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Archives for : June2013

Current Favourite Congregational Song: In Tenderness by Citizens

Kindle Paperwhite Review

Kindle Paperwhite.

I’ve been using a Kindle DX for about a year and a half. I bought it because I wanted an e-ink display that I could easily read textbooks on. With textbooks mainly coming as PDFs and relying heavily on formatting, it’s virtually impossible to reformat them so they can be easily read on a small screen such as a standard 6-inch Kindle. Whilst it was more expensive than other Kindles, I think it was worth it. I had physical and electronic copies of most of my textbooks (one or two didn’t have electronic copies available) and never bothered taking any textbook to Uni. After a little while I thought I’d give reading a couple of novels a go. I loved reading off the e-ink screen, but I had a problem: The DX seemed too big for novels. The DX’s major positive for textbooks is a major negative for novels. The DX has some weight behind it and using it at a desk whilst studying isn’t a problem, but reading a novel on it whilst sitting down on a couch didn’t really work that well.

So, the other day, I decided I’d pick up a Kindle Paperwhite. As the higher end model at the moment, it’s a bit more expensive than the standard Kindle. It’s main selling points are:

  • Back-light
  • Touch screen
  • Increased PPI

After using it for a bit, I found it to be exactly what I wanted for novels. It’s a good weight to hold, and for a novel, is a good size. The increased PPI is very noticeable compared with the DX – this means the text is crisper and just that much nicer read.

I’m still getting used to the back-light. I sometimes use it, sometimes don’t. The instructions indicate that in a low light situation, you should have the back-light turned to a low setting, and in a brightly lit situation you should have the back-light turned up. At first this seemed somewhat counter intuitive, however it seems to make sense after trying it out. With no lights turned on, I was able to comfortably read without straining my eyes with the back-light on about 1/4 setting. In a brightly lit situation, having the back-light set to 3/4 to full gave it a much better contrast – the back-light is what makes it “paperwhite.” Without anything it’s just like any other e-ink reader, and as anyone who has used one will know, the screen isn’t white.

When I first saw that it had a touchscreen, I was a bit skeptical about how well it would work. After all, an e-ink display doesn’t have a very good refresh rate and is prone to ghosting. Amazon have done a good job with implementing it. The refresh rate isn’t anywhere near that of an LCD display, however it seems to be better than the DX and there aren’t any issues using the touchscreen. You probably won’t want to do any prolonged typing with the onscreen keyboard, however for the amount of typing you are likely to do on a Kindle it is sufficient.

Overall, I would recommend it to anyone looking to buy an eBook reader for less than $150 (for the WiFi version.) eBook readers have come down in price significantly and can be bought fairly cheaply, but I think the extra $50 to $70 is definitely worth it. One of the downsides with it is it doesn’t support the ePub format, but Calibre can easily convert between ePub and mobi format fairly easily. Unfortunately DRM still plagues the eBook market as it used to the music market, but I hope this will change in the future, as it will make eBooks much more flexible. At the moment you’re stuck with what you can get off Amazon and DRM-free sites. It is fairly trivial to strip eBooks of DRM from what I’ve read, however this is somewhat legally questionable and a bit of a gray area, which is why I’m hoping publishers eventually ditch DRM all together.

The Simpsons predicted it!

What does "banned" mean?

Words are powerful, and the way something is worded can have powerful implications in the way the message is perceived.

Recently I’ve been seeing the phrase that gay “marriage” is banned in a recent attempt by gay marriage activists to bring more and more negative connotations to states that stick to the traditional definition of marriage.

When I got to thinking about it, using this logic, something is banned simply because it doesn’t fit a criteria. I guess in some ways this is true, but it’s dishonest and deceitful. Everything that doesn’t fit a definition is therefore implicitly “banned.” So, any thing that could possibly be seen as a marriage that isn’t exclusively between a man and a women (who are of age and not of direct relation) is banned. Animal-human marriages are banned. Machine-human marriages are banned. Three way marriages are banned.

Is this an appropriate use of the word banned? No, not really. Using the phrase “banned” implies something is explicitly prohibited. Gay marriage isn’t explicitly prohibited; it’s implicitly prohibited simply because it doesn’t fit the age old definition of marriage. (Putting my computer science cap on; think the difference between a white list and a black list.) Why should the definition suddenly be changed for just one group? There are many groups out there that would like to have the definition of marriage changed to fit their personal agenda, though these groups don’t (yet) have the same momentum behind it as the gay marriage movement.

With all this, we need to remember that in Australia, there is no discrimination against same-sex couples. The only thing they can’t do is get married, because marriage is reserved for a man and a women who enter into an exclusive relationship for life. If the gay lobby wants the same thing, make up your own version. Don’t call it marriage, because by definition marriage is a man and a woman, and “gay marriage” is a contradictory statement for that reason.

