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User Journal

Journal Journal: I respect your religious beliefs 1

One of the main driving forces in Star Trek is an idea of tolerance of religious beliefs. This often comes in the form stating very blandly, "I respect your religious beliefs". Yet, one major complaint about Star Trek is its heavy view of secular humanism as a utopian-like future of most of human society. With strong atheists vehemently opposed to religion and secularist often unwilling to follow or deeply consider the religious beliefs of another, one has to wonder what it really means to "respect your religious beliefs".

With enough consideration, the answer seems more clear. One tenant that most people follow is an understanding that certain beliefs are rather axiomatic. That is, the foundation of one's belief structure is based more on one has learned than what is deduced. A firm rigidity to those axioms can, at time, lead to willful ignorance of reality. Yet, as open as many people claim to be, without some underlying basis to understand things, it is difficult if not impossible to organize or believe anything.

People, however, generally aren't so rigid as to be beyond change. As time progresses, generations of people come in contact with more people and more ideas and have to further evaluate the teachings of their ancestors. So, the axioms of one's fore bearers or even one's youth are at times called into question and generally evaluated not only with one's own other axioms but also with the axioms of others. It is through this that people can grow and change and tolerate others.

In the end, however, people have different axioms. The set of axioms may be better shared today than in the past, but people need a firmness in their own axioms to make decisions for themselves. To that end, a respect in another's religious beliefs is not a direct acceptance of another's beliefs. It is a respect that one must have some sort of underlying beliefs to exist and that it is unreasonable to expect or demand another to give them all up to tryout another belief system.

In short, it is not "I respect your religious beliefs". It is "I respect that you respect your religious beliefs". So long as the former is merely meant as a shorthand of the latter, they're equivalent. But, otherwise, the distinction is of significant importance.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Robot Boy

There once was a little robot boy. He lived in a world of monochromatic grays. Well, his world was supposed to be of monochromatic grays. Every Sunday, he would hear a fiery sermon about the five evil colored cubes, the cubes of sin.

The five evil colored cubes--red, blue, green, yellow, and orange--would attach to your soul, in your chest. Only through repentance to God could the cubes go away. The little robot boy had seen those colors before. Sometimes, a few in the communion would even flaunt their cubes, and for that they would be shunned.

But most parishioners tried to cover up their cubes. Try as they might, the colors shone through the holes and seems in their chest. Yet, people acted oblivious to the array of colors that shone in the Church every Sunday. The little boy vowed to not become like these people.

One day, when the little robot boy was twelve, he found a surprise. Upon his soul was a little red cube. It was tiny and it was dim, but it was definitely red and it was definitely there.

The little robot boy responded quickly. He tried to physically remove the cube. That didn't work. He prayed to God for help. Still, there was no help. He thought to ask his mother and father for help, but as he began to ask, he thought better to shut up.

He remembered quite clearly the many times his mothered had rallied against those robots with red cubes. Would the little robot boy still be loved if his mother found out? The little robot boy decided to not tell his parents or anyone but to work to remove the red cube; if that meant pulling back from people so they'd never be close enough to see the faint red glow, so be it.

So, it began. Every day, the little robot boy prayed to God. At first, he prayed simply for the red cube to go away or be destroyed. Over time, his prayers changed. He asked God for help in removing or destroying the red cube. Eventually, his prayers turned to pleas for guidance to remove or destroy the red cube.

Six years passed. The little robot boy was now a robot man. Yet, he still continued to pray. He had prayed over two thousand times to God to in one way or another get rid of the little red cube. Still, the little red cube remained. Sure, it might be a tiny bit smaller now and the edges were charred--trying to use a blow torch to remove it didn't succeed.

The robot man was at a loss. He knew he was no closer to a solution. He also knew that for six years, he basked in the undeserving glow of his mother's love. He felt no better now than before to reveal his red cube to his parents or anyone. He was also puzzled why no one had yet seen the cube or, if they did, why they didn't react to it: as much as he had tried on principle to stay away from people, he had not always been successful.

The robot man was saddened but still had resolve. The red cube in him must be destroyed and he was undeserving to exist until it was gone. But after six years, he was no closer to an answer. Where did his answers lie?

PS - Yes, obviously, the red cube is a metaphor for a human sin. But, of the many listed in the Bible, it is not one of those listed. It is a sin against God, a sin against man, a sin against nature, and the answer to the destiny of the robot man and his sin is unclear.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Irreducibale Complexity 5

God is All-Mighty. To be All-Mighty, God must be infinite.

