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. 

04
Nov

God's Will, Cruelty, and Murdering Children

Back a few months ago, Karen and Elizabeth Shatz were found guilty of their child's murder (they pleaded guilty). The adopted child was beaten to death by following the instructions in a fundamentalist Christian child-rearing book. Another mother, Lynn Paddock, was found guilty of first-degree murder for killing her 4 year old son, Sean, because he wouldn't stay in bed. Well, it has happened again.

Larry and Carri Williams are charged with homocide resulting from torturing, beating, and starving their child, then leaving her outside to die of exposure (and, presumably, her various wounds).

The parents, in both cases, essentially (over time) beat their child to death by following the teachings of a book called "To Train Up A Child" by Tennesse pastor Michael Pearl and his wife, Debi Pearl. It's a good Christian's guide to abusing your children in order to bring them up right. The authors advocate corporeal punishment for children from infants on up, with appropriate Bible citations and instructions as well as the sorts of implements you'll be needing to do the job. You can buy this torturer's guidebook on Amazon where it's a best seller. Yes, it's a best seller . . . meaning there are plenty of good Christian parents who adhere to this method of child-rearing.

Before I continue with my part of the story, take a moment to watch the video below. If you can.

When I posted this video to Google+ a few days ago, someone replied with a quote from Matthew, suggesting that the parents "will get theirs" for disobeying the word.

Matthew 25, 40 "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

If only it were so simple. To begin with, it should be noted that Christ was not talking about children in that quote. As to the Christian-ness of the parents, one could argue that the parents were, in fact, the very best of Christians and true believers to boot. The girl, by all accounts, was misbehaving. So harken unto the word:

Deuteronomy 21, 18-21 "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die:"

I don't know about you, but having my son argue with me after a night of drinking won't be enough for me to take him to the village elders and have him stoned to death. 

Should the parents have punished the girl? Let's see . . .

Proverbs 23, 13-14 "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell."

Maybe they just wanted to beat her long enough to deliver her soul from hell and got carried away. How much beating is okay? If you beat her until she is nearly dead but recovers, is it okay?

The Bible (or pick your favorite holy book) is filled with contradiction. As such, you can pick and choose what you want to support your point of view, but in quoting the Bible to say this kind of cruelty is wrong (as with the quote from Matthew), you must allow the counter argument (that it's okay to beat your children) or the Bible must be dismissed as a source of truth or justice. Either it's okay to beat your children to death or it isn't. Either the Bible is the complete and eternal word of God or it isn't. And if one part of the Bible is wrong, then other parts are as well. And if other parts are wrong, then there's no way to tell the good from the bad and it must be abandoned as a source of moral teaching.

You may call yourself a fundamentalist Christian. I'm betting you're a lot less fundamentalist than you think. Or at least, I hope you are. I'd hate to think you beat your kids and leave them out in the cold to die.

In closing, the title of the Pearls' book, "To Train Up A Child", comes from the Bible. 

Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

04
Nov

God's Will, Cruelty, and Murdering Children

Back a few months ago, Karen and Elizabeth Shatz were found guilty of their child's murder (they pleaded guilty). The adopted child was beaten to death by following the instructions in a fundamentalist Christian child-rearing book. Another mother, Lynn Paddock, was found guilty of first-degree murder for killing her 4 year old son, Sean, because he wouldn't stay in bed. Well, it has happened again.

Larry and Carri Williams are charged with homocide resulting from torturing, beating, and starving their child, then leaving her outside to die of exposure (and, presumably, her various wounds).

The parents, in both cases, essentially (over time) beat their child to death by following the teachings of a book called "To Train Up A Child" by Tennesse pastor Michael Pearl and his wife, Debi Pearl. It's a good Christian's guide to abusing your children in order to bring them up right. The authors advocate corporeal punishment for children from infants on up, with appropriate Bible citations and instructions as well as the sorts of implements you'll be needing to do the job. You can buy this torturer's guidebook on Amazon where it's a best seller. Yes, it's a best seller . . .meaning there are plenty of good Christian parents who adhere to this method of child-rearing.

Before I continue with my part of the story, take a moment to watch the video below. If you can.

04
Nov

Dear God

A classic tune from the 80s by XTC, back when music videos were still cool.

Watching this was all I needed for a serious geek mind trip.

 

31
Oct

Kobo VOX

The Kobo Vox eReader is a departure from the classic e-paper devices in that it's a full-fledged Android tablet. 

It turns on with just a touch; used as I am to the classic Android power-on, I kept holding down the power button, waiting for the 'buzz' that signals activation. For a moment, I wondered if it was actually working.

In the third part of this course, I introduced you  to the virtual machine manager or virt-manager. Today, I'm going to show you how to create your own virtual machine with virt-manager.

There are two ways (using virt-manager, that is . . . there are always other ways) to create a new virtual machine. One involves creating the machine from scratch, via the virt-manager interface and the other uses cloning. You, in effect, create a clone of a running virtual machine  (I'll cover cloning in the next installment of this course). Let's start by taking a look at creating a virtual machine from scratch.

From the Virtual Machine Manager, make sure you are connected then left-click the main host instance (localhost). You should see the button labeled New switch from its grayed out state to available. For the following example, I'll take you through an Ubuntu Linux installation. Click New to start the VM creation process and you'll see a window asking you to specify a name for your new VM and requesting an installation method (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 :  What will you call this new machine and how will you install it?

Step two asks you to specify the location of your installation media, whether it be an attached CD or DVD, or an ISO Image (see Figure 2). Allow me a momentary backtrack to step one before I continue. The ISO install is the method I chose, but there are others as well. For instance, you could import an existing image and install from that (in a fashion similar to that of the Amazon AMIs), boot using the local network (PXE), or boot from a network install directly from a distribution's repository.

