Archive for February, 2008

You can’t rest in my Jesus, it’s full

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

I was talking with a friend recently and she brought up the concept of resting in Jesus, which has something to do with easing your troubles by taking comfort in knowing that Jesus will take care of them for you. It’s a perfectly vacuous concept, of course, except I had never heard it called by that name. So my first response when I heard her say “resting in Jesus” was, and I kid you not:

“Oh, you mean like a tauntaun?”

I am:

  • A. Incredibly glad she’s not religious, because:
  • B. She got the Star Wars reference

I’m hard-pressed to conjure up another spur of the moment thought that’s quite as offensive as the thought of slitting open the belly of the Christ and resting inside his corpse.

Animated visualization of Pakistan’s YouTube hijacking

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Yesterday, Pakistan censored YouTube in such a way that YouTube became inaccessible to the greater Internet for a period of about two hours. It was a remarkable screw-up that necessitated mistakes being made on multiple levels.

The gist of the story is that Pakistan Telecom, a Pakistani telecommunications company, advertised a /24 route for YouTube in a botched attempt at censoring YouTube from within Pakistan at the request of Pakistani officials. Unfortunately, Pakistan Telecom’s upstream provider, PCCW, didn’t filter that route, and it superseded the less-specific /22 route YouTube already had with routers on most of the Internet. Within about two hours someone finally got through to PCCW and they disconnected Pakistan Telecom, making the bad route disappear. YouTube was thus accessible to the Internet once more.

Now you can see all of this insanity in a graphical fashion thanks to BGPlay, a graphical visualization of BGP routes in the form of a Java applet. Visit the site, click the “Start BGPlay” button, and type in as the prefix. Then set the date range to 23/2/2008 to 25/2/2008 (European date notation). Then hit OK.

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The Internet sucks because idiots are legion and vocal

Monday, February 25th, 2008

I’ve been pondering for awhile now why the Internet sucks so much. Sure, it has its good points (like free knowledge), but it also has the largest collection of idiots ever assembled in one place, virtual or not. All you have to do to verify this for yourself is to spend a few minutes browsing through random profiles on MySpace (don’t spend too long though; that level of stupidity is contagious). Some of that has to do with the anonymity that is frequently afforded on the Internet; after all, if you fear no repercussions, no damage to your reputation, then you won’t hold your tongue. But the problem goes deeper than that.

The problem is that the morons are incessantly vocal with their idiocy while the smart people generally know better and only pipe up when what they have to say is actually worthwhile. Let’s use this blog as a case study. The level of commenting here is overall pretty decent (though active moderation plays a bit of a role in that). But there’s one particular post that has attracted attention from the absolute worst of the web’s denizens: my post about Zwinky.

Zwinky is a crappy online “game” targeted at children, and it shows. The comments on that post are simultaneously ignorant, vulgar, poorly put together, and unnecessary. Like an intrepid scientist studying a fatal disease in a Petri dish, I have resisted destroying that which I know is evil in order to better study it, so the comments remain thoroughly and dangerously unsanitized. I dare you to read through all of those comments in their native state and not feel terrible for the prospects of humanity’s future.

These kids are just so damn dumb. They don’t know how to spell, they don’t know how to punctuate, they don’t really know how to write at all. It’s as if their English teachers tried their best at the Sisyphean task, realized the futility of it, and then, in sheer desperation, began having sex with their students in order to be sent to adult prison, where at long last they are no longer tormented by idiot kids. This is what IM speak does to people! And it’s horrendous! I tried to make a “New Rule” to elevate the level of conversation:

All comments must observe proper written English punctuation, spelling, grammar, capitalization, and proper style. All offending comments will be subject to immediate disemvowelment at my sole discretion. I don’t know if it’s all the lessons on creationism or sex with teachers, but it seems like they’re not teaching kids writing anymore in schools?!

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Pakistan brings down YouTube

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Through network magic I know not much about, Pakistan has caused YouTube to be inaccessible from the majority of the world. It’s not just that they blocked access to YouTube from within their own country; they did it in a way that isn’t filtered by their upstream ISP, so it affects pretty much everyone else too. What happens now?

Well, this damage is going to be routed around pretty quickly, as Pakistan having the ability to knock off websites is an error that will shortly be corrected. I predict the fallout will be immense though. Censor sites and the world looks down upon you, but do it in a way that (temporarily) removes the rest of the world’s access, and you’re in another circle of hell.

Maybe Pakistan is about to find out what the true meaning of “Googlebomb” is.

Update 1: So after a little more edification, I think I have a better handle on what’s going on. First, read up on the AS7007 incident, because what’s going on now is essentially the same thing. The Border Gateway Protocol that the Internet uses to establish routes prioritizes specific routes over more general routes. A network in Pakistan set up a /24 route, which is about as specific as you can get (/25 and beyond are commonly filtered out), declaring that YouTube was located within their network. Since this was the most specific route, it propagated out across all the routers, and now most of the Internet thinks YouTube is located within that network in Pakistan. Of course, it’s not, and they’re simply dropping all of those packets as part of their censorship. There are two possibilities: a network admin in Pakistan messed up and accidentally implemented their censorship in a way that affected the whole world, or this was done maliciously. If the latter is the case, well, the Pakistanis may soon be discovering that they need the Internet more than the Internet needs them.

