Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Life, Liberty, and Broadband

This is awesome. From one of those poor socialist countries that brought you free education, comes the legal right to broadband access. Finland is high on my list of kickass countries right now. Look beyond.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Conservapedia

So I heard about this website on the Colbert Report a few weeks ago and went to check it out. According to the website, Conservapedia is "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia", free from all the "liberal untruths" that beset Wikipedia and apparently every other medium other than Fox News.

It's funny. The first article I read was about Barack Hussein Obama, and the very first reference was to--- Pravda. That's right, the old Communist Party propaganda machine itself! Another article is all about the "Obama administration corporate bailouts". The site claims these bailouts are socialism in action and that they are proof that Obama wants to turn our country into a socialist one! Only they forget, of course, to mention that it was George W. Bush that was responsible for the corporate bailouts of 2008.

Of course, since they are such an honest, conservative group, I decided to contact them and correct them on a few things. Surprise, surprise, all the honest people at Conservapedia are too frightened to put any kind of contact address on the site. So I signed up as a user, and tried to edit the page for accuracy. No such luck. The honest conservatives at Conservapedia do not really allow their users to edit pages- the site owners and admin are the only ones qualified to post the "truth", apparently.

So what we have is yet another right-wing propaganda machine that uses blatant lies and distortion to advance their agenda while claiming to be the ultimate Truth. Yep, sounds a lot like Pravda (the word means 'truth' in Russian). I honestly cannot believe that there are still so many stupid Americans who believe a word any corporate, fascist Republican says.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Upgrading

I've found that any issues that arise when upgrading to the latest Linux distro are pretty quickly resolved- yet another advantage of open source software. I upgraded to the Karmic Koala beta release soon after it came out, and had a few issues with some applications, but everything is running smoothly now. The only problem I have is with non-free software, of course. Adobe already provides sheisty support for its Linux drivers, and now my flash-based apps are acting weird, namely loseing sound and menu functionality at random times. Meh. But, as I said, Karmic is working out just fine, though it's not an LTR. Oh and the pic is rule 5 or whatever, more hitz, y'all.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why Nobody Uses Linux


I use Ubuntu Linux, just like the pretty girl in the picture apparently does. And if I didn't, I'd at least try it out, because, hey, look at the pretty girl. Anyways, I remember reading a tech news article somewhere that claimed netbooks with Linux pre-installed were being returned at a rate of 4% more than others. Now, there were no real numbers in the article proving this, and the guy admitted that he didn't know the return rates for M$ products, but still, there really are a lot of people who try Linux and soon switch back to Windows.

Why? Well, there is the lazy factor, of course. Though many Linux distros are very similar in appearance and functionality to Windows, they are not built to be windows clones. They are different for a reason- because they are better. But many people who just want a computer to surf the net, take an online class, and send a few emails, do not wish to be bothered with learning something new. Another issue is the fact that many of their favorite apps will not run on Linux, or they will but the user does not know how to install them, or does not realize that there are good alternatives to Windows programs.

But in my experience, one of the main obstacles to the spread of Linux popularity is the Linux users themselves. Now, I'm patient, and I despise Microsoft enough that I am willing to put forth substantial effort in avoiding their software. So to me, it's not a huge deal. But I remember plenty of times over the last three years since switching to Ubuntu, when I had to hit the forums or Launchpad and seek help with a problem. And I have found that the majority of users who offer 'help' on these forums, are not really being helpful at all. Sure, they give the correct answer, but in the wrong way. Most of them fancy themselves to be 1337 h@XX0rz, and insist on trying to force people to use the command line as a panacea for all their technical issues.

Look, people today- especially Windows users- don't want to bother with a command line. Remember the saying, 'just point and click'? Well, that's what people want. Hell, I'm quite knowledgable when it comes to computers and Linux, and I'd rather not use the command line unless I absolutely have to. Ubuntu, along with many other Linux distros, has a pleasing, intuitive GUI that nobody EVER recommends on the forums. If a user wants to know how to browse their hard drive, you will hear the 'helpful' Linux geek tell them, "Oh it's simple. Just open your terminal, type 'sudo nautilus', and the file browser will open!" Umm, no, that's not the simple way to do it. These noobs should be told, "Oh it's simple. Just click 'Places' on the top panel, then click 'Computer', and your file browser will open!" See the difference? See how easy two clicks are compared with a click and the typing of two words? People don't want to type unless they are chatting, emailing, or writing a novel. I certainly don't want to have to type to open the equivalent of 'My Computer'.

Now, I personally could care less whether more people use Linux. I actually enjoy the fact that not many do. It ensures the OS will remain watertight secure, since there is little profit in finding ways to hack and virus an OS that nobody uses. Also, I feel that a massive popularity gain would open the OS up to the corporate whores who would descend like vultures to try and find a way to profit off of the open source OS. But I still feel that those who are wanting to use Linux, whether to escape the clutches of Microsoft- which charges huge sums of money for every upgrade and application, accesses and uses your personal information without your permission in ways that and for reasons which are still not fully known, and deliberately leaves big, gaping holes in their system so that third parties can install adware- or simply because they want to try something new, should be able to get the help they actually need without some punk trying to make things more difficult for them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'm Glad I Have a Brain


If I weren't so intelligent, I might be crying like a little bitch Beck, too. You've all heard the idiocy. Obama wants to send our families to socialist death squads who will decide whether they live or die! Some bureaucrat is going to decide whether I get health care after I finally get into the hospital after waiting for three months! We're all going to die like everyone in France, Canada, England, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, etc.! I'm just so scared of Obama!!

