Jul 082009

The premier Internet physics and astronomy preprint archive, ArXiv, seems to be having some serious problems tonight. I used the catchup interface to check for new papers, only to find messages like this:

Problem displaying entry for arXiv:0907.1079

Apparently all new papers are unavailable, and many older papers, too… I checked briefly and found papers dating back to last October that appear to have vanished. Including some half a dozen or so papers of my own.

I sure hope they keep backups!

 Posted by at 3:00 am
Jul 042009

The CBC is tinkering with Radio 2 again. After the devastation last year, they may have made some tentative steps in the right direction for a change. VERY small steps, to be sure.

But there are also some bad news: Jurgen Gothe is no longer on Radio 2 anymore. I admit I didn’t listen much to his Sunday program Farrago this past year, as the time slot was just too inconvenient. But, I still shake my head in disbelief at the CBC’s decision last year to cancel Disc Drive, arguably one of the best damn radio shows ever made.

So I’ve been reading some comments on the CBC Web site. There is near universal condemnation of Radio 2’s management: nearly all who posted comments believe that Radio 2 lost its direction, that taxpayer money is wasted on a radio station that is sounding ever more like commercial radio, that the station got rid of its knowledgeable hosts, and that its choice of music is just awful.

I think one big misunderstanding is the notion the listeners of the old Radio 2 only wanted classical music. That’s nonsense. Jurgen’s program was great not because it was classical, but because it had the right mix of classical, jazz, folk, and yes, even pop music. This eclecticism is now lost, and they cannot bring it back easily because the hosts who made it possible are gone, too.

Here are two comments, in particular, that I rather agree with, typos notwithstanding:

“Separating the genres works for people who only like clasical [sic!] or only like pop or only like jazz but a very large part of the population quite like an eclectic mix. It is possible to like both Beethoven and Michael Jackson, De Bussy [sic!] and Salsa.”

“Now that Jurgen has totally left the CBC, when will some bright adventure capitalist start up a private subscription radio or Internet station with Jurgen Goth, Danielle Charboneau, Rick Phillips et al. My subscription is ready.”

What can I say. My subscription is ready, too. Where do I sign up?

 Posted by at 2:34 pm
Jul 022009

Long before there was a commercial Internet, there were dial-up service providers, bulletin board systems, and the like. At one time, the largest among these was CompuServe, offering a comprehensive range of services including hundreds (if not thousands) of forums, online chat, downloads, and games. Indeed there was a time when no self-respecting computer company existed without a support forum on CompuServe.

I became a CompuServe subscriber in 1991 I believe. Soon after, I discovered a wonderful game hosted by CompuServe: Richard Bartle’s original Multi-User Dungeon, running under the name British Legends. Ten years ago, CompuServe discontinued British Legends using the bogus excuse that the game is not Y2K compatible; I have been running a faithfully ported version of this game on my server ever since.

But the CompuServe service remained. Under the brand name CompuServe Classic, the original service stayed in operation in all these years. Its value was greatly diminished, but it was still usable as a reliable international dial-up Internet service provider (indeed, this is the reason why I kept my CompuServe subscription active.) That is, until now.

A few months ago, they sent out an e-mail informing users that the Classic service will be discontinued on June 30.

Out of curiosity, I tried logging on to CompuServe moments ago. Yes, the old text-based services were still available until recently. But today, this is what I am greeted with:

$ telnet gateway.compuserve.com
Connected to gateway.compuserve.com.
Escape character is '^]'.

User ID: 70674,3414

?? LOGSTU - System BHC is temporarily unavailable

Well, what can I say? So long, and thanks for all the fun.

 Posted by at 1:41 pm
Jul 022009

There is something positively charming about the random nature of the Internet.

I am watching a British comedy, One Foot in the Grave, on Vision TV (as to why a supposedly religious channel is broadcasting somewhat risqué British comedies in the first place, now that’s a question for another day, but I am certainly glad that they do.) At one point, the story features an old Citroen that appears in a trash dumpster in front of the protagonist’s house. The car has a license plate: MOJ459P.

On a whim, I entered this license plate number into Google. Surprisingly, there was a hit: http://www.convergence.cx/. For no discernible reason, the page features nothing else but the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion, and an immortal quote from Charles Babbage, pondering the sanity of members of Parliament who were wondering if his machine could give correct answers if given wrong data.

And it is a weird Web site. The page contains an invisible link to a host-side script that barfs back a series of random generated e-mail addresses. Or, I should say, almost random generated; among a bunch of bogus addresses, the e-mail addresses associated with the registration information of the IP number from which I perform the query also appear. What this means, I have no idea. The site doesn’t seem malicious, but then what is it? The top-level domain .cx is the country code for Christmas Island, but the site itself is registered as a “Convergence Organisation Object”, in London, the United Kingdom, since 2001. I have no idea what it is. Curious.

 Posted by at 1:16 am