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"A Portrait of J. Random Hacker"

Anyone (or almost anyone) in fields related to computers will have probably heard of The Jargon File, and, in fact, may even have read parts (or all) of it. For those of you who have not experienced The Jargon File, it is a glossary of hacker terminology and slang, as well as amusing, canonical anecdotes and a very fine "Portrait of J. Random Hacker". This last is the subject of today's post.

I came across the description of the typical hacker in the File today during my lunch break, as I tend to read parts of the File (among other things, such as [currently defunct], webcomics, and international news) while I eat, both to expand my personal knowledge base and to keep myself in a productive state of mind through the midday crash. As I read through it, I was alternately nodding in agreement and wondering whether the writers had been spying on me, because there is very little in the 18-page description that does not, to one extent or another, apply to me, my life, and my lifestyle. I am seriously thinking that I ought to link to this fine document in the various places on the Internet where I am asked to describe myself, saving myself the trouble of coming up with a better descriptor than this.


August 13 2008, 09:54:12

I actually haven't seen that before!

Only about half of it applies to me though. xD I guess I'm not really a real hacker.

August 13 2008, 11:40:39

I do not know--there are varying levels of hackerdom. You just have not been around us long enough... ;-)


Let me introduce you to a class of people called wankers. These are the people who, given some technology and a tiny bit of training are so efficient in their ineptitude, they manage to break things in ways that it should not be possible to break them...

I will give an example, the reason this post is going up:


I work with cameras at my company. High-res, low framerate, monochrome industrial cameras, which attach to a standard computer viaIEEE1394 or Gig-E. The drivers for all the cameras I use are made by a company called Unibrain. Unibrain drivers are pretty good, all things considered, and rarely cause any issues as drivers are wont to do on XP Pro.


I come into work today, check my email and take care of various non-camera-related issues for a while. Around 10:15, I fire up the vision computer to which my current setup is attached (I am gaging a bunch of samples to produce some accuracy figures for a customer) and open my profile to start gathering data. I notice that I have no image, so I go to Scorpion's Camera tab...and there are no cameras on the system.

"OK," I think, "This happens on occasion. I will just reinstall the drivers for the camera, and we will be all set..."

There are no cameras in Device Manager.

I fiddle with theIEEE1394 hub and cables, because they tend to be a little flakey, and click refresh in Device Manager.

There are still no cameras.

I reboot and log in as an Administrator.

There are still no cameras.

I try one of my Gig-E cameras--guess what? Still no cameras.

Problem Found

I decide to reinstall the drivers to the system as a whole, see if that helps.

The installer comes up with the error saying "The drivers are already present on the system."

"Um, OK, then..."

I try uninstalling them--"No uninstaller or files found."



A bunch of training guys were up in the shop over the weekend, being taught Scorpion. I am guessing one of them flailed about on the keyboard in just the right way to partially uninstall my camera drivers, in such a way as to remove the files while making XP think they were still there, thus preventing the reinstallation from succeeding...

/me STABS the wanker who just spent me the last hour trying to debug this issue, and who is now causing me to have to manually edit the registry in about eighty different places to make XP realize the drivers are gone so I can get them back...I guess that customer did not really want to get this gaging study back in any reasonable amount of time...

The Gunner's Dream

Note: Originally typed 2008-07-29T13:41:36-05:00

Floating down through the clouds,
Memories come rushing up to meet me now
In the space between the heavens.
And in the corner of some foreign field,
I had a dream.
I had a dream.
Goodbye, Max.
Goodbye, Ma.
After the service, when you're walking slowly to the car
And the silver in her hair shines in the cold November air,
You hear the tolling bell
And touch the silk in your lapel.
And as the tear drops rise to meet the comfort of the band,
You take her frail hand
And hold on to the dream...

A place to stay,
Enough to eat.
Somewhere old heroes shuffle safely down the street.
Where you can speak out loud
About your doubts and fears,
And what's more -- no-one ever disappears,
You never hear their standard-issue kicking in your door.
You can relax on both sides of the tracks,
And maniacs don't blow holes in bandsmen by remote control.
And everyone has recourse to the law.
And no-one kills the children anymore.
No-one kills the children anymore.

Night after night,
Going 'round and 'round my brain;
His dream is driving me insane...
In the corner of some foreign field,
The gunner sleeps tonight.
What's done is done,
We cannot just write off his final scene:
Take heed of his dream,
Take heed...

--Pink Floyd, "The Gunner's Dream"

I woke up with this song going through my head, after having had a dream in which I am pretty sure (87% confidence) that I played the part of the Gunner. The dream the Gunner has is good one, and one which I certainly hope that we can eventually meet. His expectations are not all that outrageous, if you think about it. He does not ask for a Utopia, just somewhere that there is a modicum of comfort to all, and free expression actually still works, and no one is killing anyone. Really quite simple, no?

