Archive for January, 2005

Software vs. Hardware

January 31st, 2005

I will not make fun of the mentally challenged. I will not make fun of
the mentally challenged. I will not make fun of the mentally
challenged. I will not make fun… Oh, heck, I suppose I will.

This seems like someone that wants help writing an antenna program.
He doesn’t need help communicating to an antenna through some
interface, no, he wants to write the whole darn Antenna in code. Just
run it on any computer, and start receiving. No physical antenna
required.

Amazing. Simply amazing. If this works I suppose all those Video-In
cards are the next to go, since you could write a program that receives
TV broadcasts.

Why stop there? Why not write an edible computer program? Copying
computer programs are easy, so we could end world hunger there and then.

Sometime people just amaze me.

Hat tip to The Daily WTF.

So does this mean everybody is stupid?

January 31st, 2005

Ah, the joy of seeing gender biases reflect through the eye of the American media…

As you can clearly see, the presented view is according to the age old stereotype. TV is presenting women as the more stupid and incompetent sex.

Eh, no, wait! That’s not it at all. There is a new stereotype. Since presenting women as stupid is not really allowed (huh?) TV is presenting men as the more stupid and incompetent sex.

There. Clear enough, isn’t it? Those swine that run TV shows show a clear gender bias. They’re picking up on menwomenmenwomen… Everyone! The feminist male-chauvinist hypocrites!

So rightfully enough, instead of lauding the TV industry for it’s overall fairness and equal representation, everybody complain.

Enough to give me a headache, but that can be expected considering I’m a member of one of the two stupid sexes.

Is “The West Wing” being antagonistic on purpose?

January 31st, 2005

Let me start by saying that I’m not a The West Wing
viewer. Mostly for historical reasons (Didn’t start to watch the first
season, didn’t have the time to catch up a little afterwards, was told
it’s not really worth it to catch up during the later seasons, and
don’t have the time to catch up on six whole seasons now). The reviews
I hear from people who watch it are that the latest is season is really
good, and on par with the first ones.

But they are making lots of noise in the media lately. It seems that hardly an episode goes by without someone getting insulted.

Early on December, they had an episode when they were dissing the hospital in Anchorage. And the mayor was greatly offended.

Last week they ran an episode saying some not-very-nice things about
the NASCAR races. And about the races’ fans. Which in turn got very upset.

And in the latest episode, they managed to rile the corn industry.

And I’m not sure why. If the latest season was bad, I’d believe
they’re desperately trying to get more viewers. But that’s not the
case…
Naturally most shows could easily manage to anger someone.
It’s easy to anger most people. But The West Wing is doing it best lately. I don’t follow The West Wing
on the news, and yet I heard about these. That’s more than for other
shows.

And it may be that Americans need to start taking
their entertainment TV shows a hell of a lot less seriously. And fast.
That would be another way to make everyone happier.

Politically Correct

January 31st, 2005

It has been quite a few years ago since I’ve seen this, but I was
reminded of it again right now, and think I didn’t post about it
previously (searches agree, but I recall wanting to post it in the
past, so sorry if I did and am just repeating myself).

An acquaintance of mine that spent a few years in the US came back
and had with him some nice brochures from leading universities.

One these includes pictures of students, and a sentence explaining why they wanted to go to this specific university.

There were many that detailed the high academic level, how prestigious the university is, and so on and so forth.

And then there was this nice girl that said (University name may not
be correct, I don’t remember which one it was, so am picking one at
random)

I wanted to go to Harvard because I wanted to be mentally challenged

This was during the time when PC
speech issue was hot. Everybody was running around complaining that
they are metabolically challenged, visually challenged, emotionally
challenged, and the like (instead of fat, blind, and sociopathic. Well,
maybe the sociopaths didn’t exactly came out in an outcry, but you get
the point, I trust)….

So all in all, I’d say she succeeded admirably. But that she came
like that from home, and the university probably didn’t deserve much of
the credit.

I didn’t like these exaggeration of PC speech to begin with, but I think this incident really cinched it for me.

Take X, add computer, add wireless connection, and wait for the crash

January 28th, 2005

And crash is quite literal when you talk about cars…

Where did anyone come with the idiotic idea of making Bluetooth enabled cars ?!
Is it any surprise that now cars can get computer viruses ?!

Sticking an embedded computer into everything, a standard CPU that can run a standard OS, I can understand. It makes development, changes, additions, and fixes much easier.