First of all, save your fake outrage and "spontaneous" outbursts for the other people who only watch Fox news. We who get our information from a variety of reliable sources aren't buying it. And stop acting like people are trying to silence you. Hey, we could always do it the Republican way and give you your own fenced-in "free speech zone" ten blocks away from the meeting, you jackasses. Yeah, you people have some real short memories, don't you?

I, however, being the thinking man that I am, believe that socialized medicine and other forms of communal welfare are not only the most Christian (or any religion that espouses love for others), but the most natural form of health provision that can exist. Put it this way. My mother just died of cancer. Now, she had insurance, due to the fact that she worked for a hospital. Never mind the fact that after five years there she was still only earning about $10 an hour- at least she had health insurance. But before that, while she was working her ass off to support her children and try to provide a decent life for herself and us, she never had health insurance. Sure, there were a few jobs that offered insurance, but she could have barely even afforded the copay if she'd needed to use it.

And that's just the thing- most insurance is OK if you have an emergency or are sick, but what about preventive care? If she'd had access to more care options, such as the one proposed by our President, then she could have had a regular checkup, and they might have discovered the cancer soon enough to save her life. But that didn't happen. She had regular insurance (you know, with a corporate entity standing between you and your doctor) and only discovered the cancer through a freak accident- she broke a rib and they saw it on her x-ray.

So the fact is that my mother, and maybe someone in your family, and I can almost guarantee someone you know, could have had their lives saved but for the fact that good Christian Republicans don't want some "lazy welfare cheat" costing them a few extra dollars in taxes each year. I mean, those few extra dollars could have bought a new yellow ribbon sticker for their SUV, or a cool new doormat with a funny phrase on it, or a new gift for their spoiled children which will be broken and thrown away within a week. Basically my point is that my mother, and thousands others, might still be alive today if "conservatives" weren't such greedy, hateful, scared-of-their-own-shadows idiots.

I for one am tired of these people. I really hope there is a way to make them see the light, but I honestly don't know if there is. They are conditioned to sit in front of the TV and listen to fanatics like Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly and Beck tell them how to think, what to think, and why to think. They have been conditioned by corporate entities to believe and be comfortable with the fact that they are merely "consumers" who only exist to buy things in order to prop up the bloated CEOs that run our economy, in the hopes that they might "trickle down" on us regular Joes. But I still have hope that true change will come. After all, their lies, fear, and hate couldn't turn Americans' eyes away from the corruption and hypocrisy we saw from the republicans for eight years. I think even many conservatives are starting to realize they've been had. And I know many of them are good, faithful people who really want to do what is right, but are afraid of the ostracism or worse that they might suffer for not toeing the party/church line. Perhaps they will man up and do what is right for this country for once in their lives.

Friday, August 7, 2009

TR2N!


I am totally psyched about the new tron movie. I was a huge fan of the original, which came out in that most awesome decade, the eighties. I was young, computers were young, and science was the coolest thing in the world to many people.

Jeff Bridges is playing Flynn again, which is awesome. John Hurt has a part, as well. According to Wikipedia, the storyline for the film is: "Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), looks into his father’s disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 25 years. Along with Kevin’s loyal confidant (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous."

I, having been cooped up inside for the last year or so, didn't hear about it til last night when I caught a trailer on Hulu. Anyways, it looks totally awesome, and it will be in 3D, no less. Finally I have something else to look forward to. I've already seen the newest Star Trek about a dozen times, so this will be my chance to see another reload of a favorite from my youth.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Miss My Momma

My mom died of cancer a couple of weeks ago. It really sucks and I miss her tremendously. But I know she's not in pain anymore, and who can say what happens to the soul after death? Maybe she is in a better place. Plus, she was alot like me- didn't really care about or fear death, and had no reason to hang on to life for too long.

Agh I wish the break between semesters wasn't so long. There's a whole month til classes start again. Guess I should get a job since I've got some unexpected expenses now. I hate working, though. Meh.

Friday, July 17, 2009

KTEK Radio

New Mexico Tech has a pretty cool radio station. I found a link to listen online here. They were playing some VNV Nation when I got there, then they played 'The Curse of Captain Morgan' by the Scottish metal band Alestorm. Pretty good stuff, man, I recommend it for online listening. Tech rawks. I totally cannot wait to go there. One more year, man! I've still got CalTech plans, but I think I'll get my Master's at NM Tech, then try for CalTech.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Install Flash 10 Plugin on Your Linux System

I was trying to install the latest Flash player from Adobe on my Ubuntu Jaunty release, and kept getting the error, Error: Wrong architecture 'i386'. Apparently, they do not offer the 64 bit version for Linux yet, although I could have sworn that they released it. Anyways, thanks to this post on another blog, I was able to use a simple script to install it.

Simply open your terminal and type

wget http://queleimporta.com/downloads/flash10_en.sh

Make it executable with

sudo chmod +x flash10_en.sh

then run it

sudo sh ./flash10_en.sh

It's that simple. The script will close your browser, install the plugin, and you are done. Works like a charm.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Can We Survive Faith?


