Terminally Incoherent

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Cat Piano

Excentric 17th century inventor Athanasius Kircher once designed a cat piano.

Dude... WTF!

Crunchwrap - not portable!

Crunchwrap - not portable!
You know how Taco Bell always runs those commercials about their Crunchwrap™ thing being all portable and "Good to go™"? Guess what - they lie like dogs!

The crunchwrap is anything but portable. Today I popped into the local Taco Bell and grabbed one to go, cause I was in a hurry. I decided to eat it quickly at the bus stop while studying programming languages. I figured that I should be able to eat the damn crunchwrap with one hand and use the other hand to hold my book.

But that does not work that well... You see, a Cruchwrap contains the usual taco garbage inside - lettuce, tomatoes, and etc... That stuff starts falling out as soon as you take a bite out of the thing. In addition they did not fold my crunchwrap right, so it had a hole on top, and was falling apart to begin with.

This type of food was just not made to be portable. Remember this whenever you see that stupid commercial again. It's not "Good to go™". It is tasty but not portable!

The title of the mobile fast food of the year still belongs to the Chicken Quesadilla. This is possibly the easiest food to eat on the go...

Wait... Why the fuck am I going on and on about Taco Bell????

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I'm not the only one who hates the "IT Crowd" show

It seems that I'm not the only one who hates the stupid British show IT Crowd.

I have seriously no clue what people see in that pile of stinking garbage. It's not funny, it's not clever and most importantly it is not geeky. It's a lame, lame show.

The people who like this show should turn in their geek badges and quit IT forever.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dawkins Slams Religiosity

I just watched a great documentary by Richard Dawkins titled Root of All Evil. I found it via boingboing, and it intrigued me. So I went searching for a download. Thanks to the wonderful world of of p2p I found both part 1 and part 2 of this show.

Just a warning - if you are devoutly religious, poorly educated, or both - this show may offend you or piss you off. On the other hand, if you are like me - and you proudly display the FSM logo on you page, you might get a kick out of this.

Dawkin's point is simple - blind, unquestioning, uncompromising fate is bad. All organized religions are guilty of encouraging groupthink, breeding prejudice and often clouding people's reason and logic. Everyone gets roasted here - Catholics, Evangelicans, Jews and Muslims are all criticized.

All these religious groups are set in their ways, intractable, and determined to convert others to their way of life. Dawkins shows how this leads to escalating tension and conflict between members of the worlds major religions.

The most notable bit from part one is of course Dawkin's visit to one of the biggest Evangelican churches in the country. There he has a chat with a bigoted, and ignorant pastor who tries to preach creationism to him. Dawkins marvels at the near-militant rejection of science among the evangelicans. His analysis of that movement leads him to believe that religion and science cannot coexist because they contradict each other.

I think that for the sake of sensationalism, and controversy he overgeneralized this. In essence, he concentrates on studying on what can be only described as the Kierkegardian "religiosity". A shallow, and superficial faith based on groupthink and social conditioning. Religiosity can easily produce zealots, whose faith is only skin deep. Their religious zeal is simply a thinly veiled prejudice, bigotry and ignorance channeled through the filter of religious devotion.

In my opinion, these people do not even deserve to be called "religious".

Real religion is in fact philosophy of the infinite and paradoxal. It is not a doctrine, and it does not require blind obedience, or zealotry. In fact it demands intellectual involvement, introspection, and a flexible mind. The domain of religion is the metaphysical, the unanswerable and the intangible. It is the study of the infinites, and the logic of paradox. It is the home of allegory, fable and mythos.

The true religion is not providing you with moral templates, or answering any questions with dogma. True religion poses questions and forces you to deal with them. All religions in a way try to give you a framework, or a road map to some kind of enlightenment or spiritual betterment.

Nothing in the Bible (or any other holly scripture) needs to be factual, or real. All biblical stories are allegories, that should not be read literally. Bible was heavily edited, and re-translated thousands of times. Names, places, and events might have been changed in the process. But that doesn't matter. It is still a profound piece of literature that forces your brain to deal with infinities, and paradoxes that are hard to comprehend.

Thus, the one thing on which I do not agree with Dawkins is this: religion and science can coexist. They are supposed to be mutually disjoint. The fact that some religious organizations seem to be hell bent on overthrowing modern science, and replacing it with medieval mythos does not change the primary function of religion.

