nerd humour

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Got A Website Uncensored

There are a few things that Internet users in the UK (where I have just moved) need to know.

  1. The close brushes Canada has had with censorship are nothing compared to the UK. It really matters whether you get an ISP that wants to fight this trend.
  2. Some companies, such as Andrews & Arnold, have filled this niche by providing broadband of a quality that's hard to find on the other side of the pond. I first became aware of this company when I checked for the ISP with the top rating on ISP Review. My impression just got better and better as a I spent more time on their website. It is remarkable how many resources they put at your fingertips — SIP services, an IRC channel, a wiki on how to use many different modems and routers, a blog that advocates for digital rights, numerous references to xkcd, the ability to pay every full moon, etc.
  3. If the appointment to set up your line doesn't happen right away (which is inevitable with a small company like AA), you will probably come across the "Cloud" wireless hotspot run by Sky News. This is a pretty slow option that even has some bugs with how packets are handled. I don't know whether it's a keepalive connection, persistent connection or referrer check but some basic property of web forms failed most of the time when I tried to edit Wikipedia.

Anyway, on one of the good days using the free wifi, I tried to go to MEGA only to find out that it had been blocked. Blocked for copyright reasons you ask? Because its controversial foudner launched the site in order to make it more resilient to the types of infringement cases that took down Megaupload? No, the network said that it had been listed under the blocked category radicalization.

I Finally Subscribed To PewDiePie

I have finally gone to the channel of the most successful YouTube personality and clicked "subscribe". I probably won't watch any of his videos but I wanted to do my part to keep him in the lead as 2019 starts. The story is that Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, got 5 million subscribers by 2013 — more than any other YouTube channel — and managed to hold onto that record for another five years. Today, it looks like his reign is about to end with the Indian media conglomerate T-series acquiring subscribers at a much faster rate. A live counter that I've started watching currently has PewDiePie at 79 million and T-series at 78 million.

This is roughly the same number of people who have ever bought a Nirvana album. The world of difference in perception is what piqued my interest when I first heard about PewDiePie. For an artist who becomes famous with the help of a record label, there is a massive gradient between the two extremes of "I'm a fan who buys albums" and "I've never heard of them". As such, I would expect almost everyone in Canada or the US to have some idea of what Nirvana is. Conversely, I've had plenty of people tell me that they've never heard of PewDiePie. 79 million people is enough to fill a country and a large one at that. But outside this community of loyal fans, any chance of a lasting impression has to compete with the trope of an entertainer chatting into his webcam everyday. PewDiePie is a reminder of the isolation that the Internet can bring and the surprise that can be felt upon learning how many people don't think what you thought "most people" think.

Rescuing GNU Talkfilters

Arch Linux recently produced a list of packages that cannot be built from source because of broken URLs. I had received messages like this before, and usually they simply indicate that the website for a package has changed. This happened a lot, for example, in 2016 when Google Code was shut down and replaced with a raw archive of project snapshots. So I expected that I would only have to do a little bit of searching when the notification came for GNU Talkfilters.

Instead, I could not find any up-to-date sites hosting the source. Every post about it still pointed to the old site with links that lead to 404 errors. It started to look like talkfilters had disappeared from the web. This is unacceptable for any free software project, especially one that ostensibly bears the "GNU" distinction. Because I had compiled the program on my own machine years ago, I was lucky enough to still have a copy of the source lying around. I promptly uploaded it to this very site and updated the Arch package accordingly. As a result, the crisis has been averted and free software users with nothing better to do are still free to apply chat filtering rules like this:

$ echo "Welcome friends, to a new home for GNU talkfilters!" | pirate
Welcome crew, t' a new home fer GNU talkfilters! Shiver me timbers!

Shitty Airlines

It's the holiday season. And that means I get to be reminded of how logical air travel is. One of the most annoying things is that I can't take everything as carry-on luggage. Don't get me wrong, I hardly bring anything. But two things I usually bring are a razor and shaving cream which security guards tend to take away. Because of that, the idea of checking in online saves no time at all. Here's what the screen should really say:

A chart showing that you must be a female or a male who doesn't shave in order for the online checkin process to serve a useful purpose.

