The Kindle Fire isn’t Pretentious

Let’s get this out of the way: I am not an early adopter. For example, I only recently (this year) bought a Vectrex, meaning I gave the technology a good 30 years to mature before buying in. And until yesterday, I avoided owning a tablet device.

Notice I said device, not “tablet computer” or “tablet PC.” That’s because most of these devices, while technically computers, are not suitable for most of the things people (and by people, I mean me; YMMV) use computers to do. I’ve experimented with these things before; taking one off a friend’s hand for a few minutes; and have always been unimpressed.  Not because I didn’t like them, but because for $500+ they weren’t worth it. My estimation of tablets to date has been “meh.”

Because: they are toys. Their usefulness is limited to doing things toys do. Yes, Apple iPad users, I think your tablet is a toy, too.

And that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with buying, owning, and using (playing with) toys. But let’s not be pretentious about them (*cough* Apple *cough*). And when it comes to toys, I don’t feel the need to get the first ones, especially when they cost too much.

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Yesterday I opened a Kindle Fire. Tablets are ready for prime time.

This thing is great. And I figured out why: it’s not pretentious. The Fire doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. It doesn’t bother to tell you what kind of processor its running, though you can find out if you care. It doesn’t have a camera because there is no reason to put a piece of junk light sensor on a tablet when we all know you already have a piece of junk light sensor on your cell phone. It doesn’t have a GPS because your tablet doesn’t need one. It doesn’t have 3G because you really don’t need it since you can download your books and a movie or two and you will probably have access to free WiFi where you are anyway. It only has 8 GB of on-device storage because that is enough and more costs more. It has a rubberized back because this isn’t a device made to be beholden; this is a utilitarian device made to be, well, utilized.

The people who made the Fire know I am not going to try to use this to do work, so they didn’t waste time and hardware putting things in there to make me think it might be useful for work. Instead, they made a solid device with which I can read books, browse some websites, check (but not really much else, unless you like to torture yourself with a non-keyboard) email, check facebook, listen to music, etc. And it does all these things well, while being the perfect size.

I’m not going to give an in-depth review because there are already a thousand reviews out there. But I will say this: The Kindle Fire is “worth it.” They got it right. It’s $200 and while it’s not an iPad, the fact that it is not an iPad is a good thing for me. If I wanted an iPad I would have bought one already. I didn’t, and I’m glad I waited for the Fire.

PS: thanks to my wife for not objecting to wrapping an empty box so I could use the Fire she got me as a gift.

Making video demonstrations of software

Just a quick post to tell you about a program I found quite well designed and useful. I always appreciate it when people mention my own software, so I figured I’d do the same.

I decided it was time to create some videos for SwordSearcher Bible Software. I bought a license for Instant Demo, and I’m glad I did.  After a few days of work, I’ve got three videos done.  They aren’t Hollywood productions, but they look and sound good, and give people who don’t like reading manuals or web sites an alternative to learning about my software.  The learning curve for Instant Demo is not very steep, and there are excellent tools for all of the things good software videos need, like highlighting hotspots, tweaking and refining mouse movements and clicks, adjusting delays, and adding audio narration.

Reformation Reversed: Emergent Church and the Undoing of Faith

“Christians are now the foreigners in a post-Christian culture… we need to view ourselves the way others on the outside see us.” –Dan Kimbal, They Like Jesus but not the Church.

“I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” –Jesus Christ (John 17:14)

I have heard many times that if Christianity is to survive, it must adapt to the changing world around it; Christians must “evolve” if they are to be accepted by those around them.  Usually this means things like rejecting the Biblical record of creation, Biblical precepts on gender and sexual behavior, etc. It also means that the underlying message of the Gospel — that Christ is the one and only Redeemer and that all men must believe on him for salvation — must be modified or adapted, or at least not held to as a fundamental tenet, to make it more palatable.

There is a movement — a strong movement — to “undo” the Reformation of 500 years ago and return Christians to a religion of mystical ecumenism, away from the doctrine of Sola Scriptura that so many believers lost their lives over those many years ago.  Certainly there is no overt movement to bring back the Spanish Inquisition (not that anyone would expect it), but the desire to eliminate God’s word as the sole authority by which a Christian lives and believes is as strong as it ever was under the guidance of Ignatius Loyola.

This new Un-reformation, led by charismatic leaders like Dan Kimball and Rick Warren, with nice titles like “vintage worship,” the “emergent church,” the “purpose driven church,” etc, seeks to do what all grand “doers” of religion in the past have endeavoured to do: build God’s Kingdom on Earth. They’ll have this kingdom now, not after Christ’s return, thank you very much. To that end, Christianity must be tempered with the wisdom of the world, with the Bible playing just a small part here and there for those folks who still hold to it, at least until they “die off” as Rick Warren once put it.

Roger Oakland has written a fascinating and sobering book: Faith Undone, exposing the “Emerging Church” for the return to mystical, man-based movement that it is. Oakland contends, and I agree, that this “new reformation” is simply another deception along the way to the end of this time and the return of Christ.

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” –1st Timothy 4:1

In order to bring about this man-built Kingdom of God, Emerging Church proponents see the Bible as a text that needs to be re-examined, and the foundational tenets of Christian theology as beliefs that need to be re-interpreted and modified in our “post-modern” world. The 21st Century Church, to them, is one that can not be contentious for anything, and must accept and adapt to all.

