log (2000/07/28 to 2000/08/03)

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Thursday, August 3, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
  And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover --
  But THE NAMESERVER KNOWS, and will us'ually confess.

-- The Naming of Hosts

I might mention Mungojerrie.com (an amusing redirection); I might mention Griddlebone.com (available!?).

OpenOffice.org, where Sun is doing the Open Source thing with the StarOffice office suite. But office suites are boring.

Speaking of boring, one probably Really Ought To Read the 2000 Republican Platform, and the Democratic platform (currently that's the 1996 version; see the report of the 2000 Platform Committee for the smell of the 2000 one), and of course the 2000 Libertarian Campaign Platform (I like how they have "Campaign" right there in the name of the platform!).

From Medley, the rather cute SelectSmart religion selector thing. I came out 100% Unitarian-Universalist, with "Liberal Quaker" and "Neo-pagan" second and third. Pretty durn accurate. M and I went to a few meeting of the local Quaker church years ago. It was neat, but didn't quite strike fire. And of course you know all about my Unitarianism.

Geegaw T-shirts! Man, geegaw actually spent time on the design, too. Unlike some people.

The Architecture of Modern Political Power (hint: think Rockefeller and Rothschild). File under Conspiracies.

From Daniel Dern, Kitchen: Selecting Blendolini Causes Choco-Banana Shake Hang:

If the recipe hangs, exit the Choco-Banana shake recipe. The rest of the program should work properly.

That's why proper QA is so hard!

Another new Notes and Recommendations from Phil Agre. I haven't even read this one yet, but we both should. He's writing faster than I can read...

Net security goodguy Richard Smith is apparently turning pro. Good news for the angels. He's done lots of work on (among other things) the dangers of ActiveX controls; Certain Readers may want to check out his tiac.net site in detail if they haven't already.   *8)   Not to mention Joel's recent rant on how Passport abuses cookies (I don't always agree with Joel, but he's never stupid).

Nomic stuff some future day; time flies like a banana!

Wednesday, August 2, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Man! I do not remember moving to the tropics. They say the "Sun" (a distant memory for most of us around here) may show itself again on Saturday.

Having mentioned all those non-IBM security holes yesterday, I should probably in all fairness mention this Notes security hole, although it's not IMHO all that serious, and in fact Lotus documented and provided a fix for it before the c001 hax0rz announced it at DefCon. But hey!   *8)

Reading Alamut on "nothing doing" reminds me of the whole Zen Thing, and in particular of one cource that I took as an undergrad. It was said to be an easy A (so as, I suspect, to lure in and enlighten various jocks and their ilk), and was essentially a layman's introduction to Zen, deconstruction, and (as I fuzzily recall it) the whole soup of odd and nonobvious ways of thinking about the universe. Having read chunks of Zen in my youth thanks to Dad, I considered myself already an expert, and probably therefore learned much less than I could have from it.

For the final project, I remember turning in a half-burnt piece of paper with some quasi-wise Zen and/or existentialist scribbling on it, and signing up on the optional "discuss your project with the Professor" list. The day before my appointment I went out and bought a penny-whistle, and when I went to the Prof's office on the day, and he motioned me to a chair and said "So, this is a very --" I blasted a single note on the whistle and walked out.

Or I intended to walk out; actually I think I ran out, and then ran down the stairs and across campus until I was sure there was no pursuit. I felt, for reasons I've never completely understood, more deeply embarassed than I can recall feeling before or since. I got an A in the course. Still, there's that feeling. I can't imagine that Real Enlightened Folks feel that way, do they? Does the Zen Master dread running into the apprentice in the grocery?

ZEN MASTER: Oh, excuse me.

ACOLYTE: No problem. Hey, Master!

ZM: Yes?

A: You remember me? Last season?

ZM: Um, oh, um, yes! Er, Lenny, isn't it?

A: Leo.

ZM: Oh, yes, of course.

A: You remember, you hit me upside the head with your staff the last day of sesshin?

ZM: Hm, oh, yes, heh heheh. Sorry about that. Part of the whole Zen Master schtick you know.

A: Hey, sure, no problem. I got enlightened, after all. But I'll tell you what!

ZM: Uh, yes?

A: If I hadn't gotten enlightened, I woulda punched your lights out! Ha ha ha!

