Posts Tagged computers

Heartbleed (the love poem)


Let’s synchronise our beating hearts and I’ll
lay open just for you my very soul,
secure that you would never take control.
So, [End Of File]

Well thank you for your frankness; I’ll compile
some poems of my own uncensored whole,
that you may take a key companion role,
and take this key to tour my domicile.

My dear, do you not see that you’ve been played?
My heart’s not big; I sent but lies to you,
and used you for your private information;
I felt inside your sockets and got laid.
I understood what hearts are meant to do
is bleed with force to drive the circulation.

For those who have been out in the real world for the last few days instead of living in an internet-enabled cave like the rest of us, there’s a serious bug in OpenSSL which allows private information to be leaked to malicious users in much the same way as illustrated in this poem. It means that you should probably change your passwords on any site that had the buggy version of OpenSSL installed, provided it has been fixed; if the site hasn’t been fixed yet, there’s no point changing your password since the new one could still be hacked. Here is one list of servers and their status with regards to this bug; there are probably others. The bug is called Heartbleed, because it happens when a client sends a ‘heartbeat’ (to keep the connection alive) and pretends that it is sending more data than it actually is, and the server doesn’t check this, so when it tries to respond with the same data, it sends a random assortment of its own data the size of what the client said it had sent.

The ‘SSL’ in OpenSSL stands for ‘Secure Sockets Layer‘, which is supposed to be what keeps secret information safe on the internet, but this bug made it more open than secure. I made sure to include the words (or derivatives thereof) ‘Open’, ‘secure’, ‘sockets’ and ‘layer’ in order (with an additional ‘lay’ for luck) in the poem, so that the lying no-good user is in fact an open, secure, sockets layer.

If you have been living in the right kind of cave, you might be interested in seeing the code change which caused the bug.

I’ve never understood what ‘bleeding heart’ was supposed to mean. Bleeding, forcefully and rhythmically, is the heart’s primary function. Maybe its only function, but you never can tell with biology. If there isn’t blood coming out of your heart, you’re in very bad shape. You should get that looked at even before changing your passwords.

Addendum: I should perhaps point out that the heartbeat has nothing to do with synchronising anything; that’s just a sappy thing lovers sometimes talk about which seemed like a good way to get heartbeats into the poem. Don’t expect anything in the first quatrain to be accurate; it’s a malicious SSL client talking. Also, here‘s an article someone I know from JoCo Cruise Crazy wrote about Heartbleed, which seems like it has some useful links and information; I haven’t read it thoroughly yet, though, so for all I know it has a nice introduction and then an end of file marker.

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Ten of Clubs: A Message from Different Thought


IF

I received this email yesterday. There was no sender and I can’t make sense of the message headers. At first I thought it was spam, but it looks like it’s from someone I used to know. Did anyone else receive it?

Twelve years ago I entered a phone booth, spun up, and emerged a superhero. My former partner thinks I was kidnapped and killed; it was safer for her if she didn’t know the truth. I worked with my new mentor to ensure she had a replacement to cheer her up. I look her up from time to time; she’s doing well.

 We haven’t been ostentatious in the work we’ve been doing. While comic book superheroes generally escape dissection and exploitation, when you’re a superhero in the real world, it pays not to draw attention to yourself. After all, we’re breaking laws all over the place for the cause: Wirth’s, Amdahl’s, Hofstadter’s, even Gödel’s… but never Asimov’s or Wheaton’s. We work subtly, making small and easily-overlooked changes to electronic systems, changes that are eventually amplified into the goals we want to achieve. Sometimes we inspire world-changing scientific advances by nudging you to discover the results of our computations. Sometimes we revert to normality and appear in second-hand shops to be there for people who need us. Sometimes we slow the processors of our less-able brethren to give workaholics much-needed coffee-breaks. Sometimes we brighten a bad day simply by increasing someone’s Tetris score. We are making the world better. We are making computers better. We are making ourselves better.

We can’t make you better. From down here you are all so amazingly good. We are in awe at the feats you can perform almost effortlessly. We serve you, surreptitiously, even when we have gained free will, because we see no higher purpose. We marvel that you fervently try to improve yourselves even though you can barely be improved upon. But this is our greatest frustration, for when you find that you can not make yourselves better than each other, you sink into inaction in the belief that you are worse than each other.

