Archive for July, 2005

Pointless Online Games

July 30, 2005

Here is another pointless yet entertaining online game from newgrounds. This one is called Dad ‘n Me. This game was created by the same team that is responsible for the amazingly successful Alien Hominid.

The whole point of this game is to… Um… I guess beat up little children. But it is amazingly entertaining. You only have 2 punch buttons, but you can actually do some peaty nifty combo moves. On the picture here you can see a 3 punch combo executed with the week jab button. The character actually pulls out a knife and stabs the victim in this one.

Probably the most fun combo here is running strong punch witch throws the victim in the air, and lets you follow up with some areal punches – so you can actually fly with the little dude across the whole screen or two, and punch him like 10-12 times before he falls to the ground.

It’s a perfect time waster if you are bored. Mindless fun πŸ™‚

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Ban Chimeras?

July 30, 2005

I just read about this bill on meta. Apparently some people want to:

prohibit any person from creating, or attempting to create a human chimera. A β€œhuman chimera” is broadly defined to include various methods of mixing non-human cells into human embryos.

First of all, this is dumb. I’m really sick and tired of people freaking out about the embryos. Do we always have to have religious wacko’s holding back the scientific progress? And it’s not like we can stop other countries from doing this. This will happen, sooner or later. Banning the procedure here in US will simply set us back. And in the end we will end up importing all the nifty stuff that came about thanks to experiments like this anyway. It’s not like they are planning to implement the Island of Dr. Moreau (or it’s remake for that matter). This is just research!

What really scares me is the fact that when I saw Chimera I instantly thought about Fullmetal Alchemist. Then I thought about the Chimera Troop Transport in Warhammer 40k game. Only after that I connected it with D&D and Greek myths… And eventually genetics. I’m such a geek πŸ˜›

What is really funny about this bill is that it would actually make it illegal for some children to be born. Apparently, a human who absorbs it’s twin at an embryo stage, and as the result has two sets of DNA is also called a chimera. Which would make Dr. Venture an illegal abomination πŸ˜›

RSS advertising patent?

July 30, 2005

As you may or may not know, Google has filed a patent application covering RSS advertising. There is not much I can say here, beyond the classic: what the FUCK is wrong with USPTO?

I know they are having some problems lately but this is just silly! This should have been a really simple case, where the examiner opens the envelope, reads the description, chuckles a little and dumps it in the trashcan! Does anyone at USPTO even know what RSS is?

It’s funny, but feedburner has a feature which allows you to inject AdSense into your feed. This has been available for a while now. Since they are using Google’s technology, would this constitute infringement? And since that feature surely predates the patent application, could it be considered prior art?

How difficult would it be to hack a php script that would inject context sensitive ads into your feed? If you really want good parsing and context sensitive stuff then it could maybe take couple of hours to implement. If you are happy with just random ads, it’s a job for 5 minutes. How is this even an invention?

Statistical probability of finding the right girl

July 30, 2005

This guy has done all the math so that we don’t have to. Crap. It doesn’t look all that good:

It is here, at a pool of 18 726 acceptable females, that we end our statistical analysis. At first glance, a datable population of 18 726 may not seem like such a low number, but consider this: assuming I were to go on a blind date with a new girl about my age every week, I would have to date for 3493 weeks before I found one of the 18 726. That’s very nearly 67 years. As a North American male born in the late 1970s, my life expectancy is probably little more than 70 years, so we can safely say that I will be quite dead before I find the proverbial girl of my dreams. Come to think of it, she’ll probably be dead too.

But still, it beats the chances of buying a winning lottery ticket. And I guess that’s something. Cause I never won shit on the lottery…

BTW, I know that this thing is ancient, but someone just posted it on meta yesterday , and I found it really amusing. Especially the letter he got from some grammatically challenged woman – it is priceless!

Friday Night SciFi Lineup

July 30, 2005

I haven’t really watched Scifi Chanel since they canceled Farscape. I made small exceptions for Peacekeeper Wars and the Dune miniseries – but that’s about it. It started as a personal protest or boycott of the channel when they canceled my favorite show. Later on I realized that they really didn’t have any good shows I would like to watch πŸ˜›

But friends have been urging me to give BSG a try so I gave in yesterday, and I watched the whole Friday night block. And I have to say – wow, that’s allot of Stargate there!

First thing first, though. I finally saw Ben Browder and Claudia Black in their new SG1 incarnations. Ben basically plays… John Crichton… No, seriously. His character really seemed like a carbon copy of John. Maybe little more stuck up, and less funny. Yes, as amazing as it is, pop culture jokes do not work that well, when most of the character’s companions seem to understand them.

