Abbott & Costello in the 21st Century

The author of this is unknown. It has been floating around the Internet since at least the middle of 2004. Rather than emailing it to my friends and family, I decided to post it here. This is the modern way of re-telling a joke.

If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their infamous sketch,
‘Who’s on First?’ might have turned out something like this:

COSTELLO CALLS TO BUY A COMPUTER FROM ABBOTT

ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: Thanks. I’m setting up an office in my den and I’m thinking
about
buying a computer.

ABBOTT: Mac?

COSTELLO: No, the name’s Lou.

ABBOTT: Your computer?

COSTELLO: I don’t own a computer. I want to buy one.

ABBOTT : Mac?

COSTELLO: I told you, my name’s Lou.

ABBOTT: What about Windows?

COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?

ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?

COSTELLO: I don’t know. What will I see when I look at the windows?

ABBOTT: Wallpaper.

COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.

ABBOTT: Software for Windows?

COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write
proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?

ABBOTT: I just did.

COSTELLO: You just did what?

ABBOTT: Recommend something.

COSTELLO: You recommended something?

ABBOTT: Yes.

COSTELLO: For my office?

ABBOTT: Yes

COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!

ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Window’s.

COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let’s just say I’m
sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?

ABBOTT: Word.

COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: Word in Office.

COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?

ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue ‘W’.

COSTELLO: I’m going to click your blue ‘w’ if you don’t start with some
straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I
can
track my money with?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: That’s right What do you have?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?

ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.

COSTELLO: What’s bundled with my computer?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?

ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.

COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?

ABBOTT: One copy.

COSTELLO: Isn’t it illegal to copy money?

ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.

COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?

ABBOTT: Why not? THEY OWN IT!

(A few days later)

ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?

ABBOTT: Click on ‘START’

The Day the Earth Stood Still was Moving

When I heard they we going to remake the 1951 SciFi classic anti-nuke The Day the Earth Stood Still, I knew I wanted to go see it. The teaser trailers did not give much away. There commercials showed a rather fake-looking Gort, actually GORT in this new version. The trailers made the story appear to be about Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) and her decision to save the Earth. The actual story was different. The decision is not Helen’s but humanity’s decision. The key to the story is that he says “Save the Earth”.

The original story was a cautionary tale about humans spreading violence. Klaatu (Michael Rennie) comes down to Earth to tell us that there are many civilizations in space and the Earth is just one among many. If Humans are going to spread their violent ways out into space, the “policemen” like Gort will not allow that. As a show of power Klaatu stops all technology everywhere on the planet all at once, except for plane in flight and hospitals — nice aliens. The Earth hears the message and Klaatu leaves. Oh, and Helen gets to say that classic line “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!”

So the new version should have similar theme, similar characters, bad military, they shoot the alien, Gort kicks butt, Klaatu runs away, meets people, demonstrates power, and then leaves. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, Helen gets to say that classic line “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!”. So if that is what is expected of this remake, how did we fare?

Instead of an anti-war and anti-nuclear theme we get an environmental message. Klaatu says the life is too precious to allow the destruction of the Earth by a single species. They plan to eradicate the humans and restore balance in the Force, no Matrix, no… nature. This update works. The old story line wouldn’t let story be contemporary. It’s not nice to fool with mother nature.

What’s next on the checklist? Just like in the original Klaatu shows up and is confronted by the military and local police. Instead of Washington D.C they are in Central Park and want to talk to the U.N. Some trigger-happy yahoo shoots the scary alien.

Before you get this point in the story there is a pretty good back story about previous visits back in 1928 and we meet Helen. Helen is snatched up by the military to come try to figure out the impending alien visitation. This part of the movie was completely new and I liked the update. The basic idea is that the aliens had abducted a Himalayan explorer (Keanu Reeves) and had used his DNA to make a body for Klaatu. This was a nice touch and answered why the alien looked human.

So after Klaatu is shot we get to meet Gort. In this version Klaatu done not call him Gort. That name is given to him later by the military as an acronym GORT. GORT is about 30 foot tall and can control technology or neutralize it. No heat vision this time. He is about to squish Helen when Klaatu says something unintelligible and GORT stops. If he said “Klaatu barada nikto”, I did not hear it an my audience did not react. He could have said it at this point for a nice nod back to the original.

Instead of rescuing Klaatu, GORT goes into Standby Mode. Klaatu is scooped up by Kathy Bates who takes him to a small cabin in the woods and forces him to finish his great novel — wait wrong movie. Anyway, Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates) is in charge (of the country) while the President and Vice President are in hiding. She orders a doctor to remove the bullet. After a scene from John Carpenter’s The Thing, Keanu Reeves shows up and starts talking stilted English. Jackson decides that this is a good time to go Guantanamo on the scary alien. Klaatu does not like this and decides to go to McDonald’s instead.

