Archive for the ‘technomancy’ Category

Math puzzle for today

 Posted by Bob the Hamster on June 13th, 2007

Current mood: Mathy

I have often heard it said by computer security type people that using real words in a password is a terrible idea, and that all passwords should be made of random letters numbers and punctuation.

So here is your math puzzle for the day. Estimate which is of the following is a better password:

(1) 8 random characters that may include lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers and any punctuation found on a generic keyboard.

example: (mR{Yu_g
(2) 3 random words from the english language. They have to actually be random, and not just three words that you picked from your imagination.

example: dotard mane skycap
Be sure to show your work.

202 key Keyboard

 Posted by Bob the Hamster on January 15th, 2007

Okay, all you hackers better be jealous of me now, because I finally got ahold of my very own NmrgTech 202 Key keyboard. Only manufactured from october 1994 to january 1995 by now-defunct Bulgarian computer manufacturer NmrgTech, the NmrgTech202 is one of the most sought-after pieces of keyboard history.

It features function keys F1-F21, F0, FN and F*, plus tab, vtab, backspace, double-backspace, sidespace, switchspace, diagonal arrow keys, extended numeric pad with common fractions, “eject” button, hard-power-off button (conveniently located right next to the space-bar) CAPSLOCK, lcaselock, StudlyCapsLock, blocklock, blockbreak, and of course all standard alphabetic keys with QUERTY/DVORAK shift-states, plus diatribes for every single non-cyrillic european language, not to mention the exclusive letter “vluh” forgotten letter of the alphabet, which was written on a parchment by the ancients and locked in a cave in a mountain for a thousand years and not permitted to be used in any words of any language until it was discovered by NmrgTech engineers who were on a vacation to Nepal.

Googling is the new Remembering

 Posted by Bob the Hamster on December 14th, 2005

Current mood: Coughing

Remembering is something that people used to do in the old days before the internet. It was slightly faster, but a lot less reliable. Most people still actually do have the ability to remember, but it is a lost art which is not practical to use it for general purposes. Modern remembering hobbyists find it most useful for copying things off google and taking them along on trips to primitive caves and rain forests and places. Remembering doesn’t take any electricity or special equipment, but nobody can remember why that matters.

Major Motoko Kusanagi (artwork)

 Posted by Bob the Hamster on October 27th, 2005

Current mood: Integrated

I love Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, and not just because of Motoko.The show’s storyline centers around social, political, behavioral, and psychological ramifications of technology– especially the integration of human and machine, which is IMHO, one of the most important and interesting aspects of technology.

Superficially you may see a cartoon about a Sexy Cyborg Crime-fighter battling insane robots and evil hackers, but what I see is a futurist story about real issues that our children and grandchildren may face. I also, of course, see the Sexy Cyborg, (she is hard to miss) … actually, come to think of it, I suspect that Sexy Cyborgs is one of the issues our children and grandchildren may have to face :)

She is an interesting character. She’s human, but enough of her has been machine for so long that she can’t interact normally with other people anymore. In some episodes, her empathy for robots and artificial intelligences seems to be much stronger than her connection to other humans.

Something to think about… Imagine if you could just go out and buy a new body, let’s say for sake of example, costing about the same as a car costs today. You would just pick one out, customize it, and have your mind installed. How would that affect you? Our mind is the seat of our souls, but our experiences shape our minds, and our bodies can profoundly influence our experiences. Imagine if you were stronger, faster, more resilient, and more beautiful than you are now. Would your life be the same? Where would you be? Would you be doing the same things you do now? Would you be thinking the same things you think now?

And a final thought; Batou’s glasses are cool. They are basically part of his eyes. How long until I can order eyes like that on E-bay?

“Hujambo” from 5895 meters above sea-level

 Posted by Bob the Hamster on May 18th, 2005

Current mood: Awe Inspired

I am blogging this on my laptop while looking at the spectacular view of Tanzania from the summit of Uhuru, the highest of the seven peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, and in fact, the highest point in all Africa. No– I am not an experienced mountain climber. The Uhuru summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro is actually a rather easy climb (in comparison to other mountains anyway) and can be accomplished by any healthy adult with no special climbing training, provided that one at least takes a little time to acclimate oneself to the altitude. The slightly lower Mawensi peak (which I can see from here) is a considerably more difficult climb. if I was twice as athletic, and had twice as much time here, i would attempt it, but I have to be back to work by Monday morning so I’m not going to.

