The Hypocrisy of Religion…

Ok Twitches… As a general rule, I try to keep from writing posts that have anything to do with either my political or religious beliefs. However, the sermon, and it’s underlying message, that I experienced this past Sunday has forced my hand and thus you are being treated to this fairly ranty post.

First, a little background on my beliefs…

I was raised as a good Southern Baptist boy in a regular, church-going family. When I went to live with my sister after my mother’s death when I was 14, I strayed from my religious upbringing and adopted what I later came to call Apathesim. Basically, this meant that while I believed and acknowledged that there was a God, I just didn’t really care. It wasn’t until many years later, after the birth of my eldest daughter Aeryn, that I renewed my relationship with God and returned to the Church. Since that time, I’ve bounced around a few different churches, mainly due to physically moving, but I’ve never truly found a church that preached a message that I found myself agreeing with wholeheartedly.

As I stated above, I firmly believe in my God. I am restating this belief at this point merely as an important precursor to what I am about to say…

I, for the most part, am a Christian that, for the most part, cannot stand other Christians…

Now, I realize that this makes no sense to most of you and has probably pissed off the rest of you who, like me, believe themselves to be Christians. I feel this way because I see way too many “Christians” preaching what can only be seen as hate and intolerance of other religious beliefs. Is this not the kind of dark ages mentality that led us into the crusades? The idea that belief in our God somehow requires us to belittle, persecute and attempt to obliterate other belief systems is so narrow minded that it boggles the mind. If someone wants to believe in Allah, Buddha, Odin, or whichever other deity they choose, that is their choice and no other person or group has the right to deny them that right. Not in this country at least…

Now that we’ve covered the basics of my beliefs, we can get on to what inspired this little tirade…

Last Sunday, the sermon at the church I am attending was centered around what I am calling the perfection of Christianity. Now, as we all know, no religion is perfect, least of all Christianity. Our track record over the centuries is way too stacked with persecution, torture, abuse and yes, even murder to be called anything near “perfect”. The pastor went on at length, quoting various Old Testament verses, detailing how other religions could make a “god” out of anything, be it fire, wood, gold, or any other substance they happened to have handy. He even specifically poked fun at the Hawaiian belief in Pele, their God of volcanoes. As I was sitting there listening, it occured to me to wonder if there was a church somewhere in Hawaii where the pastor was poking fun at that “Christ” myth and how he had to look funny hanging there with those nails and stuff… This made me pay closer attention to the message lying under the surface. It also made me aware of just how hypocritical the basic “Christian” message of “peace to everyone unless they disagree with us” is. Are we really so unevolved in 2014 that we still need to take verbatim a book that was written 3,500 years ago? Have we not yet come to terms with the fact that the world predates the first humans by billions of years? Can we not come to terms with the fact that the Bible was written by men that, due to their almost complete lack of knowledge of how the universe really works, had to express what they experienced in the only way that made sense to them at that time? If so, I truly fear for the future of Christianity.

So, until God deigns to email us down an updated Holy Manuscript, we need to drag our asses out of the moldy, tired doctrines and self-serving translations of the Bible and get with the times. Let everyone believe what they want to believe, worship whomever they want to worship, and get over ourselves.

While I originally intended this post merely as an avenue for me to get this irritation of my chest, I seriously hope that it may serve as a wake-up call to other Christians that we need to step back and take a serious look at what we are teaching our children here in the 21st century. We need to decide if this message of hate and intolerance is really the religious legacy we want to leave behind. I fear, however, all I’ve done here is to have alienated some friends and acquaintances and perhaps lost some friends as well. If true, this saddens me greatly, but I cannot, and will not lie to myself or others about what I believe.

In closing, I would like to quote an awesome t-shirt that I saw many years ago… “Dear Lord, Please Save Me From Your Followers!

Thanks for reading! Please direct your comments, hate mail and death threats to me over on Twitter.

Peace, and I really do mean that…

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HowTo: Post to the WordPress iOS App via Dropbox Using LaunchCenterPro:

Welcome to what very may well be one of the first of many in an ongoing series of posts where I share some of the more useful, (and successful), actions I have written for the iOS apps Launch Center Pro and Drafts4.

In this, um, should I call these issues? Anyway, in this issue, I’ll share my LCP (Launch Center Pro), action for using the text of a document stored in Dropbox as the text of a new blog post in the WordPress for iOS app.

This action can be built in its most straightforward version using the integrated Composer within LCP, but the way I’ve built it adds not only the Dropbox functionality, but also a couple of other interesting, if minimal, tweaks not natively available in the composer’s actions.

