VCP, Kindle and the thrill of finding the perfect place for awesome technology

The next few weeks I will be in study mode.
Next week a 5 day classroom course for VMware vSphere 4.1: Install, Configure & Manage
The week after that its 3 days VMware vSphere 4: Manage for Performance
Then some exam training and on the 25th the VCP4 exam. I am exited and nervous, as I have not studies for an exam or cert for a long time. But I am also confident as I understand a lot of the material already.

In preparation for this I have been gathering some white papers, been reading up on some things and have also been looking for a good book also. I was in the tram today paging through the Kindle app for the Android, and it struck me that the Amazon sphere would be the right place to consume this kind of stuff.  I have the Kindle app on my Ipad, my Phone and on 2 PC’s (I don’t yet own an actual Kindle) and the fact that I can pick up wherever I left off, wherever I am and when I have some time spare, appealed to me.

It’s a relief that I can actually find a good use for all these kindle outputs because I was stuck in the dilemma between the physical and the virtual. I will soon be receiving my first leather bound book from Easton Press, but for a while I felt torn between the superior convenience of ebooks, and the wish to have a proper physical book collection. But I realize now I can split the difference; educational books work a lot better as ebooks. So I can find good an honest use for both the old and new at the same time.  This is greatly fulfilling to me somehow.  I now even have a reason to get a Kindle.. perhaps.

Still in the tram I bought Scott Lowe’s Mastering VSphere 4, Kindle edition, and directed Amazon to send it to all my devices. By the time I got home, it was already downloaded onto my Ipad.


I used to collect a large amount of the MSPress books, but was saddened when I realized that most of them would become obsolete. Getting the ebook versions of these kinds of books might not necessarily be that much cheaper (mastering VSphere 4 set me back $41), but at least its not a waste of paper!
For a long time I justified buying these books by saying that I would rather read from my hand that from the screen, and this is actually true. But The Ipad and Kindle are convenient enough (and even my Android phone is, to be honest), that I cant justify wasting the trees on this kind of book anymore.

I was also thrilled to discover that some of the old Battletech novels are being re-released as Kindle versions. It was impossible to get your hands on, for example, the Blood of Kerensky trilogy in paperback form, it has been out of print for so long. I read most of the novels until Darkage started, but I never got my hands on some of the oldest titles. I hope they bring them all back! What a rich universe to re-discover!

Broken Hardware part 2

Back to square 1 with the video card crashes. Even on my loaner 9800GT, same issues as before. I am even suspecting its the same issue as plagued my 8800GTX.

Mass effect is a good example: It will run fine for 5 minutes, then suddenly freeze. With alt-ctrl-del I get back to my desktop. But that is apparently the kick-start the graphics driver needs, and it will immediately full-screen the game again, and all is fine, for about 5 minutes, then it freezes again.

Now I have noticed, that if I just leave it frozen, without pressing alt-ctrl-delete to restart the graphics, the problem will permanently corrupt all graphics functions for this session of Windows, causing the crazy-ass pixel snow effect I have described before. Windows desktop will display random mis-colored pixels, that move about when something else on the screen moves. In the game the image becomes a mixed up mess of pixels, but its basically the same effect.
I imagine this is what video-memory corruption looks like.

Now I had exactly the same problem when I was running the 295, on Vista, aswell as on Windows 7, and on the old mainboard/cpu/power suppy, as well as the new hardware.
Thinking back to my original issue with the 8800GTX, I cannot remember seeing the pixel mess, but the freeze behaviour was identical.  If only I had let it sit there on the frozen screen of Mass Effect a bit longer, perhaps then I would have seen the same pixel issues.

IMG_3229 by you.

IMG_3233 by you.

IMG_3234 by you.

So, across a different OS, different cpu, different mainboard, different power supply, AND 3 different video cards, I seem to be having the same problem over and over.

Something is fucking up the graphics somehow. Either the physical card or the drivers.
What I find fascinating is also how in the corruption while in game, you very clearly see that familiar diagonal line across the screen. I cant remember what that was exactly, but it something pretty basic to how images are drawn on the screen. It goes to show something is off on a very basic, hardware level.

