Tag Archive: programming


OspreyForth Update, March 9

I feel like I’ve fiddled with pForth long enough. There are basically three Forth interpreters I’ve tried so far. The first is FICl, which I was successful in using many years ago. GForth showed promise as well, but I don’t like how the interpreter incorporated extensions. I also didn’t like that GForth didn’t support callbacks, something I knew I’d need down the road. pForth certainly looked promising, but the fact that I was having such a hard time incorporating C strings kind of deflated me. Since I am looking for Objective-C integration, I need reliable C string integration as well.

This leads me to think that I should go back to FICL. It was meant to be embedded in C-like software, so the C string issue isn’t a problem. Plus, I got OspreyForth working before using FICL. My great concern is that the FICL software has not seen much work since 2004. That may be because it’s already in its optimal state, but I’m still concerned I’m going to be attaching myself to an obsolete system. GForth and pForth are at least receiving regular updates.

I think I’m going to have to bite the bullet on this one and hope for the best…

OspreyForth Update, November 13

It’s been some time since I delivered an update on OspreyForth, so here it is. View full article »

Inferno OS and its failure to catch on

Inferno OS had some great ideas, but it just wasn’t market-ready. View full article »

Progress on OspreyForth, Aug. 30

A project update on OspreyForth. View full article »

Hackers-A Superhero Movie for Geeks


Hackers came out in 1996 and was notable as one of the early roles of Angelina Jolie. It was also one of the first films to deal with hacker culture and made several references to it in the film.

I personally didn’t see the film when it first came out. I saw the poster and decided it was too much flash. I had also recently seen a sneak preview of Sandra Bullock’s The Net and felt this was going to be something of a copycat film. The public seemed share my reluctance as Hackers failed at the box office. What I didn’t know, however, is that the film became something of an underground cult hit.

Hackers Like Hackers?

When the film showed up at the local midnight movie venue (NuArt Theater! Hello!) I couldn’t resist taking a look. Midnight movies at the NuArt are always fun, and I like to support indie film venues. I expected the regular crowd of irregulars to show up, of course, which is always fun. What surprised me, however, was that the first people in line were actual bonafide hackers!

These guys couldn’t fit the stereotype more. All male, out of shape. One looked like he modeled himself after Richard Stallman; long stringy hair with a bushy beard and mustache combo. They had the stereotypical awkward laugh and joked with each other over programming languages like Clojure while another detailed his use of Perl to modify Java headers. I couldn’t figure out why they were there. Hackers are notorious for their belief of being misrepresented by mainstream media. What made this film different?

If only the 90s were really like this…

The film was introduced by Witney Seibold, who also ran the NuArt, and William Bibbiani of the B-Movies Podcast. William in particular was a crazed maniac who insisted everyone tell people the 90s were exactly like what the film protrayed. They clearly thought the film didn’t get the chance to shine that it deserved, and after the film started, I could see why. It’s very stylish and, sometimes, almost an abstract work. More importantly, it’s clearly a superhero film for computer geeks.

A Superhero Movie for the Geek Crowd

The plot of the film is fairly basic. A brilliant group of misunderstood teens discover a plan to commit the crime of the century and must band together to stop the bad guys. Along the way they must contend with authorities who don’t understand and fear them, but ultimately they prevail. All that, however, is not what makes the film so interesting. What makes the film interesting is that it’s basically a 90s superhero flick. Consider the following points:

  • Superhero names and hacker names
  • Superhero teams and hacker teams
  • Societal outcasts with “special gifts”
  • Mandatory superhero computer graphics effects

Superheros must have cool names

With names like Zero Cool, Crash Override, Acid Burn and The Plague, it’s not hard to take a small step to Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. In both storylines, the name is everything. The only difference is general purpose. In the world of Hackers, these names are something to build a reputation off of. In the world of The Avengers, the names are call signs that describe the purpose of the person they are assigned to. This is a small difference, however, especially when you consider The Plague, a name held by the villain of the film.

Team up! (But fight first…)

There’s a classic trope when it comes to superhero teams. First they fight, then they join, then they stay together. The same is true in Hackers. Here, one hacker finds himself alone, but becomes embroiled in a war against another hacker for escalating bragging rights. Others join in and soon they find themselves putting their differences aside as they face off against another hacker who is all too happy to step on them and others for his own schemes.

The most obvious comparison is The Avengers. Captain American has recently been thawed out of a frozen brick and is tasked to become the leader of a group of highly special individuals, almost none of whom get along with each other. When the Norse god Loki, himself a special individual even among his own kind, leads an invasion to Earth, the superheros must band together for the greater good. There are obvious differences, of course, but clearly parallels as well. It’s a classic trope for superhero team-up origin stories.

