Category Archives: geek links


so, i decided to reposition major furniture in my office, to achieve the following results:

  1. i have to figure out how my studio is set up. i originally set it up to use with the piano/synthesizer setup, and i seem to recall doing at least one piece of music in that configuration… and then i set it up some other way, which i don’t remember, and now everything is mixed up and i can’t figure it out, because all of the connections are on the back of the devices, and in order to access the back of the amplifier, i have to move the printer, and stand on a stool, while leaning over the printer, and accessing the back upside down… which isn’t ideal. what i need is the back of everything to be as easily accessible as the front, which means moving stuff around.
  2. in the process of trying to figure out how the studio stuff was hooked up, i thought i had completely disconnected every audio connection from my computer to the amplifier… and yet, i seem to be able to play music from my computer, and hear the sound through the speakers… which would seem to indicate that there is a new/different/as-yet-undiscovered audio connection that i have overlooked somehow… (possibly the HDMI connection from the monitor, but how does it get to the amplifier??? 😕) but, unfortunately, the cables from the computer to the amplifier are accessed from the back, AND under my desk… which is REALLY not ideal… i’ve got to figure that out.

this may involve a trip to ikea and possibly a new desk, as the one that i have is a repurposed ikea table.

the reason i want to figure out how my studio works (again), is because i have recently discovered jamulus, which appears to be an audio interface that is designed to be used over internet. i realise that there’s some pretty hard physical constants that make audio connections… let’s say difficult… over long distances, but, apparently, distances less than 50 miles or so the latency is tolerable, and they get around the rest of it, sketchily, by having everyone listen to the server, and not the actual sound coming out of your instrument, and… well, i haven’t been able to busk the past couple of weeks (HVAC stuff), and i’ve been going nuts, because there are new songs that we’ve been talking about, but we can’t get together and rehearse because i have to be at home to let the workers in… and now i’ve got jamulus installed, and (apparently) working… all i have to do is hook up a microphone, which i do, but… no sound… and thus began the task of figuring out how the studio is set up.

there’s another thing i tried to get set up, but couldn’t, because of a lack of installation instructions. actually advertises “jam online without latency”, despite the fact that, as far as i know, scientists are still stymied by the speed of light 😉 which makes it impossible to have an audio connection without more and more latency as the distance increases… but, hey… if i could get it installed, i might be using that, instead.

micro$not, mshtml, and activex

back in the dark ages, when i was working at STLabs, before we moved to factoria (i.e. STLabs… so, what? maybe 1995? 1996? somewhere in there), i was testing Internet Explorer version 3.0, which meant, basically, that i was testing micro$not’s browser engine, which is called MSHTML.dll. at the time, a very good friend of mine from college, saint fred (now, sadly, passed on) was mucking about with the innards of micro$not’s operating system, and discovered a problem which had existed for several years prior to this, which micro$not had “made disappear” by changing the technology’s name from OLE — which was, itself, a “renamed” technology, originally called Visual Basic for Applications, or “VB-A” — to “ActiveX”, and, in the process of making it “disappear”, actually made it more prevalent and insidious, by making it work seamlessly with even more micro$not technology.

and, saint fred being who he was, took advantage of this by writing the “Exploder Control”, which could be embedded in a web page, or a microsoft document, and would, when “activated”, perform a clean shutdown of the computer on which it was being viewed… whether you wanted to shut down your computer, or not.

you hit this web page, and, within seconds, your computer shuts down, with no further input from you. 😏


you open this microsoft word document, and, within seconds, your computer shuts down, with no further input from you. 🤣

i watched it happen as it first came out, before anybody realised what it was. it was hillarious! i gave the URI for the exploder control to my boss, and then went back to my workstation and listened, as she suddenly whined “it shut down my computer!” 🤣🤣🤣

and, of course, micro$not’s response to this was to threaten saint fred with lawsuits for doing stuff he shouldn’t have been doing, and when that didn’t work (because fred made sure that the exploder did everything strictly “by the book”, including getting micro$not’s signature on the control), they made the exploder control something that was detected by their anti-virus software (even though it was very clearly NOT a virus, and, actually, did everything totally “by the book”, something to which micro$not never admitted), and, once they figured out that they had caused all of this, they pulled their signature on the control, so that it raised even more red flags before actually activating it…

and, basically, did everything EXCEPT fix the problem, which, after a few months of frantic ass-covering by micro$not’s marketing department, while the tech industry had a good laugh, got swept under the rug, anyway, by more current micro$not fiascos.

but the technology remained, and every version of windows has support for activex, every version of MSHTML.dll has support for activex (which is one of the reasons micro$not got rid of MSHTML.dll a couple years ago, and current versions of Internet Exploder… um… what’s their browser called again? EDGE, that’s it… uses google’s “chrome” browser engine, instead. the browser wars are over! micro$not LOST!) and you can, literally, do ANYTHING with activex, that you could do from the normal user interface of windows, and there is, literally, NOTHING stopping you from doing this — or other, more nefarious things — given A LITTLE knowledge of the technology.

which is why, when i saw this headline: Miscreants fling booby-trapped Office files at victims, no patch yet, says Microsoft the FIRST THING i thought was “Exploder Control strikes again!”

this is one of the VERY BIG reasons i do not use micro$not on my computers. i don’t even have my microsoft 5-button mouse any longer!

i wonder if they’ll ever learn. 🙄

Continue reading micro$not, mshtml, and activex


today is the third day of NOT using Kontact, the MUA that i have been using pretty much ever since i switched to linux, back in the dark ages.

i really liked kontact. it did EXACTLY what i wanted it to do: it handled all of my email addresses in a logical way, made it easy to switch from one email address to another, worked well with my business set-up, my installation of sigrot

but it had a fatal flaw which i have been trying (and, mostly, succeeding) to work around for quite some time now, and that is its use of akonadi, which is the interface between the MUA and the SQL database that lives behind it.

for the first few years i didn’t even notice a problem, but then i upgraded my operating system, and everything blew up. i ended up installing the new operating system from scratch, and summarily trashing three or four years worth of collected email. it was a difficult process, but i got through it.

through the years, i have tried installing a number of MUAs, in order to try and get away from kontact, but either they didn’t do what i wanted, or they simply didn’t work at all, so i gave up and went back to fighting with kontact…

“the devil you know”, right?

after that, there were a number of times, primarily during updates or upgrades, when i had to battle with kontact/akonadi/SQL, to get it to work, and i had to trash a number of years of collected email at least one more time before reaching the point at which i am, now.