An infinite being is irreducibly complex in so far that an infinite being could not be made finite. Hence, any substantive representation of an infinite being would be infinite.

The Bible is a representation of God. The Bible is finite.

Hence, the Bible cannot be a substantive representation of an All-Mighty God.

This either leaves God as less than All-Mighty (and specifically finite) or leaves all holy texts as inrepresentative of their respective infinite deities.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Time Machine Halting Problem

Let's engage in a little thought experiment. Presume there exists a person with the capability of making a time machine. This person performs the following experiment.

  1. On day one of his experiment, he calibrates a watch to a know time device.
  2. One year later, he measures this watch against the same time device to establish the amount of drift on the watch.
  3. One week later, he measures again this watch.

If the difference between the one year and one year and one week measurement is greater than the possible drift incurred over one week, the experimenter knows that he creates a time machine that successfully shifts the watch by an amount greater than the possible error. Hence, he decides to not work on the time machine.

If the difference between the one year and one year and one week measure is less than or equal the possible drift incurred over one week, the experimenter knows that he doesn't create a time machine that successfully shifts the watch by an amount greater than the possible error. Hence, he decides to work on the time machine.

Now, that's just a silly time paradox, just like the halting problem paradox.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Disturbance

What disturbes you?

Is it the fear of death? Or do you respect your mortality?

Is it a childhood trauma or a instinctive bias? Or do you recognize your phobias for what they are and step beyond them?

Perhaps it's the nude human form, generally or of the excessively young or old? Or do you recognize it as an unhealthy fear from society/religion?

Perhaps you fear sex? Or do you see the futility of fearing the only means to grant you some level of immortality?

Maybe it's the fear of violence? Or do you understand that violence is at the very heart of life?

It'd have to be the future, the great unknown? Or do you see time as a current of unimaginable length which you have little part in?

Do you search out for your confusion and disturbance? Do you work to desensitize yourself to them? Or do you accept the wisdom of letting sleeping dogs lie?

What do you do?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Public-key Hiberantion (and other Public-Key uses)

Before I begin, I should give some credit where credit is due. Some time ago, Raymond Chen's OldNewThing blog had a post about the dangers of using locked pages to try to keep a secret key from leaking onto the HD. In short, something like hibernation would allow even locked pages to be written out, thereby allowing those with enough intent to potentially override the intended protection. And while the offered suggestion provided by a friend, to use a key to encrypt the information and hopefully obfuscate the information, was dubious at best, it did eventually lead me to thinking about how to properly address the situation and many *other* situations like it.

Having said all that, I very much doubt I'm the first person to suggest the following ideas. But, I'm throwing them out here as I've yet to see anyone suggest them publically enough to have run across them.

Idea one is rather simple, and it relates to the hibernation problem. In general, the problem with hibernation is a public/private problem. That is to say, there is a fear that the hibernated information might be made available to the public, yet there is a strong desire to keep the information private. And while there is the obvious suggestion, to have a user provide a key each time hibernation occurs, it is a very impractical solution. Instead, a more practical solution is offered.

Pre-Hibernation Steps
1. Create a public/private-key pair
2. Encrypt the private key with a strong symmetric cipher (aes-256, for example) using a user provided password
3. Write the public key and encrypted private key to the HD

Hibernation Steps
1. Randomly generate a one-use key for a strong symmetric cipher (aes-256, for example)
2. Use the one-use key to encrypt memory as is written out to the HD
3. Encrypt the one-use key with the public key and write the encrypted key to the HD

Unhibernation Steps
1. Read in the encrypted private key
2. Read in the encrypted one-use key
3. Read in the password for the encrypted private key
4. Decrypt the one-use key with the private key
4. Use the decrypted one-use key to read in memory

The real thing of note is, this idea can be extended into many other fields. Let's consider the example of automated backups. While the cost and hassle of automated backups is one major reason that people resist having a rigorous backup system, another major reason is privacy concerns. Medical records and financial data need protected, although the reasonably paranoid would likely prefer that backups are encrypted by default instead of relying upon the user to do so manually. Things like EFS have the right idea in principle, but EFS's implementation seems focused on the short-term usability of a HD without enough consideration on long-term backup; there have been efforts by backup-programs to support use of EFS, however. In short, something like EFS could be tweaked slightly to be a great automated backup solution.

