Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Accessing Linux On Windows

Running portable applications is nothing new. Linux has been available, in one form or another since the first Live CD (Yggdrasil Linux) was released back in 1992. And since then the Linux Live CD has gone from strength to strength.

But alas (or "thank goodness for that" depending on how you look at it) the Live CD is no more. It still exists but the ISO images are so big it is either burned to a DVD or a USB drive.

USB drives have revolutionised the way a Linux Live CD distribution works. Thanks to the 'persistence' option in some of Live CD distributions you can now update the live distribution, add more programs, keep your various settings, and save files to the same USB drive that you boot from.

I have about 4 USB drives which have various live distributions on them. And they have all worked like a charm; except one which was hardware failure rather than anything to do with the the live distribution.

When having overnight stops at friends I no longer need to take a laptop. I just plug in the USB drive, reboot the computer, and 99% of the time away it goes and all my settings are there, all my files are there, and it is just like working on my laptop without actually working on my laptop. So far, from personal experience the only problems I have had is when using computers with USB wifi. Anything with an Ethernet connection has always just worked.

The other day, however, I went to use my sister's computer. I was about to plug in my USB drive and boot into Linux when I heard a whining noise behind me. It was my sister who was complaining about the risks of a USB drive having viruses. I explained it was virus free but she insisted that it be scanned before booting from it.

The first problem was Windows 7 didn't recognise the US drive purely because it was formatted in the ext4 format. The second problem, entirely linked to the first, AVG couldn't scan a drive that Windows didn't recognise. It could be easily solved by installing the drivers necessary for Windows to recognise the various Linux drive formats, which in the past has always been solved by the excellent Ext2Fsd (Ext2 File System Driver for Windows) which supports Ext2/3/4. But the problem there is that it needs installing; which when you are merely using a machine for a hour or so seems like too much hassle - download the program, install the program, copy a few files across, uninstall the program, and finally clean the Windows registry.

Ext2explore - Main Screen

Enter Ext2explore. No need to install and no registry entries. Download the zip file (3.5MB) extract the executable and run. My Ext4 format USB drive was accessible. Admittedly Windows still couldn't scan it, and I still couldn't run my own desktop, but at least I could get to my own files.

Now, the chances of the same situation arising again, except at my sister's house, are pretty slim. But to be on the safe side I thought I'd drop Ext2explore on another USB drive just in case. But it got me thinking. Why isn't there a Windows Live CD? Well there is. OK. Sort of there is. You can create one using BartPE which lets you create a Windows Live CD.

For me that wasn't much use. If I could just boot off a CD or USB I'd just use Linux. If I had to use Windows I just needed access to my files which were on an Ext4 USB drive. And to me hat just meant I would need to run Ext2explore from one USB and read my files my regular USB. But that meant 2 USB drives in the same machine.

There had to be a better way. And the solution I came up with may not be the ideal solution but it works for me.

Booting into my regular Linux desktop, on my laptop, I used GParted to resize my main Ext4 partition (I shrunk it by 256MB and moved it to the right) I then created a 256MB Fat32 partition at the front of the drive. Windows will only recognise the first partition on a USB drive by default so that is why it was created at the front.

Then I installed Grub2 on the USB drive; then the only change was to set the time out of the Grub2 menu to 5 seconds. In theory 0 seconds could be used to avoid a delay but if anything ever goes wrong it is nice to have a little bit of time to see what is going on with Grub.

Bingo! Everything worked (after a few minor modifications). Plug the USB drve in when Windows is running and I can get to Ext2explore. Plug the USB drive and boot from it and it ends up on my Linux Ubuntu desktop.

PortableApps Menu - Activated by the icon in the System Tray

That is all that is needed. But I went one step further. Using yet another USB drive I installed the PortableApps menu system on to it. I then copied the files created to the Fat32 partition of my Linux USB drive. I then installed a few portable applications (also from PortableApps).

