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Topics - Triple Zero


Inspired by the above cartoon, I have made a robot that screams:

(16:32:15) *** Wilhelmbot [] entered the room.
(16:32:16) Wilhelmbot: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
(16:40:53) triplezero: Wilhelmbot: how do you feel?
(16:53:57) Cain: Wilhelmbot: can you tell me what the first letter of the alphabet is?
(16:53:58) Wilhelmbot: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
(16:54:35) triplezero: Wilhelmbot, what did you tell the dentist?
(16:54:37) Wilhelmbot: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaa
(17:04:00) Cain: I'm a gender anarchist because fuck the cistem
(17:04:12) Cain: what do you say to that, Wilhelmbot?
(17:04:13) Wilhelmbot: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
(17:07:44) Cain: Wilhelmbot, say hello to Fred
(17:07:50) Wilhelmbot: I didn't EEEEP understand that.
(17:08:01) fred:
(17:08:04) Cain: yes you fucking well did you useless piece of shit bot
(17:08:08) fred: lol
(17:08:12) Wilhelmbot: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaa
(17:17:42) triplezero: how do you like screaming all the time, Wilhelmbot?
(18:36:35) triplezero: Wilhelm, it appears that F-U-C-K-U-P
(#discord's channel bot) ignores users with "bot" in their names. Don't you think that is racist? And how do you feel about that?
(18:36:56) triplezero: doesn't it make you RAGE like a FUCKING MANIAC, Wilhelm?
(18:43:26) triplezero: I'm going to need that code you wrote to make a bot post on Tumblr, Burns. Because Wilhelm wants to rant about Social Justice and PRIVILEGE and the blatant RACISM of F-U-C-K-U-P ignoring its fellow bots just for proudly wearing "bot" in their name!
(19:32:19) idem: Wilhelm, how do you feel about being backed up on multiple machines so you will never die?
(19:32:20) Wilhelm: AAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Yes, that's pretty much all it does. I thought some of you might get a kick out of the concept of a robot that's built to do nothing but SCREAM. I certainly do :lulz:

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Really, let's just ... do stuff, because it CONNECTS and is SOCIAL! And it worked for Twitter right?

Well one thing is clever that while Twitter had to build its own infrastructure, these guys are just limiting an existing one to 500 characters. Much less work.


Maybe I know why. It's because we can, everybody that knows a bit of code can create crazy bullshit like that. But it's the Internet, so it broadcasts everything to everyone, and the end result is that you will inevitably have to face stuff made by people that tend to use their ability to build email-Twitter mutants, just to "see what'll happen".

And that's not good, but also not bad, it's just bullshit, and that's beautiful.
Techmology and Scientism / C0D3_THR34D;
June 29, 2012, 03:31:56 PM

and I'll start off with this:

Quote from: Bu☆ns on June 29, 2012, 06:32:09 AM

  • I've recently discovered a passion for programming, mainly scripting in HTA, VBS, batch and python.

Oh good! You're going to explain me about HTA and VBS soon!

The kids at the Young Researchers Centre just discovered the wonders of batch files. Especially that you can put things like "start JimmyIsAwesome.txt" and it pops up a notepad screen that says ... you guessed it.

I don't know why I couldn't get them interested in Python. Well, I'm fairly sure it is because I didn't have a drop dead simple example that would give immediate results. They're not averse to figuring out complex stuff, but apparently you gotta show them there is SOME treasure at the end of the road first. AKA I  build it first :)

Anyway so I thought maybe VBS is a nice idea because one of them also figured out you can make stuff pop up by writing the right commands in a textfile and renaming it to ".vbs"

Which is pretty awesome because it means it's a real programming language that is available by default on every windows system.

But then I found out that any type of UI in VBScript is limited to popup message boxes and popup input prompt message boxes. Is that right? And that for anything more complex you need to use a HTA ?

Fortunately HTA seems to have the advantage that you can also use JScript, which is kinda like Javascript. And I know that better.

Another problem is that it seems that to do anything *useful* you need to make ActiveX COM objects or whatever and that seems super complicated.

"Hello I'm Neal Stephenson. I've been writing Science and Historical Fiction for 3 decades. Well screw that. I want to do a videogame. A videogame about something really cool and fun that I enjoy: Swordfighting ..."

Click the video!

(I'm not saying you should donate or even have an idea whether the end result will be awesome, but you DO want to check that video :) )
Somebody created a search engine that roughly strips off the 1 million most popular sites of the web, and lets you search everything else.

You wouldn't think it'd work, but the comments on HackerNews are almost unanimously positive. Fresh and interesting recipe pages, discovering great but slightly obscure weblogs on specialty topics, "it felt like using Google 10 years ago".

Try it out.
Techmology and Scientism / Scientific Dogma
April 26, 2012, 11:46:35 PM
Quote from: Cainad on April 26, 2012, 10:29:53 PM
A piece is missing from an unclassified circular being that is also the narrator, who goes on a merry adventure looking for its missing piece.

Last Friday I happened into a university colloquium with Rupert Sheldrake (uhuh yeah, I couldn't not go, you understand) and a local Philosophy of Science prof. He asked the question whether the sun might be conscious. Though during the question-round he did admit that it was probably a bad career move as a research topic for a starting PHD. (The general topic was "dogmas in Science", it was very interesting) (He also told us that his new book "The Science Delusion", was not his intended title, but insisted upon by his publisher)
As some of you undoubtedly must have noticed, is no more.

from the site maintainer:

QuoteIn short what happened?

I am not able to comment and put my side of the story at this time (not that I don't want to), you could read this excellent piece in meantime, most of the other articles in the media contain unhealthy amounts of speculation, and are not based on facts and reality.

Is coming back?

No! The site, its database and everything else related to the old was deleted. It's gone, dead, RIP.

What is this site about? how to help?

The old site never strongly solicited help from the users,
but this time you can help me with my HUGE legal expenses by simply purchasing books and ebooks from Amazon via this site (helping authors too!).
If you have any other ideas or questions on how to help then contact me.
And if you are an author I would be very happy to hear from you...

So that article is seems quite an interesting read.

