Loved this story, I felt I was there in the computer hall, with the smells, the hum and the tense battle between you both.
Thanks! I really enjoyed writing this one, and even better that I managed to get a little bit of the emotion across too.
BTW, a story of mine: When I was in high school, we had a class to teach us how to type on the keyboard efficiently. The classes consisted of using a training software, and the grades were given mostly by the score we achieved there. We could run the program on other computers in the school as well and do some lessons in the spare time.
While never intentionally learning how to use the keyboard properly, over the years of coding and spending hours on IRC, I learned to type pretty fast, so I always was far ahead. However, some of my friends struggled with this and I was helping them. But this was boring.
So naturally, I went ahead and wrote a simple program to type in the window automatically. During a break, I gathered a group of friends, took them to the computer and intended to demonstrate them this incredible time-and-effort-saving creation of mine. I opened one of the lessons, where we had to type a single sentence as many times as possible, fired up my program, typed the sentence there and pressed the “Start” button. It worked perfect, except… I made a typo.
At around 800 bpm, it wrote the errorneous input all over again in a lesson, where it was particularly important to type as accurately as possible. Few seconds later, the lesson was over, because there were too many mistakes, and it threw me back to the previous lesson. But the expected input in that lesson was completely different, so it kicked me even faster. And it continued doing that for over and over again.
Before I finally managed to kill the program, I lost about two weeks worth of progress. But the program got popular nonetheless as they understood it worked properly, I only entered an invalid input. Later on, an IT teacher asked me to demonstrate it for him. My memory is faint on that part, but I think nothing happened at all. I’m sure he would ban it if he knew how, but he wasn’t very good.
Cool story… I love the irony that you built it to speed up your results but it caused the opposite to happen in the end… that’s probably a metaphor for about 50% of everything I do in my code :)
It would have been great if you made it only type when the user pressed a key, so people could mash the keys as quickly as possible and have 100% correct output come out. Since you were just using it for training, though, your way makes sense too.
Are you me?
Did almost the exact same thing back in elementary/middle school.
Loaded it up onto my purple 64mb JumpDrive that had cost me a small fortune so I could run it on any of the computers.
Same here on Mavis Beacon. Except, the hackers weren’t impressed. So, we changed the challenge to seeing what numbers we could get doing that by hand on the actual keyboard. I can’t remember the number but it was insane.
This is interesting. In one University I was at we had a similar setup, but the VNC process ran in the context of the user. I thought this was necessary because Windows 2000 was a multi-user, multi-session system and the VNC process needs to be in the session that it intends to monitor. I guess it could have been in the same session as a different user, but it can’t just be a background service, and the session is created as part of user login so the user will end up with a large degree of control over processes within it.
Anyway, the consequence of it being in the same context as the user account is the password needed to connect to it has to be stored somewhere that the user account can observe. Although technically this could have been done as a one-way hash, VNC back then used 3DES reversible hash, so it contained code to decrypt the hash into the raw password string. And with that, any user had access to the password to eavesdrop on any other user’s machine.
It was an early lesson in why a backdoor for the “good guys” is really a backdoor for everyone.
Reminds me of my time in the computer lab in college. Except it was a bit different.
It was a computer lab in a dorm and the tech that ran it was another student. There didn’t seem to be other computer based majors going in there, so he probably liked that.
He’d nod and smile when I came in, then let me do basically anything on the machines. I installed and played games on them. The games and save files were never touched.
He probably thought the games or projects I was doing sounded fun so never minded. Plus, I wouldn’t bother him with how to print things.
I was in uni in Sweden in the early 90s and we had nothing like this.
Our computer labs in undergrad (mostly Mac) were entirely inhabited by people using it for Gopher, web and Telnet (me), Marathon (a couple people who talked the cool lab assistants into playing with them), and one guy who brazenly and frequently came in with floppies and in full view of everyone proceeded to download lots of … well, let’s just say that, depending on your kink, anything floppy wouldn’t be by then.
There was also the little SE/30 in a corner cage running AppleShare and all the cool apps your heart desired. This was externally accessible via Gopher for awhile, and I managed to archive it all before it was finally taken off line about a decade-ish ago.
If anyone was actually doing work, I never saw it.
Not nearly as sophisticated as hand crafting software but it brought me back to my highschool days, when I loaded a rootkit onto the Novel server in the corner of the lab (on a floppy disk) to give myself admin access. The teacher in the opposite far corner, other kids busily doing their Mavis Beacon typing program.
Pretty good writing and a fun story. Thanks!
Thanks for reading!
What would’ve happened if you killed the VNC before he connected? Would he notice?
He’d have known the machine I was logged into wasn’t allowing him to connect, but I suppose he wouldn’t know why. I killed it about 3 times in total, but he never came over to me to check. I assume he simply never tried connecting to me during those times, or if he did, he thought it was just a temporary problem (rather than one of my own doing :)).
OK. I wondered whether he just didn’t see some list of running instances and if you killed yours, he wouldn’t notice at all. :)
I remember hanging out with some guys in Milan who had a bit of back door code that enabled them to run ‘unapproved’ stuff like IRC on the UNIX workstations.