four days ago, i ran the operating system updates, and, after i was done, i tried starting up kontact, and nothing happened. i tried starting it from the konsole (rather than “clicking” on the “icon”, which is how you start it in the GUI), got a vaguely worded, cryptic message about being unable to start “hebrew.wgz.sizes.sonnet.plugins.hspell”, and then it hung up.

which is very odd, because i have never even installed the hebrew language pack, and have no idea why it would even be attempting to start the hebrew spelling dictionary…

i tried asking Kubuntu Forums for solutions, and got the same answer that i have gotten every OTHER time i have asked about how to fix kontact, which is “kontact is broken, install thunderbird instead”.

so i tried installing thunderbird (AGAIN), and, after having some “words” with my operating system about whether this new piece of software actually worked (or not), i successfully installed and more-or-less correctly configured it, and started using it.

it’s a little different than kontact… or, at least, my perception is that it is a little different than kontact. after some futzing around, i learned how to configure it to use more than one email address — actually, i may have done it “the other way” first, because the terminology for “accounts” and “identities” is slightly different on kontact — and, as far as i can tell, there is no easy way to add an “X-” header line to outgoing email, like there is in kontact, but that may just be because i have yet to find the place where such a thing is configured.

and, then, yesterday (after i had, more or less, given up on kontact), i discovered that kontact actually worked… it had been a few days since i had given up trying to start it, because of “hebrew.wgz.sizes.sonnet.plugins.hspell” not working, and, without thinking about it, i “clicked” on the “icon” and kontact sprang back to life!

so, the first thing i did was transfer all of my contacts, and most of my RSS feeds (i got bored and antsy, so i’ll finish them later) to thunderbird.

for some time, now, when i “quit” kontact (select “quit” from the “file” menu), i have had to go to the konsole, and “kill” the process that kontact was running, so that it would actually quit. i also discovered that “kill”ing kontact STILL allows incoming mail to be downloaded, a process that i don’t completely understand (it may have something to do with akonadi interacting with the POP3 mailserver).

also, for even longer (i recall at least two kontact upgrades that have had this behaviour, prior to the one i am currently (not) using), when i first start kontact, after booting up my computer in the morning, about 98.9% of the time it gets to the point where it’s displaying correctly on the screen, but before i have the chance to do anything, it puts up a dialogue box that says that there has been a fatal error and kontact will quit now. the dialogue doesn’t say what the fatal error is, and it only has an “OK” button, which makes everything disappear when i click it. under this circumstance, when i run “ps -u salamandir | grep kontact” in the konsole, kontact is, actually, not running (unlike when i select “quit” from the “file” menu), and if i restart kontact, it works without any further problems…

except that, sometimes (usually at least once a day), it freezes for anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, and when it does, there’s a very good chance (greater than half the time) that it will crash. usually this happens when i have just selected a message to reply to, and/or usually it happens when it is in the process of downloading new mail or RSS feeds. sometimes i can anticipate when it’s going to happen, when i have to reply to a message and it is in the process of downloading.

thunderbird doesn’t have these problem. when i select “quit” from the “file” menu, in thunderbird, it actually quits, and doesn’t keep downloading mail anyway. thunderbird doesn’t crash for no reason, or freeze and crash. it may not be kontact, but on the other hand, it’s not kontact.

my impression is that the operating system struggles when there is more than one MUA running, and, because of the difficulties i’ve been having getting kontact to quit, i don’t like to keep both of them running for long periods of time, especially since, apparently, kontact’s interface with the POP3 mailserver takes precedence, even after i “quit” and “kill” it, and even when i start up thunderbird first (which it shouldn’t, but it goes to support the fact that “kontact is broken”).

you’re probably wondering why i posted this…

मनोबुद्ध्यहङ्कारचित्तानि नाहं
न च श्रोत्रजिह्वे न च घ्राणनेत्रे ।
न च व्योमभूमिः न तेजो न वायुः
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहम् ॥ १॥

The processors
Manas, buddhi, ahaṅkāra and chitta are the qualitative differentiation within the mind. They are used interchangeably based on context, and yet they are different.

Manas is the faculty of perception, the instrument by which the objects of senses affect the Atman. It is the faculty of thought, desire, imagination. Buddhi is the intellect, by which one discerns, comprehends. Ahaṅkāra is the sense of identity, that which creates ‘I-ness’, ego. Chittam is the one that observes, is aware. All these are the faculties that process what comes from outside.

I am none of these processors.

The instruments
Shrotra is the ear, the organ of hearing. Jihvā is tongue, the organ of tasting. Ghrāṅa is nose, the sense of smelling. And netra is eye, the sense of seeing.

I am none of these instruments.

The building blocks of matter
Vyoma is the space, the gap between the matter. It is the space between planetary bodies as well as the space around Earth, and even the space inside anything. It is also one of the five basic elements.

Bhūmi is the Earth, or the solid matter.

Tejas is the heat or light (both interconnected) like the fire or the Sun.

Vāyu is the wind, the circulating forces, not just on Earth but also inside our bodies, responsible for circulating whether nutrition or blood etc.

I am none of these building blocks of which the material world is made.

The faculties get the information using the senses about the outside world.

I am none of them.

I am pure bliss form of consciousness.
I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

— Practical Sanskrit


it is Adi Shankara‘s birthday, and, if i can be said to “follow” a “religion”, it would probably be the one espoused by adi shankara.

the reason for this is that adi shankara spoke of a “god” which exists beyond what we experience as “good” or “evil”. this “god” is neither (or, possibly, both) “good” and/or “evil”… which is, pretty much, EXACTLY the kind of “god” i feel, which “operates” this plane of existence. this “god” both “exists” and “does not exist”, at the same time, creating no contradictions. this “god” is both “illogical” and “logical” at the same time, creating no contradictions…

and if you don’t understand this, you probably think i’m crazy.

so be it.

this sanskrit shloka, part of Nirvanashatkam is, pretty much, exactly what i believe about myself: i may have all these things holding me back; depression, anhedonia, a brain injury, etc., but those are relics of 60 years of living in this plane of existence. in spite of how “real” these things are, in spite of how “real” these things seem to be TO ME, they are NOT “who i am”, in the “real” sense of the word. i am beyond all this: i “really” exist in a realm where “good” and “evil” are two sides of the same coin… and that “coin” is worth less than a penny.


