This site is an archive and dark mirror for my main site, which presents full text and images for all articles linked from here.


Apollo 11 as a Paradigm

Saturday, July 20, 2013
Apollo 11: Task Accomplished
“That we had seen a demonstration of man at his best, no one could doubt—this was the cause of the event’s attraction and of the stunned numbed state in which it left us. And no one could doubt that we had seen an achievement of man in his capacity as a rational being—an achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality.”– Ayn Rand

Tuesday, July 16, 2013
The Virtues of Aviation Culture
The facts of reality force an ethos on pilots. The virtues of aviation are Intelligence, Self-Control, Independent Judgment, and Honor. Within these overlapping spheres are other concepts, often shades of meaning with arguable differentiations among them.

Monday, July 8, 2013
Knowledge Maps
Even if the philosophers could decide on a common vocabulary and a common narrative, the primary constraint may be the very dependence on verbal expressions: graphs might serve everyone better. Outside of information systems, we do not study means of graphical representation, except, of course, for actual artists.
Readability is the only Metric
Documentation is Specification
The Genius of Design
The Art of Typography
How to Hire a Technical Writer

Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Bob Swanson and Genentech
Bob Swanson was 29 when he provided the money for Prof. Herbert Boyer to start Genentech. Like all overnight successes, the real story is more complicated, with deep roots. Bright, accomplished, and motivated, Swanson had obvious potential – and a string of failures to show for it. In the book, 1,000 Years, 1,000 People: Ranking the Men and Women Who Shaped the Millennium, (New York :, Kodansha International, 1998) the authors ranked Bob Swanson number 612 for launching the biotechnology revolution.

After a year of battling brain cancer via surgery and chemotherapy Bob Swanson passed away on Monday, December 6, 1999, at his home in Hillsborough, California. He was 52.

June Articles

Thursday, June 27, 2013
Fortune Cookie in Hex Code
It is an old hack. On boot-up, the computer displays a random good-luck saying. I chose 60 of them and called the seconds counter of the system clock to point to one. I wrote it in hex in Debug.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
BASIC: Turing’s Truth
Alan Turing showed that any finite-state machine can model any other. … Earlier this month, I answered a challenge from the Praetorian computer security company to decipher this block of text: “Mpyza johsslunl ZWXY, Zluhabz Wvwbsbzxbl Yvthubz … Zll fvb vu aol ihaaslmplsk.” To do that, I wrote a program in BASIC.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Awesome Austin Foods
Locally crafted foods abound here in Austin. Lovebean produces a confectionery fudge made from coconut oil, coconut nectar, and cacao beans. Jade Monk teas are packets of powders. Technically, not local to Austin, Perdenales Brewing is located in Fredericksburg. Baby Zack’s smoked hummus brings an array of Texas flavors to this international staple and snack treat.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Meanwhile …
“Documentation for Developers” was the topic when I addressed my Ruby on Rails group. I spoke on the subject of private security to my local DefCon group. I volunteered to present a chapter of exercises from Wireshark 101 to an OWASP lunchtime study cell.

PowerPoint slides for “Physical Security for Data Centers” here.
Previously on Necessary Facts
The Shifting Paradigm of Private Security
Private Security in the 21st Century
Redshirts: Expendable in Fiction and Fact

Venture Capital

Friday, June 28, 2013
Venture Capital
“Writing the check is the easy part.” Genentech, Apple, Intel, Cisco, Oracle, … none of them would exist, nor would a hundred others that created billions of dollars worth of new wealth by delivering new inventions. More than the money – though there was that – venture capitalists brought expertise in management and marketing, guiding start-ups, connecting people with each other, sometimes even making the most difficult of all decisions, to fire the founder CEO for the good of the company.

Everyone knows Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak; many recognize Nolan Bushnell, Gordon Moore, and Mike Markkula. Fewer have heard of Arthur Rock, Tom Perkins, or Don Valentine. Something Ventured (website here) is their story, the viewpoint of the venture capitalist. They are a humble lot. At the end of the movie, they admit that writing the check is the easy part. Without the inventors, the creators, the innovators, the visionaries, they would have nothing in which to invest. But, invest they did – and do.
“They saw opportunity where others only saw risk.”