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” –Jude 1:3 

In his book, Oakland describes the methods of this Kingdom building, and that they are, in fact, nothing new. Chief among the methods of the Emerging Church is to “translate” the Gospel with mysticism — centering prayer, contemplative prayer, ritualism, etc.

Oakland writes:

“I believe history is repeating itself. As the Word of God becomes less and less important, the rise in mystical experiences escalates, and these experiences are presented to convince the unsuspecting that Christianity is about feeling, touching, smelling, and seeing God. The postmodern mindset is the perfect environment for fostering spiritual formation. This term suggests there are various ways and means to get closer to God and to emulate him.” 

There can be no doubt that Warren and other Emergents regard the Gospel as an afterthought in their work.  In countless interviews, Warren touts his work as a good works movement to build build bridges between faiths (explicitly stating religion is irrelevant) and “healing” hearts. Their goal is unity at all costs — and all costs includes Scripture. That’s a far cry from the Jesus Christ of the Bible, who said:

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” –Matthew 10:34 

The Emerging Church has no room in it for the divisive words of Christ, since they only get in the way of the unity required to build a Kingdom in his name.  Because of this, the place of Scripture, and of the Gospel, is completely lost. One Emergent Church leader said:

“Evangelism or mission for me is no longer persuading people to believe what I believe… It’s more about shared experiences and encounters. It is about walking the journey of life and faith together, each distinct to his or her own tradition and culture but with the possibility of encountering God and truth from one another.” –Pip Piper

As Oakland points out, this is a far cry from how the New Testament describes evangelism:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” –1st Peter 3:15

By now just about everyone in the United States who calls themselves Christian has heard of Rick Warren, and by extension, the Emerging Church movement. But few really know what’s actually going on and why it has so much momentum. I highly recommend reading Faith Undone to learn the history behind this modern un-reformation.

History, especially Church history, has shown that so many of the world’s worst crimes have been done in the name of building God’s Kingdom.  This time is no different — though no inquisitors are killing those who won’t convert, the minimization and perversion of the Gospel is just the same, for the message of Christ the ONLY Redeemer is not being preached by these Kingdom Builders.

Rick Warren wrote in his book, The Purpose Driven Life:

“When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism… He said in essence, ‘The details of my return are none of your business.'”

Warren is simply wrong, because Jesus said much about his return and how to be prepared for it (Luke 12).  Warren also said in a speech:

“…God is going to use you to change the world. …I’m looking at a stadium full of people who are telling God they will do whatever it takes to establish God’s Kingdom ‘on earth as it is in heaven.'”

Anyone claiming that we can build God’s Kingdom on earth and ignore prophecy should read this warning:

“And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” –Revelation 22:10-11

Migrating a boot partition to a new drive in Windows

I installed a new hard drive on my wife’s machine because she kept running out of space. I didn’t have the time or inclination to do a new Windows XP install, and didn’t want to install the drive as a secondary because that means she would constantly have to redirect where stuff is installed, so I decided to transfer the old drive data to the new drive.

I got her a Western Digital drive, so I figured I’d try using their utility to do the transfer. The Western Digital Data Lifeguard boot CD-ROM utility failed to copy the old partition to the new drive with an unspecified error. (Come on! Cryptic errors are better than nothing!)

So I tried using the GParted LiveCD. It took a long time just to get something visible on the screen, mucking around in interactive boot mode. Finally, I got it to copy the partition to the new disc and resize it. Or so it told me. It took an hour but the target drive was not bootable. I checked all the partition flags and even booted the Windows install CD in recovery mode to rewrite the boot sector (FIXBOOT), and when that didn’t work, the MBR (FIXMBR) and boot sector. It just wouldn’t boot — and no error messages from the BIOS either (how nice).

Finally, I downloaded Acronis Migrate Easy 7.0.

This program is awesome. It is what all low level utilities should be. It just works. I was hesitant to try anything that didn’t run off a boot disc, assuming that I was asking for trouble running a program in Windows to copy the boot partition to a new drive. But it was easy and clear, and apparently Acronis really knows how to make Windows do low-level stuff the right way. It re-booted the system into the UI mode that I’ve only seen chkdsk run in and copied the partition to the new drive, then told me it was done and I could remove the old drive and reconfigure the system to boot from the new drive. And it just worked.

I copied a partition from an 80 gigabyte parallel ATA drive to a 250 gigabyte serial ATA (SATA) drive. The partition was automatically expanded to fill the new space, and I didn’t need to defrag afterwards even though the source drive was pretty fragmented — apparently it does more than just a blind copy of the clusters.

Anyway, this program is awesome and worked perfectly. I just wanted to sing its praises and hope this might help someone else avoid the hassle I went through learning about it.

Software Has Limits

As I write this, somewhere around 8,000 people are stuck in LAX waiting to go through customs because of a computer glitch.

Frankly, I am amazed this doesn’t happen more often. This reminds me of a book I recently read called The Limits of Software. Anyone who is curious about why computers and software so frequently don’t work properly would benefit from reading it.

The Limits of Software is a sort of docu-drama in book form about the massive failed attempt at upgrading the Federal Aviation Administration’s ancient computer systems. The event is a case-study proving that all the money in the world can’t make the impossible happen. But since the government can just spend, spend, spend, they sure did give the impossible a try. I highly recommend this book for programmers or anyone who wants to understand what kind of problems programmers are always trying to solve.

What it all boils down to is that software is a means of describing abstract human thought for computers to understand and implement in reality. It will never be perfect.

No consolation for the 8,000 poor folks stranded in LAX, I know.