Nevertheless, I got to the airport on time and was able to stay relatively occupied on the plane.

Mispronunciation

Happy leap-day to anyone reading this! How often does a leap-year occur? It is not once every 4 years anymore. It is more like 97 times every 400 years! Adding a day once every 4 years would be correct if the year was 365.25 days long. This is what the Julian calendar did. But then it was discovered that a year is more like 365.2425 days which led to the Gregorian calendar. I like the story of how this was implemented. Centuries of not accounting for this difference caused a 10 day discrepancy between the night sky of 4 October 1582 and the night sky of 4 October in the year that the Julian calendar started. Therefore Pope Gregory XII pronounced that the next day would be 15 October 1582 making the month have 21 days.

The system now is to add an extra day to years that are divisible by 400 and to years that are divisible by 4 but not 100. This means that while the year 2000 was a leap-year, the year 2100 will not be. My prediction is that at least a few printed calendars will be incorrect in the year 2100.

Anyway, what I actually want to talk about is a series of Pronunciation Manual videos on YouTube. The channel parodies instructional language videos by telling you the worst possible way to pronounce something. The meme started in April 2011, I think as a way to take advantage of video monetization. It is stupid simple to make a PronunciationManual video. Each one is 8 seconds long and just consists of a printed word with a voice over.

Reverse Engineering Star Wars Music

First of all, happy holidays to anyone reading this! You didn't think I was going to let Christmas / Grav-mass go by without a post did you? Well I absolutely would have if I didn't have this post ready in time. Spreading the spirit of the season can be done in a small number of words - and all of the posts I write have to be long. No exceptions!

Anyway, like many people who have a piano at home, I sometimes hear a great piece of orchestral music in a movie and try to play an approximation to it on the piano. Usually what I try to play is full of mistakes and I lose interest after half an hour. However, my approximations to two Star Wars songs have evolved into fairly well defined pieces that I can play from start to finish. Want to guess which ones?

The first measure of music that plays for a set of Star Wars end credits.

Both pieces are ending themes so they have to merge into this music that plays during the black and blue credits of every Star Wars movie. That should narrow it down significantly. Anyway, in the rest of this post you can find audio files and sheet music. Learning to play this was satisfying enough. But then I realized that this was a perfect opportunity to learn the music TeX packages so it's a win-win situation.

Yo Dawg, I Heard You Like Guns...

Awhile ago, my friend showed me Pimp My Gun. This site has a Flash driven app that lets you assemble the weapon of your dreams. It is basically a drawing program that has a library of hundreds of firearm components. There is so much room for customization. I tried it out and came up with the following guns:

So we sent a gun salesman to your mother's house, so you can nag mum to buy a magnum!

Jungle camouflaged AUG

Stupid Math Questions

I never turn down a chance to be a smart-ass. One of the best things higher mathematics can teach you is how to go back and correct almost everyone who claimed to be teaching you math. It's almost impossible to a cover a decent amount of material in a math course without sacrificing correctness. This is true in grade school when you learn tons of stuff that isn't real math and it is true in grad school when writing one proof that is perfectly rigorous takes two weeks. Here are some common questions that need to be rephrased before they make any sense. The links point to where I found the questions but they could've come from anywhere. If they look like they were taken straight out of your high school calculus textbook, they probably were.

Stupid

Original version of question 1

Smart

Better version of question 1

My e-Raven Poem

About ten years ago, when I first developed an obsession with browsing the web and an obsession with the number $ \frac{1}{2} \tau $ (some of you know it as $ \pi $) I discovered Near A Raven and gasped at the ingenuity of it. This type of poem is called a piem and many of them have been made. The idea is simple - set up the poem so that the number of letters in each word is equal to the corresponding digit of the decimal expansion of Pi. The first word should have 3 letters, the second should have 1, the third should have 4 and so on. Put it all together and you have 3.14159265358979...

When I learned about Euler's number in high school, my mind was made up. I simply had to make a similar poem for $ e $. Like Near A Raven this has the advantage of being a faithful retelling of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe with the same rhyme scheme. Even though I had to use some archaic words to make the poem rhyme, I am happy that I was able to consistently put the word "nevermore" at the end of each stanza. Hope you like it!

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