ZM (awkwardly): Oh! Hah-hah.

A: How about them Yankees, eh?

Programmer's Webliography and Index:

Welcome to a fresh new site! There are now more than 15,000 off-site links organized by subject into more than 200 categories, and we've been adding 1,000 items a month.

The opposition United Bermuda Party agreed with Bermuda shorts but opposed allowing safari and Nehru suits.

So I have in fact started (at least experimentally) a weblog within the corporate firewall here; any reader within the firewall who wants the URL and can't find it, drop me a line!

Tuesday, August 1, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Why did it take God only six days to create the world?

He didn't have an installed base to worry about.

I'm at a business innovation conference today; the speakers like telling jokes like that.

I actually touched Slige the other day, for the first time in months. No significant new features or anything, but various ports and stuff; soon the source should consist of a single C file that compiles for Win32, DOS, Linux, Acorn (RISC OS) and Sparc. Fun!

Otherwise mostly computer-security links today, since that's what I've been reading.

A reader points out more folks collecting info on your Web browsing behaviors without your knowledge:

A security and privacy firm that does risk assessments for Internet retailers has found that four retailers are forwarding the personally identifiable information of customers to another firm, in violation of the retailers' stated privacy policies.

Here is the experts' list of the Ten Most Often Exploited Internet Security Flaws along with the actions needed to rid your systems of these vulnerabilities.

Subtle and potentially nasty Windows security bug, and the Microsoft bulletin on it. Yet another reminder of how easy it is to get this stuff wrong.

A Netscape security bug for a change! A bug in Netscape's JPEG parser opens a hole whereby a buffer overflow could theoretically get an attacker's code running on the client machine (on my machine!). Nothing about it on the Netscape security page as of this writing.

Another equal-opportunity security bug: Shadow Penguin on a buffer overflow in the PDF parsing in Adobe Acrobat; and Adobe's PDF security page.

A surprising number of bugs, security and otherwise, can be found by just feeding random nonsense input to a program. See this old Slashdot article on the "fuzz" test, this brief account of the test applied to Windows NT system programs, and this page about a fuzz-testing program on sourceforge.

Not computer security (just an interface bug!): the ACLU page on A Free Lecture Course And Salon for Civil Libertarians is frustrating because although it contains many dates, none of them include a year! So I can't tell if the program is ripe to reopen in the fall, or it it's been dormant for a year or two (I've written them to ask).

It's very important, and very hard, to design your pages (your information) so they'll be useful to people besides you, to people who don't know things that you know, to people who don't get to them the way to expect them to, to people who come around next year. Remember that!

Monday, July 31, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Le'see. Today was supposed to be the Annual Group Picnic, but it rained, and so we had to change all our plans and I don't know what the heck is going on, and it's been like probably thousands of seconds since I updated this log and I've like completely forgotten all about how to do it, so you'll have to bear with me for a moment.


Fun with domain names: Scam artist copies PayPal Web site. Man, I use PayPal myself! Well, I did once. I wonder if I would have fallen for that?

David Singer has set up a Manila server inside the IBM firewall (the link is in this entry; it'll only work from Inside, of course). So now I have to decide if I'm up to doing another Weblog! And (if I do) whether I want to try Manila rather than just typing in HTML.

But mostly, reader mail! Some of it in answer to last week's "Half full or half orange?" prompt, and some just random.

lambda.weblogs.com - for people interested in programming languages

An interestingly ambiguous choice of names.   *8)   I wrote a functional language called ELEA once; it was named for the Eleatic philosophers like good old Parmenides, who held that change is an illusion. It looked like, for instance:

addseven = compose(add,construct(id,constant:7))

Another reader writes:

The large mug is really great. And as far as I can tell it is dishwasher safe.

Cool; I'll have to buy one myself!   *8)   Another reader laments the lack of XXL T-shirts. Sorry about that!

Your points on "dropped in the lap" regarding USENET vs. Pitas/Blogger overload is RIGHT ON. Can't stand USENET, but I like reading a small percentage of logs simply because it's easy to weed through for what appeals most. That's the wonder of distributed information, folkyolks.

Know where a motivated and semi-obsessed 13YO and his friends could sink their claws into something like the PGU? If they're not playing A&A, they're playing Settlers of Catan or Samurai. There's some inbreeding going on, I'm afraid, and I'd love to see them expand their gaming horizons a bit...

