Social Skillz 4 N3rdz: Telling jokes

Are you the kind of nerd that is forced to interact with “normal” people? Maybe it’s your boss. Or maybe it’s the postal worker from whom you pick up your Amazon deliveries. Whatever nerve-wracking situations you find yourself in, this guide will help you navigate the treacherous waters known as “social interaction” (colloquially known as “talking to people”) and help you pass an in-real-life Turing test like a ninja, fooling people into thinking you are human rather than a glasses-wearing inhabitant of uncanny valley.
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An almost-blog post

A few months ago, Steve suggested I write a paper for a particular conference. He even gave me a topic. Brat that I am, I thought about for a few minutes and then flat out said no to that topic but thought of another one suitable for the conference. I decided to write on the ethics and legality of reCAPTCHA. While outside the scope of my academic oeuvre, I figured that even if my paper got rejected, it would still make for an interesting “Random musings” blog post. But it hasn’t come to that. Instead, you can look for it at PST 2012 in a couple of months. At seven pages (and possibly eight after further additions), this is longer than my typical blog post. You might want to get your favourite hot beverage ready before diving in.

ScoutFS: Choppy LAN videos begone!

Have you ever tried playing a video from your local network using software such as VLC or MPlayer and had the video stop every few seconds? I have a solution (currently only available on Mac)! ScoutFS is a file system that will pre-fetch data to avoid this locking-up. Once a network share is loaded (or, indeed, any file system including a DVD or your own hard drive), ScoutFS creates a read-only copy of the drive in memory from which you can open the files without the choppy playback. Once it’s installed (I hope a fairly straightforward process), just drag a folder or disk onto the application in your /Applications folder and load the file from the newly mounted disk!

I will be working on a few more iterations of this software over the next week or so. Hopefully I will have this running on Linux machines soon. Check it out at!

Oops… was that file important?

(Mac users only) Have you messed up an important system file that prevents you from running sudo to fix them? Or have you accidentally trashed some system files from the Finder that have broken the authentication system (that asks for your password when doing certain privileged operations)? Macs have two different systems for managing delicate operations — the system that powers the underlying UNIX-y bits and the stuff for nice Mac-y applications. The upshot is that you can sometimes perform brain surgery on your computer without any anesthetic: some problems can be fixed without rebooting into single-user mode. Continue reading “Oops… was that file important?”