A look back at the past…

Written by  on October 2, 2018

Since politics seem to be what everybody talks about right now, I thought it would be interesting to point out stuff not political that might be of educational value.

Something people take for granted in {$Current_Year} is their computers and the internet itself. A handful of people are widely known as pioneers for the modern age of computers, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Tim Berners-Lee and others. However tons of people have contributed to creating what people use daily and are not as widely known.

Some people of note:

Dale Heatherington and Dennis Hayes – Created the first PC modem, the 80-103A. Their company (Hayes Microcomputer Products) created the command set for modems that’s still used to this day.

Dennis Ritchie (who died at the same time as Steve Jobs and didn’t get as much media attention) – Invented the C programming language and created the UNIX operating system with colleague Ken Thompson. The C Programming language (in various variants) is used for creation of several software products widely used today. The technology created from the UNIX operating system is used in several computer operating systems to this day.

Vint Cerf – designed the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), which is the primary data protocol used on the internet today.

Gary Kildall – Created one of the first programming languages for the Intel 8088 and 8080 processors, PL/M. He also created one of the first OSes for that processor, CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers). CP/M would later be copied by other companies using its reference material, one of which was Seattle Computer Products. That company would later license its OS, 86-DOS to Microsoft to be sold as MS-DOS.

There’s tons of other people out there, these are just ones that I know of from memory. Out of the ones on the list, I’ve been doing research the most on CP/M and its creator, Gary Kildall. In 2019, CP/M will be 45 years old, and mostly if not forgotten by nearly everyone.

A concern of mine is people not wanting to learn where what they use daily came from, or if they do come across information, see what was done and consider it inferior to today. In modern terms, it is technologically inferior, however things take time to build up and develop over time. So take some time, go look up one of those names and start from there. You might learn something new.



An Ode to the former web

Written by  on July 21, 2018

Depending on where you’ve gone on the internet the past couple of years, you might have encountered this image:

For me, that actually does seem to have validity. Older people who have been online since its inception in the early 90s also have their own opinions, eg. “Eternal September”. Think back for a moment, when was the last time you randomly browsed a site other than a social media site (also include Reddit into this also)?

Okay, now don’t count news sites. At most, you probably visit only a few sites when browsing, most of which are related to social media or a large corporation such as Amazon or Google. Maybe also a news site or two.

A poster on Reddit which I screenshotted several years ago (around 2013) summarizes it perfectly:

Reddit post about internet history of the previous decade

Personally for me, I’ve had an internet connection of some sort since 1999.  I recall joining forums as a kid in the 2002-2003 time frame which linked me with tons of like minded people, you could come across websites that people generated, although some were on Geocities (I was one with a Geocities site) where people spent time crafting up informative and educational content, jokes, entertainment or some made their own computer programs or games.

Earliest thing I can remember was playing some browser based games that took a while for each page to load due to my family’s dial up connection back in the day. I wished I could remember the name of it, although like most things back then, it probably was either absorbed into a larger company or they just shut down.

When I really started spending time online was the day I had enough  money saved up to buy my own modem. My parents had two phone lines in the house, one of which was for my dad’s job. If he did something work related, I was forced to disconnect and I’d go do something else. We also had just moved to a new place and I was enrolled in a high school where I did not fit in like I used to.  My younger self was slightly more of an outdoor person, I’d go camping with friends, sometimes in the dead of winter just to see if we could tolerate sub zero temperatures. When we moved, I started dealing with depression due to various things happening in the new school I moved to, I didn’t have friends, and most people despised me. It took until my senior year and when I finally was walking away from that place for that to change.

I was a fan of the cartoon “Ed, Edd, n Eddy” in middle and high school, as it reminded me of my old friendships before my family moved. One of the first independent things I ended up doing was finding fan sites related to it. There were several, and lots of places wrote fan fiction related to the show. I joined in with those, making my own Geocities site and publishing several I made myself. I kind of considered publishing those here again in the future, however reading a few the last time I looked, made me incredibly embarrassed. I also did Star Trek fan fiction and was a part of fan sites related to it also.

Some time passed and I spread out to other things, such as games and other topics. My computer was a fairly old machine so I never had a chance to play a lot of the top of the line games. I started with a 486DX2 with 32MB of ram running Windows 3.11 in 2000 and then upgraded to a Pentium 233 with 64MB of ram  running Windows 98 in 2002. Trying to figure out ways to make money as a younger teenager I decided to start reading up on how to fix machines. I routinely reinstalled Windows on my computer, saving my files on ZIP disks back then as I got a drive and a pile of diskettes for free. I eventually found my way to computer forums and finally found places to fit in. I could remember having tons of browser windows open, posting and reading posts from various forums.

