What motivates spammers?

Frankly, I have no clue. This post is only here because I have to thank Sindhu and Marc for their help in combating the spam.

Also, Akismet routinely has more than 500 spam messages each time I check it (nearly daily) and the Comments in Moderation has more than 70, so I don’t bother checking Akismet any more. If your comment died of isolation from other comments of its ilk please try commenting again. I don’t understand why I’m such a target for spammers. I don’t even have that many comments! Go bother Marc or something, you morons!

Computer ‘Science’ in Chennai – Some misconceptions

Ah, computer science and IT, that holy sacred cow of learning in India, that everyone wants in on. Here’s a bunch of stuff which I think are misconceptions and why:

I like computers:

How cute. So you like chatting on the internet, wonderful! Oh you like playing games too, beautiful. And orkut, you use orkut all the time? And that’s why you ‘like computers’? Perfect! You could be the ideal employee, companies would die to pay someone like you to do all that for them. And if you don’t want to work under a company, spending your time chatting, playing games and browsing social networking sites is going to develop your computer skills. You’ll be the next big entrepreneur!

Sorry, no you won’t. That’s not even a half wit reason for doing a computer science course. But then, even if you were really into computer science, that’s not a good reason to do a computer science course here. Hell, even if you’re actually majoring in Math and want to actualyl do Computer Science, please please save yourself the trouble and do something simple like Statistics and learn a bunch of formulae to calculate regression coefficients and then learn Computer Science on your own. I’ll say why in the next bit.

Oh, a word in for parents here. Yeah, I know, my parents did it too and I grinned like an idiot. Alright parents, your kid isn’t a computer whiz kid because he’s figured out how to click through 4 dialog boxes in as many seconds to make marching red ants appear around your text in MS Word. He’s a glorified programmable calculator. Thank goodness my parents realised that soon enough, they don’t embarrass my brother like that.

Learning the Language isn’t learning the Science:

What a ridiculous concept! People sometimes tell me very proudly, “I know C, C++, [insert list of other languages here] .”, but they have no idea how to write any program other than what they were taught in school in anything other than Turbo C++ (which has it’s own little section later). All right, what’s going on here, fellas? Why are you claiming to know computer science when you’re just a bunch of walking, talking jargon dictionaries? Come on!

I have sympathy for those who say they’ve done Computer Science courses and come out none the wiser, they have no falsely inflated egos and they realise that they’re going to be software developers. They do their job and claim no credit that is not theirs.

This is linked to the bunch of people who say, “I like computer science, but I don’t like mathematics.” . Okay, all right, just what are you fellows trying to pull here, eh? Idiots. Am I supposed to be impressed that you can make Hello World programs in fourteen languages but don’t know what to do when the compiler reports a missing semi-colon in your c++ program? Yes yes, “compilerle problem irruku. ne onnu punna mudiyathu” . Also, a word in for a friend’s colleagues who go, “Where is Notepad?! How can I edit a text file?!”, use the program that’s labelled “Text Editor”. Yeah, I know, it’s not user friendly.

“Hey, give me C, machan .”

What is this, some kind of joke? I’ll trade you one C for one PHP, how’s that? You want me to give it away? Okay okay, this is about the Turbo C++ 3.0 compiler for DOS which everybody uses and which doesn’t compile ISO standard C++. Yes yes, we must all learn on a compiler that was made in 1991 and isn’t standard compliant, that’ll make us all exemplary software programmers. Hurray for you! And no, I don’t have Turbo C++. I’d tell you to use something else, but I know you’ll look at me blankly so I won’t try.

Computer ‘Science’ professors:

Oh god, there are so many of these. Their method of teaching is to read the textbook before the student and repeat it to him in class. This would make sense if they would atleast explain it in Tamil to those people who understand that much better in addition to speaking Broken English to all of us so that neither group understands. Yeah, yeah, I know, I don’t know enough to read the text book on my own.

Computer ‘Science’ question papers:

Sorry that my comments explained why a certain block of code was there and what it would do. I shall replace all that with little comments like /*Function Declaration*/ /*Function Call*/ /*Loop*/ as you asked me to. Thank you for scoring me, and so many of my classmates, so high for simply repeating what you dictated in class and also for scoring me high for those comments in my second test. It all evens out, doesn’t it?

Disclaimer: I’m no computer scientist. I use a computer and the little modifications I do make to source code consist of little stuff in open-source games like xevil for fun’s sake.

How to annoy an examiner

It’s not every day that one’s impulses to engage in puerile behaviour are given a lovely catalyst in the form of an English examination paper, so when one has the chance one seizes ( imagine: a spell checker would have allowed ‘ceases’ there ) the chance with both hands. This is precisely what I did last week.

