M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Tuesday, January 27, 2009  

Hacked In

You know how every once in a while you realize you've entered a world you never knew existed, even though it's right in your back yard? It's a common theme in the work of recent Newberry winner Neil Gaiman; some humble but secretly noble everyman crosses the wrong garden hedge/subway turnstile/Norse god and finds himself surrounded by exotic wonders and mysterious creatures. Well, that happened to me the other day when I went to the computer supply store.

I didn't even know the place existed until a couple of weeks ago when we got a notice in the mail saying they were giving away free flash drives, just for stopping by, no purchase necessary. We didn't especially need a flash drive, but the price was certainly right. It even took me a little circling around to actually locate it. And then when I went in, I did not get the place at all.

I used to be in a band with a software engineer. A guy who, while not part any kind of 733+ h4x0r subculture per se, knew quite a bit about them. And of course I used to watch the Lone Gunmen on The X-Files (though not on their spinoff. There are limits). But I've come to realize that expecting to understand anything from that limited exposure is like watching Shōgun on TV and expecting to be able to learn Japanese. Which I've also done, so I should have known better.

But do anyway, I get in there, and this store is huge. It's cavernous. And it's got enough computer components to build your own Matrix. You think I'm exaggerating, but I've never seen so many merchandise racks devoted to nothing but cooling fans, and that was only scratching the surface. And then there was the "home entertainment" section, with all the giant screens showing movies, but then a closer look revealed that they were in fact computer monitors.

Obviously finding a tiny little thing like a flash drive in this maze of technology beyond my ken was going to be a challenge, so I flagged down one of the earnest tie-wearing dudes, who directed me to the cash registers.

This is where I started to get worried, because the line for the registers was two dozen deep, and I had a four-year-old with me. You know that stereotype about how computer nerds never leave the house? Well, they do. They all do. And they were all in line ahead of me. Which wouldn't have made me nervous, except that from the back of the line -- and the middle of the line, and almost the very front of the line -- I couldn't see at all where these flash drives were meant to be. I was just taking it on faith that they were there, and if I got to the front of the line and turned out to be wrong, I would have wasted a great deal of time and there would have been a lot of irate people ready to flame me in terms I wouldn't even understand.

With only five people working registers, M. Edium and I had considerable leisure to peruse what passes for impulse buys for this market. Stuff like DVDs. A mind-boggling assortment of caffeinated beverages (why can't they just sleep?). A rack of t-shirts bearing clever legends like "I VOID WARRANTIES." It was hard not to engage in a little amateur anthropology. Quietly, to myself, of course.

Eventually, when the line snaked around the last corner, I spotted the rack of bins that held the flash drives, snatched up the one described as free in the mailing, and waited for the next register. Where a guy in a bowl haircut rang up the cash-free transaction by entering my street address from the mailing, and my e-mail address from my mouth. Obviously I gave him the address for my spam-buffer account, but I'm sure it's still enough for these geniuses to get into my computer and steal my bank accounts next time I sign into it. Which is why I haven't.

So the flash drive was free, but at what cost?

posted by M. Giant 9:30 PM 4 comments


733+ ?

By Blogger Unknown, at January 27, 2009 at 10:30 PM  

^ LEET. Computer nerd speak, sort of like LOL Cat language.

By Blogger Deanna, at January 28, 2009 at 10:39 AM  

Hey, don't knock the need for multiple caffinated products. When you're raiding for three hours and you have to wait for the boss you're on to spawn again so you can make 'just one more attempt', you need the Penguin caffinated mints because more Bawls is just going to make you have to take a bio in the middle of the fight and then there's a wipe and it's all your fault and Vent goes crazy with everyone cursing you...

Oh, whoops! I do wonder how 733+ that place really is- fans are for lame-o machines. Real decks use liquid cooling. :D

Anyway, I used to be a gamer (a *girl* gamer, no less) until I realized that I'd just wasted a good portion of two years of my life, so I understand that particular sub-subculture. The haxx0r types are quite a bit more freaky and pathetic. Many gamers are actually social and use raids (10, 25, or 40 players all fighting the same big bad guy) to hang out with real life friends who might be scattered across the country. They use software to talk $h!t over headsets, and it's really a lot of fun.

Just FYI that not every person in that store was a freak of nature. A lot of my old gaming buddies had wives and kids and good, non-computer related jobs. :) Now, they also dressed their kids up as Jedis or storm troopers for Halloween, but whatever. :D

By Blogger Auburn Tiger, at January 28, 2009 at 11:15 AM  

I'm married to one of the nerd guys (he actually has an MS in CS) and I think I need to buy him the "I Void Warranties" T-shirt for his upcoming b-day.

BTW, we own the full Shōgun miniseries on DVD. Combined with reading the book, he believes he knows everything there is to know about Japanese culture. Uh huh.

By Blogger Bunny, at January 28, 2009 at 4:55 PM  

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