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!