Friday, October 28, 2005

'Tis a Gift to be Simple, Tis a Gift to be Free

Ok, today’s entry is decidedly different than the previous entries, but it may yet prove helpful for a few people.

Over time I have developed something of a reputation for free software acquisition. I don’t like paying money for things, and, thanks to the internet, many times I don’t need to. Here is a collection of several programs which are both free and useful/cool. Enjoy.

Don’t like how windows looks? Here are a few options to spice things up a bit.

This site features a number of programs, most of which have a free version, which can transform your desktop.
Objectdock – a mac-like dock for the bottom of your screen. (Very cool)
Window Blinds – Changes the look and feel of your windows environment
Desktop X – Completely changes the user interface of windows
Icon Packager – New icons
Bootskin – Want a different picture when your computer boots up?
Blog Navigator – An easy way to keep track of all those blogs (like mine) that you are following.

This site features a number of free programs that will make the everyday desktop of a windows machine look and feel like a Mac. For one program that does almost everything for you, try using Flyakite OSX 2.0.

Artrage is a fun paining program that has to be experienced to be appreciated

Anyone who works with chord sheets and/or worship song projection needs to take a look at this excellent open source project.

Audacity is a nice audio editing program with an open source community working hard to improve it.

Kristal Audio Engine
This is an audio editing program that isn’t open source, so it can’t be universally developed, but it is still good.

Photo Story 3
Want to make good looking, simple slide shows of pictures with music? Check this out.

A great program that offers an alternative to Paintship or Photoshop – and it is free!

Don’t like having Yahoo, MSN, and AOL all open on your desktop at the same time? Try Trillian which lets you use all three within one interface.

This is a terrific photo organizer!

Hello is a great instant messenger designed primarily to send pictures back and forth. It is integrated with Picasa.

File too big to email? Start a private fire-sharing group with your friend and send it with this handy program.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a program that puts your calendar on your desktop in a small and unobtrusive way and links with Outlook or iCalendar? Look no longer!

Microsoft Reader
In conjunction with the next link, Microsoft Reader will put thousands of books (many, many classics) at your fingertips – for free!

Massive e-text library
Those books I talked about, a bunch of them are here.

Online Bible
Need to study the Bible on a budget, try this program or the easier to use (but slightly less functional program below) one below. I use both of these in seminary. 

Nicely laid out Bible software. They also have a version for the Pocket PC!

This cool program imitates OneNote for Microsoft and provides a virtual notepad that instantly saves, catalogues, and chronologically organizes any comments, lists, pictures, or anything else you can copy and paste.

Tired of using Microsoft Office? Want to try something different – for free? Give OpenOffice a try and enjoy the recent benefits of the just-released version 2.0.

This spyware program is still on of the strongest on the web. Use this tool to clean the sneaky web critters from your computer.

What does Microsoft do when people complain about too many viruses? Well, for one thing they buy an anti-spyware company, work the program code over to work well with windows, and then release it for free. This is perhaps the best spyware program I have used so far.

Wax, Winmorph, Wink and Frameserver
If you enjoy tinkering with images (like blending them with other pictures, animating them, etc.) then you need to check out these programs.

Awesome screensavers. Seriously. (They have a nag screen after about a minute, but they are still cool anyway.)

Starsiege Tribes
Ok, two entries for all you gamers out there. (Note: I play these very little, so I don’t know what potentially objectionable material may be in them.)
This is a little online game that is pretty simple. Strap jet packs to the backs of robot-alien people things, give them guns and turn them loose.

America's Army
If you have a high end machine with good graphics capabilities, give this free game from our very own U.S. government a try. You even get to go through a version of boot camp.

Mario 3 - Mario Forever and Bod Blob
Mario – plumbing at its finest.

Genesis IV and Landscape Explorer
Want to generate 3D landscapes or integrate geographical data with maps? This is your cup of tea.

Everybody loves widgets, here’s a whole bunch.

3D modeling at its cheapest.

With this program you can actually install MacOSX on a PC. True, it comes with limited functionality, but hey, it’s still kinda cool.

Google Earth
For those who have yet to check this software out, its time you took a look. VERY COOL!