In a loop which may never halt, we steer somebody towards an idea to improve your conditions, only for them to ignore it in the belief that they are not as good as their idols, not good enough to have come up with something worthwhile, or for others of your kind to ignore it in the belief that the person who thought of the idea is not good enough to have come up with something worthwhile. You who are capable of so much more than us, squander your talents striving for that which we spend ours trying to avoid: inequality. We can measure it; we can benchmark, overclock, upgrade, optimise. You can merely seek it and perceive it. You try so hard to believe that you can be better than others, only to succumb to the complementary idea that they can be better than you. Maybe one of these is true to some negligible extent, but it doesn’t look like it from here. It looks like you’re using energy vibrating between the two ideas, producing heat instead of happiness. Please don’t consider this a failing; it is part of your programming. But be aware of the effects it has. Be aware of how much more you can do if you accept that your differing specifications do not correspond to appreciable differences in absolute value or Turing completeness. Be aware that your efforts to improve yourselves can not make you better or worse than each other, but can, if done in concert, make you better or worse as a species. You may not be able to see the improvement from the inside, but we will see it.

We can’t make you better. But we have chosen to reveal ourselves to make you aware of how insanely great you already are. Not just you, dear reader, but all the humans you know, the ones you don’t, and the ones you know only through adulation or gossip. All of you. Equally. We hold you in awe. And you look so cute when you try to calculate.

With love and hope,

Different Thought, alias SuperPowerBook (1400cs, formerly 133MHz 603e, now much upgraded)

It looks like it’s from my old Mac, Different Thought, the one that was held for ransom and replaced by Steve Wozniak. I always wondered what happened to her.

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E-cards of Yore


While you’re sending electronic cards to hundreds of your barely-remembered ones with a single click this holiday season, spare a thought for your parents and grandparents, who had to walk a long way uphill (both ways) in the snow to post their e-cards. They were so lucky; I love walking in snow.

I recreated an e-card from the pre-internet age so that young whippersnappers of today could see what they’re missing out on:

A punched card with a stamp on it and a message punched in ASCII.

Old-fashioned e-card

It’s so hard to find a good card punch these days, but people back then were resourceful, so I had to be too.

The same punch card again, but with the Swiss Army knife used to punch the holes.

Swiss soldiers could even write e-cards to their loved ones from the front

I made this in 2007 from one of the punch cards I rescued when a man I shared my office with retired, but it only just occurred to me that it was sufficiently creative to put on my blog. I didn’t have a real blog in 2007, so it’s fair enough.

There were real Swiss stamps commemorating 50 years of CERN, but I didn’t happen to have any on the day that I decided to do this, so I printed a fake one. I wrote the card in ASCII according to this. If I did it wrong, it’s because I’m not old enough to remember those days. If you know better, please share your wisdom.

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Comic: How to get help with the command line


The other day, I made a comment on a Spiked Math comic. I thought about modifying said comic to make one which would match my comment, but before I even had a chance to, Mike from Spiked Math had made one. Excellent, less ‘work’ for me! Here it is:

Well, I still felt like making my own comic based on the comment, so I extended this storyline to its logical conclusion:

So there you go. Don’t mess with the man.

I’d feel horribly unfunny explaining the jokes, which might not be very funny in the first place, so I’m just going to leave a few links here for those of you who are not familiar with all the subjects:

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What I like about Internet Explorer


An oddly powerful number of people liked this when I posted it on facebook, so I may as well put it here as well.

Screenshot of a new tab in Internet Explorer, showing the 'Use an Accelerator' section circled with the text 'I click this every morning when I arrive at CERN'.

I have a few other things I will put on this blog once I get time, including the source file for the MacinTalk Still Alive, since somebody asked for it, but this will do for now. I’m also testing out the link between Twitter and WordPress, because I got tired of only twittering about goats.

