Archive for August, 2012

The chthonian campaign video

August 30, 2012

So yesterday this somewhat well-known B. Obama popped to Reddit, a somewhat well-known website, to answer some questions. (Reddit is one of those places where I would sign up if I ever found the time and the will to actually socialize.)

I found his answers a bit too round and generic; but then again, I am not capable of sympathizing with the hell-maelstrom which is American politics and its associated commentary. I would probably say “I like jam”, and immediately alienate the fickle and important American peanut butter consumer lobby. (“Alice, would you say this was a critical, campaign-ending mistake?” “Yes, Bob, I’d even go so far as to say this was a gaffe.“)

Then I hit this Reddit thread about a Cthulhu 2012 sticker, and thought: It should do a social media Q&A, too.

So, going onwards with that thought and adapting a bit of genuine Lovecraft, here goes.

*

The website now entered by the police was one of traditionally evil repute, substantially unknown and untraversed by women. There were legends there of hidden threads unglimpsed by sane mortal sight, in which spoke a huge, formless white polypous thing with luminous eyes (not John Scalzi); and anonymous users whispered that bat-winged libertarian types typed out of caverns in inner earth to offer it worship and unregulated upvotes at midnight. They said the chat-giver had been there before Reddit, before Facebook, before Usenet, and before even the World Wide Web itself: at the beginning of time it had fought Stallman, and Stallman had lost. It was nightmare itself, and to see it was to die.

But it contributed original content, and that made men read; and usually the content was not in video form.

Only poetry or madness could do justice to the comments read by Legrasse’s men as they ploughed on through the confusing tan navigation menus towards the locked red thread and the muffled squeaks of mad hammers, ban-banishing shrieking moderators and unborn users alike for nine thousand years or more. There are fonts peculiar to sane men, and Comic Sans; and it is terrible to see one when the words should read in the other. Animal fury and orgiastic licence in these threads whipped themselves to demoniac heights by ALL CAPS and squawking jargons that tore and reverberated through those nighted pages like pestilential tempests from the gulfs of hell. Now and then the less organized storm of comments would cease, and from what seemed a well-drilled chorus of sockpuppets would rise in singsong chant that hideous phrase or ritual:

“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu/Cain 2012 wgah’nagl fhtagn.”

Then the police, having reached at last the first post of that correct yet obscenely unnatural and wrong thread, came suddenly in sight of the spectacle itself. Four of them reeled, one fainted, and two were shaken into a frantic cry which their dashing-away from the keyboard kept mercifully silent. The final one typed “OH DEAR GOD WHAT IS THAT THING”, but in the last instant refrained from hitting “Reply”. They all stood silent, trembling and nearly hypnotized with horror; and then one hovered a mouse over the thing and pressed “Play”.

This is what the embedded video showed.

In a natural glade of a swamp stood a grassy island of perhaps an acre’s extent, clear of trees and tolerably dry. On this now leaped and twisted a more indescribable horde of human abnormality than any but a Google image search censor has ever seen. Void of clothing, this hybrid spawn of Photoshop and heavy drug use were braying, writhing and mooing (“Cows and cows and cows!” a formerly stern constable shrieked) about a ringshaped bonfire; in the centre of which, revealed by occasional rifts in the curtain of flame, stood a great granite monolith some eight feet in height, festooned with leprous strands of red, white and blue; on top of which, incongruous in its human dress, rested the Candidate, a human child in its hands, and a flag napkin on its breast. From a wide circle of ten scaffolds set up at regular intervals with the flame-girt monolith as a centre hung, head downward, the oddly marred bodies of the hapless Romney campaign workers who had disappeared. It was inside this circle that the ring of this Candidate’s campaign men and women and others jumped and roared, the general direction of the mass motion being from left to right in conservative leaps, and then right to left in a wild liberal bacchanale of noise.

Then the Candidate, vast and loathsome, spoke such sentences as men are not made to hear, and the police computer gave up its effort, and hissing and flickering slid into electronical damnation, and veiled its agonized, dying screen with voluminous night-black smoke, thankfully concealing the video’s last blasphemous instants, though not the sound of them.

This only remained, this sentence ringing in the heads of the policemen as they gagged and crawled on the floor as if blind insects, desperate to escape not the fire and the desktop’s demise, but those terrible words — “My name is Cthulhu, and I approve this message.”

No passport dot com

August 24, 2012

Hey, computer woes! These are easy blog fodder.