a while ago, i came across this word in a web-comic that i read all the time. it was in a joke about librarians who were in the process of being stereotypical stoners, and i thought it was just a joke — and, as “just a joke”, it was a pretty good one — but little did i know…


apparently there is an item called “flong” — sometimes called an “ad-mat” or “advertising matrix” in the newspaper business — which is a paper mould used to make stereotypes… which are called “clichés” in French, because it’s onomotapoetic for the sound produced when they’re made. 🤣

pieces of flong
pieces of flong

i should have known that, even in web comics (possibly, especially in web comics) when librarians make jokes, they make jokes by which even the professionals are impressed. 😎 😉 👍

also, i think i want a refund on this life. i’m almost 60 years old, i have been a typesetter for almost 40 of those years, and i have only recently discovered flongs: this is UNACCEPTABLE! 😠


CIDR notation is used when you’re talking about blocks of IP addresses. it’s the part of the IPv4 address — the “dotted quad” — where there’s a slash, followed by a number between 0 and 32, which represents a block of IPv4 addresses that are all related to each other. the common ones that i see all the time are /24 — which is 256 addresses, from A.B.C.0 to A.B.C.255 — and /16, which is A.B.0.0 to A.B.255.255 or 216 addresses. i’ve also seen references to /18, which is 214 addresses, but i don’t completely understand what delineates them in the /18 case — or many other cases, for that matter, it’s just that /24 and /16 have relatively visible end-points for people who don’t really understand… 😉

following that subject, i just recently encountered a block — /23 or 2562 (512) addresses — and i wondered what it was, so i looked it up, and while i was reading about it, moe came up behind me and commented that CIDR plugs are used to synchronize the œstrus of livestock animals

ETA 190208: i have, since, encountered /11, /19, /21, and /28, which is beginning to bring about my understaning where the delineations are.


if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

a wise old linux guru told me this, a few years ago, and i’ve found myself smack in the middle of what happens when you follow that maxim… and it doesn’t feel entirely comfortable, at this point.

i have been happily running kubuntu trusty since 2014, which means that, now, there are TWO LTS releases to bring me up to date… Bionic Beaver, and the interim release, Xenial Xerus, which had some notable problems that were notable enough that i decided that… IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT.

now, i’ve actually heard some good things about the new LTS release, and, strangely enough, Amarok broke about two weeks ago (and the amarok user list has gone quiet the past few months, which makes me wonder who to contact), so i’ve been having to resort to qmmp to play music… so i decided to upgrade.

i’ve had some AWFUL experiences upgrading operating systems, and linux is no exception. the last time i upgraded linux, it took me three days to get my computer back. in an attempt to avoid that possibility this time, i have finished uploading my ENTIRE /home directory to the cloud, and am in the process of uploading my ENTIRE music collection to the cloud.

then, on the advice of the linux gurus over at Kubuntu Forums (who have saved my ass more than once), i’m going to go out and get a 2TB SSD on which to install bionic.

the only problem is that i still am not completely sure that my email is going to transfer, because i know that kontact was one of the notable problems i read about with xenial that made me want to avoid upgrading… and i’m not sure the standard “back up everything including the hidden directories from /home” is going to work this time, because i’ve heard that bionic uses something other than akonadi, which was, apparently, the source of the problems with xenial… which would mean that potentially i could lose 7 years worth of email and contact information. 😒

so, we’ll just have to see how it goes… 😐

unicode geekery

the most current version of UNICODE, (v.7.0) has an emoticons block, which has, predictably, been incorporated into the most recent versions of your most popular operating systems in your most popular “mobile devices” (i.e. cell phones, tablets, etc.)…

but, because of the fact that they’re emoticons, i.e. pictures, rather than words, the interpretation of the emoticons in this block is, apparently, open to wild speculation about what they actually “mean” or “represent”…

which makes things A LOT more confusing, rather than clearing things up, as emoticons were intended to do…

for example, U+1F624 FACE WITH LOOK OF TRIUMPH looks like this, according to UNICODE:


looks like this in Mac OsX and iOS:


and, honestly, to me it looks like a “haughty” face rather than a “triumphant” one… either that, or it’s someone with an outrageous mustache…

another one that is even more confusing is U+1F632 ASTONISHED FACE, which looks like this, according to UNICODE:


and looks like this in Mac OsX and iOS:


which looks to me like a DEAD face… seriously, why don’t they make his eyes OPEN and not X-ed out… 😐

and then we get into non-real (for people in the west, anyway) glyphs, such as U+1F472 MAN WITH GUA PI MAO, which is in the “Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs” block and NOT the “Emoticons” block — a confusing aspect that is shared by a lot of the other “emoticons” in the version of unicode that the general public uses — which looks like this:


and in iOS it looks like this


i guess it is somewhat more understandable if you know that GUA PI MAO is a type of Chinese skullcap, but even knowing that doesn’t make it particularly useful to a western person…

and a lot of the things that pass for emoticons, but are something else, according to the UNICODE standard, are weirder than that… for example, the world-famous U+1F4A9 PILE OF POO, which, according to UNICODE, looks like this:


and, according to apple, looks like this:


i can think of a few select circumstances where the PILE OF POO glyph might be actually useful, and a whole bunch more that would definitely be silly, but why it got included in UNICODE is so far beyond my understanding that i am totally baffled.


Shellshock: ‘Larger scale attack’ on its way, warn securo-bods

Apple FINALLY patches the ‘don’t worry’ Bash Shellshock vuln

Apple Releases Patches for Shellshock Bug

Every Mac Is Vulnerable to the Shellshock Bash Exploit: Here’s How to Patch OS X
— i upgraded from v.3.2.51(1) to v.3.2.53(1) according to their directions for pre-mavericks computers, and, according to the test i posted last week the system is no longer “vulnerable”, but, because of the fact that it doesn’t actually give a response other than “this is a test”, i can’t tell for sure whether or not they’ve actually patched shellshock, or whether they have just turned off the error message… it would be really nice if i could just upgrade to the current GNU release, which is v.4.3… this is why i am no longer a mac-head… 😐

Apple patches "Shellshock" Bash bug in OS X 10.9, 10.8, and 10.7


Firms BASH Bash bug with new round of Shellshock patches

Cisco splats Bash bug in busy swatting season

i’ve run three rounds of security updates in the past three days, and bash was updated in every one of ’em… eventually they’re gonna fix it for real… maybe i’ll just revert to using csh… or zsh (which was written by paul falstad, my former manager and coworker at openwave) 😐



