Archives of December 2004

The Church of Horrors

Something to do on a Sunday evening with full moon and clear weather: photograph the Church of Kallio and photoshop the images to make them look like they are taken from an old horror movie. This means desaturation and high contrast. However, I chose not to add any noise, scratches or grain or otherwise lessen the quality.

The results proved out to be ok, but nothing spectacular. I think vampires and werewolves would like the place (keeping up appearances is not that important to zombies so I think they really wouldn't care).

Enter the Visceral Image Gallery to visit the Church of Infernal Horrors!

Categories: Photography
Posted by Matias at 26.12.2004 21.23 (12 years ago) | 17 comments

Wintry Korpilahti

I spent a few days around Christmas at Korpilahti, which resulted in lots of new photos being added to the gallery, taken in both solar and lunar light.

It's been well over five years since the last time I walked around in Korpilahti and it's quite funny how I now perceived the village in totally different way. In lack of a better expression, things just made sense better than before, history-wise. I think I could disentangle the different layers leaved by different eras in town planning, buildings and infrastructure and deduce why things are the way they are now. The light green signs in red-brick municipal buildings are still ugly as hell and incomprehensible, but maybe they will be remembered in the future as a similar fad of tastelessness than rokoko.

Trip to mount Oravivuori was quite nice, we had to plunge through snowdrifts, quagmire and climb up (and down) icy rocks, but the view at the top of the gazebo was even more exhilarating than at summertime.

Categories: Photography
Posted by Matias at 26.12.2004 11.20 (12 years ago) | 15 comments

The papalest present

Aarne and Stiina gave me a most original and cool birthday present, a book of Pope John Paul II cut-out paper dolls! All the characters in the book represent the Pope, although the two on the right side of the cover are somewhat creepy... The costume repertoaire is very thorough: even the Papal Skiing Outfit is included (however the book fails to mention it's Latin name).

The book is from 1984, an era when the cardinals did not have to wiggle John Paul's jaws whenever the playback device utters a speech.

Posted by Matias at 21.12.2004 22.17 (12 years ago) | 368 comments

Spam elimination by visual pattern recognizion

I'm getting so much junk mail that the sheer amount actually eases recognizing it. Thunderbird does a wonderful job in placing the spam messages into it's Junk folder, but although it never has done a false positive (determining that a non-spam email is spam), I do not trust it completely and want to glance through the junk mail titles before actually deleting them.

When the amount of received spam is huge, I know that a group of emails is spam if the pattern formed by the letters of the subject is repeated in the screen and I do not need to read the titles, which makes ensuring the spamness of the emails very easy. Of course, there are some junk mail messages with unique subjects, which don't form a pattern, but these are a minority. It is possible to determine from the screenshot with it's size scaled down, which emails are spam even though the letters are not readable.

This method will fail if someone sends me repeatedly messages with the same subject and Thunderbird makes a false positive, but the odds of that are quite small and besides such a behavior is quite unusual so I don't care.

Categories: Computers
Posted by Matias at 11.12.2004 17.22 (12 years ago) | 35 comments

Personification of the iPods

iPodWizard, a supercool application, can change the graphics of iPods thus allowing customization of iPods.

Kati wanted Aladdin Sane onto her iPod Mini (which is titled Ziggy). Naturally, I put the Papal Kekkonen onto mine. Now the flashing "Do not disconnect" signs will emanate papal blessings and rock decadence every second.

Categories: Gear
Posted by Matias at 13.10.2005 20.48 (12 years ago) | 13 comments

The Rasterbator in the media

ReadyMade magazine is something I never had heard of until one day I got email titled "Press question". My first thought was that something had passed Thunderbird's spam filter, but it was a genuine email from their reporter, who wanted to write an article about The Rasterbator. She asked quite a lot of different things in a few emails and based the half-page article on them. The article turned out quite well, I reckon, she understood quite well all the motives and things behind being enthusiastic about the web and having too much time to do things - at least I'm quite happy about it.

The BBC incident is still a mystery. Quite a few people mentioned to me that they heard about The Rasterbator from a BBC news show that features different web sites and the reporters of the show even used it to create a huge poster. I cannot recall the name of the show just now, sorry. The shows were available in the Internet and mysteriously one of them was a few minutes shorter than the others - which were exactly of equal length. However, the following show contained a concise apology, something like "we're sorry one of the sites we featured last week contained some questionable material". Huh? The BBC team have failed to reply to the few emails I have sent to them to inquire about whether it really was The Rasterbator, or whether someone was playing an elaborate practical joke on me..

Although my generall impression on the BBC is very good - due to the open source video codec, opening the archives for non-commercial use and many great programs - still, THAT'S NO WAY TO RUN A PUBLIC SERVICE. Just kidding.

