Warwick Davis explains the importance of computer backups

I’m in a seriously bad way after working a ridiculous marathon shift overnight when some server issues kinda turned into a perfect storm. I might need a few days to recover and catch up on sleep. So have something fun.

I loved Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood when I was a kid. Probably saw that movie a dozen times. Today I learned something new about him: he really loves Youtube videos of cats.

But who would remake the turtle videos, Warwick? WHO!?

Mock The Movie: .COM For Murder

This movie was easily one of the best worst movies we’ve seen and targeted for Mock The Movie, and not just because of our tech-savvy participants. This movie took itself so seriously, and tried so hard, and yet it failed so miserably at everything it did. Every character was inept, even the supposedly hyper-adept evil hacker. Every action taken was ludicrous, and there were dozens and dozens of ways to short-circuit the evil hacker’s plans. It was ripe for the picking, and boy did we pick.

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Evolving pseudo-creatures in computer simulation to run a short course

I love the idea of simulating evolution through computer models. The purpose of such an exercise is not so much to prove that evolution happened, or to prove that complexity can evolve from simple rulesets (though that’s certainly important), but to show that randomness and flexibility in solving tasks can create novel approaches that are more creative even than anything that intelligences like ourselves have worked out.

This particular example shows some behaviours from creatures built out of four types of blocks that emulate hopping, running and dragging themselves along a course, in a simulation where creatures that make it across a trial field quickest are rewarded by having more offspring in subsequent generations.


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Thou Shalt Pirate Pornography

A few people are pointing this out as an example of some of the religious hypocrisy endemic in organized Catholicism. While they’re making a good case about it — this is in fact hypocritical, if you consider piracy stealing — I’d rather point out that this makes these people every bit as human as anyone else. They are not special, they are not sacred, and they are not better than anyone else in any way.

What am I talking about this time? Another sex scandal, perhaps? Well, tangentially, maybe. But in this case, it’s priests admitting to downloading DVD screeners of yet-unreleased movies, and logs of holy men downloading some perfectly ordinary lesbian and BDSM pornography.

But not just any holy men… the IPs in question belong to people inside the Holy See.

Helped by Scaneye, TorrentFreak decided to take a look at the recent downloading habits of people living in the most religious city-state in the world – the Vatican.

The Vatican is a small place so downloading levels are very low. However, we did notice that one particular IP address came up a number of times, on each occasion linked to TV shows such as Chicago Fire, Lightfields, The Neighbours and Touch. Another IP address showed an interest in The Americans.
[...]
In the interests of science we researched each of the titles (including the curiously named RS77_Episode 01) and discovered that downloaders in the Vatican have one or two unusual ‘niche’ interests. We won’t link to our discoveries here, but feel free to do your own ‘research’ using the titles shown above. There isn’t a commandment that covers these films directly, but some might argue there should be.

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Spot the Sexual Language

If you were watching the SkepTech hash tag on Twitter during the conference last weekend, you probably would have seen the usual suspects making the usual whine-plaints about harassment policies, and how they’re ruining all the fun at conferences. Then you would have seen some of those same whiners lose their shit over the fact that there was a whole panel about sex (HEAVENS FOREFEND), populated by feminists (FETCH MY FAINTING COUCH).

An example tweet from a pro-harassment tweeter (I mean, seriously, what else can you make of this?), believes they’ve caught us feminists, and the founders of SkepTech who supported harassment policies, out on some sort of hypocrisy:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue/status/322614556880949249"]

@iamcuriousblue #SkepTech policy:”Sexual language & imagery not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks.” In practice: [link to Youtube video]

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Linus Torvalds rages against Microsoft, with a side-order of splash damage

It’s no secret that I’m a Linux guy. I love open source software. I’m not the greatest coder in the world, but I get by. I’m not the greatest scripter in the world, but I get by. Computers are my bread and butter, and considering my livelihood and my freedom to choose what software to use is threatened by this, I’ll be damned if I stand idly by while Microsoft engages in their latest and possibly greatest power-play ever — controlling what operating systems are digitally signed and allowed to run on your computer in the UEFI boot standard they’ve created and are demanding hardware manufacturers support.

The move is ostensibly intended to prevent rootkits that aren’t signed by a signing authority from running on your computer, but its real effect is that every operating system that isn’t Microsoft-made will have to come grovelling before Microsoft to have their operating systems signed just so that your computer will run them. It is, in effect, leveraging a virtual monopoly into a true one — while their marketshare was slipping, suddenly if your computer will only run a Microsoft-approved OS, you’re at MS’ whims.

I’ve already butted up against this issue once, after buying my current laptop and failing miserably to install Ubuntu until I discovered that UEFI was the new spanner thrown into the works. I had to disable that — being told by my computer how vulnerable I was leaving myself to hackers, and being informed by various websites how fortunate I was that ASUS, my laptop’s manufacturer, deigned fit to ALLOW me to disable UEFI booting — before I could install the operating system of my choice.

