2004-01-07 11:15

I knew the CS in CSI was not for Computer Science!

Last night I saw an episode of CSI Miami.

While I like a techno-geeky police procedural show as much as the next guy (and most guys do :-), it left me with a queasy feeling.

Have I been bamboozled?

In this episode, one of the corpses was killed in his office, where apparently he had been using his notebook to connect via Wi-fi to use another building's access point to reach an escort via email, bypassing the security of his office network.

Now, that's all cool and nice, but the problems started quickly.

First, they managed to read an email the deceased had sent, by inspecting some computer in the access point LAN.

Ok, maybe they had a SMTP proxy, or the guy had used the SMTP server and they had full message logging (but no sending address control?).

Unlikely, but possible.

The big problems came when they recovered the notebook and could see two response mails from the escort.

  • They had IP addresses like
  • They saw that one had that address, and the other mail had .1108, so they decided that:
  • One was a forgery
  • Both came from computers in the same network
  • They could find both computers in the cyberporn outfit where the escort worked

What's wrong?

Well, Those IP addresses are mightly long and have very large bytes. Also, why on earth did the computers that sent the messages have static IP addresses?

Shouldn't both have been NATed to the same IP?

Unless they used a private SMTP server, of course! In which case, it would have had email address checks on the sender. Remember, this was a cyberporn outfit, the porn people KNOW IT. Better than most companies!

Finally: they went after a suspect because of the IP address in an email???????

That is so easy to fake it's not funny. If the stuff I know about is so wrong, how right are the things I don't know about, like DNA testing and whatever.

BTW: one of the investigators had a blood sample "done", without telling the lab worker the reason, had a single page printout, and comparing two numbers to a similar page of a dead guy, he knew the blood was from the dead guy's daughter.

I am pretty sure that to test genetic relation, you need to do something a bit harder than that! ;-)

So, in short, sure, we are bamboozled every week. All the magic is smoke and mirrors. But hey, it's fun, and the CSI offices look like starship Enterprise circa 2300, except the desks are covered with bottles of pretty colours :-)

2004-01-05 19:01

Using linux without the CLI (Newsforge)

Nice article by Robin Miller at Newsforge.

I agree with most of it, except for one thing.

The author says "I always considered the "scratch your own itch" hacker ethos an essentially masturbatory thing. It would be like me writing articles I want to read instead of articles I think you want to read."

Well, Robin, articles and code are extremely different things. For one thing, articles are 100% useles for the author, unless someone else reads them, whicle code can be 100% useful for the author even if noone else has tried it.

I would say it´s like comparing apples and oranges, except... well, both are fruits and we compare them whenever we choose what fruit to buy. This is a less comparable pair.

For example, I am probably the only user of KRsN in the world. But it is useful for me. It saves me almost an hour a day, so I wrote it.

On the other hand, I will contradict myself: articles almost noone reads (like this one ;-) are useful for shaping one´s mind, although that´s not a frequent goal.

On the gripping hand[1], masturbation is good, dude. Don´t slam it unless you have never done it. And if you have never done it, don´t slam what you don´t know ;-)

In fact, programming because it itches is... well, it´s like scratching. It may even be bad for you, but don´t tell me it doesn´t feel good.

[1] One geek credit to the one who catches the reference.

2004-01-04 15:18

Now, that´s cool

A gtk engine that draws using the current Qt style.

Kudos to David Sansome, your code is an example of the kind of evil ideas the world needs. And I really mean that as a compliment :-)

2004-01-01 18:48

US IT workers should shut up.

Ok, here´s a little rant. I keep on reading the whining about IT outsourcing to India (note that I don´t live in India and don´t do outsourcing jobs) by US IT workers, and you know what? They are a bunch of brats who believe they are special.

They are not.

Hell IT workers in general are not. Those of you who have managed to make a living with it for the last 10 or 15 years, and want to keep your standard of living, learn a new skill, because it´s all downhill from here.

Let´s start with the outsourcing complaints:

  • They only move the jobs to India because it´s cheaper: Duh. Perhaps if you had bothered learning basic economics, you´d have seen it coming.
  • The Indian companies are doing a worse job: The answer is: maybe somewhat, and it doesn´t matter.

Work in a capitalist economy is a simple transaction. You get money, you give up a piece of your life and effort and productivity.

Now, if you charge less, you can often get away with producing less, within reason. Besides, the IT outsourcing is only starting, come back in 5 years and we can have a reasonable measure of how it went. The companies that are coming back after a year can just as easily go back to India in another year or two, and viceversa.

It´s globalization of labour, just like making baseballs in Haiti. I bet the first Haitian baseballs sucked, too.

  • It´s not the same because it´s skilled labour: it isn´t. You live under the mistaken idea that IT work is somehow difficult. Let me tell you: it isn´t.

Here is the real problem:

Programmers spend their sweat tryong to make things easier: well, IT is way easier than it was 10 years ago, and it is getting easier all the time.

While there will still be a role for the superfreak who can hack the really hard stuff, 99.9% of IT workers are no such a thing. In fact, 90% of the really bad IT guys still manage to make their systems survive. And when they can´t, they call a freelance that´s smarter and charges more.