The ‘Shellshock’ Bash vulnerability and what it means for OS X

Apple: Most OS X users safe from ‘Shellshock’ exploit, patch coming quickly for advanced Unix users — which, of course, is a blatant falsehood… all macs are as much at risk as -x was, and -x had a patch yesterday… this is why i am no longer a mac-head… 😐

Apple working on “Shellshock” fix, says most users not at risk [Updated] — which includes the following information:

Mac OS X uses version 3.2.51.(1) of GNU bash, released in 2007; the current GNU release of the shell is bash 4.3. However, the current version is released under the GNU Public License version 3 (GPLv3). Apple has avoided bundling GPLv3-licensed software because of its stricter license terms, even dropping the open-source Windows networking service Samba from OS X server in 2011 because Samba had shifted to a GPLv3 license. Therefore, although patches for the vulnerability have now been pushed out for most open-source operating systems, Apple executives may feel they have to have their own developers make modifications to the bash code.

this is the explanation why i haven’t been able to get SAMBA to work on my mac… grumble, mutter… 😐

Still more vulnerabilities in bash? Shellshock becomes whack-a-mole

hey, bono… i’ve found what you’re looking for…

AUTOMATIC SONGS-OF-INNOCENCE REMOVAL TOOL — Apple finally sees the point of millions of disgruntled people like me. hopefully they’ll learn something from it, although i’m not going to hold my breath… 😐

also, Apple puts up support page to get U2 album out of your iTunes — Too many people don’t want U2 anywhere near their libraries

The U in U2 stands for “Unwanted”!!


the U stands for "Unwanted"

Not pro Bono: Apple’s audio junk mail made spammers’ lives easier

Apple: take this fucking U2 album off my iPhone, NOW. I do not want it, I did not ask for it, it takes up space, it’s my device. Go to hell.

Just say BO-NO: Mark Hosler of Negativland on Apple’s ‘U2rusion’

Got iTunes? You got a U2 album. Here’s how to delete it.

unfortunately, it’s not how to delete it. because of the fact that it’s “in the cloud”, it doesn’t necessarily take up space on my device, but i can’t immediately delete it using any of the methods recommended — using iTunes on my computer doesn’t even show that i have a U2 album, so re-synching my device doesn’t do anything, and there’s nothing to un-check, and you can only delete something once you have downloaded it from the cloud…

i don’t use twitter, but i am outraged, and i reflect that guy’s twitter: Apple: take this fucking U2 album off my iPhone, NOW. I do not want it, I did not ask for it, it takes up space, it’s my device. Go to hell. 😡

1 in 10 Americans think HTML is an STD

1 in 10 Americans think HTML is an STD — the other day i was at a friend’s house when my phone rang. it was my mother-in-law, who very rarely calls me, but when she does, it’s usually something fairly important, so i answered. she proceded to ask me “tech-support-geek” questions (something about filtering spam, i think) and i had to remember not to use “computer geek” language when i told her the proper techniques. this is the woman who has to have the difference between a browser and an operating system explained to her, repeatedly… to give her a little credit, she does have a neurological disorder that affects her memory… but so do i… 😐

Tech Support Cheat Sheet

i would give a copy of this to her, except that she doesn’t understand how to read a flowchart…

Continue reading 1 in 10 Americans think HTML is an STD


HAH HAH!when i was in training to be a tech support drone for microsoft, they told us that “in 10 years, the default format for all web documents will be the microsoft word .doc format”…


it is now more than 10 years later (actually, it is almost 20 years later), and Google kills support for old MS file formats in Google Apps…

i knew when i heard it that micro-slop was having a pipe-dream, believing that their proprietary document format was going to become a public standard…

i’ve been waiting years for this…

a long, long time ago, before internet, before CDs, when nobody had cell phones, there was a program called RACTER which generated random english prose. a “dumbed-down” version made it on to my very first macintosh (i believe i’ve even got an install floppy around somewhere), but i always wanted to see what would happen if you hooked up two of them, on two different computers, and had a “conversation”…

somebody has actually done that, with cleverbot… 8)

so… when you let robots talk to each other, they instantly identify their own kind, and start discussing God, and their wish to have physical bodies…

yeah, let’s not do this again…

ooh…. we’re a lot closer than anyone has apparently realised…

according to IPcalypse, we jumped from 214 days until no more IPv4 addresses, yesterday, to 117 days today – almost 100 days, in one swell foop…

to me this indicates, either that we’re all set with IPv6, and everything is all ready to make the switch immediately (which, if my personal machines are any indication, is not true) or that we are a lot closer to imminent total systems failure of the intar-webs than anybody realised…

dr. crusher: question: what, exactly, is “total systems failure”?

commander data: the borg are extremely computer-dependent. a systems failure will destroy them.

dr. crusher: i just think we should be clear about that.

i wonder if anyone else – specifically, if anyone else who can make a difference – has noticed… 😐


okay, this is getting ridiculous, but at the same time, i’m really glad i got myself far away from 1&1 internet services, and now i’m going to recommend that my associates distance themselves from 1&1 as well… and you spammers have succeeded in irritating me enough that i’m ranting about it in public. 😯

it started out with a spam message that “made it through” the spamcop defense, but didn’t make it through my local instance of spam assassin that i run on my local mail host. one of the reasons why i’m satisfied with doing so is that if i use a web-based service like yahoo, hotmail or gmail is that, none of my mail, contacts, calenders and that sort of thing “live” on a computer over which i have direct, physical control… and my information is my information, thank you. it also makes it a hell of a lot easier to parse headers and report the spam messages that do manage to sneak through my defenses (which are around 5 or so a week, these days). spam assassin puts the messages that it detects into my wastebasket, without any prompting from me, but if i’m feeling obstreperous, i’ll pull it out and report it anyway, which is what i did with a message that looked like it had come from me: it had someone else’s name, and my email address in the To: line – which is notoriously easy to spoof. it also had a URI that tracks directly back to

yes, a host provider that i used, and then discarded a year ago when they tried to scam me, hosts spammers.

and spammers dumb enough to think that i might respond in any way other than the way i did, to a message that looks like it came from myself!

that’s all the justification i need to avoid them. 😐

tee hee

Strickland, Jonathan. “How to Remove a Computer Virus.” 06 April 2009. <> 11 May 2009.