I was reading another anti-evolution 'debate' on some Christian blog today and saw this gem in the comments section. It was a response to someone stating that it was silly to believe in a god that refuses to show himself.

...(Do you believe there is a "backside" of the Moon...? Why ? you can't see it or prove it's there...umm ?).

OMG, seriously? I truly am amazed at the willful ignorance of so many people. They will line up at the creationism museum and ooh and ah over all the idiotic 'explanations' of the world , all the time laughing at the stupid scientists who could be so stupid as to believe in stupid evolution. Ignoring, of course, the fact that stupid scientists have made possible every single thing they take for granted everyday, such as the TV they watch their anti-evolution sermons on, the computers they write their idiotic comments with, the cars they drive to their church for the weekly dose of stupid they love so much, the medical care they receive when they get sick (unless they are the ultra-stupid kind who try to pray themselves well) etc.

But what is really frightening is that these people actually seem to be gaining members at a steady pace. Can humanity actually ever advance, or are we doomed to the dark ages because of these people who not only oppose science, but actually pray that the world will end soon? With so many people hoping for god to destroy humanity, is it just a matter of time before they get impatient take it into their own hands?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What's Wrong With One World Government?


As a Star Trek and general science fiction fan, maybe I'm already a little biased toward the whole idea of a single, worldwide, democratic federal government. In the Star Trek universe, there exists the United Earth- a single Earth government. In many science fiction realms that deal with the future of humanity, space exploration, and dealings with alien beings, the idea of one Earth government is usually seen as the most logical . If humanity is to survive expansion into space, it would make sense to have a more centralized world government to coordinate the efforts of various nations. And in the event of a war with some alien race, human matters of ethnicity, class and 'race' would become insignificant as all people embraced their humanity and united to fight a common threat to all humanity.

Many people are honestly scared witless by the idea of the United Nations or European Union, and we all hear the paranoid fear of those who rant against a 'New World Order' or world government. But what is there really to be afraid of? Especially for Americans- the United States would surely take the lead role in such a government. It's not as though our way of life would greatly change under a more global government. I am seriously interested in the idea of such a government, and I am curious as to what improvements we could make to society if we were able to stop focusing so much on our supposed differences and start working together for the benefit of all mankind, especially considering the fact that our nation is now taking a renewed interest in space exploration, putting men on the moon 'again', and putting men on Mars. It's kind of starting to feel like the eighties all over again, when science and technology were actually considered important and, yes, fun. The PC was starting to become available for home use, Devo was all the rage, films like Real Genius, Weird Science, etc. were fueling young minds to pursue careers in the sciences. I'm glad we are starting to rediscover the importance of education, science, and the oneness of mankind. And I honestly wouldn't mind one world government, because I know that would actually give us less to worry about and free up the manpower and resources that we currently use for defense and constant political maneuverings among other nations.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tech TV

My future university, New Mexico Tech, is gaining some popularity. Hollywood pros will be filming six weeks of the TV show, Man vs. Cartoon, in which, with But I just hope they don't raise the tuition anytime soon...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Acid Burns (Rips, Actually)

So I was trying to rip my Big Bang Theory Season 1 DVDs, making each episode an individual file in .avi format using AcidRip. But for some reason, I could not get any audio from the completed files. I searched Ubuntu forums where the prevailing recommendation was to choose the audio language specifically- even though the default is English, I should select 1: English. So I did that, and still no go. I also tried choosing a different codec for the audio encoding, and still nada.

Well, I finally noticed that there is a Gain selector under the audio Language list. It is, by default, set to 0. I set it to 1 and, sure enough, got audio on the new file after encoding it again. So, if you have the same trouble with no audio in AcidRip, try setting the audio gain to between 1 and 40 (40 = x1000). Just posting this because alot of people were asking on the forums, but the threads are all closed for replies for some reason.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stinking Thinking


So my second semester as a college student has ended, and I managed to sink from a 4.0 GPA to a 3.6 GPA. Great. I simply have not been studying enough. It's difficult when you are employed full time as well as enrolled full time, but still. I should just do better, because I am better. The problem is, I cannot study unless I'm totally alone, relaxed, and have music playing. So all the time I'm sitting here at work with absolutely nothing to do, I try to study, but end up giving up after being distracted by all the noise and occasional duties. What's worse, I think my boss wants me to do poorly. Every time he has seen me studying, he has gone out of his way to either choose that time to try chatting with me or to assign me some useless, mindless task to perform. Dude, it's called Work-Study for a reason. Part of it is supposed to involve study. Meh. Anyways, that's my rant for today. Poor rant, I know. I am losing brain cells here. I'm honestly surprised that I can manage to write anything.


