No, Digg, No! (no digg)

Filed under: rants,useless @ 17:14

I’ve long hated slashdot. The articles that make it to the front page are typically pretty good, but the summaries are sometimes misleading, poorly worded or written by someone who clearly had no idea what the article was actually about. Worse, and the actual source of my hate, are the comments each submission acquires.

Whenever I read the comments on an article about Quantum Information (or some other field I actually know something about), I find the number of comments which contain pertinent information to be small, and those that contain accurate information to be entirely negligible. Reading the comments of such articles is infuriating. Why people read a naive explanation of some physical principal and then assume they know all there is to know about it, I don’t understand. Why they claim this knowledge and then publicly demonstrate their ignorance is further beyond me. Extrapolating, I long ago decided that comments on all of the articles were, with high probability, similarly misinformed, so I simply stopped reading slashdot. A better solution might have been to stop reading the comments, but knowing just how terrible the comments were, I lacked the will power to stay away from them; I was the moth, they the flame.

To get my nerdy news fix, I started reading digg. The technical articles there are of a narrower scope, but it’s worth it for the comments which typically come in only two varieties: “no digg” and “I also like cheese. digg++”.

Refreshing. Useless, but refreshing. I never get sucked into reading digg comments because I know ahead of time that they contain identically no information. In particular, there’s nothing there to raise my blood pressure.

Until recently.

A few days ago, I saw an article on digg titled Prof says there’s no hacker he can’t foil. I scoped it out and saw that it was a poorly written bit of science journalism about Hoi-Kwong Lo’s most recent paper: Simulation and Implementation of Decoy State Quantum Key Distribution over 60km Telecom Fiber.

The result is a nice practical demonstration. The article, however, makes the great mistake of confusing an eavesdropper (someone attached to the medium through which you’re sending information from one place to another) and a hacker(/cracker, a person with far more tools at his or her disposal, e.g. social engineering). This error on the part of the journalist made for some really disappointing comments on digg: exactly the sort of comments I try to avoid by steering clear of slashdot. I don’t know if the digg culture is changing, if quantum information brings people out of the woodwork who should remain there, or if this was a statistical aberration. In any case, I’ll have to be more careful from now on.


oddly enough I read an article about a month ago on how to spoof a photon. This proff needs to catch up to the times.

no digg.


Of course this protects against sniffing/mitm attacks etc.. but if a ‘hacker’ just broke into the computer connected to the network, they could probably extracted the data from the network card after it has been decoded, or even from disk if it isn’t encrypted.

FYI, the actual result doesn’t claim otherwise, but digg++.


To allude that your infoilable, clearly is a act of arrogance. Silly human.

Your spelling, then, is clearly not an act of arrogance.


its gonna be open season on this guy

Perhaps. If the “hackers” out there demonstrate a level of reading comprehension on par with that of your own. Or if they feel like punishing a happily innocent scientist for having a ‘sensationalized to the point of misinformation’ article written about him. I admit either as a possibility.


This is all well and good. It’s not a surprise that this overly “intelligent” physics geek made such an outrageous claim. I suppose he didn’t take into consideration that this system could still be “hacked” with good old social engineering.

So close. You see the problem, but miss the source. I’ll give it a ‘I thought about digging it but decided to abstain in the hopes the aggregate would know better than I do’ for potentially leading people in the right direction and allowing some future commenter to correct your misconception.


I read about quantam crypography two years ago. Old shit. No digg.

Ah… this one might be my favorite. Dumb shit. No digg.


dugg for the comments more than the article! haha.

I also like cheese.


Monday at the Price is Right

Filed under: a group of folks,neat!,useless @ 12:12

The short of it is: if you have tickets for the 1:15pm taping of the Price is Right on a Monday, get there before 5:30 or you probably won’t get in (see the table at the bottom of the post).

On to the long of it.

In town visiting Michelle a week and a half ago was her good friend Laura whose greatest desire while in LA was to see Bob Barker at a taping of The Price is Right. Since Laura was just in town for the weekend, going to the studio on Monday was our only option. Unfortunately, Monday is the busiest day there for two reasons: all the out of towners just in LA for the weekend have to go on Monday (they don’t tape on Friday), and there are two tapings on Monday (they don’t tape on Friday). It was going to be a long day.

The previous week, Michelle had gone to the CBS studio to pick up tickets for the 1:15pm taping on February 5th. Apparently there was no line (though there was also no one at the booth for some time), and she, as a ticket picker-uper, was allowed to park in the studio lot for free.

