g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, November 13, 2004
17:49 - The Ultimate Combo
http://www.kidradd.com/

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Wow.

This is truly an accomplishment: Kid Radd. An online pseudo-animated sprite comic (or is it "animated pseudo-sprite comic"?) that seems to have just finished its story recently and been archived for complete perusal from start to end.

It's like The Matrix for 8-bit game geeks... The Matrix except with more humor, a much better and more comprehensible plot, more genuine emotion, and no Keanu Reeves. What's not to like?

In much seriousness, this is astonishingly good. Make sure you've got a few hours to kill with extreme prejudice.


12:18 - We're snarkier and use fewer F-words

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This is the perfect riposte to this. I knew there was one. (A much funnier and better-worded one, at that.)

Guys, guys—what ever happened to "waking up the next day as Americans"? Seems to me some people who supported him weren't worthy of John Kerry.

Via InstaPundit.

Friday, November 12, 2004
16:39 - If you look up "rant" in the dictionary, there's a picture of this post next to it
http://coldfury.com/index.php?p=5071

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Mike at Cold Fury has put digital pen to virtual paper and come up with the perfect Total Perspective Vortex rant that I'd love to show to certain people if only I didn't care about them hating me afterwards. (Hell, I might anyway.)

Yep, it’s all true, every bit of it; the New Gulags, which we Nazified Tolkien geeks like to refer to as Barad Ashcroft, or just Shrubthanc, have been under construction since early 2001 and are almost ready to open for business. The ultra-right-wing corporate media establishment has known all along, and have been helping us cover it all up, and now it’s too late; there’s nothing you can do to stop us. You all are going to be fed into the ovens by the millions, and we’re going to destroy the environment and nuke the Third World, and it’s all going to be done because Jesus told us to, and that’s the only reason we’re ever going to need. Because hey, we’re stupid.


It's good stuff.


10:52 - Oh, for God's sake

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Well, this sure as hell didn't take long:

From: suhafat@netscape.net
Subject: URGENT! SUHA ARAFAT PROPOSAL
Date: November 12, 2004 4:22:44 AM PST
Reply-To: suhafat@netscape.net

Dear Friend,

This mail may not be surprising to you if you have been following current events in the international media with reference to the Middle East and Palestine in particular.

I am Mrs. SUHA ARAFAT, the wife of YASSER ARAFAT, the Palestinian leader who died recently in Paris. Since his death and even prior to the announcement, I have been thrown into a state of antagonism, confusion, humiliation, frustration and hopelessness by the present leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the new Prime Minister. I have even been subjected to physical and psychological torture. As a widow that is so traumatized, I have lost confidence with everybody in the country at the moment.

You must have heard over the media reports and the Internet on the discovery of some fund in my husband secret bank account and companies and the allegations of some huge sums of money deposited by my husband in my name of which I have refuses to disclose or give up to the corrupt Palestine Government. In fact the total sum allegedly discovered by the Government so far is in the tune of about $6.5 Billion Dollars. And they are not relenting on their effort to make me poor for life. As you know, the Moslem community has no regards for woman, hence my desire for a foreign assistance.

I have deposited the sum of 20 million dollars with a security firm abroad whose name is withheld for now until we open communication. I shall be grateful if you could receive this fund into your bank account for safe keeping and any Investment opportunity. This arrangement is known to you and my personal Attorney. He might be dealing with you directly for security reasons as the case may be.

In view of the above, if you are willing to assist for our mutual benefits, we will have to negotiate on your Percentage share of the $20,000,000 that will be kept in your position for a while and invested in your name for my trust pending when my Daughter, Zahwa, will come off age and take full responsibility of her Family Estate/inheritance.

Please note that this is a golden opportunity that comes once in life time and more so, if you are hornet, I am going to entrust more funds in your care as this is one of the legacy we keep for our children.

In case you don't accept please do not let me out to the security and international media as I am giving you this information in total trust and confidence I will greatly appreciate if you accept my proposal in good faith. Please expedite action.

Yours sincerely,

Suha Arafat

Is there any man, woman, or child left in America who hasn't already been bombarded with enough of these to recognize what they are? Isn't there some point where the scammers will start to see diminishing returns and knock it off?

Or maybe someone's just doing a very subtle parody.

Thursday, November 11, 2004
15:18 - Audion: RIP

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Ahh, a sad day for those Mac geeks out there who rightly revere Cabel Sasser and Panic Software for their pioneering work in defining just what it means to be an archetypical third-party Mac software developer.