So I have my new laptop; and after a while it seems I don’t get interrupted while I play away with it. Eventually I track this symptom to its root cause, that being that I’m not signed in to chat, thus nobody calls me up.

Erm, I say, and go through the files copied from the old laptop. I do this several times, over several days; I utterly fail to find the file, if ever there was such a file, where I wrote the damn password and the chat-handle down.

It was, um, some Microsoft some thingie… like an e-mail address made for this purpose and never used for e-mail, and the password was…

Letters and numbers, probably.

Eventually, I give up and fire up the old laptop. There’s the chat; there’s the box where it says — oh, it was this string at passport.com my handle was, and the password…

*******.

To which my comment was, “*******? *******!”

A bit of noodling shows that, yes, the makers of Ubuntu 10.04 were security-conscious and the password won’t show itself in plain text, no matter what you do.

What’s worse is I remember having the same problem when I got the old laptop; but of course I can’t remember how I solved it then.

No, problem, I say — feeling the wings of doom cutting off the sun — to the passport.com website for password recovery, then. Enter address, enter captcha-jumble; press send.

Wait.

Wait some more.

Rage.

Proceed to alternate method of password recovery: enter some other e-mail address and as many personal details as you can, and our friendly Windows-using goblins will get back to you.

Er, remember how I said I never used the account for e-mail? Just to establish my chat handle. I never even signed in into it; never sent a single e-mail, never created one soddin’ folder. And I don’t have an Xbox Online account either.

“Insufficient details”, the form tells me, “go fuck yourself.”

Think.

Think some more.

Rage.

Say, “Hey! This is a blog post!”

*

Edit: The same, pictorially, with the help of the good people the people ragemaker.net:

Five years; also, fiction

August 21, 2012

Today marks the day I’ve been blogging for five years. Yay me. Has been fun; continues to be fun; am grateful to all of you for reading my blatherations. A readership is not necessary for me blathering, but it makes me try harder.

Here’s some sci-fi, inspired by SCP-1243.

*

GHOST

I contacted the aliens the same night I saw Senator Knight proposing the Sectioned Safety Act. Not because I thought Senator Knight could really outwit the aliens, but because I had been waiting for an excuse, and that was it.

I went to my computer room, sat down, leaned back, and searched for “The Delivery of Services”. There were millions of searches for the same every minute; mine was lost in the flow, and as I found a secure node and pulled it up, I knew from all the legends that in all probability nobody but the aliens and me would know what I would write in.

Many people didn’t write anything, of course. Most of those that wrote something just looked down to see the price estimate and, even if it was affordable, then gasped and turned away. That alone was enough for a screencap and a story; most people didn’t want the hassles of a wish coming true, not with how the nuts and even some nice people treat those that talk to the aliens.

Not that I should use the word “wish”, because that is one of those irrational — well, more irrational — things that makes the aliens mad. Wish, genie, spirit-of-the-lamp; not good forms of address, or even description. And given that the Internet wasn’t the aliens’ only way of looking down at us, their insistence on terminology was… very insistent. A French politician had called them genies; the whole of Western Europe had been cut off from their services for forty days, and the poor sap had resigned on day thirteen. Not because it was illegal to piss off the aliens; but because they were such a convenient mystery.

Did you hear about the American man who wrote in, “I wish I lived on a mountaintop”? The spot of land he lived on started rising, a meter a day, until three years later he lived on a mountaintop! With the slopes full of pissed-off neighbors, of course. I believe the litigation was quashed as an act of God. The shadow of an implication there was not well-received by the nuts.

Or how about the South African who wrote, “A lost work by Da Vinci”, and poof! one arrived by mail the next day, corresponding to a disappearance of a much less valuable Cezanne from her collection. As far as anyone’s been able to say, the painting is a genuine Da Vinci, Leda and the Swan, last seen in 1625; as far as anyone’s been able to say, the Cezanne has never been seen since.

The collector hasn’t said what the price was that she saw in that box; she’s just said it wasn’t anything as specific and easy as “a Cezanne”.

Then there was the Chinese man who wrote “I want to be the richest man in the world”, and had a nervous breakdown the next day. It was quite a newscase, because people were so curious to hear what the price he paid had been. (The prices vary wildly, without any pattern or much sense; few even get a price for something like this, and those that do usually find the price too steep, too… too quick to terminate the thing requested.) On the third day, he killed himself. The thing got back into news a week later, when a rumor rose that (according to a faceless, nameless nurse) on pressing the button and watching the form fade away, he had realized a slight ambiguity in his wish, and thus the body of the “richest man” was now solid gold, with diamonds for eyes.