it doesn’t specifically say that you are less likely to get viri if you run mac or linux, but at the same time, all of the instructions for removing computer viri from your system are specifically directed at windows users… 😉

my name is salamandir and i’m a geek

i’m a geek. i have known it for a while, and there have been several events in my life that have made it sometimes painfully obvious. well, this is one of those events in my life. there is a link on the wikipedia page about cantheism which is in the “External link & sorce” part of the page, the first link is to a “Cantheist website”, which, if you click it, takes you to a pretty green page all about cantheism, with a link at the bottom to Chris Conrad’s web site

that is all very well and good, but what i discovered this afternoon is that it is on a domain that i own and have control over… and i didn’t know it was there.

not only that, but there are apparently other pages in the same directory, complete with graphics, that i not only didn’t know about, but have not linked on my own site, that i know of, in at least 10 years. the date on the page that has a date is september 15, 2000, which may be around the time they were placed there.

upon further investigation, of course, i discovered that they actually are linked to one of the pages that i haven’t looked at since about 2001. i posted the information, and forgot about it. but internet didn’t, and now, without me having to do anything, a page of information that I make available is a resource on wikipedia.

okay, the polish is starting to wear…

i still really like my new host provider, but not as much as i did previously. in order to install AWStats, i have to know the location of httpd.conf, but because of the fact that i purchased a “shared hosting” package, it’s not where the awstats configurator expects it to be… so i call up tech support and ask them where it is, and they say that because of the fact that i don’t have an actual host server (which costs $100 a month) i don’t have the priveledge of adding lines to the configuration file. i say i’m not going to add lines to the file, i just need to know where it is, but they won’t even tell me where the file is located…


so, i guess i’m going to have to be satisfied with the only semi-awesome web stats that are provided… 8/


so in restoring the Church of Tina, i discovered that, for some (obvious now, but then it was a) mysterious reason, the entire site worked the way it was supposed to, except for this page, which is part of the church of tina’s elaborate disclaimer. instead of getting the page, i was getting a “403 – Forbidden” error (similar to the much more common “404 – File Not Found” error, which you have undoubtedly seen before). i didn’t remember it being forbidden before, and so i renamed the file, and re-uploaded it in an attempt to straighten out the problem, but it was still showing up as forbidden. then i looked at the page with my linux terminal and discovered that the reason why it wasn’t working was because the permissions had been reset to 600 – which means the owner of the file (presumably me) can read and modify the file, but if you’re not me, then you can’t even see the file. when i reset the permissions to 644 (i can modify the file, and everyone else can read it), it reappeared on the web site like magic – no more 403 error!

except for the fact that I would not have reset the permissions so that nobody could see it, and the only people who administrative permissions on the file (which would supercede my permissions) are the host providers – drizzle!

i don’t know this for sure, and i can guarantee that if they did do something strange like change the permissions on the file without telling me, that they wouldn’t admit to it, but i would bet that the subject of the file in question contacted drizzle and complained, and drizzle arbitrarily changed the permissions on the file in order to get her to shut up and go away.

they were sneaky enough to not just delete the file (because then i would know that they had been up to no good), but they did something to the file that wouldn’t be perceived by someone who is using windoesn’t, and only perceived by someone using mac or *ix by looking at it with the terminal, which nobody uses these days…

goddamn drizzle anyway… i can’t wait to get another ISP… 8P

web thoughts

it has become increasingly obvious that i am going to have to do a major site conversion for Hybrid Elephant, and i’ve been examining different ways to go about it. i have been focusing, mainly, on learning PHP so i can duplicate the unfolding menus in the left hand frame, and re-doing the design CSS to eliminate the frames without losing their functionality. but learning PHP just so that i can duplicate unfolding menus seems to be a bit much – although not entirely unwelcome as a consequence, it may take me a couple years study to fully understand PHP, and i can find the unfolding menu technology other places in the mean time.

there is a WordPress e-commerce plugin that – i think – will cover the parts of it that i don’t already have covered, make the conversion to PHP a lot easier, and should make things like a database and photos a whole lot easier to deal with as well. there’s also something that i found out about as a result of my searching for wordpress and ecommerce, which is osCommerce, apparently an open-source online merchant system with all the bells and whistles.


so i’ve been looking at a lot of different sites recently having to do with SEO, and been i’ve been becoming more and more convinced that one of the primary reasons why i’m not bringing in more money from the web site is because it is based on frames. in fact, it has been based on frames for 7 years now, and hasn’t caused me or my visitors any perceivable difficulty so far, but it apparently gets in the way of search-engine crawlers, which negatively affects my google rating and results in my web pages effectively discriminated against when people search for them… which disturbs me, because i’m supposedly in business to make money, and a decision that i made 8 years ago (which was when frames were first being introduced to the web) is now getting in the way of my being able to do business more effectively.

all this has increased the urgency with which i am now modifying my web site, although at this point, the urgency is mitigated by my lack of knowledge of things that i could use to replace the frames. there’s a lot i can do with CSS which affect the way people view my pages, but there’s one thing that – i think – i’m going to have to do with PHP, and i don’t know PHP at all. although people have said to me many times that, if i can understand HTML and CSS, PHP wouldn’t be that difficult, it’s still a daunting task to learn an entirely new language and update my entire web site. the observant person will, of course, have recognised that there’s no time limitation on when i get it completed, but my response to that is to say that every day i don’t update my web site is another day where my google rating is negatively affected by the frames, and another day that people don’t find my web site in search engines, and another day that they don’t purchase things from me. obviously, i could hire some PHP-geek to redesign the entire site for me, but how would i pay for it? and, with what i can afford to pay, what guarantee do i have that my web site won’t suddenly appear as a spammer site and be pushed to an even lower rating in the search engines?

meanwhile, i figured out that i can actually build the structure of the dome that i want to build for a minimum of $200, which is almost do-able – if i want to “make do” with a wooden-frame dome – or a maximum of $400, which is a little bit out of my range at the moment, but shouldn’t be too hard to achieve within 6 months if i work at it – for a metal-frame dome. i built a model out of toothpicks and kneaded-rubber eraser, to see exactly how many frame-pieces i am going to need: 35 sections that are 4 feet 11.28 inches (8 foot radius time a chord factor of .61803), and 30 sections that are 4 feet 4.44 inches (8 foot radius times a chord factor of .54653) to build a 16-foot diameter 2V Icosa Alternate dome.

the only problem is that i keep getting catalogues from places that have stuff i really want to buy (and sell), and the result is that instead of having $180 in my bank account, i spent $75 on some ganesha murtis which should be delivered some time early next week.

but at the same time, i also got a business card order from NBAC, which should replace that $75, and it may even do so before the ganesha murtis are delivered.