I have bene looking for common elements. Here is the stuff I can think of:
– Same power socket (could it be a power issue causing memory corruption? Would this not be stopped by the power supply?)
– Same sound card; Creative Labs X-fi Fatality edition (with front panel)
– Same mouse (logitech MX revolution)
– Same Keyboard (logitech G15)
– Same headphones (logitech G35)
– Same Wireless Network USB dongel (sitecom)
– Same 2 monotors: 22″ and 19″
– Same Case
– Something enviromental like interference, magnetic field or signal-crossover

Now, looking at the list above, the ony thing that has recently changed or been added is of course the G35 headset.
My first thought was, maybe its conflicting with the Creative X-fi, so I removed the sound card, that I wasnt even using currently as the G35 software takes care of all sound
That did not help. It also cant be a driver issue as in this Windows 7 install, its default drivers for the X-Fi, but the Logitech drivers are installed from the website.

IMG_3237 by you.

IMG_3238 by you.

Could it be the G35 or its driver itself then perhaps? Its a USB headset, with a sound driver that acts as a directsound output device, and can do serround sound. How could it effect the video card?  Sure both use drivers, could they be eating eating eachothers memory space? I thought since Windows xp this kinda stuff was already almost impssible? no?

I will try to stick the G35 in a different USB port, in the back this time, instead of the front. (perhaps a defective USB port?, the frontpanel USB ports of the case have not changed between these configs either)

Next I can try without teh G35 at all, with or without activating the onboard sound card of the mainboard.

The shitty thing here is that I may have replaced my 8800 for no reason. And that the 295 currently at the shop may be fine after all.

I will know more in a few days…

Wine tasting day 2 – Rione dei Dogi Squinzano Riserva


Wine: 2002 Duca Bortini di Montebello Squinzano Rione dei Dogi
Type: Red
Producer: Duca Bortini di Montebello
Varietal: Negroamaro
Designation: Rione dei Dogi
Country: Italy
Region: Puglia
Appellation: Squinzano

I thought the wine was less fruity (sweet) than yesterdays Australian Cabernet Merlot blend. The flavour was quite strong, with a slightly bitter after tone. Smooth, and not very dry.


IMG_2761 by you.

Very hard to find specific information about this wine. I was unable to find any specific winery it could have been produced at. The brand name appears to be Rione dei Dogi, and it seems to be bottled and/or produced by Duca Bortini Di Montebello but they dont list it amongst their brands.


Region: Apulia
Classification: DOC (1976)
Area Description: Red clay and sand over limestone soil in the coastal plain of the Salentine Peninsula between Lecce and Brindisi.
Color: Red
Description: Ruby red with deep orange highlights.
Type: Dry still
Taste: Dry, sapid, tannic when young.
Aroma: Intense, of wine.
Alcohol: 13%
Aging: Three years plus, laying. Minimum one year, six months of which should be in wood for the Riserva.
Temperature: Serve at 64º Fahrenheit, 18º Celsius.

From Wikiepedia:

Negroamaro, also Negro amaro, is a red wine grape variety native to southern Italy. It is grown almost exclusively in Puglia and particularly in Salento, the peninsula which can be visualised as the “heel” of Italy. The grape can indeed produce wines very deep in color. Wines made from Negroamaro tend to be very rustic in character, combining perfume with an earthy bitterness. The grape produces some of the best red wines of Puglia, particularly when blended with the highly scented Malvasia Nera, as in the case of Salice Salentino.

Wine tasting with my uncle

With my uncle and aunt in the country, I once again have the chance to hone my wine-tasting skills. The first wine I have had is “Bancroft Bridge” Cabernet Merlot from south-eastern Australia.

This wine combines a cabernet-sauvignon with a merlot. Alcohol content 13.5%. Imported by Marks&Spencer and sold in the UK

IMG_2735 by you.

This wine was produced and bottled by the Bortoli company in Bilbul, Australia for the Marks&Spencer retail chain in the UK and sold under the Bancroft Bridge brand.


Going on the information on the Bottle, this wine was at least Bottled at Bortoli’s Bilbum vineyard but this specific brand is not mentioned on their website. H

This wine comes from the region Riverina known locally as Australia’s fruit bowl, watered by the meandering Murrumbidgee River that runs down from snowy Mountains and is a warm, sunny area. The wine maker has crafted a wine of intense, ripe flavour that is balanced and fresh. The flavours of this Merlot/Cabernet blend include black cherry and sun-baked herbs, with a soft creamy note on the finish.This wine has been sealed with a screw cap, our aim is to choose the most suitable closure for each wine.

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Flyleaf, Cassie Bernall, Columbine, and religious themes vs the Atheist position

Baron Soosdon introduced me to Flyleaf, through his awesome machinima video of “I’m so sick”. I got my hands on their special addition album which also includes several acoustic renderings of their songs.

