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Journal Journal: Did you open your eyes? 34

In a recent post on the topic of altruism being hardwired into the human brain, I challenged others to think about the theological implications of this. As the article suggested, many people jump to the conclusion that science is disproving the existence of a higher being. I used the exact opposite extreme to point out how silly that is.

Here it is again, but this time with the bolding reversed:

I figured it would be fun to respond with a similarly goofy argument:

It seems to me that if man is hardwired with an sense of altruism and a desire to believe in a super-being, there can be no other answer to this question than the existence of a Creator.

The question is, how many of you got the message? How many of you jumped to disprove a statement that did not need to be disproven in the first place?

Slashdot is composed of some of the smartest people in the world. Yet sometimes the smartest people can close their minds. The truth is that science does not prove or disprove religion. It cannot do that as it only concerns itself with the universe at hand.

Faith-based religion is not science. Let's not treat it as such. But science is not faith-based religion. Let's not make the mistake of mistreating it, either.

User Journal

Journal Journal: How I Slashdotted Google 15

It's not every day that you get someone from Google showing up to check on the spreadsheet you shared out using the Google Documents site. But that's exactly what happened after I posted such a spreadsheet in a Slashdot comment and accidentally created an impromptu chat room.

Someone over on Google must have been curious about all those server spikes, because a viewer with the address of google@google.com showed up shortly after the user traffic peaked. In fact, I had never expected that the discussion feature of the spreadsheet would attract so much attention. I figured that people would simply look at the sheet and discuss it on Slashdot. Perhaps even make a copy, modify it, and share it out.

So what could I do when the Google lurker was noticed? Quickly yank the spreadsheet from the public eye? Close my account and hope Google never traces it back to me? No, I went for hollering out an apology for the Slashdotting over the aforementioned discussion feature. This must have satisfied the lurker, because he then exited the sheet without saying so much as a word.

Then again last night, the sheet received a chat from a person with the gmail name of "google". The message was simply, "A chat room through the spreadsheet discussion? Who would have thought?"

While there's no concrete proof that these users were indeed from Google, it does seems likely given how Google tends to control its name inside its own system. Thus I have to wonder, will there be any repercussions from this? Will Slashdoters regularly create impromptu chat rooms with spreadsheets? Will Google use this as an example of how well their collaboration features work? Or will the whole thing simply blow over?

Who knows? But I can say that this little spreadsheet gone haywire was a fun experiment. And if we want to keep Google on its toes, we can always do it again!


Journal Journal: A Day Without Mono is like a Day Without a Bullet in my Head 7

I have to admit, I think I owe Miguel de Icaza an apology. When we last butt heads, I believe I accused him of choosing .NET over the existing Java projects out of a case of "Not Invented Here" syndrome. And after the Silverlight announcement (which he wants to name fad-da daw'), I was even starting to buy into the idea that he might be a blind Microsoft follower.

But after spending a few days with Mono, I have changed my mind. It is quite obvious to anyone using the platform that the Mono team is not in bed with Microsoft. In fact, it would seem that the Mono team is explicitly trying to warn you away from .NET technology. Otherwise, why would they make it SO GODDAMN HARD TO DEVELOP FOR?

Excuse my outburst, but I'm just about at my wits end. Allow me to explain.

The whole thing started when I was working on a side project that required ASP.NET. As much as I might want to get around this requirement, it was non-negotiable. So, I looked into Mono and found that they had a special development server capable of running ASP.NET pages. I thought, "Great! Now I can develop on my Mac on the go!"

So I downloaded the Mono for OS X package and installed it. It compiled the requisite "Hello World" program with no issues. (Though it spat out Hello.exe for a binary. WTF?) The XSP server also ran a simple ASP.NET page without any problems. Great! Now all I needed was some documentation.

Before I get to that part, however, let me take a moment and address Microsoft documentation. I've heard plenty of programmers beam about how wonderful Microsoft documentation is, and how they absolutely love Microsoft documentation. If they had it their way, every program would have Microsoft documentation. Personally, I've always wondered what these people are smoking.

My experience has been that Microsoft documentation is poorly organized, lacking in detail, designed to run you around in circles, and packaged in a proprietary format that makes it non-portable and generally quite useless. The only positives to Microsoft documentation is that their docs are very pretty to look at and there is a LOT of it. (Which is what happens when you try to document every possible use rather than how to use the technology.)

Back to my story. Here I am thinking that I will simply download an HTML class reference and be about my business. After all, I'm an experienced programmer. Just tell me the library calls and I'll be good to go.

A quick check of the official Mono site produced the necessary HTML documentation. But only online. Nowhere could I find a download that I could take with me. The more I looked, the more I realized that the Mono folks want you to use a GTK# MonoDoc Browser. Oooook....

MonoDoc browser is (unsurprisingly) not shipped with the Mac OS X Mono package. So I went and downloaded the only package available: The sources. Of course, the MonoDoc browser requires GTK#, so I download those sources as well. It's all cross-platform code, so it should be easy to compile, right? *sigh*

When I untarred the source archives, what do I find? Something incredibly simple and reliable like ANT? Nope. The same old configure/make scripts that have been giving me nightmares for the last decade or so. No problem. I can do this. It's CLR code, so it MUST be a simple compile, right?