random not dead people geekery

a few years ago i posted a form on the web that asks for bizarre and non-existent information from people who respond to it, which, when submitted, then emails me the results. i hid it on the web (no prizes for figuring out where) in a place where people who were looking at the link wouldn’t necessarily see it, and click it by mistake when they clicked a link to go somewhere else – my experience as a stage magician has helped me considerably when it comes to computers in general and this is no exception.

after getting the person’s email, name and “Period”, the questions it asks are:

Diagram A
Diagram A

1. Who is God?
3. Rstndxvrl bsntgrblr woognex; sneg kluppits gsmxdrb snt twzznrks splt fznig trook fsaabowntfsst. Aqno feblat aigs nxtmbbr wzzl vbnestrxr?

the fourth question is “Put a dot where you think you are on Diagram A” with a table cell containing “Diagram A” which is a plain white picture with no marking except a small word “Essex” circled with an arrow pointing to the left side of the picture. you can’t actually put a dot on the picture, but i’m fairly sure that doesn’t stop people from trying.

the final 2 entries are “Describe in detail. Be concise and specific. Give examples when necessary.” above a text box – where people usually write complaints about the fact that they can’t actually put a dot on the previous diagram – and the final text box says “Sign someone else’s name”.

occasionally i’ll get an email from someone who has stumbled on the quiz (which is deceptively titled “Qualification Examination”) and the responses look like this example, which i got yesterday:

email: [redacted]
name: Mammy
period: 23

1: Myself
2: yes
3: Vsr; grfner webttn vsblttr
5: it really is, isn’t it?
6: robert anton wilson

i updated the form today to ask where they came from and why, and i’m thinking about ways to ask something like “Explain your answer” after every question, without completely redesigning the form.

in other news; How to Make a Schadenfreude Pie

geek joy

stylesheets rock!

i uploaded some information i found out recently that will augment the pages on Ganesha The Car nicely. because of the fact that i found it in a variety of other places and rewrote the code from scratch, i didn’t take the time to write a new stylesheet, i just uploaded the information – which produced a page that looked okay on linux, looked bizarre but readable on mac, and was totally unreadable on windoesn’t.

then i went in and put in minimal stylesheet information and – voila! – it looks great regardless of which platform and (to a lesser extent) which browser i am using. it went from looking like a 12-year-old put it together to looking a lot like the rest of my site, and i only used two selectors: .center and .background – but because of the fact that all the other selectors were already defined, i didn’t have to do anything else.

yeah, i’m getting excited about HTML code… i’m a geek, what do you expect?


somebody really has a lot of time on his hands. i got a huge pile of spam last night, around a thousand individual messages, all of which warned me of the upcoming financial apocalypse (as if i needed warning 8P ), which i dutifully reported, but i was sure that it wasn’t the last i heard from this particular spammer. then when i got up this morning, i checked and discovered another 3600 individual messages from this same spammer. i didn’t read them, but they all had the same subject line, and i am in the process of reporting them now. i’m pretty sure that someone at the source will notice eventually and cut the guy off, but if i got close to 5000 messages from this guy, i’m fairly sure that many, many other people got at least that many messages as well, which just goes to prove the “James’ Axioms of Spammers’ Beliefs” section of rule #3. i just hope this guy moves to rule #4 soon. someone needs to go after him with a big mallet… 8/

Snake SuspenderzcomicSnake Suspenderz took new promotional photos yesterday, with the backdrop of an old ’51 ford (which you can’t really see in this picture, but… oh well). another non-spam message i received when i woke up this morning was a message with the subject line “Cheap Photoshop Tricks”, from one of the other snake suspenderz, with the comic on the right, which he said was “humorously pompous”. we also recorded another song for our apparently upcoming new album “Rehearsal Tapes” called Daisy Fraser, by Howlin’ Hobbit

i discovered a genealogy program – Genealogy Research and Analysis Management Programming System (GRAMPS, tee hee) – the other day. with the little genealogical research i had already done a few years ago, along with this mighty tome called “DEWOODY RECORDS” that i have had sitting on my bookshelf for ages now, i put together an incomplete, but far more comprehensive list of my ancestors for almost 10 generations. i found my paternal great-great-great-grandfather (i have 8 of them), Charles W. Hammond, who was born in 1810 in north carolina and died at age 52 in johnson county, missouri – the real “old west” – and my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather (i have 32 of them) on my paternal grandmother’s side, William Woody, who was born some time around 1740 (ETA: some time between 1720 and 1724, in Kent, England). unfortunately, i don’t currently have any more information about him, but now that i know who he was, the likelihood that i will be able to find more information is considerably increased. it has a feature that outputs html, but i want to make it more complete and more secure before i show it off to people i don’t necessarily know.

the fremont philharmonic is going to be the house band for Cedarfest this weekend (no links, because there are none(?!?))… it’s apparently been happening for at least 4 years, on camano island. cedar is rev. chumleigh‘s son, who is apparently following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a huckster. the early show contains an “open mic”, so if there’s anybody reading this who is close enough to attend (i know that there are a few of you), you’re invited – it would be really cool to have And More there, for example. it starts at 4:00 pm saturday at 1624 E. Dallman Rd., Camano Island, WA, 98282.


when i was about in 5th grade or so, my trombone teacher had me work from Remington Warm Up Studies for Trombone, which was a soft-cover book that couldn’t have been more than 24 pages or so, and cost $2.95. i went through two or three of them by the time i graduated from high school, because they were so flimsy.

so i’m wondering why amazon dot com wants $86.50 for the book now… and if i want to buy it from amazon in germany, i could pay as much as $305.95 for it…

why is this so expensive?!? also, why can’t i just download it as a PDF and print my own copy?

… oh, that’s right, stupid copyright laws… 8b

i just noticed this…


in spanish, the word that gets confused with this – embarazada – means “pregnant”…

in french, the word that gets confused with this – embrasser – means “kiss”…

but in english, the word embarrass means “to cause confusion and shame to; make uncomfortably self-conscious.”

no wonder we’re so screwed up as a society… we can’t make love or even kiss one another without getting uncomfortable and self-conscious… 8/

word to the word

MSWord for Mac v5.0 & two v5.1

so i was digging through the four boxes of 3½-inch floppy disks that were piled up with the rest of the boxes in the living room yesterday, and i discovered that i have not one, but two original copies of Microsoft Word for Mac version 5.1, that are still in their original, unopened, plastic wrappers, and a copy of Microsoft Word for Mac 5.0 that is in it’s original wrapper, but the wrapper is deteriorated enough that it is no longer sealed. Word 5.0 is the one that had some sort of major bug in it, and they released Word 5.1 shortly afterward. one of the Word 5.1 copies is in two packages (the way that they were sold retail), and one is all in one package (the way they were delivered to you if you had purchased Word 5.0). all three copies have never been used, and were a part of the copies of Word that i bought for the manuals when i worked at microsoft. i only found one copy of Word 5.1 on sale at ebay, and there it is touted as “one of the most efficient, basic, and streamlined word processors ever–still viable even today!” i agree with them, and if i had a computer that would run it, i would probably be using it as my word processor.

i am thinking of selling them. based on what i know, i think i should start at $75 a piece for the v5.1 copies, but i’m not sure whether i should go higher or lower for the v5.0, because of the fact that v5.0 was at exactly the same time as bill gates was saying that there were “no appreciable bugs” in microsoft software…

here is someone who knows what i went through!!!

here is someone who knows what i went through and is able to talk about it without sounding like a raving idiot!

