Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Defense of Apple's New Mapping App

Apparently the blogosphere is on a witch hunt about IOS6's new Maps app.  It looks like there are a lot of issues that people are having and some changes in functionality.

First, my impression so far is that it is actually MORE accurate than Google Maps.  When I type in my home address, the pin ends up somewhere down the street.  On my iPhone 5 it was dead on with the pin in the middle of my roof on the satellite view.  Sorry, but I see that as an improvement.

Same with my work.  Rather than being half a block away and in the middle of the street (before I corrected it on the business listing), the new Maps app was spot on.

In fact, the only issue I have has so far was not directly Maps fault.  Yelp had the local plumbing supply store listed as 300 East when in fact it is 300 West.  I submitted an error report, but just to confirm it, I looked on Yelp, and there it is in all its glory, on the wrong side of town.

Most of the errors I have seen have been perfectly understandable, and while they do need to be corrected, to get all huffy about them is a bit childish.

I propose the reason for all the hubub is not that the Maps App is SOOOO bad, but rather we have become SOOOO bad at navigating because we don't have to pay attention to where we are going anymore.  Type it in and drive.  Trust the machine.

Actually I was in California a few weeks ago using Google Maps, and not only did I keep going to places that were no longer there, but even things as simple as Disneyland were needlessly complicated and off.  So don't tell me Google is all perfect and everything.

I'm sorry, but learn to navigate people.  Have a general idea of where you are going so that when you are led astray, you can tell before you park you car in a lake.  Be smarter than the machine!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Apple is a Hardware Company - and That Sometimes Surprises People

Let me start this by saying I am not an Apple hater.  Just to give my Apple cred, I have a Mac Mini, an iphone 4s and 5 and an original iPad.

I still run a Windows desktop though.

Let me explain...

My feelings towards Apple have morphed and changed over the years, along with technologies and the fortunes of those that compete with them.  I think both sides of the PC/Apple argument miss the point most of the time.   Apple touts how secure its systems are vs Windows, to which I say "of course".  If you are a hacker, are you going to spend your time working on the systems that cover 80-90% of the market, or one that covers 10-15%.  The choice is obvious.  It isn't that OSX is inherently any more secure, it just has fewer guns pointed at it at any given time.

This can be seen by the fact that now they are starting to make some market headway, trojans and viruses are starting to pop up at what Mac users would consider an alarming rate.  More market share equals more scrutiny.  Get used to it.

Most of the other arguments are similarly pointless.  There are some differences that count though.

First off Apple is, at its core, a hardware company.  The operating systems support the hardware.  This is very evident in some of their choices.  For instance, scalable fonts on the desktop.

I have used Windows, OSX, Ubuntu, CentOS, and several other operating systems.  Every system but OSX allows you to change the size of the fonts on the desktop relatively easily, and it handles it well resizing elements to compensate.  The only way to resize the fonts on the desktop of OSX is to use a hack, and it is kludgy, ugly and basically unusable.  As the fonts enlarge the header bars don't, and pretty soon it just becomes an unreadable mess.

The practical upshot of this is as you go to these beautiful retina displays that Apple is putting out, it is impossible to use them at native resolutions and you have to reduce the resolution of the OS anyway.  I use my Mac Mini as a media server, and even at 1080p on my 56" big screen TV, I have to sit 4 feet away from the screen to be able to read the fonts when I am in the OS.  Seriously?  In Windows I would blow up the text enough to be readable and keep the icons at the same size, and voilla!  All is swell.

At some point in the development of OSX is was decided that the font size would be a fixed number of pixels.  In my opinion this was just to simplify programming and get the product out.  Make it big enough that it is readable on what was then the highest resolution screens and leave it at that.  If they have a higher resolution screen that must mean they have a bigger screen, and thus it won't matter.

Except it does.  Every monitor has its own resolution.  Now with the "retina" displays coming out, if you dare to run OSX at the native resolution (as I understand it actually takes a hack to do it) the text gets so small that you can't do anything.

The OS was designed for their hardware, and if it didn't work with other stuff, tough.  But now that they have changed their direction on hardware and gone to these ridiculously high resolutions, the old way isn't cutting it.  Now everyone is going to have to wait for the OS to catch up to the hardware.

And that is the difference.

