Monday, January 28, 2008

A Fresh SP Emerges

I should really be working on my lexical analyzer for Compilers, but I keep putting off this post because of my work and now there's just too much going on for me to not talk about it. So what is an SP? The Church of Scientology uses that abbreviation for a "Suppressive Person" and is mainly used for antisocial personalities, apparently, whose personalities focus on violence against groups intended for betterment. As you may already know, such a supposed group has emerged call Anonymous, Anon, or Legion. Most of the media prefers Anonymous. They've released 3 videos on YouTube so far, though the second one has been taken down. If you don't know anything about Scientology, I highly recommend this episode of Southpark. It's a surprisingly accurate depiction of what we know about Scientology, minus Kyle being the leader. Anyhow, it's almost pyramid scheme where you have to pay to learn more about the teachings and, because of this, they've gotten testy about people releasing information about the church or their videos not at all afraid to sue and manhandle people into silence.

Well, this hacker group decided that the last straw was when they took down this video from YouTube of Tom Cruise spewing out his nonsense about Scientology. They're pissed about the censorship, they're pissed about all the litigation, and they don't like how they deprive the people they "brainwash" (I put that in quotes because it's not fact, but I believe they do) of certain freedoms and of a lot of money. In fact, there's a lot of people who claim foul play in the death of one of their believers because of signs of undernourishment and physical abuse. In essence, they view the church as an oppressive regime and feel that it must be stopped. I'm fully in support of this, though I've unfortunately had no part in anything they've done. I think it's really ballsy. They're doing what the mass media can't because they can act without identity and get away with what they feel is right.

Does this lead to vigilante justice? Would this degrade our justice system? It's arguable as to how good it is right now. Some people say that the acts they've undertaken are wrong in general. They have committed cybercrimes in staging DoS and DDoS attacks to take down their site and lots of spamming. They have a wiki detailing their goals and such, but I've been trying to give you the synopsis here. These guys are definitely not amateurs though. They're really good at being anonymous and they're even better at Denial of Service; I was really impressed to read how they subverted the church's move to a DoS-safe host (they just filter before forwarding to the real IP of the site) by just finding the real IP and slamming it with requests. Their wiki is a ridiculously detailed explanation on how to do everything: the faxing, the spamming, the prank calls - it's meticulous. These are not a bunch of little kids, they're experienced. I just find it wildly fascinating that this has all come to fruition. Some have commented that they should attack Christianity as well, but I, of course, disagree. Obviously, all organized religions desire money and power, but Christian churches encourage alms giving to the poor and including everyone. I don't need any money to go to church and learn; I do to be scientologist. I was never brainwashed into being a Christian either, it's a choice I made over many years of reflection and learning. And, most importantly, they believe on me seeing a doctor if I'm in physical pain; they don't hang their followers out to dry.

Anyway, that's enough of that topic, I really need to move on. Last week in my Contemporary Issues in CS class we had a guest speaker: Gary Chapman from the 21st Century Project. It was a very interesting talk about how it was started and how it promotes things like using IT to aid in disasters and OLPC and all that stuff. One thing he mentioned that I totally forgot about was that Thursday would be the auction for the 700 Mhz spectrum. That means that we're less than a year from digital transition, where any televisions relying on an antenna for programming (a lot of households, especially lower income households) will have to upgrade or get a converter box to watch TV. Despite it being a leisure, TV has become a pretty big part of our society so this is a pretty big deal because it's really going to happen after years of dilly-dallying from the government. What's more important though is the aftermath. What does winning the spectrum mean? That's still being speculated. The point is to raise over $20 billion (and also keep a small range for emergency services), but now it becomes a game of strategy. AT&T and Verizon want it for longer-range cell phone signals, but Google has their hat in as well. Why? They're trying to force open standards, which would be awesome and is probably in their best interest what with Android and all. Would they physically use it? Would anyone for that matter (they may just not want anyone else to have it)? No one is for certain (except for the big whigs), but Google could trade the spectrum to Sprint (not in the auction) for a piece of the WiMAX pie they have. After all, this spectrum is best for voice, not data. It's kind of an interesting issue and definitely a huge deal. There's going to be a lot about it in the coming months though, so stay tuned for more.

Engadget put up a bulleted clarification of Remote Disc, the add-on for the MacBook Air that promised that having an optical drive was unnecessary. As it turns out though, you can't use it to play commercial DVDs, burn CDs, play music CDs, or rip DVDs among other things. I don't know about you, but that's all I'd really be using an optical drive for anyway. Of course, I don't have a DVD-ROM because this computer is old (but still awesome), but I would rip my DVDs on a laptop to save the power when watching them. Anyway, I think this Remote Disc thing then is totally useless. I don't understand the logic behind it anymore, and the MacBook Air looks even more unattractive from a technical standpoint. Despite the appeal of digital content, it doesn't beat hard copies of stuff for a lot of users. My disappointment has been reflected further in the steep drop in Apple's stock price. It has dipped 30% in just two weeks. That's pretty intense. Steve Jobs alone lost $220 million (unrealized losses, I presume). Will they bounce back? Of course, it's Apple. I'm just shocked at how long this drop is going on for. I guess the market being down is hitting everyone hard and I want to blame that more than just Macworld.

It's getting late, so just a couple of quick, last things. Joel Spolsky put up a great article on reducing your concerns for Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in exchange for just asking the five whys when problems occur to get to the root cause so they don't happen again. It makes a lot more sense than putting your blind faith in ridiculous statistics and backup schemes. IE8 is intending to be the most standards-compliant version of IE to date. The problem that has always plagued IE, however, is backwards compatibility with their old stupidity of horrible standards compliance. It's not that great even today, but it's better than it used to be. This has been a headache for me since I've had to be a site administrator, and a lot of people get so frustrated that they claim their site only works in Firefox, which is not the correct response (though I sorely wish it were). Anyway, their solution back in IE6 was doctype modes: a quirks mode if your site is to be rendered with the old engine and standards for IE6 and IE7 (yeah, it's weird, they're both on the same doctype though they're very different in compliance). Well, now they're doing a meta tag thing. If you have that tag it'll render as an IE8 page, otherwise it'll use an older rendering engine. It's one more pain to deal with, but I prefer it to having to hack things up more and shove IE8 into the standards doctype. It's better than the doctype thing, I think.

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