Except for the obvious suggestion to check out your local comic and game stores (some areas have lots of great stores that regularly run tournaments and game nights; some have none at all), I don't have any great wisdom. Anyone else?

If imagination were a bag it would bulge -- but when opened only one butterfly would fly out. (Don't even think of peeking in.)

The Bicycle-Pedaling Frog says, "I like tiny tuna."

It is widely believed in the semi-literate community that there are no English words that rhyme with "orange." This is not, in fact, the case. Does anyone besides me know such a word? Bonus points for anyone who knows two such words.

Half orange, of course. (One of the two school colors of my undergraduate university was orange.)

Hey, me too!

half baked.

Would "half orange" be all red or all yellow?

I take it bottle caps are not included?


The fish (somehow) reminds of all the various TV commercials which have normally inanimate objects (e.g., bottles of pancake syrup, tubs of margarine, or teddy bears) moving and speaking. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that these products are possessed by demons. I'm not sure what advertisers are going for here, because I make a point not to buy products which are possessed by demons.

Half baked, maybe.

What is the maximum number of times that a *non-fiction* writer should use "preternatural?"


I enjoyed the story of the three brothers and couldn't resist trying a variant, one with a bit of a different slant, and one that is maybe not funny at all, or funny in a different way:

The Madame of the best Dallas brothel couldn't help but notice that a certain fellow who came in every night invariably went upstairs with three women. An hour later, flushed with satisfaction, the three women and the man would return to the parlor, and then the man would depart, only to follow the identical routine the next evening.

One day the Madame can't help herself; she interrupts the man on his way out. "Sir, I must applaud you. It's such a pleasure to see a man with such a healthy libido. Three women every night, and they confess to me that no one gives them as good a measure."

"It's not libido so much as duty," the man says. "You see I've two brothers in the Navy. Ed and Ned. They went on the most hazardous of submarine duty, six months under the sea doing one perilous mission after another, and nary a female on board. My brothers made me promise faithfully to have a woman for each of them every night. And one for myself, as well."

"I see," the Madame says. "Well, keep up the good work."

The days go by, and things continue as before, but then about a month later the Madame observes that the man escorts only two women up to the rooms. When the man comes down, she sees him to the door. "I'm so sorry," she says gravely. "Was the burial at sea?"

"Oh, it's not that," the man replies. "I got a letter today that Ed discovered he is gay."

"Ah," says the Madame. "Such is the way of the world," and she bids the man goodnight."

For another month the man continues to take two ladies upstairs, but then one evening the Madame sees that he invites but one girl up the elegent stairway. "Oh dear," the Madame says to the man upon his departure, "Ned too is gay?"

"Not that I know of," the man says.

"Surely you didn't discover that you yourself are gay?" the Madame whispers.

"Not at all," the man says. "This morning I got married."

I can't think of anything it'd be appropriate to say after that.   *8)  

Friday, July 28, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Various interesting responses to last week's thoughts on weblogs and newsgroups. Readers write:

replying to a USENET post almost always has a point, but weblogs linking each other for just the link is [mostly] pointless.

hey, wait a sec... "avoided the overload of usenet"? you really think so? i dare you to go to the twenty most recently created new blogs on blogger.com and see if any of them have even half as much content in their first three entries as you did in yours. </grump>

well, maybe the problem is w/ my definition of content... most of these new blogs seem to be primarily engaged in a discourse with other individual bloggers or readers, or alternatively on showcasing links wiht a mimimum of commentary, whereas myown bias is toward logs which (like yours) hold forth at length (~1 paragraph) about topics directed at no one in particular...

and Ian writes an insightful piece on the subject in general, saying in particular about my comment that weblogs have escaped the flamage and overload of Usenet:

Now, this is, at least a little, true. You don't see much flamage (flammage?) in weblogs. However, overload? We're nearly there, Dave. Pop over to the Blogger directory and take a look. Oh my God -- it's got weblogs coming out the wazzu! Many of them are good, some are excellent. Some fall into neither of the above categories

And all that is quite true; there's a gazillion new logs out there every second (something that I'd blame/credit Pitas and DiaryLand for at least as much as Blogger; they lower the bar real low). On the other hand, I will claim that (at least for me right now, and I suspect for lots of people for a significant amount of time) this is a kind of overload that doesn't matter, and it doesn't matter because of interesting ways that weblog readers and writers differ from newsgroup readers and writers.

