Terminally Incoherent

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

Monday, October 31, 2005

Nmap madness at MSU continues...

Well, it seems that the two machines in the GA office were employed in some extensive port scanning. In fact, they managed to DoS the mailserver so the IT took them off the network. Brilliant! At least I know that I didn't really show how to do a wide range scan to anyone - so I can't feel guilty about this.

And I know that my scans did not DoS the mailserver because I did them two weeks ago, and no one complained. I finally got to sift through the nmap logs today, and I have found bunch of goodies. I won't post anything here for security reasons, but believe me - there are some interesting things out there.

For example, the network printers are just ripe for abuse. Some of them are running their own web servers which host web-based management tools. I was able to access some of these control panels without any authorization. In fact, in most cases I could change any settings I wanted, including the IP of the printer and the default gateway. Scarry! There has to be a way to lock these things down somehow!

Also here is a fun exercise for you - freddie has echo service running on port 7. How do we utilize that to perform a DoS attack? This thing seriously freaks me out.

And could someone please do something about that goddamn open relay on pegasus? Are you people asking for fucking trouble? I'm just waiting for some idiot to get his hands on that smtp server. Open LDAP + open relay SMTP server is a very, very dangerous combination. We will one day drown in spam! Sigh...

Happy Haloween!

Monster Jackson
Monster Jackson,
originally uploaded by maciakl.
Well, it's almost Halloween so I figured I post this here. I found this mask on display in a Halloween store on Bloomfield Ave in Montclair. I don't know about you, but I find it funny that Michael Jackson sits right between the devil and the skull :)

I mean, don't get me wrong - the dude is seriously scary. With the falling of nose, bleached skin and the child molesting - if I saw him on the street I would start running :P So I guess he does fit in the pantheon of Halloween monsters.

Btw, if you want to check out the mask, it is no longer in the window there. They either pulled it from the display, or someone bought it or something...

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Logan, what were you thinking!

Early Wolverine Outfit (note the whiskers!) courtesy retroCRUSH
Holly poop on a stick! Is that Wolverine? OMG! What is he wearing! Did you see that mask? He has freakin whiskers on it! I know that first attempt at superhero costume is usually lame, but this is retarded :P

This was apparently Logan's very first appearance - way before the X-Men. This was from the Incredible Hulk comic book.

I found it at retroCRUSH among other examples of very bad superhero costume designs.

Pictures found on teh Internets

Allright, I was bored... Since I have nothing good to say here are some pictures found on the web that cracked me up:

Funniest exchange Evar!

Was this guy in one of my 109 classes? I do not recognize the face, but the way he handles his computer... Must be a 109 student!


I'm usually not into crossplay, furries and this type of bullshit but these sailor moon chicks somehow seem kinda cute despite looking absolutely retarded in the anime outfits:

Crossplay Chicks

You see, when GWB was learning geonomography they drew him this map so that he wouldn't get confused:

World According to Dubya

This one is priceless - it makes me chuckle just looking at it:

Yes, God - Please!

This is how you can get your mom to use Linux:

Linux in a Supermarket!

I found these in random places - most at nata2.info, but the site claimed they are all public domain shots.

Friday, October 28, 2005

This is Awesome!

Holly crap! This is awesome! Some guy does a perfect Mario tune on a Chapman Stick. I don't know why but hearing this just makes me smile :)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Grace has a fansite :)

First Good Grace Park Fansite
Well, it seems that Grace Park got herself a decent and up-to date website :) I was thinking that I will have to make one myself since no one was going to do it. But someone did took on the responsibility to scour the web searching for all things Grace. Anyways, check it out at http://www.graceparknews.com/.

Once you are at it, check out the video section. You are in for a treat - they actually have that scene from Romeo Must Die there :) That and an awesome promo clip from her Maxim shot.

Here is the RSS feed. Of course the maintainer forgot to add autodetection tag, so Firefox won't pick it up automatically :P

Anti Blogging Practices in Forbes

Wow... I'm really surprised that Forbes published what can only be called the official guide to harassing innocent bloggers. I always thought that this type of stuff was done by unscrupulous, shady companies. I thought that forbes was a decent, legit magazine... I guess not.

Come on, what kind of business advice is this? If someone speaks bad about your product, you want to go humiliate him? You want to threaten his ISP with a lawsuit? You have your splog drones churn out inflammatory posts on him day and night? Holy friken shit! This is crazy! If I don't like your crap, I will talk shit about it using any medium I want. If my ranting cuts into your bottom line, you should probably look into fixing whatever causes these complains. I don't care how good your product is - if you are in the business of harassing bloggers, you will loose me as a customer.

If your competitor is using splogers to spread lies about you, the correct response is not to turn around and do the same. What the hell? Do you want a total friken spamwar to break out? How do you distinguish between a private blogger who simply was disappointed with your product/service and a private blogger who just happens to take money under the table from your competitor? Are you going to investigate every single blogger that mentions you? This is not a solution - this is asking for trouble!

