October 16, 2011

What a Hackable World?

Category: Academic,Advice,Anonymous — Biella @ 3:46 pm

I really don’t know what to make of this Cisco-made video “What a Hackable World.” It is sort of interesting that Anonymous and Lulzsec made it in but the video is not all that clever. And what up with the nerd-o-matic sys admin (most sys admin I know are more hoodie, less nerdie). But can anyone explain what/who the main featured dude is supposed to be? Hacker detective/destroyer? Cisco customer?

November 28, 2010

The Existential Philsophy of Procrastination

Category: Academic,Advice — Biella @ 10:16 am

out of cous

The New Yorker has a very nice piece about the follies and foibles of procrastination. I really identified with it, especially the ruminations of multiple/divided selves (I do feel more like Biella’s instead of Biella especially during moments of extreme procrastination).

The heart of the piece has to do with the existential face of procrastination, which the author nails with this quote by Mark Kingwell:

““Procrastination most often arises from a sense that there is too much to do, and hence no single aspect of the to-do worth doing. . . . Underneath this rather antic form of action-as-inaction is the much more unsettling question whether anything is worth doing at all”

This reminds me of another one of my favorite (and kinda distributing but also kinda liberating) quotes by Henry Miller:

“Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning”

Finally, the most humorous bit in the article had to do with Victor Hugo, who apparently, to stave off distraction, would write in the nude and then make what sounds like his man servant hide his clothes so he could not go outside. Reminds me that prior to the Internet, there were certainly other ways to “squander” time.

For now, I encourage some procrastination: read it and you might get some insight as to this habit, which seems to afflict so many.

April 4, 2010

Advice Dawg: what to do in NYC #1

Category: Advice,Conferences,Debconf10,Debian,New York City — Biella @ 11:12 am

So since a lot of folks are coming to NYC for Debconf I thought I would post some material on fun stuff to do in the city. I recently found out about this blog Walking Off the Big Apple, which looks great. I posted a recent entry that shows the trees in bloom and I am lucky enough to have one of those trees smack in front of my window.

If you are into walking and radical politics, this book might be for you.

Finally (for today, more to come), a nice guide for keeping it cheap in NYC

November 18, 2009

Phreaking your way into Egypt?

Category: Academic,Advice,Hackers,Phreaking — Biella @ 7:47 pm

At times I am secretly (actually more openly) jealous of my colleagues in the English department who get to teach literature day in and day out. What a treat.

So I always make sure to sneak at least one fictional story whether short–such as Kurt Vonnegut’s “Unready to Wear” in Welcome to the Monkey House, which is superb or something longer and way more verbose than Vonnegut who is the epitome of sparsity, such as Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (Cryptonomicon is too long).

I have just been informed by Phil Lapsley of one of the only fictional accounts on phone phreakers Loving Little Egypt and I might just make this the fictional account for my hacker class I am teaching next semester. I can never get enough of phreaking and since there is so little on the topic, this can top things off.

Has anyone read it? Any thoughts? Any other fictional accounts on phreakers?

August 11, 2009

Dear Lazy Web: RTFM-in-Action

Category: Academic,Advice,Debian,Geek,My Work — Biella @ 5:01 am


So I am currently working on a section of my book that examines the duality/tension between sharing and self-reliance among hackers. I have some great examples from IRC of sharing but none of RTFMing, which indeed, is more rare. Do you have in your quote file some funny example of RTFM (or a kindred ‘eff you’) or know of a mailing list discussion where this happened? I would love to include in the book. For those that are not geeky readers, RTFM = Read The Fucking Manual and is a stylized rebuff that some people find very offensive and others less so because it is a canned response. Whatever the case…here is a snippet from the book:

On the one hand, hackers speak of the importance of learning from others and construe knowledge production as a collective enterprise—this rhetoric is often matched in practice by truly generous and copious acts of constant sharing. In any given minute of the day, I can head over to one of the developers IRC channels and there will be some developers asking a question, getting an answer, and giving thanks. On the other hand, hackers at times express an extreme commitment to individual self-reliance, which can be at times displayed in a quite abrasive and elitist tone. Hacker discourse creates fine discriminations among the projects of individual programmers and valorizes independent control over technical environments and production

I have some great examples of sharing-in-action on IRC because frankly, that is what happens much of the time. I also have a great analytical discussion of RTFM among DD’s but what I don’t have is an RTFM in action.

I can 1) spend the next 48 hours straight starting at #debian and other channels to see whether one comes up and just might have to do so.

But if you have some IRC log/quote file that captures this fine moment or know of a mailing list discussion where this happened, can you please pass along?

ps. Here is my favorite description of RTFM:

[RTFM] is a big chromatic dragon with bloodshot beady eyes and fangs the size of oars. RTFM is me screaming at you as fireballs come out of my mouth to get off your precious no-good tush, march down to the local bookstore or MAN page repository, and get the eff off my back because I’m trying very hard to get some freakin’ work done. Jeez.

August 8, 2009

Rectifying Mistakes: IdeaPad S Series netbook

Category: Advice,Computers — Biella @ 5:33 am

When I started my job, I decided to get an Apple Laptop because I wanted to try something new. I installed Linux (which is not so smooth to do on Apple). It was to put bluntly, a mistake.I really dislike the hardware and keyboard and it is just, like so much Apple hardware, flimsy. My CD/DVD player is already busted (and it is too much effort being in PR to fix it right now) and I feel like I have to treat the machine as a fragile one. I have heard so many Apple owners say “my hardware crashed, I sent my machine to be fixed” and when I point out that it messed up, many respod “but they have a great warranty.” The best warranty is not having to use the warranty. If you are not a Linux user, I understand why people prefer Apple software over MS software. But I will never get Mapple again.

Anyhow so I am going to get a netbook cuz I am traveling a whole lot next year and I can’t trust the Apple. I am thinking of IdeaPad S-series as it seems nifty and seems to work very well with Debian/Ubuntu. I have spent the morning reading reviews, and all in all, it seems like a winner.

If you have any experience with it, negative or positive, feel free to shoot me a line or drop a note in the comments.

update: Thanks for everyone’s very useful comments. I am now leaning toward Asus EeePC 1000 HE