On a barely related subject. Some time ago I discussed the possibility of having a custom personal search engine produced from your collection of ebooks. You know, those gigabytes of PDFs that you are never going to manage to read even if you'd be stranded on a desert island for 5 years.

Well I've been collecting some PDF extraction tools left and right but I've not really coded anything yet.

However, today I went on a little search for alternative PDF readers:

- Acrobat is a piece of bloatware that has had WAY too many rather severe exploits (almost all due to the fact they want to make PDFs like websites with DRM, scripting, net access, code execution, 3D OpenGL bullshit, instead of just, you know, a Portable Document Format).
- The (afaik) most well-known alternative, FoxIt Reader, is a commercial piece of software. I prefer Open Source/Free software. But more importantly, FoxIt is not very lean when it comes to bloat either. Not as huge as Acrobat but it does have quite a few of these scripting and "interactive" features that nobody ever asked for in a PDF.

Fortunately there are also a few good alternatives:

- "Sumatra PDF is a free PDF, eBook (MOBI), XPS, DjVu, CHM, Comic Book (CBZ and CBR) reader for Windows. Sumatra PDF is small, portable and starts up very fast. Simplicity of the user interface has a high priority". A few years back I tried Sumatra and I was a bit put off by the shitty user interface. I forgot what exactly, but there were a few rough edges in the way you went from one page to the next. But today I installed it again and they've had a LOT of development activity since what I guess must have been 2009, like 10 new releases or so. Anyway, to sum it up: Sumatra is now pleasant to use and it's exactly what you'd expect of a PDF reader, nothing more, nothing less. Can really recommend!

- Evince is a PDF reader from the Gnome project (a popular Linux desktop environment/GUI, default desktop interface for Ubuntu in all but the latest version). When I got back on Windows from a few years of using Linux (with Gnome), I often wondered why Windows couldn't have a simple PDF+PostScript reader that just works. Well, it turns out you actually can! It's cross platform and you can just download and install it for free. The great thing about Evince is that it also supports PostScript (PS) files. If you read a lot of papers from the exact sciences, you're bound to come across PS documents every once in a while. Good PS readers for Windows are far and few between (even though PS is a subset of PDF so I don't quite get why not every PDF reader also supports PS), and the nice thing is that Evince works pretty well, no bullshit not too many options, and is completely free and open source. Evince is about 31MB to download so not as tiny as Sumatra (4MB), but still not bad, given it comes with PostScript support. I personally like the UI of Sumatra slightly better, so I'm keeping both.

One other, quite different thing I came across is a tool called Qiqqa. I thought it was just another PDF reader, but it's more like a manager kind of thing that keeps track of all your PDFs (and probably a few other formats as well), kind of in a similar sense that many desktop MP3 player programs want to create a "library" of your music files.

Usually this sort of bullshit results in a very immediate trip to /dev/null uninstall world. But Qiqqa promised me a full-text search of my PDFs! Currently it's still scanning my collection (which isn't even everything, just 4GB, the rest is on my external HD) and been doing so for the past two hours. So expect to let it run for a night or so. Fortunately it seems to have a feature that allows you to pause the scanning, although I haven't seen the need yet for doing so because it's not slowing down my machine really. My estimate says it needs about 1h20m before it's finished.

It's also got a lot of features to deal with creating proper citations and references and BibTeX codes, annotations and things like that. In case you're writing a PHD thesis--especially in an exact science when you're using LaTeX anyhow--that could be useful. Kai once mentioned he uses a tool called Zotero to manage those kinds of things. Apparently Qiqqa is able to import documents from Zotero (and a couple of other similar tools). I have no idea about how useful these features are btw.

Apart from that Qiqqa is a commercial "freemium" application. And apparently they really want you to register an account for online syncing and other bull. I haven't done this yet. But if you do, you get one day of "premium" access for every person you get to click on your special "affiliate" code link.

Also Qiqqa is quite bloated (well, the UI feels kinda slow), so if the PDF full-text search isn't excellent I'm dumping it.


Liberating America's secret, for-pay laws

[Editor's note: This morning, I found a an enormous, 30Lb box waiting for me at my post-office box. Affixed to it was a sticker warning me that by accepting this box into my possession, I was making myself liable for nearly $11 million in damages. The box was full of paper, and printed on the paper were US laws -- laws that no one is allowed to publish or distribute without permission. Carl Malamud, Boing Boing's favorite rogue archivist, is the guy who sent me this glorious box of weird (here are the unboxing pics for your pleasure). I was expecting it, because he asked me in advance if I minded being one of the 25 entities who'd receive this law-bomb on deposit. I was only too glad to accept -- on the condition that Carl write us a guest editorial explaining what this was all about. He was true to his word. -Cory]

Did you know that vital parts of the US law are secret, and you're only allowed to read them if you pay a standards body thousands of dollars for the right to find out what the law of the land is?

Public.Resource.Org spent $7,414.26 buying privately-produced technical public safety standards that have been incorporated into U.S. federal law. These public safety standards govern and protect a wide range of activity, from how bicycle helmets are constructed to how to test for lead in water to the safety characteristics of hearing aids and protective footwear. We have started copying those 73 standards despite the fact they are festooned with copyright warnings, shrinkwrap agreements, and other dire warnings. The reason we are making those copies is because citizens have the right to read and speak the laws that we are required to obey and which are critical to the public safety.

(read more)

(quoted from PlentyOfFish--Throw Everything You Know About Ads Out The Window)

I personally found this hilarious, tested these 2 ads for the sake of curiosity 15k impressions each:

- Nice picture of actual in-game content
- Green call to action button w/ "free", "free online racing"
- Trust symbol (EA = reputable, Need For Speed = huge reputable franchise)


- Some shit ad I made in 5 mins in Microsoft Paint.

Results? 0.049% CTR1 vs. 0.137% CTR in favor of the shit ad in Microsoft Paint. I also tested speed lines vs. no speed lines behind the car and speed lines won LOL.

1 CTR = Click-Through-Ratio, the ratio of people that click the ad divided by the total amount of people that visit the site.

With 15k visitors, that means about 7 people clicked on the EA ad, while 21 people clicked on the WOMP ad.