Take a quick look at the syntax of the action below, and then we’ll briefly discuss how it works…

wordpress://newpost?title=[prompt:Title]&tags=[prompt:Seperate Tags With Commas]&content=[dropbox-text:Documents/Blog Posts]&lc-icon=wordpress

Now, I’m going to assume that if you’re here reading this, you have at least the most basic knowledge of LCP’s URL scheme, so I’ll only explain what I’ve done to modify the URL created by the LCP Composer.

By default, the LCP Composer gives you 3 fields in which to type your post’s Title, Tags, and Content. What I’ve done with the [prompt:...] entries is to open a dialog each time the action is run instead of always using a static entry for each field. Furthermore, in the content field, I’ve not only used the Dropbox prompt, which prompts the user to select a file from their Dropbox, but I’ve further modified it to look directly in the folder where I keep the text file versions of all of my blog posts. And yes, I do write all of my posts in Notepad before migrating them into my blog. I’ve also modified the Dropbox prompt from the normal: [dropbox] to a more blog-friendly:[dropbox-text], which inserts the actual text within the selected file into the content area of the post instead of merely inserting a download link to the file.

Finally, you’ve probably noticed the: “&lc-icon=wordpress” at the very end after the last bracket. All this neat little snippet does is to force LCP to use the default WordPress icon as the icon for this action.

There you have it Twitches, just copy and paste that action URL into a new LCP action, change the dropbox directory to wherever within Dropbox you keep your text posts and Boom! you’re good to go.

Hit me up on Twitter if you have any comments, questions or suggestions. :D

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Fantastical Parser Actions for DraftsApp, Updated for Drafts4…

Ok Twitches, as those of you smart enough to be following me over on Twitter know, I’ve begun playing with iOS automation in earnest. For this, I am using Drafts 4 for iOS as suggested by my brother Yadiel (@y_sotomayor).

I recently came across a couple actions written by @the_axx that parse a list of events or reminders in your Drafts for either calendar events or reminders depending on which action you choose and import them into Fantastical. BTW Twitches, if you’re not using Fantastical for iOS, you are wrong and seriously need to correct your deficiencies… ;)

The problem with these actions as they are written is that the syntax of the action only works within Drafts 3.

However, thanks to @y_sotomayor, I have the fix! See below for updated direct import links for Drafts 4:

Click here for Drafts4 Fantastical Event Parser.

Click here for Drafts4 Fantastical Reminder Parser.

Boom! Unless I cocked up the whole thing, and I’ll have tested this shortly after posting, this should work famously!

Happy automation, Twitches! :D

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Where I Discuss POODLE & The State of Financial Institution IT…

Unless you’re completely ignorant of all things technical and interwebby (in which case, what the fuck are you doing reading this blog?), or you’ve been living under a rock or in a deep, dark cave somewhere, you’ve probably heard of the recent POODLE vulnerability.

And no, before any of you smartass bastards say anything, POODLE is *NOT* a particularly nasty venereal disease one contracts from having questionable relations with their four-legged friends… (Remember folks: It’s ok to love your pets, just don’t *LOVE* your pets…)

But seriously, I just had to share this email that I received from my financial institution. As many of you know, I’m not a fan of banks on a good day, but this message makes me shake my head and feel not a little bit of shame to admit that I work in the IT industry.

At first glance, the email appears both factual and well worded, but it is quite apparent that it was in no way filtered through any PR department worth their meager paychecks.

Imagine the reaction to this email from someone running a 5yr old PC with Windows XP…

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the email:

“Have you tried to log onto Hilltop National Bank’s website since this past Friday and gotten
the message, “This page can’t be displayed?”
The issue lies with the operating system and settings of your computer.
A new and very serious software attack, called POODLE (that harmless sounding acronym stands for
Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption), reared its head this past week.
Because of the immediacy and urgency of the situation, we acted very quickly to upgrade our systems to protect you – our
customer. Most banks across the country have done so, as well.
To protect your data, we have changed to a different encryption system when you visit our website.
So, if you’ve gotten the “Page can’t be displayed message,” and are perplexed, you simply need
to upgrade your operating system to at least Windows 7.
Windows 7 and higher can handle the more sophisticated encryption system.
Otherwise you’ll continue to be unable to connect.
You may need to get a new computer.
If you are currently running Windows 7 or higher, please continue reading for more tips.
Windows 7 or higher has the ability to use a different security protocol called TLS.
Click on the little ‘gear’ in the top right-hand corner of Internet Explorer and select
‘Internet Options’
cid:image001.png@01CFED3D.52EDD520
Next, select the ‘Advanced’ tab at the top and scroll all the way down.
Make sure that ‘Use SSL2.0’ & Use SSL 3.0’ are NOT checked.
Be sure to check “Use TLS 1.0,” “Use TLS 1.1” and “Use TLS 1.2” boxes.
cid:image002.jpg@01CFED3E.CA069CE0
Click ‘OK’ and close all Internet Explorer windows.
We would suggest checking your work computer, and also your personal computer at home, for
these settings to help stay protected.
Finally, you may find that you encounter the “This page can’t be displayed” message on other,
non-financial sites for the same reason as companies continue to upgrade their systems.
Thank you.
Hilltop National Bank
For additional information or questions,
please call us at (307) 265-2740 and ask for
Client Services.”

