Mohammed" or anything, but the way they are treated, you'd think they were. Sadly, there are far too many Christians living in the United States which act like spoiled brats, nitpicking over little things. The people over at WBC are just one example. Legalism like this is exactly the kind of thing for which Jesus railed against the religious leaders of the day.

While most of the message preached by Westboro Baptist Church is bunk, there is some truth in it... somewhere. The Bible makes a clear stand against homosexuality as a sin. By no means does this mean that "God hates fags" as their signs have read. To God, sin is sin -- it's all different ways of breaking God's laws. God hates sin, but He also loves sinners. Intensely. I won't say that I understand Him or His methods, but that much I know. Christians are called to treat others with the same love that they treat themselves, and WBC is certainly not doing that.

To their credit, conference goers at Comic-Con responded with the largely tongue-in-cheek humor that doesn't surprise me one bit. Making a mockery of the hatred spewed by WBC protesters was an excellent way to defuse an otherwise potentially nasty situation. How do you fight kittens, Bender, and a guy wielding a sign that reads "Is this thing on?"

Friday, July 16, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance has Jumped the Shark

Until this season I've been a Johnny-come-lately fan of the show. The last couple of seasons of SYTYCD have been really good. I'm a big fan of fine arts, and the show isn't really any different. It seems, though, that this one has been pretty unexciting. In fact, it's been downright predictable or otherwise disappointing for the most part. A "tribal" routine almost every other week. The token weird Sonya routine. Two competitors have been injured. The whole "all-stars" concept -- 10 competitors instead of 20, dancing with top-10 dancers from previous seasons -- it seems like such a lame attempt at a ratings grab. I hope this is the last season. It would be a shame for such a great series to grow sickly and die because it had been overdone time and again.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ubuntu is SO much better than XP

As if I needed further confirmation. Right. I just got a new toy: a Dell Latitude D620, used for eBay for $250. Definitely a great deal for the price. Once I got it last night, I proceeded to wipe it and install XP Pro and Ubuntu Karmic. The Karmic install took about an hour with updates and extra programs that I use. It still needs a few tweaks, but it's basically done. 3 hours later, the XP install is now downloading updates for Office 2007. I really don't like Office, but seeing how this laptop is for my use at school and I teach a class on Office, I kinda have to have it. Personally speaking, I'd rather not bother with Windows at all. 1 hour vs 3+. Hmmm. Once again, Micro$oft can't seem to get it right.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Aww Yeahhh! Zimbra's Got It Goin' On!

My search for a good, usable, free groupware package has been a tough quest. There are a lot out there. Some of them, like OpenGroupWare, are ugly. Others, like phpGroupWare and eGroupWare, are easy to install, but buggy. Scalable OpenGroupWare seems almost designed to be near-impossible to install. While I haven't tried OpenChange, I've heard that its webmail is clunky. Zimbra, at first, didn't seem much better than them. Actually, it's quite good, but if you don't have much background in the components that make up Zimbra, it's not at all easy to install. The learning curve is steep, but I nailed it and set up a mail server on a Linux partition I have on my development box. I'm *so* excited and relieved at the same time.

I'm a little concerned, too, because the box hung itself completely, and I couldn't even do an Alt-PrintScreen reboot. It doesn't want to boot now. I hope the thing hasn't died. Even if it has, I can get the data back, but I don't need extra work now. I guess only time will tell on that one.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Scalable OpenGroupWare, The Saga Continues

These last few weeks have had a lot of ups and downs, and I've learned a lot in the process. First thing that I've learned is that Linux Administration is hard to learn quickly. I twiddled with Zimbra for a few days and learned that it's kinda a picky. Interface-wise, there aren't any groupware packages out there that are usable, open source, and easy to set up. Pick any two, instead. Scalable OpenGroupware is usable and open source, but a pain to set up. The documentation isn't exactly great, either. I've managed to set up a nice Courier mail server with a MySQL backend and I'm in the middle of setting up OpenLDAP services so that I can (theoretically) set up SOGo. Not easy, but maybe I'll write a HOWTO if/when I get it going. *shrug*

Monday, March 22, 2010

Surprise! Windows Requires Multicore Rework!

