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Category Archives: Computer Talk

Email surveillance

There’s a new article in the SF Chronicle that says the University of California, Office of the President (UCOP) has been monitoring emails going in and out of the UC system by using computer hardware. I wanted to give my personal opinion, as a computer programmer and somebody who has experience managing mail exchangers1. The quotes in the SF Cron article are very generous with technical details about the email surveillance system. Most of the time, articles about mass surveillance are dumbed down, but this one gives us at least a little something to chew on. Email was not originally designed to be a secure protocol. Over the three (four?) decades that email systems have been used, computer people have created several extensions to the original SMTP2 and 822 envelope protocol to provide enough modern security to make email “good enough” for modern… more →

Website updates

Last December was the biggest month for RogerHub ever. We served over 4 million hits, which consumed over 3 terabytes of bandwidth. By request, we released the 6th calculator mode, “lowest test dropped”, to the public. But during the same month, we experienced the biggest outage that has ever happened on RogerHub, which affected over 60,000 visitors, and the number of total spam comments has nearly doubled. I keep using “we”, even though this is a one-man operation, because these seasonal surges of traffic feel a lot bigger than just me. Toward the end of the month, my hosting provider Linode was targeted by several large DDoS attacks across all their US datacenters. RogerHub is run in 2 Linode locations: Dallas, TX and Fremont, CA. However, only one location is active at any time. The purpose of the inactive location… more →

Notes and reminders

This is Notes.app, which I use to save rich text and organize ideas. I like it because it’s not a website, it’s a native OS X app. And because it opens in a small window that fits on the side of the screen, I feel creative and comfortable writing notes here. But it doesn’t sync with my Android phone. It only syncs with an iCloud account, and I don’t use iCloud for anything except iTunes purchases and this. It’s also a little buggy with too much rich text. I use vim for all my text editing1, and I wanted to use vim for notes too. But it didn’t work out. Rich text lets me put in checkmarks like ✔︎, and I can start bulleted list with wiki-style syntax. There’s a font color palette, and you can paste images and headings into… more →

What I learned from the first million

It’s almost impossible to avoid sounding pretentious when you’re telling your own success story, and I really am sorry for the way my writing sounds. Some of you may even chide me for such a relaxed definition of success. Say what you will, but for the past year, I’ve heard countless mom-and-pop recounts about this website given to older cousins, reunited classmates, and complete strangers (strangers to me, at least). Parent’s eat that stuff up. They love hearing how little kids find ways to make a bit of income, or how they are so lucky to have economically-applicable talent so long before most teenagers start thinking about their careers. All this, and the reverie of extraordinary overnight success, is quite pleasant to hear, but fundamentally ignores reality by reassigning to luck, credit rightfully due to hard work, befittingly so, as… more →

Flowering random

As human beings, we have misconceptions of the nature of randomness. Try it and write down a sequence of random digits. You’ll notice that certain numbers tend to be repeated, or that no two consecutive digits are the same. Maybe your numbers tend to go up and then down and then up again, or that you’ll use all the digits before repeating any. It’s simply our natural tendency to look for patterns where there may not be any. All cell phone numbers appear, to the human mind, to exhibit patterns. Some follow a circular path around the keypad and the digits of others are contained within an unnaturally small subset of the ten possible digits. It is the same reason why we cannot at first understand how a group of only twenty-three people have a 50% probability of containing two… more →

Functional unity

It seems like the next big thing is always trying to combine the knobs and buttons of your life into a single revolutionary new paradigm of luxury. Especially exemplary are the new developments in heads-up display devices1 and the various misnomers for cloud computing. At a primitive level, we understand the advantages. It’s integrated. All of it is, like a strict building code in a top-dog neighborhood. As human beings, we’re predisposed to patterns because it’s part of our innate behavior. The predictability and uniformity of life comes from the hunter-gatherer era when fewer things to worry about meant an easier life. But, humans, as usual, make bad choices for themselves. Think about every invention in the world that has stood the test of time. Each does only one thing and it does it well. From the resistors and capacitors of… more →

On happiness and remembering things

It’s the end of spring break already. I was on BearFacts yesterday researching about class registration when it occurred to me that they were telling me about picking college courses and planning out a schedule for the first time for courses that will be taught by strangers hundreds of miles away. By that time, everything will have changed and everyone will have moved away. Most of my spring break I spent shut-in cramming physics because of my ridiculously short time frame, so I haven’t really seen anyone for a week now. For brief periods, I could almost pretend that everything and everyone outside of my textbook and notes didn’t exist, as if the big change had already happened. Right then and there, I realized that it’d be no different were I studying three hundred miles north in a smaller room… more →

On big networks

It’s not surprising that online security is a commonly misunderstood and confusing topic to most people. Our news media throws around big words like cyberbullying and cyberattack, so much so that laymen are discouraged from sorting through the madness themselves. But honestly, it may not be their fault. Computer security has only recently become relevant to the average person because so much of our lives have moved onto the Internet. Whether or not humans are prepared to handle the gradual eradication of human interaction is a different matter. As for now, I just want to explain the nature of security and its relation to what happened in 3rd period today. See, the Internet is inherently insecure. Each request you send goes through several computers, all of which can read or alter the data if it wants to. Originally, when networks were… more →

Huddle now

It was such an idyllic scene outside the MPR today at 4:46pm. It was still raining slightly and I had my umbrella out. The umbrella blocks the upper part of my field of vision, restricting the foveal viewport to bounce around the boundaries of the lower latitudes in such a way that, when the veil is finally lifted, the extended range appears foreign and startling. Here around me existed a number of characters whose traits could be summarized in the color blue, deep with compassion and kindness. Perhaps this perception was one of circumstance—relative and not absolute, that is. But no matter, it remains that this was not an atmosphere of competition nor indifferent apathy. It was brotherhood in its purest sense, if the word can be applied to more than the masculine. Man with his technology—cell phones and heptagonal… more →

The only reason I’m excited for Pottermore

I never thought to try this until now. I will leave this running overnight: #!/bin/bash while [ `curl www.pottermore.com | grep “registration is now closed” | wc -w` \ -ne “0” ]; do echo [`date`] Checked pottermore.com: Registration is still closed. sleep 20 done echo [`date`] Message has changed. Check status at [http://pottermore.com/]. mplayer “$HOME/Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – Prologue.mp3” \ > /dev/null 2> /dev/null Yeah? yeah? And this. chmod +x ./pottermore.sh;./pottermore.sh Alright. Let’s do this.

Consumer surplus and economic efficiency

If you’re reading this, it must mean that everything turned out correctly1. I just migrated RogerHub to a new webhost, for the next two years. Why? Because competition. Fuck yeah. Not many things in this life tend to just keep getting better and better. How it feels to be on the other side of competition, you must know already. Isn’t it great? The simple logic that better things succeed and crap fails. Let’s see what happens. The domain transfer succeeded. The nameserver updates propagated to all hosts, and the DNS records are pointing to this new server. Great! ↩

Functional Zen

When I first saw the term gaslighting1, I thought it referred to igniting one’s farts, which made absolutely no sense at all in context. So I did the logical thing and copied it into Google, which actually meant I wanted a Wikipedia article. Gaslighting is actually a form of psychological torture where you trick someone into doubting their memories. Click* click, and before long, it was 1:30AM and I had 4 tabs of Wikipedia articles about psychological torture open in Chromium. I don’t know about you, but staying up till post-midnight just creeps me out. I’ve got this circle of light coming from the desk lamp while through the window outside, it feels like everyone is dead. Nonetheless, there is no better time to think than during the silence of the night when everything else is muted. Look at this… more →