The grave-robbing attempts and the riots lasted for a week before they officially cracked the grave open. Nothing there but a normal human corpse.

Then there were rumors that “the richest man” meant spiritual richness, a heavenly wisdom from beyond the stars; as far as I know, nobody broke in to see if the dead man’s lips still muttered celestial secrets. Say what you want about the modern celestial-secrets sort, they rarely go grave-robbing.

And how about Sarah? An orphan girl, eleven, types in her mother’s name, and a day later an address drops into her inbox: that of her mother, now stable and employed. A perfect happy story, with the price, “a kiss”, being their first greeting since no other was ever observed.

The sane response to this all would be to ask, what are the scientists doing? Are they not studying this — and the answer is, they are being studied. The aliens don’t talk about themselves, or where they came from; if one comes down to Beijing or New York, all slug-like and white and draped in black spacesuits like bandages and gauze, they come just to speak in such platitudes as to rival those of heads of state. And if a few people get together for the purpose of investigating the form and its prices and results, the prices quickly veer into absurd, and into worse.

As in, “A cup of civet coffee” for the price of “Your left thumb”.

One appeared on a windowsill with no visible means of delivery, twenty-four hours later. The other, disappeared the moment the button was pushed, as if cut by an invisible scalpel and then spirited away.

One other time, a group of bright Caltech physicists kept asking for “a cup of coffee” — I don’t know why scientists keep asking for that — and recorded nineteen different prices and the loss of three pets before they stopped.

The price eighteen was “money”; that there was no quantity was explained the next time the button-pusher tried to withdraw some, and found none…

Price nineteen was “the sun”. That has never come up since (if you pardon the pun), or before; I can’t help but shudder what might happen if it was offered to less conscientious people, instead of the sort that abort the experiment at that and then spend a year in therapy, muttering of twitching fingers.

But this is all distraction; tangents thrown up by a scared soul.

I went to that site the night Senator Knight pontificated on breaking the Internet into pieces that might prove more resistant to that ghostly website beamed from the alien spaceship on Earth’s orbit, and what I wrote was this, “I want my girlfriend to be alive again.”

I had considered “I want to be reunited with” — but I somehow felt the aliens’ amoral solution to that would be a penny and a cleansing bolt of thunder.

I didn’t believe in souls or afterlives, of course; but I had high hopes. She was just a week dead; she had been a star of self-exposure online, her thoughts and feelings recorded in millions of written words, thousands of hours of video and audio, in tens of thousands of pictures, including some from her modeling days. Surely that collection of echoes of her was as good as a soul. Surely there was enough of her, her open mind and honest self, for her to be brought back to me.

The price shown was… “a toothbrush”.

I admit I raged a bit. At heavens, mostly, that being a convenient direction to assume for the aliens’ location. I ask for the person I have loved like nobody else, and they demand a toothbrush? It is known they are not interested in equivalent exchange, or sane exchange even, but a toothbrush?

Then I clicked the button. What else could I have done? Requests such as this rarely even got quoted a price.

Then I waited.

Then when nothing happened I went to the bathroom, saw my toothbrush had disappeared, and waited some more.

She did not walk in the door. She did not materialize on my bed, grinning and nude.

She did not appear.

You might suppose I would next have bolted upright, ran to her grave, and started to dig — but cremation leaves no body in a grave; a strong gust of wind at a favorite place leaves not even dust. There was no place for her to be, except here with me.

Unless she was alive, but in some random place, confused and frightened… but no, if she was herself, she would not stay away from me.

Tink.

A window had popped up on the screen.

“Hi, girl” it said.

Her name was on it.

New text appeared. “I’m calling you.”

Then a phone popped up and started to ring. Mouth dry, I answered, and heard her voice. I spoke, and she answered.

She was as she had been; in minutes I was crying, and she sounded teary as well. I begged her to come so I could see her, and a video screen came up: she, in a red shirt and a black hairband, against a green background, smiling, waving, alive, with a faint scar on her cheek where she had been killed.

Come to me, I cried, eventually. Let me hold you.

Sorry, girl, she said. Cannot do.

She told me she’s a ghost in the machine now, a voice and an image online: alive, but not embodied.

