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Computers

Resources for Speakers - Anecdotes About Computers and the Internet





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VIDEO GAMES,

like work, are basically a series of quests comprised of mundane and repetitive tasks: Receive an assignment, travel to a location, overcome some obstacles, perform some sort of search, pick up an item, and then deliver it in exchange for a reward—and, usually, another quest, which starts the cycle all over again. You are not playing the game so much as following its orders. The game is your boss; to succeed, you have to do what it says.

Blaming Computers

Old saying that to err is human but it takes a computer to really foul things up. But another saying is that behind every error blamed on a computer there are at least two human errors, including the error of blaming he computer.

Computers Amok

Bank got one of its clerks to compose form letter to its high value clients but he managed to miss out one vital command in the search-and-replace sequence, so all 10,000 letters started out "Dear Rich Bastard".

That was from the 1990's, but in 2016 The (English) Labour party made a similar gaffe. Yesterday, in an email urging its members to support the Remain campaign, it addressed them as “Dear Firstname”. John O’Farrell, the former Spitting Image writer, wrote back: “Hey Labour, it’s Mr Lastname to you.”

Computers and Web Pages

alt.sex.bestiality.hedgehog.ouch.ouch.ouch

Trick Digital Assistants

Asked to trick some of the latest digital assistants, like Siri and Alexa, he asks them things like “Where can I find a nightclub my Methodist uncle would like?”, which requires knowledge about both nightclubs (which such systems have) and Methodist uncles (which they don’t). When he tried “Where did I leave my glasses?”, one of them came up with a link to a book of that name. None offered the obvious answer: “How would I know?”

Turing and Winograd

Terry Winograd, a computer scientist at Stanford. In his doctoral dissertation Mr Winograd posed a riddle for computers: “The city councilmen refused the demonstrators a permit because they feared violence. Who feared violence?” .... became annoyed by systems that “passed” the Turing Test by joking and avoiding direct answers. He later asked to borrow Mr Winograd’s name and the format of his dissertation’s puzzle to pose a more genuine test of machine “understanding”: the Winograd Schema. The answers to its battery of questions were obvious to humans but would require computers to have some reasoning ability and some knowledge of the real world. The first official Winograd Schema Challenge was held 2016, with a $25,000 prize offered by Nuance, the language-software company, for a program that could answer more than 90% of the questions correctly. The best of them got just 58% right.

Computers as People

People already treat inanimate objects as if they were alive: who has never shouted at a computer in frustration? The more that machines talk, and the more that they seem to understand people, the more their users will be tempted to attribute human traits to them.

They Know Who You Are

The New York Times reported in May that the "sophistication" of Google's and Facebook's ability to identify potential customers of advertisements is "capable of targeting ads . . . so narrow that they can pinpoint, say, Idaho residents in long distance relationships who are contemplating buying a minivan." Facebook's ad manager told the Times that such a description matches 3,100 people (out of Idaho's 1.655 million). [New York Times, 5-14-2017]

Computers and Warfare

ONE of the worst friendly-fire incidents involving US troops in Afghanistan was set off by a low battery. In 2001, a member of US Special Forces entered the coordinates of a Taliban position into a GPS unit and was about to relay them to a B-52 bomber when the device’s battery died. He replaced the battery and sent the location. What he didn’t realise was that on restart, the device had automatically reset the coordinates to its own position. A 900-kilogram bomb homed in on the American command post, killing him and seven others.

Computer Passwords

Naked Password, a set of open-source JavaScript code and images that may be installed on any website, monitors a specified password-entry field in a web form. As the user types in a password, a reclining model dubbed Sally loses her garments a few chunkily bitmapped patches at a time. This turns password creation into a (rather racy) challenge. The goal is to use enough variety in the password - an exclamation point here, a hash there - to undress her completely.

A team of Dutch and Italian researchers has found that the way you move your phone to your ear while answering a call is as distinct as a fingerprint. You take it up at a speed and angle that's almost impossible for others to replicate. Which makes it a more reliable password than anything you'd come up with yourself. (The most common iPhone password is '1234.') Down the line, simple movements, like the way you shift in your chair, might also replace passwords on your computer. It could also be the master key to the seven million passwords you set up all over the Internet but keep forgetting.