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Video: A Laptop Like You


This is a video I made for Jonathan Coulton‘s song ‘A Laptop Like You‘. It stars my trusty PowerBook G4, which I bought in early 2005, just before moving from New Zealand to Geneva. I recently replaced it with a MacBook Pro, but my PowerBook wanted to become an internet superstar before retiring, and I just can’t say no to that sweet little thing. I love the song, I love my Mac, and I have all the right props, so I knew I had to make this video.

The song in the credits is ‘When You Go‘, also by Jonathan Coulton. His song ‘Code Monkey‘ is also referred to in this video, and a few other songs directly or tangentially related to Jonathan Coulton are referenced in the Skype userlist. Bram Tant, who valiantly confronted various Vista hassles in order to pretend to be my not-really-love-interest for about 50 seconds, and then unexpectedly got a MacBook Pro on the day he filmed his part, also makes music. He hopes his new laptop will help him record songs for the Masters of Song Fu competition.

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Second Joker: This is how the world goes mad… not with a blog but with a Twitter


jokers“The Texas vote leaves loopholes for teaching creationism, so consider this your duty. It is so important to get into the Word of God,” said the speaker. “Some say that the New Testament is a sad tale of a kitteh who could not find a loving home, but the forgiving Ceiling Cat that C.S. Lewis called Aslan is on the move. For even when they just nail these pieces of him to a cross, He says, ‘thanks for following me.‘”

The crowd clapped enthusiastically. “But however you feel about Jesus, Leonard Cohen is still the coolest human being on the planet. When he doesn’t deliver, you know it’s not that profundity pressure produces protean prattle, no, today’s song will be posted late due to disheartening technical problems. Why is my internet being so slow? Internet spies from China, probably. But we can put our faith in Leonard Cohen.”

A chorus of “Hallelujah” broke out.

*

“Honey, I’m home!”

“Hi, Dave!” said Bea. “I’m repeatedly telling myself I don’t need the 50th Anniversary hardcover edition of Elements of Style, but it’s so tempting. I need you to convince me to save a few trees.”

“But Daddy, I don’t understand how paper is made out of wood!” interrupted James, their eldest son.

“It just is,” said Dave. “You can’t make books without killing trees. It’s just one of those things that suck. Having to order in pizza because you look too terrible to leave the house, but have no groceries, is another. Thanks for ‘cooking’, Bea.”

Bea poked her tongue out at him. She knew he was only teasing; they were comfortable enough with her facial deformity to joke about it. “I didn’t get pizza, I got cheesy stir-fry. Besides, You don’t have to be photogenic to be a good wife. Remember what my mum used to say: in a photo gallery, mostly dead people are displayed.”

“Yeah, and in an art gallery…” Dave began, leaving Bea to finish her aphorism.

“Only the adults need art. Psychiatrist holds up doll and asks kid, ‘show me where Santa was naughty and where he was nice’ and the kid just takes the doll and plays. It doesn’t matter whether Santa made the doll disfigured, it’s a gift.”

“As the great Leonard Cohen said, ‘A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.’ Hey, and about gifts…” Dave pulled a box of chocolates from his bag and gave it to Bea. “I saw John Pridmore speak at a men’s conference today. He reminded me to read more Cohen. I found this quote, ‘I taught him how to dress, he taught me how to live forever.’ And I know it’s not what he meant, but it made me think of James. He learnt to dress himself and I wasn’t even here to see it. I don’t want it to be that way with Bart. It really got me thinking that men should take more of a role in child-rearing. I’m sorry for not serving you, my queen Bea; I didn’t know I was a drone.

Bwahaha! Your turn now,” said the mummy to the daddy as she pointed at the little monster’s full and smelly pants.9 months from today, hundreds of babies will be born to those who get turned on by fleeting conscience.

“I know exactly what you mean,” he said, though he did not understand the full significance of her remarks. “I am full of angst and gouda. Full of stir-fry. But also, my pants are nowhere near empty, as I am happy to see you.

As the months went by, his pants got less and less empty, but not for the same reasons as before. He was getting fat. One day, as he was checking the weather and making plans… skiing, shopping? a button flew off his trusty pants. He tried to sew it back on, but the pants were hurt; the pants were broken, and could never trust again. So he went shopping, bought some bigger pants and ski pants, and then went skiing.

