Saturday, December 28, 2013

Peak Oil: Collapse or Inequality?



If you have done any reading or research on Peak Oil, you will have run across quite a number of people who claim that the ultimate effect of Peak Oil will be the collapse of modern industrial society. The implicit assumption here is that lack of resources will reduce everyone’s standard of living across the board until we have returned to pre-industrial lifestyles, with the resultant conflict, die-off, and wholesale industrial infrastructure collapse.
The implicit assumption in this scenario is that our economy is egalitarian at all levels. One moment’s reflection shows that this is not the case; as through all of history, might makes right, and the spoils go to the victor who then turns around and writes history.
I am not entirely certain that Peak Oil will play out that far anyway. I think our standard of living will be reduced but there will be an economic intersection between a falling standard of living and an increasing freedom from fossil fuels brought about by technology and conservation. Those who believe technology will save us are partly right and those who believe we are in for hard times and collapse are partly right.
However to the extent that the Peak Oil phenomenon results in a reduced standard of living, it will do so in an extremely regressive way that will only exacerbate the inequalities of our present economic system. The upper few percent will maintain and even increase their standard of living while all of the declines will occur for the bottom 95-99 percent.
Even if the doomsayers are totally correct and we are in for a complete collapse, the top one percent will still maintain their standard of living. The rest of us will be living in slums and eating meager portions that are ours only by virtue of being, for all practical purposes, slaves to this elite upper crust. Yes, slave labor—a relatively cheap source of energy that was widely exploited throughout the world up until the Industrial Revolution… This one percent will have their cars, houses, plenty of food, and every modern convenience in communities inaccessible to everyone else.
I am reminded of a passage in the Bible, a striking image of inequality:

“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse, and its rider held a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard something that sounded like a voice coming from the middle of the four living creatures. The voice said, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s pay, and three quarts of barley for a day’s pay, and do not damage the olive oil and wine!’”
-Revelation 6:5-7 (NCV)

Windows 8 Metro = Active Desktop? ...also some prognostications



Is Windows 8 Metro the new Active Desktop?

            Microsoft has a history of trying some pretty interesting things, especially when it’s a little behind the curve. Consider Active Desktop. If you ever worked with a brand new install of Windows 98, you remember being greeted with a colorful smorgasbord of Active Desktop content. However, in the last version of Windows to support it (Windows XP), you had to know the feature existed and how to turn it on. Few people used it and it was little missed when it was dropped in Vista and Windows 7.
            Active Desktop died, not because it didn’t serve a need, but because it was unworkable for the majority of users upon release. The power of Active Desktop could only really flourish with a high-speed Internet connection, and in the days of Windows 98, most people were still using dial-up modems. Lower bandwidth implementations of similar technology ruled the day such a PointCast and eventually, RSS.
            Metro appears to be in a similar situation. The full effect of Metro cannot be experienced without a touch screen. However, the proliferation of touch screens is nowhere near the critical mass necessary to establish Metro in the minds of Windows users. The cheap hardware that home users demand won’t come with a touch screen, and business users aren’t buying touchscreens either (and haven’t been really migrating to Windows 8 anyway). This leaves the pro-sumer and high end segments that are willing to churn out $700+ for a traditional PC in the age of smartphones and tablets.
            Windows 8 RT tablets such as the Surface are cheap enough to satisfy the home user crowd, but for anything less than a full PC experience on a budget, Android tablets are more compelling (and cheaper in many cases).