But any OS would have all the problems of that OS, and would likely be able to run other programs that were designed to run on it.
Including viruses or other malware.

So the one thing you don’t do, is make it very easy for anyone at
all to insert external programs to run on your embedded computer. For
example, if there is no very compelling reason to do so, you don’t add
Bluetooth support in. Actually, you wouldn’t add any common wireless
protocol. But if you do, you should at least try for a standard that
includes some sort of authentication. And authentication is far from
being Bluetooth’s strong side.

On the other hand, maybe some people want to give full control over
their car to bored kid on any street they happen to drive along?

And I thought making Bluetooth enabled ski jackets was stupid… I wonder what will they add connectivity to next…

TV censorship

January 28th, 2005

The fact that too many things are censored around here, I’m already
used to. We have a large percentage of the population who are religious
Jews, and they carry a lot of political clout. Even when things are not
officially forbidden or illegal, they get censored in order to cater to
a larger audience.
Not something I’m happy with, but it’s a part of life.

The US, however, generally presents a different fa├žade. Land of the free
and all that, you know. Not convincing for quite some time, but the
recent stories of TV/Movie censorship there is still unexpected.

Especially when they are as ridiculous as this educational cartoon that was prevented from being broadcasted, because it happens to present a same-sex female couple.

There weren’t any sex scenes or anything of the sort. And it wasn’t
even the main point of the show, just some of the characters that live
in a manner that may be different than that of some Americans (but no
some other, I’d expect…)

  Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the "Sugartime!" episode
does not fulfill the intent Congress had in mind for programming. By
law, she said, any funded shows must give top attention to
"research-based educational objectives, content and materials."

"Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the
lifestyles portrayed in the episode," Spellings wrote in a letter sent
Tuesday to Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of PBS.

Shocking, right? Exposing little kids to… lifestyles. Oh, the horror. Think of the children.

This isn’t the best part yet… You can still claim that maybe it isn’t
the duty of an educational cartoon to show any lifestyle that isn’t the
official mainstream. So what is this specific cartoon series about, and
what are it’s educational purposes? Well…

In the show, Buster carries a digital video camera and explores
regions, activities and people of different backgrounds and religions.

Ha! Take that! The show focuses on presenting people of different
backgrounds and religions, from various regions… It’s the declared
purpose. That’s why they’re broadcasting it, and that’s why the
education department funds it.
Just as long as the different backgrounds are not different enough to include a lesbian couple…

Jury pool from… the US

January 28th, 2005

This story ran about 10 days ago on CNN with the title Attorney meets the ‘jury pool from hell’ .
At a first glance it looks like a funny (for an outside observer, at
least) story about a trial, where quite a few or the potential jurors
turned out to be grossly unfitting to serve as jury.

One admitted to being on drugs, one is certain that the specific
defence lawyer involved is always representing guilty parties, one was
a violent mental case, one was once arrested for soliciting sex…

But when I think of it, this is a complete non-story. Just a cheap publicity
stunt for the defence lawyer (His name is mentioned in the article a
few times). It’s rather well known that most Americans are not all that
keen on serving as Jury. So it’s only naturaly they’d come up with ways
to to be released, whether the reasons are true or not (or borderline,
but can be presented either way).
I hear and read about many cases where people try to squirm out of Jury
duty, but not on so many cases where people try to get in a Jury…

The article also doesn’t say how large was the initial pool. The four
people mentioned there might have even been well within the normal
probability distribution…

If this is what this defence lawyer really sees as a jury pool ‘from
hell’, maybe he’s too soft, kind, and naive to be in the
business…  ;-)

TypePad and the rel=”nofollow” Attribute

January 24th, 2005

There’s a lot of noise and discussion
about the new rel="nofollow" attribute that can be now added to links
in order to prevent search engines from giving a higher rank to the
destination (a gross simplification, but it has been all said in other places).
The idea was to reduce the incentive for comment spam,
and most (All? Depends how big is big) big search engines and blogging
platforms embraced this in an incredibly short duration.

Only that, as with most things, the advantages come with some
disadvantages. Since this is a TypePad hosted blog, and all they said
was that they implemented it completely, I decided to ask them about
making it an option, and let their users decide.

The short version is that they say they made it effect all comments
on all posts on all TypePad blogs in roder to get a quick result (which is a bit odd, since it will
take time to achieve an effect. It doesn’t prevent anyone from making
comment spam, just gives them less of a reason to want to, in the long
term. But the sooner it’s done, the sooner the results, so alright), and will think about making it an option. They’re rather vague,
and don’t give a definite answer or time estimates.

