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.

Wednesday, August 01, 2001

The Lost Code

I just got a call from Chuck, whom I used to work with. It seems he needs to recompile a program I wrote years ago to a new platform but alas, he can't find all the source code to it. Specificially, he can't find the source code to a library I wrote it links against.

So I checked my system here. I'm surprised I don't have a copy of the library source code around. Granted, it's a very old version of a library I'm still working on, but I thought I would have had a copy of it.

I search around and find a 300M compressed archive of everything I had on the old development machine I did the coding on.

No luck there either!

You might think this is an isolated incident, but it's not. It happened to us once before years ago where we lost all the source code to a client's project. It happens. Code slips through the cracks.

“We're Condo Commandos! We have no life!”

The Condo Commandos here have struck yet once again. This time they left a note on the front door, threatening to tow Spring's van:


Okay, except for Rule 10, which goes:

  1. In order to maintain an attractive appearance, no sign, advertisement, notice or other lettering shall be exhibited, displayed, inscribed, painted or affixed, in, on or upon any part of the Condominium Property without the written consent of the Board.

I can't see anything that Spring's van violates. There's nothing in Rule 5 that her van violates, and in covering the van, we skirt around Rule 10. They may be trying to get us on Rule 21:

    1. For purposes of this regulation, a guest shall be a person to whom hospitality is extended without charge. An immediate family member shall be an owner's or lessee's parents, children, brother, sister, grandparents, or grandchildren, any of whom may be accompanied by his/her spouse and children. A House-sitter shall be considered to be in the same category as a guest.
      1. No limit will be placed on the length of stay of an owner's or lessee's immediate family members as guests. However, in the owner's or lessee's absence, such family members must be reported to the Board of Administration or to the Management Company prior to their arrival.
      2. When unit owner or lessee is not in residence and the guest is not a member of the owner's or lessee's immediate family, the length of stay is not to exceed twenty one [sic] days, in any four month period, unless prior approval is obtained from XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Board of Directors.

I'm not absent, and Spring is family so we're covered there.

It's all about power.


“Video killed the radio star … ”

MTV is twenty years old.

I remember when they actually played music.

Old. I'm getting old.

Thursday, August 02, 2001

Using a computer during school is now illegal

Dempsey is talking about the bill's sweeping language, which punishes activities that affect a computer rather than ones that damage it or successfully penetrate its security. Contrary to what the name of the bill implies, the measure covers any school computer system, not just websites, and could criminalize pranks such as sending mail from a friend's computer when they've left themselves logged in.

Senator Targets School Hackers

Good lord I'm glad I'm no longer in school. If this had been around when I was going to school I would have potentially been arrested in 7th grade when I wrote the following program:

10 PRINT "some disrespectful remark about the teacher"
20 GOTO 10


Or perhaps I would have been arrested in college when I caused the computer screens to melt during class (fortunately, the Statutes of Limitation have run their course). Or when I snagged root access by exploiting X windows. Or even when I've sent email to a person who left themselves logged in (I did that one several times). Or caused … well, you get the idea.

I wonder what happened to the existing laws? I assume they're still around, right?

Friday, August 03, 2001

The following came through on a mailing list I'm on:

The Letters page of these magazines are as interesting as some of the articles. Of course, when we're talking about over 20 years ago in a hobbyist magazine, the letter-writers of one issue were quite likely to write articles in the next.

From David C. Broughton of Northwood, Middlesex, in the November 1978 issue:

Here is a little puzzle to test your readers' 8080 machine ingenuity:

“Imagine you possess an 8080 with 64K bytes of read/write memory which you want to clear. Write a program that sets all 65536 bytes to zero.”

It seemed like a fun little puzzle so I tried my hand at it.

The 8080 can address 65,536 bytes of memory, so the implication behind this is to clear all of memory, including the running program! Which means that the last instruction to execute has to clear out the last instruction! Since it's a byte addressed machine, that means that the last instruction has to pretty much be a single byte in size.