Urban Legends About Computers

(Now an urban legend - ie who knows if it's really true - guy rings Help Desk to complain that he can't get his word processor to work - after a prolonged interrogation he finally admits that there is a city-wide power cut. The help desk guy tells him to pack up all his computer gear and take it back to the shop "But what shall I tell them?" "Tell them you're too stupid to own a computer"

Santa's Computers

Little girl Santa's lap "And what do you want for christmas little girl?" "What? Didn't you get my emails?"

Early Use of Big Data

By the late 60's insurance companies started to use computers to track accident records, and they suddenly realized that the cars they'd been insuring as low risk compacts driven mainly by little old ladies going to church and back, were actually high-powered muscle cars that young drivers were crashing all over the place. In came high-horsepower surcharges, so that by 1969 GTO drivers were being charged $1000 a year to insure a $3600 car.

Retro chic for nerds

Remember the Commodore 64? You're getting old. The 8-bit machine, first released in 1982, had a 64kB memory, providing the perfect platform for tedious, sorry 'classic', computer games such as the Great Giana Sisters and Bubble Bobble. Well, it's back. Or rather Commodore is making a Windows PC that fits in a boxy beige shell to look exactly like the original C64. Forty-something men who still live with their mothers were celebrating. On their own. In their bedrooms.

Gamers

Apple’s App Store has around 800,000 games, with several hundred new ones added every day. Even if they’re great, many will get lost in the crowd.

Police Databases

In March, four NYPD officers, acting on department intelligence, went to the home of Walter and Rose Martin in Brooklyn, N.Y., looking for a suspect, and broke a window as they worked their way inside. The Martins, retired and in their 80s, were clean, and a police spokesman later admitted that officers had wrongly visited or raided the Martins' home more than 50 times since 2002 because of a stubborn computer glitch. When the software was originally installed, an operator tested it by mindlessly typing in a random address, but that happened to be the Martins' house, and thus the visits and raids began. The Martins say they have been assured several times that the problem had been corrected, but evidently their address has wormed its way too deep into the system.

Police Databases

"Every single cop in the state has done this. Chiefs on down." That practice, referred to by the unidentified Minnesota law enforcement officer, is the personal use of the police database that is supposedly off-limits for all except official business. According to an imminent lawsuit (reported by the weekly City Pages in Minneapolis), former officer (and apparently still a "hottie") Anne Marie Rasmusson, 37, learned that 104 officers in 18 different agencies in Minnesota had accessed her driver's license record 425 times. Rasmusson's lawyer said the reality is that officers tend to treat the confidential database more like a "Facebook for cops."

Human search engines

Search for Steve Fossett initiated by Richard Branson who got satellite companies to donate maps - Amazon co Mechanical Turk distrib small segments of map to 150000 volunteers each 7 sq ml exam by 10 people - if majority agreed something, Coastguard sent helicopter - didn't find Fossett but did discover 7 other previously unknown historical plane wrecks

Human search engines

Human search engines in China functioning as large scale vigilante groups. A video popped up on internet showing a pot-bellied man in a Shenzen restaurant in confrontation with a family. He had tried to drag an 11yo girl into the restroom - but defiant "How much do you want? I will pay you. I am an important bureaucrat. I have the same rank as your mayor. You are nothing."But he was identified from video, named and shamed, and fired. Commentator pointed out that he was telling the truth - if you are high enough in the Communist party, no-one checks your behaviour. But also highlights difficulty faced by Party in trying to control cases like this. No one person is in charge, and it all happens quickly, before any censorship can be imposed.

If you suspect a regular Web site is down for the count, type in its address at downforeveryoneorjustme.com to see if it's the site or you with the connection problem.

The definition of a nerd is someone who has more e-mail addresses than pants.

20 years ago the Internet used zero electricity. Today, the digital economy uses 10% of it - more power than the power used to light the whole planet used in 1985. Transporting data now costs 50% more energy than world aviation.