Sigh... The numbers in that article look kinda like RIAA sales loss figures. Where did you get them? How were they collected? Sigh...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Unsigned Primitives

Why doesn't Java have unsigned primitives? I can never wrap my head around this. How hard would it be to implement unsigned arithmetic? Every single other strongly typed language out there has them!

I love Java, but this always bothered me. Java does not exist in a vacuum. Sure, when you are working in pure java environment, with pure java standards, and data formats you are fine. But in the real word, sometimes data uses non-java friendly conventions. Especially in imaging. Most images use unsigned ints or bytes to store pixels. Sure, you can always use an int to store a byte but this is wasteful.

Furthermore, most of Java API's work with signed data. If you are just crunching numbers, this is usually not a big problem - but if you try to do something more fancy you run into issues. For example - awt package has some nice image display capabilities. I do not feel like implementing a rendering algorithm for my data. I also do not want to use JAI, because it is not standard, not mature enough. I want to use the existing API - but I can't really plug a wraparound primitive into it. While byte in an int works fine (if you tweak the color model to only use 8 low order bits) an unsigned int might be a problem. There are no API's which work with long types, so int cannot be wrapped into a higher order primitive this way.

So, I might need to check for these things and normalize the data somehow. Now, the big question is - should a negative int be converted to the min or the max value? I guess it is relative...

Seriously though - is there a reason for leaving out unsigned primitives? Any reason at all? Or was this done on a whim?

I still like java, I'm just slightly irritated :P

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Disney DRM's the Oscar Review Copies

It seems that Disney does not trust the movie reviewers. According to slashdot, they will now be sending all the pre-release reviewer DVD's encrypted and watermarked, and only in a format playable in a Disney issued DVD player.

Apparently each of these DVD players requires on-the-phone registration, and special setup. Furthermore they are considered to be slow, unresponsive and do not have any advanced features users come to expect from a standard player. Hell, if I was a reviewer I would send this damn thing back and tell them to stuff it. Or I would write a jaded review explaining in detail how Dinsney anti-piracy measures ruined my viewing experience.

Besides, we all know DRM is a joke. It will continue to be a joke until you introduce TCPA and allow movie studios to play a big brother tracking how many times you play their movie, and who do you give it to. By my calculations we still have at least few years till the world is brainwashed enough to sell itself to Microsoft. And by that time we will probably have no more civil liberties left so it really won't matter that much anymore.

All you need to do defeat these measures is to record the analog copy by tapping the wire between the DVD and TV and then run the output through some noise equalization algorithm. If you are extra paranoid, resample the movie at a lower framerate. You might loose quality, but any watermark that was there will probably be messed up throughly. These people do not realize that all of this could be done by a 14 year old kid. All they are doing here is wasting money. Sure, Joe Average Reviewer probably does not have enough know how to rip the crippled move - but I bet Junior from next door who has been cranking out 0-day releases since he was 10 (so for 2 years now) will have no problem with it.

Fortunately Sony and Universal have enough common sense not to waste money like this. Or do they? Here is what slashdot readers thing about this:

I hear that Sony and Universal are making the reviewers watch the movies from jail, and letting them out when the movie is officially released.

I would say this actually sounds very plausible.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Nmap Madness

Dr. Robila showed the class nmap recently, and asked us to do a port scan on some of the campus machines as part of our assignment. For me this was a good excuse to run an exhaustive port scan on the whole IP range. Now I have a complete list of hosts along with open ports, OS information and so on - in other words, bag of goodies :)

I figured that if Joe Yun barges into my office to dish out some vicious LART'ing I can always say "Robila made me do it". Besides, I don't think he could track me by IP - I bring my laptop and I get my IP from DHCP so I probably get a fresh one every time I power up my machine.

Apparently few other people had the same idea as me (either that or they were clueless). Anyways, the IT guys did go hunting and pulled few of the school machines from service. Apparently James was using the department machine to do his scans, because it was gone today. So they do notice these things :) It's good to know.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Googling for Grace Park

Grace Park kissing a Girl :)
Every once in a while, I visit fubar - mainly because Justin likes to post pictures of Jessica Alba, Kristin Kreuk, Scarlett Johanson and Grace Park (even though he claims to hate all of them except Scarlett :P). Anyways, recently he posted about Grace Park and Kristin Kreuk starring together on some Canadian tv show, where they have some lesbian thing going on.

Naturally I decided to do some googling to see if I can find more pictures. Didn't find anything interesting from that show - but I did find a very interesting captures from Romeo Must Die. I didn't know she was in that movie, but the screen captures look hot. She is only credited as "Asian Dancer" so I assume that she is only on screen for few seconds :P

I actually pulled this composite screen capture from google cache - the actual website seems to be down. If anyone has high-res versions of these, please let me know :)

Here are some other shots of the same scene. Again, not hi-res.

Call of Duty Multiplayer Crashing on Startup

Call of Duty Program Folder
So I have been playing COD online the last few days. Yesterday we had a small power surge around here. Nothing big, but enough for my machine to die and reboot. It came back just fine which was good, but for some reason the game would crash every time I tried to start it in multiplayer mode. This was the weirdest thing I have seen lately.

