The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Forget fifteen hundred words a day, I'm having problems with just fifteen …

It's November 1st and that can only mean one thing: National Novel Writing Month. But unlike last year where several people I know (and even some I don't) attempted their hand at a novel, this year I haven't seen much mention of it—perhaps the global financial meltdown happening at the same time as the 2008 Presidential Election from Hell That Just Will Not End has distracted people (or at least, the ones I follow on the Internet) from it this year.

In other news, October wasn't a very good month for me (as you may have guessed), and frankly, the less said about the events of the past 31 days the better. Things didn't go as badly as they could have, but still, it was a rough month, and I'm finding it hard to get back into the habit of writing here.

Oh, and just my luck—things only go downhill from here.

Sigh.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The printing press at the United States Treasury is going full tilt, and investors are still worried about deflation? What are they smoking?

Deflation fears are suddenly rising, as the full impact of the credit crunch hits markets and economies. Small wonder: Plunging commodity prices, crumbling inflation expectations, a soaring dollar, and the onset of a potentially severe global recession are combining to reverse the inflation spike of early 2008.

Via New Mogul, The Coming Deflation Scare

We've already had severe deflation—falling prices—in housing, stocks and commodities this year.

The question is whether that could spill into prices of goods and services across the board, as well as into wages, as the economy worsens.

Via The Mess That Greenspan Made, Investors brace for a case of deflation

Good lord!

Our government masters have dumped over $2,000,000,000,000.00 [in the United States alone —Editor] to prop up our economy and investors are worried about deflation? Do they have no concept of how the economy works?

Okay, scratch that, we are talking about the dismal science and I suspect that no one alive today really understands our economy.

I mean, I get the basics—supply and demand—given a constant supply and an increase in demand, the price goes up (and if it doesn't the market experiences shortages in said item). Conversely, given a constant demand and an increase in supply, the price goes down (and if it doesn't, the market experiences a glut in the item). Pretty basic.

A bit less basic is how the monetary supply affects this, but it's easy enough to point out a few historical examples of vast increases in the monetary supply to see that when the supply of money goes up, so does the price. And conversely, when the monetary supply contracts, there's less money chasing goods and services so the price falls.

I never did understand what was so bad about deflation—heck, it sounds pretty good! Lower prices across the board, my money is worth more, what's not to like?

Plenty, actually. It was quite the education to read about the downside of deflation in the comments to this Reason Magazine article about Ron Paul:

Usually what happens is that nominal interest rates become exceedingly high. With deflation, you get paid to sit on cash—so you need a very high interest rate to induce you to lend it. Deflation pays you to be risk averse and hoard cash—which induces chrinically tight money, and stifles the risky ventures upon whose success technological progress is made.

Tacos, please explain why having my money becoming more valuable over time is a bad thing. It seems preferable to having it worth less over time.

A number of reasons, as it encourages liquid holdings over less liquid ones (such as higher education) and encourages holding liquid currency as opposed to spending it. Currency is hoarded instead of invested, and capital decreases (why by a stock or loan cash when your money will become more valuable just sitting under your bed, without you having to sacrifice liquidity or take on risk?). Deflation functions to increase interests rates, making loans more expensive.

With no one spending or borrowing money, production drops and you move toward recession. Businesses lay off people as the real cost of wages increases while sales decrease, etc, etc, etc. The number of problems caused by deflation is myriad and probably best enumerated elsewhere.

Even Austrian economists [my own views of economic policies tend towards the Austrian school, just for the record —Editor] view deflation caused by contraction of the money supply as bad, so I'm uncertain as to how this is reconciled with non-fiat currency.

If you have an inflexible standard like gold you get deflation and the house you are contractually obligated to pay $2,000 a month to keep is now worth only $1,500 a month using the newly deflated currency. No one can borrow, there is no liquidity and everything comes down like a house of cards. The right answer is a totally free currency market and with no central banks and full disclosure. Let the market set the money supply with no interference from a Federal Reserve.

Indeed. Which makes me wonder why Austrian economists are stuck on the gold standard, since they accept that deflation due to contraction of the money supply is bad for economies (as opposed to deflation due to a drop in prices from increased efficiency, which is good).

Ouch.

So yeah, deflation bad. I get it.