Monday Morning (with deserved capitalization) Greg and I awoke around 4:00am and were picked up by Michelle and Laura at 4:30 here in Pasadena. Without traffic, we made it to the studio, where there was already a sizable line, at about 5:10am. Laura and Greg got us a spot in line while Michelle and I drove around the block to The Grove‘s parking lot (a mall lot that cost us $11 with validation).

We patronized the unenthusiastic coffee/bagel shop across from the studio (location is everything) and waited in line until, at around 6:00am, we were given tickets that held our place in line. I was number 131. At that point we were allowed to leave as long as we returned by 8:00am, so we picked up the car (the lot wasn’t yet taking money that early in the morning, so we decided to move the car while we could and save a few bucks) and drove to a nearby IHOP. We parked back at the grove and went back to the studio to wait for our priority numbers, which we got at about 8:30am. I was number 98; apparently about a third of the people in front of us were there for the later, second taping.

At 9:00am they called us back into formation and started droning on about rules (no disparaging remarks about the prizes, please), taxes (you have to pay them), the line we were sitting in (never leave it or you’re not getting into the taping), and a handful of other things that were repeated ad nauseum. Eventually, we were issued our name tags (Price is Right name tags!) and seating numbers (our fourth non-ticket). I was number 99; it’s unclear why we four were all bumped up a number.

At some point (cell phones and cameras are not allowed on the studio, so I wasn’t able to keep good track of time), they started calling a dozen people from the line up at a time to be “interviewed”. Contestants on the Price is Right are not drawn randomly. They are selected from the crowd ahead of time during this interview process. You only have a few seconds to make your mark, so be creative. We finally got interviewed at around 11:30. We then got herded into… another line! and sat down to play a few hands of UNO with our neighbors.

And then the moment arrived. We finally got into the studio a bit before 1:00pm and got seats. The place was tiny. Watching the show on TV, you get the sense that there are at least a thousand people in the audience and that “coming on down” is at least a 50 yard dash. As it turns out, there’s only about two hundred and fifty people at the taping, and most everyone is within twenty feet of the stage. The display doors (which look massive on TV) are eat-me tiny and the stage itself is about the size of a foosball table. When we first came in, I remarked that Bob Barker must be a midget. Apparently, the TV industry is just plain good at clever photography.

After being prepped by the show’s announcer, the actual taping flew by; everything was extremely fast paced: “Come on down”, bidding, win, play whatever game, cut to commercial, repeat. During “commercial breaks”, Bob would talk to the crowd and take questions. This was just about the only time we actually heard his voice. The staff there get all the audience members to ooh and ahh and scream and shout advice (“higher!”, “$1300”, “the soup!”, “My spleen just exploded”, and so on) with such volume that very little of what’s going on on stage is discernible. I now have a lot of sympathy for the contestants who keep having to ask about the previous people’s bids.

Sadly, none of us was called down. Our dreams (“one dollar, Bob”) were not fulfilled. The guy behind us did get called though, so I bet we were on TV for a second or two (unfortunately, the show aired today and I was too lazy to give anyone advance warning). Despite our lack of luck, I’m glad to have gone. Price is Right, for good or for ill, is truly a piece of Americana, and it was neat to be involved.

Anyway, that’s the boring long of it. For a less mind numbing account, see Greg’s First Post! on the subject.

Below is a table of a person’s final seat number for the 1:15pm taping vs. that person’s arrival time. Somewhere not too far past seat number 150, the people all came from pre-booked large groups which are guaranteed admission (and so don’t have to wait in line).

Final Seat Number Arrival Time
1 11:00pm
10 12:30am
15 2:00am
30 2:45am
40 3:30am
65 4:00am
100 5:10am
150 5:50am


Gmail filters and Boolean operators

Filed under: neat!,useless @ 13:15

If you haven’t heard me proselytize Gmail before, count yourself lucky; I tend to spout off about it. Yes, I know that Gmail is creepy. I understand all the privacy concerns and the potential to allow Google to earn lots of money off of my correspondence. It’s just so damn convenient.

But I digress.

Gmail allows its users to construct email filters to tag messages with various labels, forward things to different address and so forth by specifying the conditions an email must meet before the filter in question is applied. One can specify that the message be From a particular source, be sent To a certain address, contain specific text and so on. Since the filters are implemented as Gmail search queries, Gmail filters may also include basic boolean logic. For instance, you can create a filter that catches emails From bob@example.com OR sally@example.org. In terms of Gmail’s search syntax, this filter would be denoted as from:(bob@example.com OR sally@example.org). Similarly, NOTs are specified with minus signs, and spaces are used for ANDs.