Not that big a deal. There are a few one byte instructions that write a byte to memory through an index register. Unfortunately, there are no “write-byte-increment-pointer” type instructions. So you need to increment (or decrement) the pointer. No big deal; there are one byte instructions to do that as well.

So, to write a byte and increment a pointer takes two bytes. So that's two cycles I have to go through, but depending on which direction I clear memory with (it doesn't really matter which way you go, as the address will wrap around anyway) I may wipe out the instruction with which I'm clearing out memory. At one point I had:

That didn't dawn on me until after an hour and a half of writing 8080 code (which I'm not terribly familiar with and all the references I have are for the Z80, which is a superset of the 8080.

Sunday, August 05, 2001


It's 4:30 AM, I'm driving and the radio is tuned to a dead local station. But the atmospheric conditions are such that I'm picking up two very remote stations across the meter wave of space. One is a Christian station playing traditional hymms; the other techno-trance. The blend of the two, and they blend rather nicely, is undescribably good. X-trance if you will.

It's always fun listening to the meter waves of space deep in the night.

Monday, August 06, 2001

“Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. Hail, Superchief!”

2 BZ 4 church? No problem: thanks to cell phone “Short Message Service”, church can come to you. To help, a religious group has “translated” the Lord's Prayer into SMS shorthand. “Our Father, who art in heaven” is delivered as “dad@hvn” while “hallowed be thy name” becomes “urspshl.” The entire prayer fits the SMS limit of 160 characters—with 3 to spare. The group's spokesman says the prayer is “an experimental form of virtual worship.” (London Times) … Which is pretty much what all prayer is.

Via my dog wants to be on the radio, Lt Us Pra!

The English translation of the SMS translation of the King James translation of the Lord's Prayer reads like a Pigdin English as used by Aboriginees and Cargo Cults. Very strange stuff indeed.

Moving vans

Spring moved her van due to the impending towing the Condo Commandos have threatened.


Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Short-term networking

What we are seeing now is the same debate we had back in the months leading up to that day in Marina del Rey. It's the same tradeoff being considered. Should we optimize today's applications and patterns of usage by building functions into the network? Or should we find ways to optimize today's applications by building as little as possible into the core of the network?


A smart network will only hinder later innovations.

I never worked fast food for a reason …

Worse than the rat, worse than the dead frog, worse than eating a sandwich of yesterday morning coffee mold with chewed burger buddies and ranch sauce, I have seen office politics in a job lower on the food chain than a fried gopher. I have worked 45 hours a week at age 16 and my yearly pay remained far below the poverty line. I have seen my counterparts work 4 jobs, 90 to 100 hours a week, just for a roof over their heads and the chance to feed their children the same greasy undercooked leftovers that they can take home at the end of the night. I have seen the district manager walk into the store three times a week for 3 years and not once did he ask for my name. I flipped the fries. I made the hamburgers. I fried the chicken. I prepared the salads. I set up the shake machine. I cooked the eggs. I washed the floors. I cleaned shit off of the toilets. I made $5.09 an hour.

Via CamWorld, the Disgruntled Ex-Burger King Employee page

Any more of these anti-corporation links and people might just get the idea that I'm … oh … I don't know … un-American or something.

But you know what?

I don't care.

Nor do I care to work as a wage slave. I'd rather be poor and have my time to myself than to be rich and answer to 16 hour days and the bottom line.

And now I'm never using JavaScript …

I'm turning off JavaScript (or whatever it's being called these days) simply because I'm getting annoyed with all the pop-up and pop-down ads (pop-down ads are those that hide below the current window) and more and more sites are using. I'm getting annoyed with sites that force the window to be a certain fixed size. I'm sorry, I'm not running at 640x480 or 800x600. I'm running at some oddball screen size I like!

So what else is new?

