Terminally Incoherent

Utterly random, incoherent and disjointed rants and ramblings...

Friday, September 30, 2005

Is FedEx truck killing my Wifi?

Switching Station
Switching Station,
originally uploaded by maciakl.
At work, we have 2 access points sitting side by side. We have our own setup with a trusty (but rusty) gargantuan linksys switch and a crappy sonicwall. The guys who share the office space with us have watchguard firewall for their super duper vpn garbage. For over 6 months we were happily chugging along without interfering each other.

Few weeks ago we suddenly started having very strange issues. Every day, at around 10 am the Wifi in the office would suddenly choke and die. For about 10-20 minutes you couldn't even see the SSID. And then it would come back by itself. At first I figured the Access Point was shot. Fortunately I had a brand new spare lying around. We've been planning to swap it out for few months now but I didn't want to do this during work hours because of the productivity issues.

But that did not help. The new AP would die every day at around the same time, exactly like the old one did. Today I talked to one of the guys that use the second AP. It turns out that they are getting knocked off at around the same time every day too! Now this proves that I'm not loosing my mind - this is not just me, this is the whole office.

Today we got hit slightly earlier - at 9:30. So the guy popped out of his lair and we started mucking around with AP's. We plugged them in, unplugged them, switched around power supplies, changed positions, reset their settings and etc... Nothing helped. Only thing I can come up with is - there has to be something going on in this building, or around it at 10 am every day that fucks up the Wifi!

The guy then pops his head out the window and says: "There's a FedEx truck right below us". I'm thinking "no way" but hey, let's see what happens. So we both are sitting there watching the mail drone running in and out of the truck delivering packages. As soon as the truck pulls out and drives away, I hear the girls in the office squealing with joy - a sure sign that Wifi just came back up and they can print and use their email again.

Is it a coincidence? Or does FedEx have some industrial strength Wifi AP mounted in the truck? I did a quick google but I can't find anything except stories about Kinkos providing Wifi services, and some bullshit about Bluetooth bar code readers. It seems that we are the only ones experiencing this issue right now. So we constructed a plan. On Monday I'm in school but I'll have someone here camp out in front of the window and stalk the FedEx guy - and then compare our downtime with the time of the FedEx visit. If it turns out that these times are the same, I'm going to hunt down the delivery guy on Tuesday and personally ask him what kind of shit dos he keep in his truck...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Why does Copyright Protection deny common sense?

Every single software and hardware business in the world follows the mantra below:

  1. Increase Functionality
  2. Decrease Price
  3. Make sure the customer is happy
  4. Profit!
But if you are involved in making DRM products or other copyright protection scheme, your mantra is slightly different:

  1. Decrease Functionality
  2. Increase Price
  3. ???
  4. Profit
Usually ??? is interpreted either as "sue the customer", or as "kiss up to the entertainment industry" or something similar.

My question is how come no one calls bullshit on this? Why do people eat this up, and keep buying DRM infested garbage? For example look at this piece of crap. They sound like this is the best thing since sliced bread. It is not! What is it? It is a flash memory, that does less than a generic flash memory and probably costs twice as much. And I should buy it because...?

My friend desperately wants to install the new Vista build. I think this is a mistake because this is a beta build and it will be buggy as hell. But more importantly, Vista is an OS designed to do less than WinXP while it is distracting you with memory hugging eyecandy. I don't care about Vista and I don't get where's all this hype coming from.

oh, it's gonna gave transparent windows. Whoopty freakin do! I had that under KDE a year ago - big deal. You will have to buy a new monitor to see them on Vista though! What was that? You have a laptop? I guess you're fucked then, aren't you?

I'm used to Microsoft telling everyone to bend over. It's ok - it's annoying but we got used to it. Same with the entertainment industry. But with vista, they are not just telling us to bend over! Vista is a vicious gangbang with no lube, and you are the one who has to pay for the dinner and hotel room!

Teaching CS the Old School Way

I think overhead projectors should be mercifully gutted, de-bublb'ed and put out on the curb for morning garbage pickup. I seriously see no use for an old school overhead slides in a classroom today. Why would I want to screw around with flimsy black & white transparent slides when I can scan any image I want in full color, throw it on the network, or onto a flash stick that fits in my pocket?

We have working SmartBoards in almost every Richardson Hall classroom. This means that I can draw on any image, powerpoint slide or document I want - and half of the time, I'll be able to save these drawings along with that document. Copying a file takes seconds - copying a set of transparency slides takes... Minutes? Hours? I never did it, but I'm pretty sure your average xerox box is going to choke on those plastic sheets. So you need to find a machine that does transparency, figure out who has the code for it, listen to half an hour lecture titled "if you break it I will hunt you down and kill your dog!" and etc... Who needs that?

And yet, there we are every Tuesday evening jotting down notes from crusty old transparency slides in our Image Processing class. Yup, it is an imaging class - and half of the time we can't really tell the difference between the "before" and "after" picture because the transparency can only display 4 shades of grayness: black, gray, dirty and transparent.

I noticed that people generally suck at taking notes. In my opinion note taking is writing down bare-bones essentials. Apparently, no one has figured that out though. I was looking left and right and everyone was taking down notes word by word from the transparency. So for example the following sentence:

Histogram equalization, often used in medical research and image processing aims to improve the quality of an image by balancing out the distribution of gray levels.

Will look like so in my notes:

Histo-Equal = improve quality -> balance distr. of gray lvl. Use: med. research

It's not pretty, but it is functional and I can make sense of it later on. Taking down notes verbatim is a good recepie for carpal tunnel :P

One excuse for using the old school transparency was that when you post slides online, students are not taking notes these days. I say, good for them. I find note taking to be distracting. I think learning should always be about understanding the subject and getting the big picture. Of course, if you don't take notes you might miss some of the nitty-gritty details. But it's not like you can't look them up later. I like to think that if you get the gist of the problem, you can easily figure out the details. If you only know details, but you do not understand the underlying logic - you are in trouble.

But then again, that's just my opinion.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Earthlink Sux

Here is a mini rant, because I'm to tired to complain for a long time. Earthlink fucking sux! Apparently the wireless dept. and the dialup dept. do not communicate at all. Yet, they are able to cancel and/or reactivate each other's accounts. Here is the story in a nutshell:

  1. My company had ~50 dialup accounts with earthlink for field employees + 1 blackberry for boss.
  2. We canceled all dialup accounts because earthlink == expensive
  3. Earthlink dialup dept. canceled blackberry account because it was under the same customer number.
  4. I called to re-activate blackberry. They did it. They also reactivated ~50 dialup accounts along with it.
  5. I called in to cancel them again... We got credit on the account.
  6. Blackberry stopped working because the company which maintained the towers went out of business. We were forced to upgrade to a new model.
  7. Instead of upgrading the old account they created a brand new one. No one bothered to cancel the old blackberry account.
  8. We did a pin-swap on the blackberries (whatever that means) because the tech thought it was necessary.
  9. When we got billed for 2 blackberries we called back. They canceled the old account and credited the new one.
  10. Somehow the ~50 dialup accounts got reactivated under the old customer number.
  11. I called in, got them canceled and got our account credited (again).
  12. I'm waiting for the blackberry to stop working again... I'm willing to bet money that they will fuck this up again.