As a sidenote to this song, the album it comes from, The Final Cut, was originally intended as a sequel to The Wall. Thus, though that intent was lost due to inter-band bickering (Waters wanted it to be more of an anti-war album, protesting the Falklands War--railroaded it through and caused much resentment in the band), there are some of the same characters in the album as in The Wall. The one that most stands out is named the Hero in this album, but is no stranger to anyone who has ever listened to The Wall and wondered why the Teacher had it in so badly for children. I suspect that he feels the way he does because of the haunting memories he has of the Gunner and the war as a whole. I also suspect that, just maybe, the Hero feels responsible for the Gunner's death (was he flying the plane? in charge of navigation? the CO on board?), and, as such, the Gunner's dream "is driving [the Hero] insane" because it is still unrealized even in part.

PS: Still no server.

Geek Code

So, this has been around a while, but I recently rediscovered Geek Code and decided I would generate my own again, just to see how different it ended up from the old one (generated circa three years ago). I used this site to generate this:

Version: 3.1  
GCS/E d-(--)x s:(-) a-- C++++$ ULC++++(+++)>$ P(--) L+++(++)$ !E---- W+++(++)>$ !N !o K+++ w(---)$ !O M(-) !V PS+(++)>$ PE(-) Y+>$ PGP++ t+>$ !5 X(-) !R tv(+) b+++(++++)>$ DI+++>+++++ !D G(++) e(+)>++ h(+)>-$ !r* !z  

If you do not feel like following the spec to figure it out, there is a decoder available, though it does not quite translate all of the code.


08:05: So, yeah, apparently, I am doing something wrong on the project I have been working on since Thursday, as most of my software-generated numbers are upwards of 20% off of both my hand-made measurements and the customer's expected measurements, to say the least of the measurements on the print for the part.

09:30: The customer decided that the information they gave initially was not detailed enough, and so they sent an entirely new print, with different numbers, and an entirely new, and different, set of criteria for the project. Everything I have done on this project since Thursday is completely useless.

09:35: Oh, it gets even better--the new print that we got? The one up there, that has different numbers on it? Yeah, the reason that there are different numbers on it is that the print is partially in millimeter units, and partially in thousandths of a inch. Yes, both units on the same print. The difficulty with this?

  1. Remember a few years ago, when NASA sent up a probe to somewhere, but the important parts did not open up and the probe crashed? Yeah, well, that was caused by one team building it using metric, and another using Imperial, and the two not telling each other that.

  2. All the tools that I have created for this project since Thursday are based on the old print, and thus are all in millimeters.

  3. The customer has not specified which dimensions should be displayed in which units, but, if this is anything like their issue with our manuals not being in both English and a different language that their workers speak and them paying us to translate all the manuals, chances are good that I will have to either set up an on-the-fly conversion, adding unnecessary complications to the profile, or I will have to convert everything by hand to make the print entirely in the (as-yet unspecified) unit that the customer actually wants the dimensions displayed in, which will be a royal pain in the ass.

  4. Think about having some gas stations display their price as price per gallon, and some as price per litre...One station displays $3.71, the other displays $0.98...

10:06: one is in their office (customer's place, not ours) today. Thus, no phone calls to clarify matters, no emails to ask for direction, no helpful, high-speed, color faxes to get a new take on the project.

11:21: A text message from the main rep at the customer's place:

Yo. Thinking bout $project_name, did u get print? Need change dim214 to 2.53, bye--back 2 beach

11:22: "WTF? Dimension 214 was originally 46.8 mm...that 2.53 makes no sense whatsoever in any unit system currently on the print..."

All in all, this is not shaping up to be one of the most outstanding Mondays I have ever had. Also, if anyone tries to quote a certain movie at me, there will be no apology for repercussions thereafter...

PS: Yes, I will be posting about Berserker at some point, as soon as I get my server up so I can link to the ~500MB of stills and video I took over the weekend.


So, I am leaving shortly to go to Houghton for four days to, essentially, blow shit up. More information later--my ride has arrived!


July 17 2008, 06:11:10

shakes head cs majors and beserker..

July 17 2008, 16:48:44

hey, now, I am no CS major... computer engineering all the way!

On The Comparative Relativity of Time

I have noticed that there are three separate scales of time when dealing with people and the world.


This scale is no stranger to anyone, as it is what we all use for much--if not necessarily _most_\--of our time. Driving, eating, walking, and talking in person, as well as the transmission of information through the post, freight services, or print and radio media all take place in this scale of time. It is used in the outside, real world, where interactions between people, objects, and information take place in hours, days, weeks, and months.

