Christian Video Games Part 2: Wisdom Tree’s roots

When I left off yesterday, I’d given you an overview of Wisdom Tree’s more horrible offerings. But of course, I’m not done yet — not while they still exist. And they do still exist, you know. And their idea of taking existing video game concepts and grafting Bible quizzes on them is now practically a time-honored tradition in Christian video games today, so you can’t say they weren’t influential.

In case you missed it, Part One is right here.

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Wishful thinking

I’ve gotten a reasonably thoughtful and articulate response to my recent blog post about morality — and I’m not merely calling this response articulate as a prelude to ripping the piece to shreds, as we see so often in the blogosphere. Granted, I think the majority of the post is wrong, resting as it does on chapter-and-verse of an unverifiable collection of stories that were put together in 325CE, but that doesn’t mean it’s not internally consistent and well-spoken. Believe me, it’s a welcome change from our usual semi-literate evangelical blog-stalker.

As an attempt to be civil I will sheathe the sarcasm, per a request for civility and dialog from @roofwoofer, the author of this response, on his month-old blog Faith, Reason & Good Sense. Many of these arguments were floating about in the back of my mind while I wrote the original post, but it’s rather difficult to bullet-proof your work against every possible line of argumentation without writing a novel-length post as a result, so I opted to stay on topic as much as possible instead of going on the wild tangents that would have been necessary to insulate against these charges. This will be lengthy, though. Fair warning.
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Sabotaging the enemy

Microsoft recently put out .NET Framework 3.5, and silently included a plug-in for Mozilla Firefox. In so doing, they have apparently exposed Firefox to a crapload of attack vectors that exploit Microsoft’s buggy code, bringing Firefox down to the same level of insecurity as Internet Explorer.

To make matters worse, that framework is not an optional install for most users of Windows — it will install automatically as a recommended installation, silently, without prompts, under the default Vista security settings, and the default under Windows XP once you’ve explicitly enabled automatic updates (which is strongly recommended in the installation process). If you can’t beat the competition at security, just bring them down to your level. That’s the way Microsoft innovates, I guess!

IE 8 with Google Chrome plugin provides 10x performance boost

Microsoft, Google just drank your milkshake. Here you have a browser that’s been all but broken for ten years, you only started releasing again after Firefox showed you that the web browser could be done better. Your browser is a shoddy pile of ripped-off features and half-baked “new innovations”, and the Google built a rival toward their core competency — making something with no frills but tons of horsepower under the hood. And to prove it, the Google Code project released a beta of Chrome Frame, a plugin for IE 8 that embeds the Chrome browser (with its sandboxing features and super-fast Javascript and rendering engine) directly into the IE interface.

According to tests run by Computerworld , Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) was 9.6 times faster than IE8 on its own. Computerworld ran the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark suite three times each for IE8 with Chrome Frame, and IE8 without the plug-in, then averaged the scores.

And this plug-in apparently makes IE runs circles around your broken pile of hacks in its original state. It’s no wonder your response is to claim it makes IE less secure — because in your world, it’s only secure if you control the code and the patching mechanisms. In everyone else’s, it’s secure if you set up permissions correctly to begin with, such as how in Chrome, plugins can only operate within the context of Chrome itself, never gaining access to the system resources unless a programmer can somehow not only crack their way out of the sandbox, but then go on to compromise the system proper.

Yes, I know, IE 7 and 8 have a “protected mode” that it can run in, which does this same kind of sandboxing — but that only works under Vista and Windows 7. Google Chrome will run under XP and IE6 as well. As I just pushed through the IE8 patch throughout my work network, and the bulk of the complaints are about IE’s speed decreases (though I’ve disabled frippery like accelerators and the welcome wizard in an attempt to mitigate that somewhat), I’m strongly tempted to distribute Chrome and this Chrome Frame plugin as well. It’d not only diminish the speed complaints, it’d significantly increase the security of my XP-based environment.

PaintRoll’d

Made using Mario Paint Composer, a remake of the SNES Mario Paint song-making module. I remember renting it from Blockbuster on more than one occasion while I was an employee there oh so long ago… it came with a mouse pad and crappy mouse, but it was revolutionary at the time. I wasted a lot of hours on the music composer and the flyswatter game. I’ve since found a Wii homebrew remake of the flyswatter game, and this Windows-only Composer remake fills that other nostalgia gap. If only I could get it to work properly under WINE… sigh. Ah well, if I COULD get it to work, that would probably blow my productivity for the day.

RCimT: Procrastination Edition

I’m procrastinating from my posts about the Big Bang (which is growing pretty enormous itself), and an attempt to take apart a link sent to me a while back by a theist in a proper and appropriate manner, by putting together another edition of Random Crap in my Tabs. CyberLizard linked this page on Twitter which seems strangely appropriate.

