Software Archives

Rusty Nails, SCO (v. 11)

Oops From the setting yourself up department, a lesson in election politics in the New Mexico governor’s race.

###

Geek News of the week Amateur astronomers capture images of objects (comets or asteroids) impacting Jupiter. Beyond the geek-factor, however, Hugh Ross argues that Jupiter’s size and location, within our solar system, are no accident. Ross, president and founder of Reasons to Believe, notes that Jupiter’s gravitational tug is strong enough to result in errant bodies (e.g., comets and asteroids) slamming into its surface, reducing the chance of such bodies impacting the Earth while, at the same time, not being so strong as to corrupt Earth’s orbit, thereby making advanced life impossible. Is such precision in timing, size, location, etc., the result of chance or design?

###

Acrobat Security Hole This is why I use PDF Xchange or FoxIt.

###

Oops 2 The purpose of a gun holster is not to simply have a place to hold your gun. Holsters prevent you from placing your trigger finger directly onto the trigger when removing the gun from the holster. This is important because any time your finger is ON the trigger it is very likely that a bullet will exit the barrel. For those that choose to keep a gun in a pocket, the need for a pocket holster is even more significant. Or… you could be like the guy in the link.

###

Oops 3 While guns and holsters mix, guns and alcohol do not. However, I’ve got to admit the idea of using a finicky computer server as a target has a certain appeal.

###

Illegally in the U.S., and enrolled in college How broken is the immigration system when a person is allowed to be in the U.S. illegally, for over 15 years, not have a Social Security number, yet allowed to enroll in college?

Be Sociable, Share!

    Considering the TSA and the Anti-Martyr Problem

    Well, the TSA objective of making transportation safe is back on the front-burner. Now the TSA screening is a poor seive. It is a largely static target and is very costly, the largest cost of course is in the lost time that travellers endure in negotiating long security lines. Furthermore, it is likely that much of their efforts are counter-productive. For example, making box-cutters freely available and common on flights would make it harder, not easier, for a terrorist or terrorists to hijack a flight. The “rules” of engagement with those who would interfere with the operation and direction of airplane do not get time to negotiate or to “make demands” known like they might do in the 20th century. Once a person is identified as hostile (a prospective anti-martyr) that person is quickly neutralized by his fellow passengers. The age of passive passengers has past once the 9/11 event occurred.

    However TSA has a purpose. It is visible and reactive. It can take the appearance of being the primary and front line defence in a strategy to identify and interdict prospective anti-martyrs. War and espionage (to which this anti-martyr interdiction campaign is related) is in part one of misdirection. To that end, the TSA screeners take a very public and obvious role. They (might) be the public and obvious strategy which is a counterfeit. If indeed the TSA plays such a role, we as the voting public will not know that for as soon as it is common and public knowledge that the TSA is a large noisy feint … then their will be an outcry to remove it and an alternate deception will be harder to enact. Read the rest of this entry

    Be Sociable, Share!

      The Church Online

      We got a tip at SCO about an article by Mike Rosen-Molina dealing with how churches can use and are using Social Media to get the Word out.  While churches have had web sites for quite some time, the emergence of social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter change the dynamic.

      So while static webpages might be good for drawing in people already curious about a religion’s tenants, actually getting the attention of someone who wasn’t… that was a little more tricky without coming across as spam. That is, until the advent of social media, and its accompanying ability to build relationships online.

      "Creating a web site is perhaps the most basic way to use the Internet for evangelism," agreed Rev. Michael White, a United Methodist pastor and author of Digital Evangelism: You Can Do It, Too!. He noted that newer social networking sites offered more opportunities for outreach because they could better enable conversation than a static page.

      "People of faith can use such social media as Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc. to reach out both to ‘seekers’ (those looking for more information about religious faith) and believers alike to share the tenets of their faith, encourage deepening one’s religious faith, answering questions of doubt, and much more," he said.

      With social media, more of a relationship can be built, which is a better foundation for sharing the gospel.  Now, I would imagine that these online relationships themselves typically aren’t enough, but they are a much better launching point than even a blog.  I have a blog (of course) and a Facebook account, and frankly unsaved friends of mine are much more likely to read my Facebook posts, notes and status updates than would read the blog.

      The article also touches on specifically religious social media, like Christian sites for video sharing and Twitter-like communication.

      While they may be good for uniting the faithful, some are skeptical of services that allow believers to segregate themselves from the wider world. Saddington said that both secular and religious services had their uses, but that people should keep in mind that they were unlikely to spread their faith if they confined themselves to online communities that consisted only of fellow believers.

      "There’s no outreach when you’re talking to the already converted," agreed Coppedge. He said that religious social media might be useful for parents worried about their children being exposed to inappropriate content on MySpace or Facebook, but saw little use for them otherwise.