Generally, in any situation where the question comes up "but how do we keep this information private while allowing people access to the (possibly encrypted) data", the answer is a public/private key with the use of symmetric encryption of the private key. The only major limitations is whatever weaknesses exist in the encryption algorithms. But, that's another can of worms.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A New [Copyright] Deal

I am no fan of copyright. There are many reasons for this. Some of the more notable reasons include how copyright is the primary basis for Microsoft's dominance in the personal computer world (and all the adverse effects of one organization having such vast control over so many systems), the disconnect between the application of copyright to other mediums (like books) and software that arises from the compilation step of source code, the way the US (and other countries) have begun to rely so heavily on a purely governmental construct to economically exist, and the way copyright law has become so horribly twisted into more of a grotesque beast than any attempt to promote the arts or sciences (this coupling with the former point, and being forced down the throats of other nations in trade agreements). It's not clear to me that any form of copyright could successfully solve all these problems. Much like the roaring 20s, the boom of copyrighted works may lead into an extended depression as what seems like a means to print one's own money, with every computer user with their own printing press, becomes a nightmare when no one will accept it.

So, while many long term answers elude me, I humbly propose some aspects of a "New Deal" of copyright law. At the very forefront of this is the consideration of what everyone involved gets out of this new social contract. To the copyright holder comes the privilege to exclude others from selling unauthorized copies for a very limited time (on the order of half to a whole decade). To the copyright holder also comes the advantage of said limited time allowing much more extensive use of derivative forms. And to further bolster this comes an aspect of the advantage given to consumers, eventually access to the source of a copyrighted work.

Without copyright, the author of a work could obfuscate their work as much as they please. Even reverse engineering a work completely would still leave one with an approximation of the original (especially true when refactoring and macros can radically simplify an author's work and whose form is often lost in compilation). Yet when a copyright ends, one only gains access to what's available to the public. Source code could be lost, yet it holds under the same copyright as the binary (as compilers commit non-creative translation). Similarly, when a CD is created, the many channels that make up the final song are condensed into one through a mix-board, removing the ability to obtain the pure vocals or the pure guitars. Such greatly goes against the ability of reuse the many parts of the whole in a way unlike most other copyright forms (although rough drafts and incompletely painted layers serve under similar quandaries).

This is especially important given the very nature of copyright. Copyright covers not ideas but embodied ideas. This further means that the point of expiring copyright is to allow others to use those embodiments. All the various ways in which modern copyright law and those who use it work against this, by not sharing sources with anyone, leaving technological rot to lose those private copies, and employing encryption schemes to hinder legal (or otherwise) copying of public copies. Most importantly, all such schemes cast a lack of faith in the legal system (that enforcement will take place) and copyright itself (that copyright actually means anything). Would 1930s US society have accepted the idea that because prohibition wasn't be enforced by the states that citizens should have the legal right to create alcohol-proof glasses and forbid any attempt to circumvent them? Why should we today accept DRM formats and devices or laws that make it illegal to circumvent them? Why is there more faith in the law stepping in to stop DRM violations when it can't seem to be bothered to stop the copyright violations the DRM is designed to stop?

Source for copyrighted works has to be available. And the only way to insure that is to require copyright holders to provide that to the Library of Congress [or an equally apt repository]. And at that point, copyright intrinsically reverts back to requiring a registration for a copyright to exist. This is actually a good thing, given that it is the glut of copyrighted works that drives down the worth of such works (supply and demand). Further, all those works that aren't copyright suddenly become a huge repository of public domain knowledge to be used as one pleases. And much shorter terms removes the fears of many that their project might contain 10+ year old random snippets of questionable code from interns who copied from others instead of doing the work themselves (admittedly a bad thing to happen if it's true, but tracking 10+ year old code to prove copyright is very difficult).

The intent of copyright is for authors to have faith in the law to protect them so that they might widely distribute their creative works and for the people to benefit very directly from access to the authors' works without an author inducing arbitrary restrictions. A new deal is necessary for copyright because copyright today fails on both parts of this intent. I don't have faith that a new deal is coming. That is a strong reason I call for the next best thing, an end to copyright.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Curvation of Space/Time

If you're interested in forces and space/time, you might have found some interest in the way certain particles have been dubbed force-carriers. Some believe that the those forces we all known and love (gravity, electro-magnetic, weak, and strong) are conveyed by particles in a process only weekly understood by most (me included). One of the interesting parts of this comes into play when one considers that photons are considered the force carrier of electro-magnetism.

Why this is interesting should become apparently as one considers gravitational lensing. For those unaware (which I assume are few), gravitational lensing is based upon the idea that space/time is bent/curved as the result of gravity. As a result, a ray of light will "bend" around gravitationally large objects, resulting in various lensing effects. In truth, the light continues on a "straight" path in space, but because the path is bent, the light effectively bends as well.

