Only three gel images ever made, admit scientists

The Science Web

SWITZERLAND.  After yet another case of doctored gels identified in high impact publications, molecular biologists have finally admitted that there are only 3 genuine gel images in the world.

“It’s time to come clean” said Olivier Voinnet, an expert with Adobe Photoshop.  “There are only 3 real, genuine gel images in the world, produced by Ed Southern in the 1970s – every single gel image published since has been falsely created in Photoshop using those three as a source” he finished.

“It turns out that even Ed Southern only got it to work once” said Ivan Oransky, author at RetractionWatch and currently under FBI protection somewhere in Tahiti.  “So Northerns and Westerns are made up too – basically, they just turned the original gels round so they looked like they were going in a different direction” he finished.

“What does it matter?” said Dr Joan Fake, head of the Institute…

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All other languages tired of Python’s shit

Python is not a fad, but it definitely overrated!

The Science Web

New Zealand.  A recent survey of software languages has revealed that every single one of them is sick to the back teeth of Python telling them it’s better than everything else for everything.

Python, the most recent most popular programming language that will die in a few years time, has somehow managed to culture a following of developers who react to it with religious zeal.  Called Pythonistas within the Python religion, they are generally referred to as “pricks” by everyone else.

“It’s bullying, quite frankly” said Perl, a language once popular amongst developers.  “I basically can’t go out now.  As soon as I step outside of the house, a Pythonista/prick starts shouting in my ear about how shit I am.  It’s really disturbing”.

“I can’t believe they think they’re better than me at visualisation” said R.  “I mean, of course internally I am a mess, but my graphs are…

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“Microsoft Tech Support” calls me

This just happened. I literally just hung up from this call.

I got a phone call from someone claiming to be Microsoft Tech Support that told me my PC is filing many error reports on their server. Now, I have just bought a new laptop and haven’t customized it much yet, so I was gonna give this guy the benefit of the doubt and let him proceed. We then had this wonderful conversation:

Him: Hello sir, I am calling from Microsoft Support”

Me: “Hello.What’s up?”

Him: “Mr. RandomName, we are receiving a LOT of error messages from your PC”

Me: “I think you have the wrong number. I am not Mr. RandomName”

Him: “We have your number listed here, sir. I think the name may have been misspelt”

Me: “Oh, OK. Go on.”

Him: “Focus on your keyboard, can you see a key with 4 squares on it?” (tee-hee, this guy thinks I am a super dumb user)

Him: “Press and hold it and press R. Did a window open up with the text blah blah blah. Type in e-v-e-n-t-v”

Me:”You want me to open the event viewer?”

Him: “Yes. Do you see the Custom Views folder? Double click it. Double click the Administrative Events now. Do you see the red and yellow error messages? Do you know what these errors mean?”

(At this point, I’m a little out of my comfort zone. I have never analyzed Event Viewer logs in depth before, and I do not know what these errors mean).

Me: “I have no idea.”

Him (with extra confidence): “This is malware, sir. Your computer has been infected with malware from the Internet and is filing error reports with our server.”

(I’m wondering why my PC is phoning home to some random server. Has to be either Microsoft or Dell that it phones home to.)

Me: “Who did you say you were again? Please give me some credentials, some official email at least. Did you say you were from Microsoft?”

Him: “No sir, we are from Microsoft’s official IT Support firm. Microsoft outsources their tech support to us. Anyone saying they are calling from Microsoft is lying. Microsoft never calls.” (LOL)

Me: “Fine, but can you please prove it to me in some way that you’re genuine tech support?”

Him: “I will prove it to you, sir. Can you type assoc on your black window and hit Enter?”

Me: “OK, done”

Him: “Sir, you see a long line at the end, let me read you that number and you will know that I have access to your details”.

(he then proceeds to read me the long ID with prefix “CLS” that I’m seeing on my computer)

Him: “That is your CLS ID, sir. As in, Computer Licensing Service ID. Only genuine tech support is given access to that ID. It is secret, so please do not tell anyone your ID.”

I can sense what’s coming next. If I were him, I’d ask for remote access. So, I decide to dive deeper before taking action.

Me: “Hold on a moment, will you? I need to check something.”

I then quick-fire Google “CLS ID” and see that it is a COM Licensing ID (I know what COM components are).

I also search for event viewer errors on a parallel tab and see that they are insignificant reports in my scenario that can be ignored.

I then check for scams that follow this pattern, and find plenty of shady stuff. By then, I am convinced this guy is trying to scam me.

Him: “Are you busy right now? It is important that we get the malware removed soon”

Me (I’m in the middle of my research): “Mm-hmm, hold on. Give me just one moment”.

Him: “Sir, are you there? What are you doing?”

Me: “Yes, I am here. I am looking at a bunch of websites that tell me you’re running a scam.”

Him: “Sir, scammers don’t need your consent. They insert malware without your knowledge. We are trying to help you.”

Me: “Really? Well, I am a Computer Scientist and I know a LOT more than what you think I know. Did you know that?”

Him: “Sir, you do not seem to believe us. Your computer will be critically affected by malware if you don’t let us help. I am gonna hang up now, I will call you back when you have a bit more time.”

Me: “F*** off, dude”

(he hangs up)

Why did his scam fail? He called the wrong guy. He was looking for an old person with no computer experience; he got me instead.

Who am I?

