People Unclear on the Concept

Microsoft, in their ongoing efforts to make computers and computer-related products easier to use, has an Official Windows Vista Help Page explaining how to open the box that Windows Vista comes in.

If they need a Web page explaining how to open the box, the cynic in me suggests that they’re still a little fuzzy on this whole idea of “user-friendly”…

The Internets: Not just for porn any more!

The Internet is a great place to see things you’ve never seen before. No, I’m not talking about videos of people falling down the stairs or hot lesbian sex with alien tentacle monsters; you can get those in real life on most weekends. I mean…other stuff. Strange stuff. Stuff that Man Was Not Meant to Know.

Like, for example, Cthulu/Winnie The Pooh fiction.

Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie,
That’s not dead which can eternal lie,
And in aeons strange even Death may die —
Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.

And it’s not just isolated little bits. This stuff is everywhere. And its not just Pooh. Even Dr. Seuss has a dark and brooding madness lurking beneath the surface.

And it gets stranger. Everyone knows about the Great Pumpkin, who rises from the pumpkin patch to fly about the world. But few know the full truth, the eldritch horror of the Great Old Pumpkin. Fewer still have learned that truth and not been driven mad.

This content-free post brought to you by the letter C and the number–oh, God, I can see forever!

Steve Jobs is God

So last night, I went to bed very late. I don’t know if it was spending the entire day playing World of Warcraft, or eating little besides leftover Subway and frozen microwave dinners, or perhaps the fact that I was working on my Web site every time I was waiting for my mage to recover mana, but for some reason I was visited by the spirit of Steve Jobs in my dreams.

The dreams were so vivid that when I woke up, I could almost feel the presence of Steve there in my bedroom. I remember talking to the Great Mr. Jobs about the inside skinny at Apple, and learning some rather…remarkable things. A small part of our conversation:

Me: So when Apple switched from PowerPC processors to Intel processors, you made it possible for users to run their old PowerPC programs.

Steve: Yes. We created an emulation program called Rosetta, which emulates a PowerPc processor on an Intel processor.

Me: Other people have done the same thing before; there’s an open-source program called PearPC that runs Mac OS X on Intel computers. But it’s very slow. I’ve seen it run; it takes about half an hour to boot. How did you get Rosetta to run so fast?

Steve: Well, for technical reasons, emulating a RISC processor like a PowerPC on a CISC processor like the ones Intel makes is very difficult to do. At first, our emulation program was very slow, too.

But then we thought, what if the laws of physics are changed? Is it possible that under different fundamental laws, emulating a RISC processor on CISC architecture might be easy? So when our engineers started going down that path, we discovered we could get much better performance.

Me: Come again?

Steve: It’s quite simple, really. Rather than emulating a processor, what if Rosetta emulated an entire universe–one where the laws of physics made running PowerPC code on an Intel chip easy? We searched through a large number of parallel universes, and found one where the basic physical properties of the universe gave us the results we wanted.

Me: Wait a minute. Are you telling me that Rosetta doesn’t emulate a processor, it emulates an entire universe?

Steve: Exactly! We got the idea from watching The Matrix. When you launch a PowerPC application, Rosetta brings a new universe into being. This particular universe has non-Euclidean geometry; it turns out that Euclidean geometry is particularly bad for emulating RISC on CISC.

Within the laws of this universe, it’s easy to run PowerPC applications on the Intel processor found in all our current computers, like our best-selling iMac or our high-end Mac Pro.

The only drawback to this approach is memory. Emulating an entire universe within Mac OS X requires significant memory, which is why we recommend that our users who still find themselves running legacy PowerPC applications install at least two gigabytes of RAM. You can add more memory to your computer as a build-to-order option from the Apple store.

Me: And this actually works?

Steve: Oh, yes. Emulating an entire universe involves more overhead, of course, but the speed advantage you get by running RISC code on a CISC processor in non-Euclidean space more than makes up for it.

Me: I’ve noticed that when I keep my computer running for a long time, PowerPC apps can suddenly start to slow down.

Steve: Yes. We’ve observed that issue in our labs as well. It has to do with the formation of life in the parallel universe.