After seeing the Big Mac, Klaatu decides that the earth cannot be saved. All these spheres start appearing around the earth as if they had been buried under ground and in the oceans. They are collecting species and taking them off into space.

Meanwhile the military decide that they do not want GORT hanging around in Central Park because of all the crime and all. So they take him off into the country and put him in a really deep hole. GORT is still in Standby Mode during this — trying to save his battery for the latter part of the movie.

Once Klaatu sends off the little “arks” it is time to destroy the earth. GORT and these globes turn into little silicon bugs that start eating all technology and human flesh. They seem so leave trees and other animal life alone. As they eat they multiply. Next thing you know you have a swarm like from the Michael Crichton book Prey flying around eating everything. There are several particle effect where the swarm eats a semi and Giants Stadium.

Klaatu finally sees what the guy from McDonald’s was trying to say and decides to stop the silicon bugs but only after they have ravaged New York City. Klaatu stops the swarm and then leaves. Just before he goes, he leaves a little parting gift by neutralizing all technology everywhere. The power is out everywhere around the world but unlike the original movie, the power does not come back on. So see what happened after that you will have to read Last Light by Terri Blackstock. And so ends the movie.

Overall I liked the story and how it was updated 57 years later. The special effects were not that great. There were too many raining scenes that did not need to be raining. I’m tired of movie makers using rain to hide the little strings on their models. This new version was brutal about the destruction of human life. They must have been going after the “Day After Tomorrow” crowd.

I doubt the movie will be a commercial success. It was too techie and preachie for most audiences. I thing it will have a minor following when it comes to DVD but not it is not “Independence Day”.

BKS Iyengar Yoga Studio of Dallas

Drupal site where the owners can update their own schedule of classes and post other information. Implementation called for a custom stylesheet for some pages in a way that the user could choose. The primary use of this custom style sheet is to change the background image.

Do I Need Anti-virus Software?

To answer that question we must first answer the question Why do we need anti-virus software? The answer to that question is pretty simple. Engineers tend to design things to work and then stop. The exception to this is NASA who has to plan for every possible contingency and then make sure their design will survive.

Normal engineers get to see their design come to fruition and then can iterate on that design. There are moments of “oops, that didn’t work” followed by design improvements. By the 3rd, 7th or Xth version, they tend to get it right. Compare most any engineering feat and you will see earlier less successful designs that were essential to the learning process.

Consider two home builders with lots side by side. Both builders build their houses and are able to live in them. Over time the neighborhood goes down hill. Their houses are no less nice than they were when they were built but now they are both getting broken into regularly. Once of the builders decides to repair the broken windows and add bars for security. The other builder decides to bulldoze his house and build a new one with security in mind. Sounds like an analogy for the Windows/Mac discussion.

In the beginning most computers could only do one thing at a time. If you were running Visicalc on your Apple ][ then it took over your computer. With the Advent of Windows 3.1 and Mac OS 6, we began to be able to run more than one program at a time. These programs needed to be able to talk to one another so they could share data. Apple introduced the clipboard, AppleScript and later Publish and Subscribe. On Windows there was OLE and later ActiveX. The focus of these tools was to expose all the functionality of a program so that any other program could use it. It was possible to write a Word Macro that could control MS Excel. MS Access had its own programming language that could call any system function to do just about anything on the computer.

I admit to having some fun with this in the mid 90’s. I would use Visual Basic to write a little program or screen saver. In one example I wrote a simple program that simply displayed an error message and then quit. What it actually did was edit your WIN.INI and change all of your system colors to black on black. Yes, I always made a backup of the original WIN.INI — this was supposed to be a joke. I would put the EXE file out on the server and see who I caught snooping. Because of the way the WIN.INI is read only on Windows Start, the color changes would not happen until the next day. By then the use would not remember the culprit.

Visual Basic was very powerful and had nearly unlimited access to the system. The system was designed to make things work. Once the got things working there was no reason to keep working on the project and so they shipped it. When a user had a problem, the problem hopefully got fixed.

Before Windows for Workgroups 3.11, it was very hard to get Windows computers to talk on a network. WfW changed that. Now you could use OLE not just on your computer but on any computer on your network. You could open your spreadsheet on your computer and request data from other spreadsheets to make sure your spreadsheet had the latest numbers. Individual program started listening and broadcasting on the network for their own purposes. The most common example of this is called an RPC — Remote Procedure Call. This simply means that I can use my computer to tell you computer to run a program.