Dear Audion Owner,

Remember Audion? :) One of the first, and certainly the most stylish, Macintosh MP3 player/encoders, Audion was released in 1999 and really helped Panic become the little Macintosh company it is today. At some point you bought a copy of Audion, to which we're quite thankful.

Lately, though, you may have noticed that there haven't much activity with Audion. To be honest, there's been activity, but it's been going on behind-the-scenes -- and a great deal of that has been decision-making.

The result? We've made the decision to "retire" Audion after nearly 5 years of wonderful service.

. . .

Q. Why did you make this decision?
A. The answer starts with an "i", but there's a lot more to it.

The short answer, obviously, is that it's become increasingly difficult for Audion to compete with iTunes -- a free program, that comes with every copy of Mac OS X, and works quite well for 95% of Mac digital audio users -- and our sales clearly reflect this. While we could pour time and money into making Audion something "more", we're certain the returns would not match the effort.

But, that's the oversimplified answer. There's much more to the story. In order to explain it fully -- and if you want to understand the true thought behind this decision -- I've taken the time to write the (ridiculously lengthy) "True Story Of Audion".

http://www.panic.com/extras/audionstory/

The last few paragraphs explain fully the rationale behind this decision. But the full story contains all sorts of interesting things, such as how Audion almost became iTunes (!), how we almost became an AOL / Time Warner company, and our how Apple boardroom meeting with Steve Jobs went.

If you're an Audion fan, or a Panic historian, I promise it's worth your time to read the whole thing.

Truly the end of an era, but not one unforeseen. Let's doff our caps, silence our copies of iTunes out of respect, and acknowledge the contribution that Sasser and Panic have made over the years in holding high the banner of the true Mac faithful, the ones who begrudge Apple no co-opting of their rightful market share, and who yet adhere uncomplainingly to Apple's vision of the computing experience. It takes a stronger man—some would say, a more brainwashed one—but, some might also say, one who sees further than I.

Besides which, apparently there's a bug in iTunes. A really fat one.

PS. Read the Audion Story. Seriously. It's good.

Kinda like a Homestar Runner narrative.


12:04 - IANA-Security-Expert

(top)
Apparently the stink over Diebold voting system software is making a new set of rounds. I had an e-mail forwarded to me with a request for a voice-of-reason commentary from a technical perspective; the problem is that I don't know my facts well enough to be sure my response held water.

Here's the original e-mail, in part:

News Update from Citizens for Legitimate Government
November 10, 2004
http://www.legitgov.org/

http://www.legitgov.org/index.html#breaking_news

Diebold Source Code!!! --by ouranos (dailykos.com) "Dr. Avi Rubin is
currently Professor of Computer Science at John Hopkins University. He
'accidentally' got his hands on a copy of the Diebold software
program--Diebold's source code--which runs their e-voting machines.
Dr. Rubin's students pored over 48,609 lines of code that make up this
software. One line in particular stood out over all the rest:
#defineDESKEY((des_KEY8F2654hd4" All commercial programs have
provisions to be encrypted so as to protect them from having their
contents read or changed by anyone not having the key... The line that
staggered the Hopkins team was that the method used to encrypt the
Diebold machines was a method called Digital Encryption Standard
(DES), a code that was broken in 1997 and is NO LONGER USED by anyone
to secure programs. F2654hd4 was the key to the encryption. Moreover,
because the KEY was IN the source code, all Diebold machines would
respond to the same key. Unlock one, you have them ALL unlocked. I
can't believe there is a person alive who wouldn't understand the
reason this was allowed to happen. This wasn't a mistake by any
stretch of the imagination."

That site (legitgov.org) is quite an eye-popper. (Check it out and see... whoof.) That in itself makes one wonder, as does the fact that I couldn't find this topic as a front-page post in any of the past three days at DailyKos.com; but we're talking about the specific charge here of the DES encryption being intentionally crippled. So here's my response that I sent:

Apparently the "F2654hd4" thing is legit. There has been commentary on this for a while now, dating back to at least February of this year.

One has to look, though, at what exactly the risks are that are involved with this code. What we're talking about is, essentially, broken encryption. A malicious outsider, in order to change voting results, would have to simultaneously gain control of all the voting machines in the country-- note, by the way, that these are not networked or available via the Internet or anything-- and install some kind of output-modifying Trojan.

I appeal once more to Occam's Razor: if someone were so nefarious as to hijack all these voting machines (which are hardly used in a large portion of the US-- their deployment is still quite limited, and mostly in urban areas that turned out blue anyway), why would they allow voting to be so close? What good is an evil genius plan to subvert technology if it's no more effective than a lurid headline on Election Eve?