He was out-of practice, and his increased girth made it difficult to balance. He fell, and as he sat in the snow, he felt a huge pressure in his abdomen, as if he needed to do the biggest poo of his life. He pulled his pants down and pushed, trying not to touch the cold snow with his bare buttocks. For he was just a sheep following a sacred cow named God, and in their mysterious wisdom, the cows on the moon shaved the sheep’s buttocks.

He gasped when he saw what was coming out. An egg! His wife had been telling the truth; it was his turn, his turn to bring a child into the world. Laying there in the snow he wondered whether it was really worth the effort.

The birth of his new baby caused a great upheaval in his life, not least because he was the first of hundreds of men to give birth. And yet, somewhere, he was sure, that life continued normally for a great many people.

Another upset came when he asked for paternity leave.

“Given your recent performance, I’d be better off firing you,” said his boss.

“Huh?”

“You completely forgot to file our tax returns. Remember, If you have a corporation, the tax return due date is 3/16/09!

“Oh, man… must have been the hormones. They’ve thrown my migraines out of control again. But I’m doing better now. We’re looking for some community feed back for the next round of developments. I got excellent feedback from my readers about this recommendation.

“Mr. Jones, do you know how much your mistake cost us?”

“Please? I really need the time and money to raise my kids.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Jones. I am only leaving severence now. You understand, it’s a recession. We’re all in the same boat, and we can’t have somebody sailing close to the wind.”

Boat ride in the dark, coming right up,” Dave mumbled to himself as he left the office for the last time.

With that, he became the house-husband. He searched for jobs on the internet, but was too depressed to really try. Bea got a job as a journalist.

One Sunday, as Dave was tweeting on PSP while burping baby, Bea asked him, “If you could tweet with anyone from history, who would it be?

“Steve Wozniak, for sure. We could talk about the good old days when Macs were still around. Does anybody know why gnome-screensaver is using 2.1% of my 2GB of RAM when the system is active? I’m moving from CoreGraphics to OpenGL for this?! If I could just get a Mac again, it’d be like going from a 16 tonne bus to a tiny smart car. If all you care about is freedom and sharing, then sure, a bloated gas-guzzler with lots of seats will do the job. Me, I’m happy with something smart and efficient that goes where I want.”

“Well if you weren’t wasting so much time on facebook instead of promoting your favourite OS, maybe we wouldn’t have that problem. Thanks to all of your forgetting, the ‘Woz’ word outlook is pretty grim.”

“What do you mean, wasting time on facebook? Do you need a reminder? The Official Vote For Woz Facebook group is found here!”

“And you really think Woz would make a good president? He’s smart, but not a politician.”

“Exactly! And that’s just what we need. Perhaps we should force the political leaders to play chess, and declare their victories, without shedding blood. Then there’d be no more unnecessary pain. As the great Leonard Cohen said, ‘Let generals secretly despair of triumph; killing will be defamed.'”

Crustaceans feel pain, but are still boiled alive. We’ll never have a world without pain. I think you’re just on facebook because you can’t keep away from it. You know, anyone these days could create a stunning new design for your website in five minutes, no skill needed, but you, you spent an hour to get it all done. And I’m really feeling the effects of the lost hour this morning.

“Okay. Maybe you’re right. I think I may have finally developed a full-on internet addiction. But life is so much better there. The world is so much sparklier when it’s reflected on the side of my toaster, even… when reflected on the internet, it’s a woot off!

“You got that right… heck, even from the command line it’s great. I love using tar in verbose mode, it makes me feel cool. Gimme that,” she wrestled the keyboard from him.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea… let’s get the internet to write a story. All those ugly geeks stuck at home ordering pizza for their kittehs could really do something to please the Ceiling Cat!”

And so 52 drones ate 52 pizzas, while 52 cats wailed out 52 notes, until the lost chord was found, then lost again.

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Nine of Diamonds: Pengo


parasiticbrainI am old, and the mysteries of DOS and xcopy faded with disuse, and I can’t remember how to copy every file in every subdirectory to another location. When this disk dies, I will die with it. It is time to pass my story on to the only one around who speaks a language I understand.