Note: As I always am forced to say with these things: I do not hate people. Jesus commands Christians to love everyone; and to realise that you’re no better than anyone else (everyone is sinful.) However, loving people doesn’t mean affirming their ways as right. I don’t affirm any sin to be right, because if I do so, by what I believe, I am intentionally misleading someone which would cause devastating consequences. That would be an unloving thing to do. Those so called “Christians” who truly hate gays don’t grasp what it means to be Christ-like.

Reading List

Here are a few books I’ve recently read through, am reading through or plan to read through in the near future.

In choosing what books I want to read, I had a few categories:

  • Classics that may interest me
  • Christian Apologetic books
  • Atheist books
  • Pro-Life books
  • Christian fiction

To some, reading apologetic books and atheist books side by side may seem a bit strange; however I don’t think this should be seen as strange at all. I don’t want to go around wearing rose tinted glasses all the time – most (but not all) Christian apologetic authors won’t water down the truth and in the most part will be sufficient, but the only way to be sure (and fair) is to read some of the corresponding from atheist counterparts. Actually, for most Christians, I’d even recommend reading some, as genuine faith isn’t faith you have as a result of your parents, but a faith that you have chosen to lead.

Anyway, onto the list. So far the list includes:

  • 1984 by Orwell (read)
  • Animal Farm by Orwell
  • The God Delusion by Dawkins (atheistic book; partway through)
  • Who Made God by Andrews (apologetic book; have read it once, plan on re-reading)
  • The Reason for God by Keller (apologetic book; have read half, plan on re-reading)
  • Brave New World by Huxley
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Adams
  • The Sword by Litfin (Chiveis Trilogy; Christian Fiction; read)
  • The Gift by Litfin (Chives Trilogy; Christian Fiction; read)
  • The Kingdom by Litfin (Chives Trilogy; Christian Fiction; partway through)
  • Defending Life by Beckwith (Pro-Life book; started)

I want to add another atheist book to that list – hopefully one by Krauss. If anyone has any suggestions as a good starting one by him, I’m all ears.

ESV Study Bible Kindle Edition – $5

The ESV Study Bible, my favourite translation (closely followed by Holman) have an amazing and well researched study bible. The Kindle Edition is currently available for approx. $5! Head over to Amazon to grab a copy.

As always, the ESV is free on Kindle. Since NIV is $10 and you can only get the 2011 version, I’m sticking with ESV (and Holman; also free) on my Kindle.

Play audio from NAO robot over a network

Xbox One debacle isn’t dissimilar to Steam on PC

Over the past couple of weeks, the internet has gone crazy over the recently announced DRM-ridden Xbox One. There seems to be many things to dislike about the new Xbox, aside from the part where Microsoft put “one” in the name of their third Xbox. Online check-in every 24 hours, tying of games with accounts, no ability to re-sell games (easily) and mandatory Kinect are the main complaints against the newest iteration of the Xbox.

However, all the complaints, bar the Kinect complaint, are all comprable to how Steam works. Steam requires an Internet connection initially to login, and whilst it’s offline mode doesn’t force logging in every 24 hours, I can’t imagine someone to get away with anymore than a couple of months at the absolute most without logging in. Games bought on Steam are tied to your account. Games bought on Steam aren’t able to be sold.

People are typically OK with Steam these days, but people are not OK with the Xbox One. They use a similar style of DRM (pretty much the only difference is Xbox One has the 24-hour check-in policy,) so why the hate for one and love for the other? Here are a few reasons I’ve come up with.

  1. Steam works well and actually has some nice features
    Yes, Steam is DRM, but it works well and doesn’t really prevent you from being able to do what you want with your games (you know, play them.) It makes managing libraries much easier, it makes installing games a breeze, and it keeps all the games up to date, and has some nice features such as cloud sync and social aspects built in.
  2. Cost difference
    People will quite often buy games on Steam when they’re cheap. Getting games dirt cheap in exchange for having to put up with a small amount of DRM to most people is an OK compromise, especially when the DRM isn’t intrusive and the system “just works” (see point 1.)
  3. Games are easier to pirate on PC
    Those who really don’t like Steam and want to play a Steam-exclusive game can just pirate it and play it single player. I am most certainly not advocating piracy, but it’s something to take into consideration. For those on PC who don’t like the system, avoiding the system all together by pirating a game is much easier than those on consoles where pirating games is much harder. I don’t agree piracy is right, but people still do it and it’s a valid reason for why many people don’t care about the DRM on PC games.
  4. Owning a physical copy feels different to owning a virtual copy
    With Steam, you will rarely own a physical copy of the game (part of the reason why they can give such big discounts, see point 2.) With consoles, you typically do own a physical copy of the game. With owning the physical copy comes the mindset “if I physically have the disc, I can play the game.” I think this mindset is completely justified. With the Xbox One, you can buy a physical copy in store, but it’ll be tied to your account and owning the physical copy doesn’t mean anything. If a physical copy of the game exists, it should work whether the physical copy goes, including if it’s to be sold. This mindset never comes into play when purchasing games on Steam, and it’s something many people are willing to forfeit given the discounts that can come into play.
  5. Steam isn’t the only option for PC games
    With the Xbox One, every single game has to play by these rules. With a PC, Steam is optional. Whilst there are certainly many Steam exclusive games (and that number is continually increasing,) there are always games that don’t use Steam, and if you want to legally avoid the system (i.e. point 3,) you can always just buy some games the traditional way.

