19 March, 2014

Far and Wide: The Ubiquity of Biblical Accounts

How do we know when Biblical stories are real? When they're echoed by other sources, right? Texts like Ipuwer, Sumerian clay tablets, and ancient Greek and Roman sources alike all tell of stories that almost mirror the Biblical accounts like the Exodus, the Garden of Eden, the Maccabean Revolt, and Jesus' death and resurrection with relatively great detail. As far-fetched as these mirrorings are, however, they pale in comparison to what I was able to find, just tonight.

In Revelation 12, an account is given of a metaphorical reference back to Mary giving birth to Jesus. She is, according to the account, "given wings like an eagle" to fly anywhere, while a dragon — the Antichrist — tries to fight against heaven, is cast out, and then tries to pursue Mary instead. The dragon, however, couldn't get close due to the eagle-like wings, so decides instead to unleash a flood from its mouth (Revelation 12:15)

What's significant about this passage is where else it's echoed. You certainly don't see watery rivers coming from beastly dragons' mouths in any pagan sources of the ancient Near East of this time. It's absent from Greek, Sumerian, Egyptian, Roman, every source you can think of from that time and place.

Notice how I said and place, however. There are indeed sources from other cultures that mirror it. Why haven't we noticed it? Because these cultures that possessed eschatology mirroring this account were nowhere close to the location where events like the death and resurrection of Jesus were occurring. No, these mirror accounts, beastly images that bear a startling resemblance to this, are from thousands of miles away.

Long before Europeans arrived in the Americas, what is now Mexico was home to Native American civilizations that, independent from everything else going on, were building their own pyramids. They were astounding astronomers, and using the information they gathered from the heavens, they conjured up a calendar system with prophesies tied to it. They were the Mayans, and what images do their codices mention as something that would happen when the world ends? That very same image of a flood coming from the mouth of a dragon-like beast.

Here's even more proof of Biblical truth: For two distinct cultures from opposite corners of the world, mind you, to somehow manage to conjure up identical eschatological images, either their cultures intermingled — which we know did not happen, because there's absolutely no ancient Jewish, Roman, or Greek accounts of a world being known this far away from their empires — or there is indeed a God who managed to give two distinct portions of the world identical images of how He would return.

Of course, the Mayans were indeed pagans, but that's beside the point: By being the creator, the only creator, of the cosmos, there's no doubt the God of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam would have planted some object in the sky that cultures thousands of miles away from each other would be able to interpret the same way.

Hopefully people see this as even more evidence that the Bible is true. Because two prophesies thousands of miles away from each other that tell about the same thing can't possibly be mere coincidence.

04 March, 2014

Why the "Bingbook" will fail

So, it's now March 2014. Steve Ballmer is no longer the CEO of Microsoft (gladly), and in his place is Satya Nadella, notorious for his cloud computing expertise. Microsoft, you recall, was attacking Chrome OS with its "Scroogled" campaign for quite some time... but now, with Nadella on board, Microsoft goes from attacking Google to, according to the rumors, wanting to copy Google.

Leaked screenshots surfaced of setup screens of what appears to be a stripped-down version of Windows 8.1 that only includes IE and Microsoft's cloud services. Now hold it right there: If you're going to strip down an OS to just a browser, the LAST one you're EVER going to want to cripple down to that level is Windows. Why? It's a malware writer's paradise!

The reason why Chromebooks cannot get viruses at all is due to the military-grade security built into them: The root volume is read-only and write-protected. Packaged apps and Chrome extensions are jailed to their own chroots. The browser, and by extension all Web apps, is also chroot-jailed. On top of that, user sandboxes are also extended to this chroot-grade level of security: Even administrators (AKA owners) cannot see what other users have on their accounts. With good reason, of course: If a malicious app or extension makes it to one user account, it is confined and won't spread to the whole Chromebook.

In contrast, Windows by design is completely vulnerable. It's been a target for years on end. A browser-based version, obviously, wouldn't be any different. Even with UEFI, Windows PCs can still get infected, and even if Microsoft uses UEFI to copy Google's security model, guess what command you won't find ANYWHERE on a Windows machine, even in the C-prompt? Chroot! Which makes the military-grade sandboxing that Chrome OS users know and love virtually impossible on ANY Windows machine.