Trapped in a world they never made

Anyone who knows about the X-Men understands the premise. A group of mutants, appearing as human but graced with incredible abilities, must protect a world that fears and despises them for being different. Sound familiar? In the world of Hakers, the main characters are trapped in a world that could be their playground, were it not for overzealous FBI agents and civilians who either struggle to understand or view what the hackers do as a kind of black magic. In addition, the hackers possess powers and abilities beyond that of a regular person. Armed with social engineering tactics, photographic memories, tech savvy and above all intelligence, the hackers do their best to blend into society while also knowing they aren’t a part of it. Classic X-Men motif.

CG Effects, Baby!

When I first saw the way the filmmakers were showing the hackers doing their thing, my first thought was Miami Vice. Miami Vice was literally pitched with two words on a napkin: “MTV Cops”. Michael Mann came in to direct the pilot, which was part TV show and part music video, and the rest was history. As the scenes of hackers working began to repeat, I began to think of something else: Iron Man. Although they’re otherwise nothing alike, the graphics of symbools and code floating around the heads of each hacker reminded me of Tony Stark’s heads-up display as he pilots the Iron Man armor. In a sense, it’s a similar visual device. This is how the hackers see their world.

This isn’t to say that I think the filmmakers were ahead of their time; I really don’t think they were sure what they were doing. Even with the existence of Wargames the concept of hacking was still not widely understood or known. The filmmakers were clearly trying to portray the idea of what they were doing without losing the audience with details. By doing so, they accidentally predicted ideas that would come to fruition ten years later.

Conclusions

In retrospect, it shouldn’t have surprised me to see those real life hackers standing in line to see this movie. Hackers is a superhero movie for computer geeks. It’s a story about a special few who are feared and misunderstood pooling their abilities together to stop an villain that only they can face. Everyone likes to see their subculture lionized somehow. Hacker culture is no different. And with hacker culture in the forefront of the public consciousness like never before, this film seems more prescient than dated. Not too bad for a film that bombed at the box office.

Robot cars might be programmed to hit you

A damaged robot car

A robot car might be designed to choose what to hit based on safety and traffic conditions

Wired recently ran a fascinating article on the realities of the future. Automated consumer road-side vehicles, or robot cars, are being promoted as safer alternatives to human driving. By and large they are, as humans can fall asleep at the wheel, take the wrong off-ramp, get distracted and so forth. It does mean, however, that cars must be programmed for every situation, and some situations that most people won’t have thought about…

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JSLA Writeup: WebGL What The Hell

Following up on our post recapping the JSLA night of hacking, we now present “WebGL: What the Hell” by Giles Bowkett. This talk represented an overview on how WebGL works, why you should generally fear it, and what tools to use to get the most out of it. Read on for more!

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A general discussion on the ideas behind the film Transcendence

When I originally saw the trailer for Transcendence, my initial thought was that I was watching “The Lawnmower Man, Part Depp”. The Lawnmower Man is of course the cult film of the early 90s in which Jobe, a mentally deficient gardener is subject to an experiment involving psychotropic drugs and virtual reality. In the process he becomes intelligent to a superhuman degree and is eventually able to embed himself in the virtual world and from there take over the real world.

The upcoming film Transcendence jumps straight to the insertion into the virtual world. On further inspection, of course, the film is quite different from The Lawnmower Man in both premise and direction. It simply uses similar tropes. This led to some thoughts on the subject of artificial intelligence and transferring human consciousness to a computer. Read on for more.

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HTTP v2: A slightly more polished Internet is coming

There are basically three main people behind Quantum Pop Blog at the time of this writing. There is Glen Quasny, who is mostly a comic book guy, there is Mike Longo, who is mostly a film guy, and then there is me, Erik Hentell, who is an eclectic mix of comics, film and technology. Since the site’s motto at the time of this writing is “Much geekery found here”, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to talk a bit about the upcoming changes to the Internet.

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User Interface Design Metaphors for Artists

With my experience in programming and design, I frequently run into artists or artistic types who resist the notion of incorporating technology into their art. I ran into one some time back that would freak out just on the interface of something. If it wasn’t “just so” it was incomprehensible. I met another who would look at me with a confused expression and then walk away once I started talking about something tech related.

It’s unfortunate because of the level of involvement technology has in just about everything. Games are considered art now, and television is interactive. People are talking about interactive movie-going experiences. More importantly, the tools have caught up to the needs of artists. Programming can now be a brush to paint on a canvas, and user interfaces can be art.

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