But I still can't see how “investors” are afraid of deflation when governments over the world are printing money as fast as they can and shovelling it to the banks. Perhaps the banks don't trust anyone to loan it out so the money isn't actually getting into the economy like the governments want …

Strange times indeed …

Monday, November 03, 2008

I'm only hoping for two things: 1) that whoever wins tomorrow wins by twice the margin of error, and 2) the 2012 Presidential Campaign won't start until 2012.

Tomorrow marks the end of the 2008 Presidential Election From Hell That Just Will Not End and to mark the occasion, I thought I might present some last minute arguments to vote for or against Obama or McCain (because in the end, Cynthia McKinney/Rosa Clemente will win).

First up, a critical look at McCain's past, followed by a critical look at Obama's past. Both are long, but are well worth reading.

Second, Senator Obama's voting record and Senator McCain's voting record. Let their actions speak louder than words.

And now for the partisan portion of today's entry: Why I am Supporting Obama, and Voting for McCain. Plus, another McCain supporter who makes sense.


Words fail me …

In an informal Esquire survey, three out of four white supremacists prefer Obama, while McCain is the clear favorite among black nationalists. This is just one of many surprising views that emerged after we talked to extremists about this historic electoral showdown between a 46-year-old black man and a 71-year-old white man.

Via Flutterby, Why White Supremacists Support Barack Obama

Just …

Just …

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

For my friend Gregory, who told me point blank: “You shouldn't vote.”

Myself, I'm going to resist the tempation to even peek at the results until the 4th, when the Electoral Collage will rise from its hole, and if it sees its shadow, then six more weeks of vote counting and law suites.

Me, four years ago

I voted today and the experience wasn't the five hour ordeal I've been led to believe it was. Nope, once it was clear that I lived in the district (oops) the actual voting process was rather quick. In fact, there were more people there to monitor the voters than there were voters.

And no touch screens or butterfly ballets this year—just a simple paper ballet you fed through a machine when finished. The confetti coming out the other end was a nice touch, I thought.

I also did the right thing and voted for Cynthia McKinney, because, you know, she's going to win.


I wonder what the Founding Fathers would have thought of our instant results elections?

It's hard to resist the siren call of election results because all of us have a vested interest in our candidate getting elected and hopefully the mass of voter fraud that other candidate engages in will be caught and stopped.

But I think instant results in near real time are bad overall—it must totally suck to live in Alaska and have the election all but called even before the polling stations are closed. And if you don't care for Alaska because of that candidate, then what about Hawaii, the birthplace of that other candidate (you know, The One)? It must be tough for citizens of both states to feel like they contributed to a national election.

I'm actually surprised that there isn't a law preventing poll results to be released until all polls across the country are closed (for a national election—obviously for more local matters, results can be issued as soon as the relevant polls are closed). I would think at the very least this would give all parties a bit more leeway to engage in a bit of election chicannery (for those that require a more cynical viewpoint of things).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election results

A rare Presidential race with no incumbents, the American People instead threw the incumbent party out of the office (a sentiment I often espouse myself), but alas, the American People did not toss the incumbent party out of Congress, which had a lower rating than the President. Go figure.

Anyway, it looks like the Algorithm for Determining the Winners of U.S. Presidential Elections held with no modifications required (well, maybe a rule to penalize candidates in non-mainstream political parties, otherwise Cynthia McKinney should have won).

And in other election news, Sean Tevis (remember him?) lost his bid to become a Kansas State Represenative by 425 votes. Here's to next time, Sean.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Because Dr. Raymond Stantz said to buy it …

I came across this last month, but well … it was rather crazy last month. Anyway, for my friend (and ex-roommate) Rob—Crystal Head Vodka (via Geekcentric)—because I think he'd appreciate vodka served from a crystal skull (as if Dan Aykroyd hawking The Super Bass-O-Matic 76 wasn't odd enough …).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

MyFaceSpaceBook

I was talking with Hoade the other day and found out he's on MyFaceSpaceBook (it wasn't easy to find that link—heck, the whole site is maddening, but more on that in a bit) and he convinced me that I too, should jump off the bridge with the rest of the lemmings and get my own MyFaceSpaceBook page.