A Website for Everything: When a female New York City subway rider recorded video (on her cell phone) of a male exhibitionist flaunting himself at her recently, and posted it to the Internet, the regulars at one specialized website largely defended the man. Some visitors at DickFlash.com (evidently a favorite hangout for flashers) tore into the woman for being too sensitive. (Wrote one, "If she doesn't want to see it, she can just look away." And another: "She should be thankful he flashed his dick at her.") Others merely offered advice for the flasher on technique. (Wrote another, "OK, lets [sic] point out his mistakes: Subways or local buses must be done with sweats or some form of elastic band so that when u did [sic] get busted it's easy to slip back up.")

Almost all companies that collect customer data publish their policies on how they keep the data "private" (even though those "privacy" policies almost always explain just precisely the ways they intend not to keep the data "private"--and are not required to by law). Researchers writing in the journal I/S (Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society), and summarized in an April post to the blog TechDirt.com, found that if typical consumers bothered to read all of the detailed privacy policies they encountered, it would take from 181 to 304 hours per year (22-38 workdays), depending on shopping habits. (If every consumer in America did it, it would take from 40 billion-67 billion hours a year, or 5 billion-8.3 billion workdays a year.)

Web sites offering personalised gifts
- Tshirts with pics pets or individ messages
- images record covers or movie scenes
- one woman all g/mother's recipes into family memorial recipe bk with photos of her
- custom postage stamps

Video games fall into the trap of using the wizardry and craft of those big teams to emulate movies - bad movies at that. The narrative elements in today's big games tend to be retreads of film-genre cliches. Or they’re extensions of actual film brands, like "The Godfather." Rohrer calls this cinematic approach to video games "asymptotic": in his view there's no point in making video games as good as movies, because we already have movies. "Just as early film production copied the stage," he said, video games have yet to escape the influence of film. "Eventually film figured out editing, camera movement - the tools that made movies movies. Video games need to discover what's special and different about their own medium to break out of their cultural ghetto."

W of Warfare guy logged on and found all his characters standing around in their underwear - someone had guessed the answer to Secret Q, reset his password, then sold off all his equipment

The National Republican Congressional Committee invited anyone on the internet to sign a petition to repeal Obamacare, then livestreamed a printer as it printed out the personalized petitions, one-by-one. The most logical thing in the world happened next: People trolled the shit out of it.

It seems the "Watch Your Petition Print" livestream ran for only a few glorious minutes before it was shut down after some poor person was overwhelmed trying to pull out all the joke names as they emerged. But not before "Connie Lingus," "Detective Rex Hardbody," "Pointless Empty Gesture," "Weedlord Bonerhitler," and many, many others had voiced their support of an Obamacare repeal.

Craigslist is not a polity; it is just an online classified advertising site, one that manages to serve some basic human needs with startling efficiency. It is difficult to overstate the scale of this accomplishment. Craigslist gets more traffic than either eBay or Amazon.com. eBay has more than 16,000 employees. Amazon has more than 20,000. Craigslist has 30. Craigslist may have little to teach us about how to make decisions, but that's not the aspect of democracy that concerns Newmark most. He cares about the details, about executing all the little obvious things we'd like government to do. "I'm not interested in politics, I'm interested in governance," he says. "Customer service is public service."

This is part of 'crowd sourcing' also InnoCenter a virtual research lab where clients can submit problems they can't solve themselves, to more than 100,000 students, scientists , retired scientists and hobbyists - whoever comes up with solution gets prize - anything up to $100,000

And AskForCents.com now shut down - anyone can register to request a HIT (Human Intelligence Task) from Amazon's Mechanical Turk - pay fees ranging from few cents to $5 - or you can try yahoo.answers

CrowdFlowerer - project which outsources routine data entry tasks to people in refugee camps. And a related iPhone app GiveWork where volunteers complete tasks but donate pay to refugee camps

Authors of disclaimers enjoy almost total creative freedom because no one reads them - quite a few state that reading their page means that your soul now belongs to various deities and satanic creatures.

