Today in Mechanical Screensaver news:

Lego Flip-Dot Display:


Attn Netik: I have solved out Snarkatron problem.

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Lesser-Known Trolley Problem Variations

Lesser-Known Trolley Problem Variations

The Meta-Ethical Problem:

There's an out of control trolley speeding towards Immanuel Kant. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley's path so it hits Jeremy Bentham instead. Jeremy Bentham clutches the only existing copy of Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. Kant holds the only existing copy of Bentham's The Principles of Morals and Legislation. Both of them are shouting at you that they have recently started to reconsider their ethical stances.

The Cancer Caper:

There's an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. Three of them are cannibalistic serial killers. One of them is a brilliant cancer researcher. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley's path so it hits just one person. She is a brilliant cannibalistic serial killing cancer researcher who only kills lesser cancer researchers. 14% of these researchers are Nazi-sympathizers, and 25% don't use turning signals when they drive. Speaking of which, in this world, Hitler is still alive, but he's dying of cancer.

The Ethics Teacher:

There's an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. You are on your way to teach an ethics class and this accident will make you extremely late. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley's path so it hits just one person. This will make you slightly less late to your class.

The Surrealist Version:

There's an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. You have the ability to pull off your head and turn it into a Chinese lantern. Your head floats into the sky until it takes the place of the sun. You look down upon the planet. It is as small as the eye of a moth. The moth flies away.

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coins

If we have to have coins, why do they have to be round? They should just be little heads.

I couldn't find the source of this. Image search failed me.

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DNA store logins

Let me say up front that I'm not particularly asking for advice here, more just whining out loud. Because where I have questions, I think I know the answers to those questions and the answers are unpleasant.

So DNA Lounge has an online store, where we sell tickets to all of our events (we sell a lot of those), and a tiny amount of physical merch (like, a handful of shipments a month).

The store is a giant pile of PHP code that started out as the online store for Unspun Records in like 1997 or something. John and I have been beating on this pile of shit ever since, and we've made it pretty secure, but it's still a pile of shit and every time I have to touch it, part of me dies inside.

But we operate our own store because giving a percentage of your sales to someone else just to process checkouts for you is a sucker move.

It's a pile of shit, but it's our pile of shit.

Anyway, our checkout page is pretty damned simple: calendar event page → put a ticket in your cart → checkout → enter CC, email, billing address → receive candy.

It doesn't do all kinds of jQuery alpha-fades and slide things around on you, like you uppity kids enjoy so much these days, but it works and it's easy to understand.

But wouldn't it be nice if we had the option to save all of that for you, and not make you enter your card and addresses every time? Yeah, it would. Fun fact: internally, Amazon used to refer to the "one click checkout" button as "The Money Vacuum".

So, you know what I don't want to do? Write a login and user management system. Because it needs, at a bare minimum to be useful in this modern world: create/edit saved CC, shipping and billing addresses, email; verify email addresses any time they change; change passwords; emailed password reset tokens; login throttling; log in with Facebook; prompt for all the extra info that Facebook doesn't provide; oh, and the knowledge that the Facebook API gets rewritten from scratch every two years.

I mean, none of that is rocket surgery, but man, I really just don't wanna.

So about a year ago, someone suggested "PHP-Login" as something that might be relatively small and easy to integrate with our existing pile of shit. I looked at it for a minute, and the feature list sounded pretty nice, but the thought of digging through someone else's PHP code and deciding if I thought it was secure enough to trust my own store with it sounded really unpleasant, so I left it on my todo list and ignored it for another year.

Well the other day I came back to it for a second look, and guess what? In true Open Sores style, since the last time I looked at this project, it has been rewritten from scratch! You didn't see that coming, did you? Yeah. You did. You really did. So now it's called "Huge", which is about the least confidence-inspiring name imaginable.

So I'm reading through the README, hoping against hope that what I read will let me convince myself that this sounds like something I could trust, and these are the gems that jump out at me from that reading:

  • It is littered with smilies. I know I'm just an unfrozen caveman, but that's like dotting your eyes with hearts on a resumé.

  • With a straight face, and no emoticon, this piece of security software suggests that you install it by doing "wget | sudo sh".

  • I'm just gonna leave this here:

    Documentation

    A real documentation is in the making. Until then, please have a look at the code and use your IDE's code completion features to get an idea how things work, it's quite obvious when you look at the controller files, the model files and how data is shown in the view files. A big sorry that there's no documentation yet, but time is rare :)

    Hopefully a real grammar is also making. Smiley not smiley.

  • Also: "There's no reason to complain (!) about free open-source software."

Uh huh.

So I don't mean to bust on this guy too much, because he's being honest about what this project is: it's someone's Learning Experience. There's nothing wrong with that. Everyone's got to learn somehow, and writing things is the only way to do it. But that makes it a toy, not a product.

