Posted February 24, 1999 at 1:58 am | No Comments

Yesterday at Yum Wok I got the coolest chopsticks ever.  I decided that I just had to show them off.  Here’s a game for you to play: in the pictures of the chopstick packaging below, how many errors can you find?  You may include errors in spelling, grammar, and typography.  I counted about 25.

chops1.gif (29621 bytes)
Welcome to Chinese Restaurant.
please try your Nice Chinese Food With Chopsticks
the traditional and typical of Chinese glonous history.
and cultual.

chops2.gif (35375 bytes)
Tuk under     thurnb and hcld firmly
Add second chcostick hold it as you hold a pencil
Hold tirst chopstick in originai position
move the second one up and down
Now you can pick up anything :

Java Versus Sex

Posted February 17, 1999 at 1:58 am | 3 Comments

Lately I’ve been reading the CS Undergraduate Discussion Bulletin Board, where Mike Schuresko suggested (jokingly, of course) that Carnegie Mellon combine two of its most popular annual informational events, “Sex Week” and “Java Day“.  That idea got me thinking: why should sex be in the spotlight for an entire week while Java receives only one day of attention?   Somebody somewhere must have decided that sex is better than Java, but personally I’m not so convinced.  Let’s run through a quick feature-by-feature comparison: Java Versus Sex.







Yes Specialized hardware
Safe Yes No
Strongly Typed
Execution Semantics
Yes Yes
Rigid Syntax
Yes No
Yes Limited
Support for
Input/Output Streams
Yes Yes
Architecture Neutral Yes No; size matters
Yes Only if you’re
strong enough
Public and Private
Yes Public methods
Robustness Sophisticated null pointer
exception handling
Availability Can be downloaded
for free from
Difficult to obtain

It’s clear that the contest between sex and Java is very close, but ultimately Java comes out ahead.  I think that it boils down to a security issue: while running a Java applet incurs no risk of corrupting your system with viruses or spawning illegitimate child processes, sex offers no such guarantees.  Another consideration is that when you’re putting together your resumé, writing “Java programming: 2 years experience” looks better than writing “Sex: 2 years experience.”

You may not agree with my comparison, but I don’t mind.  After all, my opinions may be biased by the fact that I can get Java.  If your Friday nights are spent procreating rather than instantiating, at least consider using some Java-inspired pick-up lines like “Hey baby, wanna import my package?  It’s dynamically extensible.”

L4R Escapes

Posted February 14, 1999 at 1:58 am | No Comments

News flash!  This just in:

Notorious Hacker “L4R” Stages Dramatic Escape

A rogue hacker, pursued by the FBI for computer sabotage, managed to elude a team of crack federal agents Saturday after a lengthy electronic manhunt.  The hacker, still known only by her code name “L4R”, had been identified Friday as the infiltrator of the well-known humor web site

“It wasn’t easy to trace L4R,” admitted staff member Dan Maynes-Aminzade.  “She had done nearly everything in her power to cover up her tracks.  Unfortunately for her, she didn’t know who she was dealing with.”  An expert in electronic espionage and counterintelligence, Maynes-Aminzade is widely renowned for his ability to track even the faintest of digital footprints.

Working in tandem with the Chicago-based Computer Crime Squad, a division of the FBI, Maynes-Aminzade spent hours following L4R through a tangled web of intricate cybernetic ghost trails.  He eventually hit upon her hacking lair, a small 10-unit apartment on the east side of Pittsburgh.  A rapid response team of FBI agents immediately began undercover scouting operations, capturing incriminating photographic evidence of L4R’s hacking activities (see picture at right).

l4r-bug.jpg (17337 bytes)

FBI file photograph, captured
from a bug of L4R’s apartment.

After a 24-hour stakeout, the FBI mounted a raid, but upon entering L4R’s apartment, they were shocked to discover it empty.  L4R had somehow slipped though the net of FBI surveillance, leaving behind no clues to her whereabouts but a computer terminal eerily blinking the words “71M3 4 212, L8R SuKk3Rz!”  When an FBI agent began dusting the keyboard for fingerprints, the terminal exploded violently, destroying the last of the evidence and badly injuring the agent in the process.

FBI officials are furious at L4R’s escape, but members of the tightly-knit underground hacker community have been quick to jump to her defense.  “L4R 1Z a l33T h4X0r 8483!” exclaimed the cracker “1C3 N-f3rN0” in a recent discussion on the IRC channel “#hackers”.  “Sh3 c4N r3LLy n0k it 0Ut!”  Slightly less outspoken but just as supportive was Emmanuel Goldstein, editor-in-chief of the popular hacker quarterly 2600.   “We believe that the FBI’s persecution of L4R is unjust,” Goldstein remarked.  “L4R engaged in exploratory activities simply to satiate her intellectual curiosity and apply her ingenuity, and not with the intent to incur personal gain or to engage in the malicious destruction of  property.”

fbifug.jpg (10008 bytes) Nevertheless, the FBI is resolute in its continued pursuit of L4R, recently adding her to their “Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List” and offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to her capture.  “The FBI  refuses to tolerate L4R’s contemptible brand of cybervandalism,” proclaimed William G. Eubanks, associate supervisor of the Computer Crime Squad.  “The hacker subculture must be made aware of the hazards of their illegal activities.  When L4R is captured, she will provide the example we need.”

