To Do Christian Missionary Work

The rich man asked Him, ‘How do I get into heaven?’ and Jesus replied ‘Sell everything you own, give the proceeds to the poor and follow me’ (Mark 10:21).

What does this mean? Do we really need to give up everything?

I’m certainly not qualified (yet) to answer this. But I do intend to be so qualified. Today we visited www.maf.org.au at ColdStream to investigate the possibility of becoming a pilot and missionary. To do this definitely seems like we must give up much.

Debt has crippled us. Instead of saving to go on the MAF/BCV course we must first pay off all our debt. Then we can save to go on the course. And we must support ourselves while we are doing the course. And then we’re not sure how much the missionaries will be paid for flying to remote areas and preaching the word of Jesus to remote people. If we’d be paid anything at all…

We need to meditate on this to hear the Word of God and discover whether this is what he wants us to do. We certainly know he wants us to clear the ridiculous levels of debt we have incurred. Joyce Meyer regularly preaches on how debt entraps us when we’re supposed to be free. There’s probably some biblical precedent for that too (please let me know if you find it)

In the current economic climate, trying to figure out what and how we want to do things is becoming even more confusing…

Why I became a Christian

Anyone who’s reading this who knows me, knows that me becoming a Christian is a pretty significant event. I was into some pretty ‘New Age’ stuff before converting to Christianity, so what happened?

Well, I’ve always believed in ‘something out there’ for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories of believing was as a result of my parents going through a very rough time. I won’t go into details, but it was looking very much like the end of my parents relationship, and as a 15 year old kid, I really didn’t want that to happen. My father left ‘to sort out his head’ and my mother, brother and I were left at home. I ‘prayed’ each night for, I think 3 nights, but possibly longer, that God would intervene and bring my parents back together. I can’t remember what I promised to do if God granted this request – but I do remember that each time I prayed, I layed in the formation of a cross.

God granted my prayer, and my parents are still together to this day – as a result of some very interesting interventions that many people would consider ‘coincidence’.

That’s when I realised that God was out there. I didn’t really understand what part Jesus played in all of this, but I did understand there was some significant power in the cross and that’s why I laid in that shape to pray. Unfortunately, I got led astray for the next 20 years or so – but of course God uses that too. In my searching I discovered a chap who was a practising New Age person. An occultist. Someone whom the bible (I later learned) is quite clear that we should avoid. And thus I began on the path of New Agism and forming my beliefs and practises. I went down that path because the Church to me was entirely unattractive. Hymns do nothing for me – they’re just strange wailing that doesn’t sound like worship to me at all.

Fast Forward to 2006, after I had met Rose and we were searching for some fellowship from the religion I had begun to get involved with, and that Rose had been involved with for some time. The fellowship was a fair distance away and just didn’t feel right. We fell away from this religion and in fact all religion. But something was missing. Rose wanted to go to a church, and so we visited a number of churches in the local area. Some felt OK, some didn’t and we settled on a Pentecostal Church in the local area. The feeling of the church was pretty good, and we certainly enjoyed the music played on a Sunday morning, and so we kept going back. But at this point we really did not understand who Jesus was, or why He was even necessary.

Eventually we moved town and left that church. We again drifted away for a while, but not so long this time. Then we joined St Johns Church and the very first morning we were there, God sat a retired vicar next to us. We became friends and attended some small groups at their house on a number of occasions and pumped them with questions and such like. The music at St Johns was fantastic and finally we felt like we had come home!

We left England to come to Australia and after a little while joined New Horizons AOG Church. Before we went there we did attend a different church in the area, the vicar of which lent me a book called ‘More Than A Carpenter‘ by Josh McDowell. The book put things into perspective in such a way that I really couldn’t ignore it any longer – and argued so well that Jesus Christ was the Son Of God, that logically I could no longer argue against it. At that point I decided I had to find out more, and began to seek out who Jesus really was. God gave me some interesting dreams at about that time that helped me to see who Jesus was, along with placing the right people in front of me to help too.

I made the decision that if I lived my life by the principles of Christianity, and it turned out to be wrong, I had lost nothing. But, if I lived my life by the scientific principles of atheism, or indeed New Agism, and THAT turned out to be wrong, then I had lost everything. I asked Jesus to become Lord of my life, and I was baptized in water, by Pastor Shane at New Horizons in October of 2007. Since that time I have been given more and more evidence that Jesus is Lord because the Bible IS accurate. Overcoming a lifetime of the Theory of Evolution, when compared to the Bible has been one of the hardest things – but there are answers to these theories that make a lot of sense, and actually make more sense of the gelogical evidence than the Long Earth theories do. More details of that can be found at Creation Ministeries.