Flyleaf appeals to me in the same way Evanescence, Linkin Park and Limp Biscuit appeal, so you get a sense of the kind of music. Hmm, well actually, you get an even better sense by the following:

(click here if you cant see the video above)

and here is the actual video clip for the song, and a bit from the wonderful acoustic version.

Now to get to the actual point of this post. I am an atheist, and somewhat outspoken about it. Flyleaf has been described by many as a Christian rock band, and its not hard to hear why. Many of the themes of their songs and the lyrics are religious and evangelic in nature.

Now the initial reaction of many would be “who cares”, right? I try to tow that line wherever I can, but I find I am having some trouble in this case.

I am not the kinda guy who treats music, films as just background “noise”. I value the content and the message greatly. I need a good story and narrative to enjoy a movie, I need good and well developed lore to enjoy a fantasy or sci-fi universe. And I spent time understanding the lyrics and message of music I listen to.

This is the first time I have been exposed to music where my enjoyment of it is coming into some conflict with its message. I listen to the lyrics, and immerse myself in the feeling of what they are trying to convey, and I am feeling conflicted about the songs in this case.
The music is very good, and the both the music and the lyrics convey a very powerful feeling. You get drawn in. But at that level, it comes into conflict with my disapproval of the message; mainly the subjugation and surrender to God and Christ. Especially the song “Red Sam” is very strong in this, and the acoustic version is one of the best on the album. 

However, something that surprised me a little was that these songs are giving me a level of understanding and sympathy for believers that until now was purely and intellectual understanding. I believe I am more or less able to understand the need of believers, from a purely academic point of view. Physiology mostly, the works of people like Steven Pinker and Andrew Newberg, amongst others, have always been the way I have looked at these issues.

The music of Flyleaf (and i am sure many other bands) shows you the other side of the coin. Placing yourself in the mindset of the “born again” evangelical Christian, you can begin to somewhat appreciate the emotional appeal the unconditional belief and complete surrender to the embracing and loving higher power.

In this emotional context it becomes very apparent how and why Christians have serious serious issues with criticism and any attack on their religiosity. All of it cannot be interpreted as anything else than a personal attack. Anyone who has even tried to have an intellectually critical discussion about religion with a believer will know this. There are very few who are able to keep their cool talking about their religion subjectively, because of course, it cannot be subjective to them in any way. Its become part of their own self-identity, a total intertwining of values and world-view. No wonder people have such a hard time giving up religion.

There is a problem with this, besides the obvious objections of reason applied to all of dogmatic belief. That problem is how I as an Atheist, am automatically positioned in regard to these people and their value system. As Atheist in strong religious communities no doubt already know, there is an immediate conflict of values of morals when strong believers are confronted with a person who denies the very  existence of the structure these people base their personal religious experience on. For many believers, the Atheist position is nothing less than a denial of, what to them is, the most basic tenets of moral and “whole” existence. 

The very idea of non-belief is therefore deeply offensive in and of itself. We don’t even need to open our mouth to already be distrusted and cast into a negative light in a very fundamental way by the deeply religious. Spending any time at all on the internet shows you many examples of this plainly. The sentiment is often expressed in terms of distrust, of not being able to identify with someone who does not share the same basic value system (even though we often do). The point is, that many expositions of belief include the underlying criticism of un-belief, the distrust and contempt of the “outsider”, who does not, and can not, be viewed as equal, because he or she does not hold true to the tenets of the faith. The person who has not chosen to be saved is therefore not worthy of being held in the same regard.

Now let me it clear that the above view is probably not held by most believers in such strong terms. But my experience that it is true to some degree in the opinion of almost all believers toward the non-believer. Even here, in the extremely liberal, non-religious central west-Netherlands, I frequently run into people, usually colleagues at work, mostly of the Muslim faith, who, if probed, will reveal what they actually believe of those that do not share their faith and associated values. They may joke about it, they may dance around it, but one does pick up on the underlying tension. This brings me back to Flyleaf and their lyrics. Here are some copy pastes. Now, taking into consideration what i have written above, can you see what my issue is with some of the lyrics?

