April FOOLS!

I hope you all enjoyed my little prank. (Server was not shutdown by MPAA after all)

Server moved.

Happy Solistice all. A number of new an interesting things have unfolded on this front. First of all I recently finished my first semester in college. So huray! Now to the more geeky stuff. WE HAVE MOVED. This site has moved to new server (which I am renting together with some friends) You no longer need the :3080 at the end of the domain in the url (http://dotCOMmie.net) I have fixed some flaws that have opened up as a result of the move but I bet there is a load of broken links left. Also I have slightly updated this site, it should now be a lot more friendly to text browsers (I tested it in Elinks).

Workers of Internet boom/bust. (base on Netslaves 2.0)

During the begging of the internet boom many of the new workers thought that they had come to heaven. The field was open with opportunities, the pay was great and all the free coffee you could drink. Many of these workers came to work for start ups, they had their own reasons for doing so, some wanted a shorter climb through the corporate ladder while others wanted to cash in on the stock options. But few were really aware what a wild ride they had gotten on.

The internet industry ticked by its own clock, everything seemed to change by the hour. One day knowing HTML could land you a job with a salary of eighty thousand a year, the next you better learn to code or you'll end up on the street. But the glasses were half full and the people looked past the risk and focused on their future success. This was the spirit that was driving the internet culture.

The working conditions in these start ups were unique. There were two main concerns that were running through the head of the average employee, getting rich and keeping their job. Doing so required for each employee to keep pace, your resume better evolve at a rate faster than the internet. And one should always keep in mind that your company might not be there tomorrow, merging and bankruptcies were all too common. When entering a startup every employee knew that they would not have a regular 9-5--Monday Friday schedule. But instead they were expected to put in as many hours as needed to complete their project. For example in NetSlaves 2.0 we read of how Jan was working every day, non stop with almost no sleep and when she asked her boss if she could have a day off he replied "We're only twenty-nine days, sixteen hours and 11 minutes away from D-Day. Can't you stick it out 'till then?" It is quite ironic how in such a work centered society job security was a luxury.

Many companies went down in the internet bust, but yet some remained. While it is hard to define which set of characteristics would definitely lead to success, we do see, through NetSlaves 2.0, some practices which would most certainly lead to doom. One of the most general but reoccurring characteristics is optimism. When a company would take a slight turn for the worse both its workers and managers would just hope for the best and try to avoid the worst. For example, in the story of CRT we see how many of the insiders, especially programmers, knew that the company had no real product to back all its marketing. This fact was not a great concern to them; they continued to go to work expecting their job be there tomorrow, this feeling remained the same even when the companies great lie was to be busted. When the time came most of the optimistic workers were laid of. Only one person came out on top, as the whole fiasco had unfolded. Vincent had been long bothered by the company practice, on his free time after work he had started working on a project of his own hoping to cash in if his greatest fears were to come true. But even he did not escape unsaved. When Aether acquired CRT, they realized that they had spent millions of dollars on a worthless company that had no product. The only thing they could cash in on was the Parser, Vincent's own little jewel. In the end Vincent and Aether had broken into a series of lawsuits over the rights to the parser, leaving Vincent with a huge legal bill instead of a severance package.

Although in many other industries of the world we do see a great link between knowledge and income this link in the internet industry is very faint. Knowledge does not always guarantee a better salary, but it does guarantee better job security. In the case of a merge between two companies if you are skilled enough you might be able to get a new position at your new parent company. Income depended much more on ones class. In this hypothetical merge a person higher up on corporate ladder might not just get a job but also a nice severance package, either through stock or cold, hard money. Least fortunate were the "Aliens" which had to struggle each day to not disappoint anyone so as to not be fired and deported.

People have always looked for a way of making the big buck in no time. The internet boom was certainly no exception, millions of people jumped onto the raging bull in hopes of scoring big. But as we see the NetSlaves 2.0 many of them would be happy to walk away with just a few broken bones, of course is a hypothetical sense.

The future culture?

There are many different people who flock to Silicon Valley to live and work. They come to this Mecca from different places, religions and cultures with one uniting ideal, they all "worship" technology. This influx of tech-savvy individuals setting their roots in a valley just 10 miles across has dramatically altered this region. These changes encompass many, if not all, aspects of life. In particular the way society interacts and functions.

