Conversation with a Two Year Old

Jillian: Daddy?
Me: Yes?
Jillian: Dora sings Camel Walk.
Me: She does?
Jillian: Mmm-hmm.  And Benny sings Icculus.  And Tico sings Timber Ho.  And Isa sings Mockingbird.
Me: Really? What about Boots?
Jillian: Boots sings…. Timber Ho.
Me: Who sings Harpua?
Jillian: Uh… Cinderella.
Me: Cinderella sings Harpua? What does Sleeping Beauty sing?
Jillian: Icculus.


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Deadliest Warrior, Season 2

This week, SpikeTV unleashed the new season of Deadliest Warrior, a show that pits two historical warriors head-to-head in an attempt to test their skills and weapons to declare one deadliest.  Last season, I was turned on to the show and immediately was in love with the concept.  Even the two hosts, even more likable once you get to know them a little better by following their Twitter streams[1], have become familiar and part of the fun.

Last year,  we got some very interesting, if fairly uneven, matchups.  When we investigated battles like Viking vs Samurai, Pirate vs Knight, and Spartan vs Ninja, we learned about how the advent of steel affected strength and effectiveness of weaponry.   When we watched Shaolin Monk vs Māori Warrior, we got not only to learn about warriors that were a little lesser known, but also got to see some brutal weaponry.

The Season 2 premiere pitted SWAT against the German counter-terrorism group GSG9. Unfortunately, this episode was a letdown for me. The problem is not the show or the hosts, but rather, the premise. How can you suggest that one warrior is better than the other based on weapons, when clearly, the same weapons are available to both?

Case in point: the GSG9 carried the H&K G36 mid-range weapon and noted its carbon fiber body made it light. They also noted the pump action Remington 870 was a pump acton gun used for its reliability, even in extreme cold. Both of those were strategic decisions. But the show gave the edge to SWAT both times, first for the fraction-of-a-second speed difference and higher caliber bullet (entirely discounting the additional kickback) and second for the few-seconds speed difference, ignoring the reliability.   If the GSG9 felt the other guns were better guns, they’d have simply used the same guns as SWAT.  So the DW gang ignored all of the worthwhile comparison in favor of examining the weapons under very specific circumstances.  The GSG9 may very likely have prevailed, and completely so, given some of the extreme circumstances for which they were prepared where SWAT might have been simply stranded.

Also, as far as I could tell, the GSG9’s training was never factored in. SWAT is an awesome infantry, and I’m sure many of them are very skilled. But the missions the GSG9 face in Germany would never be relegated to SWAT in the US, it would probably be an FBI special task force or even something more like military special forces.   Boiling these two forces down to just their weapon choices was a massive over-distillation of the facts: it didn’t test the deadliest warrior at all, it just tested the weapons.  I feel the the DW gang just plain old got this one wrong.

But usually, I’m pretty satisfied.  Sure, the “edge” awarded is totally unscientific (e.g. “this one is 1/8″ closer, so this weapon has the edge”), but the number of simulations and the tests themselves are generally enthralling enough and the attack methods and damage done is so interesting, it’s easy to overlook the gaps in the process.  Anyone who really studies a show like Mythbusters is going to be able to spot 100 issues with the conclusions too, so I’m apt to give DW a pass at some of the smaller leaps.  The outcome is less important than the tests anyway, and the tests are almost always great on high speed.

The less modern, non-team comparisons are much more fun. There is really is about the ingenuity of the weapons and the fighting tactics. Knights, for example, had to contend with the weight of their armor but carried heavy swords. Compare that, say, to ninjas who had no armor but a dramatically different set of weapons and training.   Pirates we know had scary-deadly weapons, but they were by-and-large notoriously unreliable. That type of comparison makes for a much more interesting head-to-head.

Fortunately, this season’s match ups are much more historical in nature and less modern-day-warrior toe-to-toe.  I’m especially looking forward to Vlad The Impaler vs. Sun Tzu and Persian Immortal vs. Celt. These matches will pit warriors who had the benefits of centuries of weapon advancement, but not modern technology or mass availability. I’m really looking forward to seeing how things pan out. If you get a chance, Deadliest Warrior is on Spike and SpikeHD on Tuesdays.

[1] Max Geiger and Geoff Desmoulin are the hosts, and both are down-to-earth and fan-responsive on Twitter.

Update: Show host @geoffdesmoulin tweets: “Just read it! Its solid BUT ive 2 disagree w/ U. Look up the World SWAT Challenge & U’ll C GSG-9 only won once vs US SWAT!!” and points us to his follow up blog entry here:

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One Month

Baby Schein #2 was one month old yesterday.  Very busy several weeks.  I’ll be writing more shortly, including a review of Deadliest Warrior and hopefully, if I get around to it, a bit on why I think Steve Jobs is more evil and much more dangerous than Bill Gates ever was.


Apple's Future is Exciting

Sayeth Steve Jobs:

You know, there’s a porn store for Android. Anyone can download them. You can, your kids can. That’s just not a place we want to go.

But then, there’s this:

What is that? It’s the Porn Store for iPhone, aka “The App Store.” Get real. Apples doesn’t want you to run Apps because they want full control of the revenue the iPhone generates downstream. That’s it. It’s not about privacy, it’s not about children, it’s not about anything other than corporate strategy. And I predict it WILL come back to bite Apple in the butt.

