Code

April 30th, 2015

code_cover_medium

Code explores the reasons why people become hackers. Written in a style that resembles text-based video games or books where you can choose actions for the characters to follow, this cryptic tale explores the separation between symbol and reality. Through the eyes of people caught in the hacker underground a reader can look at human civilization from outside of it, where laws and morals have given way to the atavistic struggle for power.

The book is available in Kindle format on Amazon.

code_screenshot

Code takes advantage of the unique capabilities of the ebook medium. Inspired by “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, the video game Myst and Infocom text-adventure games of the early 1980s, it invites the reader to navigate a virtual world where a group of hackers try to interpret a message of unknown origin that may reveal the adversary who has invisibly hacked them. Experience the paranoia and thrill of discovery as you raid, bluff, spoof, forge, hack and fight your way across a new strange world.

Investigating the methods and motivations behind intrusions across cyberspace, Code wanders into the question of whether good intentions or good results warrant stepping outside of the intricate system of morals made to govern the human species. In doing so, it uncovers a layer of reality invisible to almost all of us, but which may decide our future.

Steve Noxon launches Purple House, LLC a brand-centric graphic design firm

October 23rd, 2012


Purple House, LLC — a brand-conscious design firm

Detroit graphic artist Steve Noxon has launched his new design firm, Purple House, LLC. Specializing in branding and enhancing brand value while providing branded identity in design, the firm gathers talented and experienced graphic designers and uses them to study a client’s brand strategy in order to begin the brand-conscious design process. The result is graphic design that not only visually supports the brand, but seems a natural extension of it.

Steve is an art director and graphic designer with a great deal of experience in high-profile projects. Where he shines is in practical and visually compelling results for his clients. Steve has the skills to make projects beautiful and interfaces excellent. It’s not just diligent attention to detail — lots of designers can do that — but the ability to integrate all of those details into a single functional entity, like a language.

I’ve known Steve for over a decade. His style of graphic design straddles the line between product design and visual art. It reminds me of the work of Steve Jobs, who while no longer with us, lives on through a legacy of revolutionary streamlined product design. That legacy is the idea that design should be like a language, as simple as possible, and every aspect should work with every other toward an overall experience that is not just functional, but pleasant. I’ve seen Steve Noxon do this to interfaces which started out jumbled and ended up like an iPod: simple, intuitive and a joy to use.

He is also a master of branded visual design. He will study a client and their business, talk to their employees and clients, and walk away with a thorough understanding of what they do and how they must present it to succeed. He comes back with sharp designs that are both simple and precisely targeted to the client’s need. It’s no surprise that a collaboration like Purple House is turning heads on both coasts.

It’s going to be great to watch Steve and Purple House, LLC, as this new firm thrives in the up-and-coming market of branded design.

Jason Lamport DJ mix

March 9th, 2012

I’ve made available a mix by Jason Lamport, which you can and should download here.

This style of music — mixing together different tracks to create a continuous ambient experience — was popular in the middle 1990s and is still practiced by diehards. In particular, I’d like to thank Lara Schneider for her contributions, and Shepherd Griffin for providing the archive. You can listen to Lara’s music on that page; I recommend this hymn to the dark goddess.

Changing Fast

February 18th, 2009

I met an interesting gentleman in Detroit once — his name is Collin LaLonde and he’s a recruiter. I liked him because, while everyone else seemed to try to do a sales job with no substance behind it, he listened to my skill set, assessed how solid I was as a worker, and placed me well. He’s got a new blog, Changing Fast, which chronicles the development of the tech workplace.

A Class With Drucker, by William A. Cohen

October 24th, 2008

A Class With Drucker
by William A. Cohen, PhD

As children, we believe in magic. As adults, we start believing in magic knowledge. Although management science is not universally accepted, and many consider it an excess of theory, I’ve seen how the difference between a studied approach to management and the norm can make a world of difference. As a result, I read Drucker, but in leafing through the volumes of material by and about Peter Drucker, I found William “Wild Bill” Cohen’s summary highly useful.