A technologically saturated community is a society which is empowered by "Techno Lust". In other words the people of this society live breathe and work for technology. They fall into an endless cycle of developing and consuming digital devices. The main goal of these devices, and technology in general, is to make life easier (although not simpler) and more efficient.

But all of this comes at a price. Since technology evolves at an ever increasing rate, it creates a great demand for more and more man hours. To fulfill this void we see two phenomena, longer work days and the arrival of people from other areas both nationally and globally. It is from these two phenomena that enrichment and problems arise.

Silicone Valley is a society centered around work. Work, itself is not restricted to your cubicle and the regular office hours. To be able to keep up it is critical to be in touch with your customers and coworkers throughout the day, and on occasion at night. As a result of this devotion to work, we see an emerging struggle within families and relationships. But in Silicon Valley no problem is left unfazed; several methods for dealing with this issue have emerged. People try to minimize their "life-work" so that they have more time for both "work-work" and family life. This goal is achieved by hiring baby sitters and/or maids. Time management also becomes very important so people use technology to both keep track of meetings and events with the use of Palm Pilots, and utilize any fragmented time to communicate with family and partners on cell phones.

As a result of a constant influx of people from a range of cultures come to Silicon Valley a new culture is created. This culture has evolved into a diverse one; it is overall impossible to generalize and therefore best described as a mixed one. Mixed from Chinese, American, Japanese, Latino and many other cultures. As a result of all this diversity, people are forced to tolerate ideals and practices different from theirs. At work this is not a hard thing to do as one can always find a shared interest for a field in technology. It is outside of work where the cultural differences are more visible, and this is where a contradicting view of cultures emerges. While cultural diversity is generally praised, people generally prefer to interact with those who share their culture.

To deal with the pressures of this society people form networks. These forums for communication enable people to exchange information and experiences in order to help a fellow friend. These networks range from a whole set of fields of interest such as: helping recent immigrants to blend into the Silicon Valley culture to helping with solving problems at works, both social and technical. It is through these networks that the society of Silicon Valley is able to bond to gather.

Communication in the Valley stretches over all the frontiers from face-to-face to electronic-interface. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each medium and using them in combination becomes essential to maintain a link to your coworkers and family. For example to bridge time zones email would be the medium of choice while to send a signed document the fax would be your friend. But this is not what makes Silicon Valley unique. The amass of cultures and technology we see the emergence "mixed languages" such as Spanglish, or a fusion of English with tech-terms to create metaphorical meanings. An example of this: "I can't drive my daughter to day care everyday, it would burn too many cycles."

It is through the ideals of the Silicon Valley that we can get an idea of what a future society might be like. The interaction of technology and globalization creates a society which is generally tolerant of a different view and encourages interaction between groups with different interests.

Software Revolution

As we look around ourselves today and ask the question, what in the past 40 years has influenced our civilization the most. Not too far down the list you would definitely find "computer revolution" as one of the key players. This revolution is not delimited by the meteoric advance in cold-hardware, but rather the fusion of both hardware and software. Without the artistic creativity of software-engineers, computers might have still, to this day occupied a very small niche in government programs. Steve Lohr in his book Go To: discusses in great detail how several programmers have contributed to turning computing into what we know it as today.

One of the first great foundation stones of programming was a new medium of letting man talk to the machine. FORTRAN, the new programming language was developed by a small team at IBM. The FORTRAN team was lead and organized by John Backrus and consisted of additional members from a range of different backgrounds, such as MIT, United Aircraft, and Bell Labs. John was an unconventional young man with some discontent for formality and authority, this discontent was later reflected in the way he managed the team. There was a relaxed oversight and no formal budget to speak of.

Through his years at IBM John had grown tierd of writing software the ordinary way. Up to this time programmers had been composing their instructions for the computer in assembly, a very technical language that required a great deal of time to write even a smaller program. Together with his team Backrus set out to make programming easier, even for people with no specialized training.

The concept of a highlevel language was not well received during a pre-release PR-campaign. No one believed that a computer could turn high level instructions into efficient computer code, not even pioneer computer scientist Grace Hopper. She commented that it was "wishful thinking". The team was not hindered by the pessimism; instead they focused on their own goal and were confident they could pull of the job.