Dave Probert, a kernel engineer for Redmond, has recently received publicity for his view that "The current approach to harnessing the power of multicore processors is complicated and not entirely successful, he argued. The key may not be in throwing more energy into refining techniques such as parallel programming, but rather rethinking the basic abstractions that make up the operating systems model." Really. That's surprising. How long have we had multicore machines? Oh, wait. We've had multiprocessing since the, um, 1990s, right? With Intel's Core i7 having a quad core processor with Hyperthreading on each core -- a total of 8 processing threads -- isn't it time that Haiku had its day? I highly doubt that any of the regular OSes can pull this one off. BeOS really was ahead of its time and only now are people really getting it. My favorite quote from the article: "Responsiveness really is king. This is what people want." Duh.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Exploring Scalable OpenGroupware

My school is going through some changes between this year and next. In an effort to save some money, I volunteered to research some alternatives to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. So far, the only workable, totally free solution which should meet its needs is Scalable OpenGroupWare (SOGo), currently running on CentOS 5.3. It's a groupware solution which is totally free, mature, and supports CalDAV, unlike Citadel.

With me being a big Ubuntu, this is a bit of a jump, especially when I'm kind of new to Linux in an enterprise context, but I've learned quite a bit already. What have I learned? The combination of Postfix and Dovecot is pretty darn easy to set up e-mail. There are also some definite head-scratcher moments when dealing with PostgreSQL, having only worked with SQLite before. Next stop, OpenLDAP. Oog.

Even if my boss decides to ignore me, and my FOSS advocacy, at least it won't have been for nothing. It's been fun, too. :-)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Microsoft, Microsoft

...when will they learn? It sure looks like they can't do much right in the last few weeks. First, a Google engineer finds a 17-year-old bug in the kernel that can be exploited. Then on this past Patch Tuesday, they screw up the patch and cause lots of XP users to end up at the Blue Screen of Death. The only fix requires an install CD -- which few home users will have and netbook users can't use. Now they're rolling out Windows Genuine Advantage, Part II.

For those who haven't seen this come over the wire yet, Windows Activation Technologies (WAT) are an optional update which causes Windows 7 installations to phone home every 90 days and nag you if your installation suddenly is discovered as a pirate copy. If you buy a legitimate copy of Windows, how in the world is that going to magically become a pirated copy?

I still wonder how this will do anything but cause more problems -- software pirates are a tricky lot to deal with. They are very smart and band together to rebel against "the man," meaning Microsoft, among others. Every antipiracy technique has been broken or worked around. Every one. Even that hardware-based TPM module from years ago. Making it an optional update renders the whole thing less-than-useless.

The problem with copy protection and other antipiracy tools is that it rakes proper customers over the coals and does nothing to stop pirates. Apparently M$ hasn't learned this one yet. One thing I've learned, though: with each successive version of Windows, you pay more to get less out of a product which is slowly taking away your freedom to use your computer as you wish.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowed In

OK. Now it's official: I'm tired of winter now. For the third time in my school's 25ish year history, it closed early yesterday because of the blizzard coming our way. 2 feet of snow in 24 hours. I realize that were I to live in Wyoming, North Dakota, or somewhere in Canada, this might be a frequent occurrence. I'd also have a snowblower. Neither is the case. The roads look pretty good, but digging around 400 cubic feet of snow just to get my van to just get to the road is hard, especially in conjunction with a lower back injury from last November that I still haven't totally recovered from. Barring major financial difficulties or some other sizable lifestyle change, I'm buying a snowblower next fall.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Late Night Thoughts

It's 11:39. I'm usually dead to the world by now, but I'm sitting at a computer that I've now moved to the basement for my music arranging projects. Staying up late, waiting on the glue to dry on some pipes I've patched so I can turn on the water to the house before I get some shut-eye.