Good XXXXXXX Lord! Was I the last person on the planet without a MyFaceSpaceBook page? People I haven't thought of in years suddenly popped up on my computer screen. People like Naomi Peyton neé Dominguez—we played the elder Kirbys in You Can't Take It With You when I was a sophmore in high school (she was a junior at the time). Or Jae Kim, a fellow high school classmate from '87. And so on. High school, college, just about everyone I knew from the past twenty years or so is on MyFaceSpaceBook.

But I'm finding the site very difficult to use, mainly because it keeps defying my expectations of what a social site should be, despite not having any real preconceived notions of what a social site should be. For a site that supposedly exists to connect people up, seeing what the site has to offer when you aren't a member is impossible. And even when you are a member, you often times can't see much of anything on a person's profile, which makes it difficult (or at least, I find it difficult) to determine if the person listed is who I think the person listed is.

I suppose it's set up to protect privacy, but I come from a tradition of an open Internet, where everything you put up on a website is meant for public consumption. So this “lock everything down” mentality is alien to how I work on the Internet (even back at FAU, I deliberately kept my computer files mostly accessible—if they were important, I would restrict access, and I deeply resented when the sysadmins of the Computer Science and Engineering Department reset permissions on my files to prevent anyone from reading them, multiple times! I don't need to be protected from myself, you know?).

It also reminds me of a walled community, much like AOL or CompuServe in the 90s. Mediate the users experience; give the user limited options; one-stop shopping as it were. I'm not thrilled with MyFaceSpaceBook, but I doubt I'm their target audience. I run my own webserver (and have done so since 1994 when I put up my first website) and do not have to suffer the whims of some large faceless company (only the whims of a small hosting company, who will personally deliver any lawyerly threats to my doorstep for me to take care of).

I'll probably still use the site (much like I use my LiveJournal account) to keep up with friends; it's just not my primary home on the Intarwebs.


Reason #23 why I sometimes wonder how I even have a job

“How hard can it be to email a webpage?” asked Smirk.

“Very hard,” I said.

“Why do you insist on using 80s technolgy?”

“Technically, mutt was written in the 90s, and can handle attachments.”

“Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrg!”

I started using the Internet in the late 80s, back in a time when sending files via email was frowned upon, and every computer on the Internet was a true peer to every other computer on the Internet. And yes, intellectually, I understand that time has moved on and we've regressed to walled gardens of mediated digital experiences and people never think twice of emailing Microsoft Office to themselves so they can work on the Johnson Account at home (and least you think I'm engaging in a bit of hyperbole with Microsoft Office, I'm not—I handled the technical support call for just that situation a few years ago).

But it still just doesn't feel right to send files via email.

Anyway, I've tried using more modern email clients, and I found them all slower than the text based email client elm running on a 32MHz computer. But given that elm is no longer being maintained, I've upgraded to the slightly slower (if a bit more featureful) text based email client mutt (which is okay, because I'm running it on a 2.6GHz computer).

And in order to keep the speed up (especially given the size of today's emails—I mean, do you realize how big Microsoft Office is these days?) I read the mail directly on my server. That has two benefits—one, I don't have to suck down huge emails over a slow Internet connection, and two, I can check my email from any computer without being forced into using some horrible excuse of an email client over the web.

That means, technically, I don't check my email on my local computer here, and therefore, it's a bit difficult to actually send a webpage. In fact, for me to send a file via email, I have to upload it to the server, and if I'm doing that, I might as well put it in a web-accessible location and send a link via email. This also means that yes, things that most people would consider “trivial” (like mailing Microsoft Office) aren't “trivial” for me (and let's not even discuss sending me Microsoft Word documents … ).


The Amazing Randi on Pseudoscience in the New Millennium

Bunny and I attended Pseudoscience in the New Millennium, a lecture given by James Randi.

[James Randi.  Photograph by Bunny]

His lecture started out with him walking up to the podium, microphone in hand, and asking the audience to raise their hands if they considered themselves a “skeptic.” And after the entire audience raised their hands, he proceeded to tell us that we weren't very skeptical since he's already fooled us. Twice. In less than two minutes. The microphone he was using? Not even turned on; we just assumed he was using that because he had it (his actual microphone was in his shirt). And second, the glasses he was wearing? They too weren't real. The point of that was to show that just saying one is “skeptical” isn't always enough.