Designing the frontend of FORTRAN was no small feat. There were no wide conventions on how a highlevel language should look nor was there a great understanding of the best way to present a problem to the computer. Using their creative abilities, with the user in mind, the pioneers decided to combine a set of algebraic notations together with simple acronyms to make up the language commands. The backend, compiler, required the logical approach of an engineer. Because of the computing limitations at this time the efficiency of a compiler could make or break a language. The team spent a substantial amount of time optimizing the compiler, and as it would be later found out, they did a tremendous job.

After the completion of the language a benchmark test was run. Several FORTRAN compiled programs were put to the test in relation to hand-coded ones. FORTRAN did not disappoint, it wan almost as efficiently as the hand-coded ones. And the fact that debugging and writing in FORTRAN required much less expensive machine time soon made it a great hit.

The most recent revolution in computing is arguable the Open Source software movement. There have been many men who have been tagged as the idols of the Open Source movement but none of them equal the statue of Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds. Both Stallman and Torvalds have created two very widely used open source programs which are most often combined to make one solid operating system, GNU Linux. Although rivals they do share a certain passion for letting apt users to modify software from source to their liking.

Open Source is a new explosion in software development. Developers from all around the world collectively write software. With no one in control the developers have a great sense of freedom. Their goal is not to put out a program for sale on a dead line but rather to make programs which they are comfortable using. The developers are themselves, the users. This concept ultimately allows the programmers the luxury of expressing artistic and engineering talents through code. The comradery bred in an organization similar to that of the early developers, who were all radical fans of computing.

Open Source projects are often time "free" in both meanings of the word, free as in freedom (to modify) and free as in beer (to distribute). It is this fact that is making many software development companies worried. Who would buy software if they can get alternatives for free? Microsoft and SCO have been engaging in both a legal and social campaign to bring down the movement, and protect their profits. IBM on the other hand is going with the flow. Seeing that the open source is here to stay, they are instead focusing on selling hardware with pre-installed and optimized open source packages. In addition to this, they sell tech support, a service industry approach to software.

As a result of the hard work and dedication of the pioneers, software has evolved at an amazing pace. In just 40 years the world has been transformed. Virtually everything in one way or another is run on or at least aided by software

Has the Patriot Act Gone Too Far? (A school assignment.)

The Patriot Act was passed shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. The goal of this act was to increase the resources which different branches of law enforcement could use to track and catch terrorists. Primarily focusing on allowing the law enforcement to use surveillance against alleged terrorist without much oversight by the courts and other federal agencies. This would prevent information from getting into the wrong hands and thus making its way to the subjects which are being investigated. Surveillance has also been expanded to allow law enforcement to monitor activities on new technologies including computers. Another significant point of the Patriot Act is to streamline information-sharing and cooperation among different government agencies. But all of this comes at a significant price to our privacy and civil liberties.

The circumstances under which the Patriot Act was introduced have been criticized by many. This 380-page document was put together in haste. Just 45 days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, it was passed nearly unanimously by both the senate and the house.

What is the controversy behind the Patriot Act? While being lavishly presented by the government that the sole purpose of the Patriot Act is to fight terrorism. It does not clearly mention some of the more murky aspects of this act, such as: the lack of checks and balances over the law enforcement, the lack of a requirement to provide notice in the case of compromised privacy, and also the fact that law enforcement does not need to obtain a warrant or show probable cause when conducting an investigation. These are just a few points of the Patriot Act which undermine principles under which this nation has been built.

Not much outrage has been heard from the general public regarding this act primarily because of the way in which the act has been presented; in a very toned down manner with lots of bells and whistles which do not discuss the finer, more controversial points of the act. Non-the-less the Patriot Act has been taken to court by certain groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (or ACLU) and Center for National Security Studies in the case of Center for Nation Studies, et al. v. U.S. Department of Justice. The Center for Studies wanted the Department of Justice (or DOJ) to release the names of the 700 detainees that had been taken into custody in connection with the 9/11 investigations. The courts upheld the governments continuing refusal to release the names of the detainees. The court justified its decision, claiming that it was in the interest of national security.