So yeah, wow!

I hope this has been both entertaining and educational. I now return you to your productive day of watching kitten videos or surfing for porn on your work computers… Yes, we see you and we know what you’re doing… :p

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The @Bitcasa Service: Good Potential, Shitty Execution

As most of you know, I subscribed to the Bitcasa Cloud service a few months ago.

I realized that the service had serious potential, so I subscribed and stuck around, hoping against hope that they would correct the multitude of accessibility issues that I and others found and reported.

More than six months have passed and not only has Bitcasa not made any improvements to their service or website, but their accessibility seems to be getting worse.

The accessibility of the Bitcasa website is so bad now that when I became fed up with their unacceptable accessibility practices, I could not even accessibly cancel my subscription.

I sent the following email to their support address:

“Hello,

I am cancelling my subscription due to your continued inability/unwillingness to make your product/service accessible to blind users that rely on screen readers to use our computers and other devices.
However, your website is such an inaccessible hunk of garbage that I cannot even manage to cancel my subscription. The URL https://my.bitcasa.com/#/account/cancel does not appear to have any area for actually cancelling. I’m sure it’s there somewhere, but the site is so inaccessible that it cannot be found.

I would like my subscription cancelled immediately and my comments here forwarded to someone who may be able to affect some change.

I stuck by Bitcasa for almost a year, hoping for some progress, but it has become apparent that your company just doesn’t give a damn about the cloud storage needs of the millions of blind consumers around the world.

I am copying the National Federation of the Blind on this email in the hopes that word can be spread to avoid your service and instead choose another option like Dropbox, who actually strive to make it’s products and services more accessible.

Please let me know what can be done to immediately cancel my plan.

Thank you.

– 
Rick Reed
WYOAssist Low-Vision Specialist
Certified Assistive Technology Specialist
iOS Accessibility Advocate
President, National Federation of the Blind of Wyoming”.

The following is the reply I received from Bitcasa Support:

“Hi Rick!
Thanks for contacting Bitcasa! I’m sorry to hear about your experience with us.
I did go ahead and cancel the automatic renewal on your account and you will no longer be charged.
I do apologize that you have had a bad experience with us. I will definitely pass along your feedback to my management and developers. There have been a lot of things on their plates so the improvements that we want to make have been slower than we would like.
Please let me know if there is something else that I can help you with.
Thanks,
Wilson”.

While this is far from a reasonable explanation of their complete lack of attention to their service’s accessibility, at least I can rest assured that no more of my money will be going towards the further development of this hunk of crap.

So to all of my fellow tech-minded blindies out there, I recommend that you steer clear of this company and urge others to do so as well.

Woof! :D

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KNFBReader Release Date To Match iOS8 Release:

Twitches! @KNFBReader has released the following in regards to it’s upcoming iOS app:

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Hai Nguyen Ly K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc. hai@knfbreader.com

Announcing KNFB Reader for iOS Release Plan

Waltham, MA (August 29, 2014): Responding to worldwide inquiries, K-NFB Reading Technology and Sensotec have announced today that the release of the KNFB Reader iPhone app is being scheduled to coordinate with Apple’s upgrade to its new iOS 8 operating system, expected to occur on or about September 10, 2014.

Commenting on this decision, K-NFB’s Vice President of Business Development, James Gashel said: “All of us at K-NFB and Sensotec are truly gratified with the worldwide interest expressed in the KNFB Reader iOS app. The app has been built for use with iPhone 5 or above, and running iOS 7 or higher. Our plan to coordinate its release with iOS 8 will best assure that the app works as intended for all users without any interruption or possible need to uninstall and upgrade due to Apple’s newest operating system release.”

