Day by Day Daily Cartoon by Chris Muir

The Mad Scientist... Mwahahahahahahahaha

Friday, September 20, 2013

Blog clean-up

There is a serious problem when it is harder to make changes to your blog's layout than it is to actually just add a post. Just goes to show how long it's been since I did any actual blogging.

Fact of the matter is, I've been busy, and have been off the blogosphere for more than 3 years now. Keeping tabs of my own country's politics is more than depressing enough for me.

But! Things are beginning to look up for Australia, where a number of my relatives are, and people (maybe) are becoming more awake in the US, so maybe it's time I went back into full power mode (when I have time).

And anyway, I shall persevere. Onwards!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The limits of engineering

A while back, I posted on the utter disgust I felt towards a particular short SF story concerning its abuse of the 'big lie, little lie' technique. I am reminded of it again at the immense and rather awesome (in the original sense of the word) earthquake + tsunami in Japan.

Japan's facing some nuclear fears over partial meltdowns in its reactors. The failsafes built into the systems... well, failed, one after the other. And no wonder, because whatever else Man has achieved, he's yet to make anything that's completely Nature-proof.

Now Japan's had a raw deal in terms of the nuclear world, having been bombed not once but twice. You would think that they would be the LAST people to go to nuclear power, and indeed it took them 20 years to move from 1 to 5 reactors, and just recently they were debating whether or not to increase those numbers. I'm guessing that the answer would be a pretty emphatic NO! at this stage. You'd also think that they'd be the ones to ridiculously over-engineer fudge factors into their nuclear reactors, with firsthand knowledge of what failed containment would do. Keep that in mind.

There's a limit to what can be done with human engineering efforts. You can fudge the factors a fair amount, but you hit diminishing returns after a point, and beyond that, it's just astronomically expensive. You'd have to have a really, really good reason to expend any amounts of money after that point - something usually reserved for mission-critical applications. Something governments - and Sir Richard Branson - can and would do.

Space travel - and I'm guessing the Japanese are thinking nuclear power plants - deserve that kind of astronomical expenditure, literally. That story still strikes me as being horribly unrealistic.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Free? Not so much...

Probably not a big deal for most of you, but I would like to talk about 'free' software for a bit.

Richard Stallman is the man to go to (and blame) for the start of this entire issue. He created a bunch of UNIX-like tools and called them GNU (short for GNU is Not Unix). GNU would go on to become almost a separate OS by itself, only lacking the kernel, and when the Linux kernel came about, hey presto! some few generations later you get Ubuntu.

Now Stallman came up with something called the GNU General Public Licence (GPL), which in its preamble states that the licence is supposed to *give* you rights, not take them away. The GNU Foundation stands for free software, where free stands for 'free as in speech' and not 'free as in beer', although the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In this, Stallman's a bit of an odd cookie, because for a time he was entirely against the entire 'open-source' movement, which called for the sources of all software to be freely available for examination... a necesary byproduct of the GPL.

My point is, free software... isn't. Not if distributed under the GPL, and not especially under GPLv3. It may be free beer software, but it certainly isn't free speech software. Not in the way we understand free speech. You see, the GPL is an infectious licence. If you want to use GPLed software in any significant way in your own project, you also have to release it under GPL, or a GPL-compatible licence. And you had better make sure that you follow every single detail of the licence carefully, otherwise they'll sic their lawyers on you.

Worst of all, many in the FOSS community will do exactly the same thing. It has always struck me as strange that for a bunch of people seemingly against copyrights and patents and making money over software, they are the first to wield the power of the courts. NOw I know that there are many reasons, but essentially, there is no real common ground for these fanatics. You will note that most of the proprietary software companies will release freeware programs, and even work in open source, but watch and see if it works the other way around. It's like watching a software jihad in action, only there is no God but GPL and Stallman is its prophet or something. And oh yes, Microsoft is the Great Satan.

You want a truly free licence? Try this one out.

Version 2, December 2004

Copyright (C) 2004 Sam Hocevar

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim or modified copies of this license document, and changing it is allowed as long as the name is changed.



Or, this one.

You can use this code in whatever way you want, as long as you don't try to claim you wrote it.

Let's see some FOSS guys use THOSE licences. Which, by the way, they can - they're valid free software licences, and Debian Linux distros come with software under the WTFPL.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The best kind of fiction

When you read a book, you generally want some form of escapism. I mean, can you imagine reading a book that details what you do on a daily basis all over again? Only if explosions or a torrid affair came about in that book would you read it, I imagine.

Which is why some people favour F&SF. It is, after all, no sillier than Mills and Boon, and it is generally nice to fantasise about riding a dragon, or traversing whole parsecs in seconds. At some point in any kind of fiction genre, however, the suspension of disbelief suddenly fails, and the unreality of it all becomes all too apparent.

It can be a fine line to toe, and really, at what point does it stop being escapism and start becoming a Wallbanger? Well, I argue that the line is in human experience and human nature. That is to say, if you set out to change anything or everything else, you must maintain realism in human nature, and if you set out to change human nature, everything else must remain realistic. And of course, if you're not writing about humans at all, then you had better stick to very well-known tropes.

Take for instance one of the worst pieces of tripe ever written in SF-dom, in my experience. I won't give you the title, that's how disgusted I am with it, but essentially the whole plot revolves around space travel that is precisely calculated to the erg, so much so that any unplanned factor (such as a stowaway, say) would make that travel trip an utter failure, and must be dealt with as swiftly as possible to return to the planned numbers. Surprise, surprise, on one of these rescue mission trips, the pilot discovers a stowaway who didn't know the rules and just wanted to go see her brother. The pathos, and indeed the whole thrust of the story revolved around the harshness of the rules, so she had to be jettisoned to save everybody else...