This is not Drucker for Dummies. It is recollections of classes taken with Drucker as run through the filter of the lessons Drucker taught that could be applied in Cohen’s business career. Cohen very carefully unites the principle to Drucker’s example to anecdotes from his own experience and research, and it makes for a convincing illustration of Druckerian ideas. Even more, it distills the complexity of Drucker’s body of work into a few powerful insights for newcomers which will help them see its usefulness and want to read more.

A format of this nature is essential for this topic since it is frequently heretical to “common sense” as repeated to us by others. Starting with “What Everybody Knows is Frequently Wrong,” Cohen walks us through a Drucker approach to deconstructing management, and then with the chapter “You Must Know Your People to Lead Them,” he starts building for us a vision of what a Drucker-informed corporation would look like, and why it would succeed. This approach yanks the reader from a mindset informed by preconceptions, reframes the question of management, and then rebuilds knowledge in an informative way.

Throughout my time as both a consultant and an employee, I have been repeatedly shocked by how smart people in management positions can be so lost on the basics of management science. Management science is both learning how to lead people, and knowing how to make business-sensible decisions, and joining the two is not necessarily as much complex as it can be delicate. It’s easy to get lost in tangents. As an introduction to Drucker, A Class With Drucker also teaches us why management theory can be essential and gives us a footpath to get started.

For these reasons, I’d recommend A Class With Drucker to any people newly in leadership positions, or leaders frustrated with lack of success. It reads easily because it uses simple language in sentences of varied length, giving the text a smoothly flowing, conversational rhythm. Every point in the book is well documented with examples and explanation. Cohen’s voice is reassuring when he deals with provocative ideas. You can read it like a novel but learn it like a textbook.

What I would not do is try to use this book as a summary of Drucker. It’s an introduction to the Druckerian principles most vital to a manager, but not a survey of his work. Summarizing all of his 40-plus books and many articles is a different kind of task entirely. However, as a pleasant read to get your feet wet and make you curious for more, A Class With Drucker is first-rate.

A Class With Drucker: The Lost Lessons of the World’s Greatest Management Teacher, by William A. Cohen, PhD $16.47 on Amazon.com

Reality imitates fiction

April 25th, 2008

If you’ve read Glitter Gold, a short story on this site, you’ll see the relevance immediately (and if not, consider clicking that link above for two free short stories):

Experts say gold and silver spray paints are preferred by “huffers.” They say the propellants in the cans for those color are stronger. ^

I’ve never had any desire to huff paint, but it is fascinating, perhaps because it is the most obviously self-destructive chemical habit I’ve seen. It’s the act of desperate people caught in the grips of motivational entropy.

A long time ago, I wrote a story called Glitter Gold about those who huff paint and what it does to them. In it, one detail was that gold paint gets paint huffers the most intoxicated. Ever since then, reality has been imitating fiction:

According to a Bellaire Police Department report, Tribett’s pupils were constricted and he replied slowly to their questions. Oh, and “officers observed the paint on face and hands,” as can be seen in the below mug shot. ^

One point of the story was that humans had to make life hopeless for paint huffing to seem attractive (as is the case with many intoxicants). You don’t need an escape valve until you so screw up the situation that people are desperate for escape. They don’t even want to enjoy life — they just want to check out.

In surveying the park, the officer noticed a man sitting in a lawn chair outside of a residence. He asked if the man had been huffing paint and the man said no.

However, when the officer approached and shined his flashlight toward the man, he noticed what appeared to be “fresh, gold-colored paint clinging to his nose and cheeks.” The officer also noticed paint in the man’s facial hair. ^

One disturbing aspect of checking out is that once you’ve been out, you don’t want to be back in. Literally, you’ve seen a world where you don’t care about a damn thing except your bag full of paint. Why would you go back, to mortality, wars, corruption, pollution, Schadenfreude and bad TV? Inhale. Check out. Repeat.

In June 2006, Wheeling police said they found Tribett on 16th and Main Streets intoxicated and covered in paint. He was charged with public intoxication.