The reason this should be of interest is because photons don't have mass. On the other hand, W and Z bosons (responsible for the weak force) *do* have mass. Why is this important? Because as force carriers, W and Z bosons themselves warp space/time while photons do not. Mass is, after all, the measure of space/time warpage. Now this leads into a hypothetical, and yet unobserved, particle known as the graviton.

As you might guess from the name, gravitons are the hypothetical force carriers of gravity. Gravitons, like photons, are thought to be massless and travel at the speed of light. However, gravitons aren't exactly like photons because they don't follow the curvature of space/time. How can this be known? Accretion disks.

Accretion disks, if you're not aware, are spinning clouds of gas rotating at high velocity on their path to enter a black hole. Such high velocity actually causes such immense friction that large quantities of the gas's mass (estimates range upwards of 50%) is converted to energy. But what causes such high velocities? Why, the warpage of space/time that's caused by the black hole.

Now, what is one of the fundamental trademarks of a black hole? Why, an event horizon. And an event horizon is defined as a boundary point at which space/time is so curved that not even light can escape. But, it's not so much that light isn't fast enough as it is that, as discussed earlier, light travels along a "straight" path of space/time; but because in a black hole space/time is so curved, space is bent back on itself, preventing any "straight" path to leave the black hole.

Why is this of interest? Because gravitons are supposed to behave nearly identical to light (ie, photons). But, if gravitons were to travel along "straight" paths within a black hole, they themselves would never leave. The result? While objects could still "fall into" a black hole, there would be no gravitons emitted from a black hole to create accretion disks. Ergo, gravitons themselves must not travel along the curvature of space/time.

But what exactly does that mean? How do they travel if not along the straight paths of space/time? Well, the truth is, curved space/time isn't exactly space/time. Instead, a field corresponding to graviton warpage exists. Similarly, a field corresponding to gluon warpage, w and z boson, and photon warpage exists. And while some particles (photons) are effected by the graviton warpage field, others (gravitons, at least) are not.

Meanwhile, the strong force exists, in part, as a graviton warpage field (the sheer fact that one measures the strong force as a mass increase (ie, a gravity increase) attests to that). So, it's not entirely true that mass = energy. For if it did, photons would have mass (ie, graviational warpage). Instead, the measurement of gravitational warpage is merely a good indicator for measuring the energy of many particles.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Alive AI?

I walked along the southern end of the sprawling complex. It, like several other buildings of the era, extended so far that opposite ends reached into different climate zones. While the south side of this building edged into a mediterranean climate, the northern end rested in a temperate forest zone.

Because of its massive size, there existed multiple HIDs (in this case, two) to service the many people who would use the complex. HIDs, more often than not pronounced heads (for the way they screwed with your head), are, if you didn't know, human-interface directories. They manage the complex task of instantaneous transport to one of the many sub-complexes, businesses, residencies, and other facilities provided. As I walked along the southern area, the image of a younger woman projected outward from a node above a doorway; or, more appropriately, the illusion of an image appeared--as I said, they screw with your head. It was cheaper, more personal, and more direct to directly communicate with the many customers that would pass by than to actually project flickers of light.

I mentally asked to be sent to the northern side of the complex, where I had business. Just before I was transported, I noticed something peculiar. I seemed able to see the many projects of other people who also were interfaced to the HID. While a few were engaged in activity, something rather noticeable in their body language, others were trying their best to ignore the flicker of light in their mind. At least one of the projections seemed to be nearly begging for the person to come inside.

But before I could gather more of what was going on, I was on the north side. The northern HID, also a younger woman--though this one with black hair--asked how she might be of service. I thought for a second, and asked to be returned to the southern doorway, where I had just came from. She dutifully sent me back, and I returned a short distance from where I had left. I looked out again, and I again saw the many projections of the southern HID for other people. I knew that wasn't right; perhaps there was a leak in the system, somewhere?

But as I walked forward and looked around, I noticed something else. This HID's AI seemed to have an unusual personality. While almost all HIDs were designed to be courteous and prompt, to near a fault, this one seemed to have a personality of longing well beyond the fake sincerity used to draw people in. And as I looked around, I truly wondered if an AI could be alive.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Travels of Mana

It was the 12th age of the Elves. Many ages had come and past, as technology progressed and eras of peace existed. But each time, the technology of progress became the technology of death and destruction. But this, the 12th age, was a true and lasting era of peace. For the Elves had evolved their technology into the world of magitechnology, fueled by what the Elves understood as the very essence of life itself: mana.