What else? Oh! I saw Star Trek on opening night, of course. It freaking r0XX0rz! I honestly have a problem with the whole time-travel thing that they've been pulling since The Voyage Home in order to make the story work, but with this movie, it is necessary. The fact is, the original crew and the Next Generation crew needed to be completely phased out and the 'new' original crew given an almost completely new history in order for this movie to appeal to a new audience. For too long have writers, directors and producers been pandering to the now aged uber geeks who bitch and cry whenever something in one of the movies is not as it was in the original series. For Star Trek to be successful again, it had to be completely made over for a new generation. This movie certainly did so, and I'm confident the franchise will continue to live on thanks to that bold choice.
As for the film itself। It begins and ends with action, just like a Star Trek movie should। There is a ten-minute space battle before the credits, during which we are shown the circumstances of Kirk's birth. Minutes after Kirk's father orders the evacuation of the USS Kelvin, his wife gives birth aboard a shuttle craft. A quick scene after the credits introduces us to a young man of about twelve, driving a stolen classic car and running from a police officer in an awesomely Orwellian uniform. The ballsy kid, who ends up almost killing himself, is obviously Kirk. After this we are treated to a scene at a seedy bar which introduces Uhura, played by the stunningly beautiful Zoe Saldana. Kirk happens to be there, and his attempts at wooing Uhura, a Starfleet cadet, land him in hot water with a group of Starfleet hefties, who proceed to beat the bejesus out of him. This brings in Captain Pike, played by Bruce Greenwood, who informs Kirk of the circumstances of his birth and the heroic actions of his father, challenging him to live up to his father's example by joining Starfleet.

The good thing about this movie is that it gets the background stories out of the way quickly without leaving the viewer confused. After this, Kirk of course joins Starfleet Academy, where we meet the characters "Bones" McCoy and Hikaru Sulu, played by Karl Urban and John Cho. Karl Urban makes an excellent McCoy, accurately portraying the good Doctor's gruff negativity without seeming like he's trying to imitate Deforest Kelly. Sulu, as usual, gets very little screen time. We also see Spock as a child, struggling to control his human emotions among the strictly logical Vulcans. Zachary Quinto is the real star of this film, in my opinion. He gets more screen time than Kirk, and it is obvious that he is the more capable officer. The main focus of the movie is on Spock and his relationship with Kirk, who absolutely despises him. The rest of the movie focuses on the cadets' involvement in an emergency battle against the Romulan Nero, played by Eric Bana (am I the only one who's tired of bad guys having tatooed faces to make them look like bad guys?)। The cadets all end up aboard the newly commissioned USS Enterprise, commanded by Captain Pike. Now we are introduced to the seventeen year old wunderkind Pavel Chekov, played very well by Anton Yelchin, whose heavily accented English provides some comic relief, but who also turns out to be a key player in the movie. We don't meet Scotty until close to the end of the movie, and I'm honestly thankful. His is the only character who is obviously there for comedic value and not much else. Though Simon Pegg is always funny, he doesn't fit as Scotty. He sounds more like Groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons, for one thing, and he doesn't actually do anything worthwhile for the film.

The plot is almost ruined by the whole time-travel thing, like I said earlier. We are re-introduced to the original Spock (Spock Prime, as he is called on IMDB) played, of course, by seventy-eight year old Leonard Nimoy. Spock reveals why Nero is bent on destroying the Federation, and turns out to be completely instrumental to the film's plot. However, they could have just as easily skipped the time-travel thing and just started from scratch, the aged uber geeks be damned. But it just wouldn't make the movie work, even for those of us who aren't that concerned with whether the movie stays true to the fictional history. But oh well. Still, best movie of the year! You should go see it if you haven't already.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

UN Still Can't Get It Up

Die with love.

Yours,
Israeli Kids

I like Jews. Really I do. As a Christian, I consider them cousins. As a humanitarian, I consider them people just like any others, worthy of respect and freedom, no more and no less than anyone else.

However, I despise Israel. I know, it's something you really cannot say without being labeled an anti-Semite, but people who try to justify their feelings of superiority will always claim to be unfairly persecuted when their actions are judged. The fact is, not all Jews are Israeli. The fact also is that Israel is one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the middle east. They are a hateful, violent nation whose methods and beliefs are no different than those of Hamas or any other terrorist organization. They grow fat off the insane amount of money, weapons (most likely including nuclear), and support given to them by America, for the simple fact that American Jews believe they owe something to Israel, when in fact they owe it nothing. When they are criticised by the United Nations, they simply bomb United Nations school buildings and kill more innocent civilians, claiming later that they were fired upon by "terrorists"- you know, the type of people who bomb schools.

Worse, Israeli children are forced to become hateful, violent religious extremists as well. Nobody who knows children can say that the young girls in the picture above came up with their twisted, hateful messages and wrote them on the bombs that kill other children, all by themselves. The propaganda Israeli children are submitted to is as bad as the propaganda Palestinian children are submitted to. Indeed, with the photographer who took the picture and the photographer behind the girls, it's obvious that the girls are being used as propaganda, and were probably coached on which messages to write. This is digusting.

I really hope the UN grows the stones it had back in the days of Dag Hammarskjold and eventually stops cowering every time Israel stomps its feet. Or we will eventually have no middle east, at least not one that is not too radioactive to live in.



Friday, May 1, 2009

UNA-USA

I've been interested in the UN for years now. The United States was instrumental in organizing the United Nations, and has always been an influential and respected leader among the UN member nations. However, during the Dark Years (2000-2008), our Nation's reputation was besmirched by greedy, arrogant men, who spat in the face of the rule of law and repeatedly disrespected and defied the resolutions of the very organization our fathers and grandfathers, the memory of war still lingering strong in their hearts, formed in cooperation with the other great nations, and resolved to make a commitment to work together in peace with each other and the rest of the world.
With that in mind, here is a good site I recently found which explains how we can repair America's damaged reputation with the world by showing our commitment to world peace and prosperity. Take the time to read it and pass the link on to someone else.


http://www.unausa.org/Page.aspx?pid=751

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm one of the smart ones, I guess

I guess I'm one of the smart ones. Let me explain... I'm Catholic. I believe in God and in the saving power of Jesus Christ. But I really do shudder at the though of how similar most Catholics are to raving protestant Evangelicals. Catholicism has always been very pro-education, so it's surprising when you see Catholics acting like such idiots.  For instance, the Catholic church proclaimed decades ago that evolution, as long as it does not deny God's role in creation, is fine. The Catholic church used to think that science and religion could live together, if not as best friends, at least as respectful roommates.

