The Internet's Miscellaneous Drawer

Hello and welcome to the internets miscellaneous drawer. This is a thread for things that are not deserving of their own thread that you stumbled across online that you thought was interesting but not interesting enough to deserve it’s own dedicated discussion. Maybe it was a website for applying random filters to a picture, a webpage from 1999 describing WinNuke and how to not get taken down by it in IRC, or a video on the creation of an exhibition of traditional textiles from ethnic minorities in southwest China.

If you’ve been on the internet long enough chances are you have come across some of these kinds of gems.

One of my personal favorites is probably Wiby which is a dedicated search engine to websites that are almost entirely HTML. Everything they have indexed is screened to fit their criteria and pressing the Surprise Me link can lead you down some rabbit holes like Soviet calculator history.

If you’re looking for something gaming related check out this newly released web viewer for GoldSrc made maps (HL, CS, etc) by x8BitRain.

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wow Wiby looks super sick!

there’s a particular kind of old-ish website I stumble across somewhat often, which is the “university professor homepage”. I first found Luc Devroye’s Home Page researching typography, but there’s links and info about many topics around language, computer science, academic publishing etc.

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I’ve been having fun with Wiby, but today it “surprised me” with a somber note from Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia’s Internet History page. nothing revelatory but prescient and eloquent, I’d say (though between the quotes I pasted here there are definitely valuable technical and political details on the early corporatization of the Internet)

Mid 1990s - The New Internet

(…)
The explosion of capitalist conservatism, combined with a growing awareness of Internet’s business value, has led to major changes in the Internet community. Many of them have not been for the good.
(…)
People wonder whether progress is better served through government funding or private industry. The Internet defies the popular wisdom of “business is better”. Both business and government tried to build large data communication networks in the 1980s. Business depended on good market decisions; the government researchers based their system on openness, imagination and freedom. Business failed; Internet succeeded. Our reward has been its commercialization.

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Reminds me a lot of Joseph Weizenbaum’s (an incredibly interesting pioneer in computer science and computer ethics that people over look) interview with MIT in 1985. I think something people in tech do not talk about enough is the ethics involved in their work. Universities largely do not even want to properly touch on computer ethics turning it into a blow off class that does not want to actually touch on the real world implications everyone in the room is bringing to the world at large with their work.

Excerpt from Interview

(…)
Q: What, if anything, do you think should be the role of the computer in education?

A: Yours is an often-asked question. In a sense, it is upside-down. You start with the instrument; the question makes the assumption that of course the computer is good for something in education, that it is the solution to some educational problem. Specifically, [your] question is, what is it good for?

But where does the underlying assumption come from? Why are we talking about computers? I understand [you asked because] I’m a computer scientist, not a bicycle mechanic. But There is something about the computer – the computer has almost since its beginning been basically a solution looking for a problem.

(…)

The questioning should start the other way – it should perhaps start with the question of what education is supposed to accomplish in the first place.Then perhaps [one should] state some priorities – it should accomplish this, it should do that, it should do the other thing. Then one might ask, in terms of what it’s supposed to do, what are the priorities? What are the most urgent problems? And once one has identified the urgent problems, then one can perhaps say, “Here is a problem for which the computer seems to be well-suited.” I think that’s the way it has to begin.

(…)

It is terribly important to ask the reasons the schools are failing so miserably. I think that even if one could show that the introduction of the computer into schools actually effected an improvement, say for example in reading scores, even if one could show that, the question, “Why can’t Johnny read?” must still be asked.

There is a very good reason that questions of that kind are uncomfortable. When we ask this question, we may discover that Johnny is hungry when he comes to school, or that Johnny comes from a milieu in which reading is irrelevant to concrete problems or survival on the street – that is, there is no chance to read, it is a violent milieu, and so on.

You might discover that, and then you might ask the next question: “Why is it that Johnny comes to school hungry? Don’t we have school breakfast programs and lunch programs?” The answer to that might be, yes, we used to, but we don’t any more.

