Archive for October, 2006

Happy halloween!

(In answer to the age-old question, “but can you run linux on it?”)

Okay, there’s no linux kernel running inside the pumpkin, but there IS about 6 MIPS of CPU power in there :-P (6x PIC10F200s = 1 very lifelike, work-safe, flickering un-blow-out-able candle.)

Unusual question from a ‘zine peddler

At work, our engineers occasionally (as in, all the damned time) field calls from marketing folk offering complimentary magazine subscriptions, as seems to be common practice. The magazines are supported by advertisers and at least vaguely related to our fields. EDN. ECN – with the ‘C’ styled to look like the ‘D’ in EDN flipped around backwards. Design News. EE Product News. Network Computing. Analog Insights. Sensors. Government Computing News, The Big Floppy Magazine That Doesn’t Fit On Any Shelf.

We don’t really find time to read them, so they’re mostly Wastes of Trees that they Won’t Stop Sending unless we Bitch Really Loud. I occasionally take the EDNs to the second office and scan through them there, since that time’s kind of wasted anyway. It has some worthwhile articles, and a Dilbert cartoon each month.

Anyway, today I get one of those dreaded magazine callers, all nasal and fast-talking and sounds like she’s on the other end of a really bad VoIP link, wanting to ask A Few Questions*. After the usual “do you specify equipment for…” stuff is out of the way, she asks: “For verification purposes, what color are your eyes?”

Weird verification procedure. I was in the middle of something, so I didn’t try to have any fun with her. But I couldn’t help thinking, “hmm, I like where this is headed…”

* much to my surprise, this one actually did keep it short. Usually A Few Questions have parts Z through ZZZ, and I basically have to offer/threaten them with a picture of my awe-inspiring physique our existing overflowing table of unread magazines to keep them from chiming in with [“but it’s free!” | “this’ll only take a second!” | “it has relavent news and important information!” | “why don’t you want any?” | “what’s your reasoning?”…]

Ranch… and bacon. Together.

To whoever it was that came up with Ranch with Bacon dressing… I could kiss you. Or pin a medal on you. Possibly both.

Comments re-enabled (tim.cexx.org)

For those who have posted comments to my blog, only to see them (or not see them) disappear into the aether, take heart! Comments are active again. I guess they were never technically “disabled”, in the sense that attempting to post comments would return an error; instead of immediately posting they were just held in a queue for moderation, which rather than flag a few dozen spam comments each day for the one valid comment every couple months or so, I just gave up bothering with.

Anyway, the 3-day weekend gave me a chance to do some necessary blog-software-updating and incorporate a spam filter. I’m currently going through the massive backlog of comment spam and approving the valid ones. From here on, comments posted to tim.cexx.org should appear immediately, as long as there’s nothing vaguely suspect about them (e.g. URLs in the body, discussion of poker/pharmaceuticals, posted from an open proxy, etc.). Posters of vaguely suspicious comments might be asked to complete one of those annoying CAPTCHAs before the comment gets posted.

(Comments on the LJ account are of course not affected by any of this; with few exceptions the entire world can post to it anonymously again.)

(And the world wonders what nerds do on their weekends…)

Happy Decemberween!

So, I was in Tar-Chet last weekend. There were Halloween decorations (actually, have been since before my birthday in mid-September) for sale, and right next to them, Christmas decorations. In September. CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS.

Over and out

This has been one of those weeks. I feel like I have about a year’s worth of catching up to do, on work stuff, neglected interpersonal relationships*, technological wizardry on boards and blogs and phones, and 3e+08 other things.

Like the strangers that you’ve met, with eyes that watch the world and can’t forget

Yeah, so… after months of pretty much disavowing my existence, my ex starts contacting me again, all buddy-buddy. I think I’ve heard this song before (different ex, same story), but whatever. Turns out she’s got it in her head that she has “too many enemies” in Boston, and needs to move across the country ASAP. So, since we’re friends, we should hang out together for those last few days and stuff, right? Seemed logical to me at the time, so I agreed. Anyway, a fair amount of this week was spent helping her move, buying dinners (moving is expensive), relocating hamster, driving her around and basically trying to tie up all the loose ends that I could.

Why? Because I’m a dumbass, that’s why. I could tell myself it’s because I’m such a nice guy, or that I can’t let someone I care about (or did?) fend entirely for themselves in no condition to do so, or to live with my distant future conscience, but really, I think I’m probably just a dumbass.

Call me completely out of touch with reality, but I kind of thought after all that, she might have actually looked up from her laptop screen when I said goodbye, knowing that in all likelihood we would never see each other again**. To her credit, she had the decency not to explicitly ask me, after showing up to J.R.’s with one of the guys she cheated on me with, to go half an hour out of my way to drive him home at 1am after his lack of planning caused him to miss the last bus to anywhere near his house by about three hours.