The future:
            I predict that future versions of Windows will continue to synthesize Metro and desktop, with Metro becoming more like the desktop and the desktop becoming more like Metro, ultimately resulting in a unified interface that does away with the current desktop/Metro split personality of Windows 8. The desktop will retain the upper hand, and in Windows 10 or 11, you’ll boot to a very touch friendly desktop and there will be no separate Metro experience. Current Metro (appx) apps will transform into something entirely new, possibly a hybrid between sidebar widgets and Active Desktop content, while desktop apps will also move toward a similar paradigm in which everything is infinitely floatable, dockable, switchable, mashable, shareable, etc. But while this interface will be touch friendly, it will be equally mouse friendly in a way where your method of input is actually rather irrelevant, functionally.
            All the brouhaha over form factors (tablet, phone, desktop, laptop) completely misses the point, technologically speaking, and this where Microsoft is getting it right and Apple is getting it wrong. Already we are seeing the proliferation of new form factors such as glasses (Google Glass) and watches (Samsung) and this will only continue. If Microsoft can evolve Windows into a truly form factor and input agnostic OS it will poised to dominate.
            Some may point to the lack of app development for Windows Phone and Windows Metro, but the traditional OS app barrier will not exist for much longer. Apps are being rewritten for the web at an astounding pace, including Microsoft Office.
            The entrenchment of iOS and Android as touch OSes will prove to be a future handicap without significant forward thinking and development on the part of Apple and Google.

Business and corporate:
            Business is all about manageability and control. Traditional corporate IT system management and security practices and hardware and OS upgrade patterns will not permit the rapid deployment of new technologies. There is a tremendous amount of what I call “compliance assurance” that goes into approving new technology, and it is this compliance requirement that defines corporate IT (at least GOOD corporate IT).
            Vendor software that is rapid-release (Firefox, Chrome, etc.) cannot by definition meet compliance assurance requirements. Thus the proliferation of long-term or extended service releases. Microsoft has not been “rapid-release” with Windows so businesses have been able to run XP for a good long time, and will be able to run Windows 7 for a good long time to come, before being forced to upgrade.
            By the time extended support for Windows 7 expires around the end of this decade, I fully expect Microsoft to provide a new OS that business can work with. As I said above, this OS will work on the desktop as well as it will on a phone or watch. I think corporate IT will be pleasantly surprised with one of the next three releases of Windows over the next 5-7 years.
            However, corporate IT has an extremely powerful trump card: desktop virtualization. Corporate IT can decide to check out of the client OS rat-race at any time and deploy thin-clients (hardware or software) that drop users on a personalized, traditional desktop being run on a server. Besides the uncertainty of what Microsoft will do with the Windows client OS, desktop virtualization is extremely attractive because it centralizes administration and reduces client hardware costs. It isn’t workable in every scenario, but it will work in most. Bring your own device, because we don’t care—nothing is running on your Mac/Android Tablet/Windows PC/Linux box anyway…
            Desktop virtualization stands to be greatly impacted by upcoming Windows releases but this is a complex interaction so I won’t even comment on how that might play out. I will simply say that while Windows will become more flexible, security considerations will tend to keep corporate information assets sandboxed even if the client OS can handle different contexts properly while allowing the users to “mash” them together. This is a can of worms, full of potential hurt for whoever is in charge of corporate IT security, and is one of the greatest reasons why BYOD is unworkable unless the IT department is given complete control over the device.

Summary

It’s gonna be ok! While you have to appreciate what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 8, you don’t have to be satisfied. In fact, the best is yet to come. The old saw that Windows versions alternate between great and terrible has some truth because new ideas always need improvement. Windows 8 may not be winning a lot of hearts and minds right now, but it is an evolutionary step in the right direction.


P.S. Hey Microsoft if you are listening: Give me an MMC snap-in or a Control Panel option to manage Metro apps (provisioned and per-user). Why should I have to use PowerShell for this?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Average is Over