Boss is pissed, and I'm about ready to kill someone. Oh, and guess what - after fucking around with new accounts for two weeks, someone at Earthlink finally told me that we were entitled to a free no-hassle upgrade, without any fee. Of course the guy who I talked to about the tower issue was swearing up and down that the only thing they can offer me is a $99 blackberry + $25 activation thing. Great!

If that's not enough, here's some more goodies: transferring the phone number from Verizon to the new blackberry took them over a month. They had to re-start the process 5 times. First time Verizon blocked the transfer because they called the wrong person (bosses wife who didn't know about anything) to verify the transfer. Second time the Earthlink phone drone simply did not bother to press submit on the request so the case was dead for few days till my next call. Third time they submitted it but the paperwork got stuck somewhere between earthlink and Verizon and they couldn't figure out what happened to it or who was handling it. They decided to resubmit with high priority. Fourth time I called I found out that the last phone drone made a typo in the last name and Verizon told them to suck it :P Fifth time around the transfer went through...

Earthlink sux. If you are planning to get use their service, please reconsider. I virtually spent last few weeks on the phone with them. I'm not making this stuff up...

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Pegasus: Bad Leadership

Spoilage below - you have been warned.

Here is what I can say about yesterday's episode of Galactica: disturbing. Poor Sharon almost got raped :O I must say I actually cheered when Helo and Chief stormed the interrogation crew. I think the bald guy deserved to have his head smashed against the wall. How dares he to put hands on poor little Sharon. And she is pregnant for god's sake! Disturbing!

Personally I think every single Pegasus crew member is an asshole. I don't think it's their fault though. I think they are simply acting out because of the strict discipline aboard that ship. Here is what I think:

What is the difference between a good leader and a bad leader? A good leader leads by example, a bad one leads by discipline and fear. Adama is a good leader, Ms. Admiral is a shitty one. How old is she anyway? 30 something maybe? She doesn't look really experienced. She either is some kind of golden child, military genius or she was installed at this high rank due to her connections high up. She probably came from some rich family, and she got her own battlestar straight out of military school. And then her daddy made some phone calls, she schmoozed with the right crowd and she became admiral before hitting 30. She probably has very little real battle experience.

Now I might be wrong, but if I came to this conclusion, then probably 80% of the Pegasus crew did to. Even if she is a great military strategists, being an attractive woman does not help her in the authority area. Her crew simply does not respect her. Adama is a born leader - and he looks the part. Admiral whatshername looks like a stuck up floozie.

To make up for the lack of natural leadership qualities she uses crazy discipline to keep the soldiers in line. Apparently she even executed an officer on the spot for insubordination. Obviously such a thing is not good for the crew morale. You could see that when these soldiers were partying on Galactica. They were like animals who were just released from their leashes.

Adama always had to account for the civilian government, and the public opinion. Even if he didn't always agree with them, in the end he had to make some compromises to keep the fleet from breaking up, and prevent armed conflict within the fleet. He always had civilians counter-balancing the military rule. They provided the much needed reality check for the officers and commanders leading the fleet.

Pegasus had no such thing. They were a battleship, with an insecure, power crazy commander, and an intelligence office who likes to rape the subjects of his interrogations. They had no booze, no downtime and if they were disobedient they got executed via angry head shot. This is what happens when you leave military to itself without popper leadership in place. With a good, experienced commander in charge Pegasus could have been ok. But crazy Ms. Admiral simply brought out the worst in the soldiers under her command.

I think Adama is the man! Screw the bitch! Is she crazy enough to open fire on Galactica with the whole civilian fleet watching? I think if it came to open combat, Galactica has an edge. First, they have more experienced commander in charge. Second, they have the fleet behind them. Sure, most of these ships are unarmed - but few can probably do some damage.

I can't wait to see how this will turn out. The bitch is crazy, but I don't think her crew will not fight against the newly found survivors. I think she will be facing a mutiny on her ship. But that's just my guess...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Ubuntu Firefox Package is totally fux0r3d!

Holy Crap! I have bad flashback to my Knoppix install days when you had to pray to the machine spitits before typing apt-get upgrade. Knoppix is essentially house of cards, when running from CD is works like magic, but the HD installs are temperamental. Every update means pain.

Today I experience the same creeping pain after trying to upgrade my Kubuntu:

Preparing to replace mozilla-firefox 1.0.6-1ubuntu1~5.04ubp1 (using .../mozilla-firefox_1.0.7-0ubuntu0.1_i386.deb) ...
Unpacking replacement mozilla-firefox ...
dpkg: error processing /var/cache/apt/archives/mozilla-firefox_1.0.7-0ubuntu0.1_i386.deb (--unpack):
trying to overwrite `/var/lib/mozilla-firefox/extensions.d/00classic', which is also in package firefox
dpkg-deb: subprocess paste killed by signal (Broken pipe)

What in the hell does that mean? WTF? WTF? WTF? This is stupid!

And guess what - after this error firefox doesn't work anymore. It just refuses start.

I'm about ready to kill someone at this point.

It seems that I have two packages here: firefox and mozilla-firefox. Apparently the first somehow interrupts the second one. So I decided to remove it:

root@inuyasha:~ # apt-get remove firefox
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
Suggested packages:
mozilla-firefox-gnome-support latex-xft-fonts xprt-xprintorg
The following packages will be REMOVED:
The following packages will be upgraded:
1 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 1 to remove and 1 not upgraded.
Need to get 0B/8802kB of archives.
After unpacking 672kB disk space will be freed.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]? y

Preconfiguring packages ...
(Reading database ... 88735 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to replace mozilla-firefox 1.0.6-1ubuntu1~5.04ubp1 (using .../mozilla-firefox_1.0.7-0ubuntu0.1_i386.deb) ...
Unpacking replacement mozilla-firefox ...
dpkg: error processing /var/cache/apt/archives/mozilla-firefox_1.0.7-0ubuntu0.1_i386.deb (--unpack):
trying to overwrite `/var/lib/mozilla-firefox/extensions.d/00classic', which is also in package firefox
dpkg-deb: subprocess paste killed by signal (Broken pipe)
Errors were encountered while processing:
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)

Uh, oh! Machine Spirit of my laptop is mad at me it seems. This is not going to work. Apt for some reason wants to upgrade and then remove - which is exactly the opposite from what I want to do...