Why is there so much poverty in our world, in the United States, especially in the large cities? Why is it that classes are so large? Why is it that fully half the science and math teachers in the United States are underqualified and are operating on emergency certificates?

When you ask questions like that, you come upon some very important and very tragic facts about America. One of the things you would discover is that education has a very much lower priority in the United States than do a great many other things, most particularly the military.

It is much nicer, it is much more comfortable, to have some device, say the computer, with which to flood the schools, and then to sit back and say, “You see, we are doing something about it, we are helping,” than to confront ugly social realities.

(…)

Q: What about computers and the military?

(…)

Other people say, and I think this is a widely used rationalization, that fundamentally the tools we work on are “mere” tools; This means that whether they get use for good or evil depends on the person who ultimately buys them and so on.

There’s nothing bad about working in computer vision, for example. Computer vision may very well some day be used to heal people who would otherwise die. Of course, it could also be used to guide missiles, cruise missiles for example, to their destination, and all that. You see, tthe technology itself is neutral and value-free and it just depends how one uses it. And besides – consistent with that – we can’t know, we scientists cannot know how it is going to be used. So therefore we have no responsibility.

Well, that is false. It is true that a computer, for example, can be used for good or evil. It is true that a helicopter can be used as a gunship and it can also be used to rescue people from a mountain pass. And if the question arises of how a specific device is going to be used, in what I call an abstract ideal society, then one might very well say one cannot know.

But we live in a concrete society, [and] with concrete social and historical circumstances and political realities in this society, it is perfectly obvious that when something like a computer is invented, then it is going to be adopted will be for military purposes. It follows from the concrete realities in which we live, it does not follow from pure logic. But we’re not living in an abstract society, we’re living in the society in which we in fact live.
(…)

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Just hit ‘surprise me’ with Wiby and immediately found this very fun piece about… Santa secretly being the devil?
SANTA CLAUS: The Great Imposter.
Probably the most accurate ‘surprise me’ function I’ve seen so far.

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Following up with what I found on my next two delves, because they rule:

http://www.amallison.free-online.co.uk/mangey.htm
Here are some tips on how to make your time at work more miserable
and drag everyone else down with you.

https://skumsoft.ltd/
And this thing which is… I’m not quite sure how to explain this

(Edit, ironically, I was looking at this stuff at work and had to quickly close all my tabs so I submitted this without the other link!)

I think no conversation about Old Internet is really complete without a shout out to https://alienmelon.itch.io/

tech and capitalism have each other’s back real hard and most other aspects of life are following suit.

rant

art, media, language and many crafts are constantly being tech-capital-washed into “design”, education into “coaching”, politics into “leadership” and “governance”, etc. my undergrad graphic design major is buried in that stuff and I hate it so much it’s an actual obstacle to graduating. I’ve also changed majors once already (from engineering!) and I’m not looking forward to reaching my 30s in undergrad so I guess I should probably push through? I can barely imagine doing this with big student debt on top, my country is a mess but at least some of us can get diplomas for “free”

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I hope I’m using this thread for it’s intended purpose…
So, I just read this article from Current Affairs and think it was a top read on how we think about art and how our engagement with art often falls short when we avoid talking about metaphor and symbolism. Satanic Panics and the Death of Mythos ❧ Current Affairs

If there’s one thing I think the Waypoint Crew is really great at doing, its asking “what does this mean?” when they’re looking at games or other forms of media.

P.S. I agree fully with anyone that says the most pointless question to debate about Blade Runner is whether or not Deckard is a replicant. Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

P.P.S. Folding Ideas is an awesome youtube channel.

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If you’re like me, and regularly do deep dives on how people physcially interface with computers, then the Buxton Collection is essential. It’s 50 years of collected devices that represent the breadth of ways that we have tried to create physical interfaces to digital worlds. You can practically smell the dust, but also the ways that we might have gone, if things had been a little different.