The FTC is implementing new rules in the States today that will impose heavy penalties on robocalls — whether political, spam-related or otherwise. Hopefully this should put a stop to disingenuous smear campaigns perpetrated by both sides in unequal measure (weighing heavily on the Republicans’ side, of course). Hooray, right? As always, I’m worried this’ll be abused to nefarious ends, but I’m a bit of a pessimist sometimes.

Here’s how to rename a domain controller under a Windows ActiveDirectory domain. Note that it includes a lot of command line work. Funny, that.

Glenn Greenwald is one of the few reporters still dogging Dick Cheney on the fact that he’s a torturer. He takes The Washington Post to task for their uncritical, laudatory reviews on how torture is totally a-okay and probably prevented terrorists from exploding a shelter full of kittens or something.

Another instance of religious faith-healing nonsense took the life of a 17-year-old who had a ruptured appendix. The most galling part of this one is that it happened in Washington State, where there are laws about this kind of thing:

Washington’s child-abuse law has a religious exemption for parents. It specifies that a person treated through faith healing “by a duly accredited Christian Science practitioner in lieu of medical care is not considered deprived of medically necessary health care or abandoned.” Other religions are not mentioned.

That’s right, laws against the parents being held responsible if they’re Christians and they have a “duly accredited” faith-healer do the praying.

Atheists won a small victory in Kentucky against religious nutters insistent on establishing laws with respect to the Abrahamic god to the exclusion of all other religions or lacks thereof. The law was proposed to totally steep the Homeland Security offices in Christianity specifically: it was to declare that the country could not be defended without reliance upon “Almighty God”, to include statements of such in the educational and promotional materials, and that a permanent plaque was to be displayed with the text of the law at the Emergency Operations Center in Kentucky. Thankfully the judge ruled this to be a gross violation of the separation of church and state. Fine if you personally want to pray, but don’t force others to pray to your god if they don’t believe in it. Assholes.

And finally, Pope Ratzy blames atheists for environmental destruction, never mind all those people in the States who nix environmental protection laws because “the Bible says we’re to have dominion over all the Earth so drill baby drill! Mountaintop removal and uranium mines for everyone!” PZ Myers is rightly pissed. Mike Dunford mostly agrees, but is a bit put off by a few claims of PZ’s. I don’t see what the big deal is, figuring that Ratzy is an extreme right-winger and has been politicizing Rome and the entire Catholic faith since taking up the pointy hat, as PZ’s claims fit in with other issues that Ratzinger has brought up that directly contradict his claims to being an environmental crusader.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the command line

(I was going to title this “Power Overwhelming”, but the blog wouldn’t let me, said I must construct additional pylons.)

I’d like to point you to a series of posts over at Greg Laden’s about the command line. Every OS has one, and they are of varying degrees of power and usefulness, but in every case, the very idea of a black screen filled with nothing but a wall of white text gives “grandma” users the heebie-jeebies. If you don’t know how to deal with a command line, if you are afraid of typing something into a terminal, then you are missing out on most of the best parts of computer use.

Go read now:

Part 1: The Command Line in Linux, Mac OSX and Windows
Part 2: May the force (of the command line) be with you
Part 3: Underlying Power

Flying Trilobites with Failing Hard Drives

Glendon Mellow, the Flying Trilobite himself, is having difficulties with his old laptop’s hard drive. Apparently the laptop died an ignominious death, and a good deal of information that was rather important to him is still locked away on it. To make matters worse, the hard drive was removed and attached to another computer, where Chkdsk failed and froze at about 40% done, which tends to happen if there’s serious hard drive corruption or physical media errors. So, while I’m about to post about some ideas I have to get data off it, it would be fantastic if you kind folks could also provide some tips and tricks. Bear in mind that the drive is obviously functioning or it wouldn’t get to 40% to begin with, and also that Chkdsk is most certainly not the be-all and end-all of computer salvage tools.

The first option we have, obviously, is to boot a computer from a live Linux CD, such as Ubuntu, then either run ntfsck to check the drive and hope for the best, or simply start copying the entirety of the hard drive off onto another blank hard drive of equal or greater size using the dd utility. Then whatever is copied, is recoverable and easily readable from Windows. Whatever gets skipped, assme it’s unrecoverable. If it copies the whole hard drive without error, but you can’t get the stuff off it, and chkdsk freezes at 40% on this new hard drive, then the problem is in the NTFS filesystem and not the physical drive. That’s a good and a bad thing — it means your old drive is still usable, but it also means that a surprisingly large amount of your files may end up scrambled (up to and including everything after that 40% mark).

I’ll post a bunch of links in the comments to commercial and non-commercial sites that may have useful Windows-based utilities once I’m done my posting-dump.

World of Tuxcraft

Over the past week, I’ve been wrestling with a few computers in an attempt to prove Linux is perfectly capable, with the help of WINE, of maintaining the flow of internet crack into your intravenous drips. A number of people I’ve spoken with regarding their being fed up with Windows, have said unequivocally that “if Linux could play games, I’d switch in a second”.

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