Sarcasm&Tech12 May 2011 02:28 pm

So it happened again today. A totally different aim bot started bothering me to look at it’s webcam or something or other. My second round with an aim bot took a couple more tries, but in the end, it too ceased conversing with me. Was it something I said? Oh, yes, it was, it was ‘) drop table logs; —. Perhaps I need to be a better conversationalist, I keep driving these web cam girls away.

This has me wondering. Maybe I can create an aim bot honeypot that is actually it’s own bot, chatting in sql injection. It’s a thought….

Oops, I did it again

Sarcasm&Tech12 May 2011 08:22 am

So I’m sure many of you have experienced the flood of bots on AIM that are trying to phish or convince you to go to this or that porn site. Well, I believe that for now there is at least one less phishbot riding the tubes.

After one started pestering me today, I gave a shot at the little bobby tables technique (sql injection). It started to reply immediately and then just kind of sat there. I’ve even tried a few more normal responses, and it just doesn’t seem like it wants to talk to me anymore. How sad.

Cat got your tongue?

Uncategorized19 Jan 2011 03:36 pm

I recently purchased a Nook Color with the full intention of rooting it for use as an android tablet. This post logs my experiences so that other people who face some of the same problems I did have to do a little less leg work. So far I’m very happy with the device, and aside from a few interface foibles based around the lack of buttons I find it to be equal to and in some cases surpassing the Samsung Galaxy Tab (we have some at the office, so I can do a direct comparison). As time goes on, I’ll continue to edit this post as I figure out new things, or old issues in here cease to make sense.
Android Eating An Apple

Sarcasm&Tech03 Sep 2010 01:06 pm

Yesterday, Consumer Watchdog launched it’s Inside Google campaign with a daemonizing video of Google Eric Schmidt suggesting that he’s secretly and evilly trying to find people’s deepest, darkest secrets. This over the top video has him giving children full body scans and telling them about their parents doing things like surfing Porn and getting in touch with old paramours. Further, they create a clearly “evil” caricature of Schmidt with a big head, beady eyes, arched, villainous eyebrows and an evil laugh, a technique that’s been tried a few times before I might add.

This is all part of their drive to create a “Do not track me” list. Well, apparently Consumer Watchdog only wants other people to not track you, because the web site hosting their anti-google campaign is using what? They are using Google Analytics to track visitors:


Do Not Track Me uses Google Analytics

This whole argument is hyperbole. Fundamentally networks track usage, logs are created. The simple fact is, the vast majority of websites track to do one thing, and one thing only: to be able to tell which of their marketing partners are delivering value, and which ones are not. No company cares if you are having affairs on the sly or any of the other garbage that this video suggests. Consumer Watchdog, if you want to be taken seriously, grow up!

Coding&RoR&Tech&Web30 Jun 2010 08:54 am

In 2006 I was introduced to ruby, and for a time I found it to be a fun language to work with. After about 6 months, I started to notice problems and shortcomings in the ruby/rails stack and went on to bigger and better things. The problem is that to this day I have to defend myself to legions of ruby/rails faithful who seem to think that it’s sacrilege to ever leave the faith. (That makes me what, an apostate?) A friend recently asked on a mailing list I regularly traffic why a person would consider ruby to be flawed. The best way I can express this is in some code.

Musings20 May 2010 08:13 am

I don’t normally go political on this site, but this images of the prophet Muhammed thing is just insane. Fist Comedy Central capitulates to censorship, and Flickr follows suit, and now the entirety of facebook and youtube has been banned in Pakistan because of cartoons.

Well, I’m picking my side, standing with free speech and joining Everyone Draw Mohammed Day. Pakistan, I’m calling your government out. Ban me.

Muhammad Caricature

Uncategorized20 Nov 2009 09:48 am

I’ve always been a fan of RPGs, so of course as soon as I got my G1 last year, I started scouring the market for anyone making a good RPG or MMORPG on the phone. Just a bit over a month after the phone came out, Parallel Kingdom was released. The game managed not just to fill the need of an RPG, but it also managed to hit on one of my other interests: Consensual Reality. See, the game places you in another reality smack dab on top of the one we are in. It uses the GPS to position you in the game world based on where you are in the real one. Personally I expect this to be the first of many realities we layer across the face of the planet, and so I follow the improvements in this game with much excitement, because in many ways they are the first ones to attack solving some of these layered reality problems.