From “Red Sam” :

But who are you
You are the truth (you are the truth)
Outscreaming these lies
You are the truth (you are the truth)
Saving my life

From “Cassie”:

The question asked in order
To save her life or take it
The answer no to avoid death
The answer yes would make it
Make it
Do you believe in God
Written on the bullet
Say yes to pull the trigger
Do you believe in God
Written on the bullet
And Cassie pulled the trigger

How many will die
I will die
I, I will say yes

The accusation in “Red Sam” is plain, and I cant help but feel personally insulted every time I hear it. No one likes to be called a liar, but more to the point, is that many Atheist and those promoting the rational and scientific world-view are as convinced of the truth of our ways as the believer is. The fact that we have the fundament of reason on our side doesn’t faction into the discussion of course, much to our continued frustration. How can it compete against the ingrained emotional  meaning that is so valued by believers.

“Cassie” is a slightly more interesting case. Listening to the Lyrics, and the scenario described, one cannot help but wonder what is going on here, what dramatic circumstance has lead this girl to be put in this position.
Cassie Bernall, 17, was one of 12 students killed the Columbine high school massacre. The circumstances surrounding her death are now legendary within the US Christian community. From Wikipedia:

Initial reports suggested that one of the assailants, either Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold, asked Bernall if she believed in God moments before fatally shooting her. She was reported to have answered "yes". This story led to Bernall being presented as a martyr by some Christians, and served as the inspiration for several songs, including Michael W. Smith‘s "This Is Your Time"[1] and Flyleaf‘s "Cassie"[2].

It turned out the exchange did in fact not take place between her and the killers, and she was shot dead with no words being spoken between her and her assailant.  In fact the words where directed at another student, Valeen Schnurr, who did answer in the affirmative, but was left alive and survived.

The issue is that this specific part of the Columbine tragedy fed straight into that negative undertone I have been trying to describe. The Columbine killers where Atheists and Nihilists and severely  troubled. Much like Stalin and Hittler are often touted as the poster children for the “harm” of Atheism (Hitler was roman-catholic, btw), the Christian right wasted no time in zeroing in on this alleged aspect of the killers motivations, much like many other things where, such as their video game playing (another thing I have a problem with).

Salon has a very excellent article on this that conveys far better than I can here, what the exact issue is. In short, the circumstances of her death were exploited very plainly by the evangelicals, going so far as calling her a “martyr” of modern times. Her mother even went to far as to publish a book about it. Especially considering her conversion from former troubled youth to a born-again Christian. Everything about the urban legend of “Do you believe in God”  was a fantastic showpiece for them. But as the Salon article illustrates, this view and the associated evangelic agenda did not sit at all well with even the other Christian denominations in the area.

To my surprise, there is not even a mention of Atheism in that particular article, but its not hard to find the evidence of the immediate backlash against the Atheist position as a result. This youtube video very nicely shows the general sentiment, if not the overall knowledge of the facts of the producer.

The point is, that many believers position the Columbine massacre generally, and the death of Cassie Bernall specifically, as exemplary of the “war” of Atheists on the religious. This post is a good example of the position, and I agree with its authors that the “debunking” of the Cassie Bernall “martyrdom” by Salon, and the subsequent embrace by the Atheist community of those facts, is entirely beside the point. Harris’ particularly included his hatred of all those with religious convictions amongst the many things he hated about mankind in general.  For that reason of inclusiveness and not exclusiveness  of that opinion to the detriment and others he held about people, I don’t agree with the authors view that an Atheistic world view by the killers was the cause of the the Columbine Massacre, but that is a separate discussion for a later time.

With all that, you can now understand what makes me uncomfortable about Flyleaf’s song “Cassie”, where this sentiment is very very strongly presented. I have very little doubt at all about the opinion the members of Flyleaf would have to the average atheist such as myself. Knowing this, makes listening to this song in particular, and all of their music, a little uncomfortable on some level, even though I would call myself a fan at this point.

Its a strange contradiction that I didn’t expect I would have to deal with. It makes me a little worried about the effect this will have on my enjoyment of other music i have yet to discover. In the meantime I just try to drown out the nagging discomfort, maybe eventually I will be able to not “hear”  that message anymore, but somehow I don’t think that would be true to myself.

Full text of “Cassie”  by Flyleaf (Acoustic version from the Special Edition DVD”

The question asked in order to save her life or take it
The answer no avoided death and yes would make it

Do you believe in God?’
Written on the bullet
Say yes to pull the trigger
And my Sister Cassie pulled it

They didn’t love their live so much
As to shrink from death
Inspired in their footsteps
We will march ahead
Don’t be shocked that people die
Be surprised you’re still alive

All heads are bowed in silent reverence
The floor is wet with tears of sorrowful remembrance
The alter is filled with hearts of repentance
Perfect love kills all fear, rejoice in this deliverance

They didn’t love their live so much
As to shrink from death
Inspired in their footsteps
We will march ahead
Don’t be shocked that people die
Be surprised you’re still alive

The rest of my Middle-Earth stuff arrives

Today I finally received the rest of my Middle-Earth books.