Eons of prosperity existed in the 12th age, but over this vast period of time, a crisis began to arise. A clear decay was evident in the world of the Elves. The greatest scientific minds could not explain what was happening. Many philosophized that such decay was the natural result of an extended peace, but the decay was not of society or of art: it was decay of the very world itself. Their mana trees continued to produce the copious quantities of mana their magitechnology demanded. The mana ran pure and clean, as it had for centuries. Everything seemed as it should be, yet still their world decayed. Eventually the Elves realized, there must be something beyond mana--something essential to their world that was decaying or gone.

And so the Elves set out to colonize other worlds, for which they hoped they would find the stability their eons of peace desired. They created a project known as "Mana Seed". To prepare and plant upon the many lifeless worlds they would colonize, the Elves shut down much of their magitechnology and diverted it into a pure ball of mana. Such would be the home of many elves as they travelled across the vast void of space. Even with their vast life span, on the order of a thousand years, it would be a multi-generational journey upon which they would need to make the ball of mana their temporary new home.

And so the Elves set out on their quest, urging those who remained to produce yet another "Mana Seed" and journey forth in other directions, to spread the lineage of the Elves as far as possible. In the great time the Elves travelled on their Mana Seed, much of the philosophy and technology of the Elves disappeared. No longer did the Elves remember the great diversity of ideas of what mana truly was, in the existence of life, or the varied technology that had progressed to their use of mana. To them, mana was the one and only true life.

Upon finally arriving upon a world of sufficient stability around a star, they were surprised to discover a race of sentient beings already there. They called themselves humans and seemed to exist on the power of their muscles alone. The Elves were very disturbed by this and set to change the world, fearing it would collapse. They planted a single mana tree and nurtured it from what the humans called the Elven comet. The Elves taught the humans of magitechnology, and the humans seemed to prosper under the tutelage of the Elves.

But then the greed and ambitions of the humans seemed to overpower them. They began long and bloody wars, using the magitechnology the Elves brought. Each era of peace with the humans never seemed to last so long that the Elf who forged the peace treaty could be assured that he wouldn't be called again to form a new pact. Eventually, many of the Elves who remained on their new world became secluded from the humans, feeling disgraced at the way the humans perverted their technology; any idea to stop the spread of their technology was quelled as going against their ideals of peace. Some still hoped that the humans might eventually evolve away from war as the Elves must have.

It was at this time that a young boy and his comrades together fought to end the senseless fighting that had been going on continuously for a thousand years. The mana tree that the Elves had planted was beginning to wither and the Elves on the Elven comet were unwilling to plant a new tree to be abused as it was now. The young boy was able to form a truce, but the timing of it was too late. The mana tree withered away and died, leaving behind only a mana seed.

He, along with the elves, agreed that the only way to truly end the current crisis was to split the world in two, allowing each side their own world to rule. But the young boy had his own plans, and set out to make sure neither side would ever again develop sufficient magitechnology to wage war again. He held the mana seed enshrined so that it would not germinate but merely slowly leak away its store of mana. He took control of the Elven comet and hid it from the two worlds, just as he had hid the worlds from each other. The Elves upon the Elven comet were outraged but powerless to stop the determined lad. Many chose to join the Elves would lived in seclusion upon the world they lived on.

And so four thousand years of peace persisted, but they existed under the cruel hand of the ageless boy. The continued suffering of humans was put to use in what would become known as ex-spheres, a technology which in the past fed on mana from the mana tree instead. It was only after another boy and his own party of comrades fought against the system that was created that the worlds were reunited and the evil production of ex-spheres was halted. Knowing full well that humans would again use the magitechnology to wage war, the Elves still blessed this occasion, for there comes a time where continued peace through the suffering and oppression of some is worse than the bloody skirmishes of war. Only time would tell when the greed of the humans for power would truly end.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Secret of Mana

There is a secret to mana--of this I am sure. The elves seem to have the more intimate knowledge of what mana truly is. What is certainly self-evident is that mana is necessary for life. One could say, it is the spice of life. Perhaps the elves' knowledge stems from their much extended life span. Or perhaps they brought that knowledge with them when they came to our world. Whatever is the case, they brought to us the mana tree. But if they brought it to us, then how could humans have already been here? There is a secret to mana, and I am determined to find out what it is.
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Journal Journal: Vulp 1

Vulp looked at the metal crest on the armor. Armor, of course, wasn't made out of metal now days. But tradition dictated that the crest be made out of metal regardless. /Who started that tradition, anyways?/ wondered Vulp. The crest was a circle. Engraved in it were three concentric gears. In the very center was their world.

