Archive for December, 2006

Flag confusion in South Carolina

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

I’m in Columbia, South Carolina now with my family visiting my dad’s parents. I’m currently browsing from a “business center”* in the hotel, though I should probably instead be hacking encryption on the world’s largest banks; after all, I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

One weird thing I noticed earlier in the day was a BBQ restaurant with an obnoxious flag pole. They were running four flags: the USA flag on the top, then the state flag of South Carolina, then the Confederate flag, and finally, the Union Jack. I was baffled. I understand the first three flags; this is, after all, the South, and some people are still pissed off at losing the “War Between the States”. But the Union Jack?! How does that possibly fit in? If anything, any truly red-blooded patriotic Americans(r) would hate the British with a passion. They are, after all, the oppressive colonial power that we won our independence from in the first place. And they certainly didn’t pick a side during the Civil War. So I’m just not seeing it.

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Wikipedia, the time’s are a changing

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

There’s going to be a big change on Wikipedia within the next few days. In actuality, it’s an exceedingly small change, but it’s going to ruffle a lot of feathers, because it will do away with one of the “philosophies” that a lot of users and and administrators have taken for granted. I won’t give it away now, but watch for the fireworks.

Full disclosure: I am an administrator on the English Wikipedia. 14,502 Pokémon articles and counting; go us!

Followup post


Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Is there a term for when you’re out doing something and think of something you want to blog about, but by the time you get back to your computer, you’ve forgotten what it was? I’m just going to call it blogaphasia (a portmanteau of blog and aphasia). So, in lieu of writing about that brilliant idea I had earlier today (that I have since forgotten), I’m now writing about blogaphasia. Drat. I guess I should start writing these ideas down as I have them.

More stock scams

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

So I looked into my Gmail spam folder and found thousands of goodies. I hadn’t previously seen them, since the ones Gmail filters out never even make it to Thunderbird (which also has its own spam filter). The stock spams I showed you the other day were all good enough to make it through at least one layer of spam filter. Not so for these gems.

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This is what you get for trying to help people

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

Libya has sentenced to death six foreign medical workers for infecting dozens of children with HIV/AIDS. Nevermind that the doctor and five nurses came to Libya to try and help children, not harm them. And nevermind that genetic mutation rates prove quite conclusively that the outbreak actually started about three years before the six ever arrived. What we have here is a piss-poor health care system that didn’t even have rudimentary sterile safeguards in place against transmission of blood-borne diseases. Some foreigners try to come in and fix up the place, but instead get blamed for intentionally infecting children with HIV because the populace over there would rather believe in some nonsense conspiracy theory and sentence innocent well-intentioned people to death than accept the severe failures on their end.

You know what? They don’t deserve western medicine. If this is how they treat people who come over at great personal expense to try to help them, then they can keep their piss-poor hospitals, run by people so incompetent they don’t know to use different needles on different people.

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There’s still some fun in Second Life

Monday, December 18th, 2006

Okay, my last post on Second Life was a bit of an exaggeration. I really don’t see myself trying to get involved in the economy anymore (especially not with the free slots or the camping chairs), but the physics engine still is fun to play around with. All you have to do is find an isolated zone that permits object creation and scripts (which is a good proportion of them). It’s probably the easiest physics environment to play around with. All of the actual execution is done on their servers, and the scripting is easy to pick up and play around with. I don’t think Linden Labs would be happy if lots of people were basically exploiting their servers for goofing around with physics engines, but that’s how it is.

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Stock scams

Monday, December 18th, 2006

I made a few posts to the newsgroup misc.invest.stocks awhile ago, and I made the mistake of using my real email address. Ever since I’ve been getting the occasional stock scam spam in my email. Here’s how these things work. A person buys lots of shares in a penny stock. He then sends out millions of spam messages advertising it, and as gullible people buy shares, the price goes up. The one who sent out the spam sells at the peak of the stock price and everyone else is left screwed over as the stock plummets back to or below its original trading price. Here are three such scams I’ve received recently.