      "The focus should always be on building community," he said, "If you limit yourself to only Christian communities, that’s not wise. Some people are afraid of using this technology, but you have to remember that technology is not inherently good or evil. It’s all in how you use it."

      It’s the "in the word but not of it" philosophy.  The article is a good read and I think a balanced look at the issues.

      Be Sociable, Share!

        Homework

        Early next week, I’m going to blog about the contents of this paper, via slashdot.

        Your (optional) “homework” is to read through it … so our possible discussions might be all that more fruitful.

        Be Sociable, Share!

          Mr Obama’s Evil Idea

          Rights are a very confusing notion. It seems to me there are two possibilities regarding Mr Obama’s recent claim that “health care is a right.” Either he means something completely different by “right” than I might understand it to mean (which is to say not a common notion of what is casually meant by “a right”) or he should not get anybody’s vote because he’s, well, insane. Bill Whittle, former democrat, at NRO puts this one perspective:

          Well, back in the day, we would simply say that a right has legal authority — it’s in the Constitution and therefore it’s a not just a right, it’s a birthright. So why shouldn’t we amend the Constitution to include the rights to health care, food, housing, education — all the rest? What’s the difference between the rights we have and the “rights” Obama wants to give us?

          Simply this: Constitutional rights protect us from things: intimidation, illegal search and seizure, self-incrimination, and so on. The revolutionary idea of our Founding Fathers was that people had a God-given right to live as they saw fit. Our constitutional rights protect us from the power of government.

          The Declaration states that the “rights we hold to be self-evident” (and perhaps granted by Nature’s God) where Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Happiness almost certainly mean for Jefferson, Adams and Franklin to be the Aristotelian eudomonia (definition #2 at the link). Rights for our founders are emphatically not consumables that the government should provide for us.

          There are two essential problems with Mr Obama’s (insane?) claim that health care is a “right”. The first is illustrated above, and that it is not a right as normally thought. The notion that health care is a fundamental right to which every person is entitled is radical policy of redistribution at best. The second problem with the idea of healthcare as thing which government can cure is that it’s wrong! Read the rest of this entry

          Be Sociable, Share!

            Review: Dance Praise 2: the ReMiX

            I was given a review copy of “Dance Praise 2″, produced by Digital Praise, which is a “Dance Dance Revolution” (DDR) type game for the PC or Mac that uses recent music from Christian artists. While I’ve played a bit of DDR with my kids, the kids are definitely the experts in this field, so a bit of this review comes from them. Additionally, computers are my biz, so I’ll hit some of the technical details of the software.

            Short take: This is a great game to get your video gamers off the couch and having fun while getting in some good exercise (especially at Expert level). It’s a bit easier overall that the DDR games I’ve played and seen, but there are definitely challenges for even your most experienced stepper. The music is all recent Christian music, so you don’t have to worry about the song selection (and it’s high quality music, to boot). If you’re already a DDR player, there are a few differences that will take a little getting used to, but they’re not show stoppers. You can get the whole family involved — individually or head-to-head — and there are some great variations on the usual game play. Recommended.

            Now, for the details.

            Installation

            I installed this on a laptop running Windows XP, so I can’t speak to the Mac installation. The installation itself is rather simple; agree to the typical license, pick a directory to install into, and off it goes.

            A few words on my choice of hardware; a laptop. DP2 is a computer game (supports Windows Vista/XP/2000 or Mac OS X v10.2 and later), and does not run on any game console. However, while computer screens are getting bigger, most folks don’t have one the size of their TV (because they are getting bigger, too). A smaller screen is harder to see, and especially if you hook up the maximum 4 dance pads it would be tough for all to get a good view of it. In my experience and based on what I’ve seen, the family computer is typically in the bedroom, office, or other place not really conducive to this kind of game. You need lots of floor space and a big screen.

            The laptop deals with these issue. It’s portable, which doesn’t restrict you to where you can play this, and, like many laptops these days, has an S-Video Out jack that, directly or via an adapter cable, plugs into the TV. Problems solved. Your situation may well differ and you may have a computer and location that works just fine, but if you don’t there are ways to solve them.

            Game Play

            If you’ve not been in an arcade in a decade, “Dance Dance Revolution” is the most popular game in this genre. Basically, as the music is playing, arrows (up, down, left and right) move down the screen and when they reach a certain position, you step on that part of your dance pad, which has corresponding arrows. When you have two arrows at the same time, you jump and hit them both. If there’s a bar attached to the arrow, you hold your foot down on that arrow until the end of the bar, then take it off. The arrows are typically choreographed to the words and/or music you’re listening to (thought DP2 allows a Computer-generated choreography option), so you step out a preset dance to the music. OK, the term “dance” isn’t entirely accurate, since if you did these moves at an actual dance party, you’d get some seriously funny looks. Nonetheless, there’s timing and a sense of musicality involved, and it exercises that all-important foot-eye coordination. >grin< (Hey, you need that for driving, right?)