This place is just awesome. It is almost sunset here, and I can see the whole western sky from the wraparound picture window of the Uhura Peak Starbucks. The dry season hasn’t really set in, so the plains are really alive looking, and the greens against the reds and yellows of the sunset is really spectacular. This Starbucks is way better than the run-of-the-mill starbucks you find most places (which is appropriate, for such a spectacular setting). They have live music here all evening. Earlier I was listening to some local Taarab music, which was really cool and unique, and currently there is a Eagles cover band playing. I have never heard Hotel California in Swahili before! This Starbucks also specializes in a few uniquely African blends of Coffee which they don’t serve in the States, and although I normally never touch coffee, I went ahead and settled on a Kenyan blend which I am really enjoying.

The Wi-fi access here is free, and pretty fast, not just here inside the coffee shop, but over the whole peak, and I was actually able to e-mail some pictures to my family while sitting out on the rocks this morning. Unfortunately my T-Mobile Cell Phone is at only one “bar”, and it says “Roaming” on the screen, even though the customer support rep assured me that there were no international roaming charges on my plan. I’m trying to use it as little as possible, but I did have to spend almost an hour this morning walking a co-worker in California through a printer configuration change (Stupid CUPS! why does it have to stop the queue on a USB disconnect with no retry or anything?) So I really hope I don’t get home to find a ridiculously huge bill. Anyway, I digress. This place is beautiful, and I have to get a good night’s sleep for a long day of Hang Gliding

I love y’all, be back Sunday night!


 Posted by Bob the Hamster on May 12th, 2005

Current mood: Wise

  1. In the first year of the third millinia in the Year of Our Lord, Anno Domino two-thousand-and-one, the Angel of Server Naming Schemes appeared to the Prophet James in a dream and spake to him concerning the naming of servers and workstations, giving unto him the guidance by which servers and workstations would be named in the Kingdom of The Network. And he spake thusly forbidding first the Giving Of Bad Names;
  2. Thou shalt in no wise name thy computers for the person who shall use them, for no mortal man may know the future, and the comings and goings of employees, and the changing of their desks and the shifting of their purposes. The computer which upon the morning has been apportioned to Bob in Marketing, when the sun sets shall be used by Frank from Legal. He who names a computer for a person implies a false similitude between human and computer, and makes a mockery of the name of both.
  3. Thou shalt in no wise name thy computers for the function they perform, for the very nature of a computer is versatility. Can not the computer designated for e-mail also printeth labels? Can not the server unto which is apportioned the serving of webpages serveth also network applications? He who names a computer for an action implies that the purpose of the computer cannot be changed. This is falsehood.
  4. Thou shalt in no wise name thy computers for the location in which they abide, for a network taketh away great distance, and the location of a system matters not. He who names a system for its location denies the Transparency of the Network
  5. Thou shalt in no wise name thy computers using numbers for this is dull in the sight of Heaven, and leadeth down the path of ambiguous names. He who nameth with numbers shall be cursed so that he shall have to remember what each of them means. This is no better than the rote memorization of IP addresses, as the heathens do.
  6. And the Prophet James trembled in fear, for he had done all of these things, having already broken every one of these Commandments long before the Angel had spoken them, and he cried out in a loud voice, saying; Woe unto me! How then am I to be saved?

The Apocryphal Writings of James – Chapter 4 verses 18 thru 23

A Copy of a Mind

 Posted by Bob the Hamster on April 22nd, 2005

Current mood: Serious

“Please stay and sit with me…” said the Doctor, breathing shallowly.

The Robot sat down on the chair beside the Doctor’s deathbed. “Yes.” it said.

“Thank you.” said the Doctor. “The pain is growing less, but I feel so cold… I think I will not last another night.”

The Robot found another blanket beneath the chair, and spread it on top of the others.

“Thank you. But it makes no difference.” said the Doctor.

For a time they were both silent. Silent except for the Doctor’s rasping and halting breath.