I digged out my CD and reinstalled. After the whole lengthy process of reinstallation, the game crashed again! Furthermore the first time I run it the damn thing asked me if I want to start the game in "safe mode". This was a fresh install, so I just knew that there must be some persistent config file somewhere.

I went and scanned through the registry, but I didn't find any COD entries. Good to know that the game does not mess up registry. Next stop was the program folder. That's where I found two suspicious looking files one was servercache.dat and the other one was __CoDMP. They certainly looked like persistent files that would store info between sessions. The servercache.dat obviously stored information about game servers, and the __CoDMP file seemed to be responsible for that "safe mode" dialog. It seems that it gets created every time the game starts, and then removed if the game shuts down properly. I don't have it on the screenshot here because the game ended nicely this time.

I was willing to bet one of these files was causing the crash. I moved both of them out of the game folder, and lo - game started properly. So, if anything like that ever happens to you, go ahead and delete these files.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Slacking off

Recently I helped my brother to buy a new computer (he is clueless about these things). Nah, we didn't build it up from the ground - I'm to damn lazy for that. He had this machine for few weeks now, and he now makes me dig out all the older games that I used to play, but which could not run on his old PC.

The other day we digged out Call of Duty. I must say that multiplayer mode in that game is much more fun if you are playing with someone who sits within a earshot of you. We were sitting there yelling out stuff like "Cover Me!" or "They are coming from the West!". Ah... It brings be back to the good old days when we used to take over my high school computer lab on the weekends to play Quake fortress :)

You see, we knew the school's sysadmin - he was actually a young guy straight out of college. Before he came on board, they were running ancient 386's with DOS + Norton Commander and Win 1.3. This guy actually brought the lab up to speed, put in new pentium machines with win98 on them and networked them. We still didn't have internet connection (at that point, in Poland internet access was a luxury) but the setup was perfect for multiplayer gaming :)

I think the poor guy got fired for doing these gaming sessions in the end, but that was long after I was gone, so I can't really feel bad about it.

Anyways, this is what I'm doing instead of working on my thesis or doing schoolwork. Sigh.. You know you are swamped with work, when you feel guilty for spending one evening playing games...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Thompson is going down!

This is too funny! Apparently Jack Thompson is under investigation by the Florida Bar Association. I say it's about time!

This is what happens when you mess with people running a popular website - you get trapled by spontaneous net activism. Never underestimate the power of teh geek! I really hope they disbar him because, for one I'm sick and tired of his bullshit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

MSU needs to start thinking about security...

It turns out that my university was keeping private information (including names and ssn's) about over 9,100 of undergraduate students on a publicly accessible server for several months. The information was apparently indexed by google and easily accessible to anyone. This was already covered in Star Ledger, and on 1010 Wins. Way to go MSU!

I never expected much from this school, but this is kinda scary. Our IT sucks, but I believe they do have enough common sense to prevent things like that from happening. I think the problem here is the lack of proper user training. I am willing to bet someone in the administration got a new toy from the IT guys, and decided to use it inappropriately...

At least the grad school has enough sense to train their employees properly to prevent shit like that from happening. Undergrads were not so lucky. I'm very tolerant towards technophobes - I do laugh at them and ridicule them behind their backs, but I am perfectly willing to cater to their needs and fix whatever they break. But at some point, you have to admit that technological illiteracy == lack of competence. If you can't figure out how to properly use a computer, you should not be using it for important work. Period.

But then again who knows - the IT dept never showed much competence anyway. Below is the conversation I had with one of the student-drones sitting in the CSAM IT room:

Me: "Did you guys know that pegasus is an open relay?"
Drone: "A what?"
Me: "The SMTP server... It has no authentication... Anyone can use it."
Drone: "Oh, yeah... That's how it's supposed to be. You can't use it from the outside."
Me: "Okey... As long as you know about this..."

More often than not, they are aware of the security blunders - they just don't care. I can't imagine them not caring about ssn leakage though...

WTF is Chimaerat???

WTF is this?
I just got the November issue of White Dwarf, and I'm still trying to figure out who the hell came up with the brilliant idea for the Chimaerat model... What the hell is that supposed to be? I would understand if this was featured in the crazy conversion corner - a odd model that would count as a Clan Moulder doomwheel or something.

This model was featured in the WFB Chronicles section, as part of the Clan Moulder monster themed variant list. Someone actually sat down, and wrote stat line, and rules for this thing... I totally get Rat-Ogres - they just work, and make sense. Rat-Ogre is to ogre what a skaven is to human. We know that Ogre's are susceptible to chaos and that they do mutate (eg. Chaos Ogres) so we can imagine how a Rat-Ogre could be created. But you can't just slap rat head on anything and put it in skaven army!

First of all, this thing looks like a hydra - but I guess whoever was writing these rules wanted to avoid the Hydra(n)t jokes. Either way, both Chimaera and Hydra are already twisted and tainted chaos monstrosities. How do you justify throwing in the rat bit in there? It just seems silly... At least to me...