I guess I should feel bitter. Cheated, even. Maybe grudgingly happy, muttering “at least this is something.” I should be afraid of Senator Knight, or some shadowy government agency that wants to put her in a box. But no, none of that: she is alive.

Most people think she’s a hoax, but a hoax of the too-good-to-be-true variety: that she’s really alive somewhere, blogging and vlogging and whatever from her hidden base. (Not her parents, of course, nor me.) People have tried tracking her calls, her transmissions, sure that there must be some node, some specific computer where they originate. Nobody has found anything: her voice breaks down into fragments of files, into single words, meaningless little breaths, and they all seem to go round and round the world forever until they become her voice.

I’ve been asked — because if she’s a minor celebrity, I’m her shadow — if I think her voice comes, ultimately, from the aliens’ starship, still in Earth orbit, still selling its incomprehensible services for nonsensical prices; if I think her existence is conditional to the aliens’ continued patience and presence.

I don’t think so. I think there is more space in the web and the tubes than are dreamt of in your dreams, people, inner spaces that the people of outer space know; more than enough space for one perfectly living human being.

And as I nervously call up that page again, I’m pretty sure there is space for at least one more on the fields of meme alive.

Kiss my…

August 21, 2012

The city of Turku, far in the south-western reaches of Finland, has come up with a slogan to market itself. (Note: For a Finn, the word “turku” is a very, very archaic word for a market or an open place, known from the phrase “maailman turuilla” or “out there in the (probably wild, dangerous and evil) wide open spaces and marketplaces of the world (where the young people go, oh woe, etc. etc.)”, if even from that. The city name is not treated as meaning anything in common conversation.)

The slogan is:

KISS MY TURKU.

The intention, I assume, was to associate with the nice, positive, carefree-romantic associations of kissing, plus, hey, it’s in English so tourists and the young people will love it! Yay!

I think the slogan associates more with exclamations that start with “Oh yeah? Well, you can kiss my—” and then go on, scatologically.

This might be one of those impossible cases where the ad agency has been given the task of being clever, but not too clever. It’s probably nearly impossible to come up with something that’s both edgy, witty and clever… and something that a good number of non-native speakers actually get.

Unless, of course, the marketers were shrewd people, as I imagine their job description reads… and they’re targeting both the surface-reading people (“Yay! Kissing is nice!”) and the ironically product-buying scatological set (“Yay! I sharpied in an arrow pointing to my crotch!”).

Clever, if that.

Where I disprove physics

August 21, 2012

Author’s note — Coming to work this Tuesday, I found the following in my mailbox from Monday. The work is mine; the content, I fear, is the result of a Monday rashly started, with no heed given to proper plus-minus stretching before trying to engage serious mathematical issues.

*

AN NOVEL APPLICATION OF A TIME-COUNTING THE KARTOFFEL-CAUCHY-BUNYAKOVSKY MEASURE

(submitted to Utt. Bull.)

I have heard that this kind of a device is used to measure seconds:

“One potato, two potato, three potato” (etc. etc.),

the logic being that the addition of the word “potato” pads the number-repetition to approximately one second in duration, like this:

(t=0 s) “One potato” (t=1 s) “two potato” (t=2 s) “three potato” (t=3 s; etc. etc.).

I have heard this is an easy way to count time, and that any fool (i.e. a “standard person”) can do it.

However.

The word “one” is clearly shorter when said (i.e. its common saying-out-loud measure is less) than the word (and measure of) “two thousand seven hundred and ninety-eight”. For the Potato Method (PM) to work as described above, the enunciation of the word “potato” needs to be commensurably briefer.

However, it is well know that for any length of time, we can find a number whose enunciation takes, for a standard person, approximately that length of time. (To an error of less than epsilon for the average over a set of sufficient size, obviously; also see note one.)

Thus we can assume a number n_1 such that it cannot (by any standard person) be said in an amount of time less than one second. When that number is reached using PM, the standard person needs to pronounce the word “potato” in the remaining time, which is, zero point zero, zero repeating, seconds or less.

Worse still, we can take a number n_2 such that its pronunciation takes two seconds (to an epsilon); and our standard person is then required to pronounce “potato” in minus one second, i.e. to cause the reversal of time’s arrow solely by the enunciation of three common syllables.

Since I am assured by good practical sources, who never expected to be involved in the creation of a mathematical paper, that the PM is usable by all standard people, I thencefore have proven the existence of time travel.