The KNFB Reader iOS app was first announced and demonstrated during the 2014 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in the United States. Since that time excitement about the life-changing potential of this app has been building as word of its release has spread around the world. Designed to be fast, accurate, and efficient, the KNFB Reader iPhone app allows anyone to snap a picture of printed text, in several languages, and quickly have the words read aloud. The first release will initially support read aloud in 11 languages, with more to come. The app has been designed to particularly benefit blind, visually impaired, and print disabled users.

Documents can be saved, stored, and shared with others as well. More information about the KNFB Reader for iOS app is available at http://www.knfbreader.com, with links to video and audio presentations, description of features, and more. Please visit the website for progress announcements as the days tick down to release of both iOS 8 and the KNFB Reader iOS app, and sign up for our email notifications as well.

###

About K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc.

Located in Waltham, Massachusetts, K–NFB Reading Technology, Inc. is a joint venture between Kurzweil Technologies, founded by Ray Kurzweil, a forty-year innovator and pioneer in assistive technologies and the inventor of the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind; and the National Federation of the Blind, the largest, most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The company is known worldwide having launched the world’s first hand-held text to speech reader in 2006 followed in 2008 by release of the world’s first reading technology—the popular knfbReader Mobile software running on a cell phone. The company’s latest product, the KNFB Reader iPhone app will be released in late summer 2014 and made available for purchase and download from Apple’s App Stores throughout the world.
About our development partner, Sensotec
Located in Jabbeke, Belgium, Sensotec was founded in 1986 as a company active in the development of aids for visually impaired persons, assisting them so that their integration into society is not just a fanciful notion but to actually make it happen at home, at work or in education. Sensotec currently is a leading company for the manufacturing and distribution of assistive technologies for the visually and reading impaired. It’s main products include the Reporter Smart Reading machine, the EuroSoft braille notetaker software, the localized versions of Kurzweil 1000 and Kurzweil 3000 software, Kurzweil 3000 Mobile, WoDy, Daisy apps… and the KNFB Reader App for iOS which is developed in collaboration with K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc.
www.sensotec.be

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle! :D

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#Omniscience vs #Omnipotence: Which Would You Choose?

Hey there Twitches, long time no post I realize, but screw you, I’ve been busy… :p

As most of you know, I often mull over interesting philosophical questions in my spare time. Well, today, I thought I’d let you Twitches in on one of my more interesting debates.

So, with that, I give you the poll below… Feel free to argue, discuss and debate your answers in the comments area…

Flame On! :D

Given the choice, would you choose to be Omniscient or Omnipotent?

View Results

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The BlindDIYPC, Revision 1

Ok Twitches, this isn’t gonna be a long post, but I wanted to quickly update everyone on the status of the first modifications I’ve really made to the BlindDIYPC since I built it. I’m slowly replacing old, dated components as I can afford to, so I’ll keep this post updated and bump it to the top of the list as I do.

With that said, here’s what I’ve done so far…

As many of you know, the main HDD in the system, a 320GB Samsung Spinpoint leftover from my old Acer, has been getting ready to shit the bed for a few weeks now. I got a good deal on a Samsung EVO 840 series 120GB SSD on Amazon and have replaced the failing drive with that speedy little bitch!

Also, I had a Seagate FreeAgent 2TB external USB 3.0 HDD that was failing. The issue with this drive turned out to be merely the USB controller in the external enclosure, so I tore it apart and am now rocking the Seagate 2TB as an internal SATA drive.

I replaced the 2TB Seagate external with a Western Digital 3TB MyBook USB 3.0 external HDD and it now handles the Seagate’s old duties.

So, to summarize, I’m now rocking a 120GB Samsung EVO 840 Series SSD as my (C:) drive, a 2TB Seagate internal HDD for data storage and a 3TB Western Digital MyBook for everything else.

Other than that, I’m still rocking the quad core 3GHz AMD Athlon II processor with 16GB of G.Skill DDR3, my kickass ASUS mobo, 850W Rosewill power supply and an ASUS 24x DVD burner all wrapped up in a Thermaltake V9 Armor case.

Yeah, it’s a boatload of badass if I do say so myself!

Got any questions or want to configure a BlindPC for yourself? Just hit me up on Twitter where I’m both @BlindSarcasm and @BlindPCs.

Woof! :D

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How To: Reset A Forgotten Windows 7 Password!

Ok Twitches, since I end up fixing this exact issue for people fairly often, I thought I’d do you all a service and outline the steps required to unbugger yourself if you’ve somehow forgotten your Windows 7 login password.

The steps below are written as simply as I think I can make them, but if you run into issues, feel free to contact me on Twitter, where I’m @BlindSarcasm, or via email at rick@theblindgeek.net.

