« Dreaming of new technology | Latest | Out of Fitzroy and into the flowers »
The current page:


The Nall of Wallidge

Book reviews

SoFo archives by name:

A great long list of individual entries

Entries by category:



Boring Old News



Kombi Vans

Mad scientist storytelling





SoFo on SoFo



The cryptic crosswords:

#1, #2, #3, #4, #5

The main page:


visitors since May 12, 2002
November 30, 2002
Computer assisted autism

Observation: many of the books scattered nearby have titles like "The Linux Cookbook," "Perl for Website Management," and "In The Beginning Was The Command Line." It all makes for a huge leap from what I read as a child, which was "The Famous Five."

Recently I've installed the Debian distribution of Linux, and have been trying to learn about that, and also various things about Perl, CSS, SSH, PHP, and so on. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that all this stuff is having a negative impact on my life, or a sinister impact, or both.

Now, for all those people who don't know what CSS is, or SSH, or PHP, I extend my hand in warm greeting. I wouldn't have a clue either. To me all this stuff is ACR.

Alien Cheese Recipes. That's what I'm dealing with here. Incomprehensible instructions, as likely as not to be what aliens use to prepare cheese. A month or so ago I tried to install Movable Type without doing a degree in Computer Science first. (Ah: the folly of middle age.) I was steadily following the manual, and then I read this:

If you are setting permissions through a Unix shell, simply use the command:

$ chmod 755 mt*.cgi

It was exactly at this point that I wanted to unleash demons on the Movable Type people. Winged demons. Winged demons with fangs. Winged demons with fangs and a thirst for programmer blood. "Simply use the command," they say. Well, this is how my terrified mind interpreted that instruction:

$ [Huh?]

[space] [Hey! A space! Something that separates words! I understand this! Woo-hoo!]

chmod [Alien Cheese Recipe. Not sure yet what kind of alien we have here, or what kind of cheese.]

[space] [Excellent. Always nice to touch base with something I recognise.]

755 [Alien Cheese Recipe in numerical form. Alien = 7. Cheese = 5. Recipe = 5. Mix well, and incinerate.]

[space] [The third in a series of three. Still the only thing I've understood. Probably not a good sign.]

mt*.cgi [Alien Cheese Recipe multiplied, possibly twice, by another Alien Cheese Recipe. Lots of aliens here, and lots of cheese.]

Okay. It's now a month later and I've discovered what "chmod" actually does. I've even got some kind of notion about the "755" thing, too. In fact, I've discovered that all these Alien Cheese Recipes can eventually be understood. It takes a while, but it can be done.

But there's a price, and it's a heavy price.

You develop autism. And the more you learn about computers, the more thoroughly you develop it.

So, in the interests of my mental health, I'm going to spend less time on computer-based tasks that are far beyond my current ability. I'm also tempted to reread "Five Go To Smuggler's Top," just to see if that helps. I have a fairly clear memory of understanding that book, and I'm feeling the need to revisit that sensation.

     Posted by Sean Hegarty at 09:47 PM in the Reflective category | Comments (1)
Popular things on this site:

The Coaxer moustache

My war with Samoa

Movable Type vs. SoFo

Confronting a rat

Travels through Iran, Pakistan and India

SoFo: NoPro

Amazon (UK)






Hot Soup Girl

Michael Barrish

Powered by Movable Type


Amazon (US)

Web hosting by Paul Bamber of Zen115