The Usual Stupid Nattering about Computers

Sunday 19 April 2015 Leave a comment

There is some vague possibility some folks might find this useful…

The other day I hauled out my Win7 laptop to complete formatting before submitting my book to the publisher. It had a copy of Word 2003, the last version I can tolerate, and Word format is pretty much required by the publisher (it’s pretty common among publishers) but mine isn’t too picky about the version. I had WINE running on the laptop with Word 97, but that’s too old for the publisher’s scripted conversion process.

This required a very long and convoluted process of updating everything on the Win7 laptop. At least one update persistently failed, and nothing I could find would resolve this. It’s typical of MS products, as you may know, that the least bit of individualizing of your system breaks everything because the Borg of Redmond is hostile to human uniqueness. You have to understand that Windows development tends to be highly compartmentalized, while the system is not. So the developers of one part are not only clueless about what the folks in the other parts are doing, but might actually be in some kind of perverted passive-aggressive competition to break each others stuff. This, in the guise of insisting they are doing it right and the other teams need to get on board. At any rate, it was the usual tears and agony for the end user in my case.

Granted, this is a relatively low-spec laptop, so the hardware is already a tad cranky, but it’s the best I could do. Win7 was the least painful of the MS solutions that run on this device. But this was aggravated by the pervasive “screw-the-user” attitude of all the essential supporting service companies: anti-virus, anti-spyware, etc. All of them have adopted the MS attitude of simply forcing the system to do certain things without giving the user a clue what or why. The only time they bother to inform you is when they can profit from exaggerating or outright lying about what’s going on. The exact same companies never treat Linux users this way when they make products for Linux.

I decided it was time to research afresh the various options I can tolerate in Linux and see if I could ditch Windows on this laptop (Dell Inspiron 15-3542). First, backup the Win7 installation completely so it can be restored (I did the same with the original Win8.1). The RedHat clones had already failed, much as I like them. The stable Ubuntu and friends were a mess, so I tried OpenSUSE 13.2. No consistent sound and it simply locked up when I tried to log out. Before giving up, I tried the latest weekly update of Debian 8 pre-release (AMD64 version).

Worked perfectly out of the box. So I’m writing this on said Debian laptop right now. Yes, the hardware is still a little wonky (especially the cheap touchpad) but it was worse under Windows. I decided to use the “non-free firmware” version of the net install CD, because I knew the networking stuff was not fully Open Source yet (RealTek 8101 ethernet and Atheros 9565 wifi) and only needed one other non-free package for the Bluetooth (an ar3k module).

That meant I would need to add a VM to run WinXP with Office XP (still got good CDs for those). Since Virtual Box was already in the standard Debian repo, that was the shortest path. However, it’s been broken into lots of little packages, so I had to figure it all out and install most of them:

  • virtualbox
  • virtualbox-dkms
  • virtualbox-guest-additions-iso
  • virtualbox-guest-dkms
  • virtualbox-guest-utils
  • virtualbox-guest-x11
  • virtualbox-qt

But this allows you to install from the CD you put into the host-machine tray, instead of forcing you to extract the ISO from the CD and mount it as a virtual drive, as is the normal practice with Virtual Box. So I was able to process the book that way and it’s all good.

The only other issue remaining is that I am still trying to parse the various options in synclient to tame this cranky touchpad.

Otherwise, Debian 8 AMD64 runs very on Dell’s Inspirion 15-3542.

Addenda: Joking comment about how much the US Army needs to re-hire me as a civilian cyber security guy and train military folks to use Linux so they can stop getting serious viral infections just about guaranteed due to obstreperous bureaucratic habits. I’m ready to go to work yesterday, but I tend to think it would require some pretty heavy pressure from way up the chain of command before anyone would take seriously such a suggestion. Windows-based habits are burned into the very concrete on which military computer offices stand.

Plotting against Divine Sovereignty

Sunday 19 April 2015 Leave a comment

There is the message, and then we have the methods and means of that message.

Were our world not so hostile to heart-led living, we wouldn’t have to waste so much time and effort explaining it. Every blog post holds the potential for drawing a much wider audience than the regulars, and it requires balancing the language and tone between first time readers and those who already know the context. Such is the way of things for a blog like this in our world.

What kind of nifty little phrase can we use to replace that necessary explanation? Living in the consciousness of the heart-mind that arises from an awareness of the sensory wiring and the sensory field emanating from the heart is quite a mouthful. But we have to add to it that we take seriously what the Bible in particular, and the Ancient Near Eastern civilizations in general, say is the superior consciousness of the heart as the seat of the will, not mere human sentiment. Even then, we suffer the unexamined assumption of most Westerners that anything above the intellect would be more intellectual, or that we are blathering about some mythology of the East. At some point, you can’t afford to get too deeply entangled in explaining it more than once — “Look! There’s a brain in your chest!”