Atlas Shrugged’s John Aglialoro
Capitalist Culture: Cairo 1600
Tribute to Steve Jobs
The One Percent are the Atlases

May Archive Links

Friday, May 31, 2013
Readability is the Only Metric
What you can measure, you can improve. Whether you need creative content for e-commerce or step-by-step instructions for machine repair, you must reach your audience. Microsoft Word offers metrics for readability, from the Grammar and Spelling checker, under Tools. We have no quantified methods for creativity, invention, cleverness, or insight. We can measure word length, sentence length, and sentences per paragraph. It is not perfect. In fact, it can be gimmicked, tricked, and gamed. But it works.

Friday, May 17, 2013
Sándor Kőrösi Csoma

He walked from Hungary to Tibet and brought the language of Tibet to the West. His grammar of their language is also the foundation of our knowledge of their religion because he worked from the holy books of Lhasa monks. His name is variously rendered: Alexander Csomo de Körös is also accepted. He called himself a “Siculo-Magyar” and I thought that (like me) he was Sicilian and Hungarian, but, in fact, “Siculo” is a latization of Szekel, the hereditary guardians of the Hungarian frontier who claim direct descent from the remnants of the Huns.

Sunday, May 12, 2013
The Success of the WEIRD People

No single cause explains our standard of living. From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution, and now the information age, the upward rise in standard of living is the material evidence of deeper attributes. The aggregate of those beliefs – largely unstated and accepted as “normal” – does explain our success.

“The Weirdest People in the World: How representative are experimental findings from American university students? What do we really know about human psychology?” by Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine, and Ara Norenzayan (all from the University of British Columbia Department of Psychology and published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol33; 2-3 , June 2010, pp 61-83; available from the authors here) explains that we have made ourselves – the Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic people – the standard for “human nature.” They say cogently that psychological experiments which supposedly tease out the basic patterns of “human nature” really tell us only about a small group: undergraduates in psychology departments, their friends, and sometimes their young children. The paper demonstrates that most people on Earth seem to hold entirely different views than we do. And “views” is the basic problem. What we accept as standard optical illusions work differently or not at all among different peoples around the world. The paper is well worth the time to read through and mark up.

I found in their thesis the unintended corollary argument that our success is the result of those very attributes that set us apart from everyone else on Earth.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Writing over 300 newspaper and magazine articles about business, technology, and culture, I have interviewed very many entrepreneurs. Perhaps my personal favorite was “The Business of Musical Theater: The Dough behind the Do-Re-Mi” for the New Mexico Business Journal. I have met all kinds of successful entrepreneurs and all kinds of not-so-successful. “All kinds” describes both the limitations and the potentials. In other words, there is no formula. The Austrian School of Economics has worried this problem for over 75 years. As the leading advocates for laissez faire capitalism, the Austrians have never agreed among themselves what entrepreneurship “is.”

The modern history of computing echoed much of the early history of railroading in America. Failures and successes both combined to re-direct existing capital (whether trackage and rolling stock or software and hardware) and did so to attract ever larger investments. (See The Man Who Found the Money: John Stewart Kennedy and the Financing of the Western Railroads by Saul Engelbourg and Leonard Bushkoff (Michigan State University Press, 1996). In the days of railroading, the term “venture capitalist” would have sounded redundant.

Recently on Necessary Facts

(The main site is on Blogspot here. This is an archive, not quite a mirror.)

Monday, May 6, 2013
Last night, on patrol, I met a Muse. Kalliope, the muse of epic poetry passed by at 6th and Congress. She was coming from 6th and San Jacinto where she had been performing.

She handed me a slip of paper. “Q: What did Athena say to Medusa? … A: I haven’t seen you in Aegis.”