Literate Chaotic / The Weekend Asymptote
April 03, 2012, 11:01:41 PM
Hi there! Yeah I've been gone for quite a few weeks. At first I was busy with a lot of other things so I didn't have time to check the boards anymore. Then I decided to write a short story, which is what I'll post in this thread. And then it took a bit longer than expected because as things go, when the busy subsided (actually it didn't), stuff tends to pour into your unfilled timeslots rather quickly, and that stuff happened not to be checking PD, sorry :)

Anyway, I decided I'd finish the story first before I'd start posting again. Here it is!

It was one of those long, slow and late Friday afternoons. The kind that makes your mind drift to undefined places and you wonder whether to wait for one last client, or to close shop and declare weekend.

In my line of work that usually means somebody is going to knock on my door in three ... two ...

  "Excuse me, are you still open? My name is Will Jung Gibbsen and I am in urgent need of an audience with your Ouija board."
  "The Ouija board? An audience??" why was I so surprised? I get the weirdest requests all the time, "The Ouija board is more of a party game, and you're just one person. Wouldn't you rather like to consult the Tarot, I-Ching or get a psychic reading?"
  "I already know all about those and have gotten way too familiar with them. The Ouija board is the only one I still believe in. I know it works better with more than one person, so you'll have to assist me. I'll pay..."
  "Okay then..."
  "It's about my future ex-wife, she has recently ceased."
  "You mean deceased."
  "Maybe. We haven't met yet. Her name is Chanel."
Whatever. Wishing this bloody weekend would just get on with it and start already, I led him through the doorway into my consulting practice room, lit a few incense sticks and set up the Ouija board. Apparently Will was not too unfamiliar with the board and he knew what to do. We both placed our index fingers on the planchette.

  "I would like to request an audience with the spirit of Chanel... Chanel, are you here?"
The planchette moved. 
  "Great! Will, what would you l--"
The planchette moved, again.

  "How's it feel?"
  IT D 0 ESN'T
  "Bother you?"
  "Chanel, would you please stop pointing the planchette at symbols that aren't even on the board? ... or in this very room?!"


And that's when things got a little bit stranger.

The seat was no longer underneath Will. Except it was still in exactly the same ... location as it was before. Instead, Will appeared to be floating and filled with white static. I could see it flickering behind his eyes, and glowing beneath his skin.

Typical. I looked around. Of course, the room had acquired a few more angles, all perpendicular but folded into eachother.

I decided to quickly take a few steps back, while "a few" was still a finite countable number and "stepping back" a well-defined operation of my state vector.

Managing to get to the doorway, I knew I was safe. The doorway was carved, plastered and inked with as many religious symbols as I had been able to find over the years. Which added to the atmosphere of my workplace of course, but it was also a safety precaution. Because I hadn't stopped there, I had made the symbols with religious zeal, and fervor, faith, conviction, ineffability, madness, dogma, I had cursed them, blessed them, sanctified them, crusaded for them, declared jihad on them, prayed to them and applied to the IRS for tax exemption. This doorway was practically made of religion. And it's impossible to get mathematics past religion, you can't get it through. In theory sure, but everyone knows what's going to happen in practice: Nothing ever really changes.

I could see him repeatedly opening and closing his mouth. Or rather, I saw him try, but it kept happening in the wrong sequential ordering and he just couldn't seem to get the genus of his face right. What came out was a crackling noise and something that looked like fractured heat shimmers. Poor guy, he must be vibrating his vocal chords in a non-spatial direction.

I recognized the symptoms.

This guy above the board had the colour of terror visions, tuned to a dead Chanel.

I kinda figured Kai would post about this sooner or later :) But since it's still on the frontpage of HN and he hasn't yet, I assume he hasn't heard of it, so here's for her (and your) enjoyment:
How to hack the yoghurt bacterium to make it a nice orange-pink colour and produce Prozac as a nice supplement to your morning breakfast:

"A DNA synthesizer, it's sort of like a desktop printer, but instead of CMYK it prints ATCG. And you get the DNA back in an envelope, dried.

Last year I did a project in which I created a bacterium which, if you feed it to pigeons, it makes the pigeons, um, produce, er, defecate, it makes the pigeons shit soap."

Eet smakelijk!

Yesterday Forbes broke the news  that Canadian Calvin Ayre and partners who operate the Bodog online gambling empire have been indicted in the U.S., and in a blog post Calvin Ayre confirmed that their domain had been seized by homeland security. As reported in Forbes (hat tip to The Domains for the cite),

According to the six-page indictment filed by Rosenstein, Ayre worked with Philip, Ferguson and Maloney to supervise an illegal gambling business from June 2005 to January 2012 in violation of Maryland law. The indictment focuses on the movement of funds from accounts outside the U.S., in Switzerland, England, Malta, and Canada, and the hiring of media resellers and advertisers to promote Internet gambling.

"Sports betting is illegal in Maryland, and federal law prohibits bookmakers from flouting that law simply because they are located outside the country," Rosenstein said in a statement. "Many of the harms that underlie gambling prohibitions are exacerbated when the enterprises operate over the Internet without regulation."

That is a truly scary quote but we'll emphasize that: "The indictment focuses on the movement of funds outside the U.S." and that you can't just "flout US law" by not being in the US. What also needs to be understood is that the domain was registered to via a non-US Registrar, namely Vancouver's domainclip.
So Here's Where It Get's Scary...

We all know that with some US-based Registrars (*cough* Godaddy *cough*), all it takes is a badge out of a box of crackerjacks and you have the authority to fax in a takedown request which has a good shot at being honoured. We also know that some non-US registrars, it takes a lot more "due process-iness" to get a domain taken down.

But now, none of that matters, because in this case the State of Maryland simply issued a warrant to .com operator Verisign, (who is headquartered in California) who then duly updated the rootzone for .com with two new NS records for which now redirect the domain to the takedown page.

This is exactly the scenario we were worried about when Verisign originally tabled their very troubling takedown proposal. Said proposal was quickly retracted, but here we have the same situation playing out anyway. Granted, this was an actual court order, to Verisign – not a "request" from a governmental or "quasi-governmental" agency as originally proposed.

