Welcome! You've arrived at award-winning author Marcel Gagné's personal Website. I am the author of the "Moving to Linux" series of books, a regular columnist for several tech magazines, a public speaker, radio and television personality, and a well known voice in the Linux and open source universe. I created the famous (perhaps infamous) Cooking With Linux which ran for ten years in the Linux Journal. I'm also a published science fiction author and editor, a onetime Editor in Chief, a pilot, a former Top 40 disc jockey, and I fold a mean origami T-Rex.  This site is home to my insights, opinions, gripes, brags, tech stuff, and whatever else comes to mind when I have the time or the inclination to publish it. 

17
Jul

When News Isn't

I thought of calling this entry, "Website annoyance number 3147 . . . or thereabouts." as opposed to the title that actually made it.

I hate, hate, hate 'News' sites that don't put a date on their stories; the result is less than worthless. How in tarnation is anyone supposed to know if it's news or something from three years ago? Sure, you've got today's date at the top of your fracking Website, but I can figure that one out for myself (there's a little clock and calendar at the bottom of my screen and it's synchronized to an atomic clock) and it still doesn't tell me anything as to the age of your purported 'news'. 

It's particularly annoying when I start reading the story and it says, "Yesterday, we heard about the most incredibly momentous event in the history of our species, and possibly all intelligent life in the cosmos, when Dr. Fitzwalllabingbang found that ripples in the sub . . . " and so on. 

When the heck was yesterday?!

While looking through my newsfeeds, I saw a story teaser about the birth of the world's first GM babies, something that certainly sounds interesting. So I decided to follow the link. It was to the Mail Online, a UK newspaper. Here's a screenshot from the site.

It says the news was revealed last night, but there's no way to tell when last night was. And why is this story in the Sports section? 

To be fair, I'm using the Mail Online as an example, but they aren't the only guilty party by any stretch of the imagination. I see this all the time. They just happen to be the one I visited last, the one that broke the proverbial camel's back. The last strawn in a long line of straw bales stacked along the information superhighway.

Care to share any other annoying examples? Leave a comment.

13
Jul

The Jesus vs Ayn Rand Cage Match

I don't go for wrestling, mixed martial arts, or any of these so-called sports. However, I'd pay good money to see Ayn Rand and Jesus in a cage match.

In this corner, we have Jesus, with his opening salvo. 

Jesus says, "If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven." -- Matthew 19:21

That's gotta hurt! Go ahead, my conservative Christian friends. I dare you! I double-dare you. I triple-dog-dare you. House, car, property, television, major and minor appliances . . . what do you need that for? 

While you're busy selling all your possessions and giving the money to the poor, let me direct your attention to the speaker in the opposite corner, Ms. Ayn Rand. Let's give it up for Ayn Rand as she tries to pin Jesus to the mat.

"Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society. Today, the conflict has reached its ultimate climax; the choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces."

Ooooh! A real smackdown for Jesus! Not quite a knock-out, but it looks like we're in for an exciting match tonight. Pull up a chair, my friends, and enjoy the fight.

12
Jul

When Does Watching TV Become A Crime?

There's a fascinating legal case working its way through the courts, and it's all about watching television. I'll tell you about it in a few minutes, but first I want you to join me in a little thought experiment. Read each of the following scenarios, then decide at which point you are starting to break the law. At what point do you become a pirate? If at any point you decide that you've crossed a line, take a moment to ask yourself why you've crossed it. What did you do that was different, thereby making you a criminal?

Let's start with an easy one. You own a television which you purchased at your local electronics superstore. It's paid for and you owe no money. You turn on that television and sit down to watch a show. You have cable services delivered to your house via the local big name telecom, a company whose services you pay for, month to month. Are you breaking any laws? Are you a pirate?

The second example is the same as above except that you record your shows to watch later. You may even fast forward through the commercials. Are you violating any copyright laws or engaging in piracy?

What if you have an antenna (remember those) and you pluck the signals out of the air? Here again, you might record the shows to watch later.

What if you record those shows, not on tape, but on a hard drive?

What if you decide to watch the show you recorded, not on your television, but on your tablet while you exercise on your treadmill? Are you now a criminal?

Instead of outright buying your antenna, you rent it from someone. How about now?

You decide you don't like that unsightly antenna at the side of your house, so you pay a company that puts up the antenna for you. They live a couple of blocks away and run a cable to your house. You might occasionally watch the shows on television (live) and you may sometimes record those shows, possibly on your hard drive to watch on your tablet while you pedal away on your exercise bike. Have any laws been broken yet? Has somebody's copyright been violated? Are you complicit in the committing of any crime?

Now, the company that puts up the antenna for you is on the other side of town. Rather than running a cable, they let you access the signal from the over the air capture (still using an antenna) using your Internet connection. The unsightly cables are gone and you just use whatever device you want to watch your TV shows. Are you now involved in piracy? Are you yourself a criminal or aiding and abetting a criminal?