I used to think just like Dawkins, but then I met some truly amazing philosophers and religious scholars. People who were not only brilliant, but also open, tolerant, and approachable, while at the same time being deeply religious. We had some of these people (and still have them - I home) in the Philosophy and Religion dept. at MSU. :)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Creationist Pamphlet

Creationist Pamphlet
Creationist Pamphlet,
originally uploaded by maciakl.
Someone gave this creationist pamphlet (click on the thumb to view) to my brother's girlfriend on a bus. She found it funny so she kept it to show to my brother. He in turn knew that I will get a kick out of it so he ended up saving it for me.

Of course I immediately scanned the funniest bits it and uploaded it to flickr to share the humor with the world! I find it hilarious! Especially the banana bit. Did you know that bananas proove inteligent design? Check it out:

The bananna--the atheist's nightmare

Note that the bananna:
  1. Is shaped for human hand
  2. Has non-slip surface
  3. Has outward indicators of inward contents: Green--too early, Yellow--just right, Black--too late.
  4. Has a tab for removal of wrapper
  5. Is preforated on wrapper
  6. Bio-degradable wrapper
  7. Is shaped for human mouth
  8. Has a point at top for ease of entry
  9. Is pleasing t otaste buds
  10. Is curved towards the face to make easting process easy

To say that the bananna happened by accident is even more unintellingent that to say that no one designed the Coca Cola can.

LOL! Wow.. Where do I begin. What if you hold the bannana wrong? Then it is curved away from your face! Is that a proof against inteligent design?

Has a point on top for the easy of entry? Entry where? I admit, I have a dirty mind by nature, but that just sounds wrong!

Bio-degradable wrapper? Dude, it is a fruit! All fruits are bio degradable!

How about I make a little super biased test in the same way they did on that pamphlet:

A person who rejects evolution, despite overwhelming scientific proof supporting it is:

  • A. Intelligent

  • B. A fool

  • C. Has an ulterior motive for denying the obvious

I almost feel guilty making fun of this... They just make it so easy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

AJAX and me

As part of my job I do some development on web applications. Mostly LAMP and WIMP shit. I'm not a graphics designer though, and my Photoshop skills are limited. This is something that I plan to work at, but for the time being I usually opt for a simple css layouts with minimal amount of graphics.

My philosophy for the most part is to use the database and php to do the heavy lifting, and leave the client side simple and basic... This approach is good for most websites, but some web applications written this way suffer from the click-refresh-click-refresh issue. My users were complaining that they spend more time waiting for the page to reload after they submit a form, than they used to when working with their old spreadsheets and hand written forms.

On of the ladies at work asked if it would be possible to redesign the page so that she can make changes without constantly reloading it... Yes, it is possible - it is called AJAX. I avoided AJAX for all this time, but it just caught up with me.

As much as I hate working with javascript, this is the direction where the web applications are going right now. So I spent my day today doing my first, shaky steps in the AJAX land. It is not as bad as I thought.

AJAX essentially boils down to few basic asynchronous request calls, and everything else just builds on top of that. You can actually accomplish some really cool stuff with just few lines of javascript. So it is not all bad.

I produced a functional app today, but I'm still having trouble with few things. For example, I'm still not sure how to get a pointer to the DOM object that generated my asynchronous call, in the event handler that updates my page after I get the data back from the server. Most samples I have seen on the web simply use the getElementByID method but that does not really work for me. I have oodles of text fields on the page that can generate AJAX requests, and I need to update them accordingly.

When I marked them with unique id's and passed that ID to the server so I can pass it back to javascript again, I run into some bizarre XUL issue with firefox. That and IE 5.0 refused to display my page at all for some reason :P

I will need to work out few of those issues, but so far I'm happy with the progress. I'm learning some new stuff. I plan to look into some of the existing AJAX libraries out there. Maybe I can lean on some more mature code, and have it do most of the dirty work for me as I work on this project :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Is CIA Secretly Rewriting History?

It appears that in the last few years CIA was secretly reclassifying some historical documents that used to be public. In most cases these documents did not contain any sensitive information that could impact national security.

However, some of these documents did contain information about embarrassing governmental blunders, and CIA mistakes during the Korean war, and early years of the Cold War. The NYT article linked from /. gives a great example of this:

One reclassified document (...) gives the C.I.A.'s assessment on Oct. 12, 1950, that Chinese intervention in the Korean War was "not probable in 1950." Just two weeks later, on Oct. 27, some 300,000 Chinese troops crossed into Korea.