The main reason I have a hard time taking any of this stuff seriously is that the final popular vote turned out to pretty closely reflect the pre-election polls, or actually to be rather closer than most (which showed a pretty consistent Bush lead by 4-5%). If there were a huge discrepancy, or a reversal in outcome from the polls to the election, then it would be suspicious. But if the election is one data point, the polls are a whole bunch more, and they all would seem to agree. To suggest that the election results were wrong is to suggest that the polls were also similarly wrong, and necessarily for quite different reasons. To suggest that the tampering occurred in Ohio suggests that whoever did the tampering knew beforehand that Ohio would be the deciding state, just as with Florida in 2000. Too much implausibility.

Now, you'll get no argument from me that voting machines are a big risk to the very core of our democracy. Any security expert would be horrified at the very *concept* of voting machines, simply because they have no paper trail, no way for the voter to audit them. At my polling place, they activated a card with my voter ID on it, which I stuck into the machine to start the process; when it was done, it told me it had written out the data to the machine's internal hard drive and to internal paper tape. But how do I know what it's written? It's not like I have a punch-card in my hand where I can line up the holes and tell what number I punched out, or a box with a #2 pencil X in it next to the name of my guy. It's all faith with these machines: faith that the names I voted for are the ones that are eventually, after many transformations of physical media and data transmission and encoding, reported to the registrar. There is no assurance of this. None.

However, suppose you're in the shoes of a voter action group after 2000, incensed over hanging chads and the impression that human interaction-- biased or incompetent election officials-- presented an unfair risk to your PAPER ballots, by inadvertently "losing" them, leaving boxes of them in trunks of cars, outright making up numbers for the final tally, et cetera. What kind of voting-machine reform are you going to push for? A return to *more* dependence on paper and human interaction, like in the good old days? Or would you want to latest and greatest cutting-edge technology, one that's seen as a closed black box that humans can't tamper with?

It's that latter impulse that has ended up rushing machines like the Sequoia/Diebold ones onto the market before they'd been properly subjected to auditing. It's possible that the DES flaw shown in the code is the result of just some sloppy programmer's coding, putting in a hard-wired key so that early development testing would work, and then later forgetting to take it out. I know I've done stuff like that in my own code, especially when I'm on a deadline.

But let's be clear about this: the risk of voting machines is in their insidiously reassuring black-box nature. They *seem* like they're immune to human interaction, when in fact they could be little more than interactive Flash games that report nothing at all to anybody, while assuring voters that they voted. It's a far more complex charge to level, and far, far less likely, that there was any kind of malicious tampering that leveraged a flaw in the encryption algorithm to oh-so-subtly tweak the numbers in certain districts so that the results, uh, turned out all over the map, resulting in a very nearly half-and-half split outcome. Again: if you have to assume that the perpetrator is both an evil genius and an incompetent fool, it's not a plausible theory, especially if the results can be explained equally well by NO malfeasance on anybody's part.

I don't like the idea of electronic voting machines becoming the norm in our elections. It reduces accountability and verifiability to an unacceptable degree, for a much less (I think) important increase in convenience for the vote-counters assuming all works correctly. But if they're going to be adopted whether we like it or not, then they MUST be subject to source auditing at the public level. I think that's probably coming in the next few years; certainly the outcries I'm seeing seem to demand it. In the meantime, we have to remember that the results, to be frank, seem to reflect everybody's expected outcome more than any evidence of tampering.

Let's focus on getting these things right so we don't have to go through this again the next time around.

Now, I don't know enough about DES to know how seriously to take these claims. I was quite surprised to see terms being thrown around like "F2654hd4 was the key to the encryption", which sounded incredibly bogus to me; but I googled it and found six pages of scholarly papers on DES and security breakage, many focusing on voting machine software, presumably this same problem. Apparently it's been floating around for some time now, but Snopes has nothing on it.

So what I'm wondering is, what kind of official statements have been made about this, from Diebold or anyone else up the responsibility chain? What's the current analysis from the security-nerd community? Is there any evidence of any kind of preplanned plot to subvert the electoral process inherent in this, or is it a red herring that causes us to lose sight of the real gotchas of dependence on electronic voting? The above Occam's-Razor arguments for skepticism aside, what's the response to this development?

It's best we get this question out into the open, if purely in the interest of pushing for whatever kind of accountability in electronic voting can be gleaned.