Finally I left it alone. But now I can boot Linux, and if I have to use a Windows machine I have the PortableApps menu and a few tools and utilities at hand also. The one, and possibly the main, advantage is that using Ext2explore I can take files from the Linux partition, work on them and transfer them back to the Linux partition in Windows.

That is where I stopped. But it should be possible to have all the files that I need to edit on a regular basis stored in the Fat32 partition. And just access them from both Windows and Linux and leave them in one place. It should be just a matter of resizing partitions (I knew I should have made the Fat32 partition bigger). Copy all the files to a folder on the Fat32 partition (PortableApps does create a folder called "Documents") and then they are available at all times.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Typing In German On A US Keyboard

I am learning German. Both speaking and writing. It is a slow process as unfortunately I was one of those English people that thought shouting in English made it understandable in any language. And to make matters worse I have a US laptop with a US keyboard. So, you have an Englishman with an American keyboard wanting to type German characters.

But the positive thing is that although the German language is completely different the alphabet is not that different. Actually, the alphabet is the same. Germany classes the 26 letters of the alphabet as 'cardinal' and the special characters as 'diacritic'.

The characters I am interested in are:

Ä, ä, Ö, ö, Ü, ü, ß, and €. The rest are the same as the English alphabet

Yes the United Kingdom is in Europe but they decided to keep the British Pound (£) instead of adopting the Euro; and the US keyboard does not have the Euro symbol.

That being said, when you start googling for an easy way to input these characters it becomes a minefield of useless information. First there is the whole process of which Operating System it is and then when you hit Linux a lot of information comes down to X11, Gnome, KDE and other desktops.

But there is an easy option. That works in Linux, Windows and the Mac. Unicode input. Unicode maps some 1,112,064 characters. As I am only worried about 8 it should be easy to remember all 8 character codes pretty easily. I use Linux mainly, and Windows in a virtual machine purely for Photoshop.

The Unicode Codes that I need are:
  • Ä - 00C4
  • ä - 00E4
  • Ö - 00D6
  • ö - 00F6
  • Ü - 00DC
  • ü - 00FC
  • ß - 00DF
  • € - 20AC
Eight codes to remember, and the only thing that changes is the key presses to insert the codes on the different Operating Systems.

Linux (Tested In Mint & Ubuntu)

To input Unicode codes the sequence is:

  • Press [Ctrl] + [Shift] + U
  • Then type the four hex digits (e.g. 00C4)
  • Press [Enter] or [Space]

Windows (Tested In XP & 7)

To input Unicode codes the sequence is:

  • Press and hold the [Alt] key
  • Then type the four hex digits (e.g. 00C4)
  • Release the [Alt] key

Mac OS X (Untested - Purely For Reference)

To input Unicode codes the sequence is:

  • Press and hold the [Option] key
  • Then type the four hex digits (e.g. 00C4)
  • Release the [Option] key


Supposedly there is a specific registry entry that must be in place for this method to work. The registry entry is "EnableHexNumpad" which is located in "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Input Method" and the value should be "1". I checked both the Windows XP and the Windows 7 registry and found this registry entry to be missing, but the input method above worked.

All 3 Operating Systems have a graphical method to input Unicode codes. In Windows it is "charmap". In Linux it is "gucharmap" (Gnome) or "kcharselect" (KDE). In OS X, on the Mac, it is the "Character Palette".

A full table of the Unicode codes can be be found at Unicode-Table.com.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Sinful Masturbation?

I was writing another post and the subject of female masturbation came up (it was a one-line joke) and in that post I had a female character say that female masturbation was not a sin because it was not mentioned in the Bible; and she had no seed to spill.

But this got me thinking about what the Bible says about masturbation in general rather than just female masturbation; which then lead on to what other religions had to say about the subject. This post merely looks at the subject and makes no judgement. My personal view is if you want to masturbate then go ahead. If the worse thing you do in your life is masturbate I'm pretty sure some deity won't mind.