In this book, Tyler Cohen makes the case that the US is on a path to higher inequality. He argues that those who can work with computers and smart machines will increase their earnings and everyone else will be relegated to low-income status. We have all heard this before.
Cohen explicitly promotes the Horatio Alger myth by name and claims that people with enough self-determination and discipline will do well in this environment. He claims that government fiscal issues will push the low-income earners toward areas of the country with low taxes and middling public services. He quite literally promotes US slums where housing is worn down, services are shoddy, and people make do.
Cohen’s right-wing dreamery continues as he claims that America will grow more conservative (read right-wing) over time as America grows older.
Cohen seems to miss that immigration completely voids his predictions. Yes, income inequality is growing, and computer jobs are the future. However, H1-B visa abuse has confounded countless numbers of American IT professionals who can’t compete against what is essentially taxless indentured servitude that always seems to get paid on the low side.
Also, Latino immigration is changing the demographics of America in a profound way. This influx of Latin Americans will tend to keep America younger than it would be, confounding Cohen’s idea that America will age into right-wing conservatism. Furthermore, Latinos may be conservative on the level of personal lifestyles and morality but they are far from conservative on society and government.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Skip Microsoft Account in Windows 8.1

Choose create new account, and then choose to sign in without an account.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The HP JetDirect MAC Address Sticker

The HP JetDirect MAC Address Sticker will have two addresses: a TR or Token Ring MAC address, and an AD or standard Ethernet MAC address.

Posting here because it took entirely too long to figure out the difference between TR and AD!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Not enough free space" using Clonezilla

The scenario is, you are backing up an image using Clonezilla to a network share and during the backup, and Clonezilla reports not enough free space. You have verified that there is plenty of free space.
Solution: Ensure that the ethernet cable is connected and the link light is coming on.
If that doesn't work, try a later version of Clonezilla.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dog Salvation

    Often, Christians will say that they believe, or at least want to believe, that their dead beloved pets will meet them in heaven. This is an understandable sentiment. If there is a heaven then why shouldn’t beloved pets go there? When the topic comes up among Christian friends, it is not really treated seriously. It is more of a hope than a serious doctrinal position.
    The concept that animals will go to heaven is at its core a form of universalism. No Christian theology that I am aware of actually allows for this. But in love, the Christian owner hopes that their animal will be waiting for them on the other side.
    My question is this: where is that love for everyone else? The same people that want their pets to go to heaven will not stand for any sort of universalist teaching that all mankind will end up in heaven. Of course, most Christians will say that they do wish everyone would be saved, in the end, but that Scripture does not teach that. Scripture does not say pets will go to heaven, but that doesn’t stop them from agreeing that their beloved pet SHOULD go to heaven. However, those unbelievers shouldn’t go to heaven? How is it that, given Scripture, the door is left open for one and closed for the other? Christ didn’t die for the animals.
    Of course, there are many and varied doctrinal caveats to be considered—the discussion there is endless. The point is that Christians do not extend their hope and love very far. Some of the same Christians who want their pets to get to heaven have no compunction about unleashing scorn and contempt on other Christians and denominations who do not agree with them. They have no problem restricting the civil liberties of other religions, people of other sexual orientations, women and minorities, etc. They get past their doctrine with their pets but are willing to condemn actual people.
    Maybe this is sort of what Christ meant about not judging. What if God were to judge fundamentalists by their doctrine, Episcopalians by their doctrine, Catholics by their doctrine, etc.? What a fearful time for some. You would tell the hypocrites because they wouldn’t be ready for that kind of judgment. Christ literally spent his life fighting back against Pharisees and their heaping mounds of harsh and exacting doctrine. Maybe Christ is telling Christians to back off a little bit and adopt an outlook of hope and love rather than someone’s statement of faith. It is certainly a better philosophy to be judged by.