So, really, to sum up why I became a Christian it is because the level of evidence that the bible is accurate is actually significant, and logically convincing. And if I can rely on Genesis being accurate, and the first 4 gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) being accurate – then the rest of the bible is likely to be accurate too. And if it’s accurate, and I ignore it, then I’m only fooling myself AND I’m going to be in a LOT of trouble when I die. To me now, being a Christian is just the logical thing to be. Anything else is just illogical.

It’s interesting to note though that even when I wasn’t a practising Christian, I always believed that the two most powerful things in the spiritual realm were these;

  • The cross
  • The Lord’s Prayer

So I suspect God always had a plan to lead me back to Him and His Son.

XP Logon, immediate Logoff…

There’s been a fair amount of articles written on the web regarding what can happen with certain spyware infiltrations which result in the immediate logoff effect. Such articles as this discuss various fixes for the problem but don’t show the way I managed to fix it earlier this week.

Basically after I’d run a spyware scan using SpyBot Search And Destroy I still couldn’t login. It turned out that the file mentioned all over these various articles, userinit.exe, had actually been deleted in my case. I booted up using the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows, copied the userinit.exe from there and it all ran nicely.

Maybe that helps someone.

Initial Thoughts on Vista

My ZD7000 finally gave me the irrits enough that, after careful consideration, I had to relegate it from ‘uber gaming / development machine’ to ‘remote desktop machine’ since it’d last about week before cooking another 1G SODIMM. I can’t afford to keep replacing them, and I think it’s largely heat related, despite being on a Targus Coolpad and having fresh heatsink paste applied to the CPU (which incidentally dropped the average working temperature about 4 degrees).

So the ZD7000 is now sitting on the desk. It’s sad when a machine with a 3.2GHz processor and a gigabyte of RAM doesn’t cut it any more! But, for development with JDeveloper and OracleXE it’s the RAM that’s king, and 1G is only a principality, not a kingdom.

With that in mind I (being in the PC Repair business) purchased all the bits to make a new desktop PC, since they can cope with the heat better and I have little need to be portable (at least whilst developing software) any more since all my dev work is done from my remote office. Desktop RAM is also considerably cheaper to so when the inevitable day arrives that 2Gig is no longer enough, I can double it to 4 fairly easily.

I ummed and arred (are those real words? no) about whether to stick with XP or to go to Vista, but as I have a couple of customers on Vista now I figured I ought to at least know my way around it in case they call me for support. Kind of helps you not to look stupid in front of them if you’ve actually used it. So I went for Vista Business.

I have to say, I’m actually glad I did. It’s got some really nice improvements over XP. One of the biggest for me is the removal of that awful ‘Documents and Settings’ directory and the replacement with a much more sensible ‘Users’ directory. All the directories inside this user directory have also dropped the ridiculous ‘My’ from everything. So ‘My Documents’ is now simply ‘Documents’. This may sound trivial, but when you’re using environments that really don’t like spaces in file names this makes things a lot easier.

I like the new File Open dialogs too. It defaults to your user directory, but has links to the Documents folder and the Downloads folder amongst others. If you find you’re regularly opening files from a particular directory, you can add that to the links on the left simply by dragging and dropping.

The Vista sidebar is one of those things that you start off thinking is just eye candy and is really not all that useful. Until you start using it. I love it. I’d been using Google Toolbar (to which the Vista Sidebar is strikingly similar) but it caused XP not to shut down properly, or gave some weird shutdown error that I never bothered to really figure out. I have the clock in the corner and the calendar gadget below it. It’s very nice to have that there all the time because beforehand I was constantly being asked ‘whats the date today?’ or thinking to myself, whats the date today. I also have a CPU and memory monitor sitting in the sidebar, and todays AUD to GBP exchange rate, and a GMail message notification gadget. Of course, if you’re using the sidebar it’s advisable to have a widescreen monitor because a normal 4:3 monitor would probably end up too squished.

IE7 and WMP11 never felt quite right under XP. They’d got the Vista look which was somehow just foreign under XP. But they fit in nicely and feel good under Vista. IE7 under Vista is considerably faster to load pages than Firefox – and I’ve not yet figured out how this could be – perhaps someone knows? Has Microsoft deliberately crippled Firefox, or does IE7 on Vista do something funky to speed things up? Maybe it’s just optimizing how it loads images.