This 00classic file seems to be causing all the trouble so let's try doing something to it:

root@inuyasha:~ # cd /var/lib/mozilla-firefox/extensions.d/
root@inuyasha:/var/lib/mozilla-firefox/extensions.d # mv 00classic 00classic.bak
root@inuyasha:/var/lib/mozilla-firefox/extensions.d # apt-get install mozilla-firefox
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree... Done
Suggested packages:
mozilla-firefox-gnome-support latex-xft-fonts xprt-xprintorg
The following packages will be upgraded:
1 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 1 not upgraded.
Need to get 0B/8802kB of archives.
After unpacking 24.6MB of additional disk space will be used.

Preconfiguring packages ...
(Reading database ... 88735 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to replace mozilla-firefox 1.0.6-1ubuntu1~5.04ubp1 (using .../mozilla-firefox_1.0.7-0ubuntu0.1_i386.deb) ...
Unpacking replacement mozilla-firefox ...
dpkg: error processing /var/cache/apt/archives/mozilla-firefox_1.0.7-0ubuntu0.1_i386.deb (--unpack):
trying to overwrite `/var/lib/mozilla-firefox/extensions.d/00classic', which is also in package firefox
dpkg-deb: subprocess paste killed by signal (Broken pipe)
Errors were encountered while processing:
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)

Same message. Damn! Removing the stupid file from extensions.d did not help either.

I'm out of ideas, so it's time to google... But of course Firefox doesn't work... Aaaaagh! And just look at this:

root@inuyasha:/var/lib/mozilla-firefox/extensions.d # ps -ax | grep fire
Warning: bad ps syntax, perhaps a bogus '-'? See http://procps.sf.net/faq.html
15605 ? Sl 0:01 /usr/lib/mozilla-firefox/firefox-bin -a firefox
15721 pts/2 S+ 0:00 grep fire

There is a dead firefox process hiding in the background. Yet, killing it does not do anything. Next time I try to start firefox the same process respawns and dies. Crap! Thank god KDE has a built in browser :)

After a quick google I discovered that I was not alone with this problem. Basically this crap hit the whole Ubuntu community. Someone in the package dept. really fucked up on the newest Firefox release.

Anyways, after browsing that discussion for a bit, I decided to risk my extensions and remove firefox completely (some people indicated that this worked for them).

root@inuyasha:/var/lib/mozilla-firefox/extensions.d # apt-get remove mozilla-firefox
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree... Done
The following packages will be REMOVED:
firefox mozilla-firefox
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 2 to remove and 1 not upgraded.
Need to get 0B of archives.
After unpacking 25.4MB disk space will be freed.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]? y
(Reading database ... 88734 files and directories currently installed.)
Removing firefox ...
Removing mozilla-firefox ...
root@inuyasha:/var/lib/mozilla-firefox/extensions.d # apt-get install mozilla-firefox
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree... Done
Suggested packages:
mozilla-firefox-gnome-support latex-xft-fonts xprt-xprintorg
The following NEW packages will be installed:
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 1 not upgraded.
Need to get 0B/8802kB of archives.
After unpacking 24.7MB of additional disk space will be used.

Preconfiguring packages ...
Selecting previously deselected package mozilla-firefox.
(Reading database ... 88274 files and directories currently installed.)
Unpacking mozilla-firefox (from .../mozilla-firefox_1.0.7-0ubuntu0.1_i386.deb) ...
Setting up mozilla-firefox (1.0.7-0ubuntu0.1) ...
Updating mozilla-firefox chrome registry...done.

Wohoo! It works! I was also able to retain all my settings, extensions and themes! This is awesome. I feel much better now.

Now there remains only one other problem:

root@inuyasha:/var/lib/mozilla-firefox # apt-get upgrade
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree... Done
The following packages will be upgraded:
1 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 0B/15.6MB of archives.
After unpacking 0B of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]? y

Preconfiguring packages ...
(Reading database ... 88733 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to replace linux-image-2.6.10-5-386 2.6.10-34.4 (using .../linux-image-2.6.10-5-386_2.6.10-34.5_i386.deb) ...
The directory /lib/modules/2.6.10-5-386 still exists. Continuing as directed.
Unpacking replacement linux-image-2.6.10-5-386 ...
dpkg: error processing /var/cache/apt/archives/linux-image-2.6.10-5-386_2.6.10-34.5_i386.deb (--unpack):
trying to overwrite `/lib/modules/2.6.10-5-386/kernel/drivers/net/ndiswrapper/ndiswrapper.ko', which is also in package ndiswrapper-modules-2.6.10-5-386
dpkg-deb: subprocess paste killed by signal (Broken pipe)
Searching for GRUB installation directory ... found: /boot/grub .
Testing for an existing GRUB menu.list file... found: /boot/grub/menu.lst .
Searching for splash image... none found, skipping...
Found kernel: /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.10-5-386
Found kernel: /boot/memtest86+.bin
Updating /boot/grub/menu.lst ... done

Errors were encountered while processing:
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)

Something tells me that I will have to remove the fucking ndiswrapper package, recompile and reinstall it again. :( I hate this. I'm not even touching it today...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Digital File Check is Mallware

I think the music greed mongers are going a little bit to far these days. If you want to get pissed off check out the boingboing article about DigitalFileCheck or go straight to the IFPI press release.

These guys apparently decided to release a tool which will remove any P2P applications, and clean "illegal" files from your computer. It's kinda like having Microsoft releasing "firefox removal kit" - but these guys can get away with it by pretending to uphold copyright. Personally I think this is ridiculous. I think any P2P companies on their target list should immediately sue IFPI.

If they are targeting Bit-Torrent applications I think Bram Cohen should be suing the shit out of them right now. I think people should just download this crappy mallware for kicks, name their home recording after popular songs and movies, wait for them to be indexed and deleted as illegal, and then sue these assholes for destroying their property.

I wonder how is software decides which of the shared files are legal and which are not? What if you are sharing the independent movie you made in college? What if you are sharing the video documentary from your trip? What if you share public domain or creative commons works? How can this software distinguish a fresh rip of a newly released song from the recording of your 10 year old niece singing that same song?

I think it's time to show music industry how it feels to be on the receiving end of massive barrage of frivolous litigation. Hey, if Spyware companies can sue Spyware removal firms, P2P businesses should have no problem constructing a case against IFPI.