Viruses quickly arrived on the scene. They were written to look for floppy drives. If they could hitch a ride on a floppy drive they may get to find themselves on a new uninfected computer. If that computer were on a network they could spread to each computer on the network. This is was the first phase of commercial anti-virus software. Viruses primarily attacked your hard drive or your floppy drive. They loaded as a TSR, or driver, or CDEV so they could stay running. The anti-virus software would be able to find and kill them.

With the advent of Windows 95 and the explosion of people accessing the Internet with email there came a new threat. No longer did viruses need to wait for a floppy. The most popular email program at the time was probably Outlook Express. Outlook Express had a fatal flaw which had been designed into it as a feature. It would open an email when it was received without any user interaction. Between this and Macro viruses the world was besieged with a pandemic of computer viruses.

By Windows 98 virus had evolved to become extremely hard to kill. They were able to propagate right over the network. During this same time more and more people were getting connected to the Internet. Most of them were using real IP addresses. Your computer could get infected by just connecting.

During this same timeframe Apple decided to scrap their Mac OS 9 which was subject to some of the same virus problems and go with a new architecture. This new design was based on BSD UNIX that had been around for decades and had proven to be hardened against the type of network attacks that were becoming so common.

By the beginning of this decade things were really bad. A stock installation of Windows would be infected in minutes just by being connected to the Internet. This infection was so insidious that there was no real hope of cleaning out the infestation. It was insanity to run Windows without any virus protection. Mac OS X had just arrived in 2001 and even though there were no viruses for it yet it was just a matter of time.

Things started to get better. Local ISPs realized they did not need to give their users real IP addresses. NAT would do the job just as well while protecting their users. ISPs also started blocking port 25 which was being used by spammers and viruses to spread. By Windows XP SP2 Microsoft finally shipped their OS with the firewall turned on. Mac OS X still didn’t have any viruses but it was just a matter of time.

Here we are a few years later. Viruses are very cleverly designed to not kill the patient. They very keenly use your computer only when you are not using it in hopes of avoiding detection. They receive new instructions from chat rooms and can be controlled in huge bot networks. What can you do?

* Turn your firewall on and leave it on. Make sure it operates in Stealth Mode.
Run Shields Up to see if your protected. – http://www.grc.com
* Use a NAT Router at home even if your ISP gives you a real IP address.
* Use SSL for any communication that can use it — Email

To date there is not a true virus for Mac OS X. There are some concepts and some trojans but no real viruses. A trojan is like my little WIN.INI hack that requires the user to actually run the program. Have I seen a virus on my system? — yes. As recently as 2002 I saw a few viruses come through in my email. In fact, I actively sought them out in an effort to help my customers. Since my machine was relatively immune, I could use it to scan files and email. I ran various virus checkers that found viruses in my Spam folder.

If you keep your system clean you should not need an Anti-Virus program. The problem is that keeping your system clean is increasingly difficult. I would definitely recommend that anyone who is at all nervous about technology should either use a Mac or make sure the buy and maintain their virus software. Virus software is not much use if you do not maintain it. If you run Windows, you should consider the $40 per year per computer subscription part of the cost of ownership of your computer.

Use the Cloud for Publishing, Not Archiving

I’m really enjoying using Flickr.com for sharing my pictures. They have a nice interface and I can publish my photos easily from iPhoto. I do mean publish. Even though I can set access groups a limit who can see certain pictures or sets, I still am careful about what I publish. Once an image is published there is no undo. Flickr has a nice “feature” that allows even private images to be accessed using a static URL. This means than any picture I publish can be shared intentionally or accidentally by someone in my trusted group.

I keep all of this in mind when I choose what to upload and what access group to use. I also limit the size of my images to 1024×1024. This is big enough for anyone to see my image but not big enough to be used for commercial purposes. Since I am altering my original image and shrinking it down, it no longer has any value as an archival source. Nor should it. You should not rely on Flickr or any other online site as the sole repository of your stuff.

This is not a commentary on Flickr. I’m sure Flickr and their parent company Yahoo! will be around for years. But with the recent shutdowns of some lesser known sites it is important to keep perspective on what these cloud services are good for. Its wonderful to have everything out in the cloud and available but that cannot be the only source. Flickr’s business is focused on publishing your photos. The archival is a secondary benefit.

I’m willing to concede one exception to this notion and that would be for services like Amazon’s S3 that claim that the archival of files is their business. When combined with a software package like Jungle Disk you get the security of an off-site backup combined with the privacy of your data. Even then, I would still want a local backup hard drive.

In summary, use Flickr to publish the photos you want the world to see but not as the archive for every picture you have ever taken.