Applications to follow in a later article. Referees, get cracking like you got this yesterday! Potato potato potato!

yrs obdnt srvnt,

LORD OF TIME
potato potato potato

*

Note one: The existence of numbers of arbitrarily long enunciation

Due to the fact that the enunciation of numbers uses the decimal system, this follows from the well-known nine-filling principle, i.e. that numbers of the form 10^n - 1 require n instances of the number 9, and thence the word “nine”, to be expressed.

Ex. Let n=3. Then 10^3 = 1000, and 10^3-1 = 999, pronounced “nine hundred ninety-nine“, emphasis mine. Note the three repetitions of the word “nine”.

If the enunciation of the word “nine” takes t_9 seconds, then we achieve a number of enunciation-length t_e seconds if n t_9 > t_e, that is, no later than at the number

\displaystyle{10^{\lceil t_e/t_9 \rceil}-1}.

qed

(the same)

Confused by a cat

August 16, 2012

So I was browsing through the Internet Archive, when I came across a book from 1879, and decided it looked nice, and peeked in, and this illustration was in the first pages —

What?

YOUR ASS PUSSY?

YOUR ALL PUSSY?

I don’t know what this cat is saying, but I don’t think it’s a compliment.

Oh wait, the book is “Letters from a cat”, right? Maybe “your(s) aff(ectionately, ) pussy”, then? Phew, good thing I didn’t hit publish and make myself look like an ass. Then again, am not a pussy i.e. don’t possess the dignity of a cat; will hit publish anyway.

*

Edit, a few hours later: Oh, and the book has an introduction. By the cat’s owner, a little girl. Who keeps referring to it as Pussy. Over and over and over again. And in this horribly fallen year of 2012, her words are deeply, darkly hilarious.

Like this:

I… I have no words.

This goes on for 26 pages.

Black-and-white Mannerheim

August 14, 2012

Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim (1867–1951) was a Finland-born military man, the leader of the victorious White faction of the Finnish Civil War in 1918, the Commander-in-Chief of Finland during WWII, and briefly the President after that. For a large fraction of Finns he’s like George Washington, if George had fought the Communists.

He was a super-posh aristocrat with ancestries everywhere except Finland, and little contact with the “little people”; he served for thirty years in the Russian army (not the separate and less prestigious Finnish army of the Russia-ruled Grand Duchy of Finland, because he got kicked out of that one’s officer school for AWOL), and he was pretty awful with the Finnish language; like Churchill-gabbling-French awful.

No matter; he is the Heroic Anti-Red Marshal and he’s an icon of the sort of backward rah-rah nationalistic xenophobes I’m sure he would have been disgusted by and that I’m sure you have over at your place too; the sort of ubiquitous salt of the earth who think the Fifties or the Thirties were the best time ever. Despite Mannerheim being the sort of rarefied, civilized, cultured Swedish-speaking pansy that the rah-rahs couldn’t handle today as an officer, much less as a wartime leader, he’s their top one special fetish, the one with whose image you do not mess with. (Really. He even went to Switzerland to die. For health reasons. The sort of people I’m talking of would think that treason and good riddance, if anyone did so today.)

(I do realize I may sound harsh. I’ve nothing particular against the man, but I hate this fraction of his fan club.)

Now Yle, the Finnish public broadcaster, is coming out with a biopic of Mannerheim.

This is not the vaporware great big private-industry epic movie that comes up in the news a couple of times each year, mostly to announce that they’ve used all their money, they need more, and they’re almost ready to start filming.

No, this new made-on-the-quiet Yle pic, funded by the public through the TV tax which funds Yle, is something different. It’s filmed in English and Swahili; the latter because the pic has been filmed in Kenya, and acted by Kenyan actors.

Yes, all the actors are black.

Mannerheim included.

The apoplexies of the rah-rah racist-nationalist everymen are like candy.

Like with candy, such great amounts are probably not good, and might result in nausea, but I’m enjoying the outrage of the uncultured as long as I can. (Ooh, that’s a good one: one nitwit is calling for legal action; his charges are “mustamaalaus ja häpäisy”, defamation and desecration, except the Finnish word for the former is literally “painting black”. I swear I couldn’t make up this amount of misguided anti-art stupid if I tried.)