But then again, what do I know. At least this crap is not official :P

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tool for EULA phobes

Heh... I was just blogging about the EULA poll yesterday, and now I discovered the EULAlyzer from Javacool Software.! I haven't tested this thing, but it seems like a grand idea :)

It is a solution to an very real problem - reading through long, verbose EULAS is not practical. It is much better to parse it automatically and extract useful info! I'm actually surprised no one cam up with a tool like that before!

The question is - if tools like this one become popular, will this prompt companies to simplify these documents? Or will it have the opposite effect,motivating lawyers to write super-verbose, confusing, unparsable EULAS? Will software companies start utilize CAPTCHA technology for their EULA boxes to prevent automatic parsing, and classification?

Thompson Backs Out!

I don't want to say I told you so, but... On Saturday I blogged about Jack Thompson and said:

You know, I kinda hope that some game company answers this challenge, makes that game, pays for the distribution of few thousand copies, then signs over all the copyright and liability to him and then slaps his name on the cover. Then Thompson will have to sue himself for distributing the most violent game in the century :P

Today's slashdot headline:

Jack Thompson has rescinded his offer of a $10,000 donation to charity if a video game were made to fit his model. Recently a group of GTA modders cooked up a scenario to fit the bill but apparently Thompson is claiming that his piece 'A Modest Video Game Proposal' was intended as satire that the video game community was not bright enough to grasp. Perhaps Thompson was just afraid he was going to have to sue himself?

Am I psychic or what? Thompson chickened out! Ha!

This guy is priceless source of entertainment! I was looking at his exchange with Scott Ramsoomair of VGCats that was linked from Penny Arcade and I have to say wow:

From: "Jack Thompson"
To: scott@vgcats.com
Subject: Re: This sex isn't hidden, Scott. Wouldn't want the facts to get in the way or your drawing, now would you?
Date: Sat, 6 Aug 2005 13:56:23 -0400

No, you emailed me. HOnestly, are all of you gamers on drugs, or what?

This guy is supposed to be a lawyer? Dude, are you 14? This is something that you would expect to see in some adolescent AOL chatroom, not in an email from a lawyer. Geez!

Too funny!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Who reads EULAs?

How do you read your EULA?
I found the new slashdot poll amusing. I'm including the screenshot showing the state of the poll when I saw it first. I think this poll illustrates how most people look at these things. Most slashdoters admited to immidiately agreeing to these things. And if you think about it - slashdoters represent the more tehnologically competent crowd (note that I didn't say intelligent, because that's debatable ;P). So if the techies click "I Agree" without reading most of the time, think about what the average technophobe does...

I admit I do the same. More often than not I click agree, and move on. From time to time I quickly skim through the thing, but I do not have time to actually read the whole 50+ page agreement. I usually try to glance at the privacy section to make sure I'm not installing spyware, and that this software will not give away my email to spammers.

Speaking of EULA's, I remember that there was a girl in my high school who'se name was actually Eula (yes, it was actually spelled with an E, not a Y like in that user friendly episode). I think she was in some of my classes, and I always found it amusing when people called her by name. I think it was short for something. Or maybe not... I don't remember.

How do you read your EULA?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Vanishing Bill of Rights Mug

Vanishing Bill of Rights Mugs
Wow! I want one of these mugs! They are awesome! You pour hot water (or coffe) in them and you can watch the bill of rights vanish right before your eyes. Kinda like what is happening right now with the real bill...

I found this on boingboing, but you can buy one of them here.

One thing about this makes me thing though. There was another story at BoingBoing today about a kid who'se anti-Bush poster was confiscated by sectet service. So, does drinking coffe from a mug like this one makes a terrorist out of you? Just to be clear on this, we just saw that the answer is "hell yeah" in the eyes of Bush administration. So if you use one of these at work, please don't be surprised if the Thought Police visits you one day asking all kinds of questions...

Jack Thompson is Crazy!

It's official. Jack Thompson has officially came out of the closet and openly admitted that he is a sick, abusive, violence obsessed fart! I mentioned him here before.

This nut is essentially offering to give $10k to charity if a some video game company makes a game according to his specifications. What game you ask? Well, I think it is safe to say that Thompson successfully mmanaged to come up with the sickest, most revolting game plot that I have ever seen:

Osaki Kim (O.K.) exits the courtroom swearing revenge upon the video game industry whom he is convinced contributed to his son's murder. "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" he says. And boy, is O.K. not kidding.


O.K. first hops a plane from LAX to New York to reach the Long Island home of the CEO of the company (Take This) that made the murder simulator on which his son's killer trained. O.K. gets "justice" by taking out this female CEO, whose name is Paula Eibel, along with her husband and kids. "An eye for an eye," says O.K., as he urinates onto the severed brain stems of the Eibel family victims, just as you do on the decapitated cops in the real video game Postal2.

This man is seriously sick! Mr. Thompson, if urinating on corpses really turns you on you should seek counseling, and definitely stop playing Postal2. You see, that game was made for normal people - not violent headcases!

Besides, I seriously do not understand what is this guy advocating here. He tries to prove that games are violent by paying to make an ultra violent game made? What if someone makes this game? Are you going to promote and endorse it? I mean, you can't really start suing the company for making a game using the script YOU gave them!

