My thoughts on faith, religion… whatever. Controversial topic to some people, or to most people? Kind of like how much you get paid in Finland. I don’t think so. I speak about both issues freely, sometimes to the chagrin of others.

I’ll start by telling one of my favorite anecdotes. When our son was born prematurely (on week 27), we were at the ICU for weeks, because he didn’t really have any lungs to speak of, and was kind of the size of a carton of milk anyway. He made it fine, to those not in the know, but still, it was touch and go for weeks.

While they were doing sterile operations, like changing incubation tubes or other such stuff, parents were asked to leave the ward and go to a waiting room. The room had a TV, a couple of sofas, a guestbook (filled with the most horrific and the most brilliant stories). Just a room to spend half an hour in while you couldn’t be with your child.  One day in the waiting room, we were joined by a middle-aged woman. We talked for a moment, and then she asked, as an aside, if our son had been “emergency-baptized” as soon as he was born prematurely. Apparently, this is something where your child is baptized right away by a priest or whoever, so that if the child dies, his/her soul goes to heaven. A kind thought, but since neither of us, the parents, belong to any church or subscribe to any system of belief, we answered “No, our son has not been baptized”.

What does this charming example of the human race do? She stands up, fire in her eyes, and nearly shouts “Your child is going to hell!”. She then promptly storms out of the room, leaving us, literally, gasping.

I had no words for the situation. Now, mind you, i wasn’t a “new” atheist or agnostic (more on this later) at this point, so i wasn’t stumped by her reasoning. I was simply amazed that someone would do this at a children’s ICU-ward. I rarely have good comebacks when people say something “smart”. I’m also not a violent person by nature, though, if i could go back, i would probably beat the everliving crap out of her for the sheer fun of it.

So what made her do it? Her religion. Her beliefs. Her conviction. She was absolutely sure that an unbaptized child will go to hell. She was not angry at our child, but at us. The non-believers. We had, with our ignorant actions, condemned this poor young-soul to hell. How dare we?? We had no right. I saw this.

But then, I don’t feel pity for people like this. I feel hate. Anger. That’s the kind of person I am. So sue me.

Uh okay. So what do i believe in? I don’t believe in a god. Or gods. Or the Bible, or the Koran, or the Talmud or anything else of that sort. I believe in science. I believe in scientific methodology. By definition, that makes me an atheist. Something that is counter to the theist idea, that include belief in a god or gods. I do however accept that there are things we do not understand. That doesn’t make it supernatural, or imply the existence of a mythical god-figure. There may very well be a force beyond our current understanding, that manipulates what we perceive as reality. But it still doesn’t make it a god. It just makes it something that we do not yet have the terminology or science to grasp.

Atheism, to me, is not a belief system, though a lot of people want to say it is. It’s a way of thinking based on rational thought. I don’t believe there is no god, i know there is no god. It’s the difference between belief and knowledge. I think that sums Atheism well enough for me.

Then what is science really? It’s a current best guess. Theory, based on theory, based on experiment, based on theory. We’re constantly revising what we know, because we accept we are not perfect. We accept that we know a humble tiny little piece of how the universe works, and we’re trying our best to figure things out. Some theories last longer than others. We do not need absolutes, just current estimates and theories.

Religious people work with absolutes, as far as I’ve been able to understand them. An age old adage says, “If you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people”. If there’s something you don’t understand, you consider it, ask other people, look at other angles and so on. Or do you just say “no, god did it”. Or “god works in mysterious ways”. That’s just a piss-poor way of saying “I don’t want to understand” or “I don’t need to understand”. “These things are not meant to be understood by me.” You’re essentially saying you are too stupid to understand how things work, and that you’re okay with it. If that’s okay for your, to not be able to reasonably look at things then… I’m very sorry for you.