Resetting a forgotten Windows 7 password:

1.
Insert either your Windows 7 install DVD, or a Windows 7 System Repair disc, into your optical drive and restart your computer. If you have it on a flash drive, that works too.
Note: If you don’t have original Windows 7 media and never got around to making a system repair disc, don’t worry. As long as you have access to any other Windows 7 computer, you can burn a system repair disc for free.

2.
After your computer boots from the disc or flash drive, click Next on the screen with your language and keyboard choices.
Tip: Don’t see this screen or do you see your typical Windows 7 logon screen? Chances are good that your computer booted from your hard drive (like it normally does) instead of from the disc or flash drive you inserted, which is what you want.

3. Click on the Repair your computer link.
Note: If you booted with a system repair disc instead of a Windows 7 installation disc or flash drive, you won’t see this link. Just move on to Step 4 below.

4. Wait while your Windows 7 installation is located on your computer.

5. Once your installation is found, take note of the drive letter found in the Location column. Most Windows 7 installations will show D: but yours may be different.
Note: While in Windows, the drive that Windows 7 is installed on is probably labeled as the C: drive. However, when booting from Windows 7 install or repair media, a hidden drive is available that usually isn’t. This drive is given the first available drive letter, probably C:, leaving the next available drive letter, probably D:, for the next drive – the one with Windows 7 installed on it.

6. Select Windows 7 from the Operating System list and then click the Next button.

7. From System Recovery Options, choose Command Prompt.

8. With Command Prompt open, execute the following two commands, in this order:
copy d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe d:\
copy d:\windows\system32\cmd.exe d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe
To the Overwrite question after executing the second command, answer with Yes.
Important: If the drive that Windows 7 is installed on in your computer is not D: (Step 5), be sure to change all instances of d: in the commands above with the correct drive letter.

9. Remove the disc or flash drive and then restart your computer.
You can close the Command Prompt window and click Restart but it’s also okay to restart using your computer’s restart button.

10. Once the Windows 7 logon screen appears, locate the little icon on the bottom-left of the screen that looks like a pie with a square around it and click it!
Tip: If your normal Windows 7 logon screen did not show up, check to see that you removed the disc or flash drive you inserted in Step 1. Your computer may continue to boot from this device instead of your hard drive if you don’t remove it.

11. Now that Command Prompt is open, execute the net user command as shown, replacing myusername with whatever your user name is and mypassword with whatever new password you’d like to use:
net user myusername mypassword
So, for example, I would do something like this:
net user BlindSarcasm IPuntY0urT4int!
Tip: If your username has spaces, put double quotes around it when executing net user, as in net user “Blind Sarcasm” IPuntY0urT4int!.

12. Close the Command Prompt window.

13. Login with your new password!

14. Create a Windows 7 Password Reset Disk! This is the Microsoft-approved, proactive step you should have done a long time ago. All you need is a blank flash drive or floppy disk and you’ll never need to worry about forgetting your Windows 7 password again.

15. While not required, it would probably be wise to undo the hack that makes this work. If you don’t, you won’t have access to accessibility features from the Windows 7 login screen.
To reverse the changes you’ve made, repeat Steps 1 through 7 above. When you have access to Command Prompt again, execute the following:
copy d:\utilman.exe d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe
Confirm the overwrite and then restart your computer.
Important: Undoing this hack will have no impact on your new password. Whatever password you set in Step 11 is still valid.

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#Recipe: One Pot Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup!

Nothing says “comfort” like a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup, but nothing says nasty quite like that crap in a can masquerading as “real” chicken noodle soup.

With that said, I propose this easy, one pot version of this kitchen classic. This was my first dinner of 2014 and I sincerely hope you try it soon as well.

Ingredients:
2 large chicken breasts, boneless & skinless, cut into small chunks
1Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups baby carrots, cut in half
1 small to medium white onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped (complete with the leaves, please!)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon thyme
4 cups good chicken stock (no bullion crap here folks)
2 packages frozen egg noodles, thawed (I prefer Reames Egg Noodles here)
Coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:
Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat and add the chicken. Cook the chicken, stirring frequently, until you can smell the pieces beginning to brown. Add the onions, celery and carrots, reducing the heat to medium and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Return the heat to medium-high and add the stock and spices save the salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the baby carrots are almost tender. Taste your broth and add the salt and pepper to suit your taste. Let simmer an additional 5 minutes to let the salt and pepper mingle with the other ingredients. Add in the egg noodles, cover and let cook an additional 10-15 minutes or until the noodles are tender and the broth has thickened just slightly. Remove from heat and let rest for about 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread and butter.

Serves 4 normal people or 2 Fat Bastards!

Enjoy! :D

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