Rob, my roommate, parked his 1972 Cadilac herse this morning and by the afternoon, it had the infamous orange towing sticker they use around here when they don't like the look of a vehicle.

The vehicle is no longer is commercial use—yet the Condo Commandos around here claim that it is. After all, what else is a herse used for but a commercial enterprise?

Rob called the Condo Commando in charge. All he got was “The Board is on my back. Get it out of here. You want to get lawyers involved? Go for it.” The Board is backed by the financial status of 400 units, ours included! Golden Rule (“He who has the gold, makes the rules.”) wins.

No one here is happy about it though.

“It's a novelization, based on a film, which in turn is based on a novel … ”

“Almost everything is nailed down,” the agent said. “We're just dickering over the novelization rights.”

“The what?” Setlowe said.

“The right to turn the film into a novel,” the agent said. “It's already a novel,” Setlowe said. “Remember that's what you're selling—a novel.”

“Oh,” the agent said.

Via Slant-Six, Lost in Translation

More on this later …

Friday, August 10, 2001

Reinventing Hotair

The quality of the line drawing is also conspicuously worse than that in Understanding Comics. The drawing in Understanding Comics looks as if it were drawn by a human hand - not a particularly proficient human hand, but a human hand nonetheless—whereas Reinventing Comics looks like it was drawn by a computer. Which it more or less was. According to McCloud, he drew it directly onto a computer using the latest technology to avoid the crude instruments of pencil and paper. The result is a dead line, stilted figure work, lots of scans, and some jazzy computer effects. It is for the most part visually grotesque and, more ironically even than Abraham Lincoln, a refutation of many of his grandiose claims about the superiority of computer technology over and against such antiquated techniques as applying ink to paper with pen or brush.

McCloud Cuckoo-Land

I've read both Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud and yes, Understanding Comics is definitely worth the money. I'm not unhappy about buying Reinventing Comics as Gary Groth is (who wrote the review above) and while he does make some valid points, I think he does underestimate the new medium by quite a bit (but not as much as Scott McCloud went overboard about the Internet).

Like any medium, the current practitioners of art are leery about new advances—are they going to be obsolete? Less productive? Cast aside? God I gotta learn a whole new way of doing things? I'm unlucky enough to work in the Computer Industry, where this happens on a regular five year plan (if not faster). I'd love it if my skills were relevant for twenty years or more.

But I digress …

Not that I have much of a point to make here …

Reinventing Reinventing Hotair

Gary Groth makes a number of valid points in “McCloud Cuckoo-Land,” his two-part demolition of Reinventing Comics in Comics Journal #232 and #234. He's right that my book's optimistic tone largely neglects, to its detriment, some of the darker scenarios for corporate interference on the Web. He's right that 20th Century inventions such as radio and television received much the same over-the-top hype in their infancy as the Internet now does, and that much of the hype in both eras was (and is) nothing more than shallow, corporate manipulation. Groth is also correct to point out that my old series Zot! was far from the 1980's most groundbreaking comic, that 1998's The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln was a widely-derided train wreck, and that my line drawings in Reinventing Comics were as stiff as a board – even by my standards.

Armed with such legitimate complaints, Groth broadens his attacks and attempts to persuade Journal readers that my belief in the potential of selling comics on the Web is a dangerous pipe dream fueled by corporate propaganda, while my ideas for the aesthetic potential of digital comics on the Web are crack-pot nonsense; and after a blistering array of attacks from every conceivable angle, I'm guessing many readers were indeed persuaded, if only by the sheer scale of it all. Those same readers were left, however, with a depressing choice at the end of this bloody massacre. Having so thoroughly excoriated the supposed blind optimism of my own suggestions, Groth proceeds to offer only bitter pessimism in return, never once in the course of 10,000 words allowing for even the barest hint of a benefit to placing comics online.

McCloud in Stable Condition Following Review, Groth Still at Large

Gary Groth had his say about Scott McCloud's Reinventing Comics, so here is Scott McCloud's reponse to that.