I do pretty much all of my browsing with IE7 as a result. However, Windows Mail is a totally different story. It’s IMAP implementation is just broken – like most other implementations of mail clients that Microsoft have produced, IMAP is just an afterthought that never really works very well. In this case, you end up with a message that says ‘Is No Longer Available On The Server’ and Windows Mail strikes a red line through the message in the message list. Clicking the message gives a fake e-mail message stating that because IMAP can be accessed by multiple clients, perhaps one of those clients has deleted the message while you’re trying to view it. Not so, I only use one client at a time – but in any case, if that were so, why keep that silly ‘pointer’ in the message list. When you try to remove it manually you discover that you actually cannot remove it. No error is generated but the message stays there. The message IS available when I check using Webmail to the same IMAP account, and Thunderbird does not exhibit this. So I use Thunderbird now.

The UAC is something that gets a lot of mixed press. I do however like it, even though I’m not entirely familiar with how it works under the cover, the impression is that it does provide an extra layer of security by ensuring that even if you’re an administrator on your machine you can’t actually edit any files that belong to the system without gain the administrator token. Linux (or certainly Ubuntu) has had a similar system for years, called sudo or gksudo. I have experienced first hand it’s protective ability however, because as part of my developing I regularly need to change windowssystem32driversetchosts to add temporary names to the resolver. Under Vista I can no longer just click the item in Explorer and edit it because when I come to save the file it says ‘permission denied’. I’m just a user and the hosts file is now owned by the system. This prevents one of the common attack vectors of trojans, which is to overwrite the hosts file with duff addresses for, for example, Norton’s update site. Given this fairly simple example, I suspect other files that belong to Windows itself will also be protected. Of course, they’re only protected until you press the ‘allow’ button, so there needs to be some education of the average user to make sure they are actually expecting system files to be updated and don’t just blindly press the accept button.

And then of course there’s Aero. What’s to say about Aero – it’s nice. It feels polished and is largely just about the ‘chintz’ factor, but I do like it. I’m not sure it adds a great deal to productivity, although the generated thumbnails that appear when you hover over items in the taskbar, or when you press ALT-TAB to get to the task switcher are quite helpful. If you try out the WIN-TAB combination you probably won’t use the regular task switcher ever again.

The power management in Vista can be a bit of a maze to get right. However, when you do it’s worthwhile. I rarely switch my PC off now, prefering instead to simply ‘sleep’ it when I am finished. Or indeed letting it sleep because it’s determined that I haven’t used it for a while and it might as well go to sleep. When I want to start using the PC again I press the power button but instead of waiting minutes for it all to start up, it’s immediate. And I pretty much mean immediate too – maybe one or two seconds, but I generally haven’t had time to get my hand back to the keyboard before it’s back.

However, it did take a while to get the power management working properly. The first time I tried the PC never went properly to sleep, leaving all the fans on and sitting in some weird suspended animation but not actually asleep. I followed the advice of many articles on Google and switched off the wake by keyboard, wake by mouse and wake by network. It seems as though the one which did the trick was the keyboard. The next trick was to stop the PC from waking up at weird semi random intervals. After a day or so trying to track it down I realised that every time it woke up, it immediately declared there was new mail. So I checked, and lo and behold there was indeed new mail. So I suspected that although I’d told it not to wake by the network that it actually was. And it was. There’s 2 places you need to check when disabling wake by network. Under Device Manager, if you select the network card and choose Power Management you must uncheck the tick box that says ‘Allow this device to wake the computer’. I had already taken the tick out of this box, but for my particular network card there is another option under the Advanced tab, called ‘Wake from Shutdown’. This option had been set to Magic Pattern by default and changing this to Off resulted in my PC sleeping correctly and not waking up until I ask it to. I look forward to the reduction in electricity bill!

All in all I find Vista is very stable and the improvements are nice. It’s much more polished and professional than XP and the user experience just seems more fluid. I prefer using Vista to XP – just as I prefered using XP to 98 (though lets face it, 98 was just horrid). So if you’ve got a reasonably modern machine and want a new experience, give Vista a look.