This makes me sick... And I just know that RIAA will be coming out with their own app shortly. After all they really do go out of their way to upkeep their image of rabid, insane, child suing hatemongers. They will not let IFPI outdo them in the "who can be a bigger asshole to his own customers and get away with it" contest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Machine Spirit Never Sleeps

I ordered a brand new desktop for my little brother on Monday. A brand spanking new 3 GHz of raw power, 512 MB or ram and a hefty 160 GB HD. I made sure it had a decent ATI Radeon graphics card and a nice soundblaster to play nice with his huge subwoofer he bought some time ago. Poor dude was struggling with his junky 800 MHz dumpster box for a while now. I think I'm more excited than him about this, but he does seem to be happy that he will be able to play all the new games, and have a WinXP on board. Before he was happily using win98.

The new box should be shipping in by the end of the week if we are lucky. Funny thing is that the win98 box seems to have figured out what we were doing and got jealous. Yesterday it decided to have a spectacular crash, and even more spectacular barrage of errors after rebooting. The machine spirits are not to be messed with - I tell you! They know when you are sleeping, they know when you're awake.. Oh, wait.. No, that's santa. But santa is a robot, so I guess this works out.

How do you apease a machine spirit btw? Do you need to sacrifice a goat? Or a virgin? Or a goat virgin? We consulted the Adeptus Mechanicus scrolls but we couldn't find anything conclusive.

As far as I can tell, the OS is shot to shit. Multiple system files were corrupted or missing, the registry hive was clusterfucked, and most of the device drivers were gone. I was stumped. It actually looked as if something plowed right through the system. He shouldn't be that easily pwn3d though - he was behind the NAT and had ZoneAlarm working. But then again it's win98 and he is not one of the people who bothers downloading windows updates and such. Just in case someone else owns that box I cranked up my firewall to filter packets from the LAN also.

After much rebooting, and even more cursing I decided to just reinstall. Something is gloriously fucked at a very low level - some dll files magically vanished. Even after re-installing the network card I can't get it to go out beyond the router. I can't even ping the router! But I can ping my desktop from his machine, which is bizarre. I do get an IP, and the gateway and subnet seem to be correct. But win98 just doesn't acknowledge the outside world.

He is going to salvage what he can today, and after I get home we will start the reinstalification :) But then again, I'm beginning to wonder if it's worth it. The new machine should come in by Friday (hopefully). On the drive to work I got an idea. Basically all he needs to survive the day is the internet access (mainly and facebook and myspace) and some word processing capability for homeworks. He could probably survive few days just working of a Knoppix CD. His disk is a FAT32 so he could easily read and write to, and from it giving him a network enabled, un-corruptible workstation. It might be a tad slow but hey - he is used to a 800 MHz speed - reading from the CD will only be a small annoyance :)

I offered to give him my Knoppix CD but he has no clue how to boot it. I'm going to burn the brand spanking new version right now, and see if he likes it when I get home today. I'll boot it up for him and just tell him not to reboot the machine (not that he would need that with linux). And I would love to expose that little ignoramus to linux on some meaningful level :) If I could actually have him using it for a day or two, I think he could really appreciate it's versality and usefulness.

And I really don't feel like installing any OS when I get home today. I'll be there after 9pm. I don't envision starting this thing before 11. Hunting for fucking drivers at 3am is really not my idea of fun. I'd much rather put him on Knop for one evening, and then work on it tomorrow or on Friday. Maybe he will agree to this plan. I guess it all depends how linuxo-phobic he really is.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

1984 in 2005

Students for Orwellian Society is probably one of the funniest, and most brilliant politically charged satires I have seen lately. The examples they bring up are so funny, and yet so true that it chills me to the core. We already are halfway into a 1984 mentality with government recalling reference materials from libraries due to "national security" and newspapers mysteriously censoring their own online archives, and removing politically charged articles.

But they forgot to mention such excellent examples of doublespeak/doublethink as Clear Skies Initiative (which essentially relaxes the anti-pollution regulations set forth by the Clean Air Act) or the Patriot Act. I'm not sure what patriotism has to do with stripping civil liberties from law abiding citizens but hey, if you are against Patriot Act you must not be very patriotic, right? If this is not a prime example of applied doublespeak, I don't know what is :)

I think I'm going to hang the "War is Peace" poster over my desk :)

Monday, September 19, 2005

I have a thesis! Access Point must die!

Well, it seems that I'm back on track with the thesis work. I went from databases to distributed hyperspectral image analysis but hey, it sounds interesting.

Now I just need to figure out what to do about my PHD plans. The question is, should I be going nuts about this right now, or should I take it easy? I mean, if I miss some deadlines I can hallways take a semester/year off and then go back. I guess I'll need to figure this out soon...

Not today though. To tired. Long day ahead tomorrow... I'm planning to take the sledgehammer to our access point at work, because it is pissing me off. Why the hell does that thing only starts dropping connection when I'm not in the office? I just love when people call me every ten minutes just to tell me the wireless is down... Or up... Or down again.

Yes Mr. Linksys Access Point, your fate is sealed. Tomorrow you will meet Mr. Garbage Can and Mr. Stomping Shoe (not necessarily in that order).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Residential Evil: Crapocalypse

I just saw Resident Evil: Apocalypse on HBO. I expected it to be a crappy movie (considering the overall shittiness of the first one), but this was worse than I could have imagined. I'm really glad I never seen it in the theater, and I didn't waste money for the rental. There are only two redeemable features of this movie: Mila Jovovich and Mila Jovovich kicking ass.

She actually is the single person on the cast who can actually act. The first movie at least had Michelle Rodriguez. Mila and Michelle basically carried that movie, and made it watchable. And at least Michelle was in full combat gear in the first movie. We didn't get to see much skin, but hey - at least they made an attempt to make it look realistic. Mila still did high kick in heels but she was the leading lady so I guess that's forgivable due to the coolness factor they were trying to work.

In the second movie, the second in command in the hot-chick-kicking-ass is Sienna Guillory. While she is attractive, she is nowhere near as good actress as Mila and it shows. Maybe left on her own Sienna could pass for a moderate actress, but when standing next to the freakin Joan of Ark she just comes off wooden.

And what the hell is with these outfits? In the last movie Mila had a good excuse to run around in Heels and a mini. Here we have both tough agent chick and Mila wearing skimpy, restraining clothes by choice. If you were going to fight zombies wouldn't you wear thick (to stop the biting) but comfortable jeans rather than a miniskirt?

They of course had to put in a token black guy in there too. I think he the single black person with any lines, and he is mostly used for comic relief.

