Open source malware is actually a possibility

For a long time we’ve assumed that, if the software that we use is open source, we’re safe from malware. It was too difficult, and the reward was too small compared to traditional forms of distributing malware. But as open source software is gaining popularity, and more and more single-handed projects are popping up, this may not be true anymore. Today, it would in fact be feasible for an open source trojan to exist, which disguises malware inside another, seemingly innocent and presumably useful enough to be attractive, application. And why has this really become so much easier? Because users and developers alike don’t pay enough attention to the code they’re running.

Why do we assume that open source software is safe?

Let’s start with why we naturally assume that open source software is safe and free from malware:

  • The code is written by a team of independent developers. If one developer tries to slip malware into a project, it’ll be caught by the other developers.
  • The code is publicly available, meaning that if there was malware hidden within it someone would find it.
  • If malware is hidden in some open source code and someone does find it, the code can be traced back to the developer who wrote and distributed it. Most developers don’t want to take that risk.
  • The code is reviewed by the package maintainers of popular Linux distributions before they compile it to produce packages for their users. If there is any malware hidden in the code, they should find it.

Unfortunately, these all rely on one assumption: people actually read the code. There are a number of other reasons why these points don’t necessarily apply, though, so let’s look at them in turn and see how an open source trojan could actually exist.Read More »

BIID, Therianthropy, and a family of Identity-mismatch Disorders

The following is something that I have been wanting to discuss for over six months now. It has taken me a long time to find the right way to explain the topic, and in terms of content it happens that every time I come close to completing it, I discover more relevant information. Fortunately for me, a reader of my blog asked me about this matter, which I hinted at in the postscript to one of my previous posts, and I was thus forced to put it down in words. As such, I finally found myself with the basis for a blog post on the topic.

This is a matter which I have been thinking about for quite a long time. Many people with BIID, or who spend time in BIID communities, are probably familiar with the frequent comparisons between BIID and GID. It’s been suggested many times that maybe BIID and GID are one in the same thing, just different variants. As inconclusive as those discussions normally are, I found it hard to accept that they could not be the same thing – after all, I was able to take the DSM-V criteria for GID and replace “gender” with “disability” and then fit almost all the criteria myself. But yet, how can gender identity and disability identity have anything in common?

And then I found the key. Or rather, I experienced the key first-hand. When my BIID involuntarily went away, I found myself with another identity-mismatch. Not a mismatch of my non-disabled body to a disabled identity. And not a mismatch of a male body to a female identity. This was something different.

Enter Therianthropy.Read More »

Why aspies don’t swear

I’m not going to say that aspies never swear. Sometimes we swear a *lot*, in response to the increased frustration that we feel about the world compared to neurotypicals. But what you’re not going to find many aspies doing is throwing swear words into every second sentence like a lot of people do. Why? Why don’t we use swear words the same way as other people?

Swear words are redundant

Most times when people use a swear word, they are used to add emphasis. This is redundant. Think about it: why should we say “it’s fucking cold outside” when we can say “it’s very cold outside”? Or maybe we don’t need any word in there at all: just say “it’s cold outside”, because after all you’re just trying to explain why you’re wearing a scarf and gloves (which really shouldn’t need explaining at all, just sayin’ ;-) ).

Swear words are imprecise

Furthermore, swear words don’t accurately convey what we’re trying to say. So many reviews for, for example, smartphone apps say “this app is so crappy”. Why use the word “crappy” when we could use a much more meaningful word? What about explaining *why* the app is crappy, by saying something like “this app is so difficult to use” or the even more helpful “the navigation menus have too many layers in them”? In the statement “my day was a pile of shit” we’re left wondering “in what way was it a pile of shit?”, and we see no reason to use a word that omits this information completely when we could just as easily express what we had in mind when we made the statement.

Even if we’re trying to insult someone, I can think of many better ways of doing that without using a swear word. Instead of saying “why the hell did you do that?” I’m probably going to say “why did you do such a stupid thing?”. Not only have I added the information that what they did was stupid and that’s why I’m complaining about it, but I also score a point for calling the other person’s actions stupid ;-) .

Swear words are meaningless

They’re overused and lose their meaning because people are saying and hearing them all the time. ‘Nuff said.

Swear words are lazy

When someone swears at us, we don’t take offence; we think “couldn’t you think of a better word?”. Swearing just shows laziness: laziness in not thinking of something more original to say, and laziness in not trying to avoid words that many people don’t like. Or laziness in not thinking of a better way to insult us.

We don’t want to look lazy, and as aspies we have a natural tendency to want to do something the best way, not just the easiest way, so we prefer to think more carefully about the words that we use.

Swear words are offensive

We might not always show it, but we really don’t want to offend or upset people. So why use a word that’s intended to do just that, just to tell someone how friggin’ cold it is outside?