Dead HP ZD7000

I’ve been the proud owner of an HP ZD7000 for close to 3 years now. It’s been a fantastic laptop and fortunately it had the nVidia Geforce 5600FX chip for graphics instead of the 5700, as the 5700 had a lot of problems which until recently were largely denied by HP. However, mine has been a great workhorse. It’s my desktop PC and portable PC (because you can hardly call it a laptop, unless you’ve got a really big lap) in one, and as a Java Developer I spend a lot of time in front of it – and it does a lot of hard work compiling and building J2EE apps using JDeveloper pretty much every day for those past 3 years.

That was until last week when it started acting up. I’d recently installed Ubuntu and had thought that something that Linux was doing was causing it to have a little paddy on me, particularly since I was running the high performance nVidia drivers and playing Eve Online on Ubuntu. Playing games on any PC requires significantly more power than browsing the web or writing Word documents. The graphics card gets a lot hotter, which in a normal PC is no big deal, the fans can cope. On a laptop you need some significant extra cooling to cope, particularly on the ZD7000 if you’ve got the GeForce 5700 because that’s basically what will fry it. With that in mind I put the laptop onto an Akasa Coolpad. It’s worked well in the past and keeps the laptop running quite a bit cooler than without it.

But on Friday it started hanging in Ubuntu, without doing anything. I uninstalled Ubuntu and reverted to Windows XP since that¬† seemed to be more stable previously. Then a couple of times Windows spontaneously shut itself down. Since I’ve had this problem in the past with the graphics drivers when running on the battery, I wondered if it was the latest nVidia drivers that I had recently installed. So I reverted back to the stock drivers that came from HP and gave that a try.

And then I got a Blue Screen Of Death with a Stop 0x50. After rebooting and agreeing to send the crash analysis to Microsoft it came back and said that dodgy memory was possibly the answer. So I ran the Windows Memory Advisor and almost immediately it crashed. So I took the RAM stick out and rebooted and ran the Windows Memory Advisor again. This time it worked a treat, so I was rapt.

Except that the laptop continued to just randomly shut itself down after about 20 minutes of use. I suspected maybe the battery was having something to do with it because it had always done that before when running on battery. So I took the battery out and ran it. It seemed to last a bit longer, but still crashed – and I was only browsing the web with Firefox!

This was Friday morning. Fast forward to Friday evening and I was beginning to suspect that my ZD7000 was having the same problem as many others that are listed on the ZD7000 forums. I wondered if it was the motherboard that had died, or at least if the Geforce FX5600 had finally given up after so many hours of Eve Online and running at 58 degrees Celsius for half it’s life. I’d ran the Windows Memory Advisor on the remaining memory in the laptop and that had come back clear, so it really pointed to a failing motherboard. Every 10 minutes or so the laptop would just switch itself off – no warning, just bzzzzoooooooo, down it went. Dead. It’d re-power up after a few seconds, and then 10 minutes later, it’d switch off again.

It makes developing any software pretty difficult – and you definitely don’t want to be fighting a bunch of Serpentis or Angel Cartel NPCs when it switches off (trust me, even in a Domi you take a bit of a hammering when the PC suddenly disconnects before the Eve cluster notices and warps you away).

I checked on eBay for ZD7000 motherboards and found a few in the US for around $299 – which is a lot better than having to buy a whole new PC or laptop. Most of them were declared dead and were only being sold for spares, but some worked.

And then I had the brainwave that perhaps, just perhaps, if I was very lucky – the problem might be a second dodgy RAM stick. It seemed unlikely but it was worth a try. So I removed the second one too and replaced it with a 512M stick from another laptop that I haven’t used in a while. Then I left it running Passmark Burn In Test while I went out and did real life stuff (yes, I do have a real life too!). I figured that if it couldn’t browse the web for 20 minutes with the other RAM then there was no way it would run BIT for a couple of hours if it still had the same problem.

Somewhat to my surprise, it was still running 4 hours later. The core temperature was running at 58 degrees and the fans sounded like a jet engine on takeoff, but it was still running.

And it’s stayed running today too.

So, if you have a ZD7000 that is apparently dead, or dies regularly – I’d thoroughly recommend putting some known good RAM in it (and remove ALL the RAM it currently has in it first) before you decide that the motherboard is dead. These symptoms of mine looked very much like a failing motherboard.¬† Don’t throw out that awesome laptop until you’ve checked the memory!

Christian Meditation

Someone who’s about to become famous said ‘prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening’. I don’t think the world does enough listening to God. We’re always busy with our tight schedule and we don’t stop for long enough to hear that small voice in the wind. I wonder how the world would be if we stopped, just every so often, and listened for the voice of God among us. Continue reading “Christian Meditation”