In the future, you’ll see me linking back to my most recent book, Heart of Faith, pretty frequently. In fact, I’ll be adding it to the advertising space on the lower right there with my other anchor book. It’s important to continue offering fresh insight into the contrast between Western moral mythology and biblical moral reality. Instead of endlessly restating that radical shift, we need to continue discussing the implications of it.

For example, most Westerners comprehend the notion of self-reliance, but that’s not exactly a biblical ethic. Rather, it’s reliance on God’s provision. Much of the time, that means you are obliged to engage Creation with your heart and lead your mind to formulate the right action for the context. Mankind has struggled since being kicked out of Eden, trying to get Creation to provide what his incompetent intellect can discern is necessary for life. The mind alone will screw it up. It won’t be catastrophic every day, but it will make you work extra hard “by the sweat of your brow” and you still get thorns and thistles along with a paltry harvest of the food you intended to grow.

Living by your heart-mind engages an entirely different scenario, teaching you to eat what God provides. If thorns and thistles don’t meet your needs, then learn how to commune with God’s provision to find out how to meet those needs with what does grow. And maybe you need to live somewhere else to be among those things He offers. Otherwise, you’ll be battling the very soil in a pointless war of dominance that ends up poisoning Creation and your children.

Time is short. Learn this and practice it, because the world is likely to change dramatically very soon. We cannot predict the shape of things to come, nor could you expect a useful answer from those who think they steer such events. Not every member of the plutocrat crowd is in on this “Path to Persia” business, but the crew heading up that project is not going to stop until every tool is taken from their hands (we call them “neocons”).

When things start coming apart for the rest of us who have no leverage to change these folks’ plans, we truly must be ready to exploit this huge mess for the glory of the Father. That means demonstrating heart-led living in the midst of the coming chaos, and reaping the blessings with joy.

Psalm 46

Saturday 18 April 2015 Leave a comment

A psalm from the Korahites, Martin Luther said this was the basis for his famous “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” hymn, but there are also more recent songs from it. This and the next two seem to form a trilogy on the same impetus. While most scholars guess it was a particular historical event, nothing in the trio offers sufficient specifics to identify.

We are left awe-struck at the soaring praise.

God is our shelter from threats and the reason we boast. He’s always between us and trouble. Even in the earth itself should be our trouble, we have nothing to fear. Instead of crashing waves, we have a sweet stream of clear water in the place where God instructed us to meet with Him. And who could roust Him from where He chooses to be found? He wastes no time, but at first light brings His mighty deliverance.

The psalmist makes a blunt statement that human politics are subject to God’s whims. The whole world could assemble together as one, but He still shuffles things around as He sees fit. At His command, the earth itself would melt under their feet. Stop and think just Who this God is we are talking about. This is the one who defeated armies by His own miracles when they could otherwise have overwhelmed Israel.

And He can simply stop all wars, too. He could humble the whole human race at His feet; someday He will. Nothing and no one in this Creation resists the power of the Creator. And when you serve this God, when your actions reflect His revealed character and His will, His heavenly army has your back.

Categories: bible Tags: , ,

Heart of Faith Published

Friday 17 April 2015 Leave a comment

Peewee Falls with text

Cover art for Heart of Faith

The cover art is something I grabbed from US government archives under public domain, this time using the site run by the federal highway folks. They have these nice tourist drives with pictures listed on their site.

You might want to learn a trick: A full-color picture is often hard to match with a text color. I typically fade these photos by reducing both brightness and color saturation so that the text stands out better.

Get your free copy of the book here.

Heart of Faith: Epilogue

Friday 17 April 2015 Leave a comment


Nothing precludes bringing your heart of faith into your church. You are the one to decide if God calls you out of, or into, or alongside, any existing institution. We should hope this teaching is not divisive in the sense of fracturing any organization, or creating sectarian tensions within it. Perhaps you realize that any such thing tends to negate the teaching in the first place. Yet, by the same token, you realize that nothing prevents you building your own new faith group around this teaching.

At a bare minimum, this teaching will demand a new consciousness of religion. Again, religion is the human response to the moral imperatives in your heart. God gave us a mind to organize and implement the demands of faith.

Heart-led faith is your direct connection to a parallel universe, as it were. Within that universe, you should be aware that everything is entirely voluntary, dynamic and alive. People become leaders simply because others follow, but a heart-led faith would never result in following anyone too closely. It’s rather like sheep in a flock keeping line-of-sight contact with whomever serves as the shepherd. In heart-led faith, you are likely to follow different shepherds at different times for different reasons.