On top of that, Windows is SLOOOW by design. Even if Microsoft manages to strip down much of Windows 8.1's  userland, the OS would be useless if Microsoft doesn't also strip down the core services bloat, and I'm pretty sure we all know why: because booting a Chromebook and Bingbook side-by-side, one would notice that the Chromebook would boot many orders of magnitude faster.

Using Gentoo Linux as the base, Chrome OS can indeed take advantage of technologies that make it extremely easy to trim down Linux's core bloat. In the case of Windows, guess what? The kernel would need to be completely rewritten! Heck, with the GUI and kernel as one (something I believe Mac OS X also does, but OS X happens to be confined to one brand of only powerful hardware to begin with, and thus impossible to benchmark on anything else), there's no way Windows on any machine — even one with an SSD — can possibly boot in 7 seconds. It's just not possible.

So, that's two flaws that prove The Chromebook Guys right about this concept being a failure in the making. Microsoft's track record certainly is not good when it comes to competing and one-upping competitors, that's for sure, and the only reason Windows and Office are any good is that they have network effects associated with them. MSN, Windows Live, Bing... Notice how they all NEVER managed to be a threat to Google? Well, based on these two flaws — malware and slow boot — neither will a Windows-based half-baked implementation of a Chromebook, not in a million years. 

01 March, 2014

Is a WINE-like Android app shim coming to Chrome OS?

UPDATE 9/12/2014: Now this all but confirms it. Now that four Android apps are finally available for installation on Chromebooks, I tried installing one of them. Then, I fired up the chrome://extensions page, and here it is:

According to Google, this is exactly what I saw coming: a Chrome extension that uses NaCl to emulate the entire Android runtime stack. While it isn't exactly built into Chrome OS's core, everything else about it, including how seamless of a compatibility layer this is, is literally just what I envisioned.

UPDATE 6/25/2014: Three changes since this was first posted. A, Google literally just unveiled Android apps working on Chrome OS in this fashion, natively, alongside Chrome and web apps, at I/O this morning, in literally THE EXACT SAME seamless way that I envisioned when I wrote this post back in March after delving through the naclports code, B, this is really important as far as this leak's credibility is concerned, the BuildBot for a NaCl version of Bionic appears to have been taken down since this was first posted, and C, ART has completely replaced Dalvik as Android's run-time of choice as per the developer preview of the 'L' release, still yet to be officially code-named ― itself a radical departure from how Google usually did it in the past, and for solving fragmentation, well, it's kind of a good thing, so yeah, discard any claims about Dalvik since we all know Dalvik is dead. Anyhow, I was right, wasn't I? Skeptics, remember that Android and Chrome OS are both Google's own operating systems we're talking about here:

Original post continues below.

The debate about whether or not Android and Chrome OS will converge into one platform has indeed been a heated one. Google, of course, has indeed hinted at that possibility even before Chrome OS was unveiled and open-sourced back in November 2009: Eric Schmidt is quoted in saying that the platforms "may converge over time," and they of course couldn't look more alike, at least from an appearance standpoint. But there is indeed more work to do, as there's a whole catalog of apps to consider. While Chrome apps do indeed work on Android and iOS, not to mention Windows, Mac, and Linux, all at once, the same is NOT true for Android apps trying to run on Chrome OS: they just won't run. For now, anyway.

However, that may be about to change: As the good old Johan Heinstedt pointed out, Google may in fact be using the all-powerful Native Client to bring Android NDK (but not SDK, at least not at the moment) apps to Chrome in such a way that they behave like Chrome apps. How can you tell? Because the latest developer builds of naclports (the Linux/GNU core libraries that are being ported to run in the Native Client sandbox) not only include GNU core libraries, but also the unthinkable:

What you see there is Bionic. Whereas Dalvik and ART happen to be responsible for the majority of Android apps that use Java code being able to run on Android, Bionic is responsible for all the NDK code. It provides all the necessary C and C++ core functionality to allow apps written in native code to run easily alongside the Java apps, and the fact that Google happens to be porting it to Native Client sure says something about a possible convergence. This is probably why KitKat turned out to be Android 4.4 instead of 5.0: because the amount of API breakage in KitKat pales in comparison to what moving everything into a NaCl-embedded library shim would entail.

Now if Dalvik and ART are next, then we all know what's coming: You would be able to run (and possibly even develop) Android apps on a Chromebook. Then, of course, since the Android home screen happens to be an app in itself, Google could just use NaCl to run the Google Now Launcher as if it were a mobile Chrome app, and, boom! You've got a Chromephone waiting for you.