Me: What??!

Steve: If you let Rosetta run for long enough, eventually life will arise in the universe it creates. Because emulating the complex functions of life is a processor-intensive task, the performance of PowerPC applications can diminish over time.

It’s impossible to predict precisely when this slowdown will occur, because life doesn’t always arise at the same time or in the same way. We’ve found that on an eight-core Mac Pro system, it usually takes about three or four days for life to appear. On an iMac or a MacBook, it can take longer.

When this happens, we recommend that our users quit all their Rosetta applications. This causes Rosetta to destroy the parallel universe. When you launch a PowerPC application again, Rosetta will create a brand-new universe without life in it, and performance will be restored.

Me: Is any of this life…intelligent?

Steve: Sometimes. If you let your PowerPC applications run long enough, you may see intelligent life inside of Rosetta. When this happens, you’ll notice a significant slowdown of your PowerPC apps. We recommend that you quit all your apps at this point.

Me: Waitaminit–isn’t that murder?

Steve: Technically, no.

Me: But…you’re destroying an entire universe full of sapient life!

Steve: If you look at it that way, sure. We look at it as freeing system resources.

Me: But…it’s life!

Steve: Yes. We thought about releasing a game based on Rosetta, to compete with The Sims. The game would allow the user to interact with the parallel universe created by Rosetta and take a hand in shaping the life that formed there.

Me: And?

Steve: It turns out our market research shows that people only want to play with games that emulate human life. And not just human life, but middle-class twentieth-century American human life. Dealing with non-human sapience in a non-Euclidean universe didn’t have the same draw, so in the end we left it out of iLife ’08. However, we’re working on a smart backup feature for Leopard that we’re very excited about.

Me: Do you mean Time Machine?

Steve: Oh, no. That’s a data recovery app that folds the fabric of space-time to recover accidentally deleted files by grabbing them from a past version of this universe. The new smart backup feature uses the intelligence of sapient life in a parallel universe. But that’s all I can say about it right—

And then I woke up. No more WoW and frozen TV dinners for me, I think.

Whew! I just dodged a bullet…

So this morning, a member of a mailing list I belong to pointed out to me that a Web site had reprinted an essay from my BDSM Web page without attribution.

At about 10:40 this morning, I started to write a polite email to the owner of that Web site asking him to attribute any of the material he uses from my Web site.

At about 10:42 this morning, my Web site came under attack from a person or persons who had located a JavaScript injection vulnerability in my guestbook script (which is hand-rolled, so it wasn’t a script kiddie attack).

At about 10:44, I went to my BDSM page to copy the exact URL of the essay the other site owner had “borrowed” without permission. When I went to the BDSM page, an alert dialog popped up that just said “2”.

At 10:45, I took apart the HTML of the page and realized that the intruder had injected a JavaScript into the site that popped up an alert dialog, just to let him know that his injection had been successful.

At 10:46, I reuploaded the page.

At 10:47, the attacker injected a different JavaScript. I don’t know what it was; i overwrote it immediately and reuploaded the page again.

At 10:48, I started examining the guestbook, and worked out how he’d managed to inject the JavaScript.

At 10:49, I disabled all the guestbooks on the page. Simultaneously, the attacker injected a new JavaScript onto the page, just seconds before I disabled the guestbook.

We went back and forth for quite while after that. Somehow, I don’t know how, he’d gained sufficient access to be able to change the httpd path and was trying, I believe, to install a hostile drive-by downloader script on my site. I successfully prevented him from doing so, and closed the holes as fast as he was opening them.

At about 11:15, I closed the injection vulnerabilities in the guestbook and reuploaded it. By 11:20, the attack was over, and I had re-uploaded a clean copy of the affected pages.

Had I not been composing an email to someone who’d used my work without permission, I would not have been on my site at the beginning stage of the attack, and my site might now be home to a malicious JavaScript or JavaScripts.

My heart is still pounding. It’s like PvP in World of Warcraft, only with higher stakes.

I didn’t keep a copy of the pages he was modifying, and I’m kicking myself for that now. In hindsight, I should have, but at the time the only thing I wanted to do was undo his changes faster than he could make them.