            Music

            Of course, this is the area where DP2 stakes out its territory; the use of popular Christian music. If you want a preview of the music, the web page plays substantial clips of all the songs included with the game. The music runs the gamut from the slower (“Voice of Truth” by Atlanta’s own Casting Crowns), to the harder (“Love” by Day of Fire), to the very danceable (Stacie Orrico’s “Don’t Look At Me”), to a good assembly of pop and rock (tobyMac, Superchick, ZOEgirl, DC Talk, Eleventyseven, Caedmon’s Call, and on and on). The standard package comes with 52 songs. Glad to see my man Michael W. Smith made the cut.

            Since one is dancing to a beat, the more prominent the beat, the better. Christian music, at least that played on most Christian music stations, is pretty sparse on actual dance music. Hence, most of the music is pop, rock, hip-hop, and the like, and while most do have an obvious beat to them, there are stretches where it’s not so obvious what the steps are synched to. For example, the aforementioned “Voice of Truth”, while a great song on its own, isn’t what one might consider (OK, it isn’t what anyone would consider) a dance tune. It’s basically a rock ballad, and often the dance steps are synched with the movement of the words than any easily discernable beat.

            If you want a bigger selection, you can go to the web site to purchase expansion packs of songs and dances. Packs are by music genre, so you can pick pop & rock, alternative, hip-hop, worship songs and others. There is also an option to download some free songs and an update.

            And what is Christian music without the message? There is an option (turned on by default) that displays the lines being sung. No worries here about what your kids are listening to. There’s also an option (again, on by default) that displays the CD cover that the current song is on. It’s a smart bit of product placement, but also allows you to support the artists if you like the one or two songs of their’s that you’re hearing.

            Game Types

            There is the usual dance mode, where the arrows fall and you hit ‘em all as they arrive at the bottom. When you’re selecting a song, you can instead tell it to choose a random song, play the songs in sequence, or a nifty idea called “Tune Into You”. That last mode starts with an easy song and slowly works up the difficulty. It then sets the difficulty level in your profile (discussed later) to what it believes will be a challenge for you. Starting with that is a good idea.

            There is also an arcade mode, where some arrows are worth 2 or 3 times their normal value, and some actually deduct points, so you don’t want to hit them. Some arrows have bombs that clear the screen of any visible arrows, and some that throw a smoke cloud that obscures the bottom of the screen. Once you’re used to a song’s dance steps, this certainly throws a few curves at you. Additionally, though I was unable to try this, if you play arcade mode head-to-head, some arrows apply to your opponent, so you can toss a smoke bomb his way or perhaps give her big points.

            There’s also a version of the venerable Tetris game called Dancetris, where you use the dance pad to move the falling blocks so that they fit together. Interestingly, this is where a forgiving dance pad can turn against you. When playing the dance game, if your pad registers a step when you’re close but not perfectly centered on the arrow, that’s good for you, since you’re keeping your eye on the screen, not the pad. However, in Dancetris, you may find yourself moving the blocks when you don’t intend to, or further than you intend to, and your “forgiving” pad becomes your enemy. This can be more challenging or frustrating, depending on how you look at it.

            While you can get some good exercise in dance mode, DP2 also has 2 exercise modes. Time Exercise gets you moving for a certain amount of time, and Calorie Exercise lets you set a target number of (estimated) calories burned.

            There is a Shadow Dance mode (no relation to Andy Gibb) where one player sets up dance steps for the other, but that is for head-to-head play, and I have but one dance pad.

            Options and Profiles

            The game has a place to save Profiles, so you can have things like difficulty level, scores, and even background graphics saved for you. When you come back to the game and select your Profile, you’re set to go; you don’t have to set your options from scratch. Scores are automatically saved with your profile, and you can keep track of personal best scores for all songs and all difficulty levels, and can compare to other players on your computer. So, for example, I can see that my oldest has a high score that is 4 times my personal best on the Expert level when dancing to “All About You” by Nate Sallie. (Hmm, something to shoot for.)

            DDR Differences

            As I said, my kids and I are DDR players, which is the definitive game in this genre. If you are one as well there is a small bit of an “unlearning” curve.

            The DDR series of games has, generally, the same interface for choosing game types, songs, and such. Being used to that meant that we had to throw out our assumptions about how to do what we wanted to do. The DP2 interface is not difficult to understand, it’s just that it took a little getting used to for our DDR brains.