"The crest of a prince. Our prince." Vulp looked onward past the crested armor towards the rest. It had been many years of training, but he'd finally gotten this far. He'd be issued the latest of armor tomorrow and be stuck under Prince Edward's command. Royalty as a thing was dead, but the royalty lived on. And so Edward had received an honorary position to lead a brigade in non-combat. Oh, to serve under him was seen as a honor...for some. But Vulp knew that he wanted the leadership of more than a figurehead.

"Edward the Feline. Edward the cat-hearted. Edward the catnip addict." Vulp chuckled to himself. "If only catnip had the same sort of effect on evolved cats. That'd make for some great pranks." Vulp sighed to himself. Cat, jackal, whatever. He only cared about starting a life for himself.

Today was the start. The end would be so far away. But today was not the start that Vulp had hoped. It was not a start that many had prepared for. For in the early hours of that fateful day, a new type of royalty was born. He came riding on a chariot of destruction. His coup crippled the world. He was a human. His name was Eric.

What Vulp heard startled him. For outside the castle walls, the screams pierced through the concrete walls. As Vulp reached closer to the surface, smoke poured down the stairway. As he looked up he saw the sun blotted out. Forced to turn back as the smoke became suffocating, Vulp searched the armory for all of the gear he could carry. He travelled underground, away from the castle, to a nearby exit port.

Fleeing into the outside world, it would be many days before it became clear to Vulp and the others what had happened. What set their world ablaze was not an asteroid but a single man. The son of a famous general, Eric declared himself leader of the survivors. In stroke he destroyed their society and plunged it into the dark ages. Only the royal castle--Eric's new royal castle--still contained their advance technology; the exception being the few things that Vulp and the others had managed to save.

The one thing that was certain was that Eric had to pay for what he had done. But it would take time to find out Eric's true power. Vulp had found his new life.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Useless toys

At the moment, the useless toy I most desire is a nice looking famiclone. If there were superfamiclones or genesis clones (beyond the little, non-cartridge supporting kind), I'd probably want one of those instead. Don't take this to mean I want to get a famiclone with pirated games. Nothing is farther from the truth.

The reality is, I like the idea of having my own, odd little bit of nostalgia. While currently my family as a whole owns a working original NES, there's something sort of geeky about having perfectly legal, but never the less dubious looking, electronics equipment from another country. It's probably this reason more than any that I bought a Gamepark 32.

Part of celebrating nerdiness/geekiness, to me, is being different in things that others wouldn't even understand how it's being different. I've no doubt that's part of the reason I like Earthbound over Final Fantasy (the other reason being that Final Fantasy doesn't seem to be intentionally corny; there's that whole intentionally B-movie factor that helps it out; of course, a lot of movies try that and somehow fail because they lack the chemistry to be incredibly corny while still endearing).

In that regard, I sometimes notice that I seem to disagree just to disagree, and I'm a bit shaken with the prospect that I'm unwilling to agree with the mainstream. It's not that I think that the mainstream is always right, but I'm equally sure that the mainstream isn't always wrong. It is just incredibly difficult for me, at times, to draw that line where I feel confident I'm making a decision impartial to what group it would place me in.

So should I relish being a geek or just accept that it's merely the label that various others are likely to attribute to me through no intentional action of my own to be labelled a geek. There's nothing wrong with being a geek. But, I'm not so sure that it's okay to take steps to be a geek so you can feel like you fit in. Uniqueness can be an uncomfortable ground to stand on. Siding with a group or broadly rejecting opinions--which are immaterial to anything of consequence--might in the long run be a more uncomfortable ground to deal with.


Journal Journal: Looking for a Brighter Day

This is but one of several sections of a story I am working on for a publication that will be known as "Eurohacker" and hopefully printed at some later date. It is a science fiction piece for which various ideas likely will seem familiar to those who read or watch much of any science fiction. If you have any comments of the story presented, please comment. Comments are welcome. Feedback, even trolling kind, at least shows someone read it. And that, to me as an author, is worth a lot.