And after that, he started his lecture, going into details about various pseudoscientific quackery, like homeopathy, spritual healers and psychic surgery (which didn't save Andy Kaufman), during which he performed a few magical tricks to keep us on our toes.

He also mentioned his $1,000,000 Paranormal Challenge, which no one has won since it begain in 1964. This prompted one lady during the question-and-answer session (she was the last “question” during the night) to offer Randi “proof” that spirits exist (and with this, she brought forward a huge carrying case with her “proof”), although she didn't really want his money (a common response from many applicants, according to Randi; a few members of the audience asked if she would donate the winnings to them). Randi humored her and told her to apply for the prize.

I doubt she will. I also suspect Randi feels the same, but I can't prove it.

[Randi is my homeboy]

Friday, November 14, 2008

This is by no means an indication that I want to live in a Gibsonian novel

Another day, another script kiddie removed from one of our servers.

This time the script kiddie didn't even bother hiding his program.

Sheesh. Kids today.

But it's probably because of stuff like this that Smirk tolerates my old fashioned ways

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Scott McCloud is my homeboy

It's been a week of lectures. Today, Bunny and I drove down to the Miami Book Fair to attend Scott McCloud's lecture on comic trends.

[Scott McCloud by Bunny—she has a much better camera than I] >

The one thing that struck me about seeing Scott McCloud—his glasses aren't opaque. Second, he's going grey. Third, he's a funny guy (while waiting for the technicians to finish up so he could start his lecture, he asked the audience who was the most forgettable President. No answer was correct because if you named a President, he wasn't forgettable. Um … perhaps you had to have been there).

While the topic pretty much covered the territory in his book Reinventing Comics, there was still enough new material to make it fresh, especially with comics that have come out since the book was published in 2000.

And since he was speaking at a book fair he tended to emphasize the innovations that were (or needed to) happen in the print media, although he did touch upon some innovative web comics.

[He included the obligatory three exclaimation points when signing DESTROY!!!]

(photo by Bunny)

After the lecture, he held a book signing. I brought along copies of Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics and Making Comics, but given the line behind me, I decided to have him sign DESTROY!!: The Loudest Comic Book in the Universe!!!, an oversized comic book he did in 1986 of two superheroes slugging it out in New York City. He was quite amused to learn I had a copy of it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Apparently, they filmed the conclusion to this episode first …

This was a heavily scripted production. What the viewer will see is a seemingly spontaneous “investigation” where the UFO Hunters team goes out to Area 51 with an open mind and sees what they can find. However, any real investigation implies the ability to change course. Your path on each step of the inquiry is determined by what you just discovered in the previous step. You can't “script” a true investigation. You can only script a movie or other entertainment product.

The script in this case was rigid and demanding, and it was written before anyone from the production company had set foot in the area. In fairness, the participants weren't given exact lines to recite, and no one was asked to lie or say anything they were uncomfortable with, but the “story” was determined entirely in L.A. before shooting began. Where the crew would be in every hour of the week-long shoot was strictly scheduled, with little margin for deviation. The director and producer also knew the subjects that they wanted each participant to talk about so the resulting sound bites would fit into the story. They couldn't afford to go into any other areas no matter what turned up in course of filming.

From the production company's standpoint, there was no other way. The History Channel keeps tight reins on the show, and it has to review and approve each story before shooting begins. Any significant changes also have to be approved by them, which is a huge bureaucratic burden. The production company is also trying to turn out a complex full-hour show on a grueling schedule, and it has to be exciting—a real ratings grabber—or the show will eventually be cancelled. These pressures tip the scales from reality to fiction, because fiction is so much easier to control.

“UFO Hunters” on Tikaboo Peak: Part I

Even though you might not consider “UFO Hunters” a paragon of journalistic integrity, it does bring into question just how truthful are other journalistic investigative shows.

Just something to keep in mind …

Monday, November 17, 2008

“The Ethics of A Term Paper Business: A Marxist Overview”

One great way to briefly turn the conversation toward myself at a party is to answer the question, “So, what do you do?” with, “I'm a writer.” Not that most of the people I've met at parties have read my novels or short stories or feature articles; when they ask, “Have I seen any of your stuff?” I shrug and the conversation moves on. If I want attention for an hour or so, however, I'll tell them my horrible secret—for several years I made much of my freelance income writing term papers.