Isn't this guy supposed to be advocating for wholesome, family oriented entertainment? What the hell is he doing coming up with crazy shit like this? Was he drunk when he was writing that? Why won't he just give that money to charity?

You know, I kinda hope that some game company answers this challenge, makes that game, pays for the distribution of few thousand copies, then signs over all the copyright and liability to him and then slaps his name on the cover. Then Thompson will have to sue himself for distributing the most violent game in the century :P

Btw... Why did he gave the main character an asian sounding name? Osaki Kim? Not only is this guy crazy - he is also a closet racist!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Ndiswrapper is driving me nuts!

Last time I installed ndiswrapper from source, and that was a mistake. When the time came to update the kernel headers and swap out the newest linux image apt was choking on the ndiswrapper module. I have been putting away dealing with that issue for a long time now because I was anxious to touch it. Wireless on linux is one of the things that always take minimum 5 hours to set up, regardless of how much experience you have with it.

But then again, running around with an unpatched laptop is probably worse than spending few hours cursing at my Linksys card... So I uninstalled the ndiswrapper-utils and ndiswrapper-modules and apt finally upgraded my system.

Strangely enough apt found a binary of ndiswrapper-utils in the repository somehow. It prompted me for the CD, and in few minutes I had the app working again. It even retained the windows driver that was loaded before. Yet, the system would not acknowledge wlan0 as a valid interface.

Dmesg showed me some strange messages too:

ndiswrapper version 1.0rc2 loaded (preempt=yes,smp=no)
ndiswrapper (wrapper_init:1494): loadndiswrapper failed (1792);
check system log for messages from 'loadndisdriver

WTF? I uninstalled the driver, reinstalled it and then run modpobe again. That worked. No more strange errors! Yet my card still refuses to play nice with the network here...

But I had this problem before. I can't associate my card with the WEP encrypted network at work, but when I go to school everything works fine. So I'm not sure how badly did I break things... I guess I'll find it out on Monday...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Grace Park Hi Res

Grace Park
Fubar has some nice hi-res pics from Grace Park's maxim photoshot. The pictures are old but these are nice big copies that can be made into wallpaper or whatnot. And this seems to be the most complete set that I have found so far. For example, I haven't seen the picture on the left anywhere else.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Grace plays Boomer/Sharon on Battlestar Galactica.

If you ever wondered how does she look without makup on her day off check out these pictures taken by a guy who actually run into Grace while taking a walk in the in the park.

And here is a Grace stencil!

Verbalizing Nonverbal Communication

There is this thing called non-verbal communication. Human brains are naturally wired to pick up non-verbal clues during conversation and assign meaning to them. This way we can distinguish irony and sarcasm from sincerity and etc... Written word does not provide nonverbal clues the way a real-life conversation does. The additional information must be wrapped into a narrative, or communicated via exclamations and emoticons. These things serve only one purpose - they replace the nonverbal clues that would otherwise be lost. Your IM buddy will never know that you are laughing at his/her joke or that your are rolling your eyes unless you explicitly communicate it via text.

Here is something that I do not understand: why do some people insist on pronouncing some of these textual representations of nonverbals. You have probably seen it yourself. Nearly everyone has that one friend, or acquaintance who insists on actually saying things like "twitch", "glup", "wink wink" and etc. This annoys the hell out of me! If you are one of these people, please do me a favor and STOP DOING IT! And if you really, really need to say "twitch" could you at least attempt to actually twich while you say it? Then, once you get into the habit, can you slowly phase out the verbal part? I think most of us can figure out what you are saying just from the tone of your voice and your expression.

Think about it, this is almost as ridiculous as using LOL in a face to face conversation instead of laughing. If you actually ever uttered "lol" in real life, you need to be severely beaten with a stick and your internet privileges need to be revoked permanently.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Joy of Java

Don't you love how Java can take a simple concept and make it unbelievably complex? For example take this simple comparison of C and Java code:

C Code:
printf("%10.2f", x);

Java Code:
java.text.NumberFormat formatter
= java.text.NumberFormat.getNumberInstance();
String s = formatter.format(x);
for (int i = s.length(); i < 10; i++)
System.out.print(' ');

Now don't get me wrong - I'm not bashing Java. I'm a Java programmer at heart, but I do appreciate simplicity. Unfortunately Sun developers and Java Community sometimes seem to have a shady concept of the KISS principle.

I'm currently trying to find a good way to work with multispectral and hyperspectral images. I found that java.awt.image package does have some support for Raster images based on Multi-Band data which is great. That saves me allot of time developing data structures from scratch...

Only problem is that the creation of Raster image is one of the more convoluted, procedures in the Java language. First I will need to create a BandedSampleModel object, then use it to construct a DataBuffer which can be populated with my multi band data. Now the model and the buffer are not directly related in any way, but both are needed to create a Raster object. The sample model thing apparently is used to manipulate the buffer, but it does not associate with it directly.