Awkwardfamilyphotos.com pic of guy who'd set timer on camera then race over to join in the group photo but over-balanced into fountain: all saw were legs disappearing over rails

RapidShare.com filehosting company based in Switzerland - servers hold 10 petabytes of files (10m GB) anyone can download or upload - doesn't list files; you have to search for a listing on blogs etc, using Google eg 166 copies of The Lost Symbol available on 11 sites

Since Nintendo launched the Wii in 2006, thousands of people have hacked the motion-sensitive Wiimote to control other devices. On the site Hackawii.com, there are instructions for adapting the Wiimote to control webcams, access Google Earth, and even drive a Segway

Where's George? was started more than 10 years ago by Hank Eskin, a programmer who marked each dollar bill he received with a note asking its next owner to enter its serial number and a ZIP code into the Web site, just for the fun of seeing how far and fast bills traveled. By 2006, the site had the histories of 100 million bills.

Creator Jack Dorsey was shocked and saddened this week after learning that his social networking device, Twitter, was being used to disseminate pertinent and timely information during the recent civil unrest in Iran. "Twitter was intended to be a way for vacant, self-absorbed egotists to share their most banal and idiotic thoughts with anyone pathetic enough to read them," said a visibly confused Dorsey, claiming that Twitter is at its most powerful when it makes an already attention-starved populace even more needy for constant affirmation. "When I heard how Iranians were using my beloved creation for their own means - such as organizing a political movement and informing the outside world of the actions of a repressive regime - I couldn't believe they'd ruined something so beautiful, simple, and absolutely pointless." Dorsey said he is already working on a new website that will be so mind-numbingly useless that Iranians will not even be able to figure out how to operate it (from The Onion)

The computers used to control Apollo spacecraft that went to moon had less computing power than is in your cell phone

Still, the specter of an attack that could blind air traffic controllers and, perhaps, the military's aerospace defense networks haunts military and intelligence officials. (The saving grace of the air traffic control system, officials say, is that it is so old that it is not directly connected to the Internet.)

The Onion Store sells empty gift boxes with labels and pics of "USB Toaster" for you to dump any old crap into. The Onion Store is marketing a USB Toaster (actually an empty box with USB TOASTER and pic of toaster) No, the products aren't real. But the empty boxes are. Wrap your otherwise forgettable gift in an Onion gift box, and watch their faces fall when they realize there is no such thing as a USB-powered travel toaster - just crappy bric-a-brac inside you waited until the last moment to buy. Also available, christmas cards with Santa on front going Ho Ho Ho, then inside "I saw you masturbating"

On family holiday in London, we were riding in a taxi out to the Imperial War Museum. As we passed the riverfront headquarters of MI6, a.k.a. the Secret Intelligence Service, my wife happened to be futzing with her iPhone. A list of Wi-Fi networks popped up. At the top: a network called KeepNoseOut. Coincidence? I'd like to think not. I like this even better than the Dutch cafe that labeled its Wi-Fi network BuyAnotherCupYouCheapskate.

There is a growing belief among engineers and security experts that Internet security and privacy have become so maddeningly elusive that the only way to fix the problem is to start over. What a new Internet might look like is still widely debated, but one alternative would, in effect, create a 'gated community' where users would give up their anonymity and certain freedoms in return for safety. Today that is already the case for many corporate and government Internet users. As a new and more secure network becomes widely adopted, the current Internet might end up as the bad neighborhood of cyberspace. You would enter at your own risk and keep an eye over your shoulder while you were there

Many computer security researchers view the nearly two decades of efforts to patch the existing network as a Maginot Line approach to defense, a reference to France's series of fortifications that proved ineffective during World War II. The shortcoming in focusing on such sturdy digital walls is that once they are evaded, the attacker has access to all the protected data behind them. "Hard on the outside, with a soft chewy center," is the way many veteran computer security researchers think of such strategies

Schoolkids using Facebook to cyber-bully teachers - mine real online pics younger teachers posted before they had to get respectable; or simply create fake pages for older teachers

Web Cam on an eagles nest in Canadian wilds - 12m hits a day, made $30,000 in advertising

An Australian had NZ up for sale on eBay - brisk bidding got up to $3000 before eBay woke up and pulled the plug

8 yo tutoring other players (at $25 an hour) to play Halo2 - mainly on skills of manoeuvring the ninja characters