And he makes several good points about the several good points that Gary Groth made.

Just balancing out the viewpoints here …

No! I don't WANT THIS!

Subject: [RE:] Domain Name: JOYFULNOIZE.ORG
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 10:48:56 -0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)


We've just been notified that you have purchased Great!

Now that you have your domain, wouldn't it be GREAT to have Wouldn't it even be better if you could offer FREE web-based email for your visitors?

Well now you can! For FREE!!! Using our web-based email, you will:

* Generate more revenue for your company!
* Get FREE advertising for your company!
* Increase the value of your domain name!
* Improve the "stickiness" of your site!
* And best of all, get email ASAP!

Go to to get started.


We believe this is a useful tool and hope you can take advantage. If you would prefer not to receive email from us, please reply to this email with the word “remove” within the subject line.


This just pisses me off! I registered yesturday! And this crap starts showing up. I may have to transfer the domains AWAY from Doster and to some other registrar.

Dear Mr. Bush

In my continuing quest to never be hired ever again by any sane company, I give you the following letter to George W. Bush that I received from a mailing list:

Mr. George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. Bush,

I heard you're taking a one-month vacation. Boy, that must really be nice.

Are there any public service jobs besides President where I could take an extended vacation after only six months of work?

Like most Americans, I only get two weeks off. And that's after I've been working for a full year. I figure the American people must be really nice bosses if they let you take so much free time to pursue your real interests, like jogging and video golf. I'd like to work for such nice employers too. Perhaps you could put in a good word for me with the Supreme Court? They seem to be giving away all the best jobs these days!

Enjoy your vacation, and don't let any pesky policy matters like health care reform, the environment or the economy get in the way of your leisure time.

Best to Mrs. Bush and those spunky twins!



PS: I heard you've also spent 14 weekends relaxing at Camp David, and took a long weekend at your family's estate in Kennebunkport—all in addition to the full month you've already spent at your ranch since becoming President. I don't blame you though. Those White House phones must never stop ringing! Maybe Mr. Cheney will pick up your messages for a while …

Yes, where do I get such a job?

But seriously, I expect this to be fairly common among CEOs because, well … they own the company (or rather, are paid insanely amounts of money to run the company) and all those trips out to the golf course are you know, business meetings.

Like how the World Bank meetings take place in expensive and exotic locations around the world …

Sunday, August 12, 2001

It was twenty years ago today …

It was twenty years ago today
That IBM arrived to play
In the home microcrocomputer market
A monopoly they were trying to get
So may I introduce to you
The computer that's been around
IBM's Personal Computer.

With apololgies to the Beatles.

18 Fatal Mistakes …

Spring and I watched 18 Fatal Strikes, a particularly bad martial arts film with horrible sound quality that required us to turn the TV up to 11 (the introduction by a member of the rap group Wu Tan was fine though) and some very silly martial arts styles (“My Kung-Fu is sillier than your Kung-Fu!” “No, mine is yet sillier!”).

The plot revolved around two brothers who's father (or master, I don't really recall) is killed by the evil overlord so between running back and forth between the local village and their home out in the country side, they take on the bad guys.

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

A worthless catagory …

Spring came across the word floccinaucinihilipilificatrix, but couldn't find a definition of it on the web.

I spent several minutes and found one.

Also, is taken. Darn!

Thursday, August 16, 2001

A rare interview

Christie: Well, let's talk about your peers for a bit.
Watterson: You're gonna get me in trouble.
Christie: No, no; you can say anything you want.
Watterson: Yeah, that's what's going to get me into trouble.
Christie: What about Gary Larson?
Watterson: I really like the lunacy of The Far Side. It's a one-panel strip so it's a slightly different animal than a four-panel strip like mine. I don't really compare one-panel strips to four-panels strips because there are different opportunities with each. Larson's working with one picture and a handful of words, and given that, I think he's one of the most inventive guys in comics. The four-panel strip has more potential for storyline and character involvement than just a single panel. But I do enjoy his stuff a lot.
Christie: What about Jim Davis?
Watterson: Uh…Garfield is…(long pause)…consistent.