I think people should just vote with their wallet. If they don’t like the way the Xbox One works, let Microsoft know with abysmal sales. Buy a PS4. Buy a Wii U. Build a PC to play games on. However, if they continue to make money off it, they will continue to do it. I won’t be buying an Xbox One, however I probably wasn’t going to buy one before all this happened anyway.

Transgender girl wins right to use girls’ toilets

Ninemsn: A nine-year-old transgender girl has won the right to use the girls’ toilets at her primary school in southeast Queensland and can now also compete in girls’ sports.

This is just another ludicrous case of political-correctness gone mad. Why is a child, who is biologically a male, allowed to use the female restrooms in his school? Do you think the girls in that school care about what gender this child thinks he is? In reality, all that they see is a boy using the girls restrooms. This is a prime example of putting a majority at risk to appease a minority. If a group of parents complain that a child, who is biologically male, is using the female restrooms and demands it stops, will they get their way? I think the schools initial response, to allow the child to use the disabled (later renamed “unisex”) toilet was the best compromise, however apparently that wasn’t enough.

I don’t dispute that Emma thinks he is a girl. The article indicates he has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria; formerly known as gender identity disorder. I’m not disputing that he has this. What I do want to put into question is the way that this diagnosis is being dealt with; namely putting others at risk to appease a minority.

I think a recent observation on the blog Eternity Matters sums this up quite nicely:

Something I don’t understand: If your body actually is male and your mind says it is female, why do we assume that means there is something wrong with the body instead of something wrong with the mind?

If you have an emotional problem with your body’s gender, it seems like common sense that we need to address the emotions which contradict reality instead of the gender which is perfectly fine.

In short: why is the mind right and the body wrong? This is actually a genuine question; as mentioned in the post, what if this was applied to ethnicity instead of gender? That doesn’t even start to make sense.

Freedom, Democracy and Equality

Gay groups: Google Play, iTunes must censor Christian smartphone app to cure homosexuality: June 14, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Homosexual lobby groups are outraged at Google for having an app that claims to be able to cure unwanted same-sex attraction in 60 days, available at its Google Play online store.

Translation: We only want what we find acceptable to be available; all in the name of freedom, democracy and equality.

This is quite an interesting case; a supposed gay “cure” app being pulled from the Apple App Store and pressure being put on Google to remove it from the Play store. Firstly, I checked out the app, it isn’t specifically a gay cure, rather a sin cure, and I definitely do want to question whether or not an app is in a position to be a “sin cure”! I’m neutral on the app; I can understand why some people don’t like it, but I can also understand why some people would want it and find it helpful. It’s not something I’d promote myself, but it’s not something I take immediate issue with being in existence.

Don’t you think that an adult who experiences same-sex attraction should be able to, completely voluntarily, choose to go to a “gay cure” program if they wanted to? And that’s exactly what this issue comes down to: no one is forcing anyone to use the app. Being heavily involved in the pro-life movement, I’ve been told many times the rhetoric “if you don’t like abortion, don’t get one.” Does the same apply for this? “Don’t like it? Don’t download it.” I call double standards!

We live in a society that isn’t really free. Those with conservative political views are bullied, quite often by those who claim to oppose bullying. We live in a society where a minority dictates what the views of a majority should hold. We live in a society that has a completely skewed view of freedom and equality. Those who claim to have had unfair treatment (some of which is justified, much of which isn’t) are now getting much better treatment than everyone else (maybe they’re trying to average it out?)

What I want to get at is, not looking at the particular app content, why does one group of people (the gay lobby) get to dictate what other people have available to them? Do I get to remove all adult apps from the Google Play store just because I don’t like it? It doesn’t seem so. Why does the gay lobby get to have something removed just because they don’t like it? Don’t like it? Don’t use it.