Archive for the ‘miscellaneous’ Category

Optical Illusions

Wednesday, April 20th, 2005

The optical illusion I mentioned in class is here, you’ll probably want to collect the whole set.

Using Context-Free Grammars for Evil

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005

Oh dear. You realize that you can use CFGs to generate text, and not just to parse it, right?

Behold SCIgen - An Automatic CS Paper Generator

Disclaimer: if you try submitting one of these to a class and you get caught, don’t blame me.

Stupid Spammer Tricks

Friday, April 8th, 2005

You’ve all seen those spam messages with subject lines like “Make $$$ Fast! libertarian expiation gonzo (xyzzy)”. The spammers include nonsense words in an attempt to fool Bayesian filters. It doesn’t work very well, but they still do it.

But here’s a new twist. The other day I got a spam e-mail whose subject line included the word “quadric.” Since we’d been talking about quadric surfaces in my graphics class just the other day, they almost got me to read their stupid advertisement.

I figured it was just a coincidence until yesterday I got one whose subject line contained “cryptanalysis.” I gather they’ve taken to scraping web pages: when they decide to spam whomever@example.com, they first check to see if there’s a www.example.com, then grab a statistically significant word from that page and use it in the subject line, hoping to fool you into opening it.

Clever, but not clever enough. Did I mention that both of the e-mails had already been automatically filed under “Spam?”

SIGINT

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

For those of you who are interested in spy-stuff, I recommend the new book Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping by Patrick Radden Keefe.

To quote Scott McNealy (CEO of Sun Microsystems): “You already have no privacy. Get over it.”

The Secret Service and Distributed Computing

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

The Washington Post has an article on the Secret Service’s internal system for cracking encrypted files. Sort of their own distributed.net.

Quotes from Dijkstra and Knuth

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

Thought you might like these. Edsger Dijkstra, from How do we tell truths that might hurt?

The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offence.

And Donald Knuth, from an interview in Dr. Dobb’s Journal

DDJ: You’ve mentioned Edsger Dijkstra. What do you think of his work?

DK: His great strength is that he is uncompromising. It would make him physically ill to think of programming in C++.

E-mail address encryption

Saturday, March 19th, 2005

Ok, this is kind of neat: a program that takes your e-mail address, encrypts it using 10-bit RSA, then generates a JavaScript program to decrypt it and generate a mailto: link in a web page. Why do such a thing? Because if you post an e-mail address as plaintext on a web page (like, say, that link to spool@kenytt.net over on the left), it’ll be a matter of minutes before some lowlife scrapes it and spams you.

So I was setting up an autoresponder for homework assignments, and figured I’d give it a shot.

Tufte on PowerPoint

Saturday, March 19th, 2005

Here’s a copy of Edward Tufte’s Wired article Why PowerPoint is Evil.

The UNIX-HATERS Handbook

Thursday, March 17th, 2005

For an extended meditation on the usability (or, more properly, the lack of usability) of UNIX, see The UNIX-HATERS Handbook. Don’t get too carried away by the rhetoric — note that the contributors include Simson Garfinkel and Dennis Ritchie, neither of whom is particularly anti-UNIX (Ritchie being one of the co-inventors of both UNIX and C). But it’s fun to read.

Speaking of Donald Knuth…

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

NPR’s Morning Edition ran an interview with him on Monday.