The Intellectual Wilderness There is nothing more useless than doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

2019.06.26 09:40

Before the Fall

Filed under: Society — Tags: , , , , — zxq9 @ 09:40

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE)

2019.06.22 23:20

Social Prophecy

If you want to feel creeped out in 2019…

Backstory setting for the Cyberpunk 2020 game rulebook Neo Tribes: The Nomads of North America, published in 1994.
Sagan nailed it in The Demon Haunted World.


Filed under: Society — Tags: , , , , — zxq9 @ 04:37

My site has been under sustained attack for the last week.
I don’t really care, I just think it is silly.

The main question that has been floating through my mind is, strangely, “When did ‘pwned’ revert back to ‘owned’ for the sake of normies?”

2019.06.20 15:28

Ad Saturation

Filed under: Computing,Society — Tags: , , , , — zxq9 @ 15:28

The greatest benefit of sharing an IP address with a large number of other people all browsing the same hundred or so websites at the same time is ad saturation. Adsearch auctions still have no idea how to account for a large number of hits that are clearly human, but also trigger frequency protections — so you just see no ads after a while. Nice. (Incidentally, nobody in the world has any clear idea how to distinguish robots from humans, so… have fun with that if your business model depends on any aspect of this.)

A second benefit is a super fast, constantly refreshed, broadly populated DNS cache on the local network.

You don’t have time to play games

Filed under: Games,Science & Tech,Society — Tags: , , , , — zxq9 @ 12:44

There is only one way to develop graduate-level expertise in more than one narrow specialty: self education.

The time commitment required is larger than most people are willing to consider — so large that the people who tend to apply themselves to the degree required don’t notice they are doing it.

2019.06.18 18:43


Filed under: Computing,Society — Tags: , , , , — zxq9 @ 18:43

IRC will never die.
It will never die because its minimal implementation is useful.

Windows will die, but only after rotting all the way through.
It will continue to persist for the next few decades not because its minimal definition is useful (there is no minimal definition), but as a consequence of deliberate strategic choices that were highly effective at fostering dependency (not entirely unlike social welfare programs).

Linux will never die.
Its super power is the same as its curse: it is Shoggoth.

2019.06.12 15:53

Free Expression: Personal Sites > Social Media

Filed under: Computing,Society — Tags: , , , , — zxq9 @ 15:53

As major social media platforms morph into comic parodies of their former selves people who want to express original ideas will continue to seek alternatives that avoid the warring robot hordes and put them back in charge of regulating their own expression. Over the next few years I find it possible (though maybe not likely) that the biggest changes in online expression could be a return to personal sites and blogs. This is a viable alternative considering the latitude of expression possible, both in form and content, and the ready availability of interlinked comment and discussion systems.

There are some annoyances and responsibilities inherited with managing one’s own site, but to those for whom expression is paramount and “follower” count is not a primary goal personal sites provide everything but a captive audience — and finding an audience today, now that Google’s monopoly on search seems to be breaking in at least some communities, is not anywhere near as hard as it once was.

Until a distributed alternative to gated-community style social media comes along that is low-friction enough to find gain mindshare among non-tech types (something I would love to create, but currently lack the time) it seems likely that some combination of personal sites, aggregate sites (group-run news/op-ed blogs), blogs, non-YouTube video shares, and alternative social media sites will be the home of most censor-averse communities.

It will be interesting to see how things turn out.

2018.08.14 15:37

Silly: Hextexting via the command line…

Filed under: Computing,Society — Tags: , , , , , , , — zxq9 @ 15:37

A silly thread on Twitter came to my attention today that stirred some late 1980’s/1990’s phreak/hax0r nostalgia in me. So, of course, I did what any geek would do, wrote a one-off utility script for it. Have fun confusing your parents, kids.