First thing that happens is that the configure script can't find Mono. Wait, what? How can it not find mono? It's in the path! After some checking around, I find that the build script is using pkg-config and pkg-config doesn't know about mono. Ok, so I create a mono.pc file in the /usr/lib/pkgconfig directory. Still can't find it. I move the mono.pc to /usr/local/lib/pkgconfig. Still can't find it. I set the PKG_CONFIG_PATH to the folder containing mono.pc. STILL CAN'T FIND IT!

As you can imagine, my blood pressure is getting dangerously high at this point.

I go back to the configure scripts to see if I can simply route around the check. No, it's pretty integral. But I do manage to find that the pkg-config it's pulling is an older version in /sw/bin. Mono apparently installed its own copy in /usr/bin. Ok, I can see that. So I switch the path around (making certain it's exported to the environment) so that /usr/bin will get checked first. It still finds the older copy. I struggle with it a bit more. It still finds the old copy. Finally, I rename the older pkg-config to pkg-config.old.

Eureka! It finds mono! Just to fail on GTK+!

Wait... what?

According to the configure script I don't have GTK+ or Pango. Yet I know they're both installed because of a few other OSS apps I compiled a while back. Finally, I give up. This is a dead end that's already sapped too many hours of my time. The craptacular Linux build process bests me again.

Let's try another tack, shall we? The mono package contained a pre-compiled (thank God) tool called monodocs2html.exe. All I need to do is feed the documentation sources into the tool, and voila! Instant HTML docs! Or so I hoped.

Unfortunately, I couldn't make heads or tails of the process. The documentation on generating documentation seems nice and all, but is a bit difficult to understand without some experience with the platform. And since I can't get any documentation on how to use the platform, I'm kind of stuck with a catch-22 there.

In theory, I just point the tool at the "assembled" documentation and it works. In practice, it keeps telling me that I need index.xml. Yet there's no index.xml anywhere in the lib/monodoc/sources directory. Not even inside the Mono.zip file. Rats, foiled again!

At this point I've resigned myself to wearing the ball and chain of an ethernet cable. After all, why would anyone possibly want to take HTML documentation on the go? Not that I've been too impressed in the online docs themselves. In Java, you tend to document API methods as you go. But with Mono, they separate out the docs from the sources, ensuring that no one ever documents anything! Documentation is handled entirely by online volunteers in a Wiki-like fashion, leading to a great deal of the library being documented with "Documentation for this section has not yet been entered."

So here I am now. My laptop useless in the face of such incredible resistance to using Mono. My blood pressure at all time highs. My patience long ago exhausted. For an instant, Google gives me hope that someone else has shared their generated docs! Yet it's nothing more than an apparition of a carrot dangling in the air as if to mock me.

I really do owe Miguel an apology. His team has been making wonderful strides in ensuring that the platform is completely inaccessible to new users. Thanks, man! We always knew you were secretly anti-Microsoft.

User Journal

Journal Journal: An(other) Inconvenient Truth 2

In case this doesn't get accepted, here's a submission I just put into the queue:
From the National Geographic Society comes a(nother) report that Mars is warming at a similar pace as the earth, pointing to a solar, not a human, cause of both. Obviously, the Society is pandering to Big Oil....

User Journal

Journal Journal: When moonbats attack 8

Michelle Malkin has a follow-up piece about the barking moonbat in VA who attacked some college Republicans in their own home.

Turns out, the crazy man got the Republican's address from Facebook (where crazy man was busy making all kind of hateful posts about Republicans and Jews, and actively supporting Iran nuking the US...but he's not a traitor).

The long and the short of it is, this guy seems to be one of those leftists who believe that if you support the war, you should be in the military. And if you aren't/weren't in the military, you can't support the war.

Well, my friends, the logical conclusion to that is, unless you served in the military, you can't vote, you don't have freedom of speech, and you can't serve in elective office. In other words, they want a military dictatorship.

Somehow I don't think they'd be all that happy if they got what they seem to wish for.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Chavez beats Bush in race to dictatorship 4

Chavez has done it, he's beat Bush* in the race to become a dictator.

The Congress of Venezuela has granted Hugo Chavez the kind of authority that liberals in American think George Bush desperately desires: the ability to rule by decree. Who wants to take bets on how many liberals denounce this action and start calling Chavez a bloody tyrant the way they do Bush?

*I don't think Bush wants to be a dictator. Hell, I'm not convinced he wants to be a President!

User Journal

Journal Journal: The New York Times is Bunch of Goddamned Traitors 17

I just learned about this file, hosted on the New York Times website:

It compiles data from a classified report, detailing the weak spots in the body armor worn by US soldiers in Iraq. It even has complete diagrams, showing where to shoot to ensure a kill.

In other words, this is the perfect training manual for Iraqi snipers.