Friday, April 26, 2013
Disruptive Diagnostics and the Business of Science

Former UT professor Tom Kodadek returned to address the postdoctoral student association of the School of Biological Sciences on April 25. He met a full house of about 250. The title of his talk was “The Ups and Downs of Moving ‘Disruptive’ Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technology from the Lab to the Real World.” Dr. Kodadek is now with the Scripps Research Institute, in Jupiter, Florida. Originally funded by the NIH, his work is now marketed by OPKO Health, Inc.,which found the angel funding he needed to bring his theories to realization.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Objectified is a film by Gary Hustwit about design, designers, and the objects that they create. Dieter Rams of Braun and Apple’s Jonathan Ive appear, of course. (See, The Genius of Design below.) So do thirty other designers, and a couple of supportive critics, such as Paola Antonelli of the Museum of Modern Art. IKEA and Target both get cameo roles as they deliver to us the magic of inexpensive mass produced items that ennoble us, their owners, with the spiritual benefits of good design. You and I also appear in anonymous walk-ons because in the words of Andrew Blauvelt, “anything that is touched by man, is transformed by man, is by its very nature designed.” The human-built environment is design.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Genius of Design

“For industrial designers, the world is never enough. They give shape and texture to the world to make it livable—indeed, beautiful—for the rest of us. This fascinating five-part documentary examines the art and science of design and the stuff it shapes, from computer chips to cityscapes and everything in between. See the evolution from artisans’ workshops to industrial mass production, and the profound changes it has wrought in our economy, society, and environment.” – from the promotional.

Friday, March 29, 2013 and Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Engines of Creation
The folks at Code.Org created a video with Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and others, encouraging kids to learn to program computers. That much is laudable. Disgracing the video, with an odd anti-capitalist mentality, is a segment by Drew Houston of Dropbox about how much fun it is to be a programmer. (View from the 3:00 minute to the 4:00 minute mark of this 5:44 announcement.) Was it the fun of 48 hours in three days to solve a tough problem? No, it is the fun of skateboarding in the office, playing ping pong, and chatting with your fields. The segment also touts free food including gourmet cooking three times a day. But where do these come from, if no one works? Blank out.

Goofing to a Meltdown?
After the Code.Org video touting “fun at work” (see the post before this one), this article appeared on March 28 on about the positive side of “goofing off at work.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Start the presses!
Reviews of two movies about typography, Justin Nagan’s Typeface and Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica.

The fundamental principles of composition are constant. Styles are invented, transformed, evolved. Good styles depend upon the adaptation of principles and then validate those principles. The composition may be poetry or prose, music or dance, sculpture or painting, but the same principles govern: order, structure, and motion; rhythm, melody, and harmony; contrast, conflict and resolution. These make a symphony or a skyscraper or this page.

BSides Austin: Hackers Defend Your Data

The 3-1/2 day event (March 20-23) kicked off with a screening at the Paramount Theater of Code 2600, Jeremy Zerechak’s documentary about the origins and present reality of computer hacking and privacy issues. The festival officially began the next morning at the Wingate by Wyndham in Round Rock. Registration was $10 per day for the official 2-day event. The movie was extra. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beer (courtesy of New Republic Brewing of College Station) came with the price of admission. Conference schwag included t-shirts and complicated ballpoint pens. Other giveaways and door prizes were plentiful. Officially closing Friday at 5:00 PM,. an after-party and Saturday field trip to Texas A&M’s Disaster City training center capped the hacking holiday of hard work.
Special two-day games included a lockpicking contest, a social engineering challenge, and “capture the flag.”

Lockpicking is a traditional cultural aspect of hacking. The practical side for computer security professionals is that business managers typically hang five dollar locks on server racks with millions of dollars of data: you need to know your exposed risks.

“Social engineering” is the engagement of hapless intermediaries as tools to reveal and expose software and hardware. The two-day challenge was limited to the hotel and the adjacent shopping center: the residential neighborhood with its homes, day care, school, and senior center were off limits.

“Capture the flag” involves a server loaded with typical applications. The defense team must keep the system up and running while offense teams attempt to break in.

Sponsors included RackSpace, Digital Defense Inc., Visible Risk, RSA, Rapid 7, Palo Alto Networks, Mandiant, ISSA of Texas, Pwnie Express, Security Innovation, Tenable, The Denim Group, Milton (providers of shwagg), Last Pass, Haking, the International Association of Forensic Investigators, Longhorn Lockpicking, and New Republic Brewery of College Station. Also mentioned were “Protect Your Nuts” and “Kommand && Kontrol: Revenge of the Carders.”

Money was collected for two charities, “Hackers in Uganda” and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, via the sale of conference buttons. EFF is famous for protecting and extending rights in cyberspace. “Hackers in Uganda” is to be a film by Jeremy Zerechak.

Conference summary and review continues here.