But at the end of the day what has happened is that US law (in fact, Maryland state law) as been imposed on a .com domain operating outside the USA, which is the subtext we were very worried about when we commented on SOPA. Even though SOPA is currently in limbo, the reality that US law can now be asserted over all domains registered under .com, .net, org, .biz and maybe .info (Afilias is headquartered in Ireland by operates out of the US).

This is no longer a doom-and-gloom theory by some guy in a tin foil hat. It just happened.

read more
Literate Chaotic / The Robot and the Showroom Dummy
February 29, 2012, 11:01:40 AM
I am a Robot. And a Showroom Dummy.

We got fused in a very mixed up accident involving a German power plant.

It must have been very chaotic, they say it was some guy in Chicago that caused it.

See, the Robot was charging its batteries and just as it was full of energy, there it was. The Showroom Dummy. Just standing there. Exposing itself. The Robot was very confused because it was programmed just to do. So it watched, automatically and mechanically, it felt the shockwave pulse causing the Dummy to change its pose. Broken glass started to move.

So anyway, that's when we went to the club and start to dance, to music, non-stop.

the robots

showroom dummies
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Fear
February 15, 2012, 12:12:49 PM
Fear can sometimes be a useful emotion. For instance, let's say you're an astronaut on the moon and you fear that your partner has been turned into Dracula. The next time he goes out for moon pieces, wham!, you just slam the door behind him and blast off. He might call you on the radio and say he's not Dracula, but you just say, "Think again, bat man."
RPG Ghetto / DuckDuckGo rolls the dice!
February 13, 2012, 02:06:45 PM
Check it, query DuckDuckGo for roll 3d12+4 (just below the search input box, above the sponsored link)

It rolls dice for you!

It even supports irregular dice such as 3d19+7. It doesn't support multiple dice (yet) like 1d4+3d6+10

Checking the source code (because yes, DDG is open source) I discovered it also supports another strange format for dice rolling:

roll 4d6 - L

Which I first assumed would roll 4d6 and discard the lowest, like you sometimes do to generate stats for D&D characters, but instead it rolls 4d6, adds them except for the lowest, which it subtracts from the total. Try it out. There is also a format for 3d6-H which subtracts the highest value instead of adding it.

Anyone know what game system such dice rules are used for? I'm curious.

This is the distribution for 4d6-L:

0 |  0.0 %
1 |  0.0 %
2 |  0.1 %
3 |  0.3 %
4 |  0.9 % ==
5 |  1.9 % ====
6 |  3.5 % ========
7 |  5.9 % ==============
8 |  8.9 % ======================
9 | 12.1 % ==============================
10 | 14.6 % ====================================
11 | 15.8 % =======================================
12 | 14.7 % ====================================
13 | 10.8 % ==========================
14 |  6.2 % ===============
15 |  3.1 % =======
16 |  1.2 % ===
17 |  0.3 %
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / name my netbook!
February 10, 2012, 01:23:41 PM
heyyy so I just received my new computar, it's pretty sweet[1] and it's installing Windows right now (which they could have done at the fucking factory and instead deliver it to me in a hibernation-mode state so I'd switch it on and 5 sec later I'd have a fully booted thing running) but ANYWAY

Now it wants to know it's name!

My last netbook was called "anice hedgehog" (but in Dutch) based on the licorice candy I was eating on the road to Denmark when I was installing the thing.

When I reinstalled to Linux I had to pick a name again and I chose the very unoriginal "ritz-netbook" (ritz was my username).

In the past I have named both a computer and a harddisk NYARLATHOTEP and they both broke fairly quickly, sometimes under mysterious circumstances, so I won't do that again.

I'm thinking of "SPAGBOX" maybe.

I want as many suggestions as possible! (and quickly because I kinda wanna continue installing)

[1] except for the screen which the LED backlight bleeds a bit on the left side so it's a bit brighter there which is in fact fucking ugly but I guess I'll have to live with it or something
what is this AutoRealm thing?

(didnt want to jack the other thread)
Techmology and Scientism / The Transparency Grenade
February 06, 2012, 10:58:43 PM
An art project by some guy I follow on Twitter:

Yesterday it was just the image of that grenade and only some related art websites explained what it was supposed to do, but now he added some technical specs, and said he'll be updating the page more later.

This is btw the same guy that made NewsTweak (or was it NewsTweek) that I posted about before in O:MF.
Techmology and Scientism / Python lessons
January 26, 2012, 09:02:04 PM
I believe there's several people on PD learning python (Faust, BDS), apparently Google's tutorials are pretty good: (PDF that's linked on the blog, in case it's down)

Oh and since I know quite a bit about the subject, if you got any questions, post and I'll try to answer them here.
Some of it just seems badly written, but there's some crackpot gold in there too :)
(for those that haven't followed this, see: )

It's scheduled to crash between 5 minutes ago / 17:41 CET / 16:41 GMT / 11:41 EST and 4.5 hours from now / 22:05 CET / 21:05 GMT / 16:05 EST.

So I wanted to know, will it fall on my head or not?

Short answer: no because I live a few degrees further north of the max northernmost latitude of its trajectory.

But I wanted to know more! And what do you know, Wolfram|Alpha proved actually useful since you can just query it for the position of any satellite, did you know that?


But of course that's all boring and complicated so I grabbed the images and put them in an animated gif, LIKE THIS:


Watch the sky! (except they say you probably can't see it. not even if it drops on your head??)
No matter what you may think of RMS, I mean, I agree he is an anti-social (probably autistic) Free Software zealot evangelist, this article is quite interesting.

It doesn't really tell us much we (here at PD) weren't aware of already, but apparently RMS is kind of a holy man or prophet, since he too, like us, preached about the Horrible Things that were going to happen, that indeed did in fact happen.

One criticism, given on HN, is that the article does not explicitly state which predictions RMS exactly made that came through. You need to read between the lines a bit for that, and imagine what a Free Software zealot would predict about the Horrible Things that we know all too well.

He was a good personal friend of Fravia+, btw.