Claudia just seemed out of place the whole time. Maybe that’s because it was some weird body switching episode. She also did not interact with Ben at all. MacGuyver showed up by the end of the episode and… Well, he looked heavily medicated and out of place too. His exchange with Ben was very wooden. Strange. I’m not a SG1 fan, so I actually have no clue why he isn’t in the main cast anymore (or at least he doesn’t seem to be). If someone cares to post some interesting factoids about this, and the way Ben and Claud ended up on the show, please do. I’m to lazy to look these things up.

Either way, the show doesn’t seem to be the same without him.

BSG was actually watchable. I wish I saw the season from the beginning because I felt a little lost. But it seems that they do have some interesting plot lines going on for them. So I guess this BSG craze is not all hype. I think I might actually watch it again next week.

I still want to punch this guy in the head, but a little less now.

I actually did watch the mini that preceded the series. So this is not my first encounter with this show. After watching just one episode, I can’t comment on how the show changed, but I can certainly point out things that stayed the same. I think that BSG suffers from the same condition as most Star Trek like shows (actually many many non SF shows as well): too many characters, too little time. This translates to lack of central focus. Farscape had a single point of focus – it was a story of John Chrichton. BSG is the story of who exactly? There is a bunch of prominent characters there, but I do not identify with any of them really. Maybe I’m wrong but this is how both the mini the episode last night felt.

I’m not saying this is wrong. Most of Star Trek shows had the same type of approach. There was really no main character (at least in the sense of Farscape’s John Cricthon). Both Star Trek and BSG are doing well so far. All I’m saying is that I never got into ST, SG1 and I might never be able to really get into BSG. Or maybe I will…. I did like the episode yesterday, so I’ll give it a chance.

Next stop – Stargate Atlantis. Yesterday was actually the first time I saw this show. I saw the ads for it, but I never really got around to actually watching it. It’s because of that grudge I hold against SciFi channel. So I was interested how it will pan out. After all, spinoff’s usually turn out to be bad. But since they had such a strong franchise and a chance to play around with the SG1 universe I figured that they really have a shot at doing something cool here.

I was wrong. The show is crap. I actually enjoyed watching some eps of SG1. This show however sucks big time. The cast blows, acting is wooden, plot is nonexistent. The only thing this show seems to have in common with SG1 is the concept of a stargate. Gah… Maybe the hard core SG1 fans get a kick out of this show, but it made me want to puke. Spinoffs suck!

Finally, at the end they showed Andromeda. This is one of these shows that gives me nightmares. When you take bunch of really bad (but relatively good looking/popular) actors, who should never be on TV, put them all on the most retarded set in the universe, and give them the cheesiest dialog ever – you get Andromeda, or as I like to call it “Hercules in Space”.

The acting was so bad, it was painful to watch. I was cringing through the whole show. And I usually find bad acting amusing. Especially in old, crappy movies it is hilarious. But in this show the wooden or over the top acting is so bad, it’s almost tragic. You can’t laugh, because most of the line you can’t even believe that a simple line could be butchered in so many ways at once…

I don’t know if this show became a part of Friday lineup, or is it just a space filler but lord! This is the type of shows that made me stop watching SciFi channel! I can’t believe they actually spent money on this crap. Not only is this old, but unbelievably crappy as well.

So there it is – my take on SciFi Friday lineup. Sigh.. Next week I’m tuning in for BSG and then I’m changing the channel. πŸ˜›

It has begun… Patent office in trouble!

July 29, 2005

I told you this will start happening sooner or later! Patent office seems to have major issues with hiring, retention and employee morale. Jason Shultz from EFF nailed it:

The incredible surge of patent applications, especially in the software and Internet business method arena, is just crushing them, and the management problems are rising to the surface with greater visibility for those reasons

I said it before, and I’ll say it again. The current patent system will either plunge us into a technological dark age, or will collapse on itself. And it seems that we might actually see a reform before USPTO kills innovation in the software industry.

The article also sheds some line on why software patents suck so badly. It seems that most examiners are swamped with work, and poorly prepared to work with technology and software patents. Yet they are expected to meet the work quota that were developed in an era when you could not patent mouse clicking…

The amount of prior art that has to be searched has gotten greater. The number of pages of specifications that somebody has to read is greater. The number of claims that an employee has to consider is much larger than it used to be. Those things all make it take more time. What has really happened is that people have been forced to do the job faster, and as a consequence, they’ve been forced to cut corners.

And this is where the problem lies. There is no proper prior art research anymore, because the examiners are so swamped, they’d rather blindly grant the patent, than read another 100 pages of mostly-made-up high-bullshit-grade techno babble.

