General interests that may or may not fit anywhere else.
So, I just saw that Steve Jobs, founder and former CEO of Apple, has passed away. While its known I don’t like Apple as a corporation, what is also known (to those who know me) is I won’t disrespect human life. So, here’s some thoughts – positive thoughts – about Steve Jobs and indeed Apple. Have I lost my mind? No, I really don’t think so. I think I just don’t like some of their ways but that doesn’t mean they didn’t bring any good or that Steve Jobs is a terrible person. In fact, I think quite the opposite.
First, although I disagree with blocking of recording of live music (which Apple applied for a patent on one of their phones and a technology that does try to block recording of any live event) full on (it should be up to the band, frankly), I will say that Steve Jobs has helped both the music and video/movie industry. How so, is that Apple’s hardware is more often than not taken advantage of by the entertainment industry – video and sound alike. That’s a HUGE thing to many people, myself included. Thank you Apple for helping the music industry and the graphics and video industries.
Second, I have fond memories of the Apple IIe computer. I loved some of the old games with the not so “great” (compared to today’s possibilities) graphics. Sure, there’s other old time computers I have memories of, but I won’t lie: the Apple IIe is one of them and that was Apple’s computer.
Third, a big corporation with such technologies and capabilities, brings innovation (or as much as is possible when proprietary) and jobs (pardon the pun). It also brings competition, which brings new and better things along the way (including from themselves, e.g, the Apple IIe is nothing compared to today’s Apple technology). And hey, I have to give them some credit for using a Unix based OS for their MacOS X and onward (even if they did make it hard[er] to compile programs).
Lastly, Steve Jobs was human. He also happened to die way too young in today’s world. I lost an aunt to cancer. Many people lose loves ones to cancer, and its a terrible disease and its even terrible to watch someone lose their strength, their will, themselves, as it progresses. I really wish we were more advanced with health care, and indeed cancer treatments, but sadly we are not. We just need more time and work, but sadly many more will die before that time comes. Here’s something interesting, however, and something on the positive end in a way. Anyone familiar with mustard gas? Yes, that’s what the Germans used in World War 1. Well, back in the 1950s, they actually used mustard gas in cancer. How is this positive? Well, its positive that we’ve moved away from that and to something more sane. Sure, chemotherapy and radiation are not exactly safe. Indeed, it actually is killing the cancer cells (at the same time it sadly is killing the person too). But, remember, not everything comes overnight. Remember that many things that we have today (e.g., anaesthesia for that painful surgery you might have to go through one day) didn’t always exist. Same too with anti-emetics (anti-nausea) and many other things that many people rely on. At the same time though, mustard gas was doing similar to what chemotherapy and radiotherapy do: they are killing the person (and thus cells in the body). However, what we have today is far from perfect – but it’s all we know at this time.
(As an aside, please, if you’re against medical research, keep it to yourself. Please. Too many are dying terrible deaths due to government or whoever else trying to stop medical research or even medical care. It’s fine if you do not want medical care, but please don’t try to prevent others from getting healthcare. It’s vital and you yourself would not be alive today if it were not for medical care. Don’t believe me? Then go look up the plague for one example of many diseases that wiped out many many people and that likely includes ancestors of yours.)
So, I just noticed an interesting science project. The general idea is below, and more can be found at the BBC – Magnetic Mysteries of Earth’s core.
To understand what form it might take under the extreme conditions at the centre of the Earth, Professor Kei Hirose set himself a seemingly impossible challenge: recreate the conditions of the core in his lab at the SPring-8 synchrotron near Osaka, Japan. After 10 years of trying, he has finally succeeded.
He has created an incredibly powerful vice using the tips of two diamonds. Between them he has pressurised a sample of iron-nickel to three million times atmospheric pressure and heated the sample to about 4,500C.
Under these extraordinary conditions, the crystal structure of iron-nickel alloy changed and the crystals rapidly grew in size. “We may have very big crystals at the centre of the Earth, maybe up to 10km,” says Hirose.