Then there’s the now infamous section of the iPhone 4.0 SDK that bans the use of non-native apps on the iPhone.  But let’s get real, shall we? As Gruber said, this is about only one thing: once the apps are portable, the device lock-in is compromised.  It’s not about multi-tasking, although, there’s probably truth in that, it’s not about new APIs, although, there’s probably truth in that too.  But it’s about corporate strategy: keep people on Apple products in the Apple ecosystem.

Let’s not forget that Adobe has built its CS5 master suite with a new feature it’s been proudly touting: the ability to compile Flash apps as iPhone binaries.  So they are the ones with egg on their face since that feature is simply pointless now.

If I were Adobe, after the peak of sales after the release of CS5, I’d announce that it’s the last Adobe suite to be released for Mac.  No more Photoshop, no more Lightroom, no more Illustrator.  Maybe even cut off Adobe Air.  You could pretty rapidly destroy the enterprise presence for Apple, as people decide if they want to keep working on Macs, given the lack of true enterprise quality tools.   It would be an interesting corporate strategy. (Update: They say nope.)

If I were Apple, I wouldn’t worry too much.  Businesses are now a small subset of Apple users, who are, more and more, college students and home users.  And those users would rather buy iWork, and maybe a few more apps Apple wasn’t producing (such as Office or Pixelmator).  No big loss, right? Or is it…?

Once Apple loses the “it’s better for graphics” thing, then it might be labelled “not for serious work.”  Microsoft runs some ads pushing a new image: Macs are okay for home use, but you need Windows to do any real work.  And then “real workers” start switching back to Windows at home.  Maybe.  But it would make for a grand corporate strategy.

It’s interesting that once again, the computing landscape is full of action.  I can’t wait to see how Apple behaves in the next few years.  It may well deliver some of the best software ever.  Then again, soon enough, I might be using Windows 8, an Android phone, and an HP Slate. Either way, the future is exciting.

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Phish Tickets

Yesterday, I scanned in dozens and dozens of old concert ticket stubs. Phish, when you order via their “mail order” system (now an “online ticketing system”), often provided custom designed tickets. Here are a few fun ones. Click on any thumbnail for a full size view.

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I’ve Been Hacked! WP-Lytebox Sucks

Hacking WordPressThis is the third time I’ve had to spent serious time “fixing” WordPress.  Say what you will about my old “Small Axe” or “Flip” solutions, but I never had a problem.  With WordPress, I have found regular issues.

This time, I traced the problem back to wp-lytebox, and I’m ashamed to say I’ve had to fix the same problem before.  It all started when I couldn’t load the post page in the backend of  Digging in, I eventually found a file called sys.php in the root of the site, and it listed the contents of my site and had a form that allowed someone to add a page, chmod a page, or delete a page.  Killer!

I found that it was defaulting to /path/to/WP/wp-includes/plugins/wp-lytebox, and sure enough, digging into that directory revealed several other fun scripts, all of which gave someone the ability to access all the files on my site.  Fun!

I found that I already had replaced this plugin before, so I decided to get rid of it altogether, this now proving it wasn’t a misconfiguration, but rather, a problem with the wp-lytebox itself.

In this process, however, I was unable to fix my issue.  Visiting /wp-admin/post-new.php still rendered only a page footer, and nothing more.

So I starting fooling around in my directories looking for files that had been modified more recently than when I did my 2.9.2 upgrade.  One of the files? My .htaccess file.

This be odd,” I thought to myself, “I’ve changed this not, methinks.

Sure enough, there was a rogue line within: RewriteCond ^/default/$ /wp-admin/includes Huh?

I dug into that folder, and the .htaccess file there was recent too? It’s contents? DefaultIndex users.php

Of course, I immediately opened users.php and found, as you might have guessed, a bunch of Russian crap. Savvy WP hackers will know, it’s not a real file, there is no users.php in the real wp-admin/includes directory.

I also found a folder that had two large files, both named core.XXXX where XXXX was a 4 digit number, and a massive 40 MB error_log.  Yikes.

I thought I had everything cleaned out, and I truly believed that the way in was wp-lytebox.  Then I found this.  And sure enough, all of the listed files were compromised.  So I nuked all the files, and replaced them all.  D’oh!

So, if you’re arriving via Google or Bing or Yahoo!, do NOT use wp-lytebox.

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Lost: Directions for a Friend

For those of you who haven’t seen tonight’s Lost yet, fair warning: spoilers ahead.

We heard Jacob tell Hurley that a friend was trying to find the Island.  And who found the Island? Widmore.

The natural question to ask is: is Widmore really a good guy, or is Jacob really a bad guy?

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AT&T Suckage

AT&T’s network has improved dramatically in the last year or so.  I’ve been really happy with them lately.  So it pissed me off a little extra today when I called to get a number blocked and got this nonsense for a response: a non-English speaking person with a phone number one digit off from me continues to call and leave me long rambling voice mails, over and over and over.  So I called and asked to have the number blocked, and you know what they told me? They can’t do it.  They can’t block a number.

Except, they can. They can block the number, but only for $4.99 a month.

So I’m forced to have the phone ring endlessly or take their “recommended resolution.”  You know what that is? I can change my number.

Hey, AT&T? Unacceptable.

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