The Raster object is also funky because instead of initializing it in a usual way (ie. via constructor) you need to build it using some static factory method which takes in the mode, the buffer and some other parameters. Just reading this stuff makes me dizzy... I hope I can find some sample code somewhere showing actual usage of this crap.

Java has this notion of hard separation between representation and data - you can see it all over the API. I think it makes allot of sense, but it needlessly complicates things and makes your head spin if you are not used to it. The real question is - is it worth to dig through this jumble to figure out a "popper java way" to do it, or would it be easier just to code from scratch? I personally think doing it the "proper way" whenever possible is a good thing, because it will result in a more standardized, robust and extensible code. And if I use standard Raster class, I probably won't have to worry about displaying it - I think a raster can be rendered automatically using the tools available in awt. I might be wrong though... But if they have a Raster, they should be able to display it, right?

Anyways, this thesis project might prove to be more challenging than I expected. Which is not a bad thing. I'm learning new stuff at least... I just wish I wasn't so swamped with other stuff and could spend more time on this.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Aliens Have no Life!

I think we can safely conclude that aliens have no life... Just look at this map maintained by the National UFO Reporting Center. One would think that an advanced civilization with interstellar capabilities would have something better to do than fly around earth, occasionally abducting and probing rednecks...

Another interesting thing - if you look at the map, most of the sightings seem to concentrate on the coasts (which is logical - as those are the most densely populated areas in the country). But every time they show UFO specials on Discovery they go to some backwards rural part of Alabama or somesuch where some inbred farmer claims he was anal-probed by the gray ones... I mean, one would think that since they fly around the coasts so much they would occasionally probe someone from there too... But no.

Slashdot on Polish Advertising

Heh... This is one thing I didn't expect to find on the internets today - slashdot crowd discussing a classic Polish advertisement campaign. They just briefly mention it, and I wouldn't normally care - but I remember that ad! It was one of those things that got burned into your mind due to repetition, endless spoofs, parodies and jokes.

The and was based on a pun - in Polish, the word meaning "to wash" can also mean "to fight" (allright, don't give me any wierd looks, it makes perfect sense if you think about it! Think of washing something in a river or a stream - I think this is the entymological origin of that canotation). And it so happened that a famous epic novel happened to that word in one of it's more memorable one-liners. It was a perfect set up - tie the famous quote with your product and unleash it on unsuspecting audiences.

One should also add that the advertisement iself was spectacularly bad. The punchline was delivered while grinning into the camera and brandishing the box of the washing powder. But, that only reinforced the superimposition between the epic setting, and corny comercialism. It was short, it was clever and it was catchy! It ruled. It also got real old, real quick but that's a whole another story.

No Google logo in Fullmetal

I admit that I was wrong about this. For the past week or so, I have been arguing with my brother whether or not the google logo appeared in the episode 29 of Fullmetal Alchemist. If you recall the scene when Ed has a flashback to the time he saw "the gate" - we see many flashing images. These are both shots from the show and real pictures of nature, art and architecture. Ed describes this as "the truth" but Izumi seems to have a different idea about this.

I could have sworn I saw a Google logo among these images. But I was wrong. I finally got around to going through these images frame by frame and my brother was right. It was not google. It was the Olympic flag. I got confused because Google uses the same colors for it's logo :P

I also saw a US flag, a traffic jam and bunch of other stuff which clearly does not belong in the Fullmetal universe. What the hell is the gate? Is it some kind of portal between worlds? There is a definite connection between the humonculi and the gate - and Izumi knows exactly what is going on. She kept saying something about "how Humonculi come into this world" or somesuch... This is really getting interesting!

Btw, if you have watched the whole series on DVD, please don't spoil me. I actually want to watch it unfold as they show it on adult swim.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Google Lobbyists?

I love google to death, but every time some big corporation sends a lobbyist to washington I get chills running down my spine. Now that Google has it's own lobbyist in DC, is it time to start being affraid of them?

On one hand, I can see certain benefits to this. Recently every single time I read about new copyright craziness, someone makes a comment that bassically goes like this: "if you think about it, this new law would practically make $search_engine illegal because..." I guess now we don't really have to worry about things like that because there will be a guy in DC ready to defend the rights of Google and by extension other search engines.

On the other hand, there is nothing worse than a mega-corp getting into politics. Nothing good can come out of this... Look how much trouble are the RIAA and MPAA lobbyists causing? How about Microsoft? Google didn't show ous it's evil side yet, but there is no guarantee that it will stay evil-free forever...

