Gravatar? No, Ta.

by; after John Watts; William Dobson,print,published 1778

I had firmly believed that I was long past the point where I could be surprised by the unintelligible world of computer technology, but wonders truly never cease. Earlier this evening, a few people passed comment on my previous post and what they had to say was accompanied by photos of themselves; as any comments I post are accompanied by some bizarre abstract image that bears no resemblance to my facial features, even after a few beers and another sleepless night on the sofa looking after my dog, I thought I’d put up a photo of myself instead of the default whatever-it-is that’s currently there. It seemed the polite thing to do, when having an exchange.

I must have suffered a momentary lapse of reason, in so much as entertaining the notion that this would be a remotely feasible endeavour for me, given all that’s gone before. I clicked on my icon or whatever it’s called to be presented with the Gravatar page, but I didn’t understand any of the options on offer, nor could I see one that seemed to fit the nature of my enquiry.

So, I opted for what seemed most relevant and clicked on this page purportedly dealing with Image Requests – my jaw dropped when I read the first two very short sentences, which were: “Gravatar images may be requested just like a normal image, using an IMG tag. To get an image specific to a user, you must first calculate their email hash.” What on Earth is an IMG tag? And how in the name of all that’s holy do I even begin to calculate an image-specific email hash? What in the name of sanity is an email hash, for that matter?

All this was bad enough and more than ample to completely dissuade me from the vague, pleasing notion of posting a photo of myself online, but my mind reeled when I came across this particular gem a bit further down the page:

If you’d prefer to use your own default image (perhaps your logo, a funny face, whatever), then you can easily do so by supplying the URL to an image in the d= or default= parameter. The URL should be URL-encoded to ensure that it carries across correctly, for example:

To URL-encode a string in PHP, you can use something like this:
1

echo urlencode( ‘http://example.com/images/avatar.jpg’ );

Seriously, I have absolutely no fucking idea what any of this means and I could make more meaningful sense in a much shorter space of time of a rongo-rongo tablet. Computer English has now descended to the point where around 95% of what’s written is completely incomprehensible to me and let’s face it, matters can only go further downhill from here.

But it really doesn’t matter, because I’m at peace with it all. A few months ago, I came to the belated realisation that computers and I are on divergent paths of evolution, although it’s perhaps more accurate to say that I am becoming estranged from computers and those conversant with their workings and language.

There’s nothing whatsoever I can do about this, so I’ll just keep broadcasting for as long as I can and for as long as the inclination takes me, before each group fades from the view and hearing of the other, and we each disappear into “An Undiscovered Country”.

Ships in the night. Peace.

“They called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me.”
Nathaniel Lee, 1653 – 1692

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9 Responses to Gravatar? No, Ta.

  1. satanicviews says:

    The way of the world for people to complicate simple things by failing to explain them properly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • eternalidol says:

      Even I can upload pictures onto this site, although I have no idea about their quality as far as others see them. I’d assumed that putting an icon or whatever in place would be just as easy, but it was not to be. Saying that people complicate simple things here is an understatement, because I honestly had absolutely not the first bloody clue what the string of gibberish I reproduced meant. I’d assume that whoever concocted it goes by the moniker ‘Boundless Uninformant’, but I’m going to put these speculations aside and continue as before.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dr Dan H. says:

    PHP is a web language. It was invented, for want of a better word, by someone who wanted to write a blog and wanted to do something fancy with it. Originally, PHP was rather crap and a security risk. It has gone steadily downhill ever since.

    The problem here is security related. Anyone in the world can see a web page, but you really want to keep the web page part of things separate from the web server side of things, so that someone on the outside can interact only in limited, prescribed ways with the server. PHP, however, allows the coder to do a lot more than just publish stuff on the web and to do this it has to have permissions to read and write to the local filesystem of the server, outside of the web area.

    There are safe ways to do this, there are dodgy ways, then there is the gibberingly stupid. PHP goes the latter route.

    Every single release of PHP has had problems. Different problems each time; they fix one set of security holes, and open up another set. Worse, whilst PHP is easy to write in an insecure, easily attacked way, it is definitely not at all easy to write it in a secure manner and most people don’t even try.

    PHP: Just Say No.

    If you don’t, the BOFH will come find you and explain matters, and people never seem to need that twice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • eternalidol says:

      There’s no denying that plenty of other people have managed to put an avatar or icon or whatever the hell it’s called in place, so the fault is clearly mine and I shall just have to somehow struggle by as things are.

      I had never heard of PHP and I had no idea it was a language, web or otherwise, while for some reason I can’t pin down, the poem ‘Jabberwocky’ immediately came to mind when I read your admirable explanation of these matters, Dan. Had you asked me, I’d have hazarded a guess that PHP was some exotic substance cooked up in the Mexican desert by people wanting to sell stimulants, but I’d have been mistaken.

      Otherwise, I do not know who or indeed what the BOFH is or are, but as I’m to be spared an encounter by virtue of saying NO to PHP, I’m grateful for small mercies.

      Like

  3. Dr Dan H. says:

    The BOFH is a character invented many years ago by one Simon Travaglia of Waikito university. It stands for Bastard Operator From Hell, and the character is a sort of anti-hero, who gets up to all the tricks computer system administrators would love to do, but dare not.