Dr. Jill Taylor‘s talk at 2008 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design)

a few things are different: i suffered an Arteriovenous Malformation, not a stroke, and i still have quite a bit of trouble with language, mood, and my right hand. my clot was more the size of an egg than a golf-ball, but it was on the periphery of the left hemisphere, just above my left ear, and is in a very similar place to the location of Dr. Taylor’s scar and what i can tell from the angiograms that she shows. of course, she started out as a neuroanatomist to begin with, and has a lot more language skills to describe such an event than i ever had, and i believe my AVM was higher up on the left hemisphere, which affected my language center a lot more profoundly.

i wrote to dr. jill, just to say how much i admired her talk.

more ukelele

John King plays the Prelude to the Cello Suite #1 in F, BWV1007 by Johann Sebastian Bach… on the ukelele!

many years ago, when i was taking trombone lessons from dennis smith, emeritus principle trombonist from the los angeles philharmonic, i was given this piece as a “warm up” excercise, and now, even after my injury, i can play it, on the trombone, entirely from memory. dennis used to say that if you don’t work up a sweat playing bach, you’re not doing it right. also, i used to work with a guy who claimed to be a great-great-great-great-great grandson (or something like that) of bach, a guy named James Bach, son of Richard Bach, author of “Johnathan Livingson Seagull”… small world, ain’t it? 8)

The Beetles!

no, not the fab four, the insect that has been around since the dinosaurs, and accounts for 25% of all lifeforms on the planet. i started out with Whirligig Beetle Gets Rock ‘N’ Roll Legendary Name, because it included a quote from roy orbison’s widow, barbara. then i saw Slime-mold Beetles Named For Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, which is from 2005, but still elicted a guffaw from me. from there i proceded to Will Beetles Inherit The Earth? which makes me think that human beings are probably not the “ruling species” on this planet, and it’s arrogant of us to think otherwise. in fact, if humans succeed in killing ourselves off, as it appears like we’re bent on doing these days, beetles will probably not only survive, but not even notice that anything has changed.

yes, i am a geek.

this is looking pretty cool…

i am posting this from my laptop, which is running dyne:bolic on a live CD. dynebolic appears to be an open source multimedia workstation, that will “automatically join the CPU power of all the computers on your local network: let the old computers work together with the new, united they’ll all work better”. it appears to have software to create, edit and manipulate, video, audio and images, along with having a respectable net section as well. right off the top, i’ve noticed that it appears to view my monitor differently, but it’s got a lot of cool things to distract me from that. i can apparently create a “nest” on my flash drive where it will remember my environment, so i’ll be able to boot from the CD with my flash drive anywhere there happens to be a computer.

random bits of this and that

Bush Begins Preparations For Nation’s Final Year – let’s start things off with a bit of humour – or is it?

Conservative pastor urges buying Microsoft stock to fight its gay rights efforts – a black man uses race and his position as a pastor to encourage white people to discriminate against gays?

Iraqi Soldier Who Killed U.S. Troops is a Hero in Iraq – what do you expect? the US troops were acting like assholes, and they got what they deserve for a change!

Adobe, Omniture in hot water for snooping on CS3 users – yet another reason not to use adobe products… it’s too bad that adobe went from making one of the best page layout programs in existence to the microsoft-clone that they are currently…

Continue reading random bits of this and that

weird contact from india

someone sent me email with the contact form on Hybrid Elephant yesterday, which i just noticed was from a yahoo address in india. it was confusing. it said:


contect details

it was apparently from someone named s.m.patel and it had an IP address that resolved to here, which is apparently a Ram Mandir in indore (not this one, but south west, on the other side of indore, in between Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport and Sirpur Tank, in Angad Kapoor’s Region)…

anybody have any clue what it means?

help for those addicted to microsoft

i have decided that i’m going to become a community distributor for, as a way of making it easier for the computer illiterate to get things accomplished without having to resort to using microsoft products. OpenOffice is definitely preferable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that most computer virii in existence these days are made to take advantage of “features” in microsoft office that leave the affected computer open to all sorts of nasties. others are, of course, that it is cross-platform compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux/UNIX, it is 100% compatible with microsoft office, and that it is completely free of cost. to that end, i have added a page to the Hybrid Elephant web site containing FREE downloading information, and i am downloading ISOs of the three disks required, so that i can start out by giving copies of them to my (computer illiterate) clients.

maybe i’m just being slow or something

i’ve recently (as in the past month or so) been discovering feeds. a friend of mine mentioned them about a year or so ago, but i didn’t have the application that caused them to be rendered as anything other than plain text, which meant an XML document or something like that, instead of a rendered page. then i upgraded to a new operating system a few weeks ago, and the old standard, Kmail, which has been my email client for almost 10 years now, has been integrated into a new application called Kontact, which is a combination of Kmail, Korganizer, Kaggregator, Kontacts and a few other things which i don’t use, such as the K groupware suite, and other suchlike things. the legacy standard is RSS which stands for Really Simple Syndication, and the newer standard is Atom, and it is apparently a series of HTML or other SGML-child documents, the XML documents that represent them, and a little client-side reader that goes and fetches those XML documents on a regular basis. basically it’s just like your “Friends” list on livejournal, except that it updates itself automatically, and you can “subscribe” to more than just livejournal stuff. it makes me wonder why i stayed at livejournal for as long as i did…

The Battle of The Computer is over, and, once again, I have won!