I used to think that I’m an agnostic. An agnostic does not make up his mind, but waits for evidence to either side before making up his mind. But since there is not conclusive evidence toward either side; and how could there ever be conclusive evidence, ever in an issue as complex as this, you don’t make up your mind. But this is pretty much a cop-out, as I’ve come to understand it. Even if there isn’t evidence that conclusively proves that there is no god, can i really honestly accept that possibility? Can i honestly accept into my world a supernatural being that created and controls everything? No. I can accept a force beyond our current understanding that may to the uneducated mind seem omnipotent. But anything can be explained through science. Just not current science.

So I’ve perhaps come to understand that I’m purely an atheist. If i need the label at all. But i definitely don’t accept the possibility of a deity of any kind. The mere concept is ludicrous.

So what about the afterlife. Dying. Creation? Evolution? Let’s look at my thoughts on these issues.

When you are born, in fact, before you are born, your consciousness is born. This can be proved by looking at EKG from a fetus. At some point, when enough stem-cells have been tasked to form brain cells, a chemical process happens which triggers electrical activity in the clump of cells that will be your brain. They will eventually take over involuntary and voluntary functions that you need to survive and act. The fetus will move it’s hands. It will kick. It will toss and turn. When the child is born, these will be augmented by a whole host of amazing feats that us humans take for granted.

We know there is electrical activity happening in the human body. When you die, this activity eventually ceases, within 24 hours or so [uh edit here, after the brain stops getting oxygen, it stops working after a few minutes or so]. Don’t quote me on this, by the way, but let’s say that for the sake of conversation at the moment. According to physics, energy doesn’t go anywhere. It may transform, but it exists just the same. You burn a log and you get heat. Same way, the energy that kept you going has to go somewhere. It may just dissipate into the surroundings, or the tissue, or it might do something else. There’s no evidence for any of this, so it’s just speculation. As far as we know, when you die, you cease to exist. You don’t conceive anything anymore. Ergo, there is no afterlife, because there is no you there to comprehend it.

Creation..well can we just put this to rest already? It’s 2011. If you believe a magic fairytale-guy created the world by thinking about it in a week, or even thousands of years, you’re crazy and you should be institutionalized. There is enough conclusive evidence to say that the universe was created some 13.7Ga ago, and we have visual evidence of other solar systems that are in the process of forming planets to say that this didn’t just “snap into existence through some magical fucking being”. It’s still an ongoing process that we have the privilege to study and look at.

As for life, well, we’ve already created ‘artificial bacteria’ in labs. We’ve created something that wasn’t created through natural process. Sure, we haven’t yet simulated how life came to be from a goo of amino acids, water and various elements, but we have enough supporting evidence to say this is exactly what happened. We have evidence for evolution. Sure, there are holes in a number of species and how they came to be, but that doesn’t negate the other, valid evidence that we have. We can point to a rock or a fossil and say with a high degree of certainty that it is n years old.

And because our knowledge of evolution isn’t complete, as few things are, it’s still just a theory. And that doesn’t bother me in the least. It can be a theory as long as it has to, but theory doesn’t make it any less real than something written in a book 1800 years ago. Theory just means we don’t fully understand everything, so we make certain hypothesis based on research and empirical evidence, until we can fill out the gaps with enough confidence. Which we may never! And that’s the great thing about science.

I don’t get scared of the unknown, i take it as a challenge. I want to learn more. I don’t settle for explanations that take away an amazing process, and instead explains the end result as magics created by some guy in the sky?

One of my favorite quotes is ‘Epicurus’ Trilemma’ (paraphrased by me and summarized by David Hume) :

If God is unable to prevent evil, he is not omnipotent

If God is not willing to prevent evil, he is not good

If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, why is there evil?

This is the best god damn evidence that there is no god. If you want to worship a god that is petty and childish or downright evil, like a child killing ants with a magnifying glass.. well..