Internet time

Rarely called this anymore, this is also not uncommon to most people in the developed world. Essentially all electronic media, including the Internet and television, as well as most other computer-based activities, run on this timescale. It is the scale at which interactions between people, objects, and information take place in seconds and minutes.

Supratime (my term)

A rare scale, at least in observable behavior, it tends to be the scale at which the actual computer runs, as well as being used in dreams and adrenaline-fueled incidents. It is a scale at which interactions take place in fractions of a second, and frequently, when used by a human being, is when one speaks of "time slowing down".

What I have noticed is that, the more time one spends in one of the higher-order scales, the harder it is to get back into one of the lower-order ones. As an example: I have recently been spending long periods of time (work) on the computer. This elevates my normal perception of time from realtime to Internet time. Thus, I have found myself wondering:

  • Why my car does not accelerate as quickly as I feel it ought to.

  • Why phone calls, letters, and packages do not arrive today or sooner.

  • Why others are only partially done with their food/work/activities, when I have been finished for what seems like forever.

  • How soon lunch is, when I have only just eaten breakfast.

  • Why the various webcomics I read have not updated again.

Disconcerting enough as running on Internet time is, I have found myself running in supratime with ever-increasing frequency. This leads to such things as wondering:

  • Why doors and doorknobs seem to move too slowly.

  • Why people are not posting on LJ, when the latest entry on my Friends page is dated less than a couple minutes ago.

  • Why it seems to take so long for pages to load, even on a high-speed, low-latency link.

  • Why I can see this hummingbird's wings.

...OK, perhaps that last one is a bit contrived (though sometimes I wonder why my keyboard's keys are moving so slowly), but it has been very strange. This ridiculously-elevated sense of the passage (or non-passage, from my point of view) combined with the last few nights' lucid dreams, as well as the wholly unexpected things that have been going on in my life recently, has thrown me into sort of a strange mood. I am not entirely sure I can supply a description for it, other than the fact that there are distinct and noticeable periods during which I am not entirely sure whether I am dreaming or not, or whether it is simply me running faster than time again. I have developed the habit of late of running various reality tests at opportune moments, just to ensure that what I perceive as happening actually is. As a result of all this, I feel much like Grace and Nanase in this comic, fifth panel. (Grace having just found out over the weekend that she is part alien and was created to destroy a different evil lab's monster, but one of her creators had just lost his daughter, and so the super-human DNA that was supposed to be part of her makeup was replaced with his daughter's, making Grace too well-intentioned and nonviolent to complete her task; Nanase having recently realized that she is gay and attracted to Ellen, the female, bisexual, magically-created duplicate of Elliot, her former boyfriend)

I have just noticed that I have been linking to EGS an awful lot of late...I suppose that is a result of having read through the archive a number of times recently in order to sate my hunger for information to consume whilst running on supratime, as well as it being a remarkable parallel to the way I would dearly love to see the world (well, most of the time, anyway. I mean, would it not be cool to be able to transform whenever you wanted? Well, I think it would, at least...). Plus, EGS has caught my empathy in a way that no other webcomic--or, indeed, any other published or non-published work of any sort--ever has before. Especially Ellen--I am not entirely sure why her character appeals to me, but I suspect that it has something to do with the fact that her outlook on life is much the same as the one I try to maintain.

Heh. I think I have finally slowed enough now--it is time to sleep; to sleep, perchance to dream...


July 15 2008, 02:56:13

Fuzzy clocks are way better. Nothing like seeing your computer tell you the time as "the morning"

July 15 2008, 11:32:25

Hey, that ain't a bad idea...maybe something I could add to the login screen.

Fun Stuff

So, yeah, all my stuff has been moved over to the new house. That's pretty much all I did this weekend, but it's still good, because I caught up on some much-needed sleep.

Speaking of sleep, lucid dreams are amazing. Seriously. If I could figure out a way to ensure that I always have one, or rather, that any dream I have is one, that would be rocking awesome. Having a completely wide-open blank canvas as your world, with the rules that govern it and the events that happen in it at your full and unlimited command, is pretty much as close to being a god as I am likely ever to get. It's trippy! Like this, and the second part!

(Surprisingly, my dream last night was similar in content to the one Elliot has in the preceding two links, in that I tended to walk around and make random people happy. However, it was significantly longer, did not involve me becoming a superhero and stopping a bank robbery, did not involve my female bisexual magical duplicate looking at me as her father, and did not involve me being married to the female form of my androgynous male friend. It did involve large amounts of flying, as well as a noticeable prevalence of people with tails, hugs, twins, daemons, telepathy, hugs, magic used alongside technology, steampunk, hugs, no stigma attached to loving who you love, a sane government [hey, I did say this was a dream...], and various other things like that. It was not a utopia, as that would just be boring, but it was the kind of world I'd love to live in.)