OK let us start with the minefield that is Christianity. As usual with Christians it depends which Christian church you belong to. Instead we'll start with the Bible and then after that see how each Christian religion interpreted bits of it.

Firstly, the act of masturbation does not appear in the Bible; and as such God doesn't mention whether it is a sin or not. So the religions all make up stuff and say things like: "Well it may not mention masturbation but we can examine verses about lust, purity, and self-control."

I'm guessing, and yes it is a guess, God doesn't specifically mention masturbation because he doesn't care what you do. But mention that and someone will undoubtedly say "Just because it is not in the Bible doesn't mean there is no Godly opinion." Which is sort of true in a way. But you have to think if the Bible mentions each and every animal that you can and cannot eat individually it might just list sexual acts you can and cannot do individually too.

Some of the verses always raised in this debate are:

"But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was. And of thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colours, and playedst the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so. Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them," (Eze 16:15-17, KJV)

"Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." (Heb 13:4, KJV)

"And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also." (Gen 38:9-10, KJV)

"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." (Mat 5:27-30, KJV)

Nothing whatsoever to do with masturbation. But as they are always used to prove that God is watching you masturbate, and will ensure you go to Hell for it, let us look at them.

The Ezekiel passage is all about prostitution. The only bit even close to masturbation, if you use your imagination, is the possibility that using gold and silver to make images of men to commit whoredom with could be seen as the first mention of a dildo. It is not. The images of men are idols; and the committing whoredom is praying to these false idols. So while you masturbate as long as you don't do it for money or in front of idols you are not doing anything wrong. So, no masturbating for Simon Cowell on Pop Idol.

The Hebrews passage. No mention of masturbation. Nothing even close to it. As long as you are not a whore or an adulterer you are good to go.

Genesis. The infamous Onan passage. But once again no mention of masturbation. The full story is that Judah, the son of Jacob, arranges a marriage for his son Er. When God kills Er Judah in his infinite wisdom decides that his other son, Onan, should have a child with his brother's widow. Onan decides that instead of giving his dead brother an heir he'd rather spill his seed on the ground. For this God kills him. First thing to notice is that God kills Onan for spilling his seed not for masturbating. Had Onan been on his own an not with a woman would God have killed him? Second thing to notice is that you really need to question whether you want to take masturbation advice from a passage that says arranged marriages are just fine and dandy.

The Matthew passage is Jesus talking about adultery and saying if you think about it then you have already committed adultery. No mention of masturbation at all. The closest you can get to tying this in with masturbation is that if you are married you can only masturbate while thinking about your spouse. And even then that is a far stretch at tying the passage into God governing masturbation. Maybe, and this is extremely unlikely, the only masturbators that should worry are those that are right-handed. But if you are right-handed and are going to worry, you have already plucked out your right eye so your vision is off somewhat and you can justify it that you thought it was your left hand.

Basically, nothing in the Bible saying "Thou shalt not masturbate". Not a thing.

The Catholic Church teaches that "Masturbation constitutes a grave moral disorder". The same church that for years covered up child abuse is going to tell you not to masturbate.

The Eastern Orthodox Church says that sexuality is a gift from God that finds its fulfilment in the marital relationship, and therefore the misuse of the gift of human sexuality is sinful. Because the act of masturbation is self-directed, and by its nature is incapable of expressing love and concern for another person, it is viewed as a distortion of the use of the gift of sexuality. All those self-help people and groups that say 'You must love yourself before you can truly love others' must not be from the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Jehovah's Witnesses teach that masturbation is a habit that is a "form of uncleanness", one that "fosters attitudes that can be mentally corrupting". But before you stop masturbating remember this is the same religion that also thinks birthdays, and birthday presents, are a sin too.

On the whole Christianity sees masturbation as a sin even though there is no Biblical evidence to suggest masturbation is a sin.

Hindus on the other hand (no pun intended) can masturbate. And in the Karma Sutra (a 4th Century Hindu treatise on sex) it even describes the best way to masturbate: "Churn your instrument with a lion's pounce: sit with legs stretched out at right angles to one another, propping yourself up with two hands planted on the ground between in them, and it between your arms." How you 'churn your instrument with two hands on the ground' is beyond me though.