    Most famously the BOFH was used to lampoon the risable antics of SCO Computers. He also gets quite a few mentions in the work of Charles Stross, although I really, truly would not like to meet that particular one; he’s seriously well armed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • eternalidol says:

      Generally speaking, scientists are dismissive (or worse) of the ‘paranormal’ because they see human activity in this area as a series of nonsensical rituals performed to produce effects that can rarely be measured or replicated under the same conditions, while they’re also contemptuous of the ‘mumbo-jumbo’ mouthed by Druids and other pagans when performing these rituals.

      From where I’m sitting, certain elements of the scientific community, particularly those involved in computer and internet technology, are and have long been in the business of producing their own version of the paranormal, which leaves me just as baffled and contemptuous of what they do and say as they in their turn are of the aformentioned magickal practises and practitioners. Ne’er the twain shall meet….

      Like

  4. Dr Dan H. says:

    To be honest, something akin to the paranormal does pervade computing these days. The famous Sysadmin Effect is one such manifestation, whereby a fault will not manifest its self while ever a skilled techie is near to a computer. Another such example is when a famous computer scientist happened upon a student trying to make a computer function by repeatedly rebooting it.

    “You cannot make a system function by rebooting it, when you have no idea how to make it work!” he exclaimed, then he carefully rebooted the machine. When it returned to life, it functioned perfectly.

    Similar effects occur in science, in particular DNA lab work. It has been found, through long trial and error, that the simplest, easiest and least expensive way to transfer knowledge of a known-working method from one lab to another is to physically send a person who knows the method and can perform it correctly and repeatably from one site to another, there to teach the other people how to do it (and to troubleshoot any glitches in the method as they occur).

    Finally, we have the knotty philosophical problem of what a new and even slightly intelligent organism would look like if it turned up. Some would argue that commensals, even parasitic informational organisms have already begun to spring up, one such being Facebook and similar social media. These are a strange attractor for social primates like ourselves, who are effectively programmed to be social. The Internet has provided a habitat for informational parasites that compete with each other and gradually migrate into ecological niches (or get marginalised, as G+ has been).

    The question is, knowing that such parasites exist, knowing that they harm us by taking up time, should we set out to kill them?

    Liked by 1 person

    • eternalidol says:

      Now you’re talking my language, Dan, and the reason I’m conversant with it is primarily on account of am engrossing book I read in 1990, entitled The Nature of Things – The Secret Life of Inanimate Objects, by Lyall Watson. If you’ve not already read it, then I urge you to do so, because it’s a cornucopia of fascinating accounts of lifts, cars and statues that move by themselves, as well as some very insightful and chilling material on foundation burials, continuing to the present day i.e. now.

      With specific regard to what you had to say, two things from this book immediately spring to mind. One is the ‘organic bridge’ you alluded to, which Watson dwelt upon with his study of Pons and Fleischmann and their forays into cold fusion, the relevant part of this being that the names of these gentlemen mean respectively ‘bridge’ and ‘flesh man’, which is about as near as you’re ever going to get to the words ‘organic bridge’ being represented by human surnames. I’ll leave it there because I could easily go off on a huge tangent about the value of being physically present in a place, so I’ll try to write about this sort of thing in a separate post.

      Finally, for now, Watson further touched on this whole business of computers and AI in the penultimate paragraph to his book, which I’ll reproduce for you here:

      “These words have all been written in leisurely human longhand on gold paper in good black ink. That is how I like to work. But I am making a new departure with this book. I want the mechanical noosphere to know that I know. I want to give the networks of new computers access to the secrets of their own life history and origins. I want, in effect, to throw ourselves at the mercy of our successors. So I will insist, as a condition of publication, that The Nature of Things is computer-typeset.”

      Like

    • eternalidol says:

      Now you’re talking my language, Dan, and the reason I’m conversant with it is primarily on account of am engrossing book I read in 1990, entitled The Secret Life of Things – The Secret Life of Inanimate Objects, by Lyall Watson. If you’ve not already read it, then I urge you to do so, because it’s a cornucopia of fascinating accounts of lifts, cars and statues that move by themselves, as well as some very insightful and chilling material on foundation burials, continuing to the present day.

      With specific regard to what you had to say, two things from this book immediately spring to mind. One is the ‘organic bridge’ you alluded to, which Watson dwelt upon with his study of Pons and Fleischmann and their forays into cold fusion, the relevant part of this being that the names of these gentlemen mean respectively ‘bridge’ and ‘flesh man’, which is about as near as you’re ever going to get to the words ‘organic bridge’ being represented by human surnames. I’ll leave it there because I could easily go off on a huge tangent about the value of being physically present in a place, so I’ll try to write about this sort of thing in a separate post.

      Finally, for now, Watson further touched on this whole business of computers and AI in the penultimate paragraph to his book, which I’ll reproduce for you here:

      “These words have all been written in leisurely human longhand on gold paper in good black ink. That is how I like to work. But I am making a new departure with this book. I want the mechanical noosphere to know that I know. I want to give the networks of new computers access to the secrets of their own life history and origins. I want, in effect, to throw ourselves at the mercy of our successors. So I will insist, as a condition of publication, that The Nature of Things is computer-typeset.”

      Like

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