To give a taste, here's a quote from Cory Doctorow from near the end of the article:

QuoteThe copyright wars? Nothing but a prelude to the real war.

"As a member of the Walkman generation, I have made peace with the fact that I will require a hearing aid long before I die, and of course, it won't be a hearing aid, it will be a computer I put in my body," Doctorow explains, "So when I get into a car - a computer I put my body into - with my hearing aid - a computer I put inside my body - I want to know that these technologies are not designed to keep secrets from me, and to prevent me from terminating processes on them that work against my interests."
I always figured there was something fishy about this whole 720p and 1080p resolution business. Especially when people started claiming you'd need a (then expensive) HDMI cable because otherwise it couldn't keep up with that *amazing* resolution in good quality. Then why does the very same analog VGA cable we've been using since at least the 90s perform perfectly fine on computer monitors that often have even slightly higher resolutions?

This article does not answer that question. It does, however raise a whole bunch of others ;-)

TVs are all awful

(BTW there's one advantage of a HDMI cable over a VGA cable when connecting your laptop to a huge TV, and that is that HDMI also carries the audio signal, so if it just works [and so far it has, for me, on Windows at least] it's less fiddling with cables. It's not so good if you prefer your sound coming from another system rather than the relatively crappy TV speakers, of course)
Loop Geography as Defensive Tactic

"[J]ust outside Washington," authors Dana Priest and William Arkin explain, in the exurbs of depopulated office parks and "huge buildings with row after row of opaque, blast-resistant windows," there can be found what the authors describe as "the capital of an alternative geography of the United States, one defined by the concentration of top-secret government organizations and the companies that do work for them."

One such complex, called Fort Meade, "is the largest of a dozen such clusters across the United States."

And it is cleverly camouflaged:
The existence of these clusters is so little known that most people don't realize when they're nearing the epicenter of Fort Meade's, even when the GPS on their car dashboard suddenly begins giving incorrect directions, trapping the driver in a series of U-turns, because the government is jamming all nearby signals. (more)

"Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion."

Yeah I know, it's kind of a large claim. The comments already voice a couple of criticisms about this conclusion too. And the way it is formulated below it is almost paradoxical:

"When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority," said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. "Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame."

Ummm if it takes the age of the universe (aka "forever") for an idea below 10 percent to reach the majority, and ideas above 10 percent spread like flame (and reach the majority). That means all ideas are either held by the majority of people or are held by less than 10% of the population. It also means that, unless a new idea simultaneously pops up in the heads of at least 10% of the population, it is doomed to stay below 10% adoption "forever". This is obviously false and/or bullshit.

Which is why I really want to read the original research paper:

But it's behind a paywall. And I was going to ask if anyone had access to a subscription, but never mind! Because I already found it:

Look at all those beautifully typeset LaTeX equations on percolation theory :D If your paper looks like that I'm sure they found something interesting, even if a ScienceBlog mangles it. And I believe the book Tipping Point or a sequel to it, or something like that in the complexity/longtail quasi scientific management genre also mentioned it, which is how I came to the link because a friend of mine started about this theory and I was like, :cn: because it didn't make sense (as I said above) and he was like "Okay, *emails link through smartphone*".
Because these books like Tipping Point and Black Swan1 are super interesting and very inspirational and they usually don't use these kinds of research in a way that really makes or breaks their point, but they do mention it because it's related and sometimes it's even second-hand knowledge of that research and they take artistic license and turn good research into very tall claims that are simply not at all what was found. In my experience, in a worse way than popular scientific blogs do.

Anyway that rant's besides the point. When I finish reading that paper I'll report back to this thread :)

1Fooled by Randomness was better IMO
Techmology and Scientism / Megaupload vs Universal
December 16, 2011, 11:42:49 PM
I suppose most of you haven't been following this, but MegaUpload is trying to promote its legitimate business with a promo video featuring several RIAA Label and A-star celebrities on Youtube.

And then Universal took it down via what seemed to be a DMCA request. Indeed, taking down material they did not own the copyright to. Internet outrage and lawsuits followed.

But now it got even weirder:

Universal claims that it wasn't a really real DMCA takedown notice for real, but that they have a contract with YouTube that allows them to take down *any* video via a special YouTube CMS control panel, whether they own it or not.

Been following this for a while now, kept meaning to link it, but there you have it.
RPG Ghetto / Video Game Design Making Of Thread
December 16, 2011, 11:17:34 PM
Hm I thought I had many more of these and I figured I'd merge them, but I don't. I'm still retro-fitting this thread for re-use though. BECAUSE I LOVE ORDER :fnord:

How Supermario Bros 3 was made

QuoteI picked up a children's picture book at the local library recently. Some of you might be thinking, "Why would you take out a Japanese picture book? Are your Japanese language skills that atrophied?" Well, this happened to be a very special book, because it showed kids how Nintendo games are made, from start to finish. With some fantastically juicy pictures! And not only that, the game it focussed on was Super Mario Bros. 3!
If you're using Google Translate,

please save everybody else some time and include both the original and the translation in your post. Preferably for both the message you're replying to and your own reply text. For extra fancy, use a different colour.

Some people are already doing this, which is great, but I just thought I'd put it out there :)

Si estás utilizando Google Translate,

Por favor, guarde todo el mundo algún tiempo, e incluyen tanto el original y la traducción de su mensaje. Preferiblemente, tanto para el mensaje que estás respondiendo a su texto y propia respuesta. De lujo extra, use un color diferente.

Algunas personas ya lo están haciendo, que es grande, pero pensé que me había puesto por ahí:)
Back in my days on the ~Seekers board, we used to play a game. Someone would post an image and the rest would have to try and find the source and backstory of that image.

We played that game a couple of years ago with a picture from my "Javaanse Jongens" tobacco, unfortunately that thread appears to have been purged :?

Anyway, Cram and I thought it'd be fun to have another round.

The image is this:

That's the one that WaffleIron posted. TinEye gives zero results. Google visual search gives some results but none to the source.

Where did this picture come from? When/how/why was it taken? What is the backstory?