Reconciling Adam, the Fall, and Evolution

       I believe it is possible to understand Adam and Eve, Genesis 1, and even the Apostle Paul, in a way that does no violence either to evolution or the Bible. Is it past time for Christianity to get past this issue and stop fighting with science and the evidence. It is high time for the church and her preachers and theologians to seriously deal with this theological issue and adopt an improved understanding that will carry it forward. In the following paragraphs I will put forward a position that I believe will satisfy the demands being made on both sides of the debate.
       I have written much in the past on how this is not possible. However, I have recently been inspired in a new direction and I think there is an answer. In any case, there are far more fatal issues with Christianity, although this one is nothing to sneeze at.
       I feel like I am putting meat on the bones of pre-existing ideas. That it has not been done to date is due to the seemingly greater problem of getting many Christians to consider evolution at all. As a veteran of the King James Only debate, I see a lot of the same dynamic with this debate—facts and truth are often lost in the rush to dogma. There is often more heat than light.
The trouble with Adam and Eve goes beyond Genesis 1. As a matter of fact, if Genesis 1 were all there was to work with, the issue might be resolved by now. Genesis 1 can be understood in a fully literary or figurative sense. It is the New Testament in the Apostle Paul that is the hard case when reconciling Scripture with evolution. Perhaps it is nowhere harder than in Acts 17:26, which reads:
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”
It is understood that Paul is speaking of the Biblical Adam here. Some translations have “one blood,” while the Greek is literally just “one,” but the conclusion is the same: all nations share an ancestor. In light of the Hebrew Scriptures, that one ancestor would be none other than Adam. The concept of evolution also does not support any such genealogical choke point, and indeed genealogical evidence disproves the idea that we all descended from a single human.
Tim Keller points out a solution offered by Derek Kidner: that Adam as head of the human race is not understood biologically, but spiritually. Adam is not necessarily our biological forefather, but occupies a “federal headship” over humanity as our spiritual forefather.
The Biblical parallel between the first Adam and the second Adam bears this out: if Christ is become the firstfruits of our spiritual awakening, Adam was the firstfruits of our spiritual death. In this way we understand Rom 5:12-14, which reads:
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.”
Christ is not biologically related to us, but that does not change the spiritual reality. So then our biological relationship to Adam is not the issue, but our spiritual inheritance from Adam is.
When sin entered the world, it caused death: not physical death, but spiritual death. There was no spiritual death before Adam because man was not a spiritual being until Adam. The image of God was created in man with the addition of a spiritual nature.
In the same way God also took Eve from among pre-Adamic humanity and made her a spiritual being for the purpose of companionship to Adam. No creature, not even existing humanity, could be Adam’s true companion now that he was become a spiritual being. So then God took Eve from his side(“ribs”), from his existing human community, and made her a spiritual being also, in order that Adam might have a true companion.
Having created this spiritual pair, God set them in the Garden of Eden with instructions. The first command is given in Gen 1:28:
“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
The second command is given in Gen 1:29-30:
“I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.”
A third command comes in the form of a commission in Gen 2:15:
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
The fourth command, forbidding the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, comes in Gen 2:16b-17:
“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Taking these commands together reveals that God’s purpose was the caretaking of every creature on the earth. In this mission, spiritual man was given a leadership position. Therefore, Adam and Eve’s commission was to mirror God’s purpose: a benevolent caretaking, rather than a forceful domination. Only after the fall would power dynamics come into play that resulted in domination: of man over the earth, and of Adam over Eve.
God entrusted man with this caretaking, having made man in His image, so that the whole world might be transformed unto His glory. The kingdom of God that Christ spoke of is the renewal of all things and the realization of this transformation that was aborted when Adam and Eve sinned.
At this point there are several loose ends to tie up. One may ask what happened to pre-Adamic man? The positive Biblical evidence seems to indicate that Adam’s children took spouses from among them. (So no, Eve did not have children by her sons, and yes, Adam and Eve had bellybuttons!) The Bible also indicates that Cain fled into one of these communities after killing Abel.
We must recall the providence of God as Paul stated in Acts 17. God decided their times and their boundaries. With the introduction of spiritual man, God brought all of pre-Adamic humanity to a close through two means. The primary means was the spread of spiritual consciousness through interaction with Adam’s line, thus making Adam the spiritual father of us all. As the knowledge of good and evil spread, spiritual death spread. The secondary means was the providential activity of God in assisting human migration so that this spiritual nature could spread.
God intended to ultimately save humanity through Christ, while immediately providing a level of atonement through blood sacrifice. All of mankind had to come under the curse so all of mankind could be redeemed and the new transformation of the world through the kingdom of God could occur.
Pre-Adamic men died as the animals, with no consciousness after death, not being spiritual beings.
There was most certainly biological death before the fall. The apparent capital punishment promised by God for disobedience meant something to Adam and Eve. The commission to subdue the Earth and care for the garden indicates some level of entropy. The eating of plant and vegetable matter by living beings resulted in the death of that matter.
God never promised Adam and Eve eternal biological life. Absent the fall, physical death might have been a time of transformation into a pure spiritual being and not an end of earthly existence. God then had an amazing evolutionary step in mind for mankind—at least until Adam and Eve disobeyed. This putting on of the immortal has now been made possible through Christ.
The immortality of the soul may also seem to come into question. There are some who would insist on the soul being mortal. For the purposes of this discussion, it does not matter. The important point is that if the soul is immortal, it has become so as a result of man coming into the image of God by being made a spiritual being.
It is also appropriate to point out that some tangential issues are actually irrelevant to the present discussion. The issues include Biblical genealogies, Noah’s flood, and early life spans. We are merely concerned with situating Adam and Eve in theology as actual persons.
One more question: was there a tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Did Adam and Eve really eat of that tree? It is possible that this episode is symbolic of some other transgression wherein they sinned and died spiritually. If so, what that would be is speculation, but it does not take away from the fact that Adam and Eve brought sin and death into this world through an initial act of disobedience to God.
However, if there was an actual tree, I do not think that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was inherently evil. It was the act of violating God’s command that was evil, and the carrying out of that act resulted in the knowledge of good and evil. Having transgressed, their eyes were opened—they understood the potential of disobedience to God and their capability to do so. Innocence became fraught with evil potential, and so they covered their bodies in fig leaves.
The breath of life is said to animate both man and beast in Genesis 1. For this reason, the breath of life does not indicate any spiritual status, but merely indicates a state of animation. Nor does the breath of life impart a soul, although the soul is made alive thereby.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Recovering data from 3TB / GPT drives

