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Four Horselaughs of the Apocalypse

1. Is it getting crowded in here, or is it just me?

So I was at this party in Happy Camp the other day and got into this conversation about ubiquitous nanobots...

Happy Camp, in case you aren't in the know, is a town of 2182 hermits in the precise middle of impenetrable nowhere, California. Actually, 2182 is the estimated population of what I suppose you might laughingly call the Happy Camp metropolitan area. The population of Happy Camp is probably a few hundred.

In fact I wasn't in Happy Camp at all, I was in Seiad Valley, a much smaller community near Happy Camp. I just said Happy Camp because I figured you wouldn't know what I was talking about if I said Seiad Valley. But Happy Camp or Seiad Valley, neither is exactly the sort of place you expect to get into a discussion about the latest writings of Eric Drexler with an engineer and a Python coder.

A few days later, I was having dinner on the farm when I got a call from Phil the Mushroom Man. I like Phil. He used to forage mushrooms in the mountains and show up in his beat-up VW van to sell them to our restaurant, but I hadn't seen him in a while. Turns out, Phil is a software developer now.

Remember when what we do was sort of obscure? Now it's a second career for mushroom foragers.

2. We are the sultans of ping.

Ping, the UNIX utility, was written in 1983 by Mike Muuss to probe a target machine and see if the network path to it is functioning correctly. It is one of the most ubiquitous of programs, and has gifted the vernacular with a number of neologisms. Many, but not all, of the following pingterms are derived from Muuss's creation:

Ping storm: A flurry of ping requests sent either to test a server's response to high traffic or as a form of DOS attack.

Ping of death: A malformed ping sent in an attempt to crash a machine.

Ping pong door: A ping pong table that fits in a doorway, designed by Tobias Franzel. Players stand in different rooms as they play.

Ping server: Blogs notify a ping server when their content has been updated.

Ping spam (or sping): Misusing a ping server to lure traffic to a site that is not a recent blog post.

No Self Pings: A Wordpress plug-in to make Wordpress stop sending pings from your site to your site when you post.

Sonar pingtones: Yes, you can make your cell phone ping you like submarine sonar.

Ping Zine: An online magazine about Web hosting (recent story: "Netfirms Now Accepting Applications for New .me Domain Names".)

Ping Records: A doowop label that operated out of the back of a record store at 4648 South Cottage Grove in Chicago for a few months in 1956.

Ping attribute: In <A> tags in HTML 5, gives the URIs of the resources that are interested in being notified if the user follows the hyperlink.

Ping tunnel: A covert connection between two remote computers using ICMP echo requests and reply packets.

The Story About Ping: A beloved book in which a duck has adventures on the Yangtze river; the book received a different kind of fame when reviewed on Slashdot as though it were documentation for the UNIX utility.

The Sultans of Ping are available on iTunes.

3. We are all living under Marshall's laws.

Marshall McLuhan forsaw it all 40 years ago:

The age of automation is going to be the age of 'do it yourself.'

In this electronic age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving toward the technological extension of consciousness.

It is the framework that changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame.

One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload.

Publication is a self-invasion of privacy.

The new electronic independence re-creates the world in the image of a global village.

We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.

4. Let x = x.

Sky-blue sky, satellites are out tonight; yadda yadda yadda and thingum doohickey; these are a few of my favorite metasyntactic variables: lorem ipsum; Alice and Bob; Tom, Dick, and Harry; John Doe; George Spelvin; doohickey; foo, bar, baz, qux, quux, corge, grault, garply, waldo, fred, plugh, xyzzy, thud; yadda yadda yadda; Macguffin; spam, ham, eggs. Written in honor of the wedding of Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson.

Michael Swaine


[email protected]

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