Calvin and Hobbes at Martijn's—Interview

This is probably about the only interview Bill Watterson did. I'm a big fan of both Calvin and Hobbes and of Bill Watterson.

And even though I met Jim Davis (April 20, 1981 at 2:30 pm in Lauderdale Lakes Mall, which doesn't exist anymore), I can say for certain that Garfield is … consistent (although the earlier strips were much better than what is going on nowadays).

Update on Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

I found another interview!

Another rare interview

It's Monday, Apil 20th, 1981. My friend Hoade and I have been at the Lauderdale Lakes Mall all day, waiting to meet Jim Davis of Garfield. It was a big thing for the both of us, and fortunately for us, it was also the last day of Easter Vacation that year.

We were aspiring cartoonists back then, Hoade and I. He with his Bachelor's Pad (and what did a 12 year old know of bachelors?) and I with my Mr. Featherhead (subconsciencely stealing from Shoe according to Hoade; I still think otherwise). We bought our Garfield books with us that day (there were only three out in 1981) and a few strips to show Mr. Davis.

At 2:00 pm, we headed to the bookstore and waiting paitently in line with about two dozen other people; we were the only kids there, waiting our chance to meet with greatness. And at 2:30 pm, we were in front of the signing table, shoving our books and strips into Jim Davis' face. He was gracious enough to sign all of them and if we chatted, I've long forgotten what we chatted about.

The Miami Herald Morgue

This search feature includes recent articles and special archived subjects on our web site. If you would like to search for older articles dating back to 1982, visit the NewsLibrary. Searching the NewsLibrary is free but there is a fee to retrieve an article. [I guess this means I can't link to the article]

But while there, we met a reporter from the Miami Herald. She (and alas, I've forgotten her name) was impressed with the two kids waiting to meet Jim Davis that she wanted to do a human interest story on us. So the following Saturday, my maternal grandfather drove us all the way down to Miami for the interview. We even submitted both our strips.

Of course they printed Hoade's. It was the funnier of the two by far (nothing like a 12 year old drawing a strip of someone in their 20s beset with a huge hangover and hearing the grass growing outside). Mine never saw the light of day.

Ah well. I don't think I had the patience to draw a strip every day, even though I tried a few times afterwards.

Ripe for explosion

After reading a thread about Berke Breathed's interview in the Onion on Slashdot, I got to thinking about newspaper comics, and I'm of the opinion that the newspaper comic is truely a 20th centure phenomenon and that they won't really survive all that long in the 21st century (although they may be about for the next decade or so).

Just as the first newspaper strips started out in the 1890s (as we know them now), the first online strips, made exclusively for Internet distribution, appeared in the early 1990s, starting with Dr. Fun on September 23, 1993. While I wasn't around for the start of the newspaper comics, I was around for the start of online comics and I do remember downloading (via FTP when it first started, although it was also available on USENET (I don't recall which group though) as well. And now, eight years later (nearly), there are possibly more online comics than there are newspaper based comics.

The innovative strips are now being done on the web. And like the old joke goes, the good news is there are no editors; the bad news is there are no editors. Nor is there a syndication that will reject a strip because it's dull, racey, or not the current fad, or the next Garfield or any other number of excuses. Nor are there space or format restrictions (although most still follow the daily three or four panel format found in newspapers). It's an open field, ripe for exploration (and Scott McCloud is pretty much shouting this out to anyone that cares to listen).

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Notes on a blog morgue

I'm getting closer to getting the Boston Diaries public (for now, I'm using Apache's mod_rewrite to hide the fact that this still isn't an Apache module. One day … ) so I started work on getting the archive section to work.