If you have to recover data from a large size drive (2-3+ TB) do not use a USB dock. Hook the drive up internally on a recent model (preferrably UEFI based) desktop computer. If this is impossible then an eSATA adapter might work, but I am not sure.
Use a recent operating system (Vista or later, or recent version of Mac OSX) and see if you can read the drive. If the full partition comes up at the right size, you can use standard OS-based tools to recover data. If the partition is not the right size, or there is no partition at all, you can use testdisk from within the OS to scan the drive and try to recover the partition.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Getting Pipelight to Work Under Linux for Netflix

I just got Pipelight to work under Linux Mint Maya and, like most Linux projects, had to a do tremendous amount of forum and web surfing to iron out the glitches.

In general, the official Pipelight installation instructions are good: http://fds-team.de/cms/pipelight-installation.html

However, one important prequisite is to enable xattr on your file system. You need to edit /etc/fstab, and look for the main filesystem (which likely has a type of ext4). Under the column for this entry, add a comma and then "user_xattr" to the end, with no spaces. (See http://wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/Netflix/Pipelight#xattr for more on this)

Then remount the filesystem: sudo mount / -o remount

Without xattr enabled, Netflix will throw a DRM error.

Then proceed to install Pipelight per the official instructions, using the multi-plugin method and the Silverlight 5.0 option.

You aren't done yet! Whichever browser you use, you will need to use a User Agent String change extension to make the browser look like Firefox on Windows. Otherwise, the Netflix site will complain about you not being on one of their supported platforms.

I have read reports that Pipelight/Netflix does not work too well with the Firefox browser itself. I used Chromium instead.