Others may not be so lucky, it seems. So Red Hat has decided to try to have Microsoft sign their distribution of Linux. And Linus Torvalds, Linux’s creator and godfather, was hopping mad. On the Linux Kernel Mailing List, he scolded Michael Garrett of Red Hat:

On Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 8:42 AM, Matthew Garrett wrote:
>
> There’s only one signing authority, and they only sign PE binaries.

Guys, this is not a dick-sucking contest.

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Linux+ Certified!

CompTIA Linux+ logo

Hooray! I passed my CompTIA Linux+ certification today. Sorry I’ve been neglecting you folks over the last little bit, but see, I’ve been studying from an old exam study guide from 2010, stolen from an acquaintance, and it’s basically eaten all my concentration since I hatched this hare-brained scheme of mine.

Last Wednesday, at about the same time as I got it in my head to finally rectify my Bachelor of Arts situation, I also bought exam vouchers for the two tests necessary to become Linux+ certified. I scheduled the tests for the soonest I could get them, then I cracked the books. And today, after melting my brainpan for a week, I am now finally a man of letters and papers and shit. I now, finally, have certifications and degrees and paperwork proving I know what I do. Well, some of it anyway. There isn’t a certification for knowing the location of every extra life in Super Mario Bros 1, sadly, or I’d be going for that next.

To celebrate my achievement, I drew a dancing turtle.

Sketch of dancing turtle - animated gif. Drawn with a Wacom tablet by a freshly-certified computer dork.

He has a top hat and a diamond tipped cane, because he gots just that much swag.

(There’s a story behind this turtle, though it’s short and kinda silly. You might hear it one day.)

Anonymous hacks USSC.gov over Aaron Swartz’s death

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t advocate black-hat actions pretty much ever, even simple defacement. But the government’s pursuit of Aaron Swartz is one of those undeniably disproportionate responses to an internet activist for the crime of downloading too many PDFs at the same time. WITH AUTHORIZATION, no less.

What happened here, Anonymous hacking the USSC website to express their outrage at that travesty of justice — I’m fairly sympathetic to that cause. While it had already raised a public outcry, it certainly didn’t get enough of an outcry for the severity of the injustice perpetrated.

The Anonymous video, with text-to-speech of the USSC hack:

The most fascinating part of this is the “warhead” they included in the hack — links to an AES256 encrypted set of files with the names of the Chief Justices of the US as the filename. The files are intended to be spliced together — and Anonymous gave the command to do it, but also included “delete everything on your hard drive” at the end of the command in case you’re one of those types to blindly copy/paste commands into your command line.

The “warhead” will be “set off” by Anonymous releasing the decryption key for the encrypted file. Speculation abounds at what is in them, but Anonymous’ hack says:

The contents are various and we won’t ruin the speculation by revealing them. Suffice it to say, everyone has secrets, and some things are not meant to be public. At a regular interval commencing today, we will choose one media outlet and supply them with heavily redacted partial contents of the file. Any media outlets wishing to be eligible for this program must include within their reporting a means of secure communications.

Of course they won’t want to ruin speculation. That’s how things like this go viral.

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Hawking and other scientists petition for Turing’s posthumous pardon

Stephen Hawking and a number of other notable scientists and humanitarians in the UK are petitioning David Cameron to pardon Alan Turing, one of computing’s forefathers, for the crime of being gay.

Now, several of the nation’s top scientists, including Stephen Hawking, and other leaders have penned a letter to the Telegraph, throwing their support behind the bill.

They write:

SIR – We write in support of a posthumous pardon for Alan Turing, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era. He lead the team of Enigma codebreakers at Bletchley Park, which most historians agree shortened the Second World War. Yet successive governments seem incapable of forgiving his conviction for the then crime of being a homosexual, which led to his suicide, aged 41.

We urge the Prime Minister formally to forgive this British hero, to whom we owe so much as a nation, and whose pioneering contribution to computer sciences remains relevant even today. To those who seek to block attempts to secure a pardon with the argument that this would set a precedent, we would answer that Turing’s achievements are sui generis. It is time his reputation was unblemished.

Lord Currie of Marylebone
Lord Grade of Yarmouth
Lord Faulkner or Worcester
Lord Rees of Ludlow

Astronomer Royal
Lord Sharkey
Lord Smith of Finsbury
Baroness Trumpington

Sir Timothy Gowers
Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, Cambridge University
Dr Douglas Gurr
Chairman, Science Museum Group
Professor Stephen Hawking
Sir Paul Nurse
President, the Royal Society

I absolutely agree that Turing should be pardoned — with one reservation.
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Hackbright Academy trains women to be pro developers in ten weeks

This is, frankly, a shocking pace — taking you from complete newbie to a capable professional programmer in just ten weeks is nothing short of breakneck. And the best part about this initiative? It’s for women, to give them a place to learn without stereotype threat or brogrammer culture stifling them.

Amidst all the arguments about “brogrammer” culture and the presence of women in Silicon Valley, here’s a company that’s actively working to change things, albeit on a small scale (for now) — Hackbright Academy, which describes itself as “a 10 week training program designed to help women become awesome programmers.”

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