I eventually made enough money to build myself a new desktop, a Pentium 4 with 512MB of ram and a top of the line graphics card. Because Windows XP required activation, I didn’t want to bother pirating it over dialup so I managed to get a copy of Windows 2000 on CD for free (I actually got it from a dumpster dive). I used that machine until I bought a laptop in college since I was always traveling. During that time, I joined forums, IRC networks and played games with likeminded people. There was one forum I was a part of for well over 10 years until certain actions caused me to part ways. I found my first girlfriend via forums back during then, and she only lived 45 minutes from me. I still remember when I finally met her in person for the first time and the fun we had that evening hanging out. I ran small websites and forums with some people and generally had a place to withdraw from when I had issues with my school life. I generally think that the internet in that form kept me from doing something insanely stupid or possibly ending my own life due to depression I was dealing with.

What’s this have to do with the present day internet? A lot of things. The internet as a whole is not like it was in the 90’s, or even the 00’s.  With everything centralized, and everyone using their real names, there’s no longer any escapism that used to be there. You can’t have a conversation that’s questionable and can make you think as easily anymore. People can track you down and haunt you for any action you make now. Not as many people actually create content anymore, it’s all consumed. Discussion is controlled now only through a handful of people. Although ads are significantly less annoying, everything tracks you and datamines you for their profit.

The internet was tamed and colonized.  And that’s a sad thing.

Predictions (2016)

Written by  on October 6, 2016

I always wanted to finish a collection of stories in which I had plots set up for many years, with the motivation for me to dedicate time to finish them being fairly low. Space Junk is a good story which is an example. Even though I have several chapters basically done, I never gotten around to publish them or end up revising them several times over before I even get to them to the point I wanted to publish.
Even though I never bothered getting them out the door, I’ll spoil a part of a plot of that for this post.
I predicted in 2007 with one of the latter chapters of Space Junk the following:

  • Hilary Clinton would be President of the United States in the future.
  • A US President afterwards in the future would be some multi billionaire that would be self centered and drive the country further into the ground with the previous one. I think I named the guy Robert Docshea. (Think of his last name being synonymous with “douche”.)
  • There would be some mechanism that if you posted ideas counter to the established train of thought given by media organizations you will end up punished, either with social or civil penalties. This might be enforced by an AI or by people who think they have moral superiority, but in fact were brainwashed by powers in control.
  • The three main characters would end up having to use darknet (think I2P or TOR) to have conversations with likeminded people online.
  • Cell phones, cable boxes, and other internet connected devices will constantly blast advertisements to people based on their discussions.

I tried to design this with what I was seeing going on in 2007 with the advent of social media, economic issues and laws being proposed. This was before Obama was nominated by the Democratic Party to run for President of the United States. After that occurred, I assumed Clinton would probably run again in the future. I apparently was correct on that as she is currently the Democratic Nominee for President in 2016. Not bad for a kid in college at the time.

I’ve been taken a bit by surprise by my second prediction coming to the front at the same time as the first one. I’m not sure what to say about Trump honestly at this point, I get the impression of a snake oil salesman, however at the same time the unfiltered personality of him does seem to bring a bit of fresh air into politics that I never have seen my whole life.

Looking at the media and how they’re painting him, it’s a total smearjob on him 24/7. I get the impression the media will end up regretting that somehow in the future as everyone I talk to on both sides alike assume that any publicity, even negative, is good publicity. Clinton on the other hand, actually scares me to an extent.  Certain things she says give me the impression that the US will yet again end up in another war in the Middle East, which I personally think is pointless.

I’ve been paying attention to the whole gamergate/anti-SJW (Social Justice Warrior, aka social media mobs) movements going on. I’ve always wanted to write something up on the whole issue the entire time it’s been going on, but have sat on the fence and couldn’t agree with them or the other side of the issue.  I do see a lot of social media outrage on Trump’s comments and I get the feeling a lot of people getting annoyed with the outrage mobs will side with Trump. The US election is in a few weeks and we will likely see what happens.

On another note, the outrage mobs are getting annoying enough I might do a parody of them on here for kicks eventually.

Changes coming up

Written by  on January 15, 2016

I’ve decided that after having to reset this place a handful of times so far due to getting nailed by zero day exploits coming from Russia and China that I will be moving this platform off of WordPress to something else. I seem to do more janitorial work on the backend than I do actually writing anything because of this platform. I’ve yet to decide on what platform, I even debated returning to just a static layout that I had previously on older projects that this blog came from. Likely if push comes to shove, I’ll write my own platform, although my web design skills are over 10 years out of date now.