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The pitfalls of security

Monday, December 18th, 2006

It looks like, by using https exclusively, Pingbacks, Trackbacks, Technorati, etc., simply won’t work with this blog. Ah well, I guess that’s just one of the pitfalls of security. I wonder why encryption seems so incompatible with the blogosphere? Eventually, everything is going to be encrypted. Continuing to send all of those usernames and passwords in plaintext is going to become untenable. Linux has already largely gone all-encrypted, phasing out Telnet and FTP for SSH and SFTP. In fact, the only thing I can think of that you would do with a Linux server that is unencrypted is serving up websites. Strange.

And now we’re going secure

Monday, December 18th, 2006

In the past few days we’ve changed our ISP from Comcast Cable to Verizon FIOS. On the one hand, it’s a good thing, because FIOS is considerably faster, but on the other hand, Verizon filters port 80. That’s a bad thing. That effectively means I can’t run a webserver. But wait, you may ask yourself, how are you viewing this page?

It turns out they don’t filter port 443. Port 443 is another port that is used to serve up webpages; specifically it is the encrypted http port (which is why the URL now has https in it). It’s a bit of an inconvenience for now, because you have to click through to accept my self-signed certificates. Luckily, I found a place that I can buy real signed certificates for $80 a year, which seems like it’s worth it to get rid of those annoying messages.

So, long story short, this site has moved from to

Trying out a Second Life

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

I played Second Life on and off for the past three weeks, and I think my time with it is drawing to a close. For those of you don’t know, Second Life is a virtual environment created by Linden Labs with “two million users“. It has an economy based off of real money and almost every single thing inside the environment is created by users through the very flexible object creation and scripting engines. Despite all of that, I just couldn’t really get into it. It’s not so much a game as a virtual environment, like the world wide web but in 3D.

I first started playing Second Life when I heard of the replicating object outbreak. That fascinated me, so I downloaded the game and played for awhile, trying to figure out how to do it. I wasn’t able to work around the safeguards in place that theoretically prevent a perfect replicator, but I did manage to create an object that spawned lots of other objects every second, each of which also spawned lots of other objects every second. Needless to say, I crashed a few zones that way and my account was banned.

So I started a second account and decided I’d be “on the level”. And I explored the game for awhile. I found all sorts of seedy establishments: strip clubs, prostitution rings, casinos, furries, and even a Gorean fantasyland, where my female avatar was captured and sold into rape slavery. Luckily that last part requires you to play along with it; I didn’t, and I just teleported the hell out of there. There’s even camping chairs in-game where property owners pay paltry sums of money if you just idle and do nothing. Apparently popularity (as measured by in-game metrics) is worth money, though they aren’t even paying you enough to cover the cost of electricity to run a computer.

The scripting language was a lot more open-ended than I thought it would be, and I did make some crazy stuff, but it just wasn’t very satisfying. The physics was off. Also, there’s few places in the game where non-property-owners can go to build stuff. These places are called sandboxes, and they’re filled with other people and lagged to hell. Making any sort of physics object there was an exercise in futility; some of my objects would be getting one execution cycle a second. So much for trying to make a rocket.

In the end, I realized I was just sitting around in camping chairs making money, but it was very little money and there was no point to it. I wasn’t even playing the game, just leaving it open in a window on one of my monitors. So I stopped. I understand how others, especially in minority interest groups (like Gorean fantasies or furries), might be attracted to such an environment, but it just didn’t do it for me. It is basically a glorified 3D chat room with a real-world economy, and I wasn’t interested in spending money on virtual goods, and as for chatting, I’d much rather use IRC or AIM. Many others seem to share this viewpoint.

One more thing: the lag is terrible. It can take over a minute from when you teleport in to a place for all of the objects to load. It reminds me of the web pre-millennium. I was keeping track of bandwidth, and their server was only sending down about one-tenth of the maximum capacity of my connection. Google, with their massive server farms, could do a much better job. But alas, Linden Labs has too little infrastructure, leading to lag and bad loading times.

I would definitely recommend trying Second Life. It is a unique experience, and it will be a good fit for some people. But I don’t see how it could possibly be the next evolution of the internet. It’s more of a novelty, more of a game where you have to make the fun yourself. But ultimately it’ll prove to be naught but a blip on the radar of progress. There is a conceptual revolution in how we think of the internet out there, and it will significantly change everything we’ve come to think of as the web — but this isn’t it.