... and while emotionally tearing (which is one of the reasons I don't like it), it's also headbangingly unrealistic. In any day and age, but especially one involving space travel, for goodness' sake. I mean, think about it. Any engineer worth his salt will tell you that in order to build a bridge meant for 2-ton trucks, you first design a bridge that can withstand 10-ton trucks. Generally, you do that because you cannot predict how long your bridge has to last, or what kind of stresses it will undergo, or what will happen to the bridge in the future. Fudge factors and safety calculations like this are second nature to any engineer - and that's just to build bridges! Can you imagine the kind of fudge factors that would be built into something as dangerous and as hostile to human life as interplanetary travel?

Think about it for a moment. Think about the amount of money that was poured into making Man go to the moon. Think about Mission Control. Think about the ridiculous level of training astronauts go through even *today*. Or take more mundane, more run-of-the-mill examples. Think about air travel. How much effort goes into safety and security (whether they work or not is immaterial). How much goes into ensuring that even in the worst case scenario (engines blow up or shut down cold), the airplane can still function as a glider. How much sheer thought and engineering went into it, and the enormous fudge factors used in planning fuel requirements for any flight - including RESERVE fuel! And you want us to believe that all of this was thrown away the instant we met something as inherently unnatural as microgravity and outer space?

The artist behind Schlock's Mercenaries describes this as "the big lie and the little lie". If you want us to swallow the big lie (i.e. space travel), you need to ensure you don't tell the little lie (no fudge factors in engineering).

The author of that short story I mentioned above did not follow this maxim. It spoiled the story for me.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Archived message (cross-posted)

One thing I really hate is abuse of resources. In this case, some script kiddie so-called 'hacker' is launching a DoS (yes, present tense as I write this) against BakaBT, which is one of the cooler torrent sites out there. I hate hate hate this kind of thing, so if this is the only thing I can do, then by golly, I will do it.

And to you, you stupid kid, what the hell do you think is going to happen when several hundred thousand angry otaku start narrowing down your physical location to within a few metres? Beware the power of 4chan, and quite possibly a grand alliance if you keep this up.

Below is the message that, as requested, I am posting verbatim.

How to save an Internet community
Hello BakaBT community and people of the Internet,

We need your help! Please spread this message everywhere on the Internet.
If you have a blog, twitter or myspace or know someone with a blog, twitter or myspace copy this message verbatim!

I am writing this message right now as my community website is unreachable due to a continued DoS attack.
A DoS attack is a Denial-of-Service attack that drowns all normal traffic going to the server by sending a tremendous amount of (fake) traffic.
It is the bane of any website owner as there is very little you can do against it, other than hope the attack will stop or invest in special expensive DoS protection hardware.

The demand of the attacker is that we remove information we posted about his person a while ago on our blog after he did an earlier (simpler) attack.
We managed to dig up all sorts of interesting information thanks to another site ( which had also been attacked by the same 'hacker'.

Our site has been down for 24 hours, after which the 'hacker' promised to stop the attack and give us 1 week to remove the message.
The attack never stopped, normal traffic was able to siphon through so the server seemed reachable. But this means he obviously can not, or will not, negotiate with us.

We have thought a while about what to do, and we have reached some conclusions:
Apparently there is something valuable in the message that we posted as the 'hacker' is spending a fair dime attacking our server (DoS attacks 'sell' for about $60 for 24 hours).
There is nothing that we can do to make him stop this attack. Yes, we could give in to his demand, but why would he stop the attack then? He sure isn't stopping now. And then what is next? last time he asked for my resignation.

So, we have decided to fight fire with fire. Fight a distributed attack with distribution, and for this we need your help!
If you have a blog, twitter or myspace, or know someone with a blog, twitter or myspace, copy this message verbatim!
If this message is copied many times to many different sites all across the Internet no one will be able to erase it from the Internet.
What happens to our website and 6 year old community? I don't know. It would be a shame to loose it over something so trivial.

Below is a summary of the information we found about him (please copy this as well as that is the whole idea of this message!):

I also have his home IP from the comments [...] Anyway since then I have noticed I’ve been getting hits for people doing a search for his site (which I’ll point out has been offline for some time) I would also just like to say that his site has nothing to do with me everything I do online is only via [...] He also uses the username roffamaffia which I suggested he should go back to using. He also uses as an alternate email to the msn one.

I also know his name which is mesut baysan he’s 15 and lives in Dongen Noord-Brabant Netherland oppps. I also have a home address but I’m not going to post that up as I’m not sure if its totally correct or not. I also have some other details that I’ll save for a later post if needed.
Our Twitter:
Our blog: (use Google cache if the domain is unreachable)
Our backup blog:
0xyg3n's blog (not the hacker): about his encounter
Looks like they were having some problems with 'Mesut' as well.

E-mail / Live:
- (old)
- (latest known)

Known nicknames:
- 0xyG3N (note the capital G and N)
- Roffamaffia
- Sasuke-

Help us save our community and give power back to the webmasters!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Maundy Thursday

As Holy Week draws to a close, with Good Friday just around the corner and Easter but three days away, it behooves me to reflect a little on what I've been doing on my life, and what lies ahead; for me on a personal, small scale, and for the world as a whole.

As if blogging hasn't been sparse, but I intend to increase it.

Powered with Zemanta

Okay, so this is a simple notification that I'm using ScribeFire to write some of my posts, and that it's using something called Zemanta to load tracking pixels. I usually hate these things, because they give a whole lot of data, sometimes unintented, to the guy who's put them up on the pages (in this case, that would be me). But the low-down on Zemanta is kinda thin, and I have absolutely no idea how this is supposed to work.

Anyway, let's trial it out, and see if it drives my readership from 1 to 0.