Three requirements for BIID treatment

In considering possible therapies and treatments for BIID, I have been trying to determine what functions effective BIID treatment must perform. I have come to the conclusion that there are three requirements for BIID treatment to be effective, and that these relate closely to the three ways in which identity is determined:

  • One’s state of being
  • The way one experiences oneself
  • The way one is experienced by others

Thus effective BIID treatment must allow the sufferer to:

  • Take on the physical state of having the required disability
  • Experience oneself as having the required disability
  • Be experienced by others as having the required disability

I’m going to look more in depth at these and then look at how potential treatments relate to these criteria.Read More »

Why wheelchairs are triggering

As regular readers of my blog will know, my particular BIID variant concerns blindness, not paraplegia. So why are wheelchairs triggering to me? Why does seeing someone in a wheelchair, or talking about wheelchairs, make all my BIID feelings return?

I have spent considerable time contemplating this, and I have come to the conclusion that there are a number of different reasons:

When I read about paralysis-variant BIID sufferers, I draw comparisons with my own feelings about blindness

This is perhaps the most obvious one. In reality, the wheelchair has nothing to do with it but what’s actually going on is that I’m reading about their feelings about paralysis and their experience of being in a wheelchair, and I think about my feelings about blindness and my experience with pretending to be blind. I read their account of getting their first wheelchair, and I think about how I felt when I got my white cane. In short, reading about other BIID sufferers – whatever variant – reminds me of my own feelings, for better or for worse.

Seeing a wheelchair user reminds me of BIID

This is an extension of the previous situation. Because most of the BIID literature concerns wheelchair “wannabes”, either because of amputation or because of paraplegia, one who reads a lot of BIID literature starts to associate wheelchairs with BIID. So seeing a wheelchair user reminds me of BIID, which reminds me of my feelings.

As a BIID sufferer, I am a lot more aware of disability issues

As someone with BIID, I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about disability in general. When I’m in a public place, I think about the accessibility issues that people with different disabilities – not just blindness – may have. Furthermore, I am a lot more aware of disability issues because I have read a lot about the issues faced by both naturally disabled people and disability pretenders. And for me, disability is strongly linked with BIID, and thinking about disability tends to remind me of BIID. So seeing or talking about wheelchairs (or any other disability or assistive aid or anything related to disability in general) is likely to remind me of BIID.

Self-harm, play piercing, and endorphin regulation

A lot of aspies self-harm. Even more used to, until they were told to stop by either their parents, their therapists, or their inner conscience. Most of those that do wouldn’t admit to doing it. But yet they all feel the need to, and they all carry on doing it even when they want to stop. They like the feeling of pain. They need the feeling of pain, and the mental state that it brings with it. And it truly helps them to feel better.

Then you get the neurotypicals who poke needles through their skin because they like the way it feels. They call it play piercing, and they say that they not only enjoy the physical feeling but that it gives them this intense rush of happiness inside, which gets ever increasingly intense as they add more and more needles, sometimes hundreds all over their body.

What do these have in common? They’re both in some way penetrating their bodies in a way that causes pain. And they both like that feeling of pain. But it’s not just the pain that they’re after; it’s the brain’s response to the pain that they associate with the pain, and which makes them seek more pain. A sensation of pain causes the brain to release chemicals called endorphins, and the endorphins inhibit the transmission of the pain sensation. In short, endorphins are natural painkillers, which the brain releases in response to pain. So by causing pain intentionally, one can intentionally cause the release of endorphins.

But it’s not the painkilling aspect of endorphins that self-harmers and play piercers seek. Endorphins have other effects too, and one of those other effects is that they invoke a feeling of happiness. In fact, endorphins are the chemicals that control happiness – when we’re in a situation that makes us happy, our brain releases endorphins and that causes us to experience happiness.

So by intentionally causing oneself pain, one can intentionally trigger the release of endorphins, which will make one feel happier. Indeed the experience of happiness resulting from self-harm does not feel the same as true happiness, but superficially it is similar and it is similar enough for both groups of people to keep wanting it over and over, just as one wants to feel happy.

So what the play piercers are doing is triggering an intense endorphin “rush”, leading to a sudden feeling of happiness, which they enjoy. And what the self-harmers are doing is releasing endorphins into their body to make up for the absence of other happiness.

Here then is the link between self-harm and depression: depression either causes or comes as a result of a lack of endorphins. In either case, increasing the concentration of endorphins in the brain will help the depressed person to feel better. By self-harming, the depressed person feels a little better, and can continue getting through life. Here, too, is the link between self-harm and Asperger’s: aspies tend to feel depressed easily as a result of their more intense emotions. By self-harming, they can balance out their depression and feel a little more positive about life.