This is more evidence of the treason that runs rampant on the left these days. And because the assholes in the Bush administration refuse to do anything about it, it's more proof that the powers-that-be on the right don't give a rat's ass about our country any more than the ones on the left do.

Now excuse me, I have to go vomit.

User Journal

Journal Journal: controlling medical costs 2


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee is now requiring fatties who want to get gastric bypass to take an IQ test before they'll pay for the surgery, to make sure the patients understand that afterwards they'll have to eat not so much and exercise. But if you're smart enough to eat right and exercise, would you really need to have your stomach stapled in the first place?

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Commodore 64, now on OSNews! 2

It looks like my most recent article has made it to the front page of OSNews. As usual, the comments got off to a rocky start with the requisite grouch making half-baked arguments. Other than the political sub-thread he started, the comments have otherwise been very positive.

All in all, I think the coverage is kind of cool. Wouldn't you agree? :)

Edit: Almost forgot! One poster was kind enough to provide a link to this little hack. (And I do mean *little*!) Smitty, I think that one is for you? ;)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Are You Keeping Up with the Commodore? 8

In an accidental followup to David Brin's article Why Johnny Can't Code, I share my own experiences with introducing my son to a Commodore 64. The experience convinced me that older machines are just plain better at teaching than modern software and computers. Which would be sad, except that the Commodore 64 is perfectly positioned to make a comeback as an educational toy!

User Journal

Journal Journal: My foes 3

If I've added you as one of my foes, it means one of three things:

1) You're a flaming liberal, and I don't want to waste my time reading your drivel. Grow up, learn how the world and the people in it really work, and become a conservative.
2) You're a self-centered nerd who says things like "I don't like Microsoft, so I don't buy their products, so they will go out of business." Just because you are/are not doing something, Sparky, doesn't mean it's going to affect anyone else. One anecdote does not a data set make.
3) Ur speling and, like, grammar are just, like, bad, and stuff. Go read a basic book on English grammar, so you can learn when to use who and whom, when not to use "you and I" instead of "you and me", and what an infinitive is and why it's so important not to split them.

If you want to know which one of the three landed you on my Foes list, just email me (cor bettw at ya hoo dot com). I promise I won't add your email address to every porn spam page I come across.

User Journal

Journal Journal: New Comment System 14

Well, it looks like Slashdot has a new comment system. If you're a subscriber, you can turn it on by smacking the checkbox at the top of a comments page.

Unfortunately, I give you about 5 minutes before you'll be smacking that checkbox back off. I don't know about anyone else, but I normally browse at +0 Nested. This gives me a clear view of the discussion, and allows me to quickly browse from comment to comment. Anything else (e.g. Threaded mode) tends to require too much clicking.

The problem is that this new scheme is nothing more than uber-threading mode. It allows you to see the highest rated comments, and/or fold up the comment listings of lower-rated comments. Which breaks up the discussion horribly. It might be nicer for people who *like* threaded mode, but for the rest of us it's not particularly useful. Even worse, it doesn't seem to save your changes. So everytime I go to a new story, I have to lower the threshhold to 0! Fixing this problem alone would increase the usablility by 100%.

Basically, it's a nice concept, but I can't seem to take a liking to it. Perhaps if the threading was a little less clunky, I might like it. One thing I hope they *don't* do is make the comments download via AJAX. When I use a laptop, I'll occasionally load a large page of comments and read them on the go. This can be nice for interesting topics that have generated a lot of comments while I wasn't looking.

If anything, I'd like to see the page overflow feature fixed first. The way the overflow works, comments can disappear into the ether if there are a large number of responses to a top level post. To actually see the comments, you need to muck around with the threading/flat/nested settings trying to find a way of displaying the info so that it doesn't overflow.

Final analysis: I love the attempt and I encourage Taco and Pudge to keep trying. Unfortunately, the current version isn't it. What do the rest of you think?

PC Games (Games)

Journal Journal: Top 10 OSS Games You've Never Played 1

When it comes to Open Source games, it often seems like the selection is limited. Sure, everyone has played Tux Racer and Frozen Bubble, but what comes after that? The answer seems to be "not very much." Still, there are a few diamonds in the rough that have gone unnoticed by the majority of gamers. These are the games that you wish you existed, but are nearly impossible to find. In my latest article, I've collected a list of the top ten games that you've probably never played, but really wish you had.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Gold Museum 4

For those regulars who read my posts, I've started a Museum of Gold Coins and Gold Bars that I'll be updating daily for the next 2 weeks. I know many of my "fans" are starting to show interest in coins, and I hope this museum will eventually have enough facts on coins so that one can decipher the real deals from the "collectible" scams out there.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Thank you Mario, but the Princess is in another Castle! 2

After months of work, and several sleepless nights, I have finally moved. All the articles and your comments have been flawlessly imported to the new site. The Blogger.com site will soon redirect to the new site.

Don't think for a minute that my work is done on the new site, though. I have a lot of plans for expanding it. I'll update all ya' all as my plans for world conquest grow nearer.

Peace out.

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