I hope they’ll come to their senses soon and understand that control
should be with the blog writer, and that giving limited choice is not a
good idea. With the amount of comments I’m having here myself, this
isn’t a real problem here, but I still don’t like not having an option.
It’s certainly an argument for not staying with TypePad, though not a
compelling one for me at this time.

Here’s the whole correspondence.
First my original message. I
tried to be nice, and to ask a general question, since after all this
is rather new, and I wasn’t entirely sure what they’re doing, or not:

Hi.

I wanted to know if you plan to make the "nofollow" attribute on
comments links an option instead of compulsory, and if so then how soon?

Making in on by default for all user is alright, but making it an
automatic decision is not. As any quick look around the web, or even on
trackbacks to your own blog, will show, this idea has merit but also
some problems.

Installing some complex system that allows to choose which
comments/commenter/links will get the nofollow attribute, and which
won’t, is understandably complex and could take a lot of time and
effort. But at least making it a global yes/no choice of the user who
write/own each blog shouldn’t be a technical problem.

It’s true that the effect of the attribute is weaker if it’s not
globally adopted. But still, deciding for all your users to adopt it is
a bit harsh. Many people don’t yet seriously (if at all) suffer from
comment spam, and have comments, and commenter, that they would be
perfectly willing to reward with the minuscule addition to search
engine rankings.

If you did implement it as an option, I apologize. But I just went
through all the settings and configuration pages and did not find it. I
didn’t actually made any comment with a dummy link to check, but you
officially announced that you started implementing it for all users, so
it seems likely I can take you at your words on that. Even if the
announcement was premature, it didn’t come with a mention of an option,
so it’s still worth letting you know that at least some of your users
things you should…

Yaron.

Here’s the response I received:

Hi Yaron,

Thanks for taking the time to let us know your thoughts on this new
feature. We’ve turned it on for all accounts to get it working right
away against spammers. In the future, we will look at adding more
options for how this works, but we wanted to get this part of it
working to help protect our users who are getting a lot of spam.

We do block tens of thousands of comment spams a day for our users
that are hit by comment spammers. So from what I gather from our team,
this could help our users who are getting spam from commenters that are
trying to improve their page rank by posting seemingly legitimate
comments. The commenters of this type may realize that they are wasting
their time. Of course, there are a lot of variables going on here, and
I don’t know all of the issues that made our team decide to make this
change. These are just my observations so far!

Again, we appreciate your feedback, and look forward to adding more options to make all of our users happy!

Have a nice day,
Kristine

I find it odd that
the customer support rep claims to not quite be in the loop, and not
know what the development team is doing. Six Apart are not a a large
company that should have a sprawling bureaucracy…

I didn’t receive anything that describe their actual intents and
plans, so I figured it’s worth it to let them notice that they do have
users who care, and ask again about their future intentions.

hi, Kristine.

Of course this has a good chance of helping "users who are getting
spam from commenters that are trying to improve their page rank by
posting seemingly legitimate comments". There’s not much argument about
that. That’s the all purpose after all.

The problem is that it would to a similar extent hurt people who are
posting really legitimate comments, and removing some of the incentive
for them to spend their time. So less search ranking to people that
actually contribute, and less reason for them to make the investment of
commenting on blogs that use this new attribute.

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. What I’m saying is that it should be
up to the blog owner to decide if they want links in their comments
deprecated or not.

Starting it on all your hosted blogs straight away as a sort of a
stopgap method is alright, but you really should provide users the
ability to turn it off for their blogs if they want to…

Thanks for your response,
Yaron.

This is their second response:

Hi Yaron,

Thanks for your feedback, we do appreciate you taking the time to
let us know what you are feeling on this new situation. We are letting
our team know that we do have users who would like this option – I know
that they are looking at some options surrounding this, but I don’t
have a timeline on that yet. For now, we just wanted to get this in
place, like you said, as a stopgap measure.

Thanks again,
Kristine

Very polite, not very informative. They do claim to look at the
issue, and that they’re not entirely settled. And admit that they are
aware users would like more control (Can I say "duh", or would it just
be childish?).

I don’t particularly I like the disconnect, or sure about the
reason. I assume they try not to commit to anything until they make up
their mind. But if that’s the case they should go out and say so. It should not take them that long to decide, after all what
I’m saying is that they need to provide an option, a measure and
mechanism of control, not that they need do drop the idea.