Ciphertext from Hell Revisited

I ranted about this very recently. I solved it, but not without some help! Big thanks to Dan and Micheal who cracked it way before me and gave me very useful tips! Also thank's to Ben for the valiant attempt (and spectacular failure) at cracking this thing! :)

So let's recap - the ciphertext:

ptgpz ggprf bdkrg pequt tngtf ggpzf
zfqgp tukrw wkzfg kquyd qxwzu ltuet
zfrfl ptgpz ggprf bdkrg pequt dhmgw
tgokr wwdtt bxqug tuedq xequt fraty
rdaur erfzg rqfot gjzfr gorfa wrftd
hdgqx rfyxz hwqdz fokpt utuzg ptugp
zfrfq hudtw jtdpt gpzgu tzydz fyluq
kdfqk rdtud hdcta gdfqg prdqk fytxr
artfa omhga qecwz rfdqx pzuyk quydz
fyqmd ahutd tfgtf atdzf yzdbd kpomq
qbdzu tkurg gtfkp rapaz ffqgm thfyt
udgqq y

And the plaintext (I added spacing and punctuation for readability):


I used this applet, and a very painfull process of "trail, failure and ask other's for advice" :P

So there you have it :)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Earthlink Sux: Revisited

Recently I ranted about Earthlink sucking the big one. Amazingly enough I got some replies in that thread from disgruntled call center employees. Friken awesome! Apparently all these nice people I talked to on the phone are either untrained, or from India, or both:

The reason we suck so bad is because EarthLink outsources its Dial up and Wireless tech support and offers nearly zero training to agents on the phone.

Apparently the communication between departments is sucky too:

when you call your just talking to someone who cant do anything anyhow, they send it to Earthlink through a chat system that kicks down the requests most of the time.

Ah, so this is why the stuff magically disappears from their radar. Too funny!

Now I don't necessarily mind outsourcing itself that much. If it helps to cut costs, and provide me better service for less - I'm all for that. And I guess it's great for the guys in India. We are literally pumping money into their economy. It can't be all that bad - assuming that the outsourced workers can do the job equally well as their US counterparts...

Yet, if the outsourced call centers don't have proper training, don't have the power to help the customers and can't efficiently communicate with Earthlink - then we have a problem. Unfortunately most of the outsourcing deals seem to result in a mess like this.

That's why I think we will see emergence of smaller companies who actually invest in customer service and tech support. I found these guys for dialup: All2Easy. They have decent nationwide coverage, the connections are ok for dialup - and customer service is awesome. After you register an account, you get a call from their representative who asks how is the connection, and is ready to help you with any problems. Now that's quality customer care! Would earthlinke do that? Ya, right!

Another guy provides even more insight into how the call centers work:

I work for, Clientlogic, who cares only about the bottom line. They don’t care about the customer at all. They want us to fix the problem, stop the customer from canceling, maintain perfect quality scores by not deviating from the “Call Flow” and to not have to call other departments, and do it all within the first 4 minutes of the call. Clientlogic only gets paid for the first few minutes of the call so if your problem is too complicated they pass you around from person to person.

Apparently these guys are not authorized to help you unless you are pissed off, and you threaten to cancel the service:

if you call and you don’t say you want to cancel not only are people less motivated to help you Earthlink/Clientlogic tells it’s agents they are not allowed to use the offers we are given to help customers who are canceling unless you say the magic word “Cancel” we are limited to what we can do to help you. So they get to pay us less because people call in not quite pissed off enough yet to be canceling the service. We aren’t allowed to help them and most of the time have to pass them off to a Mastertech.

Heh, I wish I knew this. I always try to be nice and civil on the phone. And I usually don't talk about canceling unless I really mean it. Good thing to know :)

On the other hand, I'd hate to be the guy who I talked into canceling the 50 something accounts. He probably got a stern reprimand from his manager. God, this sucks - it shouldn't' work this way. I think these guys got it all backwards. You're supposed to cater to my needs hoping I don't cancel - not try to annoy me hoping that I threaten canceling so that you can throw some shiny distracting offers at me. Agh!

I guess the secret to being successful company is not keeping the customers happy. Just offering minimum service for as long as possible, then when they finally refuse to take it anymore give them shiny, but useless gift and start over with minimal support again. Sigh...

This is something to remember though: always say you're canceling when you call them:

So the lesson boys and girls is that if you want a corporation to help you then you have to threaten to take money out of their pockets. Say the magic word cancel and you get results. If you don’t you’ll just get shoved into incompetent customer service hell.

Next time I'll do exactly that. Thanks guys!

Friday, October 07, 2005

So much for getting shit done early...

I was planning to at least get one of the assignments done today, but instead I opted to bullshit away several hours online. On the other hand these were semi-productive as we were kinda working on the stupid cipher. Can you believe it? I'm still stuck on this. If anyone in the class gets it I will be pissed.

So I did find couple more interesting links that I can include in my report outlining the failure to accomplish anything with that cipher. And I learned how to quickly convert text to uppercase in perl:

$line =~ tr/a-z/A-Z/;
print $line;

Image processing is still untouched. Perl is still untouched. And I have Robila papers that I need to read. I really need to get it together and start working on that crap. I do need that thesis! Screw the comps!

Sigh... If I could only get paid for procastinating. I would be filthy rich!

I noticed something else today. Apparently folksonomy is not as hot as I previously thought. Ben had no clue about technorati, flikr or del.icio.us - but I allways considered him a technologically cluefull person. Hmmm... I guess the fascination with these things comes with the territory. Bloggers tend to be all about folksonomy - general, non-blogging netcitizenery - not so much. Oh well...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sky is the Limit?