Here techy techy techy…

This week in tech:

Went to an Oracle event for Solaris 11. Tech content was good. Some of the highlights include improvements for Zones and ZFS, and best of all, an actual package manager that talks to actual repositories and packages that can be upgraded with one command, while keeping dependencies in check. This alone is worth the upgrade for all Solaris toting maniacs. There’s also an option to install a very bare bones system, that you can then build up using the package manager. The image was like 300 megs (compared to the full install of 8GB for Solaris 10). Patching has also gotten revamped, and now can contain metadata that creates a cloned environment as a part of the upgrade. Or at least suggests the creation of one. This way you can test how the patch behaves in a cloned environment, and if things go pear-shaped, go back to your original system.You can also create a local mirror for packages if you don’t want to use the Sun.. Oracle provided ones, or if you are on some limited bandwidth (which shouldn’t be an issue in most countries that want to use Solaris for something). While it’s fringe, it still has it’s uses, and does some things pretty well.

They are also toting this as the “First Cloud OS”. I have no idea what they mean with this, honestly. Sure, it can serve as a host OS in a cloud based service, but uh.. First?

I’m still running Arch, with a 3.1.2 kernel. I’ve also done some testing on the 3.2 branch (up to RC3 as of this post). Linus has taken to announcing new kernel builds on Google+ which is cool. These threads also get loads of (mostly useless or off-topic stuff from ignorant techno-dweebs and Linus fanboys) comments. I’ve reported a few bugs so far; among them a few kernel panics (while returning from suspend), and the lack (apparently) of an iwlwifi kernel module, for Intel wifi-cards, which is need for my Thinkpad T410s. Also there was some crash when plugging in a powercord, but that might be related to entirely different stuff like pm-utils or some powersave feature gone awry.  The reason i wanted to try the 3.2 builds is that on at least the Thinkpad T410s, the VGA output on either the computer itself or the dock does – not – work. It gives you are wavering picture that will give you instant brain cancer and severe blindness if watched for very long. Now all this has something to do with the intel drivers, and a specific signal that is sent. This is fixed in the 3.2 rc2 and rc3 at least. Which is a great little bonus, especially if i want to hook up a projector (usually VGA) or something when you want to show some schematics to a client or your boss….

As i described in the previous post, i rooted and upgraded my Desire Z to Cyanogen Mod 7.1 (nightly 263). There hasn’t been a nightly since 263, but that’s apparently because there are too many damn devices, and simply the build time for each nightly takes over 24 hours in worst cases. Also i think Ice Cream Sandwich, which had it’s source code released recently (along with the previously unreleased Honeycomb source in there somewhere). So far, things have been running great. Only a few problems so far, the most serious being that the launcher disappeared once, and wouldn’t come back without a reboot. Phone worked fine otherwise.

What I’ve been watching:

We’ve been watching some select Anime series lately. Right now we’re watching a show called ‘Samurai Champloo’ which is a bit more on the light comedy side. It’s refreshing compared to the serious, violent anime we’ve previously watched.

Some movies also, but nothing worth mentioning. Well actually, there was a rather good crime-serialkiller thing starring Scott Speedman and Willem Dafoe. It was called Anamorph. Don’t buy it for 10 bucks, but consider it for 5-7 bucks.

What I’ve been listening to:

Podcasts mostly, Caffination, The Ardent Atheist, TechSnap and the Linux Outlaws to name a few.

The Ardent Atheist is a new one, to me, which had a really funny bit that was featured on the linux outlaws. Basically a short demo on how.. uh..well Siri works. Check that episode out here.


Voiding Warranties..again

– Disclaimer – I won’t be responsible for anything you do to your phone, voiding waranties, setting small cats on fire, or causing your local subway system to stop working -Disclaimer-

I recently got the HTC Desire Z. Slightly older, but it has the qwerty slider, which i wanted. Anyway, the HTC Sense UI default “shell” put on top of Android is great. By far better than the Samsung uh.. Touch Wiz thing. Smoother, and smarter. But i won’t get into that. What comes with Sense UI on this phone (and i’ll bet a lot of other HTC phones), is a bunch of applications. Applications that i didn’t need. So obivously i tried to remove some of those applications. Turns out, to remove apps like Facebook or Twitter (that i do not want on my phone), you have to have root. I didn’t find any smart way of getting rid of the apps without root, because it requires modification or removal of files that are in directories that are not world or group-writable.