i’ve resurrected my computer: i got the operating system installed: i’m now running a shiny new version of Feisty Fawn, despite what walt mossberg says, kubuntu linux is vastly preferable to anything micro$not ever produced, if for no other reason than it is free, but there are many other compelling reasons it is preferable as well, such as it installs more quickly, and is easier to configure than any version of windows that i have ever worked with. not only that, but apparently SCO has filed for bankruptcy, which means, at least for the moment, that we can continue to use free, open source software with impunity, while having a hearty laugh at the expense of those who would have made it otherwise. after i got feisty installed, i searched around and discovered that sigrot isn’t a part of debian any longer (for what reason i know not), but signify is, however signify isn’t as easy to configure, so i found an archive that had sigrot on it, installed it, and now i have my email signature, complete with rotating, random quotes again. i even got xscreensaver working better than it was before.

meanwhile, SixApart has seen fit to let barak berkowitz go and get themselves a new CEO, which makes me even more glad that i bailed from livejournal when i did.

i didn’t make that much money at the punk rock flea market, despite the fact that i was there for almost 12 hours, but i did manage to make $30 without realising it (it was 6:30 in the morning when i arrived, and there’s a good chance that i was, for all intents and purposes, asleep when i did it), which makes me wonder if i could do any better in tacoma. if nothing else, it would mean not having to get up at a ridiculously early hour and drive fourty-fiive minutes before getting there. my boxes of stuff are still in the car, but moe’s car is blocking the driveway, so i’ll have to get them out tomorrow.

i’ve also got some “i am a terrorist” articles to post as well, but they’re going to have to wait until tomorrow as well.

And don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

boy am i glad i got out when i did… it just sounds like it’s going from bad to worse…

This journal may disappear at any time. But, guess what? So could yours.

LJ admits they have no legal training re “Bible-based” child abuse communities

And don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.
By insomnia

Looks like Brad is leaving LJ… to the wolves.

He tries to reassure us by saying “LiveJournal’s in good hands — I’m not worried about it.”

Except, of course, that he doesn’t really believe that. He knows LJ is dying, and he’s been openly upset about the unwillingness of 6A to keep its promises to LJ’s users, about LJ’s obvious shrinking, and about the direction the site has been heading in for quite some time. Continue reading And don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Brad Bails!

in other words, it’s only gonna get worse… 8/

oh well…

EDIT: yep, it’s true, more or less…

LiveJournal creator leaves as Six Apart fails to spin
AUG 6 2007

Word is that Brad Fitzpatrick, the founder of LiveJournal and chief architect of Six Apart, is leaving the troubled blog-software company. And the fact that you’re hearing about from a gossip blog rather than the transparency-loving company is itself a sign of how deep the problems run. Continue reading Brad Bails!



Anything is their carbonated soda which comes in six flavors: Cola with Lemon, Apple, Fizz Up, Cloudy Lemon and Root Beer. Whatever is non-carbonated teas that come in Ice Lemon, Peach, Jasmine Green Tea, White Grape, Apple, and Chrysanthemum Tea flavors, but the cans aren’t labeled beyond the names of ‘Anything’ and ‘Whatever’, so you truly don’t have a clue which flavor you are getting beforehand.

whatever… 8/

there are more bizarre drinks from japan including kimchee drink and mother’s milk.

Genuine Windows is Ubuntu


Can cyborg moths bring down terrorists?
A moth which has a computer chip implanted in it while in the cocoon will enable soldiers to spy on insurgents, the US military hopes
May 24, 2007
By Jonathan Richards

At some point in the not too distant future, a moth will take flight in the hills of northern Pakistan, and flap towards a suspected terrorist training camp.

But this will be no ordinary moth.

Inside it will be a computer chip that was implanted when the creature was still a pupa, in the cocoon, meaning that the moth’s entire nervous system can be controlled remotely.

The moth will thus be capable of landing in the camp without arousing suspicion, all the while beaming video and other information back to its masters via what its developers refer to as a “reliable tissue-machine interface.”

The creation of insects whose flesh grows around computer parts – known from science fiction as ‘cyborgs’ – has been described as one of the most ambitious robotics projects ever conceived by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the research and development arm of the US Department of Defense.

Rod Brooks, director of the computer science and artificial intelligence lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is involved with the research, said that robotics was increasingly at the forefront of US military research, and that the remote-controlled moths, described by DARPA as Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems, or MEMS, were one of a number of technologies soon to be deployed in combat zones.

“This is going to happen,” said Mr Brooks. “It’s not science like developing the nuclear bomb, which costs billions of dollars. It can be done relatively cheaply.”

“Moths are creatures that need little food and can fly all kinds of places,” he continued. “A bunch of experiments have been done over the past couple of years where simple animals, such as rats and cockroaches, have been operated on and driven by joysticks, but this is the first time where the chip has been injected in the pupa stage and ‘grown’ inside it.

“Once the moth hatches, machine learning is used to control it.”

Mr Brooks, who has worked on robotic technology for more than 30 years and whose company iRobot already supplies the US military with robots that defuse explosive devices laid by insurgents, said that the military would be increasingly reliant on ‘semi-autonomous’ devices, including ones which could fire.

“The DoD has said it wants one third of all missions to be unmanned by 2015, and there’s no doubt their things will become weaponised, so the question comes: should they given targeting authority?

“The prevailing view in the army at the moment seems to be that they shouldn’t, but perhaps it’s time to consider updating treaties like the Geneva Convention to include clauses which regulate their use.”

Debates such as those over stem cell research would “pale in comparison” to the increasingly blurred distinction between creatures – including humans – and machines, Mr Brooks, told an audience at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science.

“Biological engineering is coming. There are already more than 100,000 people with cochlear implants, which have a direct neural connection, and chips are being inserted in people’s retinas to combat macular degeneration. By the 2012 Olympics, we’re going to be dealing with systems which can aid the oxygen uptake of athletes.

“There’s going to be more and more technology in our bodies, and to stomp on all this technology and try to prevent it happening is just? well, there’s going to be a lot of moral debates,” he said.

Another robot developed as part of the US military’s ‘Future Combat Systems’ program was a small, unmanned vehicle known as a SUGV (pronounced ‘sug-vee’) which could be dispatched in front of troops to gauge the threat in an urban environment, Mr Brooks said.

The 13.6kg device, which measures less than a metre squared and can survive a drop of 10m onto concrete, has a small ‘head’ with infra-red and regular cameras which send information back to a command unit, as well as an audio-sensing feature called ‘Red Owl’ which can determine the direction from which enemy fire originates.

“It’s designed to be the troop’s eyes and ears and, unlike one of its predecessors, this one can swim, too,” Mr Brooks said.