Bitmap From Geometry

Someone posted a challenge at the Programming Puzzles and Code Golf Stack Exchange site and I decided to take a crack at it. My first approach was to break the image down into 24 bitplanes and scan each of those for solid rectangular regions that could then be drawn to reconstruct an approximation of the original image. It works (approximately) and the source is just a tiny bit smaller (about 11 KB) than the original PNG image from which it originated. Here is the original image:


And here is my approximation of it:


If there is any interest, I can make the code available that creates the image. Note that the code itself is only about 11 KB, but the data is about 364 KB. It’s a bunch of strings that encode integers describing the location and size of solid rectangles to draw into various bitplanes.

Update: Click here to download source code as tdwfb.cxx.xz..

Messing with Scammers: The Next Generation

Back in October I posted about having fun with fake Microsoft support technicians making unsolicited calls to fix my poor broken computer.

Apparently they never learn. They called my house yesterday while I was at work, and then they called again today while I was home. So I decided to have some more fun with it! I live tweeted the experience for your reading pleasure:

5:01 PM: Goodie! Another “support call” from India! This is going to be fun.

5:10 PM: Windows Update popped up so I asked the support rep if he did that, he said yes! When I asked if I should do it now, he didn’t know.

5:11 PM: I’ve been transferred to Alan, a senior technician with Windows Computer. I bet he’ll know better what to do!

5:13 PM: Uh oh, these warning & error files in my event viewer are trying to enter my registry files & boot sector! I hope this India tech can help!

5:15 PM: My computer’s security has expired! The hardware mfg warranty & software mfg warranty both! Crap!

5:16 PM: Now I’m going to be transferred to their Cisco & Windows certified technician department to help me fix this. It’ll only cost $99.99.

5:22 PM: For some reason the India “support tech” wants me to type wwwdotsomethingdotblahdotcom but it doesn’t seem to be doing any good.

5:30 PM: The nice Indian “tech support” rep is now fixing my computer for me remotely! Using Logmein to connect me to my dedicated technician!

5:31 PM: I’ve used up over 35 minutes of the India scam artist time so far during this call. How long can I make it stretch?!?

5:38 PM: He opened a command prompt and typed “dir /s c:\” to scan my computer. I feel so safe with him working on my computer!

5:43 PM: I can pay $99.99 to fix my computer now, or $149.99 for 2 years, or $249.99 for 5 years, or $499.99 for life time for *all my computers*!

5:44 PM: Tech support scammer time wasted so far: over 48 minutes.

5:47 PM: If you ever need a fake credit card number to give a scammer, try which will generate “valid” but not active cards.

5:57 PM: Hmmm, Phone call disconnected after 60 minutes, but he’s calling back now! WHEW!

6:06 PM: He’s trying to open “NOTEPAAD” with two As. Awesome.

6:07 PM: For some reason my fake credit card number isn’t being authorized, so I need to call my issuer and get it unblocked for online transactions.

6:11 PM: Dang, my fake card issuer has me on hold, but my call is very important to them, so I’m waiting for the next representative to assist me.

6:15 PM: I wonder what my fake card issuer will say: Either it’s been blocked due to fraud *or* I’m at my credit limit & can’t charge more. BOTH!

6:16 PM: Fake support rep call time wasted so far: 74 minutes.

6:22 PM: I just told him “While I’m on hold, I’m going to go away from the computer but I’ll be back as soon as they answer. Estimated time 13 min.”

6:32 PM: “Are you done yet?” “No, still on hold.” “Okay, take your time.” Oh, I *will* take my time, thank you very much. #evillaughtergoeshere

6:53 PM: Tonight’s episode of “Messing with Scammers”, where I waste time for 4 different fake Microsoft Support reps from India, lasted 107 minutes.

7:20 PM: Correction, my call lasted 111 minutes, not 107. Those extra four minutes are precious! PRECIOUS!

After I finally “talked” to my fake card issuer support rep, and told the guy that we had the following problems:

  1. My card is over the limit and so they can’t authorize the charge.
  2. Even if my card balance was $0, I only have a $250 credit limit so this wouldn’t work anyway.
  3. There are a lot of fraudulent charges coming into the issuer’s network from India tonight so they won’t turn on the online purchasing feature of any card tonight.
  4. The credit card number and name and address and phone number I gave you are fake.
  5. Since the card number was fake, there wasn’t an issuer to call, I just wanted to waste your time.
  6. You should really read and add my phone to your do not call list so I don’t keep wasting all your time.

Sadly, he hung up on me after point five, so I never got to share point six with him.

Just remember kids: If you can waste a scammer’s time, please do so! The more time they spend with you the less time they spend with someone really vulnerable. And if you aren’t comfortable doing something like this (see my previous post linked to above for more details), just hang up on them.

Remember, no one will ever call you to offer you unsolicited technical support services! No one!

Pudding and Mouse

My wife shared with me a link to Amazon for a silicone petite loaf baking pan in which she was interested.

Product listing for a silicone petite loaf pan.

Web page as originally viewed on the Amazon web site.

The most notable part is the brief description text to the right of the product picture:

Product description text.

The description text as it appeared when I originally viewed it on the Amazon web site.

Please note: “Can also be used for cold treats like pudding, mouse, or infused ice-cubes”.

Yes, someone made a typo. Clearly they meant to type mousse, a light and airy type of food, often a dessert. Instead they typed mouse. Not quite the same thing. I was inspired to write a review of the product. You can read the review on the page in question (look for a review by Scott Robison “SDR”). If you think it is funny, feel free to let Amazon know it was helpful to you or by commenting.

If you don’t want to go in search of it, here is the review I submitted:

***** I am now a believer!, December 27, 2013

When I read that this mini loaf pan was also ideal for cold treats such as pudding and mouse, I had my doubts. My apologies to the writer of the description text! This mini loaf pan prepares mouse like you would not believe! Typically the only food type mouse I’ve heard about is the kind at the bottom of a bottle of soda pop or the kind that you find mixed in among pieces of deep fried chicken. Those are gross. This mini loaf pan, on the other hand, allows the mouse to be cooked to perfection!

A helpful hint. When making a purchase at a pet store, don’t tell them what you plan to do with the mice. For some reason, feeding them to a snake is okay, but planning on consuming them yourself makes you “weird” or “disgusting”. Just lie and save yourself a ton of grief.

In any case, I cannot recommend this mini loaf pan highly enough!

Oh, and it also prepares more traditional baked goods perfectly well, though why would you want to when you can have a perfectly prepared mouse instead?

I hope it amuses you half as much as it did my wife, who is now recovering in the hospital from an asthma attack due to excessive laughter. ;)