Category Archives: computing

Windows malware as a romance

Security updates for Windows are starting to sound more like  romance novels.

This week’s offerings:

MS17-010: Security Update for Microsoft Windows SMB Server:(4013389)

Eternal Blue

Eternal Champion

Eternal Romance

Eternal Synergy

Wanna Cry

Eternal Rocks

I’m speculating this series is about two immortal system administrators who are sad (blue), become champions of the downtrodden network users in the second volume, and find one another and have a budding romance in the third. In the fourth novel, after a constant tease in the first three, the two engage in some intimacy, then experience great regrets in the next novel, and find their romance on the rocks in the last.

It could be more interesting than the “Twilight” series. While the Twilight series took place in Forks, Washington, the Eternal Blue series takes place in Redmond, Washington, which has fewer trees but far more computers and smart phones.

License agreement as literature

George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm (August, 1945) has 29,966 words.

Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 (October, 1953) has 46,118 words.

Apple’s  “Apple Developer Program License Agreement” (June, 2017) has 42,993 words.

In terms of plot, setting, and character, the license agreement is no match for either of the former two works. But all three could be classed as dystopian.

Out of order: coming soon!

This is allegedly a check-in kiosk, allowing you to get a personal, human touch from a machine and not one of those impersonal people. Unfortunately, it would not let you check in.

Several things are of interest:

  • While laser printers abound in this particular clinic, and white paper is readily apparent, the message taped to the front of the screen is on yellow paper, and written in both ink and either lipstick or crayon.
  • The hand-written message, written by two different writers, claims that it is both “Coming Soon!” and “THIS IS OUT OF ORDER Don’t Use,” suggesting that coming soon the kiosk would be out of order.
  • Or maybe that should be reversed, and that it is currently out of order, and something else — order? — will soon be coming.
  • The nameplate at the bottom says the kiosk was made by Vecna Medical, and their registered slogan is “Better Technology. Better World.” Better technology than human receptionists? Than hand-written signs? And are we talking about this particular world, or some other world?
Out of order, coming soon. Or possibly Better Technology. Better World, because the world is better handled with hand-written signs.
Out of order, coming soon. Or possibly Better Technology. Better World, because the world is better handled with hand-written signs.

One more question: why is the kiosk turned on if it is not working?

Visit to NSA

The National Security Agency (NSA) has a large campus on Fort Meade, Maryland, protected by fences, barbed wire, police dogs, guards, and maybe a dragon or two. It is not visitor friendly.

But right outside of the campus is the National Cryptologic Museum,  an old motel once used by visitors for housing guests. The motel is no longer a motel, but a rather casually laid out museum, sprawling through hallways and odd spaces, filled with artifacts on the art of sending, receiving, and stealing secret messages.

This formerly super-secret agency (nicknamed “No Such Agency,” as even the name was a secret) recently displayed a sign in the entrance claiming it was a Pokémon Go stop, which is a major step forward into the world of publicity.

The National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade started advertising itself as a Pokemon Go "Pokéstop" shortly after the Pokemon Go craze started. You could hunt for Pokemon and learn about secret messages at the same time.
The National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade started advertising itself as a Pokémon Go “Pokéstop” shortly after the Pokémon Go craze started. You could hunt for Pokémon and learn about secret messages at the same time.

Right inside, and probably to the great surprise of the British Museum, is the Rosetta Stone, one of the best examples of coding from the ancient world,

The Rosetta Stone, often thought to be housed at the British Museum in London, but really located outside the gift shop of the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, MD. Unlike that one in London, this one is easier to photograph and touch.
The Rosetta Stone, often thought to be housed at the British Museum in London, but really located outside the gift shop of the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, MD. Unlike that one in London, this one is easier to photograph and touch.

The museum houses artifacts that may not so obviously be associated with cryptology, such as a hunk of wreckage from Gary Powers’ U-2 surveillance aircraft, shot down over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. The Soviets fired fourteen missiles at the high-flying  U-2, finally hitting it with an S-75 Dvina, specially designed for the attempt. The Soviets also accidentally shot down one of their own MiG-19 fighters, sent up in an attempt to intercept the U-2.

The wreckage of the U-2 fell almost 14 miles before hitting the ground. A piece of that wreckage was presented to the US by Russia in 1994.

A piece of the wreckage from Gary Powers' U-2 surveillance aircraft, shot down by the Soviets in 1960 and presented to the US by the Russian government in 1994.
A piece of the wreckage from Gary Powers’ U-2 surveillance aircraft, shot down by the Soviets in 1960 and presented to the US by the Russian government in 1994.

You can check out a earlier blog entry for more photos and information about the museum, including the famed Enigma coding machine.

Visual BASIC in Romanian

What do you do if you need a quick reference to Visual BASIC and the only available reference is in Romanian? Let us consider this logically:

First off, you do not wonder, “Why is there a Visual BASIC manual in Romanian sitting on my desk? I can neither read nor write Romanian.” This is obviously the wrong question, as the person putting it on the desk was probably thinking, “Oh, a Visual BASIC book. I don’t do Visual BASIC, so I’ll give it to someone who might be able to use it.”

Second, you do not think: “But I don’t program in Visual BASIC.” This is silly. If you know how to program at all, everyone thinks, “Oh, yes, that guy [“guy” is gender neutral in this case] is a programmer.” It doesn’t make any difference what the programming language might be. It could be COBOL, FORTRAN, BASIC, Snobol, Algol, Pascal, Ada, APL, PL/1, Swift, or, apparently, Romanian. Which isn’t a programming language at all.

What really happened: something broke. I didn’t create the broken thing. I don’t know Visual BASIC, but nobody who knew Visual BASIC was handy. There was a Visual BASIC book lying around, albeit in Romanian. Fun fact: Visual BASIC, and almost all other programming languages, is based on English.

In short: by simply ignoring the explanatory text and looking at several pages of code, I found the problem, and blackmailed someone else into fixing it.

Visual BASIC for Windows, written in Romanian.
Visual BASIC for Windows, written in Romanian.

I probably won’t press my luck and try this again.