Writing model term papers is above-board and perfectly legal. Thanks to the First Amendment, it's protected speech, right up there with neo-Nazi rallies, tobacco company press releases, and those “9/11 Was An Inside Job” bumper stickers. It's custom-made Cliff Notes. Virtually any subject, almost any length, all levels of education—indulgent parents even buy papers for children too young for credit cards of their own. You name it, I've done it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the plurality of clients was business administration majors, but both elementary education majors and would-be social workers showed up aplenty. Even the assignments for what in my college days were the obvious gut courses crossed my desk. “Race in The Matrix” was a fashionable subject.

The secret to the gig is to amuse yourself. I have to, really, as most paper topics are deadly boring. Once, I was asked to summarize in three pages the causes of the First World War (page one), the major battles and technological innovations of the war (page two), and to explain the aftermath of the war, including how it led to the Second World War (page three). Then there was this assignment for a composition class: six pages on why “apples [the fruit] are the best.” You have to make your own fun. In business papers, I'd often cite Marxist sources. When given an open topic assignment on ethics, I'd write on the ethics of buying term papers, and even include the broker's Web site as a source. My own novels and short stories were the topic of many papers—several DUMB CLIENTS rate me as their favorite author and they've never even read me, or anyone else. Whenever papers needed to refer to a client's own life experiences, I'd give the student various sexual hang-ups.

Via Jason Kottke, The Term Paper Artist

I hated writing term papers. But perhaps that was more due to the method required to write them than the actual topics (literary term papers, which I found loathsome to begin with). We had to, in order:

  1. Come up with a thesis and have it approved.
  2. Find five sources (or more) and write down, on a 3″×5″ card the title of the book, author, publisher and copyright year. And yes, each source got its own 3″×5″ card, and it had to be a 3″×5″ card. These had to be turned in.
  3. Generate at least 50 (but more were always better) facts to support our thesis and record each one on a separate 4″×6″ card (as well as the source used). Again, these had to be turned in.
  4. Sort the 50 (or more) 4″×6″ cards into some order and generate an outline for the term paper, and it had to be of a certain length and complexity. And again, this had to be turned in.
  5. From the outline, we had to write a rough draft, longhand, in pencil. And yes, we had to turn this in.
  6. Finally, we could write our final term paper, typewritten, using a particular style (I forgot if we used Chicago or MLS—it's been awhile) and I remember it being very exacting—margins had to be exactly 1″ and the bibliography had to be formatted just so or you failed.

Is it any wonder I hated the things? Is it any wonder why I would have bought one if I had the money?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Authenticating web users via SSL, part II

Back in September, I set up web authentication via signed certificates but it was primarily a manual process. After creating the certificate authority (and installing the certificate authority into my browser so it wouldn't complain), I then generated a certificate request (on the command line), signed the request (on the command line) and installed the freshly signed certificate into my browser, so I could use that certificate to authenticate myself to my webserver.

If that makes any sense.

Anyway, it is possible to have this handled automagically between the browser and webserver, but sadly, there isn't much information out there about doing so. I only found three pages with any real information; two cover the same material, and one just covers part of the openssl command required to work with this stuff.

And of course, it doesn't work with IE (thank you so much, Microsoft).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Operating Systems from the Fringe

Looks like writing your own operating system isn't something that's done much nowadays (last time I mentioned a homebrew operating system was back on May 23rd, 2001) but that's not to mean the art has completely died out.

It's just mostly dead.

And a lot of these homebrew operating systems aren't much to look at or even write about (and I think I gave VS_OS more virtual ink than it really deserved, for instance), but I just came across the LoseThos IBM PC Operating System and I must say, I'm seriously impressed—a homebrew operating system written in a dialect of C (more on that in a bit) for the 64bit Intel Pentium machines. Okay, so the GUI looks like something cooked up in 1985, and the hardware support is, shall we say, limited.

I can't even say the concept is truly original. The implementation language, C+ (a bit more than C, less than C++) is also the command line. This isn't unique, heck the Symbolics machine used Lisp for the operating system as well as the command line, as well as many Forth based machines, and Smalltalk based machines.