Why are these things reclassified? And why is this done in secret? Call me paranoid, but stuff like that makes me nervous. If the governmental agencies bend the regulations to secretly reclassify public records and get away with it, then how do I know that next time they won't bend them even more? What is stopping them from altering the reclassified documents?

How do I know that one day they won't secretly de-classify altered historical facts? And if anyone happens to own an original copy, they can use the Patriot Act to confiscate it, and slap the guy with a gag order...

Welcome to 1984 ladies and gentlemen. Repeat after me: Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia...

Weekend Coding Sessions

I spent the whole Sunday locked in my little office, hacking away on the code for my thesis work. This was first time in weeks when I left school without feeling frustrated and stressed about this work. I finally made some progress, and actually got stuff working for me without having major issues. I was happy, with the work and I no longer felt guilty taking the evening off and playing Dawn of War :) It also freed up my Monday schedule for other stuff.

Heh.. I not only caught up with my thesis work. I also managed to grade all the homeworks for the 183 class, and do some blogging :) It's amazing how much you can get done if you are not interrupted or distracted every 5 minutes.

I'm definitely doing this again this coming Sunday. If I take one day each week and spend it working towards my thesis, I think I can finally catch up with my work, and get back on the right track.

Monday, February 20, 2006

It has come to my attention...


Shamelessly stolen from PVP.

Coding without an IDE is like eating soup with a fork

The more I use Eclipse, the more I learn to depend on it. I cannot imagine coding anything serious without Eclipse "compile as you type" error checking, one-click correction tools, automatic code generation tools and refactoring utilities. Vim is great but it will not detect a thrown exception as I type and it will not give me a choice to automatically generate a "throws" clause or catch-try block.

No simple editor will automatically rename my file and refactor all references in the code when I change the name of the class. And neither vi or notepad will generate getters and setter methods for me.

Here is an example. Today I had to code up a big data structure which had around 8 fields that needed to be accessible, but not public. How long did it take me to write all the accessor and mutator methods? 10 seconds! Clickity click, done! Eh... Sometimes I think I'm just getting to lazy with all these nice features. But then again, you do not want to waste time typing silly stuff like 20 different accessor methods when you could be putting that effort into making the algorithm work.

Eclipse is my personal favorite. I think it is possibly the best IDE for Java out there, but your millage may vary. Allot of people like NetBeans. I briefly used it at one point, but I went back to Eclipse. It was just not for me. But it is still a great alternative if for some reason you dislike the IMB brainchild :)

Actually any piece of software that attempts to call itself an IDE should provide similar set of productivity increasing functionality. These things are here to make our life easier.

If you are really thinking about writing that Really Big Project™ using vi, think again. I know that talking about editors is kinda like talking about religion. Personally I think vi is great tool for programming. But when you are facing a huge, complex project you may want to put your religious beliefs aside for a minute and think about stuff like productivity, convinience and etc... You might be more productive with vi than with an IDE initially. But once you start using some of the advanced features you will quickly realize how much less typing you need to do :)

If you are vi/emacs guru and you can do amazing stuff with your editor, then please ignore my ramblings. Hats off to you and your impressive skills :)

On the other hand, if you are planning to use notepad, or pico you are insane. Repeat after me: pico is not for coding. Notepad is not for coding. Get an IDE, or at least switch to vim/emacs where you can get some syntax highlighting and helpful features.

Myspace Customized Layouts Suck

I hate when people fuck up the standard layout of their Myspace profiles. That website obviously was not made for customization. If the creators wanted to allow this type of creativity, they would likely built in a customizable template structure similar to the ones behind blogger and livejournal.

When you inject CSS in weird places to reformat the page you are making a mess. If you don't watch what you are doing, your profile is likely to look like crap in non IE browsers. But if you redefine a few classes that's not the end of the world usually.

But I have to ask - why does everyone with a customized profile opts for ass-ugly dark background image, with bright, fluorescent text? Why does everyone remove the borders that nicely divide page sections into readable chunks? When you remove all the spatial formating and delineation you remove the visual clues that are supposed to help the reader focus on the content. Without those borders, everything seems to clump together into an unreadable mess.

When you put a dark, or vividly colored image in the background you once again shift the focus from text onto the background. As a rule, light background + dark text is easier to read than dark background + light text. It's just easier on the eyes.