It's tougher than I expected. I somewhat knew this the first time I started talking about it (and ever since, see the Obligatory Sidebar Links). It's not really about the code, but about the design—how should I do it?

The problem I have is one of extreme flexibility here—the code allows me to display an entire year, an entire month, as well as a day and even arbitrary range of days. If a person selects the archive of a month, she should then get a list of days, plus maybe the titles of each entry—yet if she picks a large enough range of months (say, six months) then that might get too large.

So then I'm thinking that if the number of days exceeds some threshhold (like, 60 days) then just list the months and days, and if it exceeds some larger threshhold (like 180 days) then just list the months.

But then, if someone selects something like seven months, two full days and a half day, then what? Perhaps I should just give what was asked for. Perhaps.

I identified thirteen specific cases to examine:

SpecificationWhat I should return
nothing specified years only?
y list months
y/m list days and entries
y/m/d list entries
y- list months
y-y list months
y-y/m list months
y-y/m/d ?
y/m- list months
y/m-y/m list months
y/m-y/m/d ?
y/m/d- ?
y/m/d-y/m/d ?

[I should note that as I was doing the table, I originally had sixteen cases, but found out that three cases could not happen (which goes to show I don't even fully understand my own code) so I no longer have to worry about them.]

Entries are automatically archived, and displaying an arbitrary range works fine now; I want the archive list to work automatically too. I should be able to add new entries and have the computer do everything else for me. After all, isn't that what a computer is for?

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Automatic navigation through a blog

While working last night on mod_blog, I also gave some thought to navigation and when to apply it. I figure the easiest way to handle this is to only apply navigation when the user selects either an entire year, month, day or single entry. In other words, when the user doesn't select a range of entries to display.

Later on, I can then work out how to handle navigation (“Next” and “Previous” links) on arbitrary ranged requests.


Spring was checking expired domains at Dotster and we came across some silly domains consisting of lots of A's followed by a word. I then decided to see if anyone had bothered to register and well: it is.

Update on Tuesday, March 12th, 2002

Received email from the owner of this domain, asking me to remove the information I received from Network Solutions. So therefore, the information is removed. Sorry about that.

Oh my.

Thursday, August 23, 2001

They're all on crack

Mark has written an embeded web server he's releasing as open source Real Soon Now, and a friend of ours, Andrew is writing up the documentation. He sent a question to Mark, who sent it on to me:

[The webserver] has a constant HTTPD_RESP_MOVED_TEMP set to 302.

RFC 2616 says that 302 means “Found”. 307 would be a “temporary redirect”, and 303 would be “see other”.

I don't see a clear correspondence here‥ can you explain your reasoning?

Under an earlier draft of the HTTP 1.1 protocol, a server response of 302 meant that the object in question is temporarily not available at the given URI, but elsewhere. In the newer draft it means something different, and a response code of 307 means the object in question is temporarily not available at the given URI, but elsewhere:

10.3.3 302 Found

   The requested resource resides temporarily under a different URI.
   Since the redirection might be altered on occasion, the client SHOULD
   continue to use the Request-URI for future requests.  This response
   is only cacheable if indicated by a Cache-Control or Expires header

   The temporary URI SHOULD be given by the Location field in the
   response. Unless the request method was HEAD, the entity of the
   response SHOULD contain a short hypertext note with a hyperlink to
   the new URI(s).

   If the 302 status code is received in response to a request other
   than GET or HEAD, the user agent MUST NOT automatically redirect the
   request unless it can be confirmed by the user, since this might
   change the conditions under which the request was issued.

      Note: RFC 1945 and RFC 2068 specify that the client is not allowed
      to change the method on the redirected request.  However, most
      existing user agent implementations treat 302 as if it were a 303
      response, performing a GET on the Location field-value regardless
      of the original request method. The status codes 303 and 307 have
      been added for servers that wish to make unambiguously clear which
      kind of reaction is expected of the client.