I hadn’t slept the whole of last night ( literally, I did not sleep at all ) and the whole world looked slightly greyer than usual. This didn’t particularly put me in a good mood. In any case, when the paper came, I was given a couple of opportunities to take a jab at the person who set the paper. I don’t remember them all, but here are a couple I did remember.

Truly, Successfully:

One of the essays that we were prescribed to read was ‘Lectures’ by J.B. Priestly, an okay chap, and I apologise profusely for having called him all sorts of things he didn’t deserve. The question was supposed to be (I guess) : “How can a lecturer turn truly successful, according to J.B. Priestly?” . Instead, the question paper said, “How can a lecturer turn truly successfully according to J.B. Priestly?” . Naturally, my answer went something like this:

A lecturer can turn “truly, successfully” by rotating his/her torso through the required angle and moving his/her feet to follow. However, Priestly, being a capitalist elitist, could probably never be a “truly successful” teacher.

I’m sure there was some fun to be had by referring to the lecturer as only ‘her’ instead of his/her, but I was hardly thinking. Apart from the obvious non-sequitur in the last line, Priestly was actually taken off the air for being too socialist back during the Second World War.

Maintain your cows!

As part of the process that produces clerks that we call education we are supposed to learn how to write letters. After all, what use are clerks who don’t know how to write letters. I had the choice of writing to an old friend (cliché!) or of writing “a letter to your Corporation complaining about the bad maintenance of cows in your street.” . Not much of a choice, is it? A little excerpt:

Due to bad maintenance and irregular servicing, four cows broke down in the past three days. Please restore them to working order.

Ah, there you go, I can always claim that I meant that they had psychological problems and so I couldn’t milk them.

London is in Africa

You’ve probably read “Telephone Conversation” by Wole Soyinka. (cliché alert) If you haven’t, do so now. It’s nice. So anyway, we have to write an essay on one of the three topics offered. I eventually wrote on Winston Churchill’s Examinations (There were a couple of gems in my essay on this, including a nice Latin ending, but I can’t remember the whole thing perfectly). So anyway, the question was, “Describe how Wole Soyinka’s poem speaks about racial discrimination in Africa.” . My answer for 10 marks was a bit theatrical and went like: (not reformatted)

AFRICA?! RED DOUBLE TIERED OMNIBUSES! LONDON! London! Africa doesn’t do red double deckers.

Later realising that I didn’t know whether or not Africa did, in fact, ‘do red double deckers’, I struck it out with one single line across, taking care not to obscure the words.

Other annoying stuff:

The paper had some other annoying stuff, but I don’t recall any of it and my copy of the question paper has torn apart under the influence of a leaking packet of mango juice ( which is very good, and which I have found recently to be overpriced by Re. 1 ) . Oh wait, yes I do. The person who set the paper liked the word ‘substantiate’. And very often he asked me to substantiate things which I didn’t want to substantiate and knew only how to refute. ‘Substantiate’, it seems. Sheesh.

Yeah, it certainly isn’t behaviour befitting an adult by normal standards, but think, this is an English Examination. Surely they could find a way to not make ridiculous mistakes. Now to see if I pass :)

NOTE: Anyone who gives a perfectly legitimate reason for some errors in the question paper saying that they may have been typographical or that the question paper may have been typed out by someone who isn’t good at English is required to shut up. You spoil the little joy I get.

NOTE 2: Errors in my post need not mean anything besides proving that I am fallible, a formidable task in itself ( the proof of my fallibility, not the act of being fallible ) . I do not set English Examination question papers.

Drivel – A blog editor.

Drivel’s a blog/journal editor on Linux. It has a simple interface and is very easy to handle. It can do blogs on all the popular blogging websites as well as on WordPress based sites (I haven’t tested WordPress MU). To getDrivel it to work on wordpress though, you need to select “MovableType” as the blog type and type in the address to your blog followed by xmlrpc.php. For example I would have:

http://blog.arjie.com/xmlrpc.php

That’s a rather funny thing but it’s a one-time inconvenience. It’s fast, handles past posts properly and looks neat and orderly.

Pros:
1. Offline blogging, text is saved as drafts and then uploaded when done.
2. Integration with desktop. If you’re using a custom theme like the one in my dark-on-light posts, this is a good idea.
3. One interface to many blogs if you have more than one.

Cons:
1. You can only add one category.
2. You can’t directly upload images, you can only link to them.
3. If Drivel can’t contact Technorati (when the Notify Technorati option is on) it saves the post as a draft on wordpress and waits for a nearly infinite amount of time trying to notify technorati.

Remember, the “Insert Poll” option only works on LiveJournal.