#! /usr/bin/env escript


main([Command | Input]) ->
    ok = io:setopts([{encoding, unicode}]),
    Output = convert(Command, Input),
    io:format("~ts~n", [Output]).

convert("t", Input) ->
    String = string:join(Input, " "),
    string:join(lists:map(fun(C) -> integer_to_list(C, 16) end, String), " ");
convert("h", Input) ->
    lists:map(fun(C) -> list_to_integer(C, 16) end, Input);
convert(_, _) ->
    "hextext usage: `hextext t|h [text]".

(Also, look up rot13 — ’twas all the rage 30 years ago, and still makes an appearance as a facilitator of hidden easter eggs in some games. A lot of “garbled alien/monster/otherling speech” text is rot13.)

2018.05.30 00:54

New Privacy Notices: Nothing Changes

Filed under: Computing,Politics / Geopolitics,Society — zxq9 @ 00:54

My anti-comment-spam plugin called Akimset, which has saved me the trouble of reviewing about two-million spam comments over the last several months, now requires me to display a privacy notice at the bottom of all my comment-enabled posts.

The People are now Protected. Sort of like how ancestral British are now protected from the likes of Tommy Robinson. Lovely.

But in the real world, none of this matters. The TLS certificate scheme in which users of nearly every allegedly secure bit of the web base their trust is itself a sham of epic proportions. Branch prediction causes amazing things to happen if you’re running on a physical system with any code on it you don’t trust also running (oh, haha, sounds like using browsers or, especially, using the “cloud”). Don’t even get me started on what the not-as-bad “they” are going to find when they dig into out-of-order execution.

And none of this is new. It has been that way since the beginning, people are only just now finding out. Somewhat hilarious.

As always: “possession is 90% of the law”. This applies in an absolute way. Keep your important bits close, physically. Be able to point to them. Be able to point to the man who is responsible for backing it up, keeping your off-site backups, etc.

2018.05.12 15:13

Language is deeper than mere communication

Filed under: Society — Tags: , , , , , , , , — zxq9 @ 15:13

I visited a behavioral psychologist friend’s home in the U.S. about a year ago. While there I got a call from someone back home. We had been speaking English but of course my phone call was in Japanese. He mentioned to me that very often when a person who speaks several languages associates a language strongly with a specific culture, place and social group that person actually changes when they switch languages for more than about a sentence. He mentioned this because he watched me closely while I was on the phone and found the Jekyll/Hyde thing interesting to observe first hand.

The whole idea seemed very odd to me at the time, but he insisted that inside of us are a bunch of different flavors of our own psyche, or several semi-conflicted psyches all cohabiting — and our external personality is a sort of amalgamated manifestation of psychological combinations we find appropriate for a given situation. Or something like this. I’m not a psychologist, so this is probably a horrible mangling of an idea he explained quite succinctly to someone (me) that doesn’t grok the first thing about this.

He went on to explain that (again, bad paraphrasing) language is the gateway to many thought processes, because at very high levels of consciousness we abstract complex ideas behind words, even in our own heads most of the time, and that unspoken context and meaning carries a lot of weight as well — but that since we cannot “hear” this context in the monologues of our mind, we just don’t give it much conscious consideration. So basically, switching languages also switches the context of your thinking to some degree, and context is how you pick which flavors of your psyche are appropriate to manifest at a given moment, and so on. So switching languages also makes you sort of switch programs in your head.

Anyway, he’s an expert, so I take this into consideration, and that was that. Fascinating idea, isn’t it?

I just realized today something interesting when a friend (who doesn’t speak Japanese) asked me “what is takoyaki” and I realized that, explained in proper English, it doesn’t sound very good. “Sort of like hushpuppies or donut-holes with pickled ginger in the batter and octopus pieces inside” is a rather unsatisfying explanation. It only gets worse if you explain what 鰹節 is (and people think how it is prepared looks like carpentry — which is only funny because it is true).

But! If I explain using a few loan words, it is great: “Like a hushpuppy with beni-shoga and tako inside!” See? No trouble.

「タコ」 and 「イカ」 sound delicious. “Octopus” and “squid” not so much. That’s probably why Americans order “fried calamari” instead of saying “fried squid” — scores way lower on the Captain Nemo’s Dinner Horror Scale.

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