These crystals would all align “like a forest”, says Hirose, pointing at the poles.
Also mentioned in the article, is my favourite author: Jules Verne. Why, is because in one of his novels, _The Journey to the Centre of the Earth_, he describes the centre of the Earth as having growing crystals (among other things).
I said for years that Jules Verne was way ahead of his time. It seems far more so, now, as the article I mentioned (above) shows. I’ve read several of his books (I’m sad to admit I never got around to all of them) and I want to highlight upon some things that I remember from reading the books, years back. It’s not just seismology though. It’s other types of science, too. Also travelling methods come to mind. He was ahead of his time in quite a lot of different things, and as more time goes on on Earth, the more it shows. And when he wrote about these things, he described them very similar to how it ended up being. I find that fascinating. It says a lot about many of the positive features of the brain and the imagination.
For example, as I recall, in _20,000 Leagues Under the Sea_, Captain Nemo had something very much like electricity in his submarine. Firstly, the novel was original written in 1870, and what? Submarines? They weren’t invented at that time, and they certainly were not in wide use until the next century during World War I. Yet, then there’s another interesting thing: light in the submarine powered by his form of electricity, which also wasn’t in existence. The light bulb was introduced and demonstrated in 1879 – roughly 9 years after 20,000 Leagues. Sure, it was an old idea, but as I recall it, the similarities in both systems – they were shockingly close. It’s been years since I read it, but this is only one such book and similar idea to our life these days.
And although I cannot remember other examples in detail, I do recall many things sounding very much like life in the 20th century (when I read his works). And now, it seems like he may have been partially correct in his book _Journey to the Centre of the Earth_.
What’s also very interesting, is that one of the Linux distributions I am familiar with and use on a daily basis (Fedora Core) – the next version is in honour of Jules Verne. I was excited to hear that but now more so.
In short, Jules Verne was a fascinating person, a very imaginative writer, and to those who like to read and have not read his books, I highly recommend them. If you’re curious, my favourite of his is somewhat of a sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It’s a fascinating book full of adventure, science, survival as well as (not surprisingly) mysteries. The name? The Mysterious Island. I did also like 20,000 Leagues a lot (and had to read it when I realized the link to it and The Mysterious Island). I enjoyed the others I read, too but those are my two favourites.
As for how I was introduced to him, I have to thank my father. Although we’re not close, one thing I loved doing with him, is we each (on our own time) read books he suggested (that he read when he was younger), and then we talked about the books. That’s one of the few very fond memories of my father, but I’m happy to have that, for I may not know of Jules Verne or certainly not have enjoyed his books. We also enjoyed something together. I also, as I recall it, heard of a place I’d like to go to visit at some point, here in California. I think it was during discussing something with my father about The Mysterious Island, that this lake came up: Mono Lake. It could have been a different book, or it could have been both. It’s been too long since it happened. Regardless, it sounded really interesting, and I hope to go some day.
Thanks also go to the BBC for yet another inspiring and fascinating article that brings light to something interesting in the world, new or old or in this case, a bit of both.
Update: 2012/11/06 – Fixed a minor typo and added a brief addendum below in regards to SPF.
I previously and elsewhere wrote about Microsoft’s going to court to shutdown a spam botnet. That’s a good move, no matter how little or big effect it makes. But, at the same time, I knew they were terrible at managing spam. Far worse than their competitors. Yet, I wasn’t quite sure why. Now, however, I know why.
The question becomes of do they filter at all? I’m not sure is the sad truth. Surely they scan somehow – they do have a spam folder on hotmail/live accounts. Yet, here’s an interesting story about Yahoo – who is under fire for scanning email. I don’t really care why they scan – whether it’s for adverts or not. Many more companies that are not under fire, actually do place advertisements – even if it’s something you don’t like. At least with Yahoo – it’s based on things you may actually like or send mail about. Yet, take this quote I just saw on the BBC :
“People should have the right to send messages without Yahoo! snooping through them,” said Sarah Kidner editor of Which? Computing.