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Something I really enjoy is generative art (using the widest possible sense of the word).

You may already have heard of aidungeon.io, a surprisingly solid interactive narrative generator. It almost feels like being in a rules-less TTRPG with a GM that really likes to throw curveballs :smiley:

Then there’s the 50 best games of all time. Waypoint’s #1 is DUNGEON LUIGI’S KEEPER (1996), one of the best classic grand strategy games!

Do you know https://thispersondoesnotexist.com? Yes? OK, but what about https://thiscatdoesnotexist.com, which does the same but with an objectively better subject.

But even the less… sophisticated generators consistently grab my attention, like this meme generator. It’s not very reliable at making anything interesting but occasionally throws you something truly funny.

And finally, something completely different that only a very small fraction of you will even be able to understand. Years ago someone wrote a legendarily shitty post claiming to be a Navy Seal and threatening someone with not only their own combat abilities but also the force of the US military. That one I don’t really find funny, not least because death threats are such a pervasive issue in online spaces. But someone has put a lot of effort into making a parody of it in German, using medieval terminology (but not authentic language), under a YouTube video of all places! But someone copied it and put it up here on Reddit

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I have a very low bar for generators. most of them will easily make me feel like a 6 year old hearing knock-knock jokes for the first time. I didn’t play a lot of Arc System Works games but I love this Arc Sys round call generator (anyone can make a generator in that website)

the best thing is, they work great even when they don’t work! I mean, this cat definitely does not exist:

nightmare fuel

I’m also a fan of Waypoint’s 6th best game of all time, 1080° Light for the original Game Boy. I like to imagine Austin wrote this one:

Telling a semi-mature story about the dangers of robot sentience, 1080° Light reinvented the Error: model :game does not exist in provided schema: [object Object] genre.

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the Collection’s website has a very interesting quote, especially in the context of this thread:

“Look at the collection and then try and convince me that our slow rate of progress is due to a lack of technology rather than a lack of imagination.” —Bill Buxton

ironically enough, the site is hosted by microsoft.

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Nirsoft’s website has a treasure trove of one off tools that are useful. Mostly for power users but there’s some good ones in there like the multi monitor control that are just nice to have if you’re dealing with swapping displays around.

Also if you’ve never seen Star Wars in ASCII that’s a fun art piece. Kind of a great one to throw up on a TV/Projector at a party when those were things as background filler.

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talking software recommendations, I recently stumbled upon https://privacytools.io/ and https://switching.software/. both have cool lists of privacy-conscious, (mostly?) open source software, but also miscellaneous links regarding digital privacy, diy computing and even “fairtrade” smartphone manufacturer Fairphone, of which I am a little bit skeptical but looks alright?

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Ended up going down an Irish dance rabbit hole today.

My sister was in stepdance competition for nearly a decade so this is really awesome to me.

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By now I’m sure most people have heard of 15.ai (currently down) but in case you haven’t it’s another text to speech program that does remarkably well at mimicking voices if provided enough data on them.

The GLaDOS voice model in particular is really good and I can’t wait to see how people use it for their custom Portal maps

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I’m not sure this belongs here, but I’m not sure this is worth it’s own thread.

But.

That ship is flying. That is a flying ship. The SDF-1 was here and the BBC is covering it up.

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These Cats Do Not Exist generates fake cat images and sometimes you get some real nightmare fuel when the algorithm sticks 6 legs on a cat and merges a human face into it.

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oh, so this is the one that sometimes puts in type artifacts from memes or watermarks. yeah, the other one makes much more real-looking cats, but this one is an avant-garde artist:
cat3683

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Stumbled upon Computer Gaming World Museum today which hosts PDF copies of the magazine from 1981 to 2006 along with Games for Windows and Softline.

What is actually maybe more interesting is it links to a website called Museum of Computer Adventure Game History which has been lovingly created to be a virtual interactive museum. It’s incredibly creative and feels like one of those old PC educational games.

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