Section 1

  Weather-worn rocks protruded through the barren brown dirt forest floor. A gentle, gray mist hung throughout the foliage. And young Jay Matherson scrambled forward, scraping with free hand up a steep hill up to the forest plateau. How much of a head start he had, he wasn't sure. Without a clock handy, he was a horrible tell of time.
  It must have been fifteen, maybe thirty, minutes ago when they had caught on. At least, that's as soon as he realized he wasn't alone. Typing on his laptop, he thought he noticed a file change. That couldn't be right, he thought. No one's supposed to be using this account.
  Scrolling back, the change was there and apparent. Someone was there, and they must have noticed by now the changes he made. Maybe they thought it was someone else? And then his connection was terminated. *Shit*, he thought. The only reason they'd do that is if they already knew where he was.
  Quickly putting on a pair of shoes, Jay had grabbed his laptop and took off. If he was lucky, he could get to the other side. At least there, he could blend in. Surely Frank would let him crash at his place.
  Running forward, he started arcing east, hoping to find the bridge. Trudging across the river would ruin his shoes, and he hated the thought of what would happen to his laptop. They didn't make them like this anymore.
  Past trees and the unlikely bush, Jay ran across the Alaska countryside. He hated the chilly winter mornings. Looking back from time to time, he heard the distant hum of an approaching helicopter. Must have been more important stuff than I had thought, thought Jay.
  Only a couple more minutes. Hopefully a couple more minutes. Even having hung around in the forest for long stretches at a time, he still could hardly tell where he was. Hiding out in the forest patch was only good when the hunters went by foot. Few bothered tracking through the forest for long, figuring anyone stupid enough to go willing hang out in the radioactive dump wasn't worth the money to try bringing back alive.
  But Jay knew the radiation wouldn't kill you. Not right away at least. You could survive a few weeks in the forest if you didn't kick up the dust too much and general stayed huddled in one of the rock alcoves. Though near the end, you'd start losing some hair. That was the sign to get the hell out as quick as possible and hope the trackers had given up.
  He still wondered how the trees survived around here, though he supposed they had very deep roots. Their bottom trucks all were a thickly layered black color thinning out to what otherwise looked like a healthy tree. Elm? Oak? Birch? A tree's a tree. He only guessed they weren't dying.
  But back to the problem at hand. The area around the bridge was a clearing. Surely the helicopter would hover around it, waiting for him to cross. Worst of all, it'd kick up a lot of dust, and the last time he had hung out the forest was but a month back. He couldn't wait for long, and he couldn't very well go running through a radioactive dust cloud. The guys at the camp couldn't save him from that much exposure.
  So, it meant trudging across the river. He arced more west, where the trees went out to the water's edge. Hopefully his shoes wouldn't melt too much. But above all else, he wasn't go to let his laptop in the river. Any new one would end his games, with their authorized programs only "feature". It was only a feature to the government. What better way to prevent you tracking the latest toxin dump.
  Not that the toxin dumps were the worst things. But, they were the most persistent. Who was it that was the government's sponsor this year? The contract must be really good to be producing twice as much as last year. Computer chips? Coal harvesters? It had to be somewhere in-between those two, given virtually no other industries still exist. Who needs a real car when you can get a virtual one virtually free?
  Live, grow, and die in the computer world. At first the idea was fun for Jay, Frank, and the others. But, then the crackdowns came. Oh, not the old kind. The new crackdowns just meant a fix and virtual cash dump. If it's virtual cash, it's not really yours anyways, right? And all the new computers began being only able to interface with the computer world. And people who wanted to could continue live in the real world.
  But the real world was boring. You were so fixed on what you could do. So virtually everyone began staying on night and day: working, sleeping, and eating while connected. The hardcore traditionalists stayed offline, though most their children didn't. And a few hacker camps like Franks stayed offline and only dabbled on enough to keep people abreast of the real world.
  Not that most listened. The government would acquire enough provider, there'd be a short spurt of outrage at Frank's virtual newspaper, and then the next day life would go on. Who cared if the government bought another provider? It just meant lower rates, right? And that'd mean I could work a little less at my job, my virtual job.
  And the government knew well enough to never attack Frank and his group directly. Spies like Jay would find an connection on the other side, to be sure we weren't being filtered. Some of Frank's camp was half way around the world, but the majority of us would head out, find a connection, do a little "tweaking" to get past the latest generic blocker, and see if we can spot any trouble.
  Jay had stumbled across a news report that was coming out later today to announce the now future attack by a "hacker" group. It seemed like a good report to make a few minor changes. Would they notice the slight change saying the hackers were sponsored by the government? They had caught Jay's change though, before he had time to clean up the evidence of his break-in.
  Oh well, thought Jay. At least they probably didn't notice the wedge he put in should he or his group have a need to get back in. The next computer audit left them at least a 2 month envelope before they'd have to break in again.
  But breaking in is such a crude way of putting it. You had to massage the system a certain way. Trying to take the metaphorical sledge hammer and smash your way in just alerted them to an attack. That was fun to do, if you were tunneling through one of the mega-corps. But, it was no way to actually find out anything useful. So, you used one hole to carefully watch as people come and go. And if you were lucky, you could tailgate in behind someone with high enough authority to make a small back door for entry.
  Once inside, you quickly looked for any logs to wipe them of your entry and the small hole. Then, you unpacked enough so others who don't know how can't get in as well. Some of the more subtle bugs kept being quietly patched in the process of the unpacking. The last thing you wanted was they system to go down and be audited. Not that the audit would turn up much. But, they were paranoid and did a clean wipe from an independent source undoing the work in a way you couldn't trap.
  Out upon the water's edge, Jay prepared to take the plunge. The water was nice rosy pink today. He hoped it was the happy and cheery pink and not one of the more caustic ones. Shove his pants down into his shoes as best he could and tying the laces to hold them in place, Jay looked down the river.
  As he expected, he could see in the distance a search light peering down around where the bridge was. They'd probably give up soon and go down river more. No sane person would willing go trudging through a pink river. Jay realized just how much sanity he had to give up to get out of their world.
  Placing the laptop on his head and holding it in place with both hands, Jay began his trek across the river.