Are you kidding me? A computer scanning through them is not snooping. It’s not like a person who works for Yahoo! is going around and reading their emails. And best of all – they have an opt out possibility. This equates to you not paying enough attention. I mean look at many social network sites – privacy is a joke. Why not bicker at them too? I guess you do but regardless: this is the correct thing to do (scanning email, that is). Don’t like it? Then blame those that spam and those that get hit by malware (e.g., worms that mail themselves) or those that mail out malware intending to spread. I don’t care what the reason is – the fact is, scanning mails is important. Only a completely foolish administrator would allow mail to go un-scanned in some form or another in this day and age. Security is the responsibility of everyone, not just those who actually realize there is a problem (which, sadly, Microsoft rarely if ever has). Sure – we all make mistakes and no system is 100% secure (even a computer that’s off is not 100% secure: it’s locked you say? What about a key or a locksmith? And remember folks – physical access is complete access). But to blatantly ignore issues that have been around for a long time, and very well known or demonstrated – is irresponsible at best.
And here we go – further in that article on the BBC, we see the following :
“Not only does Windows Live Hotmail not read users’ e-mails, but we protect your inbox from anyone else accessing your e-mail with advanced security features.”
Firstly, if a Microsoft Windows machine is secure, it’s definitely not the work of Microsoft. That’s a given.
Secondly, if you don’t read (read? We’re talking about scanning!) email, then why or how do you decide what goes into the spam folders? You just magically look at it by black magic and decide this is spam? Or is it the subject of the mail (would be a laughing matter if that is it)?
It most certainly is not black-listed hosts, unless of course you say black lists can never have your hosts. What am I getting at? Oh, it’s simple. I have on many occasions seen people using Microsoft (read : hotmail) servers to try to spam users on my domains – some that never existed while I owned them, and some that don’t exist any more. Among the IPs are the following:
Don’t believe me those are Microsoft owned IPs? Well then, look here at this query :
[06:18:27][root@xexyl ~ (0Mb)]# whois 22.214.171.124#
# Query terms are ambiguous. The query is assumed to be:
# "n 126.96.36.199"
# Use "?" to get help.
# The following results may also be obtained via:
Microsoft Corp MICROSOFT-1BLK (NET-65-52-0-0-1) 188.8.131.52 – 184.108.40.206
American Registry for Internet Numbers NET65 (NET-65-0-0-0-0) 220.127.116.11 – 18.104.22.168
There you go : Microsoft Corp. And I did not just come up with these IPs or do a reverse look up. No, sadly they were in my mail log over time trying to send mail (read : spam) to me. I’ve seen others from Microsoft too but I don’t have those (may be on back up disk, but aside from that it was rolled out over time).
And even more amusing (yet also more sad) – advanced security features? What would that be – password protection? That’s an incredibly weak form of security when you consider that it is the user that chooses the password and humans are the weakest link in the security chain. And don’t even forget that some sadly write down their passwords on paper!
This all coming from the company that said there is no such issue of a certain backdoor – after it was demonstrated! And although I cannot quote them on it, I do remember them saying it way back then. Yes, this would be related to the Back Orifice backdoor family.