(The makers refer a Bob Dylan biopic where one of the actors playing Dylan is Cate Blanchett; and note that as “Mannerheim was very much not a Finn, this casting might cast new light on his alien nature”. Ke ke ke, it’s a deliciously interesting idea, and a red flag to the backward set, whose are ready to think such things Red already; I love it!)

(Relevant news item in Finnish: HS.fi)

On four-letter links

August 10, 2012

(Inspired by this and this.)

It is common to label a link as “NSFW” like this:

“And here are my surgery pics (NSFW).”

Here NSFW stands for Not Safe For Work; stuff that you might not want your boss or co-workers to see on your screen. Or stuff that your operation’s IT goblins might flag; or the like. Usually tits, or sensuality of some such sort.

Other such labels are “PDF” (self-explanatory) and “annoying autoplay video grrrrh” (likewise).

Surely this is not enough.

Since four letters is plenty, these brief suggestions for content people might be peeved by are limited to four letters.

*

CACA — The link might not be to a reliable source of information, or a cogent source of opinion.

DICK — Those on blood pressure medication should not follow this link. Following this link may ruin your day and destroy your faith in humanity.

COCK — A seriously unpleasant person ahead: a misogynist, a racist, etc.; basically a DICK, but even more so.

NUTS — Like the previous, but not even worth arguing with.

CUBE — Time Cube level crazy. If DICK makes you angry, COCK furious, and NUTS throw your hands up in despair, with CUBE there is no space for emotions other than wonder, tinged with fear.

MAIL — Daily Mail, UK’s leading research institute into ethnological causes of cancer.

XIAN — Annoyingly Christian. (Not that, we hasten to add, all Christians are…)

ATHY — Annoyingly atheist. (Not that, we hasten to add, etc. etc.)

X774 — “Really, I find X just as annoying as -X.” (To which the reader might want to answer, “Well, the important thing is that you’ve found a way to feel superior to both.”) (reference)

YHWH — Annoying self-deifier.

PITS — A place where the commentariat will eat you. Some pits have slime, other are quite nice, but a warning about the ferocity is often a good thing.

GITS — The commentariat is equal parts people and dicks, and a new commenter’s fate will be death by a thousand pricks. (Basically, PITS and GITS is a combination you shouldn’t ever click.)

NITS — The commentariat tends to get caught up in details. (PITS and GITS and NITS, your head assplode!)

ZITS — The commentariat’s average age is thirteen. (Often associated with PITS and GITS and the word “bitch”; NITS, not so much.)

KITS — The commentariat has monomaniacal hobby interests. Modulate your commentary and expectations accordingly, and expect there to be some things you just don’t say. (“You have been banned by: UnicronChaser. Sentence: 9000 Years Ban. Reason: UNDERBASE STARSCREAM COULDN’T DEFEAT UNICRON!!!!!!!! STFU!!!”)

WITS — The commentariat is a Mensa Muscle Show; basically, don’t comment unless you can excise all monosyllabics and name-drop at least two relevant academics.

SITS — Because the H didn’t fit; there is a lot of spam / self-promotion / banner ads here.

MITS — You might want to put a pair of mental mitts on, because the commentariat is not sparing with invective. Basically, you’ll be called a child-molester for commenting.

HITS — The site linked to may be Boing-Boinged, Slashdotted, Pharyngulaed, etc. etc., very soon. Make haste!

TITS — Well, what do you think?

WIKI — Wikipedia. Just so you don’t think it will be something more or less.

SINK — A timesink. Don’t follow the link unless you have iron self-control or half a day. (Example: TV Tropes (SINK))

WINK — “This link does not imply endorsement, and frankly I’m insulted you thought it might.”

SQCK — Squick. For an example, er, you can google for “Moomin porn” on your own.

ICKY — Like squick, but less so. (Mind you, to my eye “squick” is a term like “spicy”: some like it, some don’t, but no moral judgment attaches.)

PORN — Rather self-explanatory, isn’t it?

PRON — See previous.

PR0N, PRWN, N0RP, XXX!, BWBS, 3==0, 3->= — See previous; then adjust your expectations downwards.

STFU — “Here is the information you requested with your comment ‘nobody knows the year when LBJ died OMG CONSPIRACY!’, so now shut the fuck up and let us return to useful arguments.”

OMFG — “I just got this in the mail from the lab and look at this link everybody, I now own my full genome!” (What?)

SOCK — “This is momentous, you should follow this link, it will blow your socks off!” (Or “About socks.”, or “This is a picture of me wearing nothing but a sock. Sorry if you misinterpreted the tag.”)