The Patriot Act, the name itself is one filled with controversy. While being a clever acronym for "Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism" it suggest that if one is not in favor of this act one is not a patriot. This also mirrors the underhanded tactics under which the act was passed. How would a congressman be viewed, if he did not vote for an act which aims to eradicate terrorism in the United States of America. Maybe this is the reason why there was such a great percentage of congressmen who voted in favor of this act.

Patriot Act provides a great loophole which can be used unethically by law enforcement to detain alleged criminals for an indefinite amount of time without a proper hearing by any court. This is because the Patriot Act purposely does not provide a clear and substantial definition for the term Terrorist. Enabling the law enforcement to label any suspect as a terrorist and thus bypassing the whole system of justice under which this nation has been founded. A chapter of this act would make it possible for the authorities to deny that an individual who is being detained is in fact being detained, nullifying any possibility of defense for that individual.

The administration today has been preparing a new piece of legislature which would expand the Patriot Act even more. This legislation is officially called the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003" but is refereed, to because of its consequential similarities to its predecessor, as the Patriot Act II. It will dramatically widen the powers of government to invade the privacy of the public, as well as creating sentence enhancements if one is to take steps to make it more complex for the government to conduct unannounced eavesdropping on you. Such as knowingly and willfully using encryption technology to conceal any incriminating communication or information. This would apply to any federal felony, most of which have nothing to do with terrorism.

From a personal perspective, the patriot act is working in a direction opposite of one which the our society should be heading. Do you want to live in big brother government watching your back for the secret police which can throw you into a dungeon to rot until you have been forgotten about. It is pathetic to see United States, the nation of democracy and civil liberties, give up all that it has stood for without a fight. Do not fall to the gimmicks employed by the government saying that this is for your own safety, after all who would protect you from abuses of your rights, by The Law.

The administration, it self, should take a step back and look at what it is trying to achieve and how it is trying to archive this. Will its own actions in fact make the lives of the public safer. Or is it just flooding itself with information for which it does not have adequate resource to effectively evaluate even a tenth of. What if an unscrupulous individual inside the governments starts to sell this information to private and corporate parties. Are you ready to give up much of your civil liberties for something which might or might not be of any benefit to you.

If you are like me and are at all concerned about your privacy you should voice your opinion on the Patriot Act to your congressman and let them know that you will not easily give up on your Civil liberties for which the founding father have fought for so hard.

LIBEC web design

Yesterday I competed in the LIBEC webdesign contest. It was quite lame of a contest, we only had an hour to work on a page and no gfx software. The contest involved in testing our HTML/frontpage skills. Using notepad I churned out one of the lamest pages I have ever made, pretty much just did what the asked for in the criteria. I placed 3rd. While not being 100% satisfied with my performance I did alright considering I was the only "team" with one member. Had I had another 10 min I am quite sure I could get into first place. I was also quite surprised that so many people used front page to make the webpage(which should have been a separate category).

Wrong approach - Legislation

There are many flaws in todays political infrastructure. Just take a look around and and make a mental list of systems and policies set forth by the government that do not work. You'll then soon realize that some basic ideas of the governemnt might in essence be good but the approach spoils any benefit that the concept might deliver.

For quite a long time I have seen this flaw but it was not clear enough in my mind to draw a distinct solution. It wasn't untill the incident of where a 86 -year-old man plowed through a crowd of pedestrians in California (2003-07-16) that it became apparent something is wrong with the way people reason. To use this case as an example imagine what the press would say after an incident like this. Blah blah blah Seniors are high risk drivers blah blah bad reaction time blah blah blah (replace blah with buzz words). After a few days of headlines with these kind of words will catch on to people, and they will think "Maybe we need maximum age restriction on drivers." Certainly this is one of the most direct ways of approaching this and at first might seem logical but lets examine it a bit.

Just like everyone in our society elderly need to get from point a to point b to point c(etc) on daily basis. Why? well they need to be able to go to their favourite supermarket to resupply their shelves with consumables, or go to the doctor/pharmacy to fufill their medical needs. These activities alone can put a burden on your minute pention but not being able to take one of the most convenient/cheapest transportation to complete your task does not make your life any better. Say there is a maximum age limit emposed on the people do you excpect them to take a bus or a cab everywhere? Ok, that might be fine if you live in a city but in nation where about 1/2 the population lives in suburbs or exurbs where public transportation is nearly impossible what are they supposed to do? Pay $20-$50 on a cab each time they want to go anywhere. This is by no means is feasible.

