Shell Shocked Android

Can a robot/android suffer Post Dramatic Stress Syndrome? That is the case with 347, the android belonging to the main character in Starforgers. Devon is forced to leave 347 on the remote moon where she was stationed as a Stellar Ranger, when she joins the Star Force. 347 witnesses the death of everyone on the moon when the bad guys invade. It records the death of Devon’s boyfriend and in the process becomes disturbed by the situation.

347 starts to behave erratically and eventually winds up trying to do harm to humans during a key piece of testimony it gives before the Senate on the home word. I want to have some fun with this and sort of combine psychology with my knowledge of programming and see if we can get the android to experience a bit shift for the worst. In a nod to Asimov, my android will wig out and allow harm to come to someone.

347 actually recorded Devon’s boyfriend getting blown away right in front of his visual receptors. The droid actually has caked brain goo on it’s head casing. Something about the explosion combined with the trauma, flips some bits in his main routine and he starts to loose it.

MIT’s $100.00 Laptop

I just checked out the bright green and yellow kid’s laptops that the MIT Media Lab has debuted. It looks really cool. I want one. Some folks have suggested that they allow US geeks to purchase one if they buy it for $400.00 and then donate the remaining funds to the needy kids. That’s an Idea I could get behind.

I started wondering how they plan to update millions of kids laptops if there were security flaws found in them. The notion of Amazon or some such web site getting DDOS attacked by millions of windup PC’s for exactly ten minutes is amusing to me.

Still, I’d love to have one for around the house. Be a cheap little web browser or notepad that I could use to get into my server and do anything from programming to surfing on. Also be great for entertaining the kids on long car trips. Leapfrog are you listening?

Perl Practice

In learning a new programming language, I will often make a one-off program to explore the language and get real-life experience in using it. With Perl, I created a programmatic version of a game I play with my kids as I am tucking them in at night. It’s called, “Thinking of an Animal”, and it’s designed to get them thinking about animals and what they look like and how they are all different. There are many versions of the game such as Thinking of a Safety and Thinking of an Airplane.I used the idea to write a Perl script that interacted with the console and provided positive feed back to the player. It was interesting to anticipate what the user would do and to conceive of the data structures to make the program more elegant. I still need to redesign certain subroutines so that they can be reused and ultimately, I will integrate it with a data base so the animals can be easily added to and expanded upon.

This game will also be useful when the kids start learning to read and can make better use of their computer time. You can download and mess with the program if you like, it’s completely open source and ready to be hacked.

Thinking of an Animal

6 Meter Mobile

My friend Dave (K1ZH) came over today and helped me fix up my 6 meter FM Genave radio to work with a tone generator on the local repeater. We studied the schematics and suffered through a power supply failure but managed to get it going. The radio was designed by my father, Gerry McConnell back in the mid 1970’s. It has ten crystal channels one of which allows for repeater use.

A good friend of mine secretly purchased the crystals for me from the original supplier to Genave. So finally the radio will hit the repeater. A quarter wave mag mount antenna on my Honda and now I’m on my way.

The tone generator is a little black box that sits on top of the Genave with electrical tape straps. I’ll have to devise a proper mount for it next.


Many geeks take pride in their hardware and will boast about it without prompting. Some of us are less boastful and are hard pressed to say exactly what we are running. I’m definitely in the later category. The only time I get concerned about my hardware is when my Widows machine starts lagging because the latest OS version can’t run on my ancient hardware.

Despite my lack of concern for hardware I find it interesting to know what my peers are running. So I’ve started a My Hardware page on my blog site that lets the curious reader know what I’m running as far as hardware and to some extent the software I use most often. It would be great if this were a regular area on Tech blogs.

(I just had to add blog to my AbiWord dictionary. AbiWord itself is not in it’s own dictionary. But that’s a subject for another column.)

It’s just a start, and I did not list the graphics cards because they are all nondescript cheap things that any Gamer would scoff at. Only one machine – Renoke has a Sound Blaster audio card that is slightly more than what’s on-board most systems. I don’t game, sorry.

The next time I take a machine down, (don’t hold your breath) I will try and catalog what’s inside of it in more detail.

The Lama Book

I’m getting back into Perl again, for a web site rewrite at work using Apache’s mod-perl. Many folks have learned Perl from the O’Reilly book, Learning Perl by Schwartz and Phoenix. About all I remember from it was that it had a great sense of humor. Now that I’m ramping up on Perl again, I’ve been rereading the book and enjoying the humor. A language like Perl takes a good sense of humor to learn.Once you get over the Camel’s hump, Perl can be a very fast and expressive scripting language. It shines when allowed to parse text files and manipulate regular expressions on them. It falters when poor programming habits are allowed to take over and can easily be very tough to read by anyone including the author.

If you are looking for a good scripting language to use, Perl can certainly fit the bill. The fact that it’s so ubiquitous makes it more valuable to know than easier languages like Python. I love to write Python but I have never found the opportunity to use it at work in the same manner as Perl. Everyone, it seems, knows Perl and that alone can make it valuable to know.

If you are learning Perl, there is no finer book than the one with the Lama on the cover. Get it and follow along with tong firmly planted in cheek.

So bare with me as I walk with the Lama and and let it chomp grass at my feet. ;)

Shell Game

I downloaded the preview of Microsoft Shell, aka Monad. One of the reasons I use Linux as my primary OS has always been the functionality of the shell. I won’t bore you with all the details, suffice it to say, it’s always been the most direct and easiest way to communicate with the kernel. Even a moderately skilled System Administrator can do impressive feats with the shell. If you put some time into it, you can quickly do things a GUI can only dream about.

A few years back, Microsoft declared the death of the DOS terminal and the command line in general. They figured that everyone had surrendered to their GUI interfaces and typing obscure commands into a shell was ancient history. Well, they were wrong. The success of Linux in the server room gave newbie Sys Admins a taste of the power of the shell. Before long, they were demanding that Microsoft bring back the shell and to make it more like the Linux shell. Microsoft has never been slow to answer the calls of their administrator and developer users. So we have Monad.

The first thing I typed into the MSH was the UNIX command – “ls