I carved a pumpkin!

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Exterminate All Rational Academic Publishing

iOS Just Got A Paper On Nuclear Physics Accepted At A Scientific Conference

Automatically generating scientific articles has become easy with dedicated software such as SCIgen. Even a paper that only repeated the sentence "Get me of your fucking mailing list" was recently accepted for publication. Today I received an invitation from the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics to submit a paper. Since I have practically no knowledge of Nuclear Physics I resorted to iOS auto-complete function to help me writing the paper. I started a sentence with "Atomic" or "Nuclear" and then randomly hit the auto-complete suggestions. The text really does not make any sense. After adding the first illustration on nuclear physics from Wikipedia, some references and creating a fake identity (Iris Pear, aka Siri Apple) I submitted the paper which was accepted only three hours later! I know that iOS is a pretty good software, but reaching tenure has never been this close.


Atomic Physics and I shall not have the same problem with a separate section for a very long long way. Nuclear weapons will not have to come out the same day after a long time of the year he added the two sides will have the two leaders to take the same way to bring up to their long ways of the same as they will have been a good place for a good time at home the united front and she is a great place for a good time. The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you are the way we shall have to be a great place for a great time to enjoy the day you are a wonderful person to your great time to take the fun and take a great time and enjoy the great day you will be a wonderful time for your parents and kids. Molecular diagnostics will have been available for the rest by a single day and a good day to the rest have a wonderful time and aggravation for the rest day at home time for the two of us will have a great place for the rest to be great for you tomorrow and tomorrow after all and I am a very happy boy to the great day and I hope he is wonderful. Nevertheless I have to go back home to nuclear power to the united way she is to be the first woman united to work on their own and the rest will be the same way as she will have to come back to work and we are still not the way we shall have the united side and we are not the same way she is the way she said the same as she was a good time. Physics are great but the way it does it makes you want a good book and I will pick it to the same time I am just a little more than I can play for later and then it is very very good for a good game. Nuclear energy is not a nuclear nuclear power to the nuclear nuclear program he added and the nuclear nuclear program is a good united state of the nuclear nuclear power program and the united way nuclear nuclear program nuclear. Scientist and I have been very good to me today I hope I have to work on tomorrow after work today so far but I'm still going for tomorrow night at work today but I'm not going home said I am a good friend and a great time for the rest I have been doing. Physics are great but the same as you have been able and the same way to get the rest to your parents. Atoms for a play of the same as you can do with a great time to take the rest to your parents or you will be nucleus a great time for a great place. Power is not a great place for a good time.

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The VVitch Playset by Playnnobil

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Man arrested for stealing over $160K worth of cheese

Goes great with Maple Heist

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- A New Jersey man has been charged with stealing more than $160,000 worth of Jamaican cheese.

Prosecutors said Thursday that 18-year-old Darluis Ortiz stole pallets of Tastee Cheese products from a food warehouse in Moonachie on Sept. 23.

Tastee cheese is often eaten with spiced or sweetened buns, especially at Easter. It's produced by Dairy Industries Jamaica Ltd.

Ortiz was arrested on Wednesday and was charged with theft, burglary, conspiracy and possessing burglary tools. He was being held in the Bergen County jail on bail that was $10,000 less than the value of the canned, processed cheese.

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Meat Beat Manifesto, BSOD edition

These guys have excellent taste in screen savers, their questionable choices in operating systems and network dependencies notwithstanding.

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DNA Lounge update

DNA Lounge update, wherein a winnar is us.

Image Synthesis from Yahoo's open_nsfw

Exterminate All Rational Giger. "It was tricky, but..."

Yahoo's recently open sourced neural network, open_nsfw, is a fine tuned Residual Network which scores images on a scale of to on its suitability for use in the workplace. [...]

What makes an image NSFW, according to Yahoo? I explore this question with a clever new visualization technique by Nguyen et al.. Like Google's Deep Dream, this visualization trick works by maximally activating certain neurons of the classifier. Unlike deep dream, we optimize these activations by performing descent on a parameterization of the manifold of natural images. This parametrization takes the form of a Generative Network, G, trained adversarially on an unrelated dataset of natural images. [...]

Not surprisingly, the results of the optimization are clearly pornographic.