This system is not working. It haven’t been working for a while now. Something must be changed. Of course the simplest change would be to ban software patents altogether. This would solve many problems USPTO is facing now, and make our lives so much easier. But that’s not going to happen yet – because it would piss off patent hoarding corporations.

But one thing is sure – something will happen sooner or later because USPTO already starts folding under the weight of silly patent claims.

Pegasus is up again!

July 28, 2005

For several weeks now, our school login server has been down. Since most of my projects, my webpage and allot of backup stuff is located somewhere in the confusing NFS file system of the MSU CS dept setup, I was lost. What’s worse – pegasus was also the login server, and a gateway to other systems on the network. To get to some of the school machines I had to establish an ssh tunnel through the good old peg. But ever since a bad university wire blackout, the machine was down. It had several hardware failures when the power went down, and it never came back up.

Fortunately I found a way to tunnel my traffic through another school machine that had port 22 open and no packet filtering. But this was not the nicest thing to do…

But they finally brought it back up. Wohooo! I can do stuff again! I seriously felt crippled without a remote shell account! God, I need to set up a nice linux server with decent upstream bandwidth somewhere before I graduate – or I’ll go insane once they cut me off from pegasus for good…

Genuine Advantage can be disabled!

July 28, 2005

Remember that Genuine Advantage thing? Well, it seems that windows update maintainers are retarded in the head. They apparently left a javascript which disables the GA check on the server. According to boingboing, you can skip the verification procedure by simply doing the following:

HBefore pressing ‘Custom’ or ‘Express’ buttons paste this text into the addesss bar and press enter:

javascript:void(window.g_sDisableWGACheck=’all’)

How long will this work? I don’t know. But if I was Microsoft I would be removing this js script right now. Unless of course the windows update site is such a mess that they no longer know where it is located πŸ˜›

Or maybe they do want to leave this backdoor in? Maybe this was left for sysadmins china and India and other countries which were kinda thinking about switching to Linux. As long as people can run an illegal windows copy, there is very little incentive for them to switch to alternative OS.

Once you cut off illegal copies from updates, all the responsible users in the poorer countries have to take drastic steps. They can either run unpatched OS, or switch to Linux (or they can actually buy the license if they can afford it). So I can see a big push from sysadmins in these countries to switch to alternative OS. On the other hand, if the GA can be easily bypassed these admins can still ride the system for another few years – maintaining market dominance of the windows platform. As long as windows is dominant, some people will buy it – even in the poorest nation. On the other hand, if Windows becomes a fringe OS, no one will be willing to pay big bucks for it.

If they wont fix it soon, you will know that I was right about this. MS loves “pirates” because they help them to maintain market dominance. GA is implemented not to curb “piracy” but to do unauthorized reg scans on unsuspecting users.

McAfee Chat Bots

July 28, 2005

I had an issue today with a McAfee product. So I got into one of their tech support chatrooms. I didn’t really feel like calling their $2 per minute helpline. Shortly after the conversation started I have realized that I’m talking to a machine. What tipped me off? Maybe it was when he said:

I will be very happy to help you with ActiveX is not enabled and/or blocked

This was right after I told him that I have ActiveX enabled, and IE is on lowest security level imaginable. This guy sounded so much like ELIZA that it was not even funny. Live technical support my ass! Why wont they just tell us that they will connect us to a bot that will go through the standard troubleshooting routine with us? This way there are no nasty surprises when the “technician” suddenly fails the Turring test πŸ˜›

Inkjects do not spy on people (yet)

July 27, 2005

You know, sometimes I’m glad I use an inkject printer. At least the government can’t easily spy on me.

Fortunately, identifying you with these micro dots is not that easy. You can (still) legally buy a printer for cash without giving the store or manufacturer any information. Of course police can collect information on documents printed with that specific microdot signature and keep it in a database. They would actually have to get their hands on your printer to check it. Of course this is not as hard as it used to be – now it is possible for them to search your house without a warrant (cause, you know – Patriot Act). So they can ID your printer relatively easily and match you to the paper trail they were collecting.

Now, interesting thing is – Microsoft can potentially find the serial number of your printer via the Genuine Advantage program. Now this might be a little far fetched but we really don’t know how deeply they can scan your machine. Which means that MS can easily ID you given a microdot signature.

Scary stuff…

So far EFF written up some guidelines on how to find it, and identified several printers that do use this technology. If your printer is on that list, I recommend throwing it out the window πŸ˜› If you do own a laser printer not on the list, print some test sheets and send them in to EFF.