One of the things that this game does is that it lets you create in game territory with real world boundaries. Since I’ve been playing it from the start, as soon as they offered the ability to claim territory, I jumped at the chance and started placing flags in lower Manhattan near my office, and some more at my apartment at the time in Brooklyn. Eventually I merged my two kingdoms, giving me a domain that starts in brooklyn, crosses the east river, covers nearly all of lower Manhattan as far north as 40th st.

Recently they just released a new version of the game that adds a ton of new features, and as a trailer for it, they released this video. Much to my surprise and pleasure, it shows the rampant growth of territory in the game with lower Manhattan the area in the video. The video centers on my territory not once, but four separate times. The coolest part for me is that in game, you can only see things that are very close to you, so this is the first time I have ever had a chance to actually see my whole kingdom all at once.

This is my parallel manhattan in the green:

This is a much broader view showing much more of the area: (I’m still the light green in lower manhattan, the top of the screen is south)
Kingdom 2

Now with the new release, the game lets you found cities, and you can only do so where there is a city in real life. If I can find 2 others who will join me, I fully intend to found Parallel Manhattan.

Coding&Tech23 Oct 2009 11:03 am

So I use ssh a lot. And this is one damn powerful little program. I decided to write up a log of some of my favorite ssh tricks.


awesomeaugust&NYCResistor&Projects&Tech&Web25 Aug 2009 02:22 pm

A few weeks ago, a video was passed around our office that was about Google interviewing people in Times Square about what a browser is. The results were fairly appalling. For the most part, people responded with various portal and search web sites instead of something like “IE” or “Firefox”. This coincided with a conversation I was having with someone in which I posited the hypothesis that IE as a browser would bias to the political right, and other browsers (specifically firefox) would bias to the political left. My reasoning was:

  1. Conservatives would be more comfortable with a browser delivered by a major corporation that has faced antitrust charges over that browser then liberals would.
  2. Liberals anecdotally are more prone to counter-cultural choices, and thus would be more likely to seek out an alternative to the default browser.

The Google interviews made me realize one other thing. In testing for this kind of effect, you would need to eliminate people who didn’t know what a browser was. Clearly, a person who doesn’t even know what a browser is is highly unlikely to proactively switch from their system’s default browser. Further, if a person’s political views are correlated at all with their likelihood of understanding what a browser is, not eliminating people who don’t understand could hide real results.

The company I work for, Knewton Inc, is becoming known in certain circles of its clever usage for the vastly underused (IMHO) Amazon Mechanical Turk service. When I mentioned my contention to our guy who’s been pioneering our MTurk usage, Dahn Tamir, he suggested that we build an MTurk task and get some real data to find out whether my hypothesis had any basis in reality. The rest of this post represents my findings.


Coding&RoR&Sarcasm13 Jul 2009 01:26 pm

runaway_train I got involved with a back and forth on twitter today about rails, and ultimately I realized that there was no way to give my full opinion of the problems facing the rails community in 140 byte snippets. I’m not saying my opinion is the end all be all, but I have lead probably half a dozen rails projects and I did speak at RailsConf 2007.

So here goes, my unvarnished opinion of the problems facing the rails community:

  1. The community
  2. The community is the single most ego centric community I have ever seen in a decade and a half hanging around the greater free/open source movement. Everyone remembers Zed Shaw ironically (but deservedly) ripping into the rails community for it’s overblown personalities. But numerous other examples abound. How can I possibly view the authors of a monitoring framework with the name God (and a tagline “like monit only awesome”) as anything other then a people with enormously expanded and wholly unjustified egos? How can I possibly take HAML seriously when the main dev‘s bio starts off with “Hampton Catlin is one of the best people in the world. Flat out.” Seriously? One has to know that this guy is going to give any production problem you have very serious attention</wry>

  3. Totally decentralized, egocentric documentation
  4. No other way to say it, the rails community is obsessed with personal branding, not with being a helpful community. Is there any centralized site that has a good set of user commentable docs covering most extensions? Php has that, and it’s part of why it’s still a defensible choice for writing web apps despite its numerous other flaws. The end result is that when you google for just about anything having to do with rails code, the first five items are all personal blogs

    With rails, the community doesn’t build any sort of centralized corpus of knowledge, what they all do is write a blog entry about such and such technique, or how they fixed a problem. The problem here is that nearly all of this knowledge is outdated, and impossible to tie to any one version of the application stack. So instead we get tons of blogs with disjointed suggestions that take you in the wrong direction whenever you google about an issue (sure, this solution worked in 2.1, but not in 2.0 or 2.3). Too bad it’s in a blog without with the applicable version number instead of in a comment at the end of the documentation like mysql or php.