Mila is the star of the show and she simply make everyone around her look like an amateur high school drama club. I'm actually amazed that she could actually emote anything with a script this bad. And yet she does a great job. She is a pleasure to watch, as usual. She is simply too good for a movie like this.

I really hope she will get some more ambitious roles in the future. She should definitely get out of the next installment of Resident Evil. But they probably won't let her. By now she basically defines the franchise and they will milk it till it runs dry.

She also might be doing another RE like movie called Ultraviolet. I think it will be really, really bad movie, but I might be wrong. The Fade Out movie looks intriguing, but chances are that Billy Bob will ruin it and they will reduce Mila to love interest / token character... I think they should drop Thornton from that one and give the lead role to Mila. She can play these unhinged characters really well - just watch the The Messenger.

Books for Dummies

I stumbled upon this book while browsing around on amazon. I think the cover shown to the left here speaks for itself. If you actually need this book, you most definitely are a dummy!

I think the dummies books are a good thing in general. They are a great way to make an approachable, introduction to difficult subjects. They usually explain the jargon, and put difficult things in layman's terms. Someone who read a dummies book on HTML for example is now able to graduate to online tutorials, and can buy a fully fledged book on web design.

But this seems to be kindoff stretching it. Who needs a book on playing games? For me, part of the gaming experience is figuring out all the ins and outs of the game. I bet the author of this book had tons of fun writing it, but I'm really surprised it actually got published.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Battlestar Cluelessness

Alright. This is the first time I feel a need to rant about Battlestar lameness. This always happens when a show or a movie decides to talk about something that I know intimately and then gets it wrong.

Apparently Cylons have installed a hidden "logic bomb" in Galactica systems. I'd call it a rootkit+trojan but who cares. What pisses me off is that to find the rootkit they decided to "go through the code line by line". What? What code? Does Galactica onboard systems run on a interpreted language? And if you have the code, how the fuck can you not find shit that was not there before? Here is a hint:

diff old_code new_code

Yea, that's how simple would it be to find a rootkit if you'd have the code. Therefore I call bullshit on this. Any large system with this kind of scope needs to access the hardware directly, and hence it will be written in a fast native language, and compiled. You use the system in binary form only.

When someone breaks into your system, and installs a rootkit - they do that by swapping out one or more of your binary files for a tampered one - which contains viral code. The dead giveaway of a rootkit is the fact that a tampered file will hash to a different value than the original.

Now if you don't know where to look for the rootkit, you essentially need to take a hash of every single binary on your system. And you can never be sure that something is not modifying the binaries you just cleared behind your back. In other words, you are rooted. The only way to fix this is to recompile or wipe and reinstall.

Which is essentially what they did on the show. But not after much talk about the code. Source code does not have anything to do with finding a rootkit. It's the binaries that were corrupted - the code is intact! The only thing they could have been reading were hexdumps of binaries or perhaps some disassembler verbiage. I'll say hexdumps because their "code" seemed very dense regular with separate columns.

Sharon somehow magically takes one look at the code, and recognizes the "virus". First of all, we already established that they are probably looking at hexdumps. I don't care if you are a cylon. If you can look at page of hex and say "ah, that's the malicious code right there" you are a fucking digital god or something. And even if it is high level code - most of the time I can't even figure out what the hell did I code three months ago without spending quite a bit of time refreshing my memory. Sure, she is a Cylon, but it would be much more realistic to show her studying the code for few hours before freaking out.

And don't give me that "their technology is much more advanced than this" bullshit. If you think this way, it just shows that you are clueless. Everything I have seen on that show suggests that their electronics are not that much different from ours. Sure, they probably have figured out some really nifty stuff in the OS field, and they probably don't use C (but I wouldn't be surprised if they were running on a legacy COBOL system lol). But the basic concepts are the same.

Anyways... It's interesting to see that Sharon does have mechanical parts in her. The port in the wrist thing is kinda useful it seems. But this type of thing could probably be easily tested for. Wouldn't it show up on x-rays? Is it bio-based technology?

Now whoever tells me that Sharon "hacked" the Cylon attack ships will be punched in the head. It is very obvious to me that as one of the higher caste Cylons she still holds the absolute power over her metallic brethren. I think any meat-based cylon could do the same thing - ie. switch off bunch of attack grad machines. Furthermore, if Galactica Sharon is an exact copy of the Cylon Sharon model, then they probably can't take away this ability from her, without locking out all the other active Sharon models out there.

I liked the episode but this stupid rootkit hunting stuff annoyed me.

First Experience with Enlightenment

I checked out Elive Website, a live Linux distro (based on Morphix) using Enlightenment as the window manager. I'm a KDE user, and I don't see myself switching to anything else at this point I do like to try new things. KDE is not just the window manager - it is a whole application suite. But I digress...

Anyways, I the cd is very nice. It comes with both Enlightenment 17 and 16 and asks you which one you want to load at startup. I picked 17 because I wanted to see the shiny, spiffy version.

First impression after booting - wow, nice! Animated desktop image is definitely cute. I also like how the pager lights up when you switch the screens. Unfortunately to fully experience this windowing manager you need to have a 3 button mouse. I booted it on a laptop so I only had 2 buttons on the touchpad. In addition, by default Enlightenment registers a tap as a left click. Left click on the desktop opens an application menu. This is mighty annoying when you try to move the cursor from one side of the screen to another with a tiny touchpad.

I think Enlightenment uses CTRL click, SHIFT click and ALT click for all 3 mouse buttons. Each unlocks different menu and/or functionality. In the short time I was playing with it never got the hang of this. I actually had a hard time finding anything. I'm used to KDE having configuration stuff in easy to find places (like System and Utilities menus). I could not find a mouse config feature to disable that annoying tap-is-click feature. In the end I gave up and left it alone.

Another mouse oddity is the desktop switching feature. If you scroll off the screen, enlightenment will automatically switch you to the next desktop and wrap around the cursor. It's kinda like the asteroids game - you go off on the right side, and your cursor comes out from the left edge of the screen on the next desktop. It's definitely a cool feature. Part of me would like to have that in KDE. but in everyday use it might be really annoying - accidentally switching desktops every 5 minutes might suck.

The file manager called Evidence is horrible. If you hover over a file or folder it dims the whole window and displays properties. I found it annoying as hell - especially when you are looking for something. What happened to the good old non-intrusive tooltip?

I don't think Enlightenment is for me. I'll stick with KDE. But the version 17 definitely has some really cool eye candy, non-features that I kinda liked. The LiveCD is worth checking out for the novelty factor. I don't think it could ever be as useful as Knoppix or Slax. But if you want to check out Enlightenment without installing it, EliveCD is the way to go.

God! Why people don't mak their emails NSFW!