Still that’s what they have to say now, so I’ll just wait a while and see what, and hopefully not if, they actually do.

I sent a simple thanks for the response, and decided not to keep
pursuing the issue right away. I don’t have any point to raise that I didn’t already,
and that they’re not aware of. It doesn’t seem likely they want to
provide any further information, or make any commitments right now. So
keeping on it would just be badgering, which would be justified and for
a good cause, but not likely to be a good idea or to help any.

If nothing changes, I’ll try opening the issue again, a bit louder.
I would also have more information to point them towards and to quote,
to illustrate that they are indeed being (more than) a tad unreasonable.

How Can Anyone Still Fall For Those Scams?!

January 23rd, 2005

Just got another scam message, in the well known mould of the
average
Nigerians. These things are going on for years now, and yet they didn’t
really change those messages much. I do admit that most of those that
currently go around at least aren’t written in all capital letters, and
aren’t riddled with spelling errors (oh, wait, they still are) but
it’s nearly the exact same bogus tales and fishy offers. And yet
people must fall for this, or they would stop…

So, in the spirit of having a somewhat boring day, here’s the recent
one I got, with comments that I’ll refrain from sending to as a reply
to avoid confirming my live email address…

Dear Friend,

We’re not friends. I don’t know you. I’m happy to make new friends, but I rather have a choice before they become such.

      Greetings to you,With warm heart I offer my friendship, and
greetings, and I hope this mail meets you in good time. However strange
or surprising this contact might seem to you as we have not met
personally or had any dealings in the past, I humbly ask that you take
due consideration of its importance and the immense benefit it will be
to you.

Yep,
it met me in good time indeed. As proof, I didn’t just delete it
outright. The best reply such a message received from me in years.
And
don’t worry, I did not find your message to be surprising or strange in
the least. You could say I even expected it, or one very much like it.
I’m a well known unscrupulous philanthropist the world over, and
receive many such calls for help.
As for considering the benefits
for me, I did. Anything that can amuse me and hold my interest for a
while is a benefit, especially on a rather boring day. Thank you for
providing this bit of entertainment.

     After careful consideration with my children, we resolved to
contact you for your most needed assistance on this mutually beneficial
and riskfree transaction which i hope you will give your urgent
attention. I duly apologize for infringing on your privacy, if this
contact is not acceptable to you, as I make this proposal to you as a
person of integrity. First and foremost I wish to introduce myself
properly to you.

It
saddens me to know that even careful considerations did not stop you
from sending these messages. It’s even sadder to know that your little
innocent children are no longer so innocent, and would consent to this.
I think you should invest your billions in the education system of your
home instead of trying to smuggle them outside.
I’m also somewhat
curious about your definition of "riskfree". You want to take away my
money, no? How is that risk-free ? Or do you mean that it’s risk-free
for you and your children? I admit, that may indeed be that case…
Glad to hear you’re a person of integrity, though. I’d hate to be ripped off by a person with no integrity.

   I  am Mr.William Koroma  I am moved to write you this letter,
this was inconfidence considration,for our present circumstances and
situation, i escaped with my wife and children out of Sierrial-Leone to
The Nedelands through the aid of the United Nations Evacuation Team
where we are now presently residing on temporary political asylum.

It’s
Sierra-Leone, not Sierrial. Let’s go over it again, letter by letter,
so you will know how to spell the name of your home: N-I-G-E-R-I-A.
Better, right?
Last time I heard you escape to Ghana, though. Why did you change your mind?
I though you’d like consideration. I never considered that you’d prefer
considration instead. What is considration? Some new slang word from
Sierrial?

     However, due to this situation I decided to change most of my
Billions of  Dollars deposited in Swiss Bank and other countries into
other forms of money coded for safe purpose because the new head of
state Ahmed Tijjan Kabba made arrangement with the Swiss Goverment and
other European countries to freeze all my treasures deposited in some
  european countries, hence i and my wife along with my children,decided
laying low in this our tempoery political asylum camp here in Grou
  Jirnssum in the Nedelands to study the situation till when things gets
better, since president Tijjan Kabba taking over goverment again in
  Sierria Leone. One of my chateaux in Southern France was confiscated by
the French Goverment, and as such we had to change  our identity so
that our investment will not be trace and confiscated.