These are tough questions, and that's the reason the judge hearing the case of Aereo vs the big name networks doesn't see it as an open and shut case. ABC, NBC, and others went to court to shut down the service provided by Aereo, seeking at the very least, an injunction to block the company until the case was heard. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan said "No", taking 52 pages to explain that "No".

No one would suggest that you are breaking any law by putting up an antenna and capturing the signals wafting through the ether, whether or not you record the shows and store them on your hard drive to watch later. No sane person anyhow.

What Aereo does is put up little TV antennas all over the place, capture the over the air signals, then stream the signals to customers over their Internet connection. Aereo is renting access to their antennas and, by extension, what those antennas pick up.

Where do you draw the line? Do you? And why?

Whatever your answer, and I'd love to hear it, this is going to be a fascinating case to follow.

The "American Family Association" (with a name like that, you know they don't like them homo sapien gays and lesbians) is trying to figure out how to boycott Google over it's "Legalize Love" campaign to promote gay rights. The biggest hurdle for them is . . . hint, it's not their intolerance . . . how to boycott a product so many of them depend on. Google search. Gmail. Calendars. Android phone. Android tablets.

Oh, the humanity.

10
Jul

Religion in Schools.

As a matter of fact, I absolutely do think that religion should be taught in school.

Seriously.

All schools should teach to teach a mandatory class (lasting at least a semester) on comparative religions and mythologies. Religion would have to taught first from a historical perspective, from origin myths of classic religions (Greek, Roman, Norse, etc) to the rise of the dominant faiths. 

Later in the course, students must gain a working understanding of what each major religion believes, and how those beliefs compare to the other major religions.

And yes, I did say mandatory, for all schools public or private.

07
Jul

When Sex With Your Daughters Is Okay: A Bible Story

Someone approached me a few days ago, attacking an entire demographic, homesexuals in this case, using the Bible as his justification. God says it's evil and therefore homesexuality, and everything that goes with it including (of course) gay marriage, is equally evil. It says so right there in the Bible and since the Bible is the perfect word of God, it is the way it must be. In that case, sex with your daughters must be okay as well. It is, after all, the means by which Jesus Christ eventually came to save us all. Yes, incest is, Biblically speaking, the engine of your salvation.

Before you get angry at me for posting a story with this title, let me assure you that it's perfectly okay.  After all, my story comes from the Bible, the perfect word of God. And if God has no problem with the idea of a father impregnating his daughters, then who are you and I to question this? So read on, and make sure you have your children gathered around you as we share this reading from the Holy Bible. Please turn to Genesis, chapter 19. Verses 30 to 36.

30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.

That's from the King James Version. If that's too out there, how about the New International Version?

30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.” 33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. 34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. 36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father.

Let's pause for a moment to let that sink in.
 
A couple of thoughts . . . First, Lot was one of the good ones; remember that God saved him when he took out Sodom and Gomorrah. 
 
And second, we let kids read this stuff? People who let their kids read the Bible have obviously never read the Bible.
 
A drunken father has sex with his two daughters and (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), he doesn't remember a thing. I can see a few of you in the back saying, "yes, but they got him drunk." Excuse me! That makes it okay? If your logic holds up with the police and most judges in the country, rape victims are going to have an even tougher time than they do now. 
 
If you can somehow manage to convince yourself that Lot can't be blamed for this and that this doesn't in any way prove that the Bible condones behaviour like this, allow me to take you back a little earlier, when God was still hot on Lot. Harken to the Word in the book of Genesis, chapter 19, verses 1 through 8.

The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” 3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom —both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” 6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

And from this selfless act of prostituting his own daughters, the purported master of the universe decided that Lot was the one good man in the city. Maybe that's why the daughters were so ready to hump Dad in his old age. Nothing says 'good man' like throwing your daughters out of the house to be raped by a horny crowd of miscreants. We wouldn't want Lot's guests to be inconvenienced.  

There you have it. The Bible says rape and incests are okay with God.

Which takes us back to Jesus. The Bible states that the children that came from this relationship went on to father the Moabites and the Ammonites. King David, who would go on to unite the tribes of Israel and write a few Psalms, was a descendant of the Moabites. So, the entirety of Israel and the birthplace of Christianity, including Jesus Christ (purportedly a direct descendant of King David and therefore able to trace his ancestry to the Moabites), are the product of an incestuous relationship.

28
Jun

Canadian Anthem by NARIA

July 1st is Canada Day, our national holiday. In honour of this day, enjoy this rendition of the national anthem as presented by NARIA. The location for this video is atop the La Cloche canyon, in Killarney Provincial Park. NARIA (North Aria) is a Canadian ensemble made up of  opera singers Katya Tchoubar, Anna Bateman, and Michelle Danese, and pop sensation Annaliese Jelilian.

Happy Canada Day!