So, after some internal debate between me and myself, i decided to root the phone. I quickly realized that the operation would not be as easy as on the Samsung, which has a fairly established and easy-to-use toolset for doing both rooting and rom management. Samsungs can also be exploited on pretty much any version of the OS.

However, on the HTC, i found that i had to first downgrade the firmware, so that i could use an exploit to gain root. And to make matters worse, this didn’t work on it’s own. I had to turn my microSD card into a “goldcard”, then do the downgrade, then the exploit to gain root, and then flash the new firmware on top. In this case, i ended up with Cyanogen Mod 7.1. again, since i had good experiences with it.

So, let’s go through the process that i had to go through. Reading a bunch of forums, i quickly got the picture that your mileage will vary. First of all, let’s start with what i had. I had the HTC Desire Z (known as the HTC Vision G2, i think, in the US). I had the latest firmware, which in this case meant uh.. Android 2.3.4 (or 2.3.5), called the HTC Sense version 2.1. Anyway, the latest version available through the HTC OTA update. The phone was bought October of this year.

I started out with the Cyanogen Mod instructions for downgrading the phone to an exploitable firmware version on this page. Or actually, i started out by installing the android sdk, but on arch linux it was as easy as installing android-sdk from the AUR. I use yaourt as a frontend, so i did a yaourt android-sdk. On a 64-bit system, i had to enable the multilibs repository, to get the necessary lib32 libraries.

I ran through the steps of  pushing fre3vo and misc_version on the phone, which went fine. I then did the chmods and the debug, which then got me a root shell on the phone temporarily. The next step has me setting the version for a misc_version, and then pushing the actual downgrade onto the phone. All good so far. Next step is to reboot the phone bootloader using adb (the android debugger). This also worked…. until i got a dreadful message. “CID incorrect! Upgrade fail!”. CID? Wtf? Okay. Step back for a moment and google this fucker.

Turns out certain phones need some finetuning to be able to downgrade, due to either..carrier lockin, or some branding put on the phone, or perhaps an unknown reason (maybe hardware or software revisions?). I found this thread on the Cyanogenmod forums, which helped me onwards. The thread describes my exact issue, though with a slightly different downgrade firmware than mine. In any case, i decided to give it a try. The process involves the creation of a “goldcard”, which is then used as a place to store the downgrade firmware. The goldcard is simply a microSD card, with the first few bytes overwritten with some new data.

The steps were basically:

  • Download the goldcard helper application from the Android market. The phone was still bootable and fully operational, as no downgrade had taken place, so i was able to download and install this.
  • Using the goldcard helper, get the reverse CID for your MMC2 card. That’s your microSD card. MMC0 is your internal memory and can’t be used for this, as far as i’ve read.
  • Taking the reverse CID for your microSD card from the program, input it into the goldcard page (a link is also in the application).
  • The site generates an image, which you will download
  • Download also a hex-editor, such as HxD
  • Take your microSD card out of your phone and put it into a memory card reader (i also read you can use your phone as the reader, but i used a Kingston reader instead), and open up the card from the HxD editor using the extra tab, then the open disk menu and under physical disk selected the removable disk which was the microSD card. Make sure that read-only is not checked when opening the microSD card.
  • Open up another tab by opening from the extra tab “open disk image”, and load the .img file that you got from the goldcard site. Also uncheck the read-only checkbox here. Use the default 512 byte sector size. You should now have two tabs open.
  • From the goldcard.img tab, do a select all, then copy. Go to the microSD tab, and select offsets 00000000 to 00000170 and from the edit menu do a “paste write”. This will paste the content of the goldcard.img, to the first offsets of the microSD card.
  • From the file menu, save what you’ve done. Accept / ignore all warnings.
  • Ok, now you have a gold card.