Islam forbids masturbation except in certain circumstances. In Islam, sexual engagement outside of marriage is a major sin, which causes the doer to be punished in this life and in the afterlife. Yet if ones desire is so overwhelming one might perform a greater wrong by having sex outside marriage, masturbation becomes permissible as a necessity but in that case it will be like eating the flesh of a pig to survive from major hunger or starvation when no other food is available. Basically, if nothing else is available, such as a sexual partner, masturbation is alright. But there are rules. You can't masturbate during the daytime of Ramadan (the month of fasting) as a fasting Muslim gives up eating, drinking, and sexual desire for the sake of Allah. Since masturbation is a kind of sexual desire, a fasting Muslim must avoid it.

Judaism forbids masturbation because of what happened to Onan in the book of Genesis. According to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, "It is forbidden to discharge semen in vain. This is a graver sin than any other in the Torah". However, Beis Shmuel expounds that this is not literal, but rather serves to frighten man into avoiding the sin. The gravest sin is masturbation? Killing, rape, and stealing all fall behind masturbation in the sinning charts? Murder, in the Old Testament, is punishable by being stoned to death; so you have to wonder what sort of punishment could be worse for the grave sin of masturbating.

In conclusion some religions allow it and some don't. So if you need to masturbate and haven't actually picked a religion then you might want to check out Hinduism. And if you are one of the other religions already, and want to masturbate, just go ahead and don't tell anyone. Think of masturbation as prayer - it is between you and your deity what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom.

Friday, 6 February 2015

God vs Allah

The pay-per-view event that any satellite company would happily charge for - God vs Allah.

OK before I begin I am neither a Christian nor a Muslim. To be honest both religions have there good and bad points. But me, I'm going with the idea that if there is any sort of deity behind this whole messed up world; he or she can judge me as an individual and not as some slave to a religion that was created by a man.

With all the news reports about the Islamic State killing anyone they feel like, I was wondering why Christians don't do the same thing. To me the Islamic State is basically killing anyone who doesn't agree with their belief. Surely what is good for the goose should be good for the gander. Why has there been no Christian State uprising?

The Quran says:

"I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them." (Quran 8:15)

But the Quran isn't the only religious book to suggest killing all those that don't believe in a particular deity. The Bible says:

"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee. If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you." (Deu 13:1-11, KJV)

Admittedly I prefer the Quran version as it gets straight to the point. No messing about with explaining itself. Someone doesn't worship Allah cut their head off. However the Bible version seems to go with a more sadistic 'triple death':

"But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die;" (Deu 13:9-10, KJV)

You beat the non-believer to death. The people beat the non-believer to death. And then just to make sure stone the non-believer to death.

But that way just ends up with loads of people dead for not believing in some version of a deity. And it has to be said that without people these deities have no use. So to make sure there are people left to worship it would be better if God and Allah fought it out and the winner gets all the worshippers.

But a battle between God and Allah wouldn't be a fight, and the pay-per-view wouldn't be on a sport channel. It would be a war of words. But every war of words needs an arbitrator; and who better than Buddha to keep things fair and in order.