  5. Excessive reliance on ORM
  6. I’m sure you have all heard of the N+1 problem. Sure, lots of devs will tell you that it’s simple to avoid, but based on all the teams I’ve evern worked on, all it takes is one lazy programmer and all of a sudden your templates are taking 7000+ queries to render. It’s no wonder the rails community seems to think sql is slow. Hint: the answer isn’t memcached, the reason your rails site is slow is because the sql it’s running is craptastic. 99.999% of rails sites could be vastly improved by just hiring one or two people who actually understand relational databases. The part that I really just don’t get is that sql is much easier then coding, and RDBMS is not rocket science, but it’s treated like this big hideous bear that your developers have to hide from.

  7. Pure ruby is the answer to everything
  8. The community is utterly obsessed with pure ruby, and looks down on impure extensions that are wrappers around solid C libraries. This results in a general race to the bottom for speed, stability and maturity. The unix world is packed with easy to integrate, solid libraries. Libxml-ruby is nearly two orders of magnitude faster then rexml, and has top notch compliance with the xml spec. Yet somehow rexml is the standard and libxml-ruby is the red headed step child.

  9. Fragile ecosystem
  10. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the rails maintainers shout far and wide that rails isn’t enterprise ready, and it really truly is not. Over and over I have gotten bitten by the myriad of flaws in the rails ecosystem. Any one specific issue I’ve dealt with could have been fixed in version such and such of some gem (or it’s even worse with rails plugins.) This complaint is not about specific flaws so much as the whole ecosystem feels like it’s standing on a very fragile foundation. Some examples of the ways we have gotten bitten over the life of the multiple rails projects I have been involved with are:

    • rexml violating the xml spec by totally ignoring the encoding of documents parsed by it.
    • gem silently failing (not returning the proper unix return code) and thus allowing some of our instance launches to blow up without a reasonable way to catch it. (And as a note, when you have to automatically install large amounts of gems from rubyforge, it chokes a *lot*).
    • Innumerable gems regularly break api compatibility even in minor releases (I’m looking at you Rack). When you add calls, you can’t just remove them between 0.9.2 and 0.9.3, it’s damn unprofessional.
    • i18n has been a real problem right from the beginning.
    • Passenger’s ApplicationPool choking and never coming back, forcing you to restart apache once a month
    • Constant movement from one webserver to another. It’s damn frustrating to have to switch web servers every 3 months as the community hops from one the the next, as everything else gets filed in the community folder for utter crap. At that point it becomes damn hard to find support for problems. First it’s lighttpd, with mongrel, then thin, then nginx with thin and on and on. Somehow people need to support this mess. Apache works, is well supported, can be very lean, and basically every systems person on the planet knows how to work with it. Hint: as a programmer, it’s not all about you. Your applications need to be supportable; running away from standards for the sake of being different is dumb.

    And just to reiterate, some of these could be actually fixed, or hell, they may have always had a *way* to work right, but the default was broken, and caused project problems that never should have existed if the rails community could ever get around to implementing a spec as it is written.

  11. Generates bad, bad habits in devs
    • Creates a view of the world that implicit is good. This goes all the way to the language itself and the silly fact that explicit returns use more processor power then implicit returns.
    • Creates a view of the world that clever is good. Anyone who has maintained software for a few years should be able to tell you, clever is bad, very bad.
    • My personal least favorite, the technological abortion known as Single Table Inheritance. Admittedly, even the community is now arguing for people to not use this. STI is a wretched way to bind a database with an object model, it encourages sparse tables as well as overloading of tables. Both of these things will bite you in the ass down the road.
  12. Convention magic
  13. Magic is the core of rails, and seems to be one of it’s biggest selling points. The problem is, there’s simply no place for magic in a world where people need to actually support your code. Explicit configuration and code is much more useful to operations folks who aren’t familiar with the codebase, framework, and language. Even if you use your developers to support your app, when they rely on a bunch of clever magic it can make for longer outages while people have to figure out what implicit thing they are failing to take into account.

  14. Rails hype will kill ruby
  15. Ruby could be a decent language. It has a lot of awesome things going for it. In a few years it really will be ready for real heavy lifting. At least that was ruby’s future. Rails has taken over the show. The Rails community is the ruby community, and it has not set ruby on a course to be a truly dependable language. Instead as rails project after rails project fails in all sorts of business environments, it is creating a permanent bias against the language in the management staff that oversees projects in american business. I’ve personally seen it in multiple companies, and expect to see it in most shops that are today fiddling with rails.

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