If a dozen newbies suddenly join your favorite newsgroup, that's almost certainly going to have some immediate effect on you and your experience of the group. On the other hand, if a dozen new blogs get created on pitas, you probably won't even notice, unless you want to. Because, of course, weblogs are organized by creator (by "content producer", if you will), and when you read a log you're reading what that creator (person, small group) has to say. Those new logs appearing on Pitas don't appear in your lap.

Now I could in principle tell my newsclient to only show me newsgroup postings by people on the People I Like to Read list, but in practice that would be unlikely to work. It would be unlikely to work because it violates the shared assumptions of Usenet. In a newsgroup, the readers and writers assume (and assume that each other assume, and assume that each other assume that..) that pretty much everyone reads pretty much all the traffic on a given group, or at least in a given thread. Trying to get by with reading just the postings by a small set of people would, I suspect, be frustrating and unrewarding, because you would be seeing disconnected fragments of talk by people who assume that their listeners are listening to the entire conversation.

The mutual assumptions in a weblog are different. When writing, I don't assume that you read Ian, and if I refer to him I will both give a link, and give enough context that you'll understand what I'm saying even without the link. If I do read one or two or three of those dozen new logs that just appeared on Pitas, I'll only reflect that here if what I read was interesting, and if I do give a link I'll also give you enough conext that you can follow what I'm saying without having to follow the link.

(I don't think I agree, by the way, with the claim that inter-blog links are in an important sense less pointful than newsgroup replies. A weblog, after all, is at least partly a list of interesting links with some hint as to why they're interesting. If I refer to another weblog and give a link, it's because I think you'd be interested in what's at the other end; that's different from, but I think at least as pointful as, a typical newsgroup reply? This is probably not so much a disagreement as just a different viewing angle...)

All this isn't to say that I think weblogs are the ultimate form of communication!   *8)   But I do think they're a nice example of a different kind of many-to-many communication, one that we might not have thought of just looking at Usenet, and one that has some very big experience-type differences that spring from what might seem like small technical and cultural differences. In the broad sense, just another reminder that the universe may be wider than we think (remember that thread?).

Speaking of web navel-gazing, there's been some interesting back-and-forth lately about Jakob Nielsen's latest "Thou Shalt" dicta for the Web. Yesterday's entry at GoodExperience has pointers to the main salvos, and some good thoughts of their own on the subject. I have nothing profound to add, except to note that while customers may care, the eagles don't.

New Notes and Recommendations from Phil Agre, worth reading as usual. Among many other things, a pointer to a draft paper on the thoughtful design of various objects which I'm currently reading with great interest.

From Sylloge, a fascinating set of notebooks by a bright person whose interests are all over the map, and who has no qualms about scattering random notes on those interests onto the Web where we can all see them. Hours of browsing fun there, and lots of good links and citations.

From The Hotsy Totsy Club, um nothing specific beyond reminding myself that it's a very cool place I shouldn't forget to visit!   *8)   (I've finally remembered to add it to the list).

Indirectly from Bovine, a velly velly interesting list of books; I've added a couple to my wishlist on Amazon. The entire site seems to have an interesting flavor; sort of dark and sweet, without that cloying Goth aftertaste...

From calebos.org to an interesting (if somewhat elementary) article about cheating in multiplayer computer games, to the homepage of Greg Costikyan, a game-design guru that I used to idolize back in college when I was up until all hours playing D&D and KingMaker and Cosmic Wimp-out. (Woo-woo, I see the good old Simulation Games Union now has their own domain; c00l!)

And finally, also from calebos, something for the "Madness of Crowds" file, The Truth about the KrasnoKonv SETI Accelerator:

Then, on Sunday, July 23rd, the run began! More and more visitors came to our site to have a look at our ingenious board. The peak was on Monday, June 24th. Over 100.000 visitors in 24 hours! Please have in mind: by this day the page had been online for only 6 days! And we've made only one single posting in a newsgroup.

[LATE-BREAKING NEWS: FTrain is back! Huzzah!]


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