But what is unique, it seems, is the use of a C-like language for the shell (really! That design decision really floored me). C+ is basically C with a few syntactic changes—basically, functions can have default parameters (which comes from C++), and for a function call without any parameters, the parentheses can be dropped entirely (so instead of writing something like x = foo(); you can write x = foo;).

But the shell isn't just a C+ interpreter. Nope, it's an incremental C+ compiler! Expressions typed at the command line are compiled and immediately executed. You can even define C+ functions at the command line (which I think then becomes part of the execution environment of the shell). You can also get a disassembly of any called function (or compiled function or expression) with a simple command (currently it's CTrace(ON);—I would have called it TRON myself). So for example, in one of the demo videos, you can see a pointer being defined, memory allocated and assigned to the pointer:

D:/LT/Accts/TAD>#include "DoIt";
ans0=0x0000000000000090=144
D:/LT/Accts/TAD>I1 *buf;
ans0=0x0000000000000090=144
D:/LT/Accts/TAD>buf=MAlloc(256);
ans0=0x0000000076A54990=1990543760
D:/LT/Accts/TAD>LtfD(buf,256);
00000000 20 64 69 73 70 6C 61 79 20 61 20 6E 75 6D 20 6F  display a num o
00000010 66 20 6C 69 6E 65 73 20 77 69 74 68 69 6E 20 61 f lines within a
00000020 20 72 61 6E 67 65 20 6F 66 20 61 6C 6C 20 6D 61  range of all ma
00000030 74 63 68 65 73 2E 20 20 44 6F 69 6E 67 20 74 68 tches.  Doing th
00000040 69 73 20 74 77 69 63 65 20 77 69 6C 6C 20 63 72 is twice will cr
00000050 65 61 74 65 20 61 6E 20 00 59 E5 F1 AA 31 0B 00 eate an .Y...1..
00000060 80 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 80 BB 76 76 2E 2E 2E 2E  ....... .vv....
00000070 70 75 62 6C 69 63 20 4C 54 65 78 74 65 72 6E 20 public LTextern 
00000080 43 50 5F 44 45 4C 45 54 45 5F 53 59 53 5F 48 41 CP_DELETE_SYS_HA
00000090 53 48 5F 45 4E 54 52 59 20 42 6F 6F 6C 49 38 20 SH_ENTRY BoolI8 
000000A0 44 65 6C 53 79 73 48 61 73 68 45 6E 74 72 79 28 DelSysHashEntry(
000000B0 53 79 73 48 61 73 68 45 6E 74 72 79 20 2A 74 65 SysHashEntry *te
000000C0 6D 70 68 2C 53 79 73 48 61 73 68 54 61 62 6C 65 mph,SysHashTable
000000D0 20 2A 74 61 62 6C 65 29 3B 00 29 3B 00 3B 00 00  *table);.);.;..
000000E0 80 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 70 F2 76 76 00 00 00 00  .......p.vv....
000000F0 20 20 77 68 69 6C 65 20 28 63 6C 21 3D 6C 20 26   while (cl!=l &
ans0=0x0000000000000001=1;
D:/LT/Accts/TAD>CTrace(ON);
ans0=0x0000000000000000=0
D:/LT/Accts/TAD>

Then, MemSet() is called, and not only is the code for MemSet() shown, but the data dump already on screen changes to reflect the changes!

D:/LT/Accts/TAD>#include "DoIt";
ans0=0x0000000000000090=144
D:/LT/Accts/TAD>I1 *buf;
ans0=0x0000000000000090=144
D:/LT/Accts/TAD>buf=MAlloc(256);
ans0=0x0000000076A54990=1990543760
D:/LT/Accts/TAD>LtfD(buf,256);
00000000 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
00000010 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
00000020 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
00000030 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
00000040 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
00000050 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
00000060 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
00000070 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
00000080 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
00000090 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
000000A0 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
000000B0 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
000000C0 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
000000D0 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
000000E0 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
000000F0 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88
ans0=0x0000000000000001=1;
D:/LT/Accts/TAD>CTrace(ON);
ans0=0x0000000000000000=0
D:/LT/Accts/TAD>MemSet(buf,0x88,256);
	 RD,5C90 41B800010000 MOV	U4 R8u4,U4 00000100
	 RD,5C96 4D63C0	      MOVSXD	U8 R8,U4 R8u4
	 RD,5C99 4D33C9       XOR	U8 R9,U8 R9
	 RD,5C9C 418188	      MOV	U1 R9u1,U1 88
	 RD,5C9F 488B05BEBFFF MOV	U8 RAX,U8 [76A7F9E4]
	 RD,5CA5 FF
	 RD,5CA6 498BD1       MOV	U8 RDX,U8 R9
	 RD,5CA9 498BC8	      MOV	U8 RCX,U8 R8
	 RD,5CAC 57	      PUSH	U4 EDI
	 RD,5CAD 488BF8       MOV	U8 RDI,U8 RAX
	 RD,5CB0 488BC2       MOV	U8 RAX,U8 RDX
	 RD,5CB3 F3AA	      REP_STOSB
	 RD,5CB5 5F	      POP	U4 EDI
	 RD,5CB6 C3	      RET
ans0=0x0000000000000088=136
D:/LT/Accts/TAD>