Original article (Dutch)

Google translated version (semi-readable Engrish)

It's a VERY strange story btw, but I guess we'll hear wtf was up after the court hearings. Here's the Google translation, fixed up by me: (sorry for the bad english but it's a lot faster to fix up Google's translate to a readable state than write a proper translation)

Chemie-Pack employee admits but goes free

A 45-year old employee of Chemie-Pack has announced that he is the cause of the fire on January 5th that put two companies completely to ashes.

The man is not prosecuted as the prosecution had promised.  This is evident from various sources around the research.  The man had been walking around with his secret for seven months.

The fifth of January is a clear but cold day.  At the company Chemie-Pack in Moerdijk is a day like any other: lorries unloading chemicals and production employees are blending and repackaging them for further transport to other companies.

Among them was Mohammed, a valued workforce that has 13 years working in Chemicals-Pack.  In the afternoon at the filling stations in the covered area next to the "liquids hall" he has to pump a resinous liquid from one tank to another.  The pneumatic pump with which this occurs, will not start.  Possibly frozen by the cold last night.

Gas burner [like where this is going?]

Mohammed now does something that will destroy the company.  He picks up a gas burner and points it at pump for it to thaw.  The pump is connected to chemicals and there are containers with flammable products everywhere.  The pump catches fire and Muhammad realizes the fire is cannot be contained.  An extinguishing attempt by the alarmed fire safety coordinator is in vain.

A liquid plastic tank breaks down.  More combustibles caught fire and in no time everything except the pump is on fire.

The day after the fire, ask Gerard Spiering, director of the Chemical-Pack, probing what happened to Mohammed, but Mohammed says he does not know.  He stated that the pump spontaneously caught fire, no idea how this could have happened.


The weeks and months after the fire, the staff Chemie-Pack employed in the remaining branch in Oud-Gastel.  All the while Mohammed keeps his story to himself.  Every day he does his job and he just eats his sandwiches with his colleagues.  He survives the first wave of necessary layoffs, because the board appreciates him as an employee and are glad to keep him at the company.

The police in the course of time hears the management and all personnel of Chemistry-pack, some several times.  Among them was Mohammed, as he was working at the source of the fire.  Director Spiering notices that the interrogation of Mohammed often takes longer than others and afterwards Mohammed returns very upset. So much, that Spiering asks the police to go easier on him.

Early May Mohammad is again questioned in Breda.  This time, on behalf of the prosecution, attorney Koopmans makes him a remarkable promise: he says, he will in this investigation no longer be considered a suspect.  But Muhammad keeps his mouth shut.

Lifted from bed

Six weeks later, on Tuesday early morning, June 28, to everyone's surprise four people of Chemie-pack are lifted from their beds, the director, the safety expert, the production manager and production assistant.  They are suspected of violation of environmental laws.

Attorney Ronald Drenth protests and gets right to the magistrate.  The men would go home Sunday, July 3 at 15:00 , but this does not happen.  Ten minutes before they were going, they are in their cells arrested again, this time on suspicion of arson.

The Public Prosecutor has announced that new information is received about the origin of the fire.  It's about a possible rumor that came from an insurance man to the Justice department.


That night, Mohammed discusses the situation with his wife and decides to talk.  After all he has a promise from the Attorney General. He calls the police and make an appointment for the next morning.

On July 4 he finally tells the whole story: how he has made efforts to pump up and running and tried to get the thing to thaw by a gas burner aimed at a filter pump, with all its consequences.

In the months after that Mohammed is heard a few times.  All in all, thirteen times he is interrogated.  In a later interrogation of the accused, he also claims director Spiering would have discriminated against him.


Director Gerard Spiering was stunned.  He wonders how it is possible that Mohammed, who had been for so long with the company and he thought he knew him so well, had kept his mouth shut for more than half a year.  Lawyer Ronald Drenth, who assists the board, finds it curious that his clients stand trial and not the instigator of the fire.

"I understand the confessed instigator of the fire is not prosecuted while my clients are. That's the world upside down," said Drenth.  He also confirms that the Public Prosecutor promised Mohammed not to prosecute.  "It says in the case that an agreement was made between the Public Prosecutor and this man. What I think of it, I will only tell at the court hearing."

Director Seat

The prosecution won't confirm the deal or comment on our findings.  A Justice spokesman says there is a "good explanation" for it, but one that won't be told until the court hearing.  Mohammed was also approached, but he will not comment.

The trial will begin Friday, December 9 in Breda with a so-called pre-trial inter alia where will be examined whether there is additional research needed.  Three suspects will eventually be sued: Manager Spiering, the safety coordinator and production manager.  The charge is arson and violating environmental laws.
Truth goggles sniff out suspicious sentences in news

A graduate student at the MIT Media Lab is writing software that can highlight false claims in articles, just like spell check.

You're reading a wrap-up of the Sept. 22 Republican presidential debate when you land on this claim from Rep. Michele Bachmann: "President Obama has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times."

Really? You start googling for evidence. Maybe you scour the blogs or the fact-checking sites. It takes work, all that critical thinking.

That's why Dan Schultz, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab (and newly named Knight-Mozilla fellow for 2012), is devoting his thesis to automatic bullshit detection. Schultz is building what he calls truth goggles — not actual magical eyewear, alas, but software that flags suspicious claims in news articles and helps readers determine their truthiness. It's possible because of a novel arrangement: Schultz struck a deal with fact-checker PolitiFact for access to its private APIs.

read the rest of the article

Unfortunately I couldn't find any links to research papers or demos on this ambitious project. I believe it can technically be done (to some extent of accuracy), but I'd really like to read about the specific techniques they're using.
Dutch parliament refuses ACTA secrecy
November 23, 2011 By Ante

On the same day that the European Parliament had its first secret meeting on ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), the Dutch parliament decided it will not take ACTA into consideration unless all ACTA negotiation texts are published.

A few weeks ago, the Dutch House of Representatives' committee of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation requested the ACTA negotiation texts (the earlier versions of ACTA). The minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, Maxime Verhagen, sent the texts to parliament, adding a non disclosure obligation. In debates, Members of Parliament may not refer to the documents, nor quote from them.