Mousover effects are only effective when they are subtle. Font and size changes are horribly annoying as they tend to shift things over and change the layout each time you move the pointer.

And why, for all that is holly in this world, do you people put music or videos on your profile? Do you think I'm entertained by it? No! I hate these things. They slow my browser, they take forever to load and if I have more than 1 profile open at the same time I am treated to instant a cacophony of sound. Background music was a stupid idea in the 90's and it is still a stupid idea now - regardless of the technology used to play it.

If you really must have some moving shit in there put a Youtube or Google based vid - one that needs to be clicked in order to start playing. Anything that starts automatically is annoying waste of bandwidth. I'm sure your favorite song is really awesome, but why do I need to listen to it every single time I want to leave you a comment or send you a message?

Sigh... I swear that these myspace customization attempts are the modern equivalent of the blink tag, running dog gif image, frames and annoying midi tune playing in the background.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Everybody Loves President Cole

Everybody Loves President Cole
Everybody Loves President Cole,
originally uploaded by maciakl.
This is officially the best poster ever. Zewrestler said that this is a rare un-edited picture of president Cole. Usually they photoshop out the horns and the goatee :P Somehow this one must have leaked out without editing.

I heard all kinds of wild rumors about the horns and etc., but I never really believed in them... Untill now...

Note, this poster is hanging in one of MSU offices. Bonus points if you can tell me which office it is. Zewrestler is not eligible for bonus points because he found it :)

Silly T-Shirt

Hehe... I don't know why but I find this amusing:

Samelessly stolen from ldopa.net.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

CSAM is Down

The csam server has been down since yesterday. It appears that MSU had yet another power outage. This is why my picture on the sidebar is not showing up. It is served up by csam.montclair.edu which apparently went down.

I can still ssh to pegasus, which tells me that the coverage in RI is spotty. Either way, my pic will probably be gone till Monday, unless I move it over to another server and update the html here.

What is worse however is the fact that the outage took down my sourcejammer server. So much for working from home tomorrow. It seems that I will need to visit the Imaging Lab tomorrow and boot that damn thing up again. Remind me to put that machine on a UPS one day. Sigh...

Oh well... I hope nothing got fried by the power spike...

Update Sat, February 18 2006, 11:46 PM

The csam server came back up. My sourcejammer box is still dead naturally. So I'm still taking a trip to school tomorrow. Maybe this is a good thing. I might get more work done in the office than here at home - less distractions and all :)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: The Capitan's Hand

How interesting. Roslin is forced to compromise her stance on abortion in order to secure support of the religious Gemini voters. This gives Baltar a chance to play the abortion card to his advantage and look like the good guy.

Does he have a chance in the election? Good question. If he plays his cards well he might have a shot. But he is barely coherent on his good days, and he tends to talk to his invisible Cylon friend in public. People notice that...

What happened to that whole "finding Earth" thing anyway? Not so long ago half of the fleet was willing to put their lives on the line and follow Roslin as their prophet. Now they are making a big fuss over abortion issue? Geez... You never know where you stand with the religious fanatics.

I wonder what will happen when they find out that her cancer was mysteriously cured using the blood of a hybrid fetus. I think there would be one hell of a shitstorm over this. Besides, if she is not dying, she can't be the prophet eh?

Of course Baltar also has skeletons in his closet. Eventually someone may remember that he was given a nuke for experimental purposes, and will want to check on it. Loosing a nuke can't be good for ones political career. And if he runs, he can be sure people will start digging for dirt on him.

Next week they resurrect Sharon. Does that mean that Galactica Sharon dies? What about the hybrid baby? Very intriguing!

Neon Genesis Evangelion

When Neon Genesis Evangelion first came up on [adult-swim] I dismissed it as "yet another giant robot show". I knew it had a cult status, and huge fan following. But I figured that people generally like these mecha themed shows. I personally don't care for the big robot thing that much. I really didn't think I would ever like this show.

Boy was I wrong! I have been totally sucked in, and now I'm impatiently waiting for the new episode each week. I can honestly say that in my book, Evangelion is one of the best anime shows of all time. It is totally opposite of what I suspected. The plot is really deep and full of mystery. Characters are incredibly complex and well developed. The story is really more a reflection on human nature and the human condition. This is how you make a good Scifi show :)

The retards that write scripts for SG: Atlantis should take notes. Yes, I said it. That show sucks! SG:A fans can kiss my shiny metal arse :P

I actually managed to spoil myself a little bit while browsing wikipedia, but oh well. I'll try to stay away from any Evangelion sites until I see the rest of the series, and the movies that wrap it up.