At the risk of sounding like a religious nutcase, I'd like to invite you to give some thought to the possibilities of the unknown. Do you know everything there is to know? I sure don't. Half of everything? Me neither. A tenth? Not me. Considering how much there is to know that the human race doesn't know, don't you think that maybe God might be somewhere in that vast expanse of the unknown? Consider the possibility.

I've made no attempt to hide the fact that I'm what is called by some as a born-again Christian. I'd hardly say I fit that mold, though. The whole concept for me conjures up imagery of some guy in a bad suit and slicked-back hair waving his Bible around and almost yelling that everyone who doesn't "get saved" is going to Hell. Maybe it's because that's where I've heard the term used most. *shrug*.

I've no idea what my reputation in the Haiku / BeOS community is, but in real life, just about every stereotype I can think of that you could throw at me doesn't fit. I'm an introvert who likes the company of people, a geek and an enigma in the company of my fellow teachers, a right-brained band dork in the presence of real geeks and engineers, and I have a really hard time fitting in with my fellow believers at church. Anyone who knows me, though, will agree that I'm a straight-shooter who's almost honest to a fault and a free thinker.

From time to time, I'll probably write something to give you a little food for thought. Christians have an image of being supposedly perfect, having it together, of being judgmental or narrow-minded, mentally weak, using their faith as a crutch to get them through life, and a host of many other things.

Let me be real with you all. No Bible thumping (yuck!). No "repent or die!" No debates on creation vs. evolution. Just a guy who thinks he's found the way and is the first to say he doesn't understand it all or have all the answers. Have a good one, wherever you are. :-)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The IE6 Google Hack Worsens, Good for the Rest of Us

Any time I see bad news for Micro$oft like this, I it makes me happy. Really happy. Especially when Redmond knew about the exploit since September. The company that does so much to try to keep a strangehold on the minds and pocketbooks of millions of computer users has taken more than a few lumps this time around. Good. No wonder the French government has joined Germany in telling its citizens to stop using IE. Does this mean that I can't stand the people at M$? Nah. Not even Steve Ballmer or Mr. Gates himself. I just can't tolerate their computer products.

All of this just makes me wonder: how many of these exploits are going to come to light before users start taking the hint?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why I Still Run Ubuntu Jaunty

I've been really disappointed with Ubuntu Karmic Koala since just shortly after its release last October. My main computer at home runs Jaunty after a nice fiasco of upgrading, playing with it actively for about two weeks, and then downgrading. I have a couple other machines that run it so I can see if it has improved any. I can safely say that in the months since its release, it hasn't really gotten much better.

Need some examples? I just installed Karmic using Wubi this weekend. Guess what? Updating her machine rendered it unbootable. SuperTux, a fun mario-like game, works great under Jaunty and crashes merrily under Karmic. The "unstable" development version, however, runs just fine. How ironic.

Grub2, despite being a beta, is the default bootloader for clean installs. In the years of Ubuntu use that I've had, I've reluctantly learned enough about the first one to do what I need -- which is nothing fancy. Now it's been made even more difficult for Joe Average (or even Joe Technical-But-Lazy) to do what needs done.

I really can't wait to see if Lucid Lynx is any better. I sure hope it is.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The IE 0-Day == Good News For Other Browsers

At least if you're a proponent of using a browser besides Internet Exploiter. The 0-day attack last month that nailed Google and 30+ other companies is now a real reason to tell regular people to prefer another browser. According to C|Net, the source code for the exploit is now out there for anyone to use examine. The German government has recommended that its citizens use something else until Microsoft issues a patch. Having a notable government make such a recommendation speaks volumes about security and certainly would help your position in an argument. My thought: why bother going back?

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Need a Life

It dawned on me that I'm something of a black box. Since I enjoy writing, I figured that this could be a place for me to talk about anything... kinda like Bryan Varner's blog subtitle: "the runoff of my brain in digital form" with the difference that it's distilled. Stuff I'm thinking, uncensored, unedited, and uncut. Watch this space!