Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Trying To Get Home

For those wondering why I haven't posted much lately it is because I have travelled back to England due to my father being seriously ill.

One thing lead to another and now I am stuck in England rather than being in Michigan with my wife.

Basically I rushed to England on a one-way ticket because my father was ill and now cannot afford to get back to the wife in the United States.

When things settle down and I'm back home posting will resume to its usual irregular schedule.

In the meantime if anyone wants to help out by donating or just spreading the word:

Thank you very much in advance.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

What If ... God Lied

Well, in short nobody would know. It all comes down to faith. If you have it you believe that God could not lie. If you don't have it then you are open to the possibility that God is a liar.

But he doesn't lead you on with a nice story and then lie. No, God goes straight for the jugular and hits you with the big old lie that the earth, galaxies, everything was created in six days. Who can prove him wrong? Nobody. There was supposedly nobody around until God created them.

And the people he created, Adam and Eve, were trapped like prisoners in the Garden of Eden for at least 67 years. So they knew nothing more than the Garden of Eden. Everything beyond that might have existed or it might not have. They would never know until they got kicked out. And it is God kicking them out that gives the figure of 67 years. God tells Eve he will multiply her pain in childbirth. Now for something to be multiplied it must have been felt before. If Eve had never felt childbirth a multiplication of that pain would be nothing (simply - anything multiplied by zero is still zero).

Back to the 67 years. As Eve had given birth for the pain to be multiplied then she gave birth at least once. Her first birth was twins; Cain and Abel. Although the Bible itself does not give any dates of when people were born there are other sources. The Book Of Jubilees says that Adam was approximately 67 years old when Cain was born. Therefore, it would stand to reason that Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden for at least 67 years.

If Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel know nothing about anything outside of the Garden of Eden then God had at least 67 years to create it.

While we are on the subject of Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden is it not suspicious that God acted all surprised when he confronted them about eating the fruit? After all he is meant to be all-seeing and all-knowing but a single serpent gets by him to trick Adam and Eve. Surely if he was all-seeing and all-knowing he'd have seen the serpent and known what the serpent planned to do. So why didn't he stop the serpent? Because he wanted to show off the just-finished world to Adam and Eve and he had to have an excuse of why he had never shown it to them before.

Now to Noah. Noah was no explorer. Chances are that he knew nothing other than a few hundred miles around him. God says he is going to flood the whole world. How does Noah know this is true? He doesn't. Noah has never been more than a couple of hundred miles at most from the spot he was born in. It would be like telling a remote African tribe that America is made of cheeseburgers. They have never seen America, or even heard of it, so they would most likely accept it if you told them that. So God tells Noah he is flooding the whole world and Noah has to agree that God is going to. He cannot get on the Internet and check Google Maps to see if the rest of the world is really covered in water; or switch on a TV and see if Anderson Cooper is reporting from somewhere that is flooded. Chances are that Noah, like the remote African tribe, had never thought about there being anything other than what he knew. So if he had not seen it he couldn't say for sure that anything else existed; let alone flooded.

Noah sends out a dove, according to the Bible, to try and find land. The dove comes back without finding land. This does not mean the whole world was flooded. Doves usually only fly in daylight. Which if the Sun rose at 6AM and set at 8PM gives the dove a maximum of 7 hours flying away from the ark (and 7 hours for the return). According to Wikipedia the maximum speed of a dove is 55 miles per hour. This would give a maximum distance of 385 miles. But according to a couple of 'dove websites' the usual average is 150 miles before a dove needs to stop; which means the dove would have only gone 75 miles before turning around to get back to the ark. God only needs to flood a few hundred miles of land to trick Noah. And that is even to say he did that. He could have just flooded a 5 mile radius around the ark, and when Noah releases the dove God turns it around and pretends everything is still flooded.

The creation of mankind and the wiping out of the sinners could just be a lie. Nothing more than false propaganda. Great way to keep people in line. Do as I say or I'll flood the planet like I did before. Yeah, I know God said he wouldn't do it again. But if he lied about the creation and the flood can his word be trusted?

But if God started the Bible lying his ass off then how can anything in the Bible that involves God be considered true? The whole Bible could be one lie after another.

And who is to say that God is the only one to lie? He could have just started the ball rolling. Jesus never walked on water he fell in like the rest of us. But as Moses and God had got away with so many lies the apostles thought they could to. So while Jesus is toweling himself dry Matthew, Mark, and John are rewriting the actual events to look better than they really were.

But it continues further. Armageddon. Some fiery lake all the heathens get thrown in to. Maybe it was just a burning barrel but that wasn't dramatic enough. Throw in some trumpets, angels, and make the barrel a fiery lake.