Mind your punctuation friend. I know you’re excited and agitated, but it doesn’t excuse sloppy writing.
I
was unaware that there were forms of money that could be coded for safe
purpose. I guess it’s true that one learns new things every day.
I’m
glad to see that you improve with spelling your home country’s name,
though. Not there yet, but you’re getting better. Maybe next time…
Frankly,
I’m quite amazed by the influence your benevolent head of state has in
the international banking community. Getting banks all over the Europe
to freeze accounts is quite a feat. And doing it to such a large client
as yourself, with billions in those accounts, in literally unheard of.
Next
time you have to flee for your life, consider converting some of your
treasure to gems. They’re easy to carry and can be easily traded for
cash in many locations.
There’s one point I’m not entirely clear on,
please help me understand. You have lots of old accounts all over
Europe. The government and banks of all those countries agreed to
freeze those accounts. So you changed your identity in order to make
them not realize that those accounts are yours?! How does it work,
exactly? You can’t really go to all those banks and retroactively
change the account details after all…
Oh, and just to keep you appraised on local politics, All those
countries you talk about have governments, not goverments. Just so
you’d know. If you’re fleeing one and complaining about others, at
least know your enemy.
Although one of them did grant you asylum. Even if only a tempoery
one. Which must be some legal definition I never heard of, of a at
least not an English term. I hope for you that it doesn’t mean that the
asylum is only temporary and they will stop granting it.

I  have deposited the sum of Twenty-eight Million Dollars
only{US$28,000,000.00} with a security company for safekeeping.

All
those billions of dollars and treasures, and you only want to liquidate
a few million dollars? What, you’re going to leave the other billions
there to be located and confiscated? Isn’t it a shame?
Or is it that
you don’t really trust me? That you don’t really want to be my friend?
Maybe you sent similar messages to thousands of people making the same
offer, eh? I’m hurt. It’s also foolish of you, since the handling fees
of making all those thousands of accounts would be quite a lot. It’s
also very easy to trace a quick opening of thousands of different
accounts, thereby making everything not so risk-free for you…

  The funds are security coded to prevent them from knowing the actual
content .  What I want you to do now is to indicate your inetrest that
you will assist me and my immediate family by receiving the money on
our behalf.

How
do you security code funds? If you deposited the money with a security
company, they must know how much you deposited? Or it it your beloved
head of state you’re worried about? But if he can’t trace the account
to you, he won’t know the content anyway, and if he can’t, how would
security coding anything hinder him?
You certainly piqued my interest, if not my inetrest that you so wanted.
For a man with so much money,
you’re not thinking clearly. Or is it that you had to leave your
financial and security advisers behind? Find someone else, you can
certainly pay them to give you better advice.

     The  Account required for this project can be personal, company
or an offshore account that you have  total control over, your area of
specialisation will not be a hinderance to the successful execution of
this transaction.

I
just need a bank account, any account with any bank, right? No bank
will ask questions when I transfer those millions in, try to connect
the money to you, or report to the authorities, of course.
You can’t
begin to imagine how relieved I am to hear that my area of
specialization will not hinder the transaction. I was worried that the
bank will stop the money transfer simply because I’m a computer
programmer, or have a degree in economics. Banks usually heavily frown
on these sorts of things. But since you assure me that in this case it
won’t be a problem, everything is fine. I have complete confidence in
you.

Ackowledge this message, so that I can introduce you to my family as
our foreign trusted partner who shall take charge of our investment
abroad where we now plan to settle.

What,
you want to come and settle in Israel?! Are you sure that’s a good
idea? Immigration may give you a hell of a time if you’re not Jewish,
you know…
And frankly, me dear new friend, I don’t really want to
meet your family. Like I wrote earlier, seeing your children would just
be sad.
So sorry, I’ll neither ackowledge this message, nor acknowledge it.

    I want you to assist us in investing this money,but I will not
want  our identity revealed. I will also want to buy properties and
stocks in multy- national companies and to engage in other safe and non
speculative investments.

Your identity is safe with me. I have no clue who you are, so I can’t really divulge that info to anyone else. No worries.
Why
exactly do you need me to manage this money for you, though? If you’re
coming to live here, you can deal with it on your own. Or hire a firm
that specializes in these things. I really can’t compete.

   We have been through a lot of health and
spiritual turmoil, hence will need  your understanding and
assistance.