Using the fullscreen mode on Netflix and then going back to regular mode crashes the browser and the plugin, at least for me.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Repeated Security Settings Prompt in Internet Explorer and Unable to Reset User Customizations

This problem involves receiving a prompt saying that your current security settings put your computer at risk. Even though you tell it to fix it, it keeps coming up everytime you go into Internet Explorer. The first thing to try is to go to Internet Options>Advanced and choose Reset. When resetting, choose also to delete personal settings.

If this does not work, you will need to delete your user profile. Login to another account with administrator access to the local computer (create such an account if needed, or enable to built-in administrator account). Copy your profile folder to the root of the C: drive or maybe to a USB flash drive. The profile folder will be found either in C:\Documents and Settings or C:\Users.
After doing this, right click the Computer icon and go to Properties. Click on Advanced or Advanced System Settings. Then click on the Settings button under the User Profiles section. Then find your profile and delete it.

The next time you log on as you, the profile will be recreated. Only copy over important documents and media files from your profile backup you made.

Unable to View Remote Printers in Windows

You navigate to a remote computer (e.g. \\computer123) and click View Remote Printers. (If you are on Windows 8, you will need to do Win+R and type in printmanagement.msc and hit OK, then add the remote machine as a print server.)

The problem arises when no remote printers are presented. First, ensure that the account you are logged into has administrative rights on the remote computer.
Secondly, open up Group Policy Editor on the remote computer by running:
gpedit.msc /gpcomputer: computername

Then navigate to Computer Configuration>Administrative Templates>Printers. Find the setting "Allow Print Spooler to accept client connections" and Enable it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

American Cynicism



            My wife went to her allergist appointment this morning, and her doctor mentioned how young people today don’t seem to have any ambition or goals. Now many people would blame the young people, and certainly there is some blame there. However, I do not think that is where the problem starts—or ends.
            I remember a few years ago hearing someone say that anyone born in 1980 or later won’t be a good worker. Now, that is a terrible generalization, as I am sure that the class of 1998 and every class after it has had their successes. In fact, the first of this crew would have entered professional jobs around 2002-3, after completing degrees, and the world has not fallen apart!
            On the other hand, there is some truth to this. I think the blame lies with cynical parents. The blame also lies with a cynical nation, a nation cynical of its organizations, its government, itself, and the world. Why try when everything is broken, when corporations put profit above all else, when government does not seem to function in the best interests of the people, and when environmental disaster and oil depletion are around the corner.
            America and Americans have lost hope, as evidenced by a new generation that often succeeds but mostly says “whatever.” It is hard to blame them. The problem is not that we face problems; the problem is that we refuse to believe in ourselves.
            No where is this more evident than in cynicism of government. Government in a democratic republic like the United States is representative of the people. We get a government that mirrors what we are: petty, fighting, selfish, and vain, with misplaced priorities and no hope in future success. It gets worse, because antagonism against government is antagonism against the kind of collective solidarity that is needed to truly solve the big problems. We not only don’t believe in ourselves as individuals, we don’t believe in ourselves as Americans.
            Nowhere is this inability to solve problems more evident than the fight over Obamacare. The fact is that something needed to be done about health care and the PPACA attempts to do something about it. An America that believed in itself and democracy would run with it and fix problems as we go. It was passed by a duly elected congress, and signed by a duly elected president who was elected again. Let’s see how it works out. Let’s try to solve the problem. Instead, Republicans pick on the website, litigate details in court, and completely drop the ball at the state level by declining to set up exchanges and refusing to expand Medicaid. The strategy is tuned to make it fail, rather than help it succeed, while Republicans have no comprehensive alternative solution to offer, except deregulation.
            Guess what? This type of inability to work together just furthers American cynicism. I’ve chosen to break the cycle and not listen to the anti-collectivism of our day. I’ve chosen to believe that we can come together in government at all levels to solve the big problems. We need a critical mass of Americans who will do this to make progress as a country.