From beginning to end the Bible could be the historical version of the National Enquirer. Take a small fact and make a headline-grabbing story out of it. And it is all God's fault for starting with a lie.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What If ... Time Travel Was One Way

Everybody has thought about time travel at some point. Whether it be the glory of going back a couple of weeks with the winning lottery numbers or going back and stopping some major disaster or world war.

But with time travel there is no guarantee that it is a two-way journey. The obvious question is whether you can travel in time before you discover, or invent, time travel? Then there is the butterfly effect - change one little thing and it changes bigger things. I might win the lottery but in doing so it opens a sequence of events that starts World War 3.

Who knows what triggers what?

Suppose I travel back in time to September 10, 2001 and tell the U.S. government there is going to be a terrorist attack. Who would believe me? Nobody. Even if I make enough fuss to get them to listen I'm pretty sure by the time the F.B.I got through questioning me the first plane would be hitting the Twin Towers. Then because I told them it would happen the day before it actually happened chances are that instead of writing this post I'd be sitting in Guantanamo Bay being tortured with Justin Bieber music 24 hours a day.

Changing the world is not what I'm doing. I'm heading back in time to win the lottery. Simple enough. Time travel on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 and travel back to Friday, May 2, 2014 and get a ticket with the numbers 1, 13, 18, 26, 35, and 40. Then at 11:00 PM, Eastern Time, I watch as those numbers are drawn. I take the cash option and instead of $81 million I walk away with $45 million and celebrate being a millionaire. What could go wrong? Seems like nothing in all honesty. People win the lottery every week and it doesn't change the world. Changes their world but not the entire world.

But winning the lottery was just the beginning of a nightmare. After collecting my winnings and putting it all in a numbered bank account I head to my time machine to find that it doesn't travel forward in time. For whatever reason time travel is a one-way deal. Not really a big problem. I'll just hang out for a couple of weeks and then before it gets to the date I actually traveled back in time I'll tell myself there is no way back, hand myself the bank account details, and then kill myself. Now, in theory, I won't need to travel back in time to win the lottery because I'll already have the money. Alright it means one of me has to die but the original me is still alive.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 I tell myself that time travel is a one-way thing and there is no returning other than waiting. I hand myself all details and documents about my bank account. I tell myself that I must die but it makes no difference as I will still be alive. I walk in front of a semi-truck on the motorway.

Damn smartphones. Someone took a video of me dying. They caught the semi-truck hitting me at 60 miles per hour. They caught my body being dragged underneath the semi-truck as it screeched to a halt. They even hung around taking photos of the police picking up my body parts. Dead but an overnight sensation after the video goes viral. Within 24 hours more people have seen me die than have watched a cat playing with a record turntable.

Now I am a sensation. Police named me when I died; then all the local people remembered seeing me that night. According to them I came back from the dead. Within hours the news crews are hounding me for an interview. The police come round and take my fingerprints to see if I really am the same person. After the police decide I am the same person, and my fingerprints match 100% to that of the dead body in the morgue they think some law has been broken and announce that me living is being investigated.

Later the same day I am taken into custody for DNA testing. With no charges I am released. Returning from the dead has broken all over the world. Every news channel in every country has reported that I came back from the dead. Some weird cults are claiming my return from death is the second coming of the messiah.

Eventually I try to set the record straight. I call a news conference and announce that the person who died was another 'me'. That I had traveled back in time and then met myself. Internet conspiracy theorist instantly start up about a secret government cloning experiment that went wrong. The National Enquirer offers $1 million to anyone that can prove there is another of me somewhere in the world.

Three days later I have a group of armed bodyguards as there has been a few rumors of people wanting to kill me to see if I can come back from the dead again.

Nobody accepted, or believed, that I traveled back in time.

In Nigeria the first church in my name was built. Everywhere I go someone is taking my picture, or trying to touch me, or asking if I am some messenger about the impending end of Earth. People I have not seen for 20+ years are all over the TV saying how they knew there was something different about me. Those with nothing to say make it up. As per usual a teacher who taught me for 5 years is dragged on TV to say how they knew when I was a child that I was destined for great things but they didn't think it would be this big.

My whole life is a media circus. I fart and someone claims to be able to tie the timing to one of the seven trumpets mentioned in Revelation. I mention I eat a particular food and all of a sudden it is labeled "As endorsed by the Messiah". More and more churches spring up in my name. Six mail vans a day arrive with mail requests asking for forgiveness.

It had to happen. Some news reporter found out I won the Mega Millions lottery. So much for remaining anonymous. The media run with the story. Some suggest I will use the money to build my 'earthly empire' while others say that as I have officially died even though I came back the money should go to the government.