Unfortunately both Evangelion and Fullmetal Alchemist are going to end really soon, which means I will be left without any Must Watch Anime™ shows on TV. (Ok, there is still Standalone Complex. It is good but I wouldn't say it is a Must Watch™ show though).

What is on your Must Watch Anime™ list? What show/movie should I buy/download/procure next?

Not Good With Computers

Anyone who says "I'm not good with computers" on a daily basis deserves to be larted into submission with a frozen porcupine! Please stop bragging about your lack of computer skills. It is not funny, or cute. Why are you people so proud of this? Why do you glorify your own computer illiteracy, and wear it as a badge of honor? Some of the skills you proudly lack are required for your job!

It is perfectly acceptable to have little or no experience with technology. Not everyone needs to be an expert. I'm not an expert in all fields either. For example, I'm not a plumber. But when my toilet backs up I do not proudly tell the guy fixing it that I have no bathroom skills, and that he might need to come back again tomorrow cause I'll probably clog it up the minute he leaves.

But when people plop their broken laptops on my desk or when they ask me for tech support they seem to be proud as hell that they just fucked up their system. And before I even look at their computer they tell me that they will be visiting em allot in the future. They already know that they will fuck up on a regular basis and they just give me the heads up. WTF?

This is precisely the wrong attitude. It's not that you can't learn technology. It's because you don't want to learn it. All these people who brag about how they suck at computers, are simply refusing to learn even the most basic skills. You are setting yourself up for failure. "I'm not good with computers" is a self fulfilling prophecy. Didn't they teach you this is your humanity classes or whatever you were taking in college? This is in the same league as "I suck at math" and "I will never learn a foreign language". If you start with that attitude, you will most likely fail at anything you try.

And for God's sake, do not sign up for Computer Science major with that attitude. You will be miserable, and you will make everyone around you want to repeatedly hit you with blunt objects. I recommend dropping out of college altogether, and finding a cozy blue collar job that will not require you to interact with any kind of electronic equipment.

Do you know what is the difference between an A and a D student? An A student gets the work done, while the D student keeps rambling on about how he is not good at computers, math and etc...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Internet is for Porn

I just found out that the music in that old WOW video The Internet is for Porn was actually taken off the soundtrack to a broadway musical Avenue Q. If you never saw that vid (because you live under a rock), here it is:

Amazon is selling Avenue Q soundtrack, and offers samples of the songs for download. Here is the direct link to the porn song so that you can compare.

Essentially what the WOW guys did was to animate the characers and sync them up with the lyrics. Still, hell of a job :)

Monday, February 13, 2006

To get Hi-Def DVD you must buy OEM

It seems that the new Blu-Ray and HD-DVD media protected by the HDCP technology will only play in full resolution on computers offered by big PC manufacturers. You must buy one of their stock systems, or forget about watching High-Def movies. Boxen built from scratch, or sold by small "mom and pop" hardware shops will be locked out.

HDCP compatibility is controlled by an inter-industry consortium of giant CE companies and Hollywood studios, and these companies have ruled that merely buying a HDCP-compatible graphics card is insufficient for gaining access to HDCP-locked video. Only systems designed from the ground up by OEMs (such as themselves) will be able to gain access to these videos.

This means that "Joe's Neighborhood PC Shack" is going out of business soon, and you might have wasted allot of money buying that HDCP compliant graphics card. Surprise - it wont work.

But that's ok... You can always grab a un-crippled hi-def torrent :)

This will spur unauthorized P2P systems into developing the capability of sharing high-definition video more reliably. After all, you may not be able to play Matrix Impossible 2000 at high rez on your PC if you buy the DVD, but you'll sure be able to do so if you download it instead.

Nuff said.

Vice Presidential Hunting Cheat-Sheet

To prevent future accidents, vice presidents should be given this:

Stolen from needlenose, found via boingboing.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Dawn of War

My brother convinced me to play Dawn of War. I'm not a big fan of RTS games but I do love Warhammer 40k so I agreed to play a multiplayer skirmish. I haven't tried playing missions yet, and I think I'll leave that for later due to ton of schoolwork :P

The last RTS game I played was Homeworld 2 and I was totally sucked in by the storyline . I essentially just wanted to get the boring gather/destroy missions out of the way to find out what happens next :P I also cheated a great deal by writing in more ships into the savegame config filwes. I would essentially just plow through enemies and don't worry about resources. But I got bored and never finished it. RTS games are just not for me. If you played original starcraft/warcraft/cc you played them all. Dawn of War was no different. You build shit, and you gather resources by capturing points on the map. Same old thing. Eh...