Buddha: Ladies and Gentlemen tonight we are joined by God and Allah who will debate why you should choose them...
God: Fuck that, I am God. Do as I say or I smite you bastards off my Earth.
Allah: Shut the hell up! That would be that Earth that was here before you were. Everyone knows Christianity is just a rip off of various religious beliefs that were around many centuries before its inception.
God: This from the false God that tells everyone kill in my name and when you get to Heaven there will be 72 virgins waiting for you. There is a reason they are virgins. They are as ugly as Judas' arse. Like being told that you are getting a pet for Christmas; just to find it is a reincarnated Buddhist wrapped up under your tree.
Buddha: I am not part of this. It is between you two megalomaniacs. You bring me into this and I'll go all Bruce Lee on you; you old bastard.
Allah: (laughing) Listen at you two. There are over one and a half billion Muslims. I could command them to kill all the Christians and Buddhists...
Buddha: (interrupting) Why must you drag Buddhism into your pointless squabble?
God: The pair of you little bitches can kiss my Godly arse. I got over two billion people that bow down to me. So suck these Godly nuts the pair of you.
Buddha: OK. OK. Lets get to the questions. God why should anyone pick Christianity?
God: Because if they don't I'll flood this worthless piece of rock. You think I care? I made the whole galaxy. These people either worship me or I destroy them. I am the original dictator. Hell, Putin gets an erection just wishing he could be me.
Buddha: And Allah, why should anyone pick Islam?
Allah: Simple. You don't my people will cut your head off. And if that takes too long they will just declare a jihad, and boom, it is all over but the picking up of the pieces.
Buddha: Point goes to Allah. Next question - who would win in a fight between Jesus and Muhammad?
God: OK, who would you bet on? Some guy moving mountains or some guy who not only comes back from the dead laughs about it as he pokes his fingers in the holes where the nails were?
Allah: And when my Muhammad puts a mountain on top of your Jesus what is he going to do? Remember the cross? Whining like a bitch - "Oh Daddy, Oh Daddy, why has thou forsaken me?" Little hippy needs you to do his fighting. That was why he came up with the bullshit trinity, too scared to fight his own battles. "You fight me you have to fight my Dad and the Holy spirit too." My Muhammad would spit on his shallow grave.
God: Bullshit trinity? We are like the holy Power Rangers. Piss one of us off and we join up and attack like a Megazoid God. And then your little Muhammad kiss his arse and his mountain goodbye while Jesus sends him to Hell in a hand basket.
Allah: That is cheating. Muhammad will beat your Jesus in a one-on-one fight.
God: Is that if his 9-year old wife lets him out? What the fuck! That is just wrong.
Allah: Says the guy with the beard that still hasn't complained that Seth was fucking his own sister to populate the planet.
God: At least his sister was legal.
Buddha: Can't argue with that logic. Point to God. Now for the deciding point. What can anyone expect for obeying you?
Allah: I got this one. 72 virgins. What else have I got to say? Its pure money. Worship me and when you die I'll give you 72 virgins.
God: Like I said 72 of the ugliest virgins any man has ever seen. Worship me and when you get to Heaven there is a whole legion of angels waiting for you.
Allah: Angels? That would be those sexless angels. Nobody even knows if they are male or female. Wait until bed time and trying to find a hole to fuck. Good luck with that. Like trying to find a Catholic Priest that doesn't have a cock that smells like little boys.
Buddha: Why don't you both shut up. Worship me and when you die there is reincarnation. You think Hitler died and stayed dead? He was a Buddhist. He was reincarnated as a Swedish milkmaid.
God: Fuck you. I sent Hitler to Hell.
Allah: I have Hitler trapped in Jahannam.
Vishnu: What is all this noise about? Hitler? I sent him. It was the price for not becoming Hindus. And when that didn't work I sent the Kardashians. Now can you three wannabes shut up and remember I am the oldest religion. Show your elders some respect you little fuckers.
Buddha: I know kung fu.

It would be a great pay-per-view for the History Channel. But in the end nothing will be decided. It'll be like 4 old men outside the pub arguing about who killed the most during World War 2. Doesn't matter. So Christians stop thinking you are better than the rest of the world. Muslims stop killing people because they don't believe in Allah. Buddhists keep reincarnating and you see the planet getting worse and worse thank Buddha who keeps sending you back. And Hindus you may be the oldest religion but nobody really gives a shit. Charles Manson got followers and he wasn't even a religion.

When it comes down to it. If it looks like shit and smells like shit you do not need to taste it to know it is shit. No matter what you call your deity there is no proof any of them exist. So pray to one of the old men fighting outside the pub; at least you know they exist.