Monthly Archives: December 2007

Compelling evidence that I am not insane

The UK Daily Star confirms that I am not wasting my time with my fruitless pursuits of the Zodiac killer’s unsolved mysteries:

But that’s if [Britney Spears] can tear herself away from the internet where she has been indulging her latest obsession – trying to solve crime.

The star has become fascinated by the unsolved Zodiac killings that took place in California in the late 1960s.

They are the US equivalent of our Jack The Ripper murders. The recent film Zodiac about the case starring Jake Gyllenhaal, 26, captured Britney’s imagination.

She has been spending hours on a website called and is convinced she can crack the case as many people believe the culprit is still alive.

Gimme my Cheetos, y’all; We’re gonna crack this thing!!

Zodiac webtoy: flip & rotate

Another quick update to the Zodiac webtoy: now there are links to flip and rotate the ciphertext. This was a popular feature request that I finally got around to implementing. Enjoy!

(Zodiac webtoy)

Zodiac webtoy: Another update

I’ve finally made some more updates to the Zodiac webtoy! The biggest change is the addition of simple letter-frequency statistics.

Remember when Ralphie cracked the “secret code” in A Christmas Story?
Ralphie: [Reading his decoding]: “Be… sure… to… drink… your… Ovaltine. Ovaltine? A crummy commercial?!? Son of a bitch!!”

Here is the list of noteworthy changes:

  • Added frequency tabulations for symbols, decoded plaintext letters, and expected letter frequencies (as specified here). Frequency analysis of this sort might be useful to cracking the cipher. Eventually, I would like to include more n-gram statistics (occurrences of letter combinations of length n) to make this more useful.
  • Added the 408 cipher, which has a known (and creepy) solution. Click on the “Switch to 408 cipher” link to see it. The known solution link is below the 408 cipher (it is labeled “The correct one” next to “Interesting decoders”).
  • Fixed some formatting bugs that were causing the columns of the cipher grid to get squashed.

The webtoy seems to be getting much slower in Internet Explorer 6. I’ve not tested it in Internet Explorer 7. But it works pretty well in Firefox and Safari. I am afraid of all the horrible, horrible JavaScript code that I wrote – Please let me know of any problems you find! If you find the new version to be too crappy, you can still use the old version by clicking here.

Reality is what you can get away with

I enjoyed this brief glimpse of the underbelly of Apple’s product marketing. An interviewer asks a touchy question about iTunes acting as a monopoly, and Apple’s PR folks start to freak out:

(video link)

Such is the ugly reality of companies attempting to control expectations.

Silicon heaven

From Microsoft’s Help and Support pages:

Computer Randomly Plays Classical Music
View products that this article applies to.
Article ID : 261186
Last Review : March 27, 2007
Revision : 3.3
This article was previously published under Q261186
During normal operation or in Safe mode, your computer may play “Fur Elise” or “It’s a Small, Small World” seemingly at random. This is an indication sent to the PC speaker from the computer’s BIOS that the CPU fan is failing or has failed, or that the power supply voltages have drifted out of tolerance. This is a design feature of a detection circuit and system BIOSes developed by Award/Unicore from 1997 on.

Anyone remember the famous scene in 2001 when HAL the computer gets shut down?

[HAL’s shutdown]
HAL: I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a… fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it I can sing it for you.
Dave Bowman: Yes, I’d like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.
HAL: It’s called “Daisy.”
[sings while slowing down]
HAL: Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.