It’s not really clear if you’ve been
through a lot of health, or if you’ve been through a lot of health
turmoil. I’m not sure either option is particularly appealing, so you
have my sympathy. Not so sure about my understanding. And a big no for
my assistance. Sorry. It’s just that I have reason to suspect (possibly
it’s just that your new head of state spread those vicious rumours about
you) that you don’t really want me to take this money, but instead will
at some point ask me to transfer some money to you, to help facilitate
some aspect of the transfer, and I will then not hear from you again
(Not because you’d steal it and disappear of course, but because you’ll
get caught. But still, there’s a risk in this risk-free venture that I
don’t feel I’m willing to take).

May I at this junction emphasize the  high level of confidentiality
which this business demands and hope you will not betral the trust and
confidence which we repose in you.I  shall put you in the picture of
this buiness, i.e tell you where the funds are currently being
maintained and also discuss other modalities including remuneration for
your services.

Full
confidentiality. Nobody will ever know you contacted me. I won’t tell a
soul. Everything going on between us will be done with the utmost
privacy. One thing I can absolutely guarantee is that I will not betral
your trust. I can’t betral your trust. I can’t betral much of anything,
and neither can anyone else.
I also don’t want anything to do with this mysterious buiness of yours.
I don’t know what a buiness is, I never seen a buiness, and am not in
the mood of meeting one right now.
On the other hand, you can perfectly spell modalities and remuneration. Hmm…

   I   shall also inform you with the next line of action as soon as
  i receive your response.Is this preposition is attainable? If it is,
Please kindly funish me immediately by E-mail with your direct
telephone number and fax number to enhance the confidentiality which
this business demands.

The position is not quite attainable, no. Dreadfully sorry.
I also regret that I cannot funish you anything, for much the same reasons that I could not betral your trust previously.

  Best Regards,
Mr.William Koroma
NB:Please send all Reply mail to my comfidential email address(removed)

I
don’t think so. I may hear more from you if I do. Depending on your
friend, I may even as a side bonus get more offers to lower my mortgage,
buy a fake Role, or enlarge parts of my anatomy. None of which
I will truly need once I have access to all those millions of yours…
And I don’t care how comfy is that comfidential address of yours.

 

N.B.PLEASE BE INFORMED THAT THIS BUSINESS TRANSACTION IS 100% LEGAL AND
COMPLETELY FREE FROM TERRORIST, DRUG MONEY OR MONEY LAUNDERING.THIS IS
COMPLETE LEGISTIMATE BUSINESS TRANSACTION.

N.B.PLEASE BE INFORMED THAT THIS BUSINESS TRANSACTION IS 100% LEGAL AND
COMPLETELY FREE FROM TERRORIST, DRUG MONEY OR MONEY LAUNDERING.THIS IS
COMPLETE LEGISTIMATE BUSINESS TRANSACTION.

Sorry, did I say something about not using capital letters? Sorry,
sorry, sorry. My mistake. That would teach me to read things to the end
before making wild statements. The all-caps are back.
Good to know
that this is totally legal. That may be true some place, but not
according to the laws in this country I live in, and that you want to
settle in. Maybe you should reconsider your choice of residence.
It’s
of course even better to know that there isn’t even a single terrorist
involved in this. I’d hate to think I’m being defrauded by a terrorist
instead of by a lying scoundrel of a thief.
What isn’t clear to me
is how you can assure me that no drug money is involved. How do you
know where the money you want to steal from me comes from? Maybe it is
drug money, eh? You can’t complain, after all, not after telling me
that my specialization will not effect the transaction.

Well, at least you didn’t claim it’s a legitimate business transaction. Legistimate I’m willing to concede to you.

Have a nice day, and may you spend lots and lots of happy years in jail with your friends and family.
Your new best friend,
Yaron.

Not Allowed to Pass

January 23rd, 2005

On the same perambulations with a friend in the previous post, we also walked along the promenade at the beach. We discovered there’s a part of the promenade to the north of what we always considered it’s end. It looks rather new, and some parts are still under construction, so possibly it really wasn’t there a while ago and it wasn’t just years during which we managed to miss the whole area.