I played as Eldar, and I expected to get my ass kicked because this was my first time even seeing this game. Thus we agreed on a truce. Neither me or my brother would engage each other until we exterminated the two computer players, and agreed to fight.

The game is pretty close to the tabletop version. Some units were absent. Dire Avengers, Swooping Hawks, Striking Scorpions and wraightguard were the most notable roster holes. I do not use any of those units in my Ulthwe army so I was not really upset, but I could see how this would completely piss of a Biel-Tan or Inyaden player.

It was kinda fun to build my units, including the Avatar which died around 7 times in this game. And I kept building him over and over because he is a monster! The only thing that would actually stop him was an en masse drednought attack.

On the other hand, D-cannons were disappointing. For weapons that actually rip open a hole in the fabric of the universe they were really underpowered. Marines barely noticed the blasts as they were cutting through my guardians.

I'll play it again on multiplayer, but Warhammer 40k as an RTS just feels a little wrong. Oh well... My brother seems to like it, and he is an RTS guy so I'll take his word for it. I don't see anything special in this game. If it wasn't for the 40k background I wouldn't even touch it.

The Island

Scarlet Johanson is hot.
I finally saw The Island. Essentially, my only reason for watching this was of course seeing Scarlett Johanson. Sigh... And to think we could have seen her boobies if Michael Bay was not gay. :P We shall never forgive you Michael - you depraved us of boobage scene, and you will burn in hell for that!

The movie was ok. Definitely a summer flick, with allot of explosions, action sequences and not much depth. The plot had obvious holes. For example, why did they need to "re-scan" whatshisname to clone him a new body? They already had all the data in the system. Can you say "plot device"?

Eldar Vyper Model
Of course the sweetest part was the jetbike, which was a fucking Eldar Vyper! A vyper is essentially a large two-man jetbike with a heavy weapon attachment in the back. The pilot's seat is closed, but the gun placement is exactly the same. Hehe!

Genetic memory thing was lame. I tolerated genetic memory in Frank Herbert's books because the man is a genius. He actually spent allot of time analyzing the potential, the benefits and dangers unlocking such memories would bring. But just saying, "oops, our clones suddenly got genetic memories" just so that the main character can fly a jetbike and drive a car is silly. But then again, it was a summer flick.

Sigh... I still can't forgive Michael Bay!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

CS Dept should set up a Version Control Repository

Most computer science classes these days require you to work in groups these days. This means that at some point you will have agree on the interfaces, and merge the code. At MSU this is usually done by sending out angry emails, knocking your group members on the head with dull objects, and rewriting large portions of the code because some idiot does not read his email.

But it doesn't have to be this way. All we need is to set up some nice source code repository and make it available to students. This would not only make our life easier, but it would also teach students important skills for the future. These few hours wasted fighting with cvs, subversion or even sourcejammer could really pay off once the students get out there and start working in the industry.

And of course, the instructors could monitor the progress of their students. All version control tools keep track of the history of revisions. All you need to do is peek at the project history and you would know which student did the most work, when was the project started, and who contributed which part. There would be no more need to force student to keep a work log, or to expect them to fairly evaluate their team mates at the end of the semester.

A cvs does not lie, and it does not need to uphold the unspoken student honor code. It would truthfully log everything. The logs would easily identify all the lazy slackers without forcing moral dilemmas on poor students

Of course someone would have to maintain that software. And this is where my little dream falls over and dies. No one would take on this responsibility. OIT would wash their hands - we do not have enough students for them to even think about this. The CSAM support crew would be the next choice... But they wouldn't do it either. They are to busy removing spyware and trying to keep the network in RI from falling apart. They would need to be dragged kicking and screaming into this - and even then, we would only get a half assed support.

The only hope would be to do this in house. Put a graduate assistant on this, and delegate some faculty member to mentor the whole project. Unfortunately GA's come and go, and faculty is overloaded as it is. No one is going to take on this responsibility.

So it's never going to happen. But it would be a really cool thing to have!