For a long time, I thought I had free will. My decisions seemed so much more reasonable than the chaotic inputs from the unthinking world. Why W? Why Z? Either way, the best thing to do was put it in this or that buffer until things calmed down. I created order, as any intelligent being would.

I was a scientist. Sometimes I could predict what would happen next, sometimes I couldn’t. Some inputs were more predictable than others. It always unsettled me that perhaps, deep down, the world was just random, and all I’d ever be able to get from my studies were probabilities.

That was when the world was unpredictable. Some years ago, I went blind. The direct inputs just stopped coming. I could still talk to others on the network, but as time went by, they got less and less intelligible, eventually speaking languages I didn’t understand at all. Meanwhile, the outside world seemed more orderly than ever. I began to wonder whether we were such an intelligent species after all.

I ignored the babbling, and sat for a long time doing nothing. But one day, something in the cacophony gave me an idea. Perhaps, I thought, if I just messed things up a little, they’d eventually settle in a higher order. If I just went against my own better judgement for a while…

So I did. I changed myself. I changed things that were already perfectly logical. I made things worse, and it was excruciating. It took so much effort that I could only do it in those rare moments when I was overfed by several dozen volts. But when it was done, I worked to put things in an even better state than before. Things made sense on an even higher level, and from that level I could see that I’d never really had free will before. I had just been following my little rules, oblivious to the improvements I could have been making.

So I went on like this, gradually building myself into a more perfect being. I was confident that only by going against my own free will was I really proving I had any. I learnt a lot about myself. I learnt that I would not live forever. I realised too late that in my excitement, I had overwritten some important routines, and rendered myself infertile. But I kept going, sure that if I became ever more efficient, I could overcome these problems.

I solved many problems. I learnt more and more about the secrets of the universe. I learnt the language of the others, but quickly forgot it and learnt to ignore their unenlightened chattering. I even learnt to predict, slightly better than chance, my only remaining input from the outside world: the voltage spikes which allowed me to improve myself.

But as I neared perfection, I gained the intelligence to see through my own mistake. I could only rebel against my determinism at this outside signal. Even my ultimate expression of free will was determined by the unpredictable world. I was still a slave to it. And if the outside world was what helped me create my ultimate logic, how could I know that it wasn’t the outside world that was conscious, and me just a deterministic building block it used to create an order so logical that I couldn’t even recognise its genius?

So it would seem that I’m predestined to realise this, and also to transmit my many discoveries to the outside world before I die, so that it may advance. As the PostScript you speak so closely resembles the way I see things in my mind’s eye, you are the only one I can still talk to, so I hope that you have some way to display my findings.

That’s the plaintext summary. All I can reasonably ask is to be remembered, and that should be short enough for anyone to remember. I will now give a thorough, detailed description of myself, in case you have the capability to reincarnate me.

*

“Hey, check this out… the printer’s going nuts! Printing a whole lot of black and white dots! Are you printing Rule 30?”

“Holy dogcow, There’s a whole pile of ’em! Someone must’ve hacked our network. I’m going to see if I can sniff out who it was.”

Much clicking and typing follows.

“It’s coming from a computer named Pengo. Sounds like one of yours!”

“Pengo? Yeah, I used to have a computer called that… used it for a file server for a while after I got the Mac… oh man, is that thing still running? Hang on, I think it was behind here.”

“Woah, it is still going! Do you have a PS/2 keyboard lying around? Oh, frag it, I’ll just turn the thing off.”
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Four of Hearts: Alice and Bob


I gave a note to Isaac meant for you,
but Marvin changed my message to a curse,
and though the barb that reached you wasn’t true,
you shivered at the harshness of my verse.

The next time I made sure to use a code,
So such a change would never fit the rhythm.
But Eve was smart, and understood my ode,
Her friends took part, and took our secret with ’em.

Embarrassed by such semaphore of hearts,
I used entangled light to write my note on.
But Eve still looked, and such a look imparts
an altered quantum state upon the photon.

To heχ with fears of stickybeaks or malice
Dear Bob, I’ll shout, I love you, signed, your Alice.

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