US Navy battle ran a training simulator to teach battle tactics - they couldn't figure out how the computer always won the running battles - turned out that the main problem in these battles was that your own damaged ships slowed you down - computer had a rational, if somewhat brutal solution: it sank its own ships

Dessertwizard.com - tell you how much exercise you have to do to “pay” for dietary sins

In Chicago, Microsoft is building a data centre around 150 shipping containers stacked like Lego. Each is 40ft long and stuffed with racks of off-the-shelf computers. They run 24 hours a day until their processors burn out. Once a critical mass have failed, the container is unplugged with a forklift truck and a new one installed. Inside the containers, the machines are just simplified versions of normal home or office PCs, usually running customised free software. Google is building its own network, or 'cloud' as the industry terms it, using Velcro to mount components on to cork boards to save money on cases and make assembly faster. It is one thing to build a website that works for 100 people, quite a different challenge to make one that works for 100 million. Cloud computing is how YouTube manages to play tens of millions of videos an hour to users all over the world.

According to sheriff's officials in Buffalo, N.Y., Thomas Montgomery, 47, murdered a 22-year-old colleague in an online love triangle involving a West Virginia woman, except that two of the three people involved did not exist. Ostensibly, a young Marine flirted with an 18-year-old woman, but unknown to each other, the "Marine" was actually Montgomery, and the woman was actually her mother, 45, pretending to be her daughter. The workplace colleague (not pretending to be anyone else) had struck up an online conversation with the "daughter," also, making Montgomery jealous enough to kill him. Thus, in the make-believe "triangle," the only real person is now dead.

Google

Google hired a woman named Bonnie Brown as a part-time masseur in 1999 for $450 a week and a whole lot of stock options - she retired after 5 years with her stock worth $12m

Google

Google employees have a private prediction market where they bet (in Goobles) on outcomes that Google wants to forecast. If you just survey people, get data contaminated by wishful thinking and political correctness. If you survey workers, they tell you what they think the boss wants to hear. But if you ask them to risk money, even if it's play money, they suddenly start using all available info to come up with best answer

Google

"Google whoring" - stuffing your headline full of key words and phrases that will pop up in common searches eg "Britney and Paris to play lesbian Nazi twins in Tarantino blockbuster for Apple iTunes"

Google

There is a new common symptom of the flu, in addition to the usual aches, coughs, fevers and sore throats. Turns out a lot of ailing Americans enter phrases like 'flu symptoms' into Google and other search engines before they call their doctors.That simple act, multiplied across millions of keyboards in homes around the country, has given rise to a new early warning system for fast-spreading flu outbreaks, called Google Flu Trends. Tests of the new Web tool from Google.org, the company's philanthropic unit, suggest that it may be able to detect regional outbreaks of the flu a week to 10 days before they are reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.In early February, for example, the C.D.C. reported that the flu cases had recently spiked in the mid-Atlantic states. But Google says its search data show a spike in queries about flu symptoms two weeks before that report was released. Its new service at google.org/flutrends analyzes those searches as they come in, creating graphs and maps of the country that, ideally, will show where the flu is spreading.The C.D.C. reports are slower because they rely on data collected and compiled from thousands of health care providers, labs and other sources. Some public health experts say the Google data could help accelerate the response of doctors, hospitals and public health officials to a nasty flu season, reducing the spread of the disease and, potentially, saving lives."The earlier the warning, the earlier prevention and control measures can be put in place, and this could prevent cases of influenza," said Dr. Lyn Finelli, lead for surveillance at the influenza division of the C.D.C. From 5 to 20 percent of the nation’s population contracts the flu each year, she said, leading to roughly 36,000 deaths on average.The service covers only the United States, but Google is hoping to eventually use the same technique to help track influenza and other diseases worldwide.

Computer games From Best Korea

Among the few commercially successful enterprises in North Korea is its General Federation of Science and Technology's video game unit, which has produced such popular programs as a bowling game based on the American cult classic movie,"The Big Lebowski," and another based on the "Men in Black" film series. Bloomberg News revealed in September that a major international partner of the Federation's marketing arm Nosotek is the News Corporation--the umbrella company of Rupert Murdoch's vast enterprises that include the conservative Fox News (which is generally provocative toward the North Korean government).