UPDATE: Here's the original analysis of the code, from last June, by Avi Rubin et al. Whatever the implications, it seems this has been under discussion for some time. As this guy says, "One thing I’m still not clear about: Are these polling machines actually getting used yet?" If it's the one I voted on, I guess; but I know that those machines were connected to each other only by a daisy-chained power cord. No UTP cable. These things weren't on the Internet, that much is for damn sure.

UPDATE: Frank J's all over this, of course.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
22:58 - It's okay, guys, we forgive you

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Just got this e-mail:

Please re-download our Delicious Library from:
<http://www.delicious-monster.com/download>

We sincerely apologize, but we accidentally left some expiration code from our beta program in the final version of the application you bought, so it stopped working today. We feel horrible about letting you down; we were working night and day the last few days before release and this just slipped through the cracks.

The only good news is that we've been working since our release to fix the biggest problems you've been experiencing, and this new version adds the ability to correctly look up items from other Amazon stores around the globe.

Again, we apologize for inconveniencing you, and we hope we can win back your trust.

Yours,
Wil Shipley and Mike Matas
Delicious Monster Software

Have you ever seen such an unnecessarily contrite message? Like, from anybody?

Guys, you had me at "http://".


15:45 - I'm meeting you halfway, you stupid hippies
http://www.nationalreview.com/ponnuru/ponnuru021103.asp

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I'd never heard anything about Alberto Gonzales, Bush's new nominee for John Ashcroft's Attorney General spot; it's a name that's escaped my attention this whole time. So who is he? Is he worse than Ashcroft, as one might be forgiven for suspecting? Are we on the verge of the Age of the Jackboots?

Well, if this gloomy analysis of his positions by social-conservative NRO editor Ramesh Ponnuru, posted last year when Gonzales was being scoped out for a potential Supreme Court appointment, is any indication, no:

Gonzales opponents say there are two strikes against him. The first is that he weakened the administration's brief to the Supreme Court in the University of Michigan racial-preference cases. Solicitor General Ted Olson wanted the administration to say that the use of racial preferences to achieve diversity is constitutionally impermissible. Gonzales overruled him.

The second strike is Gonzales's record on abortion as a justice of the Texas supreme court. The state had passed a law requiring parents to be notified before a minor could get an abortion. That law, like most parental-notification laws, allowed judges to waive the requirement if observing it could be expected to lead to the abuse of the girl in question. In its first cases dealing with the law, the court read this judicial-bypass provision broadly — so broadly that one dissenter furiously charged that the law had been gutted.

. . .

So far, the White House campaign for Gonzales has found few takers among social conservatives or legal conservatives generally. Some of the former are regularly discussing what to do if Bush nominates Gonzales.

Sounds like a fairly permissive, secular left-centrist to me. How'd he ever get to be legal counsel to Bible-thumping arch-conservative Bush?

UPDATE: Of course, this is likely to come up in the confirmation hearings, ya think?

The White House was undeterred. By Jan. 25, 2002, according to a memo obtained by NEWSWEEK, it was clear that Bush had already decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply at all, either to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. In the memo, which was written to Bush by Gonzales, the White House legal counsel told the president that Powell had "requested that you reconsider that decision." Gonzales then laid out startlingly broad arguments that anticipated any objections to the conduct of U.S. soldiers or CIA interrogators in the future. "As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war," Gonzales wrote to Bush. "The nature of the new war places a —high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians." Gonzales concluded in stark terms: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

Other places where I've found this memo quoted seem to leave out the preamble explaining how the nature of war has changed, and paint Gonzales as a federal-law-circumventing schemer of Ashcroft's projected mold. A case could be made defending what he said in these memos, and I'm sure he'll defend them quite eloquently himself when the time comes. But I guess this won't be such a "peace offering" to the Left as I'd hoped.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004
16:33 - Popular vs. Electoral

(top)
This is kinda interesting. I stuck the electoral vote figures for the fifty states into Excel and did two pie charts: one showing how the relative influences of the states break down if judged purely by population, and another showing what happens (particularly to the smallest slices) once the ratios are adjusted by adding the two Senate seats to each of the states' House seats to come up with the electoral total.



It's like a golfer's handicap: raising the floor a little so everyone is just a little closer to even. Not much. But probably as much as it should be.


13:48 - How to win friends and influence people

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Is anyone else getting this new spam from "GWB@whitehouse.gov"? The one that starts out like this?