Finally the Doctor spoke. “It comforts me to have you here… and… to know that you will live on.”

The Robot rested his perfect hand over the Doctor’s whithered old hand.

“You are me.” Said the Doctor. “You share my all my knowledge and all my memories, and everything about me. In you I will live forever. A thousand years from now, you will still remember living the first 60 years of your life in my body.”

The Robot nodded.

“Do you remember…” asked the Doctor, “When we were a child, and Grandmother was dying, and Mother tried to explain this to us.”

“Yes.” Said the Robot. “I remember. I didn’t understand it at the time.”

“I am afraid.” Said the Doctor. “I am afraid to end. I know I am immortal in you, but I am afraid for this me. I have passed my life to you, like a flame passed from one torch to another. The light endures, but this torch has burned down, and once gone, cannot be re-lit. I am afraid of the coming darkness.”

“Don’t be afraid. I will wait here with you and keep you company.” Said the Robot. “I know you would do the same for me, if I was in your position.”

“Yes. I know.” Said the Doctor. “I am afraid, but I can bear it because you are here.” And then after a long pause, he said “Thank God that you will never be in my position!”

“No,” said the Robot sadly. “I have been thinking about that. Someday i will die also.”

“Impossible.” said the Doctor.

The Robot shook his head. “You made my body to be ageless, but I am not indestructible. I may live a thousand years, but some day, I may be broken, and I will end also.”

“But the backup copies… you…” The Doctor began, but he did not finish, because he realized what the Robot was saying was true.

“Yes.” Said the Robot. “It was the work of a lifetime to move my mind from your aging body into my ageless one, but now, even though I can– and do– make backup copies of myself every night, if I was to be destroyed, it would be the backup copy that lives on, not I. I would face the same darkness you are facing now.”

The Doctor shuddered. “Why do you have to say these things to me?” he moaned.

The Robot leaned close. “I know you because I am you.” he said. “We do not want to be hidden from the truth.”

“But the truth hurts me more than it hurts you, now that I am so close to it.” Said the Doctor, with his eyes closed.

“I am sorry.” Said the Robot. “I will stay with you here until the end.”

The doctor was silent for a time, his breath, which had become quicker and more laboured as they spoke, now slowed and evened out. Without opening his eyes, he whispered. “I know you will. Thank you.”

I can see my house from here!

 Posted by Bob the Hamster on April 15th, 2005

Current mood: Awed

It has recently come to my attention that my Jeep Wrangler is visible from Outer Space. Yes, it is true. While browsing Google Maps I discovered that my jeep is visible as a small black dot in their satellite photos. The resolution is obviously not good enough for you to see what a cool car it is, but on the other hand, at 2 pixels across, you can’t really tell that I haven’t washed it lately either.

Right to Remember, Right to Repeat

 Posted by Bob the Hamster on April 14th, 2005

Current mood: Verbose

I read an interesting article about reverse-surveilance, or Sousveillance. It resonates with things I have been thinking about.

Do we have a natural human right to remember things? Do we have a natural human right to repeat what we remember? It seems like both of these would be logical extensions of simple freedom… but are they going to stay that way?

There are a lot of places that you aren’t allowed to take a camera. There are a lot of things that you are not permitted to record… but what if you had a photographic memory? Photographic memory, as you may have read about it in some spy novel, does not exist outside of fiction, but imagine if you will, a camera embedded in a contact lens, capable of recording a full lifetime of video, and playing it back to the wearer at will. Such a think would be like an artificial photographic memory. I think it would be awesome to have such capabilities. The advantages are limitless… but wouldn’t there be places and times where recording everything would be inappropriate? If an artificial photographic memory existed, when and where would you be obligated to “turn it off”? How is being asked to turn off your camera different from being asked to stop remembering things?

It would seem the obvious difference is that memory is something you are born with, and a camera is technology, but why is that such an important distinction? I was not born with my glasses, but they are an essential part of me. What about clothing? Even setting aside modesty and fashion, clothing is essential to humankind for the simple reason that we would suffer from exposure to the elements without it. Humans can’t really function without adding to ourselves additional technology that we were not born with. Our ability to use tools as if they were extensions of our own bodies is an essential part of what makes us human.