Windows and Linux variants need to anticipate a variety of environments, because they can be used on a virtually infinite number of configurations.  OSX is designed to only run on a limited number of configurations, even if you could theoretically use it in others.  Thus, they don't need to make the OS as flexible and can lock things down that shouldn't necessarily be locked down such as font proportions and size.

This is why they will ship out the iPhone 4s with a beta Siri, or the iPhone 5 with a flawed and barely beta maps program.  The hardware and design rule, the software follows.

Is this bad?

It depends.

Because Apple has such control over the whole ecosystem, their hardware is spectacular.  Seriously, run an iPhone 5 through your fingers.  It is an unbelievable accomplishment.  In every way it is a design icon that will stand the test of time.  It is all you can do not lick it.  It pushes all the right buttons.  But for all the detail in the hardware, things were left hanging on the OS side.

Apple is a hardware company first, with the OS and software following the lead of the hardware.

That is why there are so many people who run Windows on Macs.  You get the best hardware, and a great OS.  You pay through the nose to do it, but you get the best of everything.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Where Are My Moon Men?

I sit here watching shows commemorating the moon flights after the death of Neil Armstrong.  What happened to us?  The budgetary considerations were minor.  NASA's budget is a drop in the overall bucket.  What really saddens me is the loss of public will.  How can you become bored of men walking on the moon?!?

In watching the landing of Curiosity, I began to feel some of the excitement of space building. The death of the first man on the moon, sad as that is, will hopefully make those in power realize we have taken too long to get back on the horse.

We are a species that needs to explore.  We need to expand.  We need to do new things.  Sometimes there is risk.  Sometimes there is cost.  Sometimes we need to do the uncomfortable.

Let's get back into space!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A Response on the Atonement

This article is in further response to comments on my last post, and it got long enough I didn't feel it was appropriate for the comments section on the original site.  You can see the thread here:

I'll answer my beliefs as best I can.  I do so with a couple of caveats.  First, I am not a spokesman for the LDS faith.  I am just a member, and not even in a leadership position (well I'm a Ward Clerk, but that mainly means I am mainly a glorified gopher).  Second, I am not a theologian.  I read and study, probably more than a lot of people, but I don't have any formal training outside of church.  I am constantly learning new things, incorporating new ideas, and having new insights.  In short, I don't know it all, and can only speak for myself.

Additionally I find that often terms that are in common LDS use are misunderstood by those who are not LDS, and we sometimes misunderstand what is being said by those of other faiths. I will try and omit "jargon" or at least clarify it when I feel it is necessary.

With that out of the way, I think the best way to answer the question is to address how I see the atonement, and how it applies in my life.

I have struggled to really understand the atonement, and my appreciation of it has deepened over the years as I have begun to understand its deeper meanings.  At its root I believe the atonement is the bridge between mercy and justice.

God is just.  He gives us laws for our own good, to keep us safe, and guide us to be better than we are.  It is these sins that make us unclean and unable to return to the presence of God.  As we all sin there needed to be a way to cleanse ourselves.  Thus the atonement.

Second, and perhaps more important, is the ability to wash ourselves clean of sin.  There really are two parts to this.  There is the cleansing of sin.  If we have transgressed the law, the law must be satisfied.  This is the justice part of the equation.  By Christ descending below them all, yet being guiltless himself, he took all our sins upon himself in an infinite sacrifice.  In this the law can be satisfied (justice), but we can be saved from our sins (mercy).

This is not automatic though.  We must take Christ's name upon ourselves.  We must consistently repent of our sins and ask for his forgiveness.  As we do this He grants that His sacrifice applies and we are washed clean.  This is not a one time thing. There is no moment you are "saved", it is a process.  It is a day-in day-out effort to stay close to Him.  As we do this we are refined, and our thoughts and actions become closer and closer to His will.  Were we able in this life (and we are not) to live perfectly, we would have the ability to understand his mind fully.  As it stands though, we can see and understand more and more as we study, pray and repent.

This is some of the confusion that I think is often brought up about Mormons becoming gods and planets and all that.  The real story is really just a continuation of the above after this life.  As we continue to grow closer in thought and action to Christ and God, we eventually "become one with them".  In our theology, this is one in mind and purpose, able to act in his name.  Again, we do not become God, or replace or even equal Him.  Rather we become like Him knowing His will, with our minds in concert with His, and having the ability to act for Him.