Oh my! It's mentioned rather casually in the video that the hex dump shown on the screen is actually a hex dump widget, and the demo continues to show editing of values being done in said widget. I think that's the first GUI widget I've seen that scrolls along in a text window.

Later on in the video demonstration, code is being edited in a text editor, but this is the first text editor that I've seen where one can embed not only graphical images, but said images become part of the source code and can even be referenced in code. Not only that, but you can even edit the graphical image in the text editor.

Thinking back on this, this again isn't anything all that new. Heck, Microsoft developed and later dropped an entire technology based upon this, OLE. But, not having ever used OLE, I can't say if Microsoft's implementation was as seamless as this appears to be.

But this whole thing is even more impressive when you realize this is the work of a single programmer, playing around in his spare time writing this crazy operating system. But to me, the operating system is less impressive than the whole crazy user interface being used (since the video is a bit hard to follow, and it's obvious that the demoer (who is also the programmer) knows his system back and forth and oftentimes doesn't even explain fully what he's doing or even what's fully going on).

Even though I don't fully agree with all his design choices for an operating system (for example, everything runs in the kernel) he's done an impressive job, and some of the choices he's made in the design are worth looking at in more detail.

Just wow.


I should know better than this …

Why?

Why oh why did the PHP programmers even bother with the link option? That is the singularly most useless option on a program I've ever seen. Would it really have killed you to include a line number?

Sigh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Silver Bullets

However, some gun aficionados wrote a couple of polite letters informing us that silver bullets were not the easy solution they first appeared to be. It may not be impossible to make a working silver bullet, but it's far from an easy task. Since it's nice to have the books make sense, I figured I'd just go build some silver bullets and silence the critics—after all, how hard can it be? The Lone Ranger did it, right? However, before we continue with my efforts to produce a usable silver bullet, let me briefly discuss the history of silver, and how silver bullets came to be the de facto standard for werewolf extermination.

Via columbina, Silver Bullets

I would prefer to say this link is for Kurt, but seeing how he barely uses the Intarwebs (I think he checks his email once a month, if that), instead, I'll direct the link towards his fiancée Amanda, who I know will see this.

The upshot seems to be, forget silver bullets—try silver buckshot instead. Easier to make and better in close quarters fighting.

And more satisfying to shoot, too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Name Dropping and Embarassing High School Photos

“I know that guy,” I said as I watched the trailer for a TV show remake (link via invadersteven), “that's Bobby Cannavale!”

[Bobby!]

Then about halfway through—“Hey! I know that guy!” “That guy” being Joe Lo Truglio.

[Joe!]

I'm excited because I went to high school with these jokers! Not only that, but I was also involved in Drama Class with the two of them, and for proof, I offer up the embarassing high school photo!