I am a computer science geek with a decade of experience in multiple Windows versions, Mac OS X and multiple flavors of Linux. I am an expert at databases. I am also an open source programmer dabbling with mountains of data on Linux clusters. Oh, and I have 3 years of experience teaching Microsoft .NET and Azure programming. I’m not a guy who hasn’t heard of Event Viewer, I’m one that has written apps that write to the Event Viewer log.

I am the one who knocks.

Better luck next time, scammer.

House of Cards – Season 3

Rant alert – you have been warned.

So, Netflix released the entire third season of House of Cards this past Friday, which was a missed opportunity for them, seeing how Presidents Day was just a week before that and they could have done a dozen crazy President puns on that.

Like any sane person, I binge-watched the season. Unlike last year, I have a full time job now, so starting before Friday was a big no-no. I started at 6 PM Friday and got done by Sunday afternoon, which is quite the leisurely pace given that a season is around 12 hours long.

I wish I could say I enjoyed it as much as I did Season 1. Or even Season 2. But no, this was a bad season, by its own standards. I gave this season a LOT of thought, and nope, there is no subtlety, or show of power in a tactful fashion, or even a sense of direction.

I have always found stories about king-makers a lot more interesting than a story about kings. There is something magnetic about the story of someone that can have all the power they want, but choose to stay aloof and manipulate others instead. It is a wicked deal, something that sounds so against the ethics we are expected to follow, but that is what makes it so damn enigmatic!

My question going into the season was: Given that the protagonist has reached his ultimate goal, what next? The journey was really interesting, but the destination was mediocre at best. Frank chasing the Presidency turned out like The Joker’s “dog chasing cars”. He had no clue what to do when he actually caught one. He is an abysmal president and a tyrant, and that is very unlike the Frank we have come to know. There was absolutely ZERO tact.

What I love about Claire is her spirit – she is a strong, independent woman, an equal to Frank, and much better than him at stabbing someone and turning the knife inside them. Frank may kill a reporter, but Claire has the (psychopathic) will to let an unborn child wilt and die inside someone’s womb. She is also the most diplomatic person you’ll ever see, and does not let anyone prove her wrong. In this season, she is proven wrong. Every. single. time. She’s working a job she’s really bad at, deciding stuff she has no idea about, and pouting and whining unlike the Claire we love. She lets go of her diplomacy at a crucial moment, and takes a decision at the end of the season which leaves us questioning the sanity of the writers. Those last two episodes – that wasn’t her.

The author character – added to the series so we may understand Frank and Claire’s relationship through proxy – was a huge waste of our time. He added next to nothing to the story. He was supposed to be the Zoe of this season – the person that got too close to a dark truth, but he had none of Kate Mara’s charisma, and ended up being an annoying add-on.

Also blatantly missing are a few of the best characters – including Raymond Tusk – the guy with the money AND the power, a character I loved over the past 2 seasons.

Honestly, one of the two good characters this season was Doug. We saw his human side, we saw Frank not rely on him – HUGE mistake. We saw him play his games with all the important people, and we saw him take a really tough decision. He has tied up his loose ends beautifully, and the way he spoke to Frank was the highlight of the season. This season was House of Cards: Doug’s Redemption.

The other, of course, was Putin-knockoff Viktor Petrov. Lars Mikkelsen does a wonderful job of portraying the Russian Head of Everything, and after his chaotic foreplay, his reasoning and strong approach show us just how powerful this guy really is.

What started off as “Wow, the 3rd season is here” soon became “Let’s just get this done and forget about it”. House of Cards, you should have stopped with Season 2.

My gut says Functional Programming – Part 0

When it comes to learning technologies in Computer Science, I personally prefer listening to my out-of-the-blue whims. Yes, I get quite a few of them and I’ve followed through with a couple and seen amazing results.

One of the best times this happened was when I was beginning my first full time job. I’d just started my foray into the world of Microsoft Technologies and .NET 3.5 had been released recently. I don’t remember how I stumbled across the term, but a new technology called “Language Integrated Query”, or LINQ, caught my attention. It was a sudden impulse, a whim, that pushed me toward it. I spent the better part of a year learning the concepts behind it. During this year, I remember it not gathering much market value. It was, what some told me then, an unwise investment.

A year down the line, with .NET 4.0 and the Windows Azure cloud computing in the horizon, we woke up to a world where LINQ was gaining popularity. It went from niche tech to mainstream overnight. It was a remarkable stroke of coincidence for me, and all my efforts bore fruit. I loved LINQ, and I still love the way of thinking learning it gave me.

I am no longer in the field of mainstream software development. I don’t keep up with the latest in Microsoft tech or open source. I am happy with my jack-of-all-trades knowledge of UNIX, Perl, Python, R, Java, Excel, etc. But today, my gut says I should learn functional programming. LINQ haunts me, and tells me that Functional Programming has the capability to bring back the fire I felt when I was learning LINQ. And I have a feeling I’m gonna go for it.

I do think I’m ready for it. UNIX has given me the power to think in pipes, where the output of one command is the input to the next, and by focusing on each step we can get to a wonderful result. LINQ has taught me how to think of piping lists through functionalities. All that remains is putting two and two together and learning something new!

I’m going to start on Haskell now. I plan to document my learnings here, with a side by side comparison to UNIX, LINQ and other homologs. More coming soon, hopefully!