Synthesizing Pareidolia [...] This explains the phenomena above, as the SFW neuron gets excited on the sight of rolling hills and running brooks, and the excitations of NSFW correlate with, well, pornography. The classifier takes in both these expert opinions, and combines them democratically [...] Since most pornography does not take place with a Thomas Kinkade painting in the background, this is a fair heuristic for most real world problems. But what happens if we try to excite both neurons simultaneously?

Concert, SFW:

Concert, NSFW:

"What happens if we try to excite both neurons simultaneously", indeed.

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Letters to Cleo

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export TERM=aaa-60

You guys, I got my Ono-Sendai working again!

I've had this terminal sitting under my desk gathering dust for... close to two decades, I think. This is an Ann Arbor Ambassador 60, manufactured in 1982 or 1983. It is a terminal. You probably think that word means "a GUI window that runs a command line shell in it". You think this thing must be a computer because it looks like what computers used to look like. But it is not a computer, it is a peripheral. This object consists of a keyboard, a serial port, and a CRT screen, and that's about it. A screen, I must emphasize, that is capable of displaying only text, and that text can be in any two colors you like, as long as those colors are green and black.

Look at the sustain on that phosphor. Just look at it! The video is a little long, but it's moody.

You plug the serial port on the back into the serial port of your mainframe, or into a modem, and boom, Thus We Go Forth Into Cyberspace.

Now, this is a pretty sweet terminal, because as you see, it's portrait mode. Mos terminals of this 1982 vintage had 80x24 screens. This bad boy does a glorious 80 columns by 60, sixty rows! You could emacs for days on this thing, it was glorious.

And all this at a screaming 19,200 baud! That's about two kilobytes per second, and that means you could redraw the entire screen in under two and a quarter seconds! Amazing! (Assuming you didn't blow the serial buffer, but more on that later.)

Actually this terminal has two serial ports. One is for the uplink, and the other is for a printer. That's right, this terminal could do a screen shot of your entire screen of 60 lines of text right to your line printer! The whole screen!

The keyboard is a bit mushy, and these days, being much more of a keyboard connoisseur, I'm not very excited about the placement of some of its keys. It plugs in with an RJ11 telephone cable, so who knows what protocol it speaks. Certainly not something even as modern as PS/2 which it predated by 5+ years.

You know how those things in /dev/ are called "TTYs"? That stands for "teletypewriter", because the earliest terminals were literally electric typewriters with modems stuck on the back, and a scroll of tractor-feed paper running through them. I learned FORTRAN on one of those.

So this box was just sitting there under my desk, not really in the way but just getting dustier and dustier by the year, and I thought, what the hell, it might as well be a computer. So I popped it open, made a cable to internally bypass the serial port on the back panel, and stuffed a Raspberry Pi 3 inside. I didn't want to mess around with figuring out how to pull 5v off of the board, not even knowing what the built-in power supply is rated for, so I just patched a 3-prong plug in right after the power switch and stuck a microUSB wall-wart inside the shell.

I had to buy a cheap dingus to translate between what Raspberry Pis call a "serial port" and what History knows as a serial port, though. Those TX/RX pins on a Pi are TTL, that is, +0.5v to +5v, whereas "real" serial is -12v to +12v (though ±5v typically works). It is also a great tragedy that you don't get DSR/DTR lines on these "modern" serial ports, which means you have to use inline XON/XOFF flow control. Like an animal.

Here's a big surprise: even with the Pi inside this metal box, sitting right next to the CRT coils, wifi still works just fine! So I didn't have to drill the case to stick an ethernet port on it. Not that this thing is exactly in pristine condition -- as you can see, I spray-painted it black at some point from its original lustrous beige -- but it's always nice to be able to do these things non-destructively. I'm surprised that wifi works because the tube in this thing throws off a likely-carcinogenic amount of EMF: there was a time in the past when I had it sitting next to a color monitor, and when this terminal was powered on it would make that monitor's colors go wonky from three feet away. Kind of impressive, really.

So now when you turn it on, it boots Linux. The next time someone asks to use my computer to check their mail or look something up, I'm just going to point them at this. (But why does Linux still take so long to boot? Why isn't this crap just instant-on at this point? We've got supercomputers in our pockets that we wave at like god damned wizards but Linux still takes like two minutes before it gives you a shell. It's madness, madness I tell you.)

I did a significant portion of my Emacs development on this terminal. When I was working from home, this is what I worked on. I think I wrote BBDB and the byte-compiler on this thing.