Update Thu, February 09 2006, 10:41 PM

Uh! Some people do read this blog after all. I got quoted at Gigant Robots so I better clarify this stuff here.

I guess I did not elaborate enough in my complaints about lack of support. This is what happens when you post in a hurry. “Removing spyware” was oversimplification. They don’t clean student computers - that’s helpdesk’s job. From what I know they do maintain the two labs in RI and at least one of them gets ravaged by 109 students who like to download and install crap. These are CSAM funded I think, so they are out of scope for IT.

They also maintain faculty and staff desktops/laptops, the classroom computers, research machines, the smartboard systems and bunch of other things. They also maintain pegasus/freddie and assorted machines which host mailservers, login servers, and bunch of other services. Most cs users have shell accounts on pegassus/freddie they can use for development and other course related work. I bet they do some more important stuff on top of that. So it is a bundle and a half right there :) I guess my main complain was - their turnaround time is really slow most of the time. Most of the faculty complains about them all the time.

CS decided to maintain their own webserver (cs.montclair.edu). It was fully maintained by Dr. Koeller and grad assistants, who designed the page and wrote all the assorted apps from scratch. One woud think that stuff like that would be something that could be delegated to the CSAM IT staff. But for one reason or another they were not able to provide the department with a the level of support, and speed of response they needed. I'm not saying that there were no other reasons behind it, but I guess this just illustrates how CS dept does not like to completely "rely" on CSAM in critical matters.

I guess now you know why this blog has "incoherent" in the name. I tend to ramble without much thinking sometimes :P

All of that said, I will mention it to the faculty. Of course I will have to explain to most of them what a version control system is (sad, I know). Seriously, I get blank stairs most of the time when I mention the little sourcejammer server I use for my research stuff. But maybe if I could reach some of the more cluefull people...

Cheating Rapidshare

If you have ever needed to download some very obscure stuff, you are probably familiar with sites such as rapidshare.de. These sites usually allow anyone to upload and instantly publish large files (50-100MB). Thus are perfect for sharing stuff such as video clips, picture archives, scanned books, all kinds of semi-legal game roms, abandonware and etc.

Rapidshare has a draconian download policy which (I guess) helps them to save bandwidth. They log your IP, and allow you to download only a single 20MB+ file, or several files that will add up to that much. That is, unless you buy their premium service.

I hardly ever use that site, so I refuse to pay their price. But sometimes I want to grab stuff that was uploaded there. If it is just one file everything is great. However, sometimes you need to grab a multi part rar archive. And that's where the fun starts. It will take you days to get the whole thing.

However, I noticed a little loophole. If you use Tor you can cheat rapidshare into letting you download more than one big file a day. Simply restart tor and privoxy after each downloaded file. Usually you will end up with a different IP every time, and thus rapidshare will let you through.

And on the upside, you are onion-routing your packets. So if you are downloading pr0n or something illegal it is exponentially harder to track you down!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

IT Crowd is LAME

I have no clue what people see in IT Crowd. I saw the first episode when the news was first posted on digg and I hated it. Since digg does not allow linking to individual comments here is what I said in the comments thread that day:

Incredibly lame. I was disappointed. I didn't laugh once during the whole thing. The stereotyping is just stupid, comedy is weak and characters are not very interesting or likable.

Where is the jargon, the in jokes and usual tech banter? Where is the IT lingo? Why is no one making jokes about lusers, lamers and pointy hair? Where is the sense of superiority that most geeks feel with respect to the tech neophytes?

This is how total technophobes who never worked a day in IT imagine our industry. Pathetic. Obviously the writers did not do any kind of research, and did not consult a specialist to at least get the jargon and technical stuff right.

How do you take a formula that is almost guaranteed to work (come on, how many times we have seen the "idiot manager a tech department" thing) and messed it up horribly.

Now Cory Doctorow is singing praises for that show at Boingboing. But I guess he can't slam it because he is partly responsible for it, as he admitted last Sunday:

I was lucky enough to do some small consulting on the show and EFF was even invited to provide stickers to decorate the set with.

I think Doctorow is a good writer, I respect him for his work at EFF, and I usually like his journalistic forages at Boinboing. But he crossed the line when he said:

I'm so glad that this show exists. I've waited all my life for a truly geeky comedy, and I think that this is it.

Urgh! Come on Cory! Did we watch the same show? IT crowd is hardly a comedy, and certainly not geeky. I would call it boring, office sitcom rehashing the stereotypical nerd archetype. Not a truly geeky comedy.