Categories: Art, Creations
Posted by Matias at 08.12.2004 21.38 (12 years ago) | 483 comments

Reality check for security

Beyond Fear cover

Recently, I read Bruce Schneier's book Beyond Fear. It was quite an enlightening read: quite a few of the things the book was about were obvious in some intuitive level, but Schneier managed to formulate them in a logical manner. Even better, the formulation was very clear, consistent and easy to follow. Although the book was occassionally a bit tedious, it still was very entertaining to read, thanks to numerous examples. I especially liked those taken from the behavior or characteristics of different animals. Being both enlightening and entertaining is not very easily accomplished.

After a (somewhat populistic, at least from an European point of view) 9/11-intro, the book talks a lot about security risks, risk mitigation and trade-offs. It starts by analyzing situations where humans make subconscious security decisions such as crossing the street when the pedestrian light is red: when the pedestrian sees clearly that no cars approach, the trade-off of waiting for green light is too great for improved security of green light for most people (of course, the law-abideness of the pedestrian also has an effect on this). Analyzing these mundane antics is a good and clear way of introducing a formal security analysis system.

When the reader has gained some knowledge of basic security and the difference between true security and "security theater", Schneier moves on to analyze more complex security systems, such as the effect of spectacularity (media attention) or personification (as opposed to anonymity) of victims. It's clear why too powerful police force is actually a security risk to the citizens rather than a risk mitigation. A basic characteristic of technology is that it enables; restricting is much more difficult. This fact brings forth both good and evil: it will be difficult to secure a house, but it will be probably impossible to generate a totalitaristic computing platform even with a cute name like "trustworthy computing".

Schneier manages to stay politically neutral even with the touchy subject of terrorism, although I think there was quite severe critique towards the American foreign policy between the lines (paraphrasing, "after being mugged, no one accuses you of being in the dark alleys, but would it have been wiser not to enter them in the first place?"). As a side note, this is probably what the Finnish politicians and media should be considering about NATO: will joining mitigate threats or aggravate them? (Of course, before that one should ask "what risks?"...)

The book revealed a few rather bleak matters about the world. History shows that in the long run, terrorism does work. And quite a few of the people in charge of security decisions obviously cannot see the true value of their actions. Security cannot just be "placed" by adding security cameras, ID checks or other arbitrary policies, it must be planned. Maybe even more important point is that increasing security does not need to mean reduced liberties.

The average member of a yellow press audience scarcely is going to read the book, but it really puts different risks into perspective: it's 200 times more probable to be struck by a lightning than die of anthrax. Combined with critical analysis of sensational media makes the book even more informative. Security is not of any value per se and it should be applied with caution and where needed - exaggeration is easy, hence prevalent.

I would recommend the book to those in charge of security policies (even more, I would insist that they read it) and to everyone who just wants to know how different systems work. Security is not totally unlike other systems.

Categories: Literature
Posted by Matias at 07.12.2004 22.42 (12 years ago) | 1299 comments

Upgrading MySQL from 4.0/Latin-1 to 4.1/UTF-8

I upgraded the MySQL database server powering this and a few other sites from 4.0 to 4.1. At the same time, I converted the data from Latin-1 to UTF-8, which proved to be a bit more complicated thing that I had anticipated. This is how it was done.

Backing up data and removal of 4.0

First, backing up of the entire 4.0 database. This was done with the superhandy MySQL utility mysqldump with the following command:mysqldump --opt --all-databases > d:\dump.sqlThere was 420Mb of data in sql form. However, MySQL can INSERT several rows with one command, so there is no one INSERT command per one row; it is much more compact.

Just to be sure, I zipped the dump.sql file and copied it onto another computer.

Then, removal of the MySQL 4.0. This was done by using the standard Add/remove programs -thing in the control panel. However, the uninstaller does not uninstall the service registration. To do this, use mysqld --remove

Installation of 4.1

The installer was quite a standard installer, easy to use.

When the installer has finished, it launches a configuration program, which was very welcome! It set up the things that previously have been available only in configuration files.

Feeding the data

Since I was unable to find any other solution for charset conversion, I wrote a small program, SqlDumpImporter, to feed the data into the database. You will need MySQLDriverCS to use it. The program reads data from an external file in iso-8859-1, converts it to utf-8 and recognizes the different databases. It executes only the commands of the databases specified. If you want to import databases kissa and vuohi from file kuukkeli.sql, invoke the program thusly: sqlimporter kuukkeli.sql kissa vuohi Note that the connection string is hardcoded into the program.

I did not use the program to import the data to the mysql database, which contains the user data. There were so few database users that it was fast to re-create the accounts.

Categories: Computers
Posted by Matias at 06.12.2004 21.49 (12 years ago) | 55 comments

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