So the question comes up how do you treat this problem while not making great burden on the society and the economy. Well, there are several aproaches one can take. For example expanding the public transportation system and more importantly making it much more friendly and convenient to people. This way one would not have much of a resentment to it and the urge to avoid it all costs would dissapear. This might look costly but I bet that if a stricter regulation on the way the money is handled within the company one can go very far without increasing ticket prices.

The point I am trying to make is that a direct approach to a problem is not always the best solution. Sometimes the only thing you need to do is slightly direct people to a new way of doing things and not put in new controversial legislation. So please next time you try to put a drastic change re-evaluate how it could turn and look for alternatives to solving this problem. And while you are at it elect politicians who will do the same.

White hat hacker

BREAKING NEWS!!! ThinkGeek has just started selling a hat which I suggested them to make. It comes in black or white and has hacker written on it anyway check it out here. Also you can see the email correspondance for my proposal of the hat here.

Spam, Telemarketing, Popups, Commercialization

Its a nice friday you come home from work or school. And as you cross into your personal domain you are greated with outmost enthusiasm by some of the most anoying things todays society has to offer. Let take it step by step probably the one of the first things you do is check one of the oldest remote communication systems in existance, postal service. This systems has served us well for centuries its is generally the easiest concept to grasp yet its is so effective. Effective thats the word every company is looking for when they want to deliver you information about their products or services. So as you look into your communication portal you are blinded by the colorfull "printed advertisement media" each page of which is filled with bits of information the goal of which is to persuade you to give up valuables be it time or money or what ever else. You pick up this pile quickly filter through the mass while picking out all the bits to which you have succumb to by subscribing the rest you desposit in secure location were they will be untouched untill you take out the trash or preferably the recycle. This form of spam is the closest relative to your usual email spam with one exception it much heavier burden on our nature {{{Tree}}} as it puts our resources in the trash. For one reason or another the content of this media is a lot more shall we say moral than its electonic counterpart. Oh yeah not to mention that this medium is economically stimulating as the companies who wish to present their deals to you have to shell out a bit from the pocket to the gate keaped, the postal service.

Medium: Postal Mail

  • Annoyance: **
  • Morality: ****
  • Social Acceptance: *
  • Circumvention: ***

As you procede into the house you might prepare yourself some dinner which you'd take to eat by the closest TV enjoing it along with you daily dose of animated comercials with breaks inbetween them during you might be able to glance at what is happening all around the world molded to suit your mind. TV commercials are in my opinions are the most legitemate forms of advertising as you can fully escape watching TV without major consequences and it wastes almost not additional resources per customer as you would with say postal advertisements.

Medium: Television

  • Annoyance: *
  • Morality: *
  • Social Acceptance: *
  • Circumvention: *

While you'r putting away of doing the "dishes" after you have just consumed your pre-made-just-throw-it-in-the-microwave-dinner you wouldn't be surprised if you heard your phone blaring in the distance. You jump up from the sofa so as to get the phone before the answering machine does. The race starts, the clock is ticking you have 5 beeps left. Oh-no you can't remember where you have put the wire-less (3 beeps left) so you run to the closest "stationary- phone" (1 beep left) you dig it up from underneat all the dust and other junk (Just in time before the anwering machine). "Hello" you say hoping that your whole "get the phone as quickly as possible" was not a futile. HA I say as the ear peace starts repeating the other side on which there is a fully moral and proper person trying to sell you their new phone plan or tell you about the low rate credit card with which you can accumulate enough debt to where you'd never be able to pay it off. Telemarketing is the spam of the non-computer- world. The only problem with this spam is that it "pulls you out of your seat." After all when was the last time you were waken up by an email at 14:32 on a sunday? Telemarketing has another advantage over spam you can have FUN with the totally moral person on the other side (considering its not a machine). Have you had a bad day? Why get all the agression out on the people you know or pay for a psychaetrist, just SCREAM away. WHO ARE YOU? WHO DO YOU REPESENT? WHY ARE YOU CALLING? notice you have to scream all your phrases because just when you say hello they will start advertising non stop. Screaming is the only way to get their attention.