25
Jun

Bladerunner and What Has Come to Pass

One of the things I always fascinating about science fiction is that idea that it is somehow meant to be predictive or prescient in some way. While writers often start with 'if this goes on' as their launchpad, I don't really believe any of them (or many of them) actually sit down with the intention of predicting the future. That's what makes the kind of exploration from this BBC article ("Blade Runner: Which predictions have come true?") both interesting and annoying at the same time. It's cool to see what the writer "got right" but that's not the intent of science fiction. 

In a sense, the journalist is assuming that science fiction, by its nature or intent, is a form of soothsaying. If it is, then science fiction writers may enjoy a slightly higher return on their predictions than most precogs from the  supernatural camp only in that they studiously watch events and attempt to extrapolate a future based on varying degrees of likelihood and, naturally, fictional intent. 

Supernatural soothsayers, those oracles of the spirit world, employ a much more slipshod or prosaic approach. They predict what they believe their customers are willing to pay for, telling people what they want to hear. True soothsayers, if such things actually existed, are more likely to face Cassandra's fate (or Chicken Little's). And so they predict what the market will buy.

There are those who make it their business to predict trends and suggest likely future outcomes using science and statistics as their tools and they too are selling to those who will purchase these predictions. These people are sometimes called futurists. And while some futurists may be science fiction writers and vice versa, when the futurist is operating as a science fiction writer, the product is entertainment. The stories may be cautionary tales or invitations to wonder, but they are meant to entertain. Science fiction writers are, first and foremost, storytellers. But the history of science fiction, its sometimes futuristic visions of wonder, inspired by the boundless discoveries of science and technology, has raised the bar for this particular species of writer. In writing about the future, their tales are seen through the lens of the oracle, with their created futures examined for accuracy. 

Futurists, on the other hand, tend to fall into the same category as economists. Or weather forecasters.

So, read on, dear friends, to see what has come to pass in some of the most famous manufactured futures in science fiction. My good friend, Robert J. Sawyer, a masterful spinner of science fiction tales, is one of the people consulted to judge what came to pass if this went on.

Enjoy!

Billboard on Bloor Street West in TorontoJune 30, 2012 is the date. Mark your calendars. Jesus said so.

This has been a busy couple of years for apocalypses. Last year, we had at least two that I wrote about and so far this year, I've written about another two. As I mentioned above, there's one coming up in another week or so and, if that doesn't work out, there's that old Mayan calendar end of the world to look forward to. Joss Whedon, in writing the Buffy and Angel series, probably thought he was packing a fair number of them into the two series, but these last couple of years have got him beat.

As you all know, the End Of The World (tm) has been coming  on and off for, oh, at least a couple of thousand years. Jesus himself said that some of his apostles would live to see the end of the world. "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." (Matthew 24:34) But what did Jesus know? It's not like the guy had the Bible to refer to. So let's cut old JC some slack, shall we?

Having the Bible to refer to does not guarantee success though. Harold Camping famously said that the world would end on May 21, 2011 and then, when it didn't happen, he updated his message and said that May 21 was just the beginning of the end of the world and that the real deal would take place around Halloween. 

Fast forward a few months and we've got Ronald Weinland who said the End of the World would take place May 27, 2012. That didn't happen either.

If you were pining for an Apocalypse, maybe June 30th will be your day. The Man Christ Jesus has said that it will happen. That man is Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, the charismatic leader of "Growing in Grace International", a Christian sect that believes that divine power will execute all of us who aren't part of the group and, by extension, have not been saved.

Now I do have to say that this particular Apocalypse will be different than all the others. Not in the sense that anything will happen mind you, but the big thing about this particular Apocalypse is that the world won't be destroyed. That's right. The planet gets a pass and while most of us will be axed by God, members of Growing in Grace will get a special prize. Jose Luis, the Man God Jesus -- yes, Jose is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ -- says that members will be transformed. And they'll get superpowers!  They'll be able to fly, walk through walls, and they'll be immortal. How cool is that?

Like Harold Camping, this guy has a respectable following with members in 130 countries. He also has radio stations pumping out his message of transformation 24 hours a day and a TV network. And they have billboards in major cities across the US and Canada. There's even one in Toronto on Bloor Street West. The group's members can be identified, in many cases, by the number '666' tatooed on their bodies. While most people think of 666 as the number of the beast, the group suggests it is the number of wisdom, a symbol of the coming transformation. It's a complicated explanation of the Apostle Paul's depiction of Jesus Christ. 

You see, according to Luis (sorry, I mean, Jesus Christ), Antichrist, as explained by Paul, means "no longer following Jesus of Nazareth as he lived in the days of his flesh" so it's more like an Uber-Christ, or a Super-Christ. You see? So branding yourself with a '666' tattoo means you're following the evolution of Christ, so to speak. And so, on June 30, the group will take over the entire world. IN the words of Jesus, "A government where we will govern everything with a perfect order. This is my last farewell for you. The time is finished. We will see each other soon in Armageddon."

Before you run off to make your final preparations, again, check out the video below.  Enjoy. The end is nigh. Again.

You have to admit, it could have happened. 
 
 
What was better? The opium or the sex?
 
 
 

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