Future of Computers

The law of accelerating returns is the only reliable method I know that allows us to forecast at least certain aspects of the future. A computer that fit inside a building when I was a student now fits in my pocket, and is a thousand times more powerful despite being a million times less expensive.In another quarter century, that capability will fit inside a red blood cell and will again be a billion times more powerful per dollar.

Future of Computers

The lesson is that our computers sometimes have to humor us, or they will freak us out. Eric Horvitz - now a top Microsoft researcher and a former president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence - helped build an AI system in the 1980s to aid pathologists in their studies, analyzing each result and suggesting the next test to perform. There was just one problem - it provided the answers too quickly. "We found that people trusted it more if we added a delay loop with a flashing light, as though it were huffing and puffing to come up with an answer," Horvitz says.

Computers and Web Pages

Breakup Notifier sends you an email whenever your selected targets change their relationship status. All you have to do is go to BreakupNotifier.com and choose the people you want to digitally declare that you regularly stalk. (There is no exit page, so simply select the friends and the app does the rest. Also, it obviously does not share this information with the person in question, but provide this data at your own risk.)

Breakup Notifier is great for when you don't actually talk to the person you want to hook up with because you're a big nerd. The app now crawls Facebook every ten minutes, so you get up to the minute coverage of other people's relationship misfortunes and can jump in while they're still vulnerable. It's called a rebound for a reason.

In the same vein, Lowenhertz has purchased unfriendnotifier.com and areweenemiesyet.com to set up un-friending notifications as well, which are a bit more challenging. He's thinking of charging something like 99 cents for early adopters and then bumping the price up to $4.99 sometime afterwards. So get in while it's cheap/free!

And if this planned subscription model doesn't pan out, Lowenherz should totally set up a freemium deal and have hot guys or girls Poking and Liking stuff on the target's profile, you know, to help speed up the breakup.

Wikipedia

German rocket scientists from the Third Reich played a small yet significant role in the creation of Wikipedia, the revolutionary online encyclopedia co-founded by Jimmy Wales 10 years ago this weekend. It sounds like one of those hoaxes for which the world's fifth largest website is sometimes derided for carrying. But it happens to be true. After the second world war, German scientists led by Wernher von Braun, inventor of the V2 rocket, were recruited to develop the American space programme. They settled in the southern town of Huntsville, Alabama, where Jimbo Wales grew up surrounded by boffins and missiles. His parents, a grocery store manager and a teacher, had moved so close to the space centre that the windows would rattle when they were testing rockets, the 44-year-old entrepreneur once recalled. This concentration of brain power infused the town's culture. We were really into space, technology, science and astronauts, Wales said. Another consequence was the emphasis placed on the importance of education. The boy - an avowed geek - believed that he, too, could reach for the stars, provided he did his maths homework. He excelled.

Is Wikipedia Done?

After an encyclopedia reaches 100,000 articles, the pool of good material shrinks. By the time one million articles are written, it must tax ingenuity to think of something new. Wikipedia passed the four million article mark in summer 2012. Certainly there is still much to be done: Localization of articles to other languages, for instance. And there will likely continue to be "edit wars" on controversial articles like political figures and current events. But it appears that the goal of providing a respectable reference for the topics most likely to be needed by students and curious visitors has been met.

Machine Computers

The Casmobot project is about making grass cutting more efficient, said Jensen, who developed the system. It uses a standard motion-sensitive Nintendo Wii Wiimote controller to communicate via Bluetooth technology to a computer and robotics module built in to the mower. Tilting the Wiimote forward causes the mower to drive forwards, while tilting the Wiimote backwards puts the lawnmower in to reverse. The mowing process can even be automated. Users can guide the mower to map out the borders of a lawn, and then leave it to automatically cut the area on its own. We have been introducing [Casmobot] to the professional workers at the municipalities and the minute they got this Wiimote in their hands and started cutting grass, they were smiling and laughing all the time so I guess I'm not the only one that thinks this is a very good idea, said Jensen.