[Drama geeks, the entire lot of us]

[Sorry about the poor quality of the scan, but that was the result of five attempts—when I scanned at any higher resolution (to get a bigger picture) the results looked horrible. The smaller the scan, the better the result, but it was hard to make out individual faces. This is the best I could accomplish. —Editor]

I can also say that the story about Bobby being suspended just before opening night is more or less true, but hey, that's high school—you do stupid stuff.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gobble gobble

                              ,+*^^*+___+++_
                        ,*^^^^              )
                     _+*                     ^**+_
       _+^^*+_    (     ,+*^ ^          \+_        )
      {       )  (    ,(    ,_+--+--,      ^)      ^\
     { (@)    } f   ,(  ,+-^ __*_*_  ^^\_   ^\       )
    {:;-/    (_+*-+^^^^^+*+*<_ _++_)_    )    )      /
   ( /  (    (        ,___    ^*+_+* )   <    <      \
    U _/     )    *--<  ) ^\-----++__)   )    )       )
     (      )  _(^)^^))  )  )\^^^^^))^*+/    /       /
   (      /  (_))_^)) )  )  ))^^^^^))^^^)__/     +^^
  (     ,/    (^))^))  )  ) ))^^^^^^^))^^)       _)
   *+__+*       (_))^)  ) ) ))^^^^^^))^^^^^)____*^
   \             \_)^)_)) ))^^^^^^^^^^))^^^^)
    (_             ^\__^^^^^^^^^^^^))^^^^^^^)
      ^\___            ^\__^^^^^^))^^^^^^^^)\\
           ^^^^^\uuu/^^\uuu/^^^^\^\^\^\^\^\^\^\
              ___) >____) >___   ^\_\_\_\_\_\_\)
             ^^^//\\_^^//\\_^       ^(\_\_\_\)
               ^^^ ^^ ^^^ ^^

Well, the bird's in the oven (of course it's been brined) so there's a bit of time before we start with the nom-nom-noming on the ex-gobble-gobble-gobbler. So, to pass the time, how about watching a bit of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 28, 2008

“You didn't get the memo?”

Today was a quiet day as I spent most of it offline in quiet contemplation. But it wasn't my idea—the Monopolistic Phone Company's left hand did not know what its right hand was doing.

Bunny and I spend about two hours on the phone trying to get the DSL connection back up. It was working this morning. It wasn't working this afternoon. Bunny doesn't touch the router; I haven't touched it in months. Neither one of us had touched the DSL modem.

The problem from our end was that the PPPoE authentication wasn't authenticating. And I could tell from listening to Bunny with Technician #1 that Technician #1 had no idea what was wrong, even after a hint about the PPPoE non-authentication. That lead to Technician #2, who had us attempt to hook the DSL modem directly into a Windows system (of course they don't support us Linux or Mac users; after all, we're just a piddly 10% of the market).

After that debacle, I got on the phone. I informed Technician #2 that we have a static IP address. So he had me configure the router with our static IP address. He mumbled the netmask, so I can only assume I got that right. Now, static IP address is a public IP address, and I only mention that because of what happened next.

“Okay, so what's the gateway address?” I asked.

“What's the default gateway on your computer?”

“The 192.168.1.1 address?” I asked. 192.168.1.1 address is a private IP address, and can't be routed on the Internet.

“Yes,” said Technician #2. “Your gateway address is 192.168.1.1.”

On the router?

“Yes.”

I pulled out my clue-by-four. “That will just cause our router to route packets meant for the Internet back onto our local network! Now, what's the public gateway address?”

“Let me check with my supervisor. Can you hold for a few minutes?” A few minutes pass. “Are you there?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, put your public IP address as your gateway. Sir? Sir? What's that horrible noise?” [For those that might not know, this wouldn't work either as packets for the Internet are told not to even leave the router. A sure fire way to overflow the bit bucket if you ask me. —Editor] [But I didn't ask. —Sean] [Do I need to use a clue-by-four on you? —Editor] [Sorry. Continue. —Sean]

“Oh sorry, that was my head experiencing rapid deceleration trauma against the desk. Tell me, do you know anything?”

“Let me get my supervisor,” said Technician #2.

A few more rounds of clue-by-four with Technician #2 and I finally got The Supervisor. I patiently told The Supervisor that Technician #2 needs to be taken back to the Re-education center and by the way, can you tell me the gateway address? I was assued that I would get an answer and put back on hold.

That's when Technician #3 picked up.

While my day was quiet, evening was turning out to be anything but.

I calmly explained the entire mess to Technician #3, and stressed that nothing changed on my end.

“Well sir, are you aware that we recently changed our password requirements and any passwords not meeting that requirement are not allowed to authenticate? Would you like—um, sir? What's that horrible noise?”

Obligatory Picture

[Don't hate me for my sock monkey headphones.]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site: http://boston.conman.org/, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

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