A former co-worker just sent me an email with a picture of some extensive boobage. I normally wouldn't mind, but I'm at work right now. My cube is huddled in the corner opposite the little printing station (which has the 2 company printers and fax machine). Pretty much anyone walking down the hallway, picking up papers from the printers or sending a fax has a perfect view of my screen.

So I'm sitting here, I pull up my Gmail and see the email from this guy. I open it, and it says something like "hey, take a look at these -- scroll down ---". Now this should have tipped me off right away but I did scroll down anyway... What do I see on the screen? Boobs! Agh! Panic! Panic! Abort! Abort! Scroll away, scroll away! Aaaa!

Fortunately no one was at the printers, but geez!

A simple NSFW or at least "do not open this at work" (for acronym impaired people) disclaimer would really be a helpful hint here. I'm amazed how many people do not understand this.

Meetings in Deep Space

Do this thought experiment for me. Pick a science fiction movie or a TV show. You can pick whatever you want, as long as this movie or show has space ships and contains at least one scene where 2 or more ships meet/battle in deep space. Got one? Ok, now recall this deep space scene. I will bet you that no matter what movie you picked you will see the same strange little thing. For some strange reason all the ships are aligned to some invisible plane. In other words, all the ships are situated so that you can define one direction which will mean "down" to all the ships on the screen (sans some fighters zooming around really fast).

There is also something you will never see - a ship situated so that it is perpendicular to one or more of it's neighbors. If it's a battle scene, you will always see ships attacking head on, or tailing the enemy - but never attacking from above or below. When a ship rams another ship, they will either ram the enemies prow, or the side. Why the hell is that? Space is 3D, yet most of movie makers treat space battles like sea battles - only with invisible water line.

Sure it makes sense that during battle ships would align to carry out an attack - but then again once they start fighting there should be considerable amount of movement up and down. Actually, the only way a pilot can define "up" is by looking at other ships - once everyone starts rolling and pivoting to get in a good shooting position, you loose that point of reference. It would not make sense to try to align to some pre-defined plane in space during battle.

Same thing goes for peaceful encounters. You always have two ships, traveling to different destinations, taking different routes and etc. Yet, when they meet they always somehow manage to end up in prow to prow position. Similarly, if you are planning to dock, or move allot of cargo from one ship to another it would make sense. Now in battle it might be useful to position yourself this way. But when you are just chattering on the comms or beaming people up and down, or send out swift moving transport pods - why bother? If you can beam someone to the other ship, does it matter if it is upside down, or perpendicular to you?

This is one of my pet peeves. I really think most of the people who make these shows, and movies simply can't figure out that 3D space thing. I'm not even going to mention the horrible abuse of physics in most of scifi movies. This is a topic for a whole other rant... But is is really that difficult to show two ships in space that are not perfectly aligned?

BTW, if your show/movie (the one you picked at the beginning) did portray the ships perpendicular, upside down and at weird angles to each other - please let me know! I want to see it!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I need to APPLY!

I'm a procrastinator... Making big decisions is not really my thing so I tend to wait till the last minute. For example, I haven't decided if I want to go to do my MS until my last semester as an undergrad.

Similarly, I'm two semesters away from a Masters and I still don't know if I want to continue my education. I think I do want to get a PHD but I still don't have this crystal clarity of mind that comes about only when you make decisions the last minute.

But I think the last minute is here already. I just talked to one of my professors and he told me that if I want to get to a decent school I need to start applying now. Crap!

I don't even know where to go... Who has good CS programs around here? I definitely want to stay local, but I have no clue which schools are good and which suck. I spent the past 5 years of my life here at MSU. I would do a PHD here, but we don't even have a CS PHD program here. I figured I'll sort all of this out next semester - but it seems like I might need to start now.

Of course if I fuck this up and apply to late, I can always take a semester/year off and try looking for a job in the industry. Sigh... I'm confused...

State of total clulessness at MSU

It is sad... Not a single person in my Image Processing class has a clue about how text files work. The task is simple - you need to prepend a 3 line header to a binary file. Easy as pie - you create a new file, write out the header, and then just copy everything over from the binary file.

I had like 5 people arguing that you can just easily prepend stuff to files. They were looking at me funny, and trying to explain to me how "you just have to seek to the beginning of the file and insert 3 blank lines". At first I thought they were just joking, but no - they were deadly serious. I mean, what the hell do they think a blank line is? It's a fucking ASCII character! Jesus!

This were all graduate students! Every single one of them had a BS in computer science, engineering or electronics or whatnot. But not a single person knew how files work. This is sad...

I mean come on! I know that this is how a text editor works, but text editors do not work on files. They work on buffers! It is easy to prepend strings to beginning of a memory buffer. It is easy to rearrange stuff in memory. It is actually easier, and more efficient to read in and write out a whole file rather than shift it by n bytes to accommodate the header.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

USPTO tries to brainwash your children!

I stumbled upon this while browsing boingboing today, and I must say this page makes my skin crawl. If I ever have children remind me to add uspto.gov to the web filtering software. Besides, I think pr0n is much healthier for children than this revolting propaganda.

I think the "birds and the bees" conversation will be much more straightforward than the ethically overburdened "why entertainment industry tries to destroy fair-use" talk.

The one quote that really disturbed me was this:

Your mom gave you a printer that can print out iron-on transfers and you want to make a bunch of T-shirts with a famous cartoon character or movie star screaming your name.

IANAL but I think that making a custom "Bugs Bunny Hearts Little Johny" t-shirt for your kid hardly seems like copyright infringement. I would argue that this would fall under fair use. I think you are fine as long as you don't make the t-shirts for the whole neighborhood, or sell them to people.

How about this one:

You capture pictures from TV shows and post them on your website along with soundbytes that make you laugh.

You mean that the 62,600,000 web pages indexed by google under the keyword "screenshots", are committing some horrible copyright infringement crimes? Please tell me how does bunch of grainy battlestar galactica screencaps posted on the web financially hurts the people who produce the show? Is a kid posting the 15 second wave clip of the ewok song financially hurting George Lucas?

I used to moderate on a popular farscape message board and I knew people who had literally gigabytes of DVD quality screen captures, and hours of sound clips posted on their web pages. No one ever said anything to anyone. The only time Henson lawyers got involved was when people were selling t-shirts with Farscape logo on them.

This has always been a gray area. If you seek your lawyers against the screen-grabbers you are basically pissing off the most rabid, zealot fans. They usually have big following, as fans rally around them creating their own internet societies. These people are advertising your show for free! Geez...

You need to do a report for school and you found one on-line that's exactly what you were planning to write.

I'm at a complete loss with this one. Do people at USPTO know how to spell reference material? Obviously, they can't spell "prior art" but that's a whole different story...