In any case, along one stretch of the walk there was a car driving towards us in the other direction. So we moved to the side of the road (which was bricked like a sidewalk, not covered is concrete or asphalt like a road for cars) and let it pass. And noticed a large sign ahead of us, roughly translated as "Passing beyond this point is not allowed for either vehicles or pedestrians". Mind you, the car came from beyond this sign…

We decided to take our lead from the car, and went walking forward, past the sign. There was no matching sign on the other side, but instead a sign for cars marking that it’s a joint pedestrian-vehicle road, and the speed limit is 25KPH. Very consistent… It also wasn’t marked as a one way street (Not that I’ve heard of one-way roads for pedestrians)

As a side note, along the same secluded stretch of beach there was something else that I didn’t personally encounter before. A beach area specifically for the Jewish religious community. It was walled from all sides, and a sign near the entrance specified the division into days in which only men are allowed into the beach, and days in which only women are allowed into the beach…

Exit Sign

January 23rd, 2005

It was one of those moments that make me sorry I don’t always carry
around with me the digital camera that I don’t have… (Note to self:
Consider buying a decent digital camera, then consider lugging it
around at all times)

Late Friday night. I was walking with a friend along one of the
large streets in Tel-Aviv. The very large majority of stores and shops
were closed. As we were walking we passed next to a large building
front, with locked heavy metal bars on the entrances/windows. And on
the wall, between such two locked areas, was a sign. With one word (in
English): "Exit".

This, as I mentioned, on the outside of the building.

After we finished chuckling, we decided to look exactly what kind of
store would place such a sign on the wrong side of the door. Turns out
it wasn’t a store. Further to the side there was another metal plaque
identifying the building (also in English). "…ConsulateEmbassy of the People’s Republic of China".

Now, I can understand it if the Chinese word for entrance can be
translated into English as several different words, and one of them is
"Exit" (My Chinese isn’t good enough to know, it’s just an assumption).
But surely someone must have noticed that it’s the wrong word and told them to fix it, no ?!

Copyright Infringement

January 21st, 2005

I actually still remember the outrage from locksmiths (well, what I remember is the reports and discussions about it in the computer security circles, but still) when a couple of years ago Matt Blaze published a paper about a security weakness in mechanical locks with master keys. Those people believe in the misguided notion of security by obscurity, so got understandably upset when someone removed some obscurity and showed actual problems that nobody bothered to address.

In any case, he recently published another paper, about security of physical safes this time. And unlike the previous paper, his attitude was pretty positive about many aspects.

Still, the paper includes some explanations and pictures, so the locksmiths are up in arms again. Sending many angry, and sometimes abusive, messages both to him and to the administration of his university. Not nice, but part of the deal.

What I found particularly amusing in his report is that some of them went to the direction of suggesting he is guilty of copyright violations, by publishing pictures of safes with the paper.

While Penn’s support for the basic principles
of academic freedom would protect me even if these officials agreed
that my paper was somehow inappropriate, some of the letter writers
seem to have unwittingly stumbled upon a weapon that could potentially
be very effective (in other contexts) at silencing Internet-based
debate.  They have accused me of copyright infringement
.

My paper is heavily illustrated with photographs of safe locks and
their components.  Several letters have (accurately) pointed out that
these photographs are protected by copyright and that by distributing
my paper I’m also distributing copyrighted material.This, I must
admit, is entirely correct
.

That’s not the amusing part, yet. The poor US has a very serious problems with their copyright legislation. They’re getting totally out of whack, and it often gives the impression that violating copyright in the states will be considered only a little bit worse than murdering someone. I do hope they’ll straighten themselves out soon, before the attitude will get exported too much…

What amused me was that in this specific case:

But I created every one of the images
myself, in my own studio, and with my own materials, cameras and
computers.  I arranged the subjects, lit them, and photographed them.
The results are copyrighted, to be sure, but I hold the copyrights.

And as he’s well aware, he was still lucky that his university bothered to speak to him before removing the material out of the fear of lawsuit. The common response this days by ISP’s and date hosts is to cover their asses be careful and remove anything that may make them liable, even if they didn’t spend the time to check the facts

Go read his whole story, it’s interesting.

Sorting by Date, the FCC Way

January 19th, 2005

I ran across this article, where a Greek reporter complains that the FCC in the U.S. is considering censoring parts of the Greek Olympic Games opening ceremony. Which would be very stupid and ridiculous of them, and which I agree with her can be seen as an insult to Greece, but it would be far from the first time the FCC has made a stupid decision.

In any case, I decided to try and look for myself on the FCC website exactly is it that they have to say about the issue.
I entered the search screen, searched for Olympic Games, and clicked the link to sort results by date, since this is a new issue.

Should be simple enough, right?

Wrong.

Click the thumbnail to open a picture of the returned results I got, or just go ahead and run the search yourself (to see if they fixed it, maybe).

The dates are clearly listed on the right-side column.