User Journal

Journal Journal: MS vs the World

Through some fluke or post of another person on slashdot (I don't know recall), I recently stumbled across a rather interesting book hosted on MIT: The Hacker Crackdown. Having read through all four chapters and being in the "Afterword", something striking occurred to me that probably should have occurred to others before. That is, why exactly is it that viruses and worms of today are much weaker/simpler than of many years past?

"What?", you ask. You obvious realize that worms and viruses seem to be everywhere and tons of exploited machines are in use all over the place. They certainly don't seem weaker. But, while the large mass of machines are together strong, each individually is quite weak. But, the weakness is not only in its singleness. The weakness is at core in the design of its payload designed to infect others.

The simple reason for this striking weakness is clearly one company's fault: Microsoft. How could they possibly be to blame? Why would I even call it blame? It's not really blame, now, but this is the calm before the storm.

In the past, viruses were transmitted by floppies (and networks, for those lucky few). Over time, BBSs became a major transit though good sysops made sure they didn't keep such badies. This "centralized" control meant more than anything, you were pretty safe even without a virus scanner. But, e-mail introduced the need for person virus scanners, which the public was woefully unprepared for (as well as MS's Outlook Express) and for which virus scanners even now only do a lack luster success at stopping.

This is primarily because viruses spread like word of mouth, much faster than anti-virus makers have time to disect and block their "nasty" payload. In a blink of an eye, millions of systems can be infected and turned into zombies.

The situation isn't much better with worms but for a different reason. Where the first Internet worm took advantage of several unpatched exploits in a few Unix variants, most all since worms have targetted the Windows platform. And partly because of unpatched systems and the sheer near unending need to patch yet another security flaw, many machines become infected and spread on their disease.

These two methods of transmission are so great in fact, just about any programmer can do the work. And with them comes the rapid anti-virus team to remove them. There's no time nor any strong need to make a resistant worm or virus. There is sure to be a new vulnerability or a new way to trick people through some new hole than to labor for a worm or virus designed for attrition.

But, that's the fatal rub. Today, XP SP2 is being rapidly deployed across many XP machines. And while pre-XP machines and various people who never do patch when there are patches available are out there, the new line of Windows will quickly move forward. And assuming the whole user-verifications to e-mail are perfected to everyone's happiness and as generally users become more aware (or at least, the programs they use do), that anonymous and word of mouth virus will slowly die away from a flood to a trickle.

But what does this mean? An end to viruses and worms? Of course not. Some will get through, and the sheer labor and unlikeness of getting through will make the worms and viruses more virulent. Today, most businesses don't give a second thought to installing a security patch to their system without doing a company wide audit of all systems. They know that most worms are harmless, they're not exactly quiet, and though it's possible, it's improbable someone exploited the security flaw prior to the patch.

But in the future, where worms are one in a million, every patch will have to include an audit. Maybe even weekly audits may be necessary. Once a machine is compromised, the author will *not* want to give up his new "0wnage". Techniques like that of Ken Thompson and the infamous login hack will undoubted be duplicated, compromising a system in a way to leave the administrator unware there ever was a problem.

As a result, the security costs will dramatically rise to scour all those systems to make sure they're safe. And the same will be true for Mac OS X and Linux. In a brave new world, having hardware digital signing and no true system-wide administrator account will begin to be the only hope to keep costs down. Are we prepared for this new world?

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