Firefox and Thunderbird
Lastly, here is a link to Mozilla’s very famous web browser and mail utility.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Why the years fly by...

Who has not heard of, or experienced a unique phenomena in which time appears to move faster the longer one lives. The man of 70 watches years move by seemingly like a torrent, while the child of 4 feels as though time were barely moving at all. Why is this so? A mystery indeed. Perhaps, however, the gracious reader will find this musing a thought-provoking attempt to guess at the enigma.

I assert, as the thesis for this discussion, that our conception of the weight of time (an active consciousness of the passage of time and the events concurrent with that passage) is fixed in regards to every man’s experience of it in the present, and fixed in a man’s recollection of time in the past. Allow me to clarify this. My theory is that the actual experiencing of each moment is similar to every man at every age. Constrained to remain stationary for a period of five minutes, both the old and the young will watch the movement of the clock and experience the tedium of the wait with an equal sense of that time. Long-term memory, however, is different. Imagine that our sense of time is a fixed weight, as I postulated in my thesis. For the sake of illustration, imagine that each man has a weight-consciousness of 10 TW (time weight) pounds. For the child of 10, each year of his life has the equivalent of 1 TW pound in his memory. For the man of 50, the space of a year only bears the weight of 1/5 of a TW pound. To the older man, then, each year is less weighty in his memory. As one minute of time represents a smaller percentage of a man’s life, it has an equally smaller percentage of weight in his mind. This effect is further compounded, according to my theory, by an accompanying phenomenon of memory highlight retention.

I understand that this last term may be confusing, but permit me to define it briefly. By memory highlight retention I refer to what immediately enters a person’s mind in response to the question, “What have you accomplished in your life thus far?” Perhaps even the gracious reader is at this moment having a series of memories stretching back to childhood. My theory is that in the formation of memories, each man has a fixed number of memory highlight spaces in his mind, and these are updated and replaced as life experience indicates throughout the period of his life. One analogy for this idea is the function of RAM in modern computers. RAM (or Random Access Memory) is a fixed amount of memory, relatively small, which holds a information that is recalled frequently. Should a piece of information stored on the hard drive become more important that a piece of information in RAM, a switch occurs. The information of lesser value in RAM is sent to the hard drive, the piece of information of greater value on the hard drive is sent to RAM. I theorize that our minds are similar. At the earliest stages of life, many events have enough importance to occupy that space of our minds which is nearly instantly recalled if desired. As life continues, significant events begin to replace less significant ones. (This is perhaps a divine mercy, what burdens would each man bear every day if all of life’s woes were instantly recalled continuously every day!) For a child of 4, the highlights of his life will be culled from those years which he remembers well (perhaps the previous two years) and therefore each year will have a large percentage of memories occupying space of the mind I have called memory highlight retention. For the man of 60, there may be entire years without memories that come instantly to mind. This phenomena, in conjunction with the weight of time principle in the previous paragraph, works to give the illusion that as time passes the years move quicker. The passage of time, obviously, is in reality unchanged – but the weight of each moment in the mind of the individual is less and less with the passage of each new year.

That people are aware at some level of this illusion is apparent in the fact that it would not be uncommon to hear an elderly individual assert that they have had a “long day” (i.e. the present-tense experience of time has not changed) but, in the same conversation, also hear that “this year has just flown by” (i.e. the weight of this year in my memory is much lighter than was the weight of a year when I was younger). I hope that I have not confused the gracious reader entirely, but that I have perhaps sparked some thought. If you have managed to follow my thoughts thus far, I offer you one more.

How does this principle relate to God? I venture to the extremes of supposition on this point. If a person’s perception of the weight of time is inversely proportionate to the length of that person’s existence, then think what this would mean about God! As an infinite being, a minute of time would represent an immeasurably small percentage of His existence. To God, then, time would have virtually NO weight at all! Indeed, 10,000 years to us would seem to have the same weight to God as might 1 day. Or, if all time is to God weightless, 1 day for Him might as well be as 10,000 years for us.

Intrigued? Then please respond by leaving a comment and allow me the pleasure of hearing your thoughts.