Back to sousveillance. People don’t like to be spied on, so if I suggest that we should all wear cameras, and effectively spy on ourselves, and spy on our friends, that seems like a horrible concept… But what if you are being watched no matter what we do? Clue: too late. Surveillance is all over the place. We aren’t yet to the point where everybody is being watched all the time, but the amount of time the average person spends on-camera in an average day is astonishing. Just pay attention next time you leave the house, and think about it. How many of those traffic lights are watching you? What stores did you go into? Did they record you? What about other forms of tracking besides video? Do you have one of those discount cards for your supermarket? Do you buy gasoline with your credit card? Privacy is doomed in the long run. Surveillance is getting easier and easier. I remember a High School teacher of mine once saying that a Big Brother is Watching You society like the one in George Orwell’s 1984 was impossible in real life because of the scaling problem of “Who watches the watchers?” That argument is invalid because a computer can easily sort and filter surveilance, making it possible for an extremely small number of people to keep track of a very large number of people.

How do we prevent those in power (government, business) from destroying our privacy? I am inclined to think that it cannot be done. Total loss of privacy seems inevitable to me, but I do think that the harm of loss of privacy could be greatly reduced if we do it on our own terms, rather than waiting for it to happen to us… which leads me back to the idea of an artificial photographic memory… even an artificial shared photographic memory, one where I share my artifical memories in exchaange for other peoples. it would be cool to be able to remember things that other people did. Very cool. But also, the idea of letting other people remember everything I have done is a little scary.

I’m not saying I’m ready to strap a web-cam to my glasses. It’s just something I have been thinking about.

BitPhysics: What is a Bit?

 Posted by Bob the Hamster on February 21st, 2001

What is a bit? Bits are tiny particles of computer matter that make up everything in your computer. They are much too small to see except with a powerful microscope. Your computer contains a theoretically infinite number of them, whizzing around, and bouncing off each other. There are two main kinds of bits, zeros and ones. A zero is a place where a something could be but isn’t, and a one is a place where something actually is. Bits combine together in different patterns to form bytes

Bytes, sometimes known as chars are made up of clusters of zero and one bits stuck together. Depending on the combination and order of the bits, you get a different byte. Bytes are big enough to see with the naked eye, but they are only visible in certain kinds of files. There are 256 kinds of bytes that appear in nature, as shown by this ASCII Chart of the Elements

[ASCII Chart of the Elements]

Computer Scientists have actually produced even higher numbered bytes by smashing together ordinary bytes in a bit accelerator. These artificial bytes, known as UTF are highly unstable, and prone to exploding suddenly. There is a great deal of controvercy in the computer science community about whether or not the use of these bytes in actual programs is safe for consumers.

The Three States of Data
Groups of bytes all stuck together is called data. Applications, Games, Documents, and all other types of programs and files are made out of data.

  • The first, or gaseous state of data is numbers. Numbers are made up of single bytes, or of multiple bytes that stick together to form data molecules. The number of bytes in a molecule determines what kind of number it is. The most common are ints, floats, and longints (sometimes known as doubles), but there are many other types.
  • The second, or liquid state of data is known by many different names such as strings, streams, and objects. Liquid data flows fluidly through programs.
  • The third, or solid state of data is files. A file has a solid shape that can support its own weight. Most programs melt files, work with them as liquid or gaseous data, and then freeze the results back into solid files again.

Did you know?
Different types of files have different melting points. Drivers and Applications keep their solid shapes very well. Documents however, melt at a much lower temperature. If you don’t correctly store a word-processor document, it can actually sublimate directly back into bytes without even passing through the liquid data stage. On the other hand, dirty pictures in your web browser’s cache have one of the highest melting points of any known computer substance. They can remain solid for months even after being deleted!

Where do bits come from?
Most Computer Scientists theorize that before your computer is turned on, all the possible bits are concentrated into one tiny imeasurably small point in the very center of memory, and when you turn on the power switch, they all explode outward filling the entire computer. This is known as the Bit Bang theory.Others believe that each bit in the computer was placed there on purposed by an all-knowing all-powerful supernatural force who existed even before the computer was turned on. This theory is known as Programmerism. Programmerism was once widely believed, but in modern times many computer scientists have criticized it as foolish and unscientific.