Sunday, Bits of Freedom sent a letter to the committee, asking the committee not to accept the secrecy.

Committee member Kees Verhoeven (D66) proposed a message from the committee to the minister that no substantive treatment of any ACTA document can be made without publication of all relevant documents and above all that the committee can discus all documents in public. According to experts, the treaty has major implications for Dutch legislation (eg on copyright and Internet freedoms) and the House can't at the moment consult experts nor can it inform the public about ACTA's consequences, since ACTA is partly confidential. For this reason, the committee also requests the minister not to take irreversible steps, neither in Europe and nor in the Netherlands, in terms of ACTA. And towards the commission itself, the proposal to temporarily withdraw all ACTA related documents from the agenda until the minister discloses all documents.

Bits of Freedom reports a majority in the Dutch House of Representatives (D66, PVV, GroenLinks, SP and PvdA) adopted the proposal.

Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Parliament International Trade committee (INTA) held a highly controversial in-camera meeting to learn what the legal service of the European Parliament thinks of ACTA.

On 9 November, the FFII had send an open letter to the Chairman of the Committee on International Trade (INTA), in which the FFII objected to the planned in-camera meeting on the 23th. On 12 November the INTA chairman defended the secrecy in a letter to the FFII.

7 civil society groups asked for European Parliament transparency on ACTA on the 17th. On Friday the 18th, the Parliament refused to disclose the legal service's opinion on ACTA, "disclosure would undermine the protection of the public interest as regards international relations".

On Sunday, the FFII filed a confirmatory application for legal service's opinion on ACTA. According to the FFII, the argument that disclosure of the opinion would undermine international relations is totally overstretched. The Parliament's second reason violates the European Court of Justice case law (Turco case), and the third argument lacks substance.

On Monday 21th, sources in Parliament reported the meeting was postponed. But on Wednesday the 23th, the meeting was on.

Henrik Alexandersson, assistant to Christian Engstrom, reports on his blog:

- Controversial INTA meeting on ACTA held in camera today 23 November despite protests from Civil Society.
- Previous decision to postpone the meeting annulled yesterday night by INTA Coordinators.
- Vote on holding the meeting in public was denied.

After 4 European Parliament resolutions asking for ACTA transparency, the Parliament now took the decision to keep the legal service's opinion confidential. And to meet in-camera.

This whole show will be repeated soon: the Legal Affairs Committee asked for a legal service's opinion as well.

A partly secret ratification process... How deep do you want to sink?

The European Parliament should take a good look at the Dutch Parliament's example.

Source: (original text has links for more info)
"Invisible Electrostatic Wall" at 3M adhesive tape plant

   CURE, D. Swenson, 3M Company
   Tremendous static charge generation on a plastic web causes unique
   physical phenomena and special problems. Solution was simple and cost

David Swenson of 3M Corporation describes an anomaly where workers encountered a strange "invisible wall" in the area under a fast-moving sheet of electrically charged polypropelene film in a factory. This "invisible wall" was strong enough to prevent humans from passing through. A person near this "wall" was unable to turn, and so had to walk backwards to retreat from it.

This occurred in late summer in South Carolina, in extremely high humidity. Polypropelene (PP) film on 50K ft. rolls 20ft wide was being slit and transferred to multiple smaller spools. The film was taken off the main roll at high speed, flowed upwards 20ft to overhead rollers, passed horizontally 20ft and then downwards to the slitting device, where it was spooled onto shorter rolls. The whole operation formed a cubical shaped tent, with two walls and a ceiling approximately 20ft square. The spools ran at 1000ft/min, or about 10MPH. The PP film had been manufactured with dissimilar surface structure on opposing faces. Contact electrification can occur even in similar materials if the surface textures or micro-structures are significantly different. The generation of a large imbalance of electrical surface-charge during unspooling was therefor not unexpected, and is a common problem in this industry. "Static cling" in the megavolt range!

more plus discussion at link

Also CastleZZT is a crazy website. Slightly crazier than I remember it to be, even. Therefore, WONDERFUL
Aneristic Illusions / Berlusconi resigns.
November 12, 2011, 10:06:44 PM
Got it from  Dutch news site so you may want to look it up on your favourite English one.

Never figured he was as old as 75, btw.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Young Researchers
November 12, 2011, 07:36:01 PM
I just wrote this huge comment on HackerNews, answering a guy asking about the best way to teach his 7 year-old son computer programming.

Personally I'm not too sure if 7 years really isn't too young, but he's welcome to try and maybe his kid is like really really clever. I advise him to maybe try and teach him HTML first (which is not really programming), because I know from experience this one 8 year old kid seemed to be able to understand what he was doing (plus he put a bunch of puns on his site, awesome).

ANYWAY I didn't start this thread to discuss whether or how to teach a 7 year-old kid computer programming, but I figured that maybe people would be interested in the story, in which I explain a lot about what I've been doing two days per week the past couple of weeks--in which I also found that indeed I seem to be pretty good with kids :)

Hi! I work at a "Young Researchers Centre", a sort of after-school crafts-and-technology place for kids of roughly ages 8-12. They can work wood carpentry, clay pottery, fabric, metalworks (lots of cute jewelry made from resistors :) ), electronics/soldering, Lego Mindstorms and of course computers. I supervise at the last two.

We don't let them play webgames, YouTube, Facebook or Pokemon websites or things like that, except for the final 30 minutes which is free time (though I still won't let them on Facebook--that's a hairy situation I'll let the parents sort out responsibility over at home. I believe the webfilter blocks it too).

Anyway, what they *can* do: Creating animations with a stick-figure animation program called Pivot, build plain HTML+images websites (with jEdit free syntax highlighting editor that also works over FTP) and create games with the free trial of Gamemaker (GUI-based point-and-click programming, not bad at all). Oh and this afternoon I helped a little guy shoop fake Pokemon cards in GIMP :-)

We *are* looking at introducing a little bit more actual programming into the possibilities, though. I visited this very same centre at the age of ten, and I'd just fire up QBASIC and start coding funky graphics, and there were at least one or two other kids that did similar.