Every day is crazier than the day before. CNN reported that I have more worshippers than the Catholic Church and the Muslims combined. In a little over two weeks I have become the number one religion of the world.

After four weeks the world has come to a standstill. Nobody sees the point of doing anything as I am the Messiah and the world is obviously going to end. Nothing I do convinces the people I am no Messiah.

Finally, after three months, I have an idea. Because the me who is alive never went back in time I could go back in time and stop the other me from killing himself. Admittedly there are a few loopholes in that idea - the main being that there will be three of me in one place. Unless I go back to Friday, May 2, 2014 and tell my other self that after winning the lottery, and handing the money over, not to kill himself. That way it limits it to two of me and stops the whole 'Messiah' thing happening.

The nightmare continues. I went back and told me not to kill myself after winning the lottery and handing the money over. The shock was obviously too much. I never got a ticket. Never won millions. Never went and told myself either.

So now there is 3 of me in the same time, in the same geographical area, all aware of the others. But the good news is I never became the Messiah.

Now to clean the whole mess up I could go further back in time and destroy the time machine, and all related materials and notes, and then I'd never be able to go back and there would be two of me but one of me could just leave the country and find a remote village in the middle of nowhere to settle down. But unless I kill the other me I won't be able to kill the idea of a time machine.

So to answer the question: "What if Time Travel Was One Way?" I suppose the answer is you will be the Messiah and have to kill other versions of you.

There has to be an easier way to win the lottery.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ubuntu And The Black Screen

The default Ubuntu 14.04 Wallpaper

On April 17, 2014 Canonical released Ubuntu 14.04 (Trusty Tahr) which is the latest Long-term Support (LTS) version of their Open Source operating system; which will be supported until April 2019.

Because I am not really a fan of installing a new operating system when the older one works just fine I have held off from installing Ubuntu 14.04. But my curious nature got the better of me and I decided to give it a go just to see how it compared to the last LTS (12.04) which has been fully updated and running fine.

Instead of going crazy I ran the DVD ISO in a virtual machine just to see if there would be any issues. And to cut a short story even shorter there was none. All hardware detected and configured without a hitch.

So it was on to a test machine - a trusty Toshiba laptop that after 10+ years still runs smoothly. The specifications for the laptop are:
  • Toshiba Tecra A8 (32-bit)
  • 1GB RAM
  • 320GB Hard Drive
  • Intel 945GM Express Graphics (Integrated)
  • Intel GMA 950 Sound (Integrated)
  • Intel Pro Gigabit Ethernet (Integrated)
  • Intel Pro/Wireless 3945ABG (Integrated)
The only thing to note is that the CD/DVD drive has an issue. It reads fine but when it comes to writing it has a 25% success rate; which is no biggie I usually install with USB anyway.

I randomly picked a 4GB USB thumb drive (more on that later) and burnt the ISO image to it. The command used was:

sudo dd if=ubuntu-14.04-desktop-i386.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=4M

No errors reported. As usual with the dd command nothing was reported except it read so many blocks and wrote the same number. Booting the machine from USB I was greeted by the usual Ubuntu screen (the one with the keyboard and little person). Then Ubuntu started loading.

And then it happened - a black screen. Everything halted and there it sat. I gave it a few minutes (however long it is to make a coffee and sit back down again) and still nothing was happening. And this is where the journey started.

A quick reboot, press F6 then Esc, and delete the "quiet splash" part of the boot command just to see what was happening in the background. Surprise of all surprises not a thing happened. There was no error messages of any kind, it looked like all was good, and then the black screen again.

On another machine I hit the Internet and googled to see if anyone else had come across this problem; and more importantly if they had solved it. I don't need to re-invent the wheel if someone already has so to speak.

The black screen had been a problem for a few people and the first few results of the search pointed to graphics card incompatibility. Didn't see that as the issue as the Intel 945GM Express is one of those cards that just works usually.

Another possibility mentioned was UEFI BIOS (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) and there was solutions to get through; again not something that would hamper a laptop that was built before UEFI was even thought of.

With none of the problems looking like it matched mine I decided to reboot with the USB drive and use that menu option I'd never used before: "Check Media For Defects". Maybe where I should have started but no I didn't. Anyway it came back that the media had no problems. Once again it was back to the drawing board.

After reading some more I thought I'd try the boot cheatcodes that were suggested. To be honest it was basically a 'lucky dip' of boot cheatcodes. Those that I tried included:
  • nomodset
  • vga=788
  • xforcevesa
  • no splash
  • nolapic
  • acpi=off
  • noapic
Tried, tested, and failed. No matter what order, and which ones, I used.