Please understand I have really distilled this down.  No matter how I state it, it feels inadequate to communicate the fullness of the concept.  Frankly, I don't believe that I fully comprehend it.

A few things that I noted I'll address directly:
  • "God sees Jesus instead of us when He looks at us."  No, He sees us as we are.
  • "God is allergic to sin."  Wouldn't that make him imperfect?  No, we would not want to be in His presence in a sinful state.
  • "Since God is infinite, He is infinitely offended by the slightest of our sins" No.  I have some tangential thoughts on your article, but I think you dealt with it well.
  •  "God poured out His wrath on Jesus on the cross."  I have to say, this one baffles me on every level.  From a Trinitarian standpoint isn't that essentially flogging Himself? No, the pain was not caused by God, though he allowed it.  Again, this is a much bigger topic than this article.
 By and large I didn't see anything in either of your articles that I vehemently disagreed with.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Kudos Where They Are Due

I am going to take another break from my ranting in this post.  When someone gets things substantively correct in their description of the theology as presented by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they deserve a pat on the back.  This is just such a moment.

Morgan Guyton has proved able to flush the stereotypes and fallacies that are rampant for something that is as accurate as anything I have seen by the most well read theologian or (certainly) by most of the anti-Mormons out there, including those that are former members.

His conclusion is that he cannot accept it for himself, and I can fully respect that.  When one neither whitewashes nor warps what is there, that decision must be respected.

That said, there are a couple of points that I think need a little clarification.  I hope they are given and received in the same mutual understanding of his original article.

The first thing that jumped out at me, mostly due to the repeat emphasis, was the nature of the Holy Ghost in LDS theology.  God, Christ and The Holy Ghost make up what we term "The Godhead".  Our church structure mirrors this at almost every significant level.  The Prophet has two councelors, a Stake President (over 6-12 Wards) had two councelors, and a Bishop (over one Ward or congregation) has two councelors. The councelors act in behalf of and for their presiding leader.  The only real difference between the two is that if the presiding leader is not present the First Councelor will step in to lead, and if the first is also missing, it falls to the Second Councellor.  Their authority is delegate or derived by their presiding authority, and they represent and act for him where and when necessary.  In other words, they are one in purpose, but three very separate beings.

I can understand the perceived deminishment of the Holy Ghost, but when one looks more deeply into our theology it will become clear his role is not lessened, and is certainly strong.  In fact the only way to make it into the Outer Darkness you wrote of is to deny the Holy Ghost.  You must have a sure knowledge of it and then deny it, but that is the only way.  You can know and deny Christ, and that can be forgiven, a la Peter, but to deny the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven (Matthew 12:31-32).

I don't see his role as deminished, though perhaps different than what Trinitarians accept.  Don't let a lack of discussion as to who He (the Holy Ghost) is be read as deminishment, rather his roll is more important than an understanding of who he is as a being.

Perhaps the most representative scripture from the LDS perspective of the Godhead would be Matthew 3:16-17

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 

All three are present.  Jesus in the water, the Holy Ghost descending as a dove, and the voice of God from the heavens.  All were present at this important juncture.

This next point I only bring up for clarification.  There is no official theology on how our spirits, or that of Christ's were created.  The term "literal children" is used in LDS writing, and those not familiar with our theology have tended to connote that this was accomplished via sexual means.  In fact we don't know, though traditional sexual means are probably not the method.  What we do know is that Christ was the first created in spirit, and thus he is our "older brother".

Saying this, I wish to further comment you on your correctly stating Christ was born to the Virgin Mary. Again, there is no official theology on the how, but we do emphatically believe Mary was a still a virgin at the time of Christ's birth.

Your concert analogy is a very good approximation of the relationship between the kingdoms of heaven.  I could quibble with minor aspects of it, but it clarifies so much for one not of the faith I will leave it as is.

I suppose there are other minor things I could quibble with, and it would be just that, quibbling.  In general you have done an excellent job of summarization and presentation of what is to many very opaque and fundamentally different.  You are to be commended for your article, and as a member of the LDS faith, I thank you for taking the time and effort this obviously took to get accurate.  If the media would do half that, many of the slights and misinformation would vanish from the collective consciousness rather than being needlessly perpetuated.

In summary, thank you.