Wow...that was a really long parenthetical statement. I wonder if I should edit that...

...nah, I'll leave it as an example to posterity. Of what, I couldn't say, but an example nonetheless.

EDIT: Oh, and, I just got salmoned. Again. This makes three times in about as many weeks.../me wonders where he posted his AIM userID that is getting so much traffic all of a sudden... ::plays with salmon a while, gets bored, finds a well-worn ball of yarn to attack::


July 13 2008, 21:11:35

Your LJ profile page comes to mind:

AOL IM: AIM status agmlego1222 (Add Buddy, Send Message)
July 13 2008, 21:20:52

Maybe, but that isn't the only place I've put it. Meh, whatever. It's kinda fun, but only when the other person isn't physically or mentally AFK...

2008-07-12 11:07:00

So, it's raining. Actually, now it's not, but it was. Wait, now it is again.

I suppose I didn't actually want to move my stuff over to the new house. I just thought I did.

Oh, yeah, yesterday... wait for it, wait for it...

...yeah, it just hit...

So, I'm looking at banks here, as I need an actual checking account in order to open any accounts with ING Direct, a wholly online bank that many people I know use, which provides all the services I currently want from a bank, and high interest on the accounts to boot. I'm leaning towards National City, no particular reason based on research yet, just their ads. No, I'm not going to make a financial decision based on ads.

I just put away like twelve hours' straight of sleep. I feel amazing right now.


July 12 2008, 16:27:04

national city works fine for me

July 12 2008, 16:29:15

Thanks! I always like to get feedback from the people who actually live in an area regarding the things I'm researching.

::Shellshocked Kitty::

So, the last couple days (and for the indefinite future), my colleagues and I have been working ten- to twelve-hour days as a result of the enormous workload we've suddenly developed. Apparently, or so they tell me, the economy is going down. As this tends to make it harder for a company to make its bottom line, companies tend to try to boost their profits. The easiest way for them to do this is to eliminate what is termed "non-value-added labor"--essentially, the people who simply move parts between conveyors, or the people who inspect for quality some percentage of the outgoing product. Here is where our company steps in--we make systems that, for a simple, one-time expense, will eliminate that non-value-added labor, which tends to be a recurring expense. Thus, in a sense, my company actually does better (to a point) in a dropping economy.

However, that's not what I came here to tell you. I mentioned that I've been working ten to twelve hours a day. I'm pretty much OK with this--I like money, and I am paid hourly and overtime rates apply to anything over forty hours a week. However, it's draining, to say the least, especially today, which was spent (except for a brief lunch break) in front of my test stand, getting a major part of an even more major contract finished. I finished it around 16:45, and, looking around, noticed there was no one else at my end of the building. "OK," I thought, "I don't think I can be terribly productive on any new projects today, so...I'ma gonna take off now." I shut down the test stand computer and lights, packed up my laptop, tidied my work area, and headed downstairs to clock out. As I was swiping out, my boss waved me over to the president's office, where he sat me down and the two of them launched into a presentation, primarily about me. I fought pretty hard to appear alert, and the things that I caught from the presentation (at which were, in attendance, most of the rest of the company--we still only have like twenty employees) were:

  • "Andrew's recent study and subsequent report are of a quality equal to or greater than something that I could put together, and should stand as an example to the rest of the company." --president.

  • "We're looking to do a bit more research on the matter, I was thinking he could do it, and then publish the study as a white paper, all credits to Andrew." --president.

  • "Andrew is a valuable asset, and I've been more than pleasantly surprised to find that he and I are running on the same wavelength. He's an amazing person to manage." --boss.

And then, the rest were dismissed, but for the president, my boss, and I. Again, I was able to appear attentive, and I caught the following fragments:

  • "Unless you had any objections, I'd like to raise your rates 25%." --president.

  • "You have a very bright future, Andrew, and I want you to continue working for us after you get your degree." --my boss.

  • "Let us know how your schedule is up at school and over breaks--we're more than happy to give you studies and projects to do and we're willing to pay you for the time you take on them." --president.

Then we all shook hands, and I somehow ended up sitting in my car, the AC blasting to cool it down from nine hours in the sun, entirely empty of any emotional energy whatsoever, and a phrase going through my mind: "I've been working at the company for three weeks."

I'm just now, an hour after this all went down, starting to gain enough energy to react to the news. I can see that, if I weren't so tired, I'd be bouncing off the walls with excitement, and I likely will do that when it all finally hits me. For now, I'm gonna have some supper, and then take an early trip to bed and sleep for eleven or twelve hours.

EDIT: Oh, and, by the way, according to this quiz, I am:

You are Grace!
(shameless, perceiving, good-natured, outgoing, intuitive)

Pretty accurate, I'd say. Besides, who doesn't love Grace? Seriously.