In the past 6 months, this site has gone two server migrations in the process. Currently we’re running on a machine running Devuan Linux.  I wasn’t a fan of the way Debian (or some of the other mainstream Linux distributions) was going and after toying with OpenBSD for a while I decided to try and stick to something I’m familiar with.  I will be rolling out SSL on this server and make it mandatory within the week likely.

Also looking back at some of the stuff I wrote myself, I think I might revisit a few topics, mainly since my views on a few things have changed since then.

Also, anyone have forms of motivation to finish a 12 year old book that’s had its entire plot designed out but not fully written?

An Example of Over-reactions

Written by  on June 6, 2015

Something that gets noticed a lot is when people jump to conclusions right off the bat when it comes to breaking news. Even though not all of the information is out there or the situation hasn’t been fully evaluated yet, people always jump to a conclusion based off a few headlines. All humans are basically guilty of this, it’s part of human nature.

I’ve ran into a few different and odd situations where people’s conclusions put the people around them into rather dangerous situations. An example of this occurred with me several years ago when the auto industry in the US was bailed out.  Around that time, I and a few of my college classmates were about to celebrate our 21st birthdays. Just for kicks, we took a trip down to a local bar in a busy part of town that had quite a few places in terms of nightlife. Since most of us lived far enough away that it would require someone to drive, one of us who was yet to be 21 had to drive us there, and from that place after we were done, we were planning on going to my apartment to finish studying for a midterm that was going to happen at the end of the week. Seeing that it was a Monday, the four of us doubted that the area was going to be packed, excluding a lot of frat/sorority people who never went to class and just spent their entire college career drunk.

So we picked a random bar, it was a sports bar, and it was nearly 6pm that afternoon when we went in there. As we expected, the place was rather empty, except for a few guys, one of which looked like your stereotypical redneck you’d see if you do a images search for “redneck”.

This place had quite a few television sets all over the place. The barkeeper had one of them on a broadcast TV station, one of your big four stations that do their 6pm local news and then their 6:30pm national newscast. I think this was NBC, a channel I couldn’t stand due to their views on file sharing and tech. Now that I think about it, I still can’t stand them.

So they go on about talking about the auto bailout, and how GM was going to be getting a ton of money to stay afloat. We were already sitting a few seats away from two of the redneck guys who looked like they were slightly buzzed or drunk already. I think they were construction workers or something. One of the redneck guys turned to us, and starts saying:
“Whoever disagrees with that bailout is supporting communism.”

Now, a rough definition of Communism is as follows: An economic system where the state controls the means of production. The United States doesn’t technically fit that definition, the opposite system is a Lessie-faire (free-market) system in which the state doesn’t manage any means of economic function, except for levying taxes. The United States isn’t a total free-market system but isn’t a communist system either as regulations and restrictions on certain functions exist. One of my friends at this bar had this going on in his head and decided to rebuke the redneck guy.

If I recall, his comment was something like: “Um, that’s not communism. The government owning shares in a company and having a controlling stake is more communism than isn’t.”

This redneck guy immediately flips his lid and gets angry. Next thing that happened is the guy is pointing a handgun at us, starting to yell at us about how we were communists and kids don’t know anything about how the world works. At that point, I think all of us were nervous we’d get shot by this drunk guy and that would be the end. The guy behind the bar though had a different reaction. Before anyone could react, he jumped the bar and ripped the gun away from the guy and pointed it back at the redneck’s head. Later we’d learn the guy was an ex-navy seal or something like that who also taught MMA fighting on the side besides his bartending job. While the drunk was stuck in that chokehold with his own gun pointing to his head, the bartender decided to give him an lecture on economics. The police arrived about twenty minutes later and arrested the guy.

So what does this story have to do with overreactions?

It seems that lately, there’s always a social media outrage with people having a mob mentality jumping to conclusions before all facts are known. A good example is that one dentist who traveled to Africa to go hunting, following all laws even with a guide and killed a lion. Even though it seems that is acceptable on that side of the world on what he did, the rest of society in the west decided to grab pitchforks and do everything they can to destroy that guys reputation with comments like “how dare you kill that animal”. This has been happening more and more it seems and it seems only a matter of time before some people get so numb to the outrage that they will cycle outrage mobs as much as they can to cause even more issues. This can even possibly start causing loss of life the way it’s going.

This is something I kind of want to follow more going into the future as this has gotten more and more common with the growing presence of social media. Maybe it’ll be story worthy.