Book Report: Spin Control

This book is a novel. This book is about human evolution. No, wait, this book is about the evolution of society. No, wait, this book is about changes in society post-singularity. No, wait, this book is about the annihilation of society post-human. No, wait, this book is about the futility of consensus-based decision-making. No, wait, this book is a speculation on the paranoia of a eugenics-based society. No, wait, this book is a book about humans partially told from the point of view of an artificial intelligence. No, wait, this book is a spy thriller. No, wait,... this book is science fiction, but it dances around in many areas. It's a fun read, where by "fun" I mean bleak, cynical, yet interesting.

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Book Report: Security Engineering

This book is humongous! It's a survey of security computer engineering. It doesn't go into depth on any one topic, but it's got plenty of breadth. In areas where I already knew something, this book didn't teach me anything. But in areas where I didn't already know something, this book taught me plenty. For example:

  • Some people are born without fingerprints.
  • A history of smartcard hacking.
  • The original motivator for "watermarking" schemes was for proof of authorship (but it turns out that folks aren't trying so hard to claim they wrote Miley Cyrus' songs--they just want to be able to copy those songs).

There were some aspects of Tor I hadn't heard about; admittedly that's because I don't know much about Tor. Similarly, I'd heard some things about government clearance levels, but I hadn't heard about some of the devices used to carefully, carefully move information betwen information clearance levels...

An interesting factoid from the more-exciting-than-it-looks world of banking: about 1% of bank employees "go bad" each year. Embezzles something, steals, helps someone else to defraud... One percent. That's worse than I expected. I don't think everyone is squeaky-clean, but we aren't talking about a random sample of the world population here. These are people who got hired at a bank. There was probably a background check somewhere in there. They had to make it through an interview with folks looking for twitchy behavior. They are monitored; they know they are monitored. I wasn't expecting that "go bad" rate to be zero, but... wow, one percent. Does that mean that anyone who's worked at a medium-to-large bank for a few years probably knows one person who's gone bad?

That was some of the interesting stuff in this book--looks at other worlds, not so far from web apps.

It's a big book. There's plenty in it. There's something to be said for a wide survey.

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Book Report: Accelerando

Tonight, I bought some ramen. It should have been a pretty simple operation. I was in a supermarket. There was ramen. There was my shopping basket. But it was difficult. This ramen was 25 cents a packet. That's pretty expensive for ramen, albeit cheaper than most things one might recognize as food. I've got a full-time job. Shelling out a couple of extra bucks for ramen was not a big deal. But it was hard to get past that mental hurdle. There are benefits to getting past mental hurdles. That's what Accelerando is about.

Thinking is hard. We should have machines to do it for us. This science-fiction novel explores what could happen as we move more of our brains into computers. It's fun. It's only disappointing when it slows the rate of change in its described universe. I suppose the author (Charles Stross) wanted to ensure that we readers, who still think via meat, could understand what was going on.

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Milestone: Nine Million Hits

Wow, it's the site's nine-millionth hit: - - [10/Jul/2007:21:58:59 -0400] "GET /departures/monterey/0/3267_diver_tm.jpg HTTP/1.1" 301 376 "-" "Googlebot-Image/1.0"

It looks like some Google web crawler is making sure that my photo of a diver in the Monterey Bay Aquarium from my Monterey travelog is still there.

"Millions of hits" doesn't mean that millions of people look at the site. Plenty of people do look at it. But there are plenty of robots, too. Maybe hits aren't the best thing to count. But it's not really clear what I do want to count. Counting hits is easy. So I count the hits--whether they be from humans, robots, or whatever.

Error hits add to the count. It's easier to count them than to decide which hits are errors and which aren't. I recently decided that, web-wise, my site was going to be, not To do this I set up a "301 redirect". That is, any time someone points their browser at the web address www.lahosken..., the web server returns an error saying "Error 301: You meant lahosken.... When your browser sees one of these "301" errors, it knows to load the corrected address. But that generates two hits: first you try to load www.lahosken..., then you successfully load lahosken.... Eventually, no-one will have the "www" in their bookmarks and so these errors will stop happening. But since I just recently set up the redirect, the old bookmarks and links and whatnot have been boosting the count.

Oh, and the count... the count is not so rigorous. In theory, each night my web service provider rotates the log files: each night, some magical script somewhere renames the access log, so that I know it was "yesterday's" access log. A few hours later, my magical script runs over "yesterday's" access log; my script maintains the permanent long-term count, the thing that just ticked past nine million. Except that a few months ago, my web service provider's magic script had a hiccup. The log file didn't get renamed. My script happily read "yesterday's" log file--but that was really yester-yesterday's log file. So my script counted yester-yesterday's hits twice, artificially boosting the count. I noticed it happening. If I was super-rigorous, I would have subtracted out those numbers. I noticed it happened at least a couple of times since then. I didn't fix those either. It might have happened a few times when I didn't notice. I don't always pay so much attention. This morning, I noticed a different problem: the log file got renamed, but at a different time than usual. The result this time is that my magical script totally overlooked a day's worth of logs. They were named as if they were yester-yesterday's logs, but were really just a few hours old. I'm too lazy to fix that, too. I don't know how many times that's happened.

A few years ago, there was one of those double-counted days. I carefully fixed up my permanent count to undo the double-counting. I was more rigorous then, more careful.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Including the Googleplex

I am not a hardcore puzzler. I found out that even if the puzzles are great and fun and elegant, I go stir crazy if I try to sit in a conference room and solve puzzles for 24 hours.

Now some folks are setting up a sit-and-solve puzzle hunt at Google. In June. So that folks can sit inside on a nice day. And night. And then another nice day.

I'm glad you kids like puzzles so much. I hope you have a lovely time. Just don't forget to go outside and play amongst the trees occasionally, right? I worry about you.

In tangentially-related news, I think the phrase "Shoe's on fire", uttered with a proper calm, may approach the essence of mad science.

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Spam Filtering

If you send mail to this domain, I might discard it without looking at it. But I probably won't. For the last few weeks, I've been using a spam filter to... filter spam. I've been carefully looking over the results to make sure that stuff from real people didn't get filtered. But I'm going to stop looking carefully.

I was spending so much time looking over that filter that I was falling behind on answering my mail. That's no good.

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