Sky is the Limit?
Sky is the Limit?,
originally uploaded by !efatima.
Wow... This must be one of the coolest pictures I have seen lately. Apparently this was taken from a skyscraper on a really foggy day.

I think it is breathtaking...

How come I never get photo-opps like that? I mean, the fact that I'm half-asleep most of the day, that I work indoors and never going to any cool places because I have no time and no life should not matter, right? Eh.. Even if I saw something like this, I wouldn't have a camera to capture it with. My cellphone camera sucks...

I think I need to buy myself a nice new camera... I'm sick of taking random snapshots with my cellphone...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sleep Dep Kicking in...

I'm officially exhausted right now. I desperately need to catch some sleep but I still have some stuff to do...

Actually, I just found out that there is something called sleep debt. Sigh... Some people have student loans, I have a huge sleep debt. If one would have to pay off the sleep debt with money, I would be filing for bankruptcy right about now :P

Sleep debt can be tested through the use of a sleep latency test. This test measures how easily someone can fall asleep. When this test is done several times during the day, it is called a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT).

However, one need not go to a sleep clinic; a home process exists: it involves relaxing quietly, alone for a short amount of time--if the feeling of sleep comes fairly easily, one is considered to have sleep debt.

Hmmm.... If I close my eyes now, I will be asleep in like 2 minutes. I never have trouble falling asleep. My problem is that I fall asleep to easily. As soon as my head hits the pillow, I'm gone. I usually wake up in the morning to discover all the lights in the room are still on and the TV is playing with the volume cranked up to the max. So yeah... I'd say I have a sleep debt big time!

Accumulating 50 to 60 hours of sleep debt is not good for health. Some people, after accumulating this much sleep debt, are susceptible to sudden dropping into short periods of microsleep. This can happen during repetitive activities such as driving, especially when the individual has had a recent relief of a stressful situation.

I used to get these all the time last semester - mostly in Dr. Gutierez's database class. So did other students actually. :P But we figured that it was simply a collective boredom induced narcolepsy... hehe

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Wireless Woes and FedEx Foes

The wireless went down again at 9:45am today. Again... Just like every other freakin day. Whenever this happens, everyone in the office gets dropped and the SSID simply vanishes from the radar. You can't even see our network. My handy-dandy pocket wifi sniffer does detect a very strong signal somewhere but it's probably not ours...

I took a quick look out the window, and guess what? Fedex truck is standing right there - directly underneath my AP (only 1 floor down). As soon as he pulls out, my laptop finds the network again and reconnects. This is so bizarre... But it must be that stupid truck - there is just no other explanation.

I'm thinking about switching to another channel but I'm not sure if we're going to clash with someone else in the building. There is definitely way to much wifi flying in the air around here. You can almost hear the buzzing of the flying packets :P I need to figure out who is on what channel and how do I prevent the delivery guy from killing my network. I think I'll also try to catch him tomorrow and ask him to park the fucking truck away from my window.

I still can't believe that this is happening. I think I'm the only person in the world who is experiencing wireless issues because of fedex...

Ciphertext from Hell

Allright... This thing is starting to piss me off. Any clue what cipher was used to encrypt this? I've been poking at it since Saturday evening and I have very little to show :(

ptgpz ggprf bdkrg pequt tngtf ggpzf
zfqgp tukrw wkzfg kquyd qxwzu ltuet
zfrfl ptgpz ggprf bdkrg pequt dhmgw
tgokr wwdtt bxqug tuedq xequt fraty
rdaur erfzg rqfot gjzfr gorfa wrftd
hdgqx rfyxz hwqdz fokpt utuzg ptugp
zfrfq hudtw jtdpt gpzgu tzydz fyluq
kdfqk rdtud hdcta gdfqg prdqk fytxr
artfa omhga qecwz rfdqx pzuyk quydz
fyqmd ahutd tfgtf atdzf yzdbd kpomq
qbdzu tkurg gtfkp rapaz ffqgm thfyt
udgqq y

I know two things - it is a substitution cipher but not a ceasar cipher. How do I know? Because I already did a brute force caesar check on it and I got nothing but gibberish. So back to letter frequency dance... I really want to decrypt that crap now!

But it will have to wait a bit. I need to start studying for my exam on Wed...

Monday, October 03, 2005

There is no escape from Numa Numa

It's official. There is no escape from Numa Numa song. It is everywhere!

On Saturday I was at a night club where some jackass happened to give performance. It was one of those pop singers that pop up on the radio all the time. Anyways, I wouldn't care if he didn't insist on doing his own rendition of... Yup... The Numa Numa song. Why or earth would you do an english version of that song? WTF?

Today, we were discussing our Security project. We are trying to use Steno to embed lyrics/captioning in mp3's or wav files. Here's the short project description. We were checking out different steno implementations allowing you to stuff text into mp3. Our professor happened to have an mp3 on his computer that he wanted to use for the test. Guess what was the song? Yup! Numa Numa again!

It's official - this song is still everywhere. After how many years? Jesus! And to think this would never be possible if it wasn't for some fat kid with a webcam...