My car is an alchemy lab…

…gone horribly, horribly wrong.

A couple weeks back, I went shopping. I bought the usual assortment of stuff–an enormous pile of TV dinners, kitty litter, bananas, and apple cider. Generally speaking, any time I go shopping, this will be the contents of my basket when I’m done. The TV dinners are there because I can’t cook; the kitty litter is there because I like tormenting the cat (he hates when I change the litter, and always looks at me like “Noooo! I worked so hard on that! Don’t take it away!”), the apple cider is there because it’s better than Coke (which tastes, when you get right down to it, something like malted battery acid), and the bananas are there because bananas are tasty and delicious.

This isn’t actually a post about my shopping habits; that’s just the backstory.

I went shopping immediately prior to my last departure to Chicago to see dayo. In my haste and desperate desire to rush to the airport, I inadvertently left the bananas in my car; they had fallen, you see, and I did not see them.

On my way to the airport, I stopped at McDonald’s. My orders at McDonald’s, like the contents of my grocery basket, tend to be rather static as well: a quarter pounder with cheese, no onion1, extra pickle, large fry, medium iced tea.

The God of McDonald’s Drive Through (a very minor position in the general pantheon of the universe, many steps below the God of Lesbian Tentacle Porn and only half a step up from the God of Things that Go Squish when you Step On Them) did not smile on me that day–though, to be fair, the The God of McDonald’s Drive Through rarely smiles, given the constant ribbing from other gods, especially the haughty, highfalutin’ gods of Important Stuff like the God of Assassins and the God of Proton Decay2…but I digress.

Anyway, the God of McDonald’s Drive Through saw fit to bless me with a quarter pounder with cheese, extra onion, extra pickle, which as anyone who knows me can testify, is almost but not quite the antithesis of a decent Franklin burger. I carefully picked off the onions, left them in the bag, and ate my burger.

At the airport, I left the bag of onions in my car, together with the aforementioned forgotten bananas, and went out of town for four days.

There is a line in the original Star Wars movie, which comes about midway through the movie when our heros, in their desperate attempts to escape a bunch of Imperial Storm Troopers who can scarcely hit the side of a barn door at point-blank range, dive down a garbage chute. Quite why there’s a garbage chute in the middle of a hallway leading down to the cell blocks is something I’ve never really understood…but again, I digress.

The line is “What an incredible smell you’ve discovered.” The clever reader will immediately intuit why I mention this.

The scent profile in my car changed over the next week or so in some very interesting and complex ways, at one point resembling nothing so much as old coffee grounds. I don’t know how onions and banana combine to form old coffee grounds; I suppose this is one of those things, like the fractional quantum Hall effect3, I may never fully grasp.

However, I am now pleased to report, gentle reader, that at this point, the scent profile of my car has now decayed to a level at which it is undetectable, at least by me, and this pleases me.

1 Every year in this world, thousands of species of plant and animal life are rendered extinct through the actions of man. Why can’t onions be one of them?

2 The God of Proton Decay is even more hypothetical than the other gods, yet this still does not stop him from razzing the God of McDonald’s Drive Through at company picnics. You’d think he’d have more respect, considering that McDonald’s actually exists and proton decay, at least so far, has not been demonstrated to exist at all, but no.

3 Those silly, silly phycists used to believe that the fractional quantum Hall effect could be explained by a hierarchical model. Quasi-electrons or quasi-holes excited out of the Laughlin ground state would condense into higher order fractions, known as daughter states e.g. starting from the 1/3 parent state addition of quasi-electrons leads to 2/5 and quasi-holes leads to 2/7. Some physicists will believe anything!

I can has internets?

I’m back! The Comcast technician just left my house after repairing my tether to the Internets, which apparently one of my neighbors carelessly sliced through with a sharp implement of some description.

I’ve been nonet, except at work (where I’ve been able to check my email at least), for quite an extended numer of days, and consequently I haven’t posted on LiveJournal or read my flist for about..lessee, carry the 4…that would make it approximately 14,282 years in Internet time.

If I’ve missed anything exciting, or any lesbian tentacle sex pr0n, or both, let me know.