This is also the same company that has a pathetic security system for their chat network – Microsoft Network chat. And when I mention an issue to them, what does one of their employees say to me (even after telling them Windows is completely irrelevant to me as I don’t use Windows)? I should go look at their antivirus page which (how ironic) tells me of Windows antiviral programs. Hello? I said I don’t use Windows. Yet, somehow someone was using MSN to spam. And that’s not unheard of with others – whether they use Windows or not. The irony is they have the SPF – sender policy framework – system in place; well, sort of, that is. It’s actually configured slightly wrong. I pointed it out to them and they just ignored it – it surely was my “fault” and it was because of a Windows bug. Wrong. And as for the system that is configured wrong, here we go :
hotmail.com text = "v=spf1 include:spf-a.hotmail.com include:spf-b.hotmail.com include:spf-c.hotmail.com include:spf-d.hotmail.com ~all"
Observe the tilde before ‘all’ – e.g., ~all? That means the following (and I’ll just quote the SPF page on the topic so it’s explained exactly as it should be) :
Mechanisms can be prefixed with one of four qualifiers:
SoftFail: The SPF record has designated the host as NOT being allowed to send but is in transition : accept but mark
Why the ? Why even bother? I can understand if this was for testing purposes, but once tested to make sure all hosts are configured properly, why keep it that way?
Okay, to be fair, they are a mail provider and they need to be less aggressive in some ways. I can see one use of having it this way but unfortunately it’s usually not going to make a difference. That use is that it will mark it as not a soft-fail in the mail headers. So if someone knows what to look for, that can be of use.
Yes, spam is guaranteed to at times pass. It is guaranteed there will at times be false positives. But you know, we ALL have to make the best of it. Sadly, Microsoft once again proves they think they are not included in all. And that, folks, is why Microsoft went to court to combat spam: that’s the only way they seem to think it can be fought. Security flaws exist and that’s the cold hard truth. Make the best of it and try to learn before any thing comes up. Else, you have yourself to blame too.
And I guess this is as good a time as any to introduce the…
Although this site is not really about music, music is a very big part of my life. Never mind the fact I have many musicians in the family, and have several friends who are musicians. It’s just really important to me. This is partly about computers and partly about music. Specifically, on the computer side, it’s certain companies, e.g., Microsoft and as in this case, especially Apple, that thinks they know what’s best for the consumer. Well, I’m here to say: no, they don’t have a clue. Not even close! Apple is going really too far with their smart phone (a pure oxymoron when talking about Apple, but that’s another story). I just read on the BBC the following:
Tinie Tempah has criticised Apple’s idea for new technology that would stop music fans filming live gigs.
The rapper said: “Just move with the times, stop trying to block people from doings things. It all works.”
The 22-year-old told Newsbeat he doesn’t mind fans filming at his gigs, calling it “the biggest form of promo”.
Earlier this month, Apple applied to patent a system that could switch off a smartphone’s camera if it senses the user is trying to record a live event.
Tinie, real name Patrick Okogwu, is just one of a number of artists who have spoken out about the US firm’s innovation.
Wow. Never in a million years did I ever think I’d agree with a rapper. Look, some like it and some don’t. I don’t. I have no problem with others listening to it, but I just simply cannot stand rap. But that aside, the fact a 22 year old can get the concept of how things are, and correctly says a lot. It says he has some brain cells. It also says a lot about Apple (quite the opposite of some brain cells – NONE).When this rapper was 2 years old, a certain band (that has at times even spoken out about music pirates) implemented a tapers section at concerts. That’s 20 years ago. And Apple is now trying to stop such things? Huh? The band in question, obvious to some, Metallica. You know, the band that took down Napster. Hell, even the main one involved in that, Lars, has said in more recent times that this is how it is in this day and age, and if there’s an album leak of some kind, then happy days (this was in response to a leak of their most recent album).
The very fact that venues try to prevent people from recording shows, is disgusting. It is not the venues place, to say whether someone can record the event, unless the event is their own event. But in general, I was not aware that, for example, the Los Angeles Forum, owned the copyright to a bands music. They should have no say what is allowed or not – that’s up to the owner. Of course, with this venue, there’s another very interesting and amusing story about bands (and banning them from ever playing there, over names no less).
