Sunday, May 30, 2010

Factual errors in the Bible

Matthew describes King Herod as the ruler during the time of the Nativity, and Herod died in 4BC.
According to Luke Jesus birth was at the time of the Census of Quirinius which was in 6 AD, 10 years after Herod had died.

Both statements cannot be true so there is an error in one of the gospels.

So my question is: if there is a factual error in one part of the bible does that make it totally untrue. No, i don't think it does. Surely accepting that there are these problems is preferable to trying to massage the texts into some sort of dishonest forced fit with each other? A bit of intellectual integrity would be better in the long run.

[With this specific example some people have tried to massgae the texts together by claiming that Quirinius was governer of Syria twice due to an inscription about an unamed person who was twice governor. This bit of wishful thinking has been largely discredited since the 19th century but still gets trotted out in defence of the inerrancy of scripture.

There is no mention anywhere of Quirinius serving two terms as governor, but we have evidence of two other people who served two terms of some sort of rule in the area so the inscription is more likely to be about one of them (Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus or Marcus Plautius Silvanus).]

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Windows Movie Maker on Windows 7

This is a short post to point out that Windows Movie Maker 2.6 can be downloaded from Microsoft free of charge. Click Here. This is intended for Vista but does work in Windows 7. It a fully featured version of Movie Maker, not the cut down version supplied in the Windows Live pack.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid will not shut down and there is no sound

Imagine my disappointment. After upgrading from the very stable Ubuntu 9.10 to 10.04 LTS (Lucid) I found that a number of things including Bluetooth support had been deprecated. I can live with that, but there are two major faults I have encountered:

No sound
The Alsa mixer has the speakers turned down to zero volume by default. I have installed all the patches and retrograde packages to no avail. I may have to write a script to run at startup to set the volume higher otherwise its a lot of trouble just to get the sound working each time.

Failure to shut down
Shutting down just brings up the login screen again. I have tried all the suggestions found on the Ubuntu forums to no avail, but I have discovered a way round the problem. Right click on the top panel (the bar at the top of the page), select "add to panel" and install the power off button. When you click on this it gives all the power down options like suspend, hibernate and switch off. It turns my laptop off OK. Not ideal but at least it works.

The real question is how the latest release of Ubuntu managed to ship out of Beta with these two major faults. Its not good at all. if I was a conspiracy theorist I would be thinking that Microsoft had paid someone to do it.

Update 13/05/2010 I have now fixed both faults.

Fixing the audio
  • Right click on the speaker icon in the top right (this is called the audio applet).
  • Select sound preferences.
  • Click on the output tab.
  • Make sure stereo analogue is selected if you are given an option.
  • Make sure its set to analogue speakers at the bottom.
  • Turn the volume up in alsa mixer and it should be saved on each reboot.
The cause of this problem seems to be that alsa has assigned the volume control to the soundcard headphone or line output rather than the speakers.

Getting the laptop to shut down
Right click on the bar at the top of the screen select "Add to panel" and add the power off button. This seems to shut down the power OK.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mysterious charity direct mail from Children 1st

I had a bit of a blast from the past this week when I received a redirected direct mail shot from the charity Children 1st which had been delivered to an old address. Addressed to "Dear Children 1st Loyal Supporter" it appears that they are facing a funding deficit of £1M this year.

This is not surprising given all the local authority funding cuts, and the fact that Children 1st is always in an embattled position against its English equivalent the NSPCC. The NSPCC increasingly expanding its fundraising operations in Scotland (where it provides apparently no services other than Childline which was a separate charity with its own respected fundraising department in Glasgow prior to being taken over by the NSPCC).

However, thats not the mystery. You see I am not a loyal Children 1st supporter at all. Way back in 1994 I was working closely with a fundraising consultant called James Tysoe who had run the Edinburgh Sick Kids appeal. He hired me to work on a project with him at the youth charity Fairbridge and from there I went to work on the relaunch of the RSSPCC as Children 1st. It was actually quite an unhappy time and we had a serious falling out, which I am glad to say we patched up later on. Part of my job at Children 1st was working on the installation of a fundraising database system called ALMS. In common with many projects I have worked on I put myself in the database as a test entry. There are two reasons for doing this. It gives you an entry you can play with without the risk of losing real donor data and it gives you a check on the delivery of direct mail: if you don't receive a copy of each mailing at home then you can investigate the delivery problem as it might be more widespread.

Since 1994 I have received very few mailings from them. A few at the time of the initial campaign, but maybe only one since then and I think I sent them a donation as a result, but that's probably more than ten years ago, until this one arrived totally out of the blue. Its an interesting story. Now I need to write to them and make sure they don't send me any more.

An aside:
An additional observation about the mailing is that the supplied freepost envelope says on it "no stamp needed butusing one will save our costs". This actually isn't true unless you also obliterate the FREEPOST RSGE-ZGBB-XXXX line, unless Children 1st have managed to get some sort of special arrangement with the Royal Mail. I was surprised they were not using the fractionally more epensive freepost service which does not require that code line.

System wide graphic equalizer for Ubuntu

Because so much content is now supplied via the web browser these days (e.g. BBC iPlayer and We7) its necessary to have some overall sound enhancement plug in or graphic equalizer which controls all sound going through the sound card. I have been through the two most easily available ones and the pulse audio one works fine on my laptop. Pulse Audio is the sound server used by Ubuntu 9.10.

There are actually two separately developed equalizers for pulse audio. I tried the mainstream one but I could not retrieve the gpg key so I am using the "unofficial" one instead. The instructions found here worked OK for me:

I have not found it to add much to the processor usage. If you tell it to "keep settings" and then quit the equalizer, the settings continue to be used for all audio without having to launch the equalizer. To turn it off just launch it again and disable the settings. On my ubuntu laptop I found the "headphone" preset worked better than the "laptop" one.

This equalizer will work with the output of any audio player or audio program you use.