            When the dance is going on, the arrows come down from the top of the screen, which is different than DDR’s default where the arrows come up from the bottom. DDR allow you to change the arrow direction, so this isn’t a difficulty issue or anything way out; it’s just the way that DP2 decided to do things. If we’d never seen DDR, I imagine it would feel natural, and indeed my kids mostly adjusted to it fine.

            In both games, there are two types of steps; a normal step where you hit the arrow, and a hold where you hold your foot on the arrow until the end of the hold bar. In DDR, you just have to hit the arrow at the right time and hold for at least as long as the bar. In DP2, you must do that plus get off the arrow at the end of the bar to get credit for the step. That’s a little more difficult, actually, and it tripped up my DDR pros often. (The documentation mentions holds but doesn’t mention this release requirement.)

            In DDR, when a step is on an off-beat (e.g. eighth notes), the off-beat arrows will be in a different color as a visual cue. DP2 doesn’t do this. If you follow the music, it’s often obvious when you’re doing off-beats, but when there’s a big gap and the next arrow is going to be on an off-beat, or if you’re doing Computer-generated choreography, it would be nice to have this cue.

            On the easy level, when you stand there for 5 seconds or more waiting for the arrow to make it to the bottom of the screen, hitting that arrow long before it gets near the bottom counted as an early step for 0 points. On DDR, being too early never registers as a miss. The earliest that a step is recorded is the earliest that it can score points (And of course, you can be too late.) Hard to explain, but DDR players will know what I mean. What this means is that in DDR you’re not required to move back to the middle of the pad after every step, and this allows for better and faster stepping. The fact that this is most noticeable on the super easy difficulty could tend to make young or new gamers a little frustrated.

            The harder levels are not quite as hard as DDR can get on “Heavy” mode. My kids were able to play through songs on Expert level from the get-go. Having said that, let me explain a few things. My kids have been DDR-ing for a year now, so they’ve got the skills and can sight-read a dance first time and do quite well. They’re light-years ahead of me (I don’t often venture away from “Light” mode on DDR, but have been known to handle “Standard” a few times), so they can hack it. On the other hand, the steps on DP2’s “Expert” level are indeed a slight bit easier than DDR’s “Heavy” mode. I can barely keep up with watching the DDR arrows fly by in that mode, so while DP2 is easier, it’s in the sense that Algebra is easier than Calculus. Both will challenge you if you’re new to math.

            What’s also forgiving is DP2’s Power Bar, analogous to the one in DDR, which grows when you get steps right and shrinks on misses. When the Power Bar is empty, the dance is (optionally) over. Thing is, it takes a boatload of missed steps to empty the thing. When I tried a level 5 Expert dance, I managed (to my amazement) to finish it. Looking at the stats, though, I had more misses than Perfect and Great steps combined. DDR would never have let me get away with that. So again, DP2 is on the whole easier, but if your goal is to play the game and not always have to “beat” it, this is probably a good thing. My kids thought that made it too easy. I loved it.

            Misc. Notes

            I have a Red Octane Ignition dance pad for use with DDR on our PS2 console. It has a USB connector included so I tried using this with DP2. The pad was recognized by the PC and, initially, it seemed to be recognized by DP2. Hitting the X spot worked to dismiss the opening title screens, and when DP2 got to the screen where you tell it which pad is pad 1, pad 2, etc. it did notice that I had 2 pads attached (the one included with the game, and my Red Octane). However, when hitting the up arrow to register the Red Octane pad, the program didn’t respond, while it did for the official DP2 pad. A perusal of their web site’s list of Frequently Asked Questions pointed me to a utility to install that would support 3rd party USB pads. However, after installing it the program responded the same way to the Red Octane pad. Technical support was polite but said that they don’t provide assistance with 3rd party pads, which is understandable.

            Overall

            This is a great game for turning couch potatoes into exercise fans. This genre of game is one of the main reasons that, when we had to buy a new refrigerator, it had to have an in-the-door water dispenser. This Dad got tired of refilling the water tub after an afternoon of DDR, but I was happy that the kids were working up a healthy sweat (and drinking lots of water instead of soda). We had seriously considered getting the original Dance Praise, but, as I mentioned, the main reason we didn’t was because our computer situation wasn’t conducive to it. We bought DDR, and (now I know) I got very lucky with the play list. With Dance Praise 2, that concern about music is off the table, making it a game you can enjoy with the whole family, especially with the head-to-head and gaming modes.. It will both ease you into this genre of game, but also challenge you and keep you on your toes, so to speak, if you already have some experience with it. With all the variations and options, and the ability to add new songs with expansion packs, it won’t get dull. Recommended.

            [tags]Digital Praise,Dance Praise 2,Contemporary Christian Music,DDR,Dance Dance Revolution,games[/tags]

            Be Sociable, Share!