Update 2: As of around 16:00 EST, YouTube is back up and working. Either PCCW filtered the bad route or the Pakistanis stopped sending it. And do check out Greg’s comments below; he’s the networking expert.

Update 3 (Feb 25): Here’s the best technical synopsis of what happened to YouTube yet.

Update 4: This animated visualization provides the clearest view of the hijacking yet. Watch all of the routes divert to Pakistan Telecom within a matter of minutes, and then two hours later, revert just as quickly back to YouTube.

Update 5: Hey look, MSNBC has picked up the story! I wouldn’t have guessed that this would make mainstream media. Or that they would get the technical details right. But it looks like they talked to the knowledgeable folks at Renesys, who I linked to in Update 3.

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Latest Anonymous video

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Anonymous has released another video. This one includes a photo montage of the February 10 protests as well as an announcement of planned protests on March 15. And it even references one of my blog posts; woot! Although I didn’t end up attending the February 10 protests, I think these upcoming ones will prove too irresistible to miss.

Ralph Nader announces ’08 presidential bid

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Ralph Nader has announced his 2008 presidential bid. Because gifting us with eight years of George Bush wasn’t enough.

Now if I were to be cynical, I’d say that people with no chance of winning who run anyway are attention whores. And when they spoil the election for Republicans by disproportionately taking away votes from liberals, they’re dangerous attention whores. But hey, that’s only if I was being cynical.

Where are all the computer science majors?

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

On Thursday, I attended the career fair at University of Maryland, College Park on behalf of my employer. It was a pretty sweet deal. Instead of spending the day coding in the office, I got to return to campus on a weekday during all the hustle and bustle of usual college life. I ran into and caught up with some people I know who haven’t graduated yet. It was a fun time, and the slightest bit surreal because, just one year ago, I was at the same career fair, only in the opposite role of one of the students prospecting for jobs. I still remember very well what it felt like to be a student talking with the various employers, and I crafted my own pitch around what I think would be most effective on the me from one year ago.

Although I had a great time at the career fair, and those five hours seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye while I was chatting with everyone, I can’t help but feel that my company didn’t get the best return out of it. Registration for the career fair was $700 for the small booth that we had; as these things go, that’s pretty expensive. Compared to that expense, we didn’t really talk to enough people that we would be interested in hiring.

My company is looking for full-time “programmer analysts”, which is a fancy way of saying software developer consultants. All of our literature and our poster used that term, and we began thinking that maybe compatible people were simply passing us by because they didn’t realize we were actually looking for them. So we put up a prominent “Software developers needed” sign, and did get slightly more people throughout the rest of the day.

To be a good programmer analyst, you have to be a good programmer. That pretty much means a computer science major, or someone in a related major (such as Computer Engineering) who has significant programming experience. We aren’t looking for experience with any particular languages, the theory being that good programmers can quickly adapt and learn whatever is necessary to complete the job. Besides, the choice of programming language isn’t up to us; it’s whatever our clients want. And while most of them want Java or .NET, there’s a fair number of other languages some of them use that no one learns in school.

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Netscape’s death marks the end of a web era

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Let’s have a moment of silence for Netscape Navigator, which has finally shuffled off that mortal coil at the age of fourteen. Netscape was once the dominant web browser, sitting comfortably atop an 80% market share. But its failure to innovate, and Microsoft’s bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows, ultimately led to its downfall. It’s a huge shame, because IE would go on to cause huge harm to the web owing to its noncompliance to standards. We all would’ve been better off had Netscape remained on top.

Eventually, Mozilla Firefox would come along to challenge IE’s reign of terror, and AOL released re-branded and slightly modified versions of Mozilla Firefox and called them Netscape. They didn’t have much of a connection with the Netscape of yore except for the name, and now even that has come to an end. Netscape has reached end of life. Long live Netscape!

I’ll still crack a smile whenever I run across a long-forgotten web page bearing the now-obsolete recommendation “Best viewed with Netscape”.

Because making fun of emos is fun

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Q: What’s a suicidal teen’s favorite vehicle?

A: An emo moped.

Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all decade.

Stamping out chaos

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

I was an opinion columnist for University of Maryland’s student newspaper The Diamondback for three semesters before I graduated. The columns I wrote are still up on the web archive, but I’d rather not depend on The Diamondback to host them indefinitely. Thus, I have decided to repost them on this blog, not only to archive them in a place under my control, but also so you readers here can have an idea of my writing in college. Here is my fourteenth published opinion column, Stamping out chaos, originally published February 16, 2007.

Last Friday, the Black Student Union and Phi Beta Sigma tried to host an abomination of a party at Stamp Student Union. One person was arrested, another injured, a police officer was assaulted, fights broke out as admission was closed, the fire alarm was pulled and the whole travesty was finally canceled. The whole event just wasn’t planned or organized well at all, yielding an all-too-predictable result.

This was the sixth time so far this year that an event at the Student Union has fallen into disarray. This is far too common an occurrence. The rules need to be changed to foster a safer atmosphere. If a student group doesn’t have its act together, it should not be allowed to try and bungle its way through hosting an event. Its application for use of the Student Union should be swiftly denied.

The staff members in charge of the Student Union must be stricter in their application requirements. Student groups should be required to submit a detailed event plan showing that they have thought everything through and that they are thoroughly prepared. The No. 1 thing that could have prevented this embarrassment Friday night would have been preparation.

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