XKCD, SMBC — Good webcomics.

Malware in the phone? Google Search (Enhanced)

August 9, 2012

Final update: Brian from Lookout popped in to say this:

I’d like to thank everyone for this thread and keeping vigilant about our product. Unfortunately, we make mistakes sometimes but we work hard and fast to correct them. Fail fast goes the motto, as is embodied in this thread and, I’d like to believe, our response time.

We have just issued a new set of malware signatures which corrects for the false positive we previously reported. It will take a few hours for this new update to hit all phones but the propagation should be complete in less than 24 hours.

Sorry, again, for this mixup and we’re currently working on ways to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Brian

And with that, that’s all folks; all-clear.

*

Update: See comments below for two reports of Lookout (the antivirus people) saying this was a false positive; no trojan, just an antivirus app jumping at shadows. Quote:

Our latest set of malware detection signatures went out to our users last night (August 8, 2012). Unfortunately it misidentifies the app “Google Enhanced Search” as the trojan ‘GGSearch’. If you’ve received this warning please ignore it – we will be shipping a new set of detection signatures in the next 24 hours, at the latest.

*

So I was at the university, and my phone said — well, read — that I have a trojan: a Trojan.Android.FakeGGSearch.a, calling itself “Google Search (Enhanced)”, with a long and scary list of permissions. Lookout (my virus scanner thingy) gave a description: a scary one, with the sending of costly text messages, uninstalling virus scanners, sending my personal details to China (but I have Chinese friends!), etc., etc.

That workday was over right then.

Went home, and used laptop to change my Google password and my Twitter client’s access, and checked the bank account linked to the Google account (for Android Market) for sudden disappearances of money. (There were none; phew.) Tried to uninstall the bugger a few times; it would not be uninstalled.

Hit the phone in airplane mode in the meanwhile. A mere music player doesn’t send no details anywhere. (Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro, by the way.)

Then went to visit my phone operator’s midtown office. They said, politely, “Fuck off, we don’t help you with what paranoid third party apps say is or isn’t malware. Neither will the phone manufacturer if you send it to them. Now bugger off.”

I buggered off, took the SIM card and the memory card out, and googled, seeing a rash of cases similar to mine popping out in Germany, in Netherlands, all over the place, all as clueless as me. Someone more bold suggested this was Lookout mis-reacting.

Watching, giving my phone baleful glares, and looking how things will develop. (It’s about two hours since I noticed this; all but one of the discussions below have come into being since; all tell Lookout detected this, at about the same time apparently.) Will add links.

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android.stackexchange : False positive? Apparently at least one other virus scanner doesn’t replicate.

android-hilfe.de : Good discussion in German; raises the point that someone has had this app installed since April, and Lookout’s only now reacting to it (also, to old backups of it); false positive or better detection? They’re tending towards “false positive”, I think, and wondering if all affected devices have Android 2.1.

androidforums.com : Scared and clueless — and with a SE Xperia Mini, a phone that’s almost identical to mine. I wish the others affected would tell theirs; is this an accident, or something important? They say, “I just installed Avast, and scans from it find no problem. either it’s a false positive from Lookout, or really effective malware.”

kassa.vara.nl : Wondering, suggesting Lookout’s forums (Where there seems to be no hits); suggesting trying a different antivirus, and reporting difficulties installing one, which is bad.
One person there has sent a question to Lookout; hope they answer quickly.

Then there’s blog.webroot.com, whose February 29 post An Evolution of Android Malware “When stealing data isn’t enough meet…GoManag …“ (Part 2) seems to describe a bit of malware identifying as “Google Search (Enhanced)” like this problem; so a bit of malware with that identification exists; now if I only knew if this rash of reports is that or a Lookout goof.

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I’m waiting and seeing how the web-opinion develops before hitting the big reset button. Am “encouraged” to read all the alerts have come from Lookout; though this doesn’t need to mean this is a glitch; it could be an update that went out and found something nasty in a number of places.

Pfooey.

Will update whenever I notice something new.

Update (7 hours into the thing): nothing much to report. There’s a Japanese report of the same problem over on Yahoo.co.jp; like many other reports, it has Android 2.1 and Lookout, and suspects this is a problem with Lookout. (8 hours) Given how the reports are below and on the androidforums.com thread, I’m calling this a false positive that an update of Lookout will fix; further updates will go into the comments.