Most of you guys, had you been born in 1880, would be train engineers. That was a profession that required great skill and was respected.

However, it was never quite as respected as IT, because of the prejudice against manual labour, and it never went so low as IT will go because there is a limit on how simple an engine´s "interface" can be.

The required skill set of a IT worker nowadays, while wide, consists of simple stuff. Practical networking is not really hard at all, system management is both getting simpler, more centralized (and thus easier to hire from a company, or to automate), and less frequent.

Hopefully, software reliability will improve, and thus disaster recovery requirements will become simpler to manage, as will contingency plans.

Look at it this way: the only reason why IT skills are needed is that development has been lacking. But development is monotonously growing, nothing is forgotten in that branch, so IT work is steadily reducing.

On the other hand, the Internet boom mistakenly lead a generation into the IT field, producing a huge glut on the market.

So, the size of the IT worker market is reducing, and the offer is growing... bad news for you.

But why don´t IT workers see this?

  • They overestimate themselves, and underestimate other professionals.

Mostly, they believe that because others don´t understand their work, the others are dumber and they are smarter. Hello? You are probably dumber than 90% of the lawyers, and 95% of the doctors out there, and you don´t understand their jobs, either.

The computer guy that says stuff like "how can he understand it, he´s a lawyer?" is cliche... and a sure sign that the computer guy is a moron.

  • They overestimate their work´s importance

IT guys are about as important as the cooling and heating guy. Less if it´s too hot or too cold.

Sure, computers are necessary for many jobs. So is power and a timely coffee cup. IT guys are labour. Skilled, yes, but just labour. And remember, there are 100K guys in India willing to do it cheaper.

I have seen people working with a DOS based system, without much trouble, without any IT assistance (except a timely computer vaccuming) for 15 years or so.

  • Sense of self-entitlement

Who says you deserve a USD70K pay? The market. If you don´t agree that you deserve it, you are SOL. When the market pushes the number down (and it will), you will still be SOL.

Oh, sure, you will have temporary aids by the government, who will probably put some trade barriers of some kind or another. Eventually, those always fail (look at the US steel industry).

The funny part here is, of course, that most IT guys claim to be libertarian, even to like Ayn Rand. Well, that´s always easy when there´s money, aint´it? Well, I bet in 10 years most of you will be eating crow for what you say about unions now.

A bit long, but here´s the short version: You are going to become skilled factory workers in the next 10 years. Get used to it.

2003-12-31 15:02

XFree86 core disbands

Just saw that the XFree86 core group disbanded.

Last I heard, the core group had only three active developers, so it´s not such a huge thing, and the message says this is an acknowlegement that the core team was no longer representative of the active, experienced and skilled XFree86 developers, or a place where technical discussion happens ...

This probably means that development of XFree86 will go on pretty much as usual.

However, development of XFree86 has always been a strange beast. A open source project that was developed a lot like it wasn´t (closed mailing lists for years, getting commit is harder than almost every other project).

Also, in the last year or so, it has been... centrifugal. It has spun out people and subprojects, usually not in the best of terms.

I mean, if you look at their mailing list archive, there seems to have been some serious personality clashes.

Those are often not a terrible problem: developers usually have huge egos, large enough that they can shrug off attacks would make lesser egos shrivel ;-)

But put all together, and it doesn´t look like XFree86 is a very healthy developing project. Since it is also a very important one, I hope everyone will chill out, or else, that they will get overheated enough to really make it explode, and that one of the resulting shards will be strong enough.

2003-12-29 12:40

Free fonts!

I saw an article on the newspaper about an event called Letras Latinas, a sort of typographic convention, and it said that there would be about 300 fonts displayed, and that the public would be able to download them.

Guess what, you already can! (you have to dig around a little, though) In fact, there´s several hundred fonts, if you bother going to the author´s websites.

In the past, I obtained rights to distribute some 400 fonts just by asking the authors. These lack license information, but I may do it again, if I have the time.

Some are pretty good. For example, Escritura Px is a nice bitmap font, and some of the "text fonts" are really not bad (brasilia, for example).

2003-12-28 18:32

Hinges and integration

Thoughts about platforms brought by a History Channel documentary on tools. Hope it´s interesting :-)

2003-12-28 16:33

28 days after resident evil

Saw Resident Evil last night on HBO... it ends exactly the same way 28 days later begins :-)

Not to mention that both are cannibal zombie movies. Amazing coincidence.

Of course Milla Jovovich <> that english bloke.

2003-12-21 17:06

First day away

Looks like the stuff described in Safe Remote Blogging with PyDS does work, since I am 500KM away from the host, and it sems to be encrypted and password protected :-)

The trip was not good. I was supposed to leave at 0:15 today, and the bus broke down, so I only left, in a worse bus (cramped) at 2:45. So, bad.

Anyway, seen mom&dad, slept a little, I am reading the second Aubrey book (finished the first one yesterday), and I really like the stuff, should write about it.

Of course after I found a place with a decent Internet connection, it has started pouring, and I will get soaked when I go back :-)

Hell, rain is good when it´s

  • Not too cold
  • Not important that you stay dry

Check and check, so welcome rain.

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