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The week before Christmas I commented that my little netbook had died. Now my uncle has gifted me with a laptop of marvelous antiquity and prodigious size, doubtless a marvel of technology to the Old Ones who built it. Supposedly one of the add-ons lets it use wifi, which I haven't confirmed yet because I'm out of practice with PCM/CIA cards, not to mention Windows 2000. But now I can read floppy disks again! The display is perfectly readable, with fewer special effects than many OSes. And frankly the keyboard feel is magnificent, better than most desktop machines today and better than any laptop I've tried in years.
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My little netbook, upon which I did the whole OryCon daily zine last weekend, performed magnificently the whole weekend without the tiniest burp. (It didn't recognize every printer we tried to use, but that's another thing.) After the con, it wouldn't boot up at all. Nothing.

Damn.

So I got out a Knoppix DVD and have moved all my data off of it (in thumb-drive sized chunks, which has taken a while); so far so good. Now...I can't find the Windows XP disk. Not that I was looking forward to the re-install, but it's kind of important to have that bit. Grumble, grumble...
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Damn. It seems Dennis Ritchie passed away the other day.

* "Usenet is a strange place."
* "UNIX is very simple, it just needs a genius to understand its simplicity."
* "C is quirky, flawed, and an enormous success."
* C has "the power of assembly language and the convenience of... assembly language."
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According to an io9 article, a scheme is going down at UMichigan to get a computer to mimic a cat brain. (I'm sure this has been done in science fiction, possibly by an author with the initials C.S.) Having read the article I'm confident that nothing dramatic could possibly go wrong involving emulating the mind of an opportunistic predator and hooking the gadget up to the internet.
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On the off chance that my readers who would be interested have not seen this yet, I present a link to Gay Marriage: the Database Engineering Perspective. This has been copied all over the net by various amused geeks, gays, libertarians, and gay libertarian geeks. If you fit at least one of those categories, you may find it entertaining to read.

The synopsis: people are complicated!
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So I happen to be re-reading Charles Stross's Halting State at the moment; no big deal, except that this was brought to my attention.

Most of you can skip the URL; it's a proposal to expand the old Multi-User Dungeon text based virtual reality concept onto a multi-platform multi-world system. Among other things, that would let player avatars move from one world to another, and move objects between various servers. It would be modular and expandable. Open source code so anyone with a net connection could run a server. Clients would not need to be desktop computers but would run on celphones – gaming anywhere, any time, connecting to any world.

Aside from the absolutely crappy keyboards of celphones these days, a MUD is absolutely perfect for the smartphone environment; the database size, CPU load, and bandwidth requirements are all tiny by today's standards. (I played on and wrote content for MUCKs on a dumb terminal and a 300 baud modem; I speak from experience.) So what? Two points.

It's really just nerds wanking at each other about software that doesn't even exist yet. But...

It's also the multi-node dynamic VR concept Charles Stross described in Halting State - and instead of a bazillion-euro megacorp doing it, these hobbyists want to write it for kicks.
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Apparently China's latest cruel & unusual punishment is...online gaming? What?

Charles Stross relays a report from The Guardian about prisoners drafted into gold farming on MMORPGs, for the benefit of the guards. This is apparently a new variation on the much older scam of drafting them for grunt labor.

It seems prisoners are forced to stay at the computer nonstop for 12 hours a day, a torture completely unlike my life in that I don't speak Chinese.
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As seen on Charles Stross's blog, it is now possible to run linux on (some) web browsers. Really: try it. There are of course technical notes on how Javascript pretends to be a 486 linux box.

Actual useful applications of this feat are still coming, but the immediate attraction is the coolness factor.
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I've discovered today that the old Computer Stupidities page is not only still around but still being updated. For those who haven't read it, this collects many short anecdotes of our time in the trenches. In short, just what it says on the tin.

Some of these tales go back a very long way, to DOS or even the big iron days, showing us that even after decades of using computers reasonable people have their moments of foolishness...and that there are idiots who should never be allowed anywhere near technology.

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