Gmail’s filters, then, are fairly robust. However, the interface for writing filters is very limiting. The user is presented with five text boxes: From, To, Subject, Has The Words, Doesn’t Have. And that’s all the options we get. Suppose, instead of the above, I wanted to create a filter that caught messages From bob@example.com OR To sally@example.org. I can type ‘bob@example.com’ into the From box and ‘sally@example.org’ into the To box to try to construct such a filter. But Gmail does not offer me the ability to specify the boolean operator that should be applied between the From and To conditions; it assumes AND. I’m hosed.

But only at first glance. You can actually implement a relative OR between fields. A cursory internet search yielded the following clever solution.

In the From field, enter

bob@example.com) OR to:(sally@example.org

It’s the sneaky use of parentheses that makes it all work. Another solution would be to enter the entire search query into the Has The Words field:

from:(bob@example.com) OR to:(sally@example.org)

Though more straightforward, some will argue it isn’t as clean.

Anyway, don’t let Gmail’s (in this case) crappy interface stop you from making arbitrarily complicated filters.


Christmas 2005

Filed under: useless @ 11:29

A great deal can happen in a month. With all that potential material, allow me to describe some of what happened this past month in as boring a way as possible.

Paul.za and I went home to .id.us for Christmas, and I’d like to think he wasn’t bored to tears. Watery eyes, perhaps, but not tears. I had loads of fun seeing everybody back home (a shoutout to Siri who says she reads this from time to time and to Brendan who at least used to). Good to see Ed, Father Matt, and everyone I ever knew from my graduating class. But enough name dropping, on to the excitement.

Hm… it could only possibly be exciting if you knew all the names, so suffice it to say I had a good time with the fam and everyone else. New years with Lincoln and Hannah rocked (though Chana was conspicuously absent), and the trip back to Pasadena was fine except that, even with a direct flight, I still managed to have a layover.


My RAZR lies

Filed under: thoughts,useless @ 15:51

I’m convinced that my Motorola RAZR cellphone does not tell time accurately.

The phone has a little external LCD panel that displays the time and other pertinent information so that I don’t have to flip the phone open to check on things. Normally, this panel is not backlit in order to conserve energy, but there’s an easily accessible button on the edge of the phone that lights up the screen. When I hit the button to check the time on my phone, about forty or fifty percent of the time the digital clock ticks over to the next minute.

That’s very odd; I’m not looking at the screen for more than two seconds (max). That means, I’d expect to see the minute change about once every thirty times, assuming the times at which I check the time are uniformly randomly distributed within the sixty second interval between minute digit changes. One out of thirty is not even four percent; there’s an order of magnitude difference between the expected and observed values. I must have checked the time on with the phone more than five hundred times by now, so this is definitely statistically significant. This discrepancy leads me to the following hypothesis.

My RAZR is programmed to change the minute digit on the display when I click the button if its internal clock is within a twenty or thirty second window around the actual time at which the seconds should roll over back to zero.

If true, it’d have to have been a deliberate design decision. Perhaps people remember the time better after reading a digital clock if they see the digits change and Motorola is just helping me out? I haven’t yet thought of a different explanation.


Nominate Caltech’s Superhero Mascot

Filed under: a group of folks,neat!,useless @ 10:35

A conversation with Michelle led me to state that Batman is a good Caltech superhero in the following sense. He adheres to an ethos of vigilante justice, relies on technology and intelligence (and shit big computers) rather than superpowers to get the job done (most of the time…), has an underground hideout and enjoys things with rubber nipples. I should note that it was this last point that really sold Michelle on the idea.

I’m curious to hear other nominations.


Go get your money! — 00:01

MDA, remember to send in that cellphone rebate!


Oh so it’s my fault!

Filed under: useless @ 13:22

I was recently looking for some information on Bank of America‘s site but was being frustrated by their servers’ poor response time. Eventually, Bank of America spewed back the following at me.

Your browser couldn’t connect you to the page you attempted to access.

Jackasses. My browser is not the problem. Don’t try to foist this on me; get your servers in line.


Canola Oil — 01:22

Your feelings about cooking/baking with canola oil. Discuss.


If I wasn’t from IQI then why would I be wearing this hat?

Filed under: neat!,physics,useless @ 13:32

I received, for “future contributions”, an official IQI hat yesterday at group meeting. Pretty fly. I think it’s going to be my new look. I particularly enjoy the Southwest pointing (in the liturgical sense – that’s 4:30 for all you heathens) ‘gangsta’ style.

In the IQI hood, beeyahtch. Represent. Step off fohz my homes cap y’all whit theyz provably secure implementation of Quantum Key Distribution. Be cracked to front on me, brothah! M’doin some serious QMA-complete sheeyit ovuh heah!

I’m still working on gang signs.

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