If you’re wondering whether maybe those dates are wrong and the sorting is done on a different and correct date field (Which would be a problem all by itself), that’s not the case. Some of the summaries contain the date as text inside them, and you can see they all match perfectly.

It seems sorted by relevance, despite the fact that it clearly states that the results are sorted by date. And after requesting a sort by date, sorting by relevance is not very… relevant.

The relevance factor seems skewed as well. How can the same document published on the same day(check the file names and summary), once in a plain text version and once in a Word document, have different relevance values? The text should be identical…

Oh, well, making important telecommunication decisions that effect the U.S., and often the entire world, doesn’t require being able to perform basic sorts.

Note: I also sent this to This is Broken, but since the auto-reply let me know that it isn’t likely it will get posted there, and will take a long time even if it does, I decided to post about it here as well.

Dwarf Actors Shortage

January 19th, 2005

I find this totally hilarious.

The production of the new Dr. Who
series has some serious difficulties. One of the kinds of aliens in the
series are supposed to be small blue aliens. And since they’re small,
they were looking for dwarf actors.

So what’s the problem? There aren’t that many dwarf actors, and most of them got taken by either the new Harry Potter movie, or the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie.

The Dr. Who production was left with roles for little blue aliens that they couldn’t cast. Oh, the horror.

On the other hand, good news for unemployed short people everywhere:
Acting career is what you’ve been looking for. You don’t even need to
know how to act, you just need to be short – and you’ve got this down
pat. Simple laws of supply and demand. And remember: don’t sell
yourself short.

Gender Differences

January 19th, 2005

A Harvard Dr., in an informal speech, mentions that there may be innate differences <gasp> between men and women (link to NY Times article, registration required so I’ll quote heavily)
Naturally some women got offended, and demanded that he apologize.

The problem:

In citing a second factor, Dr. Summers cited research showing that
more high school boys than girls tend to score at very high and very
low levels on standardized math tests, and that it was important to
consider the possibility that such differences may stem from biological
differences between the sexes.

Or to present it plainly:

Dr. Freeman said, "Men are taller
than women, that comes from the biology, and Larry’s view was that
perhaps the dispersion in test scores could also come from the
biology."

The reaction, by someone who I’d have referred to as an hysterical women, except she’d take offense:

"When he started talking about innate differences in aptitude between
men and women, I just couldn’t breathe because this kind of bias makes
me physically ill," Dr. Hopkins said. "Let’s not forget that people
used to say that women couldn’t drive an automobile."

Yes,
let’s not forget that. Let’s also not forget the people that say that
men can’t get pregnant. Heck, let’s not forget those darn bigots that
talk about X and Y chromosomes as if there’s some difference in their
distribution between men and women. Or those people that say
chromosomes have any effect whatsoever on anything. A pity Dr. Hopkins
didn’t go into linguistics instead, I bet she could have made a
fascinating research about why most cultures develop different words
for "men" and "woman" as if they’re different in any way.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this Dr. Summers is a known womanizer,
who always disparages women and think little of them. Maybe he didn’t
intend to raise any legitimate issues for consideration but just wanted
to insult women in general? Maybe not:

"A lot of people who absolutely disagreed with him were not irritated,
and he said again and again, ‘I’m here to provoke you,’ " said Richard
Freeman, an economics professor at Harvard who directs the bureau’s
labor studies program and invited Dr. Summers to speak. "He’s very good
at stimulating debate, but he cares deeply about increasing diversity
in the science and engineering workforces, especially since we have
many more women getting Ph.D.’s in science and engineering than ever
before."

Naturally, he didn’t apologize. There’s really nothing to apologize for:

The
president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, who offended some
women at an academic conference last week by suggesting that innate
differences in sex may explain why fewer women succeed in science and
math careers, stood by his comments yesterday but said he regretted if
they were misunderstood.

"I’m sorry for any misunderstanding but believe that raising questions,
discussing multiple factors that may explain a difficult problem, and
seeking to understand how they interrelate is vitally important," Dr.
Summers said in an interview.

People
need to calm down a bit, and not get offended when nobody tries to
offend them. People are different any any number of ways based on any
number of criteria. It’s possible to raise these issues in a derogatory
manner, but it’s also quite possible to discuss differences
scientifically and rationally.

Update: It reached our local newspapers this morning.
Unsurprisingly, they didn’t bother reading what they reported, and
instead went for the attention grabbing headlines. Translated: "Harvard Chief claims: ‘Women’s genes are inferior’ ". Which he of course didn’t.