Wendy Seltzer comments on the other questions in her blog. She makes some excellent points there.

Sigh... I think that teaching children about the counter-intuitive concept of "intellectual property" might be one of the hardest things I might have to do as a parent one day. How do you educate your children without mindlessly repeating the brain-damaging propaganda? How do you tell them the truth about greed, corporate corruption, and effects of clinging to a broken business model without destroying their innocence? How do you teach them how to fight the copyfight, and at the same time make them aware of the dangers of un-inhibited infringement?

Sex and terrorism are the easy things to explain compared to this...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

This is why I will NEVER buy TiVo

Remember when TiVo was the coolest thing under the sun because it actually "learned" what you liked and recorded stuff for you? It was hyped as the ultimate appliance for a TV viewer - a little box that will save all your shows, and devote it's existence to finding TV that you, the consumer, would actually consider worthy of watching.

But it seems that all of this is just bunch of hype. Apparently TiVo nowadays cares more about the copyright holders than about it's clients. Some poor users just found out that some of the shows aired on popular networks can only be saved for 7 days due to some shady copyright restrictions. Wait... What restrictions? There are no restrictions that prohibit recording TV shows.

Cory Doctorow says it best:

Hey, TiVo: since 1984's Betamax decision, Americans have had the right to record TV shows even if the rightsholder doesn't like the idea. That's straight from the Supreme Court's mouth.

PVRBlog has more info, and screenshots. Note the wording on the TiVo warnings. They tell you that the recording will be deleted because of policy set by copyright holder. Hey, I can make a policy too. Anyone can make their own policy. But policies don't mean anything. No one is allowed to tell me what I can or cannot tape! There is no law anywhere saying that you need to honor any kind of policy set forth by the copyright holder when it comes to TV broadcast. How come everyone else can tape these shows just fine - only TiVo customers are screwed?

This is very short sighted move for TiVo. They are undoubtedly accepting some nice "donation" from the industry in exchange for removing functionality from their product. But guess what? This will make them loose customers! There is no way in hell I would buy a TiVo set after seeing this.

And just imagine how this is going to piss off someone that just came back from a long business trip just to find out that TiVo deleted all the episodes of his favorite show due to some stupid policy.

And I guess this is what the entertainment industry is aiming for. They sure as hell don't want any customer friendly products on the market. They are scared shitless of anything that can make digital recordings. TiVo scares them, so they aim to reduce it's customer base by taking away the most appealing thing about the product - the ability to record and save shows for unlimited period of time.

First you bribe it, then you cripple it, then you wait until it loose all the good customers, then you buy it and finally you run it into the ground. Scary technology eliminated...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Dumb Security Ideas

I just found this article on slashdot. I think the author makes some very good points.

However, I do feel that allot of what he is saying could be easily used to push the TCPA agenda. Especially his points about Default Permit and Enumerating Badness could be twisted to support TCPA. Don't get me wrong, I think he makes very good points here. I really think Default Deny policies and white listing are conceptually better ideas than what we have now.

But the author fails to account for different levels of security. What works for corporate environment does not necessarily work for Joe Public's home desktop. What works in an accounting firm does not necessarily will work well in a C++ based dev shop.

While default deny will work wonders for the secretaries and accountants of the world, it may be bothersome for developers who need to constantly test their code. If you implement this policy in a dev shop, you will either have to create special sandboxes where people can run their code, or give the developers power to execute whatever they want. Either way, you must wave the default deny policy for them - which means implementing it was pointless in the first place.

Similarly, the only person who should be allowed to judge what is and is not allowed to run on my computer is me. Not Microsoft, not Intel, not the Flying Spaghetti Monster! I am the supreme authority when it comes to my PC. And if I want to install a worm that will wipe my drive, I should be allowed to do so!

The Default Deny, and Enumerating Goodness policies are great guidelines when designing software in general - but only when you keep in mind the different layers of security.

While an accounting firm has a smart Sysadmin who can establish the "trust" rules in accordance with company policies, a home user should have full authority over their system. No one should be able to dictate these "trust" rules to the average desktop user.

This is where Unix security model gets it right. A dumb user should be allowed to hurt himself badly, but a mistake of a single user can never be allowed to hurt the system itself (not mentioning the whole network). Routing around user stupidity is only acceptable up to a point.

To use analogy, system security is akin to national security. You need to make system as secure as possible within certain bounds. When you start trading personal freedom and liberty for increased security you are in trouble. The Patriot Act is wrong for the same reason TCPA is wrong. Go ahead - think about it. You know this is true.

Javascript Based Games

Lately more and more javascript, DHTML based games are emerging on the web. Prime examples of this new trend are the Javascript Mario and DHTML Lemmings. Both of these were mentioned on boinbboing this week, here and here.

I'm actually amazed how well these things are done. I'm in awe of the amount of work that had to be done to make these work both in IE and Mozilla.

It also shows the sheer power of Javascript. You can make it do almost anything if you put your mind to it. For now, these little games are simply display of someone's formidable javascript hacking skills. But I can imagine more of these things popping up all over the place.

My question is, will Javascript hackers give the smug and stuck up Flash animators run for their money? Sure, there is allot that you can't do in dhtml - but if can do Mario and you can do Lemmings, you can probably also do every single tetris, arkanoid and other classic arcade game.

Allot of the simple flash games out there are just that - old ideas wrapped in a flash implementation. These dhtml games prove that for this type of games, a chunky, slow loading Flash can be reliably replaced by some javascript magic. Maybe this will cause some healthy competition in the little stagnant flash world?

I'm not saying DHTML could ever replace Flash. I don't think that would be possible. There will always be place for beautiful animations, and high paced flash games. But if the simple mario or tetris clones could be done without the proprietary Flash technology then someone will eventually put together a toolkit that will make this easy and affordable.

Or maybe this is just a passing fad, and making dhtml games is to freaking complex and annoying to ever catch on.

Fullmetal is back!

This is awesome! Adult Swim will start showing new episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist starting next Saturday! I'm so excited!

Fullmetal is one of my favorite anime shows. If you never watched it, you should definitely check it out. It has this amazing mixture of suspense, mystery, philosophical depth and zany humor that can only be found in Japanese animation.

I absolutely love the setting of the show. The militaristic state ruled by a sympathetic, yet despotic Fuehrer is really original and refreshing. It combines a very retro style (steam trains are the main mode of transportation, weapons are usually WWII style rifles and pistols) with some high-tech elements such as auto-mail (mechanical prosthetic libs and etc...).

It really makes you think. This would probably be how our world would look like if we had alchemy! The technology is primitive for the most part, because you can create almost anything with alchemy. Hence weapons and transportation are kindof frozen in place.

