October 2003

BoingBoing: It’s alive!

by Joey deVilla on October 31, 2003

However, the “http://boingboing.net” name doesn’t direct you to the site yet. Give the domain name system a day or two to clue in. In the meantime, the magic numbers http://216.126.84.59/ will give you the boingy goodness you’ve been jonesing for.

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Birthday party announcement

by Joey deVilla on October 31, 2003

Evite seems to have failed to send my invitations, so I’m going to announce the party here and email my friends later today.

I’m having a joint party — it my 36th birthday and Ashley Bristowe’s something-or-anotherth birthday party on Saturday, November 8th. The fun starts at nine-ish, and the last guest crawled out at almost 7 a.m.. If you know me, you’re invited.

Pictures from last year’s festivities are here.

This year, I’m working on securing the Hot Tub Truck, which I’ve mentioned here and here. Bring a towel and a bathing suit. The truck will be outdoors, so bring something warm to wear between your jaunts from the house to the truck.

I’ll be providing food and some alcohol and mix, but please bring some to contribute to the bathtubs. Like last year, both bathtubs will be full of ice and hold all the bottled drinks.

Dancing always breaks out. This year, we’re going to simplify life for the volunteer DJs and rely on good old iTunes. If you have any requests for music selection, let me know in the comments.

I’m always up for new party ideas, so if you have any, leave them in the comments!

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Dad gets Bueller

by Joey deVilla on October 31, 2003

Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while and you could miss it.”

Ferris Bueller

Dad’s been waxing a little bit philosophical in the hospital. During my last visit, this little conversation snippet took place:

Dad: While it’s good to get ahead, you should make sure that you enjoy life while you’re still young.

Me (laughing): Dad, have you watched me at all over the past five years?

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Geeks and Atkins

by Joey deVilla on October 30, 2003

I thought I’d blog what Cory would have, had the BoingBoing server been up and running: Salon has an article on the Atkins diet and its appeal to programmers and techies.

It’s worked so far for me; combined with working out, I’ve dropped about 35 pounds.

In honour of this article, I think I’m going to create a Hacker Emblem out of sausage slices tonight.

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ESR’s proposed hacker emblem

by Joey deVilla on October 30, 2003

Eric S. “ESR” Raymond, one of the elder statesmen of hackerdom (and aficionado of peanut butter cookies) is proposing that hackers get an emblem:

The Linux folks have their penguin and the BSDers their daemon. Perl’s got a camel, FSF fans have their gnu and OSI’s got an open-source logo. What we haven’t had, historically, is an emblem that represents the entire hacker community of which all these groups are parts. This is a proposal that we adopt one — the glider pattern from the Game of Life.

Here’s the emblem, which might look familiar if you’ve ever been given Conway’s Game of Life as a school programming assignment:

Graphic: ESR's proposed hacker emblem, the 'glider' pattern from Conway's 'Game of Life'.

Raymond reports that “About half the hackers this idea was alpha-tested on instantaneously said ‘Wow! Cool!’ without needing any further explanation.” I’m sure this will be true for the over-30 crowd like me; do any of you under-30s — especially those of you who still have to escape your teen years — recognize this pattern?

ESR’s set up a FAQ page, in which he answers the questions:

  • What is the emblem?
  • Why have an emblem?
  • Why this emblem?
  • Why the emblem should come from him

I think the emblem design’s great: it’s simple, recognizable on a couple of different levels, easy to draw even by hand — even by the least-artisically-gifted person, and can even be represented in text:


   0

    0

  000

Or the binary version:


  010

  001

  111

Or the decimal version of the above binary version, which is the sequence 217. Someone should be able to derive a gang sign from that.

(Yes, someone will derive a gang sign. If you don’t believe me, check out the DefCon conference, which features a distressingly large number of pasty white kids talking “street”.)

One more thing — allow me to recap the true definition of the work “hacker”, taken from the Jargon File:

hacker n. [originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe]

1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.

2. One who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming.

3. A person capable of appreciating hack value.

4. A person who is good at programming quickly.

5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in ‘a Unix hacker’. (Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who fit them congregate.)

6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example.

7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations.

8. [deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence ‘password hacker’, ‘network hacker’. The correct term for this sense is cracker.

The term ‘hacker’ also tends to connote membership in the global community defined by the net (see the network and Internet address). For discussion of some of the basics of this culture, see the How To Become A Hacker FAQ. It also implies that the person described is seen to subscribe to some version of the hacker ethic (see hacker ethic).

It is better to be described as a hacker by others than to describe oneself that way. Hackers consider themselves something of an elite (a meritocracy based on ability), though one to which new members are gladly welcome. There is thus a certain ego satisfaction to be had in identifying yourself as a hacker (but if you claim to be one and are not, you’ll quickly be labeled bogus). See also wannabee.