What does Maynes-Aminzade think of all of this?

“I must admit that I’ve developed a certain sense of respect for L4R’s abilities,” he commented.  “In all of my years as a digital sleuth, I’ve never encountered so wily a foe.  But all professional esteem aside, I refuse to sympathize with L4R’s insidious motives, and ultimately I hope that she will be brought to justice.”

Back Online

Posted February 10, 1999 at 1:57 am | No Comments

News flash!  This just in: back online after malicious hacker attack

PITTSBURGH – The popular humor web site had to be taken off-line Tuesday after a group of hackers calling themselves the “l33t 212 5mL Kr3W” infiltrated its computer system. The leader of the group, identifying himself only as “L4R”, left behind insults and vague threats, ridiculing‘s audience as “G4Y 4ss lam3rZ” and “FaGits”. The damage was discovered about 10:50 p.m. EDT, at which time the site was taken off-line. The web site was restored several hours later, after a brief game of security cat-and-mouse between the infiltrators and the site administrators.

The hacker group seemed to take special interest in site administrator Dan Maynes-Aminzade: “So MoNzY 7hInks he is all k3wl with his and sHi7,” they wrote, “[but] heR3s is WHa7 W3 tHiNk ab0t iz for LAM3RZ!!!!!”

hacked.jpg (14778 bytes)
The hacked

“A very serious crime”

Officials at have contacted the FBI and vowed to catch the perpetrator. “This is a very serious crime,” explained FBI director Louis J. Freeh, “and once the hacker is identified, we intend to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.” spokesman Ethan Bold was even more vociferous, commenting: “Forget that prosecution shit — the FBI is incompetent anyway. When we catch that hacking motherfucker, me and Monzy are going to open up a can.”

The site’s security was breached using well-known vulnerabilities in the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripting language, used for various interactive features on Web pages. “By passing extended parameters to a poorly implemented CGI program, the hacker was able to access a system-wide password file, which he then managed to decrypt,” explained Adam Berson, a Pittsburgh web-programming specialist. “Fortunately,” Berson continued, “Monzy has some mad crazy hacker skillz of his own, and we are confident that he can catch that hacking fuck.”

When asked about the prospects of apprehending the vengeful hacker, Maynes-Aminzade was optimistic. “We were able to trace him though a series of proxy servers in Boston, Saudi Arabia, and the Netherlands, and have now established his location to within a 5-mile radius. With a bit of further investigation, I’m sure that we can nail his ass.”  When asked where the hacker had been located, Maynes-Aminzade declined comment, citing security considerations.

Will the staff succeed in tracking down the mysterious “L4R”? Stay tuned for updates.

Executive Summaries

Posted February 4, 1999 at 1:55 am | No Comments

Do you ever wonder how your classes manage to fill up an entire semester?  When I stop for a moment to take stock of the course material I’ve retained, it always seems like each of my courses could have been summed up in one 5-minute lecture.  Because I’m such a nice guy, I’m going to share with you the quick-and-dirty 5-minute version of each of the classes I’m taking right now.  That way you won’t have to waste any time taking them next semester.

  • 82-416, Contemporary Emerging French Literature
    – Swiss people are really depressed all the time.
    – It sucks to be old.
    – When you’re speaking French, don’t make grammatical errors.
  • 15-312, Programming Languages Design and Practice
    – ML is a really good programming language.
    – Lisp and Scheme really suck.
    – Java sucks too. Man, does it suck.
    – Don’t even get me started on how much C++ sucks.
  • 21-341, Linear Algebra
    – The term “n-tuple” is barbarous. Don’t ever use it.
    – The real numbers are a field. That lets you do a lot of crazy shit.
    – Linear Algebra textbook authors are complete morons.
    – You are bad at math.
  • 36-226, Probability and Statistics II
    – If you flip a coin ten times and get heads five times, a good bet would be that the probability of heads is one half.
    – But only a moron would use that intuitive method.  If you want to be a true statistician you have to calculate the first and second derivatives of the log likelihood function for the binomial distribution and solve for the unknown parameter by maximizing the score.  That way you can fill up a whole page with symbols, and still get 0.5 as your answer.  But now you get to call it “x bar”.
    – Actually that method is really crappy too.  What you really want to do is find an unbiased estimator and determine the sufficient statistic for the distribution.  Then you compute the expected value of the estimator given the sufficient statistic and that gives you a uniformly minimum variance unbiased estimator, which is of course far superior.  Also maybe instead of using the binomial distribution, you should use the normal approximation to the binomial distribution, so that you can look a bunch of shit up in those little tables in the back of the book, and also use a few more Greek letters, like sigma and mu.  But don’t worry, your answer will still be 0.5.

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