Whether that has changed, or I was just seeing what I wanted to see, I really do not know. From Pope Benedict's recent idiotic statement (the man is my spiritual leader but that doesn't mean I need to try to hide the truth) that condom use increases your chances of getting AIDS, to the more recent outrage against Notre Dame and Georgetown for asking Obama to speak at their respective institutions, Catholics are seeming more and more fanatical in my eyes.

Take some of the comments I've read on discussions about the White House's decision to cover the IHS symbol above the stage where Obama stood to make his speech. Some think he is a fascist, some think he is a socialist, many think he is the antichrist, and almost all think he has some kind of evil agenda that involves wiping Christianity from the face of the earth- or at least from the face of America. 

Look, it's really simple. The entire world is in a shambles right now thanks in large part to eight years of America being controlled by fundamentalist Christian idiots seeking to bring about the Apocalypse. The rest of the world hates us. They look at America and they see Bush calling the war in Iraq a 'crusade'. They see thousands of Muslims illegally detained on US soil, deported to secret CIA prisons in countries that have no problem with torture, and submitted to physical and psychological torture right here in the good old US, all done under authority of a leader who constantly made it be known that he believed America to be a Christian nation and who claimed to speak daily with God. 

Now, if you were a president who wanted to live up to the idea of separation of Church and State (which I believe in strongly- after all, what if the church that ends up in charge is not MY Church??) and assure the world that we would not be 'crusading' in their country next, and wanted to give terrorists less of a motive by backing off on the religious rhetoric, would you appear directly underneath a large representation of the name of Jesus? That would not only serve to assure terrorists that you were set on continuing the crusade against their faith, but it would also, ironically enough, piss off those fundy right-winger Christians who have been bitching this whole time about Obama claiming to be some kind of messiah. Can't you just see it?

1. Obama appears in photos around the world underneath a big sign that says 'Jesus'.

2. Muslim terrorist in Pakistan says, "See! He is just like all the others and will surely attack us illegally and immorally, killing hundreds of thousands of innocents, just like Bush did! Better strap on a bomb and get to it..."

3. Christian fundamentalist in the Bible Belt says, "See! He is trying to imply that he is the Christ! The name of Jesus is directly above his head so it looks like it's referring to him! Claiming to be Jesus... that's a mark of the Antichrist!! Tremble in fear, the end is near! Better start 'converting' some heathens!"

Either way, he'd still be hated on. While I'll admit that the best choice would have simply been to refuse to speak at Georgetown, or at the very least to choose a better location, it is obvious to me that the White House made a politically brilliant move in order to reassure the world that Obama is focussing on the important matters that fundamentalists seem to forget or just not care about- good, affordable healthcare for all, a solid social safety net, good, affordable education that will keep our children competitive, and all the other socially beneficial things that Christians are supposed to be concerned with. Besides, even Jesus refused to get involved in politics- why should politicians wear their religion like a badge? The fact is, Obama, in not flaunting Christianity and seeking an equally free society where everyone has a choice and a voice and is taken care of by their neighbor, is actually being more Christian than the majority of those 'Christians' who support endless wars, the death penalty, segregation, class warfare and greed-based capitalism.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Collecting Geekdom

So the Wal-Mart here (yah it's really the only place worth shopping in this town, or you know I wouldn't)finally got the Playmates action figures for the upcoming Star Trek movie. I just happened to stop by the toy section when I was getting cat food after work. So I bought the 3.75" Spock figure. I couldn't afford the big one, honestly.

Anyways, the figures are actually quite well-detailed, and look like good quality collectors items. I've seen some pretty nasty looking Playmates figures, so I'm really pleased with these. Spock's right hand comes off- there is another hand included which holds a phaser. There is also a bridge chair and Spock's science station (you can build the whole bridge if you collect them all!) and a stand, shaped like the famous federation insignia. I'll try to get all of the crew at least, plus Captain Pike and Old Spock.

What else? Man I need to get healthy again. I'm getting so fat and disgusting it's pathetic. Meh, I need a girlfriend. Girls make me want to try. LOL. But seriously, I've got all these new clothes I bought for summer but can't fit in. Gonna need to start jogging.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Free Your Finances!

I hate banks. Most of the blame for our current economic woes can be placed squarely at the feet of banks- banks which are ultimately controlled by foreigners who care even less about what is good for America than the corporate profiteers in our own country. Banks, in my opinion, should just do what they are supposed to do, which is simply to keep our money safe and available for when we need it. Turning a profit off of my money is fine- but risking it without my permission is a huge no-no that I will no longer allow. And the deceptive practices of banks, and my former bank, Bank of America in particular, are criminal. Of course they get away with it, they are rich, after all.