This term seems to have been first adopted as a badge in the 1960s by the hacker culture surrounding TMRC and the MIT AI Lab. We have a report that it was used in a sense close to this entry’s by teenage radio hams and electronics tinkerers in the mid-1950s.

Perhaps the emblem could be used in the same way the “Jesus Fish” was — to separate the True Believers from the Heathen. To establish bona fides, an early Christian would draw one arc of the Jesus Fish, and only one who knew the secret would know to draw the other half. Perhaps hackers could identify each other by drawing the emblem with a couple of missing cells; only a 1337 H4X0R would know which ones to fill in.

I give the emblem a thumbs-up. Where can I get the T-shirt?

[Thanks to snowchyld for the link!]

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Sidetalkin’

by Joey deVilla on October 29, 2003

Gizmodo, the gadget weblog, points to Sidetalkin’, a web site devoted to how silly the Nokia N-Gage cellphone makes you look.

For some reason, the designers of the N-Gage decided to place the earpiece and mouthpiece in such a way that you have to talk into it via the skinny side, which has been dubbed “Sidetalking”. Here’s what it looks like:

Photo: Guy enjoying his Nokia N_Gage phone a little too much.

Okay, the facial expression makes it worse. But you get my drift.

Sidetalkin’ has put out a call for pictures of people “sidetalking”. An N-Gage phone isn’t necessary; the person in the photo can be sidetalking into anything, even a tape dispenser. The guy running the site says “I WOULD LIKE MORE PICTURES OF GIRLS”.

Here are my two submissions, and you’ve probably already guessed what I’d be sidetalking into…

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The blogger who was fired by Microsoft

by Joey deVilla on October 29, 2003

Michael Hanscom, author of the weblog eclecticism, got fired for what is — in my opinion, anyway — a harmless post on his blog.

Michael was a full-time temp working at the MSCopy, the print shop at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington. MSCopy shares a building with the Shipping and Receiving department. Last Thursday, while passing by shipping and receiving, Michael saw something that he thought was amusing: a truck offloading a delivery of brand new Apple Power Macintosh G5 computers. He took a photo and posted it in a blog entry titled Even Microsoft wants G5s.

Microsoft fired him last Monday:

…as of about 2pm today, I once again joined the ranks of the unemployed.

It seems that my post is seen by Microsoft Security as being a security violation. The picture itself might have been permissible, but because I also mentioned that I worked at the MSCopy print shop, and which building it was in, it pushed me over the line. Merely removing the post was also not an option — I offered, and my manager said that he had asked the same thing — but the only option afforded me was to collect any personal belongings I had at my workstation and be escorted out the door. They were at least kind enough to let me be escorted out by one of my co-workers, rather than sending security over to usher me out, but the end result is the same.

More frustrating for me is that, having read stories here and there on the ‘net about people who had for one reason or another lost their jobs due to something on their weblogs, I thought that I had done what I could to avoid that possibility. To my mind, it’s an innocuous post. The presence of Macs on the Microsoft campus isn’t a secret (for everything from graphic design work to the Mac Business Unit), and when I took the picture, I made sure to stand with my back to the building so that nothing other than the computers and the truck would be shown — no building features, no security measures, and no Microsoft personnel. However, it obviously wasn’t enough.

Michael writes in his latest post:

A few people have inquired about how I’m doing financially. I have to admit — things are a little dicey here. Rent is due in a week, and while I’ll be able to dip into some emergency money to get me through this round, I will need to have stable income by the time November 5th rolls around or I’ll be in very dire straits.

November 5th is my birthday, so I’m going to celebrate it Japanese-style and give him a present: I’m going to send him US$20 via PayPal. If you’ve got even a couple of bucks lying fallow in your PayPal account, perhaps you might want to send him a little (there’s a PayPal button on his “About” page) just so he can make the rent.


Okay, time to mount my high horse.

First off, Microsoft Security — a phrase so oxymoronic that you really should be laughing your heads off right now — have some explaining to do. How does a photo showing the delivery ordinary off-the-shelf computers being delivered in broad daylight in a publically-accessible area threatens Microsoft? They should worry more about preventing dashing and clever accordion-playing geeks from using lame confidence man tricks to get past locked doors..

So what if they’re taking deliveries of G5s? When last I checked, they still developed software for the Macs, and even if they didn’t, there’s nothing wrong with doing research on the competition. If the article posting offended or worried them so much, they could’ve taken the diplomatic route and simply asked Michael to remove the posting.

Finally, even they must be aware of their reputation. Even the most starry-eyed rah-rah rookies at The Beast of Redmond (during my last trip there, I met some new hires, and they saw themselves as a kind of software X-Men, fighting to save a world that hates and fears them) know that many people outside the company see them as a greedy juggernaut with no qualms about killing their competition with Borgia-like ruthlessness. They must have considered — even for a moment — how the tech world would perceive the firing once word got out.

Just what is it with those Microsofties?

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