From: GWB@whitehouse.gov
Subject: How I stole your election (ha ha ha ha!!!)
Date: November 9, 2004 10:50:25 AM PST
Reply-To: GWB@whitehouse.gov

How I Stole Your Election
by George W. Bush

The first thing I did to steal your election was to make friends with ALL the manufacturers and code-verifyers of the Electronic Voting Machines. They were really nice, especially Diebold who gave me $600,000 for my campaign. Wow, thanks dude!

http://nuclearfree.lynx.co.nz/stealing.htm

Next, I had my attack dog, Karl Rove, convince these companies to either alter the vote totals on the central tabulator machines (simple PCs running windows using Remote Access Server -- RAS), or reprogram (via a downloadable software patch) the voting machines themselves so that they would give the advantage to ME! Isn't America great?!? A little money and some religious zealotry goes a looooong, loooong way. Oh, the religious zealotry thing? That's just a cover. I'm not really a Christian -- or at least I don't act like one. Anyway, I digress.

(I'd link to the whole thing if I could find a copy online, but as yet it appears only to exist in the evanescent medium of e-mail. And on some Comcast virtual-IP machine identifying itself through HELO as "whitehouse756.com", though that's just a rotating identifier that doesn't resolve to anything.)

The silliest thing about this prank is that its perpetrator, now that there isn't an election that he thinks he can influence coming up, is relinquishing all attempts to actually say anything that might change anyone's mind. If Democrats receive this spam, they'll agree with it; and if Republicans receive it, they'll interpret it as yet another excellent demonstration of their opponents' irrationality. I guess maybe the author thinks there's some nonzero chance of getting Bush impeached over something or other if he can make enough people mad enough, but really, how do you top this? I think "mad enough" is a term that gets diluted more with every passing day.

I don't suppose a little study of history would be out of line at this time.

Monday, November 8, 2004
14:30 - Red states, blue states, and blowed-up states
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/

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Whoa. Now this is cool.



How "purple" is the country? Pretty damn purple, it seems. And pretty strange-looking.

Of course, this kind of skew is intended to give a visual representation of the election results as reflected by population, and as such it's a whole lot more sympathetic to the Democrats than other maps, especially the standard old red/blue undistorted state map. But, just as with any kind of cartography, any kind of visual representation is a distortion—you just have to figure out what kind of projection gives the least misleading results.

As best I understand it, the point of the electoral college is to make the election depend not so much on population, but on geographical regions' collective wills, regardless of how populous those regions are. Just as the Senate overstates the importance of sparsely populated states by giving each one two Senators, the House—whose representation is wholly population-based—overstates the impact of populous regions with respect to rural areas. Advocates of a pure popular-vote system would seem to have the interest of fundamental democracy at heart, but there's more to representation than the number of votes a state can cast: there's also the desire to give a farming town of 1,000 a voice that can be heard amid the clamor of cities of millions. So rural areas' importance has to be overstated beyond their raw population numbers.

Hence the electoral college, which gives each state a "weight" based mostly on population, but not quite—the number of Senators and Representatives for each state added together. Some states' importance is barely affected by this (California, New York); others' is as much as doubled (Wyoming, Alaska).

So cartograms like the ones presented at this site are useful, but they're not actually the most accurate representation of electoral will, from the perspective of someone trying to advocate for the overrepresentation of rural areas in the same way that the Senate aims to balance the influence of the House. At one extreme of the axis of interpretation is to show each state according to its population or its electoral vote count, as these cartograms do; at the other extreme is to use the flat geographic map we're all used to. The reality of the nation's will, as designed to be represented by the architects of the electoral college, is somewhere in the middle.

Via James A., writing from Australia, who says:

I'm still seeing similarities between Bush's win and Howard's win a month
before. Howard's win was put down to his promise/scare campaign to keep
interest rates lower than they would be under Labor, which won him the
outer-suburban new homeowner vote, while Labor campaigned on a bunch of
"values" issues, including betraying the timber workers union in Tasmania
(Labor being the traditional party of the workers and unions) which lost
the party two seats in that state alone, but did cement its hold of the
inner-cities. However, the "middle australia is stupid" meme didn't get
much play here, unlike in the US, which implies the US Dems are not going
to be electorally competetive for some time.

Not if it keeps on getting worse now that the election's over.


10:39 - Strong Bad DVD!
http://store.yahoo.com/homestarrunner/dvddvddvd.html

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There's a DVD of all the Strong Bad e-mails!

Is this the happiest day ever, or what?


09:58 - Delicious Library Delicious Library Delicious Library
http://www.delicious-monster.com/download

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