I don't remember how I ended up with it -- I probably liberated it from work some time in the late 80s. But it served me well.

At one point, I built a 50' serial cable so that I could drag the terminal out onto the back deck and work outside. I remember also routing audio for a headphone jack over some of the unused lines inside that cable, since I didn't have speakers outside.

An elegant cable, from a simpler age.

Here's the problem with this device, as you can see in the video: the character buffer on the serial port is not large. I'm guessing it is dozens of bytes deep. Dozens. And the CPU that moves those bytes from the serial port into display memory is... not fast. So it keeps up pretty well at 4800 baud, but at 9600, or when you light up the afterburners and go for the full 19,200, it falls behind.

The way terminals deal with this is flow control: either end can say, "Hold up, I am suffering" and data transmission stops until the other side is ready. The proper way to do this over a serial connection is with DSR/DTR lines, which are extra copper on the RS-232 cable, one for each side, that signal when we're ready to go. But as noted, the not-quite-a-serial-port that Pis have doesn't have that. Which leaves you with inline flow control, XON and XOFF, typically the ASCII bytes ^S to stop and ^Q to resume.

Nobody who uses Emacs can use XON and XOFF for flow control, because you need ^S and ^Q to work, dammit.

So your only other option is, don't send so fast, or send padding.

Back in the early Triassic, this led me to commit some indignities with my termcap entries.

Termcap is the thing that tells the computer how terminals work: it's a database that describes the command set of each terminal. Because they were all different: there were a lot of terminal manufacturers, and they all invented their own languages for speaking to them. If you want to move the cursor to a particular absolute position, you had to know that on a VT52, it was this sequence of bytes, but on a Heath19, it was this totally other sequence.

So I eventually figured out which sequences were the troublesome ones: for example, I remember that the command for "clear screen and move to the upper left corner" was a command that took the terminal a relatively long time to execute: after all, it had to zero out every one of those 4,800 bytes in the display RAM! This took it, let's say, 5× as long as simply sending a character to the screen, which means the serial buffer would accumulate a 5 byte debt and eventually fill up. So the fix was to modify the termcap entry to tell it that the clear-screen command should also send 5 NULs! The terminal ignores NULs, those don't go in the buffer, but they take up time on the serial line, allowing the dislay processor to keep up!

Over a period of months, as I was running Emacs I would note when the display would glitch out, make my best guess as to what display addressing commands Emacs might have decided to send, and I manually tweaked the number of NULs on the various termcap options until I really had the thing completely dialed in.

Updating the screen efficiently is effectively a compiler-optimization problem. You know what's on the screen right now, and what you want it to be, and you have to get from here to there using the absolute minimum number of bytes, because each of those bytes takes an amount of time that can actually be perceived by the user. Naïve programs might just do the obvious thing, and when they want to put text on line 3, they move to line 3 and draw the text. But if you were running a sophisticated lisp system that happened to have a text editor inside it, nothing so simple would stand. It would run the permutations and figure out that these two commands would both work, but this one was shorter. Or things like: if I scroll three lines, mark a rectangle, and then indent that rectangle by 5 spaces, I only have to send an additional 17 bytes to finish up, instead of 480 to do the whole thing. The text-mode display optimization module in Emacs was truly a "Here Be Dragons" situation.

Right, so since I haven't really used this terminal since the Clinton administration, here I am using it with a "modern" Unix system, so I'm back to the stock termcap entry instead of my customized one (oh, sorry, it's not termcap any more, now it's terminfo, which is exactly the same but totally different for no reason, you kids why I oughta) and with the stock entry, the screen glitches in a most undignified manner. Time to dig down into the archives, and...


-rw-r--r--  1 jwz  staff  3704 Nov  4  1991 Documents/spicevax/.termcap

Except... it turns out that file is actually too old. It's got entries for Concept-LNZ, an entry to fix some bugs in the idiosyncratic Heath19 emulation that Perqs used, and a hacked version of the VT100 termcap that worked with the TI Explorer terminal emulator (which had the bug that absolute cursor addressing used variable-width numbers instead of fixed-width. That looked like "cm=5\E[%i%2;%dH", in case you were wondering. Greets to Crash Override and also Joey.)

But my carefully-crafted aaa-60 termcap entry, that piece of perfection that looked almost exactly like line noise, is now lost to us forever.


Sometimes people ask me why my web sites use those colors. This is a thing that people sometimes ask.

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