In that alternate universe, the character of Christ is the only rule. No human is permitted to define that for you, nor you for them. When your heart senses His Presence in another, you hang out together and travel along that invisible path in fellowship. You owe all to Christ, and thus His love is the only thing you owe to anyone else. There are lots of people who live this way and simply call it something else, so keep your heart-eyes open.

A genuine heart-led communion doesn’t form on this plane of existence; it simply manifests here in the burning bush of that moment. The only thing consumed by the holy fire is your sin. The only objective is your continued journey while you remain in this fallen realm.

Leaking from the Heart

Thursday 16 April 2015 1 comment

While whistleblowing is almost pure politics, leaking is a divine art.

The Internet itself is pretty deceptive. That is, the same systemic deception you see everywhere else has invaded the Net, in that the coolest and most attractive sites are those that participate in the standard official lies. Some of you are aware that there is an entire range of alternative news sites that serve merely as controlled opposition. There are also a jillion cranks who really don’t get it and never will. The Net is wonderful place, though, because the few who are willing to tell the honest truth about things can find a voice, as well. That’s been quite rare in human history. Still, the Net as a whole is only slightly better than any other form of communication in terms of content.

And all those other forms of communication are fully under control of those who represent the system. Just keeping your private communications private is nearly impossible. Meanwhile, those who represent the system can easily keep vast piles of secret data.

Let’s learn some generalities, starting with Holy Cynicism. All human flesh is fallen. Your own flesh will oppose righteousness to some degree. Since you can’t really trust that person in the mirror completely, you should realize you can’t trust anyone else completely.

Every successful whistleblower was pre-approved before they came out with their story. Otherwise, they never would have gotten the information in the first place. This I know from first-hand experience. Somebody in the system wanted that story told. Learn to doubt that you are getting the whole story. Always keep a measure of suspended judgment on everything.

Assume that every leak was officially approved by somebody with the power to stop it. The purposes for leaks vary widely, but most of it serves the larger purpose of keeping us in the dark. Leaking one fact and fluffing it can pull attention away from something even more important.

Nobody famous got there without someone in power sponsoring them. Be aware that sponsorship can come in the guise of neglecting to stop something. This is not about gossip; we aren’t any kind of Truth Police. Rather, this is more about abuse of power. Moral leaking aims to warn others of a genuine threat. All of this is based on the fundamental characteristic of God and revelation itself, which includes exposing sin. However, let him without sin cast the first stone when it comes to personal stuff. Exposing the sin within systems is another matter.

Let’s pretend you actually do have access to data that your heart tells you must be leaked. First, slaughter without mercy any notion of blowing the whistle. The very concept itself implies a certain desired result from the disclosure. The system will ensure you are crushed if you go that route. If it doesn’t, it’s because you are participating in some worse deception, probably without knowing it. The notion that we could somehow stir up resistance and stop something is for movies and political manipulations. The proper moral consideration is simply making available something kept secret, something that affects people, but they don’t know about it.

Develop the moral orientation of simply letting folks make what they will of the data. Don’t attempt to shape the human response or attempt to put your own spin on it; otherwise you become part of the systemic abuse. Don’t even trust the data, regardless whether you participated in gathering it. The system tends to lie reflexively, and the best stuff will be compartmentalized, so that no one can get the whole story who isn’t under the system’s control. No, just put it out there and let God worry about what happens. Follow your heart.

Never trust an outlet that doesn’t share this brand of cynicism.

For nerdy computer related stuff, try Pastebin. The fundamental purpose of that site is to temporarily store code snippets and related material, so this is the place to leak source code. You’d be amazed at how many folks have nothing better to do than look for stuff like that. You can also do similar things on Github Gist.

More typical government and large corporate leaks might pass better through Cryptome. Cryptocomb is a little more narrowly focused, but similar in nature. Cryptocomb does a good job of outing CIA agents. However, just plain documentation leaks can be easily handled at Public Intelligence. You should visit the sites and read up on the preferred means of transmission.

Religious scandals are easy: Just pass the information to anyone who has attacked the involved religious institution, or someone who attacks religion in general. If nothing else, try What Really Happened on such things; it gets a lot of eyes. However, they prefer links to posted material, so if you want to insulate yourself for any good reason, you need to find someone willing to post it somewhere.

There is no cowardice or dishonesty in avoiding attention. If you know someone who is able to handle this stuff with a reasonable degree of fairness, pass it on. However, it then becomes their story and you can’t hope to control what happens. A critical element in all of this is verifying the source of information. The more emotionally involved you are, the more likely you’ll betray yourself in every sense of the term. Stop and think what it might take to show that this isn’t some wild nonsense in your own head.