A week prior to that arrest, police found Tribett huffing paint under the Interstate 470 bridge. Police said when they found him, Tribett looked right at them but continued huffing. ^

As much as the story shows its age, or rather my lack of experience at the time in getting said what I needed to say, its premise still rings true. People lock themselves into mazes of “can’ts” and the messy control issues of others, and finally, it all culminates in either total checkout or a conflagration.

WebWorks Help and the MOTW

March 10th, 2008

Many of you who create online help for your products will run into this problem.

When Microsoft gained world domination sometime in AD 2002, every black hat larcenous computer criminal wannabe started gunning for Windows XP, which had just become the de facto world standard operating system. It’s still on 90% of the desktop machines out there.

Microsoft’s response was a flurry of disorganized activity, since the real problem was Internet Explorer’s habit of loading helpful ActiveX controls and BHOs. You can easily lock up a Windows system with a firewall or combined firewall and new application monitor like ZoneAlarm, but you can do little about a browser that serves as an open door for any malware wanting to impregnate it. Backward compatibility, you know. It’s a legitimate business reason and the purpose of this article isn’t to criticize it.

After the consequent security updates, Internet Explorer took a more rigorous approach to security zones. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to look at one of its most dramatic changes, which was to lock down the ability of the browser to load local HTML files, and secondarily, to cripple those from running JavaScript. If you try to load these pages, you get an annoying yellow bar at the top of the page requiring you to click OK to load the page.

Knowing that this would cause problems for many of us, and not least of all their own systems, Microsoft created a work-around called “Mark of the Web” or MOTW. This is a small token placed in the header between the DOCTYPE and the HTML open element:


<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd">
<!-- saved from url=(0014)about:internet -->
<html>
...

The MOTW format is a HTML comment with “saved from url=”, the number of characters of the URL to follow in parentheses, and then the URL, which can be either a domain, a specific page, or the sneaky work-around of a work-around above which is a generic field.

There are two of these work-arounds of the work-around (WOTW) that you can use. The first allows the HTML to be run in Internet Explorer’s Internet Zone:


<!-- saved from url=(0014)about:internet -->

The second will run the HTML in the Intranet Zone:


<!-- saved from url=(0014)http://localhost/ -->

For an explanation of security zones, see Setting Up Security Zones and How to use security zones in Internet Explorer.

Naturally, there are some problems with MOTW:

  • MOTW pages will not load HTML pages without MOTW.
  • MOTW pages will not load other types of files (PDFs, DOCs).
  • Every page must have the MOTW, which can be time consuming.
  • You have three alternatives (WOTW^2):

  • Build an HTML application instead of HTML files
  • Create a program that launches the browser and feeds it a default page that uses a meta refresh or JavaScript refresh to load the first page of your local site.
  • If you need to link non-HTML files from your MOTW’d pages, link first to an HTML file and use the EMBED or OBJECT tags to place your non-HTML content in that page.
  • It is the last of the three we’re going to focus on here, specifically, how to link to a PDF file from a MOTW-enabled HTML page. PDF files cannot have embedded MOTW, so any link to a PDF file does not work (in that icky way that Internet Explorer now forces on us, where no error message or indicator lets us know the click didn’t work; it’s the computational equivalent of the silent treatment).

    For each PDF file you have, create an HTML file that can EMBED it, following this template:


    <!-- saved from url=(0014)about:internet -->
    <html style="margin:0;padding:0;">
    <head>
    <title>PDF</title>
    </head>
    <body>
    <embed src="test.pdf" width="100%" height="100%"></embed>
    </body>
    </html>

    This will load the PDF inside the HTML window, and not trouble you further.

    Additional resources:

  • Local zone registry fix – edits your registry to allow HTML content in the local zone.
  • PDF embed script – run this script to create an embedding page for all PDF files in a directory
  • Scott Fitzgerald lives on

    February 26th, 2008

    Life imitates literature yet again:

    Officers said they began searching for [the] car after a grocery store employee phoned authorities to report that a car leaving the store’s parking lot was missing a wheel.