Apple, you do not have a clue what all consumers need or want. Stop being so selfish. Stop being even worse; you’re far more proprietary than Microsoft. Especially sad since the end result is you’re far less innovative than you could be. You accuse Microsoft of taking your ideas. Well, as much as I don’t really like Microsoft or their products, I can say this. That’s your fault if any fault at all, for you not being smart enough to use the technology first and protecting it with a patent. Yes, I know, I know. This is futile. That’s fine, that’s not the goal of this at all. If there is a goal, it would only be venting frustration about them (thankfully, I do have a choice and do not have to – and never will – use their products).
Other crazy things with regards to Apple:
I know someone who bought an Apple laptop and the screen broke. But because of Apple’s proprietary hardware, it would cost near $1000 – almost the same price as the original laptop – to replace. That’s disgusting and it’s unfortunately legal.
Apple bases OS X on BSD Unix if I recall, but then they have all these restrictions in place. Sadly, BSD cannot do much about it given licenses. I do find it sickening though, that Apple actually makes it harder to compile programs and in general have more choices, when they base it on an open source project.
Okay, so it’s nearly a fortnight later, but I don’t mind as these pranks listed were not done for April 1 anyway. And really, what semi-advanced to advanced user does not mind a good ol’ prank ? I don’t. So here goes some of the best I’ve had friends do or I’ve done.
- The never-ending backspace/delete. Wouldn’t it suck if you’re working on a document and the backspace key suddenly gets stuck and character by character you watch your document disappear as you frantically try to get it to stop? Well, you could have that risk with my dear friend Martijn (hey – he was nice enough to save their document first). As most would know, if you hold down a key it will repeat the action. This is because it repeatedly sends an event to the computer. A keyboard event. When you release it though, it will stop that action by sending a different event. So, what happens if someone reaches over and holds down backspace and then unplugs the keyboard ?
- The un-clickable desktop. I admit it would be annoying as hell to click on an icon and find it doesn’t even work. An advance user may notice what’s going on, but here’s what it is. You take a screenshot of the desktop. You then delete all icons and lastly you set the desktop background to the screen shot of the original desktop. Hilarity on one end, frustration on the other end, will ensue! Credit goes to my closest friend. The worst I’ve done like this was deleting the start menu in Windows 2k or some older version anyway. This was more of an experiment though and not a deliberate prank.
- The darkened screen. This one is a classic too. Let’s say you’re typing away, and every X (we’ll say 100) keystrokes you notice the screen get a little darker. You brighten it. Then the next 100 keystrokes it gets a bit darker. The trick, of course, is a TSR (terminate but stay resident) program that hooks (traps) the keyboard. And every 100 keystrokes it darkens each palette on the screen. Credit goes to my friend Martijn’s friend.
- The “don’t type a command if you don’t know what it does” trick. I once came up with a rather elusive way to log a user out immediately upon logging in. It was not really that clever I would say (unless you don’t know Unix/Linux basics). So I told a friend. Someone from AOL was “annoying” him (possibly for being on AOL) and told him to try this command on his shell. The command will actually not log you out initially – no, it’s the NEXT time (in that way it is a bit more clever, perhaps). It goes something like:
echo "PS1=`kill -9 0`" >> $HOME/.profile
Note in those days $HOME was more widely used than, say, the ~ character. Note also that by killing PID (process ID) 0 on login you’re actually killing the shell’s PID which means you’re logged out. .profile is one of the common files that is run on login (it’s technically a bit more involved and there’s other files too – and even depends on the shell, but needless to say the person was quite pissed off at my friend!) Yes, this could be abused and made far more nasty. Imagine it being done as root, however. Or what if it was a command that wipes your directory out ? Those would be nasty.
- The one-sided phone call. “Hello? Who is it? Hello? Cody!!” Yes, that was my aunt again. No one was on the other end but instead I had made her own line call itself. I also did this with payphones back when they were more common. Good times those were…
As much as I wish I could think of more that I know people have done, or I have done, nothing is coming to my mind at this time. I do think the list above includes some pretty funny classics though. Have a nice computer or phone prank? Let me know!