Medium: Telemarketing

  • Annoyance: *
  • Morality: *
  • Social Acceptance: *
  • Circumvention: *

While you are up from your sofa and have just released all your agression on a totally innocent person you might procede to your computer. You open your regular programs including your favourite IM client which is likely to connect to AOL's AIM-OSCAR server (toc.oscar.aol.com:4949). And bang you get flooded with messages that advertise the hottest pr0n site with FREE streaming. The message itself goes along the line of "Hey man. Do you remember Jen from Highschool? I just met her in a bar. Over the few beers we had, she kept talking how she had a crush on you in High School. Well she gave me this website on which she hangs out on: http://xxx.pr0nfeedsofyourhighschoolcrush.org." You close this message put the user on your ignore list and procede doing this 2-3 times while cursing the last IQ test you submitted your IM ID to.

Medium: Instant Messaging

  • Annoyance: *
  • Morality: *
  • Social Acceptance: *
  • Circumvention: ****

After realizing that none of your 314 IM buddies are online you procede to open your favorite browser. Just as you do this all those super-cool- navigation-buddy-bars pop-up 2 to 5 windows in random locations on your desktop. You dont bother closing these knowin that they will form a super branching effect where for each one you close 5 more will pop-up. So you procede using you (hijacked) browser pointing it to your favourite (6th grade reading level) "news site" which has the best Who-slept-with-who-column. But as you read you see all kinds of colorfull blinking an moving advertisements covering up parts of your enriching and self fufilling article taking you 9 minutes to read the 2 pages of text. Finally you are done and procede to closing the browser window and the branching pop-ups which have now accumulated to 32. 11 minutes and 229 clicks later you are done.

Medium: WWW

  • Annoyance: *
  • Morality: *
  • Social Acceptance: *
  • Circumvention: *

None of your buddies have yet signed on so fill your need to communicate with a another human you open your mail client. "You got 38 new emails." You get that warm and fuzzy feeling of being popular since so many people send you email. These emails often contain text like this: "I AM WRITING YOU IN ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE PRIMARILY TO SEEK YOUR ASSISTANCE IN ACQUIRING OIL FUNDS THAT ARE PRESENTLY TRAPPED IN THE REPUBLIC OF IRAQ. MY PARTNERS AND I SOLICIT YOUR ASSISTANCE IN COMPLETING A TRANSACTION BEGUN BY MY FATHER, WHO HAS LONG BEEN ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN THE EXTRACTION OF PETROLEUM IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND BRAVELY SERVED HIS COUNTRY AS DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED STATES CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY." or maybe some sexual enhancement formulas, all that good stuff. You click unscribe to most of thesese emails in hopes to not get them again but they never seem to end.

Medium: Email

  • Annoyance: *
  • Morality: *
  • Social Acceptance: *
  • Circumvention: ****

And with this message I welcome you to the world of the consumer, where everyone wants your attention to get your money. Of course there are many tactics which one can use to stop or diminish the annoyances but I'll save that for another day.

Individualism through smiley faces.

If you have ever talked to me online you must have noticed my infamous backwards smiley faces. And I bet you'r wondering whats the deal with that, you'r not the only one. I initially started using backwards smileyfaces when I used AOL Instant Messenger. I resented using this client as I truly hate anything to do with an immoral corporation such as AOL but I did not have much of a choice as too many people who I needed to stay in contact with were using AIM and it seemed a bit illogical to convince a hundred or so people to use ICQ (yes I know AOL bought it up) instead of AIM. I just had to put up with it. Other then just pure hatred towards AOL I hate a few inconveniences in AOL them being (descending order) Banners, Lack of History, Smileys. The banners I hacked with ResHack, the history I couldn't do too much about. Smileys while I could disable them on my side they would still show up for the other person so I just wrote them out backwards so that AIM would not be able to recognize and thus render them. This is how your friends of irony and satire d: and (: came about. And even thought I havent used AIM for a while the practice has stuck with me to accentuate my rebellious side to defy conformity in favor of something clearer and more logical. In other words my individualism d:.


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