And don’t take my word for it; do your own research. If you even suspect you’ll be exposed to threatening secret data, now is a good time to bone up on methods of leaking, and deciding how much risk you’ll accept to obey your heart on this matter.

Heart of Faith: Conclusion

Thursday 16 April 2015 1 comment

Don’t live in your head.

Be on guard against simplistic reading of the Hebrew Scriptures. Yes, Jeremiah 17:9 says that “the heart is desperately wicked” in most English translations. Hebrew thinking is the antithesis of legalistic semantic wrangling. A fair translation in the context would be “consciousness” instead of “heart.” That’s because the context condemns reliance on human capability and turning your consciousness from obeying the Lord. Jeremiah works from the assumption that the mind and flesh are inseparable, but that the sense of self cannot be restricted to the mind alone, and that your heart can decide it will follow moral truth, dragging the flesh along behind.

Use your mind, but don’t trust it. Sure, when it comes to developing and following routines, the mind is great. It saves energy and resources when you don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. But by the same token, your heart must keep an eye on things, looking down on the mental operations from the lofty perch next to God’s heart. It is for the heart to realize when something in the context has changed that demands the mind shift gears appropriately.

Much of our modern social confusion about moral questions starts with a sneaky trick, in which the activist or advocate refuses to address more fundamental questions of what constitutes good morals. So you’ll often confront condemnations that presume you already agree with the underlying moral ground. And we have been conditioned to respond without going back and checking those moral assumptions. “Everybody knows,” they say. Thus, a vast territory of hard wiring in our human nature is ignored or outright condemned without a fair consideration of whether we can even do anything about it. We are held accountable to an artificial and impossible standard. Of course, the purpose is to make you feel self-revulsion and remain helpless before the onslaught of manipulative propaganda.

False guilt is a very powerful disabler.

Most of the time it’s pointless to acknowledge, much less engage, such evil. When possible, we who walk in Christ by our hearts will simply bypass the whole noisy riot. But there is nothing wrong with analyzing these things from a pure heart. This requires that you reject first and foremost the entire range of Western Civilization and all the moral baggage that comes with it. I don’t mean that we should stop living with modern conveniences simply because they come from a decadent materialistic society. We accept what is; all things are tools for His glory, but making Him glorious includes how we handle propaganda.

In your own heart, at least, be aware of the truth. Your flesh is what it is — fallen and unguided by moral truth. Your intellect is part of that. What makes for good logic may have nothing to do with moral truth, but don’t buy into the nonsense that your mind is inherently good or bad. It’s just flesh and acts according to its nature. Thoughts are the product of this raw and untamed nature.

What our society condemns as racist or sexist thoughts are simply thoughts. If your mind is not in charge, then it really isn’t a big deal. There’s no need for frantic efforts to keep a magnifying glass on every suspicious nerve impulse traversing your brain. Truth? Racism is a highly conditioned response to the fundamental human need to spend most of our time with our own extended family. Sexism is a highly conditioned response to the very hard-wired recognition that male and female are not interchangeable in most contexts. Frankly, most of the problems arise from a perverted social mythology that preaches heathen moral values.

It does no good to inflict shame on yourself simply because something in your flesh desires evil. That’s not the same as saying there is no evil in you, but that the proper way to handle things is not how the vast majority of Westerners do it. Western mythology makes no room for the existence of your heart-mind, and denigrates God’s love and mercy as the grudging provision for weaklings. Thus, the desperate attempts at controlling the mind and all the various thoughts, with the demand you permit some outside force to do it for you. It’s the wrong force. God doesn’t work that way.

Solomon was reputed the wisest man in human history. His mind seemed boundless. Yet for all his great understanding, it didn’t keep him from acting foolishly (1 Kings 11:1-13) in the long run, and he passed that folly on to his designated heir. There was room for repentance; that was the whole point in the sacrificial ritual system. Holiness is measured as the desire of your heart, not whether you can compel your flesh to perform accordingly. But Solomon’s loyalty was divided, and he couldn’t bring himself back far enough to repent. That didn’t invalidate the wise advice in his writings, but served instead to prove that real wisdom is not in the mind, but the heart — reverence for the Lord.

The oft-repeated biblical phrase, “purify your heart,” is a figure of speech. Perhaps it would better translate for us as “clarify your commitments.” You have to live there in your heart in order to discern it. It’s not a question of nifty little exercises (implying control by the intellect) that help you move your consciousness into your heart. It’s more a question of teaching your mind to recognize something that already exists. The pace and manner of change is between you and God. Your sense of awareness may never change all that much for you, but the content will surely follow a new path. With that changed content comes an awareness of a powerful necessity, a drive that is greater than anything you could experience any other way.

This is what we mean by a heart of faith.


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