This was the first time I could actually SEE what the “History of Middle-Earth” books actually looked like.. on the entire internet I could not find a single picture of them apart from the cover.

IMG_2718 IMG_2719 IMG_2723 IMG_2722 IMG_2720 IMG_2724 IMG_2725 IMG_2726

Well, as you can see, they are rather big 🙂

Below is the second unpacking video, click here if you cannot see it:

T-Mobile phone plan screw-up: new mobile number soon!

So, the idea was that i would extend my old plan, refresh it to a new 2-year plan, and get the G1 phone.

However, something went a little wrong during the plan refresh. I am only assume I lost my way on the T-Mobile site somehow, but my refresh turned into an entirely new purchase of a separate plan.

So, now I have 2  plans, with 2 different numbers.

I was faced with a choice:

– Reverse the purchase of the new plan, and send it all back, including the phone. Then we restart the renew process and you get a new phone again
– Let the old plan expire, go with the new one from now on. Old cant expire till June though, so costs me more. Loose benefits from being a T-Mobile customer for 6 years on the old plan.

I was a little annoyed at this, but I can understand the problem. The phone is a package deal with the plan. They could technically pull the elements of the plan apart and recombine, but that is so much work on their side, I can imagine them not doing offering this.

Also, I have grown so attached to the phone the last day or so, I really don’t want to send it back at this point. The extra money it costs me to hold on the old account for 3 months, it worth the effort and pain to me.

The old plan one doesn’t expire for another 3 months, so I cant transfer the number yet. That doesn’t bother me that much, its not bad to change your number once in a while. Many people have my number, some of which I would rather they not have it. So, a good time to refresh.

The consequences for me though, is that I have to make it known to the people that I do want to have my number, that it will soon change. My old number is already pointing to my new one, so both will work fine for the next three months. This post is the first of a series of communications i will have to bring out, to let people know about my number change.

I wont post my numbers on my blog here (though you can actually find it here if you look hard enough), I will mail and text everyone I think needs to know in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, here is a picture I took of a car outside the flat:

Wrecked car, Outside the flat, airbag was out too on TwitPic

New toy: T-Mobile G1, unbox video and pics

IMG_2586 by you.

T-Mobile released the new G1 Google phone here in the Netherlands. Already had a long standing plan with T-Mobile, so ordering this thing and extending my plan was a no-brainer (now that I know I will be in the Netherlands for the forseeable future).

It was a bit of a toss up between the Iphone and the G1.  Most compelling features for me in opposition here where:

– Multi-touch screen (Iphone)
– Full physical pullout keyboard (G1)
– Developer community.

Now that last point is a tough one, very topical, as the Android marketplace has just opened to payed applications. There is a discussion around which model will be more succesfull: The closed, silo’d world of Apple, vs the open, open-source, unrestricted and unvetted world of Android Java development.

Gigaom has a good article on this.

IMG_2585 by you.

In the meantime, I made my choice based on the full keyboard, and my hope and confidence that the open marketplace of Android will, in the long term, spawn more interesting applications, an a more diverse array of them, than Apple would ever tolerate on the Iphone. Yes, you CAN Jailbrake an Iphone, I know this.. but you run the constant risk of incompatibility due to Apple clamping down and bricking your phone. This will remain for the foreseeable future. On the flipside, T-Mobile has even gone on record to say that they don’t care that much for the small minority of geeks that hack the Android phones, and that the will try to avoid braking that secondary market. What a refreshing point of view.
It makes the choice of the G1 feel –good- to my geek sensibility.

Anyway, now to the meat.

The UNBOXING video, which @Alachia insists I should call a “haul” video… whatever.

If you cannot see the video above, click here. (youtube) or here (facebook)

Next, I activate the phone and run though the initial stuff.

If you cannot see the video above, click here (Facebook)

Now for the pics:

IMG_2568 IMG_2569 IMG_2570 IMG_2571 IMG_2572 IMG_2573 IMG_2574 IMG_2575

IMG_2576 IMG_2577 IMG_2578 IMG_2579 IMG_2580 IMG_2581 IMG_2582 IMG_2585 IMG_2586