§10.3.3 of RFC-2616

10.3.8 307 Temporary Redirect

   The requested resource resides temporarily under a different URI.
   Since the redirection MAY be altered on occasion, the client SHOULD
   continue to use the Request-URI for future requests.  This response
   is only cacheable if indicated by a Cache-Control or Expires header

   The temporary URI SHOULD be given by the Location field in the
   response. Unless the request method was HEAD, the entity of the
   response SHOULD contain a short hypertext note with a hyperlink to
   the new URI(s) , since many pre-HTTP/1.1 user agents do not
   understand the 307 status. Therefore, the note SHOULD contain the
   information necessary for a user to repeat the original request on
   the new URI.

   If the 307 status code is received in response to a request other
   than GET or HEAD, the user agent MUST NOT automatically redirect the
   request unless it can be confirmed by the user, since this might
   change the conditions under which the request was issued.

§ 10.3.8 of RFC-2616

Okay, so I couldn't really tell the difference myself (except for the change of “might” to “MAY” in the first paragraph, and the addtional verbiage in the second paragraph, and the note added in § 10.3.3, there isn't any difference (and the additional text doesn't really clarify anything).

I wrote back:

They're all on crack.

My response: If you get a “POST <spec> HTTP/1.1” and you need to redirect the user to a temporary URI, send back a 307 with enough information to re-POST the information at the new URI, otherwise, just send back a 302.

The Blogger API via XML-RPC over HTTP on top of TCP/IP

I'm beginning to see what all this XML-RPC is all about. It's a more formal specification of the WWW CGI because I guess reading the HTML source and finding out the input fields for a form, then URLencode the data to call the external program is just too much work for some people.

I've done work before, using, I guess, a form of CGI-RPC to implement a program that does an Internet search using the major search engines to gather the results. And yes, it's was (and still is to a degree) a pain because each engine basically has a different calling convention (or API if you will). XML-RPC seems to be a way to standardize on an API, such as a search engine API.

Not that it's a bad idea, but XML seems a bit overbloated for me. But I guess for the type of services being done, like the Blogger API it's not that bad of overhead. And just think, if I can implement the Blogger XML-RPC API, not only can I claim alphabet-soup compliancy, but I can use several tools to write my blogger with, not just using a web form or email.

Friday, August 24, 2001

Polyglut Assembly Language Programming

The general idea behind an architecture spanning shellcode is trying to come up with a sequence of bytes that would execute a jump instruction on one architecture while executing a nop-like instruction on another architecture. That way we can branch to architecture specific code depending on the platform our code is running on.

Architecture Spanning Shellcode

I've been reading Phrack since the early 90s and I must say, the technical articles are getting better (but the publishing frequency could use some work). I've heard of polyglot programs, in which you attempt to write a single source file that can compile under multiple language compilers and/or assemblers. The trick to that is to find a combination of comments and statements to weed yourself to the appropriate code.

I've never heard of this being done, but it is an extention of the polyglot program idea—only here, you have to find a sequence of instructions that do nothing on one CPU while implementing a jump instruction for another CPU. And in this article, they manage to write common assembly code for the Intel x86, MIPS, Sparc and PCC CPUs. Very impressive.

Okay, so the goal is to write exploit code for multiple platforms, but as a purely intellectual exercise, it's pretty neat!

Friday, August 31, 2001

It's Bill Time!

It's bill time around here. The once a month ritual of going through the accumulated snail mail, tossing all the junk, and writing checks. I'm lucky in that all the bills are due around the same time, so I attempt to do this around the third week of the month, but usually it ends up being about the last day or so.

They (and although I'm not sure who they are, I suspect it's the same group of people who are classified as being experts) say that once you hit thirty, you are set in your ways, and being 32, I'm definitely set in my ways, and one of those ways is procrastination.

It'll be hard to change.

“Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night … ”

Going through the pile of snail mail I find that my mortgage company never received my last payment. In the seven years I've been sending in my mortgage payment (to three different companies; curse those corporate mergers!), I've never had one lost on me, until now.

And here I thought that U. S. mail was sacrosinct—that it would always arrive and never be lost. That the U. S. Postal carrier would keep his appointed rounds through rain, snow or dead of night.

Time to update my answering machine message

Another annoying piece of news I received in snail mail is the new Florida area code of 754, which is overlaying the area code of 954 in which I live.

What this means is that any number I now get can be in one of five (5!) area codes—786, 305 (both Dade County, aka Miami), 954, 754 (both Broward County, aka Ft. Lauderdale) and 561 (Palm Beach County, aka West Palm Beach, dahlink!). The area code of my current numbers isn't changing—it's just any new numbers assigned get assigned to the 754 area code.

And if that weren't bad enough, it now means I have to dial 10 digits for most numbers, except those in north Broward and south Palm Beach, until April of 2002. Then all calls to Broward will require 10 digit dialing.


Another bit of annoying news from my phone bill: the FCC Charge for Network Access! It's $5.00 for the first line, then $6.95 for each additional line.

Excuse me?

Is this to disuade people from having multiple lines? Usually, additional items are cheaper, but I guess in this case the local ILEC had enough political clout with the FCC to charge more for additional lines.

“I want to own nothing, but control everything.”

And yet one more annoying item from todays phone bill. This time it's “Pay by Mouse! And Save a Tree!”

It's not that I'm against saving trees, but I'm noticing a very disturbing trend towards paperless currency. Direct deposit, direct billing, credit cards, even the toll roads now have transponders so you no longer have to stop and toss a few coins into a basket or towards the toll collectors. Every month I get bulletins and news slips extolling the virtues of never having to deal with checks again! Never have to lick those nasty stamps! And heaven forbid your check is lost in the mail!

I want to own nothing, but control everything.

—John D. Rockefeller

I suppose it's a form of Ludditism in me, but I'm comfortable with cash. It's anonymous, and at least it's still tangable, even if it is back only by the full faith in the United States Government.

I've had this conversation with a previous roommate many years ago, and it revolved around my fantasy of buying a car outright with cash (that I was actually able to fulfill two years ago) and that was a very stupid thing to do. It is, if you are filthy rich. If, on the other hand, you're in the lower income brackets or, like me, just really dislike car payments, then paying cash is still the best thing.

But why, if a person could easily afford it, not buy a car (or a house, or, well, anything)? Because that would mean they lose that money! For instance, if you have a spare $40,000.00 laying around (and come on, we all have that problem) then you can easily afford a nice Corvette. But but it outright, and you are out the $40.000.00 in cash you had. But instead, put down about $5,000.00, get the rest on a loan. And since you're obviously wealthy, you get a nice rate, say 7%. Take the $35,000.00 you didn't spend, and if you invest it you can get a rather conservative 20% return on that over the period of your car loan. You end up with one Corvette and $4,550.00 at the end of the car loan, instead of just a Corvette.

Okay, that $4,550.00 will probably be eaten up by insurance costs, but you get the idea. The money that otherwise would have been spent is instead invested and thus the rich get richer. Sweet deal if you can swing it.

One other aspect the very rich do (if they're smart) is to hand all their assets over to a trust, which they run. Any money they give to such a trust is tax deductable, and if you give enough of your income over to the trust, your personal tax liability goes down to nothing! Now, the trust may have to pay taxes, but the trust can do things to decrease its tax liability through business expenses and since you run the trust itself, you give half your income to it, then draw an income from it, and buy everything through the trust and write it off …

Hey, it worked for Nelson Rockefeller, who not only legally didn't have to pay taxes, but was also the unelected Vice President of the United States.

50,000 monkeys at 50,000 typewriters can't be wrong.

You know, there's something endearing about a celebrity who runs his own website. And no, he's not bitter.

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