In your own private cloud, there are a number of ways to work with virtual machines. Amazon's cloud uses Xen for its virtualization infrastructure, but in your own cloud, you are free to use Xen or KVM or Virtualbox, or whatever else you want. Lacking an EC2 console, administering and working with VMs in your cloud will require you to choose your own admin tools. There's always the command line, of course; you can launch a KVM or Xen machine without a GUI, but there's also a nice graphical program called virt-manager that I'm rather fond of; literally the 'Virtual Machine Manager' (see Figure 1). Using this tool, you get a bird's eye view of running virtual machines, including live performance graphs for network, CPU, and disk usage. The Virtual Machine Manager also makes it easy to communicate with other hosts running virtual machines; that would be your private cloud. It gets better; virt-manager works with both KVM and Xen, two common virtualization frameworks.

Figure 1 : Once connected Virt-Manager shows you all configured machines whether they are running or not.

The virt-manager application displays information about each machine, its run state, number of processors (VCPUs), memory usage, and CPU usage. It also lets you adjust the resources for a given virtual machine, adding processors,  memory, or even extra storage. There are tools for cloning VMs, creating new VMs, and communicating with VMs using a full graphical console; point and click. The latter is done using a built-in VNC client.

Most distributions have virt-manager in their repositories, but they sometimes tend to run well behind the version available directly from the Website itself (long term support distributions are particularly problematic that way). I don't find myself suggesting this often in 2011, but I highly recommend that you get the source and compile the latest version yourself. It's all Python code so perhaps compile isn't quite the right word but while you're there, make sure you also download the latest 'virtinst' code and prep that as well; virt-manager relies on it.

When you run virt-manager for the first time (see Figure 2, from a different machine), you'll find yourself looking at a rather sparse window, especially if you have no VMs currently running on the host system.

Figure 2 : The virt-manager application at start. No connection and no virtual machines.

When Virt-Manager starts, it will look to the host system, the 'real' hardware on which the virtual machines are running. Depending on the setup, the machine may be disconnected, at which point you will right click on the 'localhost' machine, and select Connect. Once this is done, you should then see all the virtual machines running on the system as shown in Figure 1).

26
Oct

APPS for Autism

60 Minutes did a program on using iPads as tools to help autistic children (and adults) communicate. Of particular interest to people in my part of the world is a segment that focuses on Beverley School in Toronto. The school has a large autistic student population, some with severe forms of autism. They have recently introduced iPads into the curriculum as a means of helping autistic children reach out and learn to communicate. 

And now, my take . . . while I appreciate the excitement over the possibilities the iPad presents, it's not about the iPad as some of the people on the program would have you believe. In many autistic people, there's a disconnect between what goes on in the brain and what happens in the outside world. The more barriers you place to interaction, the more apparent that disconnect tends to be.

For instance, working at a classic personal computer which includes a keyboard and mouse can be extremely difficult and unbelievably frustrating. The connections that must be navigated include brain to hand, hand to mouse, keyboard and mouse combinations, and the resulting display on the screen. How does my desire to make something happen translate into pressing some key while moving the mouse to a specified location on screen, to then provide the feedback necessary to complete some action or process?

Tablets, on the other hand, represent one to one results. I touch here and something happens. It doesn't require multiple steps or an understanding of multiple layers of action and reaction. Call it instant gratification if you will, but what really helps is the removal of barriers to countless opportunities for interacting with the world. With applications. With information. With other people.

To that end, it's not about the iPad. It's about tablet technology in general, including countless varieties of Android devices

14
Oct

Death By A Thousand Pundits

Is anyone, other than me I mean, getting really sick of hearing about how this product or that product is a failure and it's just a matter of time before the company or the product goes under?

Oh my deity! Google+ has been out for a couple of months now and it hasn't completely replaced Facebook as the number one social media destination? Is it the end of Google+? Can Google recover from this? What about Twitter and countless other social media platforms that don't seem to notice they're doomed because they also aren't number 1?

Oh my deity! Research in Motion is number 3 in the mobile phone market. How can BlackBerry hope to survive if they aren't number 1? In which case, how can Windows Mobile or Samsung or countless other manufacturers who seem to keep going despite the fact that they haven't yet toppled Apple's iPhone. 

Oh my deity! Linux hasn't captured the number one position on the desktop! It's only a matter of time before no one uses Linux on anything! Any company using Linux or open source is doomed to failure!

The Research in Motion story particularly annoys me, and not just because I own a BlackBerry. Every day I read or hear about how it's only a matter of time before RIM folds, and that having someone buy the company and sell its intellectual property at fire sale prices is the only hope. Last time I checked, which was about 2 minutes ago (and based on the Feb 2011 financial statements), Research in Motion had some 20 million subscribers and nearly 13 billions dollars in cash and assets and no debt! How in the much maligned name of sanity can somebody write off a company in this position?

Every other minute, some know it all pundit who, I can only guess is hired by the competition to spread FUD, spouts some meaningless crap about why this product or that company is doomed to fail. It wouldn't be the first time a large corporation used the media to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt in order to bolster its position. Somehow, making a good product, having a great customer base, and making a profit aren't enough if you aren't fracking number 1!

Ahhh!

What bothers me is that it's often more the speculation that breeds trouble than the actual issues of the day. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Companies buy into it at their peril than run off half-cocked trying to fix problems that don't need fixing. Somewhat related is the "Is this the Fill-In-The-Blank-Product Killer?" type of article. As one person commented on my post to Google+, "It's a lot easier than real reporting." And potentially a lot more harmful. 

23
Sep

Go to Jail or go to Church

If that title sounds like a joke, let me assure you that it's deadly serious. It's also outrageous and just plain wrong.

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