I was going to just give up but I carried on. I downloaded the ISO again, did an MD5 check on the ISO file, and then put it over to the USB stick again. Although I left the "bs=4M" off this time just in case the block size was causing the problem.

Rebooted with the USB and once again a black screen. Once again I tried all the possible boot cheatcodes and nothing fixed it. Checked media for defects one more time and it passed.

I nearly decided enough was enough and that the Toshiba laptop just wasn't capable. But being stubborn, like my father, I checked the ISO file again, I burnt the ISO to USB again, I checked the USB for defects again and I saw the black screen again. It was at this point I was thinking maybe the new kernel was at fault and a 10+ year old laptop just couldn't cope.

I decided to check the physical USB drive. Not just whether Ubuntu thought it was fine but also if it really was fine. I ran the command:

sudo badblocks -w -s -o usb.log /dev/sdb

It came back clean. But then the accident that saved me happened. I tested a couple of other USB drives with badblocks just to see if it worked and an old 512MB USB stick was full of them. That USB stick has now been thrown. Then I decided to try to burn the ISO one last time and see if I could get any of the cheatcodes to get past the black screen.

I burnt the ISO to the USB with the same dd command. I rebooted from USB and because of distraction I forgot all about changing the boot cheatcode options. No black screen; just the Ubuntu 14.04 desktop. Another long story short - I installed Ubuntu 14.04, did the updates and it ran smoothly.

The only difference being that I burnt the ISO to a different USB stick. Which is a problem because the one which wouldn't work is supposedly fine.

The one that didn't work is a 8GB HP v125w. The one that did work is a 4GB Memorex TravelDrive. Both are USB 2.0 and neither show any physical errors when checked with badblocks. I even did a disk check in Windows 7 just for the hell of it - both were fine.

Checking the specifications of the drives yielded:
  • 8GB HP v125w - Read speed: 10.74 MB/Sec, Write speed: 3.09 MB/Sec
  • 4GB Memorex TravelDrive 005B - Read speed: 14.11 MB/Sec, Write speed:4.57 MB/Sec
An approximate 4MB speed difference in reading and 1.5MB difference in writing. Not anything that should make a difference.

The USB Thumb Drives

I tested the HP USB drive by burning the 32-bit version of Ubuntu 13.04 to it using the same dd command and booting on the same machine. And it worked.

I have no clue why Ubuntu 14.04 doesn't work but Ubuntu 13.04 does. Nothing was changed with either the USB drive (other than the ISO burnt to it) or the test machine (I even made sure to utilize the same USB port). And as a final final test I re-burnt Ubuntu 14.04 to the HP USB drive and back to the black screen.

As I said I have no clue why, and nothing stands out with regards to changes from Ubuntu to make one work and the other not on the same USB drive. I'm guessing the point of this article is try everything and anything just to rule it out. Next time I do an install from USB and it doesn't work I'm going straight for a different USB drive to rule it out at the beginning rather than after what seemed like hours of reading about a black screen which was nothing to do with me.

If anyone has any idea why Ubuntu 13.04 works and Ubuntu 14.04 doesn't work on the same USB drive I'd love to know.

Monday, May 5, 2014

When Is Grey Not Grey?

Someone asked me what the HEX value for the '50% Grey' fill option was in Photoshop. Admittedly it was something I had never considered. But in firing Photoshop up doing a quick fill on '50% Grey' and using the eye dropper to get the color code the answer was #808080.

Simple enough.

But if you Google HEX value of '50% Grey' there is a whole list of possibilities. The most common were:
  • #777777
  • #959595
  • #808080
This confused me. Surely '50% Grey' could only be one thing. Everything is based on HEX values and RGB scales. So, if Black is RGB(255,255,255) and White is RGB(0,0,0) it stands to reason that '50% Grey is half of that - RGB(128,128,128) and yes it does work out as 127.5 but as with most things it is rounded up to a whole number. Then the HEX value of 128 is 80 so the final HEX value for '50% Grey' is #808080.

All well and good. But I wondered how some of the other so-called answers found by Google were arrived at; especially knowing #808080 is the correct value.
  • #777777 - RGB(119,119,119)
  • #959595 - RGB(149,149,149)
Obviously a darker and lighter grey than '50% Grey'.

A subtle difference between the three admittedly; but a difference nonetheless.

It all comes down to not accepting answers and checking that the answer yourself to ensure it is correct.

And if you thought a post about grey being grey was boring be thankful I didn't try to work out how black can ever be blacker than black - which is something NASA worked out (Full Article Here).