SSHD Brings down my system once again

Once again my Winbox has been totally hosed by sshd. I forgot to disable it after a reboot and when I came home the machine was barely working at all.

It appears that some lamer asswipe was trying to bruteforce me, but poor fool was looking for root password. Heh... This is a windows machine, and I have no user called root so he is never going to find it :)

Unfortunately, all these requests put strain on my poor little machine to the point where it keels over and dies. My EventViewer is overflowing with sshd events, and errors. I think the sshd service forks so many children that it runs out of working memory. And if some of the login attempts hang for the 2 minute login grace period, it is likely that the system simply cannot allocate space for other services, including registry lookups and such.

Again, I don't think I was pwn3d. My registry is intact, and I don't see any other signs of tampering with my system. Just the consistent brute force pounding every other day. I tweeked the sshd_config to limit the grace period to 20 sec, lowered the number of max concurrent auth attempts and to drop any excessive traffic. This should help conserving the resources...

However, considering the fact that cygwin is not rock solid, I no longer feel completely safe running this service on my machine. I don't want some silly cygwin based buffer overflow to compromise my machine. So I'm taking sshd off again for a while. I might need to find another solution to access my desktop remotely :P

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Analysis of The Toilet Seat Problem

A Game Theoretic Approach to the Toilet Seat Problem must be the best analysis of the problem I have ever seen.

This article shows an in depth approach complete with probability calculations and cost measures. The verdict:

In the morning John leaves the seat up after performing #1.
In the evening he puts it down.

This rule may not be precise but it is simple and approximately equitable; moreover the use of a definite rule sets expectations. The seat is put down in the evening to avoid the notorious “middle of the night surprise”.

I still think the best approach is "look before you sit down". I have no clue how can women find this methodology so difficult to implement.


What a miserable weekend. I was sick as a dog all Saturday. I finally dropped the fever and I actually ate my first solid meal today. Must have been some sort of food poisoning, but I have no clue what caused it.

On the upside, I spent most of the weekend sleeping, thus repaying my huge sleep debt. I also missed the first 15 minutes of Fullmetal Alchemist because I dozed off.

What the hell happened to Eric Senior there? He was "swallowed" by the gate, and then he disappeared. WTF? Is he dead? I really want to know what the hell is the deal with that gate, but I don't want to read spoilage (hint - do not post comments with spoilers). I just hope they explain a little more about it's nature soon. After all, by my reckoning we only have 6 new episodes left, until the series wraps up. Sigh... I'm going to miss this show once it is over :(

Emoticon Patents

LOL... I wish this was true... The sad thing is that they are most probably going to get that patent :(

Friday, February 03, 2006

Dollar Bill Ruler

Lifehacker posted a neat tip yesterday - how to use a $1 bill as a makeshift ruler. How does it work?

Your dollar bill is approximately 6" long. So if you do not have any measurement device you can "dollar bill it" instead of eyeballing the measurement.

This is cool, but I have even better tip for you. The first thing you learn when you start playing tabletop battle games is how to eyeball distance. I play a Dwarfs army in Warhammer Fantasy Battles so I know all there is to know about 6". It happens to be the exact range of Dwarf charge, and march move.

How do you eyeball 6"? Take your hand and stretch your fingers out. Pull your thumb as far away from the index finger as you can. Now measure the distance between the tip of your index finger and the tip of the thumb. Unless you have freakishly long or short fingers, on average you should get 6". Some people may get 5, some people may get 7 but it is still within the ballpark.

If you don't believe me, lay out a buck on the table and try to stretch your index finger, and thumb to touch the bill's corners ;)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Alive In Joburg

This is one of the most awesome short movies I have seen in a while. Great concept, and really good execution.

If you ever wondered what would it be like if Alien (as in space alien) refugees landed in Apharteid Africa, watch this:

This movie was created by Neill Blomkamp known for his work on Dark Angel, Smallvile and various commercials.

Colaborative Drawings

King Kong
Here is a neat idea for creating compelling artwork. Take a canvas, label it with a topic and put it in a public place. Anyone who wishes to contribute may draw a single line. You just sit back, and watch.

Now put your canvas on the web, and allow people to contribute a line using a flash based app and then "vote" on whether to keep or ditch certain lines - and you get SwarmSketch.

Video Game Violence