However, in today's world using cash is not only difficult, but almost impossible for those, like myself, who do a majority of their shopping online. I need a card, so what else can I do but have an account at a sleazy bank? Well, here's what I did. I already had a savings account at my local credit union. I recommend everyone find their local credit union and join it immediately. Since they are for the most part truly local, they have a vested interest in their community. They are better able to provide personal service, and do so without all the fees and hassles associated with big banks. Mine, Cannon Federal Credit Union, even gave me a substantial loan recently- something that no other bank has ever done. I am now able to improve my credit by making timely payments and showing that I actually am, despite my lack of credit, a good, honest person.

The thing about my particular account is that I don't get a debit card. That's why I signed on with BOA (how appropriate- something that squeezes the life out of you), so I could have a debit card. Well, I finally realized that I could have a debit card without a bank, taking advantage of a service offered by a company I often use to make online payments- PayPal. PayPal offers a debit/credit card to account holders. I applied and received one immediately. It can be used as debit or credit, and credit purchases requiring a signiture earn a 1% cashback bonus, too. PayPal, in my experience, is an honest company that does not charge hidden fees or otherwise rip you off. They even have a great money market account, allowing you to earn potential bonuses on the money you invest in your account.

Another thing I love about the PayPal debit card is that when I use it, I immediately (seriously, within seconds) get an email thanking me for using it and stating the transaction time, amount, and to whom the payment was made. As you can imagine, this is great not only for your records, but also in case your card is used without your permission- you will know about it as soon as you check your email, and can take appropriate action. Adding money is simple- just associate your credit union account with your PayPal account, verify it (they add money to your account and you tell them how much it was- you get to keep the added few cents, too!) and transfer a bit from the credit union account into your PayPal account every so often. That's it, you're set; and you don't have to sell your soul to the banks.

I recommend you consider alternatives like this, and let the big banks know you will no longer serve them, by hitting them where it hurts- the bottom line.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Brilliant Scam


So. How are you enjoying DTV, the new digital television the government kept telling us we needed to buy a converter box for? Oh, you got your converter box for $20 after the discount provided by the government, for free, because they are so nice? That's swell. But wait, what's that you say? You paid your money and there is still no DTV to use that box for? Congratulations, my friend. You were taken by a huge, brilliant scam! See, you bought those boxes in the middle of a depression, at a time when corporations needed every dollar they could get. With the help of their cronies in the government, they got loads of money by selling you something you don't need. Tell me, do you really think the DTV crap is going to be rolled out even in July, or whenever they moved the date to? Doubtful. So enjoy your converter box. Maybe you can use it for a paperweight.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cronjobs

I recently updated my Ubuntu OS from Intrepid to Jaunty. Since the official release is mere weeks away, there have been updates to the kernel and packages almost daily. I figured I should probably save myself some time and screen-staring by setting up a cronjob to do it for me. Cron, as you may know, is a tool to schedule commands to be given from a script, at any date and time, without the need for you to actually be anywhere near the computer. If you run Linux and would like to schedule a cronjob to update it automatically, then simply follow the instructions below.

First, you will need to edit your crontab file. Simply type

sudo crontab -e

in a terminal. You will be asked which editor you wish to use. I choose vim simply because I like it, but you will have other choices, including the gedit graphical editor (in Ubuntu, anyway). Once the crontab file appears in your editor, just type

0 0 * * 0 root (apt-get update && apt-get -y -d upgrade) > /dev/null

and save it. That's it- the cronjob will run at midnight every night. If you want to specify a different time/date, just replace the first 0 with the minute (0-59), the second 0 with the hour (0-23), and the last 0 with the three-letter day (sun, mon, tue, etc.). The day of month and month can be specified by replacing the asterisks with the proper numbers- 1-31 for the first asterisk and 1-12 for the second. The rootpart just tells cron to run the following commands as root. The -y option tells cron to automatically answer 'yes' to the prompts, so it doesn't just hang waiting for your response. The -d option tells it to just download the files, but not install them until you tell it. This option can be removed, but it's not very safe- you always risk the very slim possibility that the update will cause something to stop working. So review the list of packages to be installed before you actually install them. Lastly, the > /dev/null redirect tells cron to direct the output to the black hole that is /dev/null, keeping your terminal free of lengthy output.

There are, of course, various other commands and options for using cron. Simply type man cron or cron --help for a manual or list of commands. And enjoy your up-to-date Linux distribution!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Linux Saves the Day


Linux users are laughing. The Conficker worm has recently started updating itself, most likely with keystroke logging software. This is no laughing matter. Millions of PCs are infected with the worm, and peoples' privacy is being invaded. In America and the UK, where the governments have already seriously reduced civil liberties and are openly spying on citizens, this is just one more thing to worry about.

What is funny, is the fact that there is a tool that can assess damage done by the worm, allowing administrators to know the full extent of the damage done and to take appropriate measures. To do this, they will simply need to use Linux.

Priceless. I honestly hope Linux doesn't catch on with the average PC user. Increased popularity of an OS gives hackers the incentive to write malware for that system. And Linux is virtually malware free. I, for one, want it to stay that way. So keep shelling out hundreds of dollars for each Windows update, my sheep. It's so funny when you pay to have your personal information stolen.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cyberespionage


According to an article in Computer World, hackers from China and Russia have been infiltrating the US power grid, leaving behind malware that could potentially be activated to cause damage to the power infrastructure. No word has been said yet about whether our intelligence agencies have been able to remove the software or even find all of it.