And that means the answer to the question of, should anyone use this in production, with actual money on the line, is: "are you insane?"

As learning experiences go, I know I'd trust my learning experience more than someone else's, but like I said, wow, I just really don't wanna. I know it would make my business better, but actually doing the work sounds about as pleasant as a root canal.

I guess what I'm saying here is, everything is terrible.

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Album cover face paint

Natalie Sharp:


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Wookiee Life

Mako Miyamoto





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Firehose versus Flamethrower

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Photo booth

I've been thinking of making another attempt at building a photo booth for DNA Lounge.

I last tried this back in 2007, and gave up, because back then, no cheap video cameras were good enough in low light, and getting a Mac to remotely control a DSLR and then get images out of it was basically impossible.

But hey, eight years later! And the world has changed so much that there are not only a ton of people out there selling photo booths, but there are a ton of people selling just the software to turn a DSLR, a printer and a tent into a photo booth. With anim-GIFs.

The world has changed so much that there is a Photo Booth Expo. Yes, there really is a convention for everything.

So, Lazyweb, what do you know about this stuff?

Have you used photo booth software? Have you maintained a photo booth and seen what happens upon contact with the enemy?

Which software, cameras and printers are any good? I guess I want:

  • Mac-based, not Windows;
  • Live video preview;
  • The preview works well enough in low light that the booth doesn't have to leak light all over the nightclub (a flash is ok, but a constant-on 100 watt bulb is not);
  • Auto-upload all photos to our own web site;
  • A photo printer that can stand up to an extraordinary amount of abuse;
  • Ability to take cash or credit cards to pay for the prints;
  • Is not going to require an operator to fuss with it multiple times a night.

There are lots of companies out there who will happily put a photo booth inside your business, charge for the photos, and keep all of the money, but if I've learned anything from owning my own ATMs and owning my own ticketing service, it is this: "never, ever do that."

The turnkey photo booths you can buy seem to go for $8,000 to $15,000, which seems crazy for a fabric tent that has at best $1,600 worth of hardware and off-the-shelf software in it. But, maybe answering the questions I asked above is harder than I think it is.

(If you are about to suggest running Apple's "Photo Booth" application then you are missing the point about how combat-hardened this solution needs to be. In fact if you're about to begin a sentence with "Why don't you just...", please don't, that means you haven't thought it through and you're not helping.)

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Today in "Glistening Fatberg" news...

Sewer Snake: Boss Level

A 10-tonne lump of wet wipes and fat has been removed from a sewer in Chelsea, west London.

The toxic lump of congealed fat and household waste -- known as a fatberg -- was 40 metres long and so heavy that it broke the 1940s-era sewer.

Repairing the damaged sewer is expected to cost Thames Water £400,000 and take more than two months, the company said.

Stephen Hunt, a repair and maintenance supervisor at Thames Water, who is overseeing the fatberg's removal, said its size was staggering.

"We see blockages all the time on household sewer pipes, which are about big enough for a cricket ball to pass through, but to have this much damage on a sewer almost a metre in diameter is mind-boggling.

"The original sewer has been so badly abused by fat being chucked down the plughole we've had to opt for the time-consuming and disruptive option of replacing many metres of pipe."

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A dialog with some DMT entities

"Universal Love," Said The Cactus Person.

"Transcendent joy," said the big green bat.

"Right," I said "I'm absolutely in favor of both those things. But before we go any further, could you tell me the two prime factors of 1,522,605,027, 922,533,360, 535,618,378, 132,637,429, 718,068,114, 961,380,688, 657,908,494 ,580,122,963, 258,952,897, 654,000,350, 692,006,139?

"Universal love," said the cactus person.

"Transcendent joy," said the big green bat.

The sea was made of strontium, the beach was made of rye. Above my head, a watery sun shone in an oily sky. A thousand stars of sertraline whirled round quetiapine moons, and the sand sizzled sharp like cooking oil that hissed and sang and threatened to boil the octahedral dunes.

"Okay," I said. "Fine. Let me tell you where I'm coming from. I was reading Scott McGreal's blog, which has some good articles about so-called DMT entities, and mentions how they seem so real that users of the drug insist they've made contact with actual superhuman beings and not just psychedelic hallucinations. You know, the usual Terence McKenna stuff. But in one of them he mentions a paper by Marko Rodriguez called A Methodology For Studying Various Interpretations of the N,N-dimethyltryptamine-Induced Alternate Reality, which suggested among other things that you could prove DMT entities were real by taking the drug and then asking the entities you meet to factor large numbers which you were sure you couldn't factor yourself. So to that end, could you do me a big favor and tell me the factors of 1,522,605,027, 922,533,360, 535,618,378, 132,637,429, 718,068,114, 961,380,688, 657,908,494, 580,122,963, 258,952,897, 654,000,350, 692,006,139?

"Universal love," said the cactus person.

"Transcendent joy," said the big green bat.

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