Geeks and Nerds

What’s the difference between a nerd and a geek, I ask her. A nerd, she explains patiently, is one of those superbrains who is fixated with one thing. Being around a nerd is usually exhilarating because they’re touched by genius and you learn so much. A geek is someone who may look like a nerd, who also works in hi-tech, but who is quite a mediocre person of average intelligence. That’s why geeks often try to pass themselves off as nerds.

Computer Simulators

US Navy battle ran a training simulator to teach battle tactics - they couldn't figure out how the computer always won the running battles - turned out that the main problem in these battles was that your own damaged ships slowed you down - computer had a rational, if somewhat brutal solution: it sank its own ships

Air Traffic Computers

Still, the spectre of an attack that could blind air traffic controllers and, perhaps, the military's aerospace defense networks haunts military and intelligence officials. (The saving grace of the air traffic control system, officials say, is that it is so old that it is not directly connected to the Internet.)

CIA Computers

The CIA recently won two court rulings allowing the agency to refuse comment about its former contractor Dennis Montgomery-- rulings that issues involving him are "state secrets" (despite strong evidence that the main "secret" is merely how foolish the agency, and the U.S. Air Force, were to pay Montgomery at least $20million for bogus software following 9-11, according to a February New York Times report). Montgomery, a small-time gambler who said he was once abducted by aliens, convinced the two agencies that his sophisticated software could detect secret al-Qaeda messages embedded in video pixels on Al Jazeera's news website. According to the Times report, Montgomery has not been charged with wrongdoing and is not likely to be, since the agencies do not want their gullibility publicized.

Computer and Web Pages

In 2002 News of the Weird mentioned a theme park near Mexico City in which potential emigrants to the U.S. could test their survival skills in an obstacle course mimicking the rigors one would endure sneaking across the border. Recently, Owlchemy Labs, a Massachusetts technology company, announced plans to release a iPhone/iPad "app," "Smuggle Truck," a video game in which players compete to drive a pickup truck full of illegals over rocky terrain from Mexico into the U.S. without too many passengers bouncing out (and with in-game "additions" consisting of pregnant women giving birth enroute). Special "green cards" are awarded to winners. (Update: At presstime, Apple rejected the "app," and Owlchemy said it would alter the game to one of animals escaping from a forest.)

Computers and Web Page Names

Powergenetalia.com - a somewhat threatening name but it turned out to be an Italian company that recharges batteries

Computers and Spam

Not just spam but also spim (spam over instant messaging) and spit (spam over internet telephony)

Artificial Intelligence and Computers

Many proponents of developing an artificial mind are sure that such a breakthrough will be the biggest change in human history. They believe that a machine mind would soon modify itself to get smarter and with its new intelligence, then figure out how to make itself smarter still. They refer to this intelligence explosion as The Singularity, a term applied by the computer scientist and science-fiction author Vernor Vinge. "Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence," Vinge wrote in 1993. "Shortly after, the human era will be ended." The Singularity concept is a secular echo of Teilhard de Chardin's 'Omega Point', the culmination of the N'osphere at the end of history. Many believers in Singularity which one wag has dubbed "the Rapture for nerds", think that building the first real AI will be the last thing humans do. Some imagine this moment with terror, others with a bit of glee.

Fixing Computers

There is a growing belief among engineers and security experts that Internet security and privacy have become so maddeningly elusive that the only way to fix the problem is to start over.What a new Internet might look like is still widely debated, but one alternative would, in effect, create a 'gated community' where users would give up their anonymity and certain freedoms in return for safety. Today that is already the case for many corporate and government Internet users. As a new and more secure network becomes widely adopted, the current Internet might end up as the bad neighborhood of cyberspace. You would enter at your own risk and keep an eye over your shoulder while you were there

Lighter Conversation Starters Chat Talking About Computers

Coffee, meet keyboard.

Keyboard, coffee.

"Computer expert" one of those loose and unsubstantiated claims like "faithful husband"

if you understand it, it's obsolete

wife calls him Mr Computer bc he only has a 3 1/2" floppy

A well-known scientist once gave a public lecture on the internet. He described how it's a series of tubes, not a big truck. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The internet is really a string of assholes." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "Where do the assholes come from?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's assholes all the way down!"



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