This is yet another example of how we can benefit from quantum computers. Using the processing capability of a computer that can logically process 2n times the data of modern computers in the same amount of time, encryption algorithms can be made so strong as to be unbreakable by even modern binary supercomputers. Of course, other quantum computers could possibly break the encryptions, given enough time, but the number of people or organizations having access to quantum computers would be very small. The risks would be considerably less, since anyone with ill intent would necessarily have to be involved with either be a government or scientific program. "Joe Hacker" would never have a chance.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Working With Windows 7


Please understand, I really do not like Windows. However, since I am forced to use it for school (assignments must be submitted in Word format), I figured I might as well use the latest version. So I downloaded and installed Windows 7 Ultimate Beta a few months ago. Well, due to it's extreme suckitude, I ended up having to reinstall it- programs kept crashing, my display driver stopped responding when watching video in WMP (after I managed to get the codecs to work, of course), it would not wake up from hibernation, etc, etc. Anyways, after reinstalling it, I ended up having NAT problems in Vuze. So I did what I would normally do; I opened Windows Firewall and tried to add the Vuze port to the exception list.

Now, IDK if it's a virus or just another annoying Windows 7 feature, but the 'Change Settings' button on Windows Firewall is greyed out. I am always admin, of course, and have set permissions for myself for everything, just about. However, though I could add a program exception, I could not add an individual port or range of ports. I had already added Vuze to the exception list, but that never matters, because you just have to add the port, period, or you'll continue to have NAT problems. This pissed me off to no end, because I had already been downloading the Star Trek movie collection for days, and was only about 50% finished (it's just 6Gigs, so you know it should have been done much sooner. My DL speed was averaging 20kB/sec). But, luckily, I'm used to looking for a command line alternative, due to my Linux use, and thanks to the help of this post, I found a command line workaround for Windows Firewall.

Here's what you do.

Run the command prompt as admin. Then simply type

netsh firewall add portopening ALL 49211 Vuze ENABLE ALL

Where
[ protocol = ] TCP|UDP|ALL
[ port = ] 1-65535
[ name = ] name
[ [ mode = ] ENABLE|DISABLE
[ scope = ] ALL|SUBNET|CUSTOM


You may also specify
[ addresses = ] addresses
[ profile = ] CURRENT|DOMAIN|STANDARD|ALL
[ interface = ] name ]


You may do it like I did and just type the options, or you can also type the whole thing port = 49211, etc. Oh yah, just make sure you keep everything on one line.

It's just that simple. Windows will tell you the command executed successfully, but that the command is deprecated and you should use

netsh advfirewall firewall

instead. That's BS, I tried that and it said 'command not found.'

I immediately went back and ran a port test in Vuze and, sure enough, the port was open, and I had a green smiley!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Future Begins


I really cannot wait for the new Star Trek movie. It looks like it might be one of the best in the franchise since The Voyage Home. I wasn't really very fond of the later ones, mainly because, as much as I love them and their work, the original cast and TNG cast just got old. Now we have a totally new cast, young and fresh- you know the action scenes will be much better than those Shatner and Stewart were able to muster lol. The visual effects look great, the ship looks great, and, oh yah, there are Orion slave girls. Nom!
On another note, what the hell is the deal with the Watchmen? I did not pay $10 to watch a giant blue williker swing around for two hours.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

VERA


As much as I hate Microsoft, I must admit that I love the speech recognition software introduced with Vista. I named mine VERA. I have been doing my homework with it for a few days now. Sure, it takes about three times as long, but it's so cool!

Little things like that excite me, mainly because I'm old enough to remember our first Commodore 64, and I realize that, with technology progressing as rapidly as it is these days, we will soon be able to give commands to our computers in the same way that they do on Star Trek.

Another exciting thing is the rapid development of quantum computing. Scientists at the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, for instance, recently demonstrated that the entanglement of optical qubits can be transferred with high fidelity onto hyperfine levels of a calcium ion with storage times of nearly 100 ms. This does not sound impressive until you realize that just a year ago the best storage times were measured in nanoseconds. I really envy young people, because they will be able to see things so much more amazing than I'll ever know. I just hope I can help bring about such an awesome future.

To learn more about quantum computing, visit www.qubit.org

VERA, publish post.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Caltechazi!


So I was invited to a webinar being given by Caltech tonight. A general, "this is what we are all about" kind of thing. Should be fun. It starts in an hour. I will certainly update as the webinar progresses. I hope to learn what the chances are of a thirty-six year old transfer student being accepted lol. You know, you go to their website and see all these teenagers working on their bachelors and think, "wow. will I actually be able to compete with these fresh-faced wunderkinds?" I think so. And if all else fails, I can continue my graduate work at NM Tech- I'm sure I'll have no problem gaining admission there. I still have a perfect GPA and plan to keep it for as long as possible. Plus, I think my determination is a big benefit and will be a major factor in their decision. Well, the gotoweb site says I need to be running Windows (blah) so I'd better boot it up. Stay tuned!

OK, well, I have been logged into the webinar for twenty-one minutes now, and am still waiting for the organizer to log in. I am NOT impressed so far. It was supposed to start at 8pm. I logged in at 8pm. I'm sure most of the other people who were invited also logged in at 8pm. Meh. I'll give them another fifteen minutes, then I'll just finish watching Battlestar Galactica on Hulu. Meh.