    Lt. Shaun McColgan said [the driver], who was behind the wheel of the car when police arrived, admitted to being intoxicated, but said it did not matter because “he ‘wasn’t driving.'”

    The police said [the driver] did not know his car was missing a wheel, nor did he know where or why the crucial car part might have come off the vehicle. The officers said they retraced the path followed by [the driver] — aided by the scratch marks his car left on the pavement — but were unable to locate the missing component. ^

    And the original, as written by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

    Half a dozen fingers pointed at the amputated wheel — he stared at it for a moment, and then looked upward as though he suspected that it had dropped from the sky.

    “It came off,” some one explained.

    He nodded.

    “At first I din’ notice we’d stopped.”

    A pause. Then, taking a long breath and straightening his shoulders, he remarked in a determined voice:

    “Wonder’ff tell me where there’s a gas’line station?”

    At least a dozen men, some of them little better off than he was, explained to him that wheel and car were no longer joined by any physical bond.

    “Back out,” he suggested after a moment. “Put her in reverse.”

    “But the WHEEL’S off!”

    He hesitated.

    “No harm in trying,” he said. ^

    Denial of responsibility seems an eternal trait.

    Manually merged help on WebWorks ePublisher Pro

    February 20th, 2008

    This blog post is more of a scribble with some valuable information that at least to me seemed hard to find. The short answer is that you follow the instructions in the WebWorks Help 3.0 guide, and do a bit of trial and error to update that format. The slightly longer answer is this list.

    Manually merged help can be created by taking two or more existing help systems (not their source files), and combining them with a little sleight of hand and the aid of a nifty little program called wwhelp5.exe, which is what indexes the content in each help system. Merging help systems allows them to share a table of contents, an index, and a search engine. You might use this approach if you have several projects, and your best customer orders three of them and wants them to share a help system.

    1. Create a new folder for your merged project, and copy every top-level folder which contains content (as opposed to code, a.k.a. the wwhdata and wwhelp folders) to the merged project folder.
    2. Go into one of your top-level folders which contains content, and copy the wwhelp folder, wwhelp folder, and index.html file, and paste them at the root of your merged project folder.
    3. In the root of your merged folder, go into the wwhelp folder, and open the file books.xml in a text editor.
      1. Find xml entries that look like <Book directory=”folder-name” >. Change these entries to point to your top level content folders, relative to the root (if your folder in the root is named EatingCrow, enter directory=”EatingCrow”).
      2. Find the text showbooks=”false” and change it to showbooks=”true.”
    4. In the root of your merged folder, go into the wwhdata folder, open the xml folder, and open the files.xml file in a text editor.
      1. Find xml entries that look like <Document title=”folder-title” href=”folder-pathname” />
      2. Change these to use the correct title (shows up in table of contents) and href to your top-level folders with content, but append this suffix to each /wwhdata/xml/files.xml.
    5. In each top level folder, open the wwhdata folder, open the common folder, and then open towwhdir.js in a text editor. Locate the line that reads { return “” } and replace it with return { “../” }
    6. Open a command window (Start->Run->”cmd”) and type a variation on this command:
      “C:\Program files\WebWorks\ePublisher Pro\Helpers\WebWorks\wwhelp5.exe -wwhdata “C:\path-to-merged-project\wwhdata” -wwhelp “C:\path-to-merged-project\wwhelp”

    That’s it. I apologize for the hasty nature of these notes, but they contain everything necessary to get a moderately experienced WWeP user up and running with this procedure.

    Tufa: The Name Means Rock

    October 25th, 2007

    Back in 1995, Bill Batchelor thought he could make a film funnier than Hollywood’s best efforts. Only difference was that Bill was using one-three-thousandth the budget of films at the time. The result, “Tufa: The Name Means Rock,” was a sizzling satire of rock and roll culture and the eternally larval immature humans it produces. You can download it now in .AVI or .MPG format, DRM-free and contract free, from this page.

    Tufa: The Name Means Rock (movie)