Proceed by copying over the downgrade image to the newly created goldcard. Continue with the CyanogenMod instructions.Following the instructions for the downgrade, you can safely redo all the steps to make sure. Once you are ready, reboot the bootloader again. You should now have great success, in the words of Borat. Navigate with the volume up and down keys, and select using the power or the navigation-touchpad thing-button. Select bootloader, then select fastboot. Confirm that you want to go ahead if necessary.

This will take a moment. You’ll then be downgraded to an earlier version of the firmware, which has a known exploit, allowing us to root the phone. The phone will (i think) reboot on it’s own, and give you an older looking Sense UI.

Continue with the rooting instructions here. Basically you are downloading and pushing onto the phone a bunch of packages that are needed. Then, you’re running the actual exploit which should find a register in the memory, which we will use to sneak in (i think this is a correct analysis of what goes on, though i’m no programmer). Remember to match those md5 sums listed in the instructions before going on.

After this you have a rooted phone, hopefully with clockwork recovery mod installed. You can now keep using the Sense UI thing (i’m not sure that it’ll OTA upgrade anymore?), or install Cyanogenmod, using these instructions. For some reason, i either failed some part, or something failed, but i didn’t have clockwork recovery mod installed after this process. No sign of CWM anywhere. So, i headed on to the market, and downloaded the thing from there. I was now ready to install Cyanogen, which went without incident.

Note, that if you can’t get into recovery mode using the restart into recovery (from the normal shutdown menu, after installing CWM), shut down the phone, and use Power, volume down and the navigation thing pressed all together.

Ok, so now i have Cyanogenmod 7.1.0 on my HTC Desire Z, with Android 2.3.7 on the bottom. Nice! Quadrant scores (yes yes, synthetic benchmarks..) went from 900 to about 1900 compared to the latest Sense UI. Phone feels snappy.

One thing to note was that market kept crashing! I was getting worried for a moment, but then i remembered the internet, found that thread, and fixed the problem. After downgrading, rooting and installing Cyanogen, i had the phone set to a language called English HD. I selected English US, and my problem was gone. So note this.

Winamp keeps crashing now, but it did that on the Sense UI side, so i doubt it has anything to do with Cyanogen. Version 1.2.6 is the latest as i’m writing this, and there is no later version available. The default media player, though, is pretty usable in any case, so i’m just using that for now.

Now, if i could just install this Cyanogen Nightly build… 🙂

Some travels, and a bit about Spain

Some of you may know that i took a short trip to Spain recently. While i was there, i jotted down a bunch of stuff i wanted to write down once i got home. So here they are.

Firstly, people behaving badly on planes (that’s what i wrote down anyway). First of all, Finnish people (i guess this is true for many other people as well) are troublesome as soon as they wake up. When traveling, you see their worst sides, clearly. People drink excessively even before they get on the plane, and then once they are on the damn thing, they drink more. I may have written about a previous trip to god knows where, where a guy was arrested before even getting off the plane. Apparently he had been drinking, and then playing some ass-grabby-grabby with one of the flight attendants. He was sitting alone in the now-empty front section of the plane, singing to himself “who has the cops waiting for them outside!”. And sure enough, cops were waiting for him right outside the plane. Great way to start a vacation.

Another thing i still can’t understand after all these years traveling, is why people don’t listen to the damn flight attendants. When they say jump, you ask: “how high?”. On the plane, they are the supreme authority. If they tell you not to use electronic equipment, you don’t. I know that most equipment probably don’t interfere with any modern aircraft, but it’s their damn plane. They make the rules as they see fit. If they tell you to keep your seat belt on until the sign is off and the plane has stopped, you do it! I don’t care if it’s your first or your fifteenth time on a plane, you don’t get up and start unloading as soon as the plane hits the ground. You sit the fuck down and wait. You ain’t getting off the plane any faster.