Well turns out that it started an hour later than stated. Decent presentation, but they did not answer my question about transfer students, and honestly told me no more than I could have learned from the website. But I got to listen to the Caltech jazz band for an hour! Good stuff.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Legalese




I've been getting calls from TRS Recovery Services, claiming that I owe them money for a debt I have with Amazon.com. Now, I do have a debt with Amazon. I ordered a Shepard Fairey book in September of 2007. They sent the book December 2008. Well, in the interim between me placing the order and them shipping it, I changed banks. I even put my new bank account info on Amazon for future purchases. I even made MORE purchases with the new bank account, namely "Learning JavaScript", by Shelly Powers (great book) and "Linux+ Study Guide", by Roderick W. Smith (also a great book). Anyways, I called Amazon and informed them of what happened, asking them to just debit my current account for the total debt. They refused, saying it was out of their hands since they had already sent the debt to TRS for recovery. Sold the debt, actually, although they will not tell you that.

So I did a little research online, and it turns out that in this situation, there is a way to get a debt collector off your back. Since I never did any business with TRS, they cannot legally demand any compensation from me without showing, in writing, exactly what product or service the debt collection company gave me in return for the money I supposedly owe. It's all in a little law called the Fair Credit Act. If you happen to be pestered by these cockroaches of society, just print out the following letter, inserting your information as appropriate, and send it to the collection agency via certified mail. Unless they can respond accordingly (and they cannot), they will be legally obligated to leave you the heck alone.
_____________________________________

[Your Name and Address]

TRS Recovery Services, Inc.

Corporate Office

5251 Westheimer

Houston, TX 77056

Reference: Claim # 255357519-3 Reference # 20834 LD #7

To Whom It May Concern:

You are in receipt of notice under the authority of The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act regarding your Claim # 255357519-3 Reference # 20834 LD #7. It is not now, nor has it ever been my intention to avoid paying any obligation that I lawfully owe. In order that I can make arrangements to pay an obligation which I may owe, please document and verify the "debt" by complying in good faith with this request for validation and notice that I dispute part of or all of the alleged debt.

1. Please furnish a copy of the original contract redacting my social security number to prevent identity theft and state under penalty of perjury that D&B Receivable Management Services is the bona fide party in interest of the contract and will produce the original for my own and a judge's inspection should there be a trial to contest these matters.

2. Please produce the account and general ledger statement showing the full accounting of the alleged obligation that you are now attempting to collect.

3. Please identify by name and address all persons, corporations, associations, or any other parties having an interest in legal proceedings regarding the alleged debt.

4. Please verify under penalty of perjury, that as a debt collector, you have not purchased evidence of debt and are proceeding with collection activity in the name of the original contracting party.

5. Please verify under penalty of perjury that you know and understand that certain clauses in a contract of adhesion, such as a so-called forum selection clause, are unenforceable unless the party to whom the contract is extended could have rejected the clause without impunity.

6. Please provide verification from the stated creditor that you are authorized to act for them.

7. Please verify that you know and understand that contacting me again after receipt of this notice without providing procedurally proper validation of the debt constitutes the use of interstate communications in a scheme of fraud by advancing a writing that you know is false with the intention that others rely on the written communication to the detriment of [Your full name].

Disputing the "debt",

[Your Name]

_______________________________________

If the collector refuses to stop contacting you despite your demands and without producing the demanded evidence, you may then report them to the FCC, your state's AG, their state's AG, and may even file a claim against them in your local small claims court, as per the Fair Credit Act, federal No Call List acts, etc.

Good Luck!

PS: the image above is "The Debt Collector", by Peter Gerasimon. I like it because I have a thing for the eye of Horus, for some reason, and yes it was relevant to the post. You can see more or purchase a print at www.gerasimon.com.au/thedebtcollector.html.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Big Bang

I'm sitting here watching season two of my favorite sitcom in the whole world, the Big Bang Theory. Specifically, season two, episode eight, titled 'The Lizard-Spock Expansion.' I love anything involving physics, comics, and people that are ten times geekier than I am. Though just starting community college at thirty-two, I am determined to study physics at New Mexico Tech and, later, Caltech, researching in the field of quantum computing. I will have my doctorate at 40. Sometimes I think it's hardly worth it; what difference can I make? But then I think back to all the dreams and desires I had as a child, the awe I felt about our earth and our universe, and I realize that I want that sense of awe, excitement, and optimism that I had in every science class, and it gives me the motivation I need to suffer through all the mindless monotony while I achieve what I should have achieved years ago.

In the Lizard-Spock Expansion, Wolowitz, in an effort to impress his date by showing off his work with NASA, ends up getting the Mars Rover stuck in a ditch. Hilarity ensues as he, Sheldon, and Koothrappali try to hide the evidence linking Wolowitz to the accident. The kick is (spoiler!), Wolowitz' mistake ends up proving the existence of life on Mars, which, of course, Wolowitz cannot take credit for. The relevence to my life is that, after I dropped out of high school, I got stuck in my own ditch. For sixteen years. But that just enabled me to find that I was still that Star Trek watching, textbook reading, curious geek I was as a child, and I like being that person. Wolowitz, of course, couldn't benefit from his mistake. But I will benefit from mine, and I will help make the world a better place in the process.