My personal experience is that level of ability varies a *lot* with age, they develop real quick in this age-range. I wouldn't try and teach an 8 year old to program, not even with GameMaker. For some reason kids that age do not yet seem to have developed this hyper-interested bite-your-teeth-in-it persistence (you probably know what I'm talking about if you started coding at a young age--it's amazing, even if the smartest ones are invariably also super annoying clever little know-it-alls, which I try my best to not let get in the way of teaching them :) ).

I did have success with helping an 8 year old kid write his own webpage in HTML. His writing skills were phenomenal for his age, very little spelling errors, just needed to learn proper capitalisation and use of the comma :-) Capitalisation is probably also a result of not yet fully developed motor skills at that age, you can tell that pressing shift with their other hand actually takes them effort. Anyway, he wrote a short introduction about himself and proceeded to write a number of (actually quite funny) jokes and puns. I hope he returns soon, so we can add some styling to the page, it's just plain black-on-white Times with H1, H2 and P tags now.

One important thing we try to focus on here, is to give the kids something to do they can actually finish or at least see some tangible results of within one afternoon. It's really demotivating to be real busy for a couple of hours and not have something bounce around your screen at the end of it, preferably as soon as possible.

Another important thing is, that it's not school. They're not graded and they don't have to do things perfectly, or even the right way. The kids at electronics are soldering wires onto thumbtacks pushed into a piece of soft wood (with a paper printed diagram pasted on it, they make flashing lightbulbs, simple radios etc). It's very easy and it works, but it's not a proper way to do electronics :) In a similar fashion, I'm not going to push them to write properly CSS-ed content-layout-separated semantic HTML. If it's easier and simpler to use an inline style, or *even* a TABLE based layout, I'll show them how to do it. It's more important to show them how to get their hands "dirty" and that they can make these computers do anything they want, I like to show them quick results and they can always learn to do things the proper way later on.

On that note, I realize that PHP is probably the best way to get them started in programming. Most kids can get the hang of HTML pretty quickly (what are the tags for, opening *and* closing tags, how do you make an image, a link, etc). PHP has the nice property that you can just write it *inside* the HTML and easily add a little bit of interactivity, with immediate results. Indeed no templating languages, and yes it *will* grow into a huge tangled mess as they add more and more complexity BUT if there's one young these young kids are very good at, it's keeping track of a tangled mess of their own creation.

A simple example, one kid wrote a multi-page HTML website, with a menu bar (just a line of link tags) on top to navigate. What sucks for him is that he has to duplicate the menu code in every HTML page, and if anything changes or he wants to add another menu-link, he has to edit them all. There's no way to solve this in HTML, except with a FRAMESET which is kinda complex (and very outdated). So next time I will show him how, with a single line of <?php include('menubar.html'); ?> he can make things a lot easier for himself. It's still not real programming, but yet another small step along the way, that delivers immediate results.

Finally, a completely different idea I had, is to show them how to make simple games with Python and PyGame. IMO, Python is one of the best languages to start out with (I suppose Ruby is also pretty great but I'm not too familiar with it), and PyGame is real easy to use as it has functions for images, sprites, timing and even collision detection. I would start them off with a basic skeleton that opens a window and an event loop and possibly some object moving around or something. I'm not really sure whether I'll pursue this idea, because currently the "ease-them-into-PHP" idea sounds better, and I only have so much time to prepare new things :)

So, I can only share my experiences, unfortunately not offer much concrete advice, as we're still trying to figure out the best way as well.

(BTW myself, I started with BASIC at the age of 9. Reasonable beginners language, but it was also the only choice available for me :) )

Somethingsomething expectation of privacy somethingsomething ubiquitous technology something social media something gossip vulture something Strange Times something.

Aneristic Illusions / CIA Following Facebook, Twitter
November 04, 2011, 06:02:38 PM

This story sounds a lot like that "supercomputer AI predicts revolutions" story a while back, except done better, namely by using a whole lot of human operators combined with selective datamining.
Aneristic Illusions / TSA bodyscan fuckery
November 01, 2011, 10:52:27 PM
I thought we had a thread about this, but I can't find it, and anyway it's really old. Here's some new info, apparently the cancer risk is not quite negligible:

U.S. Government Glossed Over Cancer Concerns As It Rolled Out Airport X-Ray Scanners

Very interesting read.

One tidbit that caught my attention:

QuoteIn Rapiscan's Secure 1000 scanner, which uses ionizing radiation, a passenger stands between two large blue boxes and is scanned with a pencil X-ray beam that rapidly moves left to right and up and down the body. In the other machine, ProVision, made by defense contractor L-3 Communications, a passenger enters a chamber that looks like a round phone booth and is scanned with millimeter waves, a form of low-energy radio waves, which have not been shown to strip electrons from atoms or cause cancer.

I've only been in a body scanner once, at Schiphol (Amsterdam) Airport, and it was definitely a type of round phone booth installation (the scanner actually sort of revolves around you, IIRC), so I'm comforted that at least I got the not-shown-to-cause-cancer type.
This is soooo cute:

Unfortunately they don't accept any more orders until January, so it's not much help for Christmas gifts.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / THE PEANUT
October 25, 2011, 01:15:29 PM
=== THE PEANUT ===

The boy found the peanut. He looked up. A dozen purplish-grey gorillas descended through the cylindrical tower.

KGGGGGGTSK. "The target is in sight", said a gorilla in a growling alien voice. KGGGGGTSK.

KGGGGGGTSK. "Charge your XSTR17 Mega Assault Missile Railguns and take him out". KGGGGGTSK.

For a few moments, everything was white noise. Blasts of white noise. Flashes of white noise. Clouds of white noise, and then smoke. Gears, bolts and burnt wires were scattered across the floor sitting in small puddles of blood, mucus and oil. The boy had been a cyborg.

The gorilla deathsquad circled in on the peanut.

KGGGGGGTSK. "General. Do you want us to take out the peanut as well?". KGGGGGTSK.

KGGGGGGTSK. "No leave it. It's already assaulted". KGGGGGTSK.

The room once again filled with noise, but this time howls and groans. Seven light-years further away, three elephants fell down a rocky shore cliff. The first two hit rock, the third the sea.