(All right, I’ve ranted here far more than I probably should, because I’ve felt the need to rant lately. I guess personal blog xposting to Livejournal is the appropriate venue for that, though. (All I need now is some emo glasses and an acoustic guitar and I’ll be all set.))

Meet Meat Meet

Last Wednesday I attended my first “munch”. This was kind of interesting, but not entirely what I expected. I did expect it to be sort of a sausage fest, which it was, but I didn’t anticipate everyone seeming so…normal. I was kind of bracing myself for a cacophony of leather, spikes and less-than-subtly scene-attired people talking nasty, but it was really a more subdued thing of political issues and bad puns. (And of many intended to elicit laughter, no pun in ten did.) Most of the group hit up the Cheesecake Factory after, where I tried (American, unfortunately) Kobe beef for the first time. I think I became an instant addict. *drool* *tender* *mouthwatering* *juicy* *drool*

In further effort to satisfy recently-mentioned BBQ cravings, it was planned to BBQ with LE and the gang this sunday. When I woke up though, it was kind of thundery-looking out, and then raining like a bitch by the time I got out of the shower. So we went out and got some food and Pictionary instead. LE got me a giant stickybun in retaliation for the Father’s Day cake, and we all had a fun evening of Pictionary, Mortal Kombat, Smash Bros and confusing their hamster. “Hmm, if I can’t solve it, I’ll try gnawing on something, that always works.” :) Also met their new housemate and her pet bunny, which is the cutest bunny ever. Apparently bunnies and hamsters don’t get along, though. (Especially if hamster thinks bunny’s trying to scavenge its food.)

r00tkit hunting for bits & giggles

The last few days have found me thinking in way more hex/binary/etc. at work than I’ve really wanted to. Today regrinding someone’s custom font format (Rockbox RB12 to C18 object module) and writing an LCD character generator, writing memory-efficient pulse generators for a chip that can only store a program 255 instructions long, and researching Windoze rootkits and their detection for an upcoming proposal. Looked more in-depth at one called Blue Pill, which would appear to foil most, if not all, software-based scanning implementations. In short: to get kernel access for your non-privileged code under Vista, just suck up tons of memory until Windows gets desperate enough to page a piece of a privileged driver out to the swapfile. Overwrite that piece of the swapfile with your malicious code, then do something (network / device access, etc.) that uses the driver. It gets paged back in and executed with kernel privileges. On a CPU that supports virtualization, your malicious code can consist of a ‘hypervisor’ taking advantage of the hardware virtualization features to exist completely outside of, and undetected by, the host OS. There are hardware methods that can be used to sniff for stuff like this, but it’s still nontrivial.

* this is just talking and writing to all the people I owe calls/emails to, and hanging out with all the people I promised I’d hang out with. There is definitely an inverse correlation between having friends and getting stuff done. OTOH, I guess this is a far preferable situation to those reclusive scientists and mathematicians who make a series of contributions in their fields, then kill themselves.

** there was some idle BS talk about visiting one another, etc., while the rides and shopping stuff were in-process. Now that I can be of no further service, however, I don’t expect to ever hear from her again. And as previously mentioned, I don’t exactly have any great desire to initiate contact myself.

Ok, I can dye my hair blue now

A couple days ago I was talking to someone, and the subject of proper interview / work attire came up. Of course, there’s a difference between “proper” and “what one can get away with”…the latter being a function of indispensibility. I quipped (not for the first time) that I could dye my hair blue if I wanted, because, what are they going to do, fire me?

Anyway, a new month just started so the usual round of engineering hour allocations began. (This is where project managers say, e.g. “This month I’m going to need our machinist for 16 hours, analog guru for 40, 21st Century Digital Boy for 40”, etc., total up all the hours for each engineer / project and rejigger them as necessary to use everyone’s time efficiently.) That afternoon I got CC’ed on an email from DG, veep of engineering, stating that I’d been “overrequested” by about 100 hours (in a ~140 hour work month). Ya, I think I can try that blue hair now :)

Tufts: Manic Street Pizzas

I got a chance to test out my antilock brakes yesterday. I was driving to work a different way than usual due to road-closed construction, and came across this. Or more technically, screeched to a halt in front of it as some Tufts freshman chick appeared on the street from out of nowhere behind a parked SUV. Click on the link, then follow College Ave northish-bound as it hooks to the right and passes by the Tufts campus before intersecting Boston Ave.

See the crosswalk there, just north/east of the bend? You can, because this is an overhead view. However, when you’re driving in a car and not a satellite, it is not smart to put a crosswalk just around a blind curve at the top of a hill. I would go one further and say that allowing cars to park right up to the edge of it–such that motorists can’t see pedestrians at all (or vice versa) until they’re halfway across the lane–isn’t a good idea, either.

(As for the deer-meets-headlights “what, you mean streets have cars on them?” look on the Tufts girl’s face, I’m not even getting started on that.)