On that fucking note, why, when the plane has finally stopped, do you take your carry-on and go stand in the aisle? Why? You stand there with no space, and your bag in hand, and you wait 10 minutes for them to complete post-landing checklists and open the doors and so on. And then you get out. I sit down and keep reading my book, and i get out like 30 seconds after you do. I fucking hate that. But then again, what’s it to me? Why do i care?

Well obviously, so i have something to write about. D’uh.

The next bullet point is ‘Finland is taking over the Costa Del Sol. This is true! According to some shady source, 20 000 Finns populate the Spanish coasts at any one time. That’s a lot. I’ve been to Spain maybe 20 times, and either i’m getting older and more cynical (is this even possible?), or there were more Finns there than ever. Up to the point of annoyance. Violent thoughts.

During one day, we took the bus up to the mountains, to Ronda. which is about.. 800 meters above sea level. The road is winding and dangerous. People die there constantly. It took nearly two hours to get there by bus (which cost 8,80, feasible). On the bus, there were Finnish people. The first restaurant we had lunch at had Finnish people at the table next to us. There was no escape. Except perhaps the 200 meter drop from the cliffs.

Every single mode of public transport, every café, every… well not every, but most restaurants. Finnish people. We (i’m ashamed to say) even have our part of town. Well, basically. It’s a place where you can operate solely in Finnish. Stores have clerks that know Finnish. Taxi and bus-drivers are fluent in Finnish, almost. Signs at restaurants and such are in Finnish. There is a Finnish school. A church. Night clubs. Stores where you can get exclusively Finnish goods  (which these people obviously can’t survive without). The store has anything from Finnish beer (which is shit), Long Drinks, rye bread, liquorice, and “sausages” (i use air-quotes because most Finnish sausages insult the word, containing scarcely any meat. Seriously. We have sausages with 0 per cent meat).

This brings me nicely into the next bullet point. “Ja mitä se on suomeksi??”. Translates loosely into “And what’s that in Finnish?”. This was a sentence overheard at a local Jazz-club (owned by a Finnish person, and with mostly Finnish patrons). We listened to admittedly excellent Jazz provided by The Andalucian Swing Band. After the show, there was some kind of lottery going on for the mostly senior crowd. We were easily the youngest people there, by a margin of at least 30 years. During the lottery, the hostess read out the winning number. Sometimes she’d do it in Spanish, mostly Finnish, and whatever crossed her mind. Once she did not read out the number in Finnish, but instead in Spanish, Swedish and English. So, obviously, on of the esteemed patrons had to stand up and say, in a snarky voice: “And what’s that in Finnish??”. I nearly flipped out and shouted “It was R for Red-neck”. We’re 4000 kilometers away from Finland. Most of those people either live there permanently, or most of the year. But you can’t be bothered to learn anything local. And then you make noise about it, as if you’re proud of the fact that you’re a fucking ignorant prick?

Ok, let’s get out of Spain. The flight we took was through Zürich. That’s a fucking expensive place! We had two meals at the airport  (ok, airport prices, but still!) Burger King. 26 euro. The same meals in Finland, if we had Burger King, would be like 13 bucks. Expensive place. Everything except booze was expensive.

Back to Spain. While i have nothing against Muslims or Islam, i noted that the amount of Muslims on the coast had increased greatly. There was even a brand new mosque that i don’t remember being there in 2008 when i last visited. I guess Spain will also be a “victim” of the slow and creeping Islami..fication of Europe. Some study i read somewhere ™, said that some countries in Europe would have more Muslims in 50 years than any other religion. That’s kind of interesting. As long as they don’t start enforcing Sharya or old traditions that don’t sit well with the rest of the population, I’m fine with this.

Ok that’s all.

Currently I’m reading Stefan Didak’s posts on his new Home Office version 7. You should check them out. Inspiring.