A proposal for a genuine tweeting cat

August 8, 2012

So there are people out there who tweet for (or as) their pets. (There are exceptions. John Scalzi has outsourced tweeting on the behalf of his cat to a person nobody knows, not even John Scalzi. And trustworthy sources inform me that Sockington (Jason Scott’s cat) writes his own tweets, despite Scott’s occasional claims to the contrary.)

Then there’s the tweeting office chair.

These two ideas — tweeting pets, and automated tweeting — could surely meet.

Suppose you have a cat.

Suppose you have too much free time.

It would be easy, though possibly alienating to your spouse and friends, to install little sensors in the cat’s litterbox, food cup, water cup, and even in the catflap. Put a final sensor on the cat’s collar, just to be sure it’s the cat that’s activating the switch in the catflap, or the pressure sensor under the litterbox.

Then spend an evening writing ten different messages for each activated sensor. Possibly depending on the hour the activation happens.

Because of my sense of humor, I provide an example of the litterbox.

(generic) “Poop time!”

(generic) “Poop time! Hope the Human hasn’t put a camera in this thing yet.”

(generic, only after the previous) “Poop time! Wait, was that a flash?”

(generic) “Out, brown demons of meals past! Out and into your graves, I say!”

(activation between midnight and 6 am) “I poop. The darkness hides my poop. The darkness, and the sand. Nobody will ever know.”

How about the catflap?

(cat moved from inside to outside) “Going out. Don’t wait for me.”

(from out to in) “I’m back! Why’s no-one waiting for me?”

(came close from the in-side) “Weather outside [read local forecast]? No, weather outside STUPID.”

The immediate problem is that if you try to make up witty tweets, you need to prepare a lot of them; otherwise this will get annoying really fast. Then again, you could just prepare ones like these:

The cat went out.

The cat came in.

The cat buggered around the flap and didn’t go out after all. #fuckinglazycat

(What’s a glazy cat?)

Oh, and the water cup? It should be trivial (I can say this, because I’m the least technical person alive) to make the cup sense, say, the water level and whether there’re any waves in the cup (or any tremors) plus whether the cat is close.

Put a sensor on the water tap while you’re at it.

(cup tremors, plus tap near) “HUMAN: There’s fresh water for the cat!”

(cup tremors, plus tap near, plus cat near) “CAT: Hurry up with the water, Human! Hurry up, or I’ll water your ankles!”

(cup tremors, tap not near, cat not near) “T-REX!!!!!”

(cup tremors, cat near) “Lap lap lap. I accept this water, Human. You pillow is safe for today.”

(cup near-empty, cat near) “@HUMAN Hey, Human. Gimme water or I’ll leave dry powdery caca all over your laptop.”

(the previous, if the same 10min later) “Hey @HUMAN, am unclenching my sphincter right now. GIVE ME WATER!!!!!”

Though this is getting ludicrous, put a sensor on the vacuum cleaner too.

(cup tremors, vacuum near) (do nothing, because the tremors are just the Human vacuuming.)

(vacuum and cat close; then not; then close, etc.) “Am stalking the roaring carpet-eating beast.”

(To the last of which the reply would be, “Your cat’s a lesbian?”)

I don’t know how easy it would be to make an altitude sensor. If easy, the cat could tweet its new maximum and minimum altitudes. What else? Temperature, acceleration, location (“In the closet. Your shoes fit my brownstar like a glove, @HUMAN.”), luminosity, magnetic fields… wait, what would a cat tweet about a magnetic field?

Point a spare webcam at the feeding area; make it snap a picture now and then when the cat-sensor’s close to the feeding area sensors. Then tweet it as, say,

Me and my noms at the kitchen. Less noms by the minute. (pic)

These all would be sensors with batteries I Am Not Considering, and would report through, um, your home wireless to, um, to your laptop (or the like; I Am Not Technical), which would log, process and tweet, possibly limiting itself to a tweet every five minutes plus the “important ones” (say, “Cat went out”, just so you can find the cat).

As a result, your cat could tweet its life accurately and unawarely, without any active human help. I predict in twenty years all cats will do this.

The next objective would be to make tweets cat-readable.

That might be more challenging.

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Because I am not a horrible person, I will not suggest putting a heart monitor on your cat.

(no heartbeat) “Hey, @HUMAN! Buy a new cat. I’m outta here.”