On the other hand, the only area which cannot be fixed by Alchemy - is blooming. Since it is forbidden (and dangerous) to restore lost limbs using Alchemy they have an amazing technology which allows them to build mechanical libs that can act as well or better than original ones.

It's a really great show! Definitely check it out!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Speculating about Sharons hybrid baby...

Ok, we have learned two things today. First, we now know Sharon was honest when she said she does not maintain any communication with the Cylons. They seemed to be surprised to see her. So she is clearly acting independently at the moment.

However, it seems that Cylons knew about the baby all along. They seem to be very excited that it survived. Which suggests that they allowed Sharon to break free on purpose. They did not really expect her to infiltrate Galactica this easily, nor did they plan for the baby to survive. But it seems that they are pleased with the outcome.

Now, my question is - why is Sharon special? As far as we know the Cylon clones are incapable of reproduction. I'm not clear why... The obvious answer is that their main mode of reproduction is cloning. Since you can't achieve perfect copies via mating, you need to use clone farms.

Furthermore, Cylon clones are biologically different than humans. They have to be to allow them to effortlessly share memories. This could be accomplished by some bio-cybernetic technology that can be worked into the Cylon gene templates that are then grown on these farms.

I'm thinking that Sharon is their little eugenics experiment. But I can't believe they haven't tried crossing a Cylon with a Human before. Why then is she so special? Was the Boomer template tweaked to ensure maximum compatibility with human DNA? Was she designed to be a prototype mother for a hybrid? Will her baby in some way significant?

This doesn't make much sense unless... Could Cylons be seeking to produce their own Kwisatz Haderach? Some kind of special engineered messiah figure? A human-cylon hybrid which will act as a catalyst, at some crucial point in the future. They install Baltar on galactica to make sure the baby gets maneuvered into position of political significance at an appropriate time, and then they play their wildcard by releasing Sharon into the wild.

Think about it - a child of the Cylon god, born out of love of a "rebellious" Cylon and a conflicted human. Raised among humans, and tutored by the man haunted by god's angel (after all #6 described herself as such). Let's' face it - if this is not a messianic story in the making, I don't know what is.

Now the baby will grow up at the crossroads - living among humans, but knowing that he/she is half-Cylon. If you put someone like this into position of political power you can expect fireworks fly. Such a person can achieve something unpredictably spectacular - either save or destroy the surviving humans. It can forever break apart, or forever unite the two races. Or do something completely un-accounted for - a wildcard that can light a spark and cause some explosion that the cylon-god cannot predict.

But then again, this is kinda far fetched speculation.

Some people get it, some people dont...

Here is a prime example of how some people in the entertainment industry "get it".

John Steward, the host of the popular Daily Show on Comedy Central recently said that he does not mind people sharing his show on the p2p networks. Unlike some other people in the industry, John understands that the Internet is here to stay. You can either adapt, or be swept away and forgotten.

Adult Swim - a incredibly popular, late night segment running on Cartoon Network actually puts their money where their mouth is. They are actually planning to distribute some of their original shows online.

On the other hand of course you have RIAA extorting money from poor college students without showing them a shred of evidence. This is not new - just some more of the same idiotic routine.

So let's summarize. The two very hip, very popular TV productions are for file sharing. They collectively have a very strong fan base composed of intelligent, educated people in their 20's and 30's with lots of disposable income. In other words they have the most sought for demographic. This demographic also covers the large part of the net citizenry of today. You have to admit that most of the online message boards, blogs, file trading sites and such are manned by people 18-30, mostly college students, or college graduates. These are the people who make the "internets" happen!

Hence, if you want this demographic you have to cater to them - by turning a blind eye to sharing, or actively putting content online. This is how you make the crazy internet crowd love you even more, and buy your crappy tie ins and tshirts!

RIAA on the other hand are quickly loosing that demographic. Smart, educated people get pissed when you extort money from them. If they are loosing money (which I doubt) it is not because of "piracy". It's because they are going out of their way to piss off their best clients.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Mars Miners

Wired is running a very interesting story on a company dubbed 4Frontiers. Apparently these guys really enjoy Flash because I can't see shit on their website (I don't have Flash plugin installed on my laptop yet). But in addition to love of Flash these guys also have bold plans to set up mining facilities on Mars.

4Frontiers (the four being the Earth, moon, Mars and the main asteroid belt) will be ready in 2025 with the tools that space explorers will need to colonize the solar system, said Bruno Marino, a consultant to the company.

What makes this group so unique is that it is all about getting on the surface of Mars and making the settlement," said Marino. "We are ready to set up shop as soon as we can get on the surface.

This is awesome! I knew that this will happen sooner or later. Large scale space conquest and expansion can only happen if space is privatized. We have already seen first private spaceships reaching the orbit. Now we will see first companies cashing in on space. I'll be around 50 around the time they are planning to start mining Mars (that is if the DRM related annoyances won't give me heart attack before that). Which means that I might see the beggining of the space exploration era! It is my little dream to actually see first colonies established on Moon and Mars within my lifetime.

If these guys are serious about this, and not just pulling some lame publicity stunt, I might just get my wish come true.

FEMA Discrimination

Non compliant, IE only websites piss me off. If you design a website for IE only, you are an idiot, and you apparently do not care for my traffic. If I can't browse your website in my browser of choice, I'm not going to bother with it at all...

Unless of course I'm a hurricane victim and I need to file a claim. FEMA of course does not care about the victims who do not have access to windows. What if the only computer I managed to dig out of the mud is an old Apple? Or a Linux box? Do you really think these people can pick and choose their operating system? Most of these people lost everything! If they can get access to a working computer for few minutes they are lucky!

This is seriously fucked up! But that's not all. To file a claim you also have to pass through CAPTCHA. If you are blind, or if you lost your corrective lenses in the flood you are fucked. Because there is no way in hell you are going to pass that test without adequate vision. Hell, I have 20/20 and I had trouble identifying some of the letters on that thing.

In other words - if you don't use windows, you're not going to file a claim. If you are blind, or have trouble reading distorted letters from the screen and need an assistance of screen reader - you can forget about filing. And if you are camping out in some group shelter in the affected area you can forget about calling their phone number either because apparently you cant file over the phone. They will mail you the form... As we know, mail does not reach all the affected ares yet, so you are royally fucked!

Apparently they do know about Section 508. Someone did put up that disclaimer there. But apparently the webmaster did not get that memo or something. He should be fired, then re-hired, and then fired again for such a blatant disregard to freaken governmental usability standards!

If this pisses you off, please feel free to write them an angry email FEMAOPA@dhs.gov