So let’s put the play piercers aside now and think about self-harm and depression: by intentionally releasing endorphins, one can reduce depression, thus endorphins can be considered a kind of natural anti-depressant, and self-harm can be considered a natural way to regulate one’s endorphin level to keep oneself from sinking too deep into depression. See what I did there? Yes, self-harm can be used to manage depression.

And that’s the point here: we need to stop thinking of self-harm as a negative behaviour and instead start viewing it as the body’s natural response to depression. Is it a better anti-depressant than medication? Is it better to let a depressed person manage their depression themselves, through self-harm, as necessary? Is self-harm actually a protection mechanism, just like shivering when one is cold, rather than a way to mutilate oneself out of hate for one’s own body? The truth is, we don’t know. And we won’t know until more research is done. But that research won’t get done until we stop viewing self-harm as something to be stopped as soon as possible.

The fact that the depressed person instinctively turns to self-harm as a way of dealing with their depression tells me that it’s supposed to work as a way to regulate one’s emotions.

Hypersensitivity vs Hyperawareness

As part of a recent assessment, I was asked a number of questions about my sensory experience. One of the questions was “Do you tend to notice sounds that others don’t notice?”.

Of course the answer is “yes”, but when I went into more depth and started analysing *why* I notice sounds that others don’t, I realised that it is probably somewhat related to why I see things that others don’t. No, that sounds like I hallucinate; what I mean is, that I notice things in my field of vision that others don’t, just like I notice sounds that others don’t.

The seemingly logical assumption for the reason why one would notice sounds that others don’t notice is that they are hypersensitive to sound – as in, their ears (or perhaps their brain) experiences aural stimulation as louder than how other people experience it. They notice these sounds simply because, while for other people the sounds are below the threshold for “being heard”, the sounds come through “loud and clear” for people who are hypersensitive.

So why then do I see things that others don’t? Visual hypersensitivity generally causes everything to appear brighter than for a normal person, just like aural hypersensitivity causes things to sound louder than for a normal person. Indeed, many visually hypersensitive people find a well-lit room to be painfully bright, and I can’t say that I don’t experience this at times myself too. But just because things are brighter doesn’t mean that I’m going to see things that others don’t – indeed things that “hide in the shadows” for normal people may be clearly visible for me, but that doesn’t even begin to account for the number of extra things that I notice.

The key, thus, is in the word “notice”. It’s not necessarily that the things are more prominent due to being louder/brighter; my hypothesis is that it’s to do with sensory awareness. Whereas normal people may well see/hear these things, they filter them out because they focus only on the input that they are actively processing – such as a conversation that they are having – and ignore anything else. And that’s a good thing at times, too: it certainly means that they can have a conversation even if there is a lot of background noise, unlike me who can’t even hear what the other person is saying! So thus we can conclude that I *don’t* filter out other sensory stimulation; I process absolutely all of the stimulation that enters my senses. That’s why I see things that others don’t: they don’t even notice them because they are not processing that stimulation; I do notice them because I am processing all of the stimulation that I receive. That’s why I call it “hyperawareness” – I am exceptionally (excessively?) aware of background sensory input.

That’s also why I can’t hold a conversation when there’s too much background noise: I can’t block out the background noise and separate out the person’s voice!

Custom Debian systems

Ever set up a new Ubuntu installation only to then attempt to remove most of the installed packages? I have, when I wanted to put a small, fast-to-boot, command-line only live Linux system on the backup hard drives to facilitate backing up the computer without an optical drive. And it was a real pain, because I pretty soon had a broken Ubuntu system which nevertheless had a lot of clutter left behind from packages that I didn’t even know were there until I removed a dependency thereof. Fortunately I gave up on trying to “slim down” an Ubuntu system and turned to Google for an answer.

This should have been much easier to find, but it wasn’t, and that’s why I’m posting it here: Debian. Debian live, to be precise. Yes, unless you specifically choose a version that includes a graphical desktop, you get just a basic command-line interface with a number – but not an excessive number – of common Linux tools included. Exactly what I needed.

But the real power of this “base” Debian system is not how little software comes pre-installed, but rather how much software is available. You’ve got the full Debian package repositories available – the same repositories that projects such as Ubuntu are based off of – and combined with the slim system that you get either in the live environment or after installation, you’ll be building up your perfect system from modular blocks rather than stripping it down from a pile of bloat.Read More »

“Blocking” does more harm than good

For a long time now, almost all online communications platforms have had some kind of “blocking” functionality, whereby one is able to “block” or “ignore” content from a specific user. Even as far back as IRC, the /ignore command allowed one to choose to no longer receive posts from a particular user, and despite email not having any such functionality in itself, a lot of webmail services and email clients offer the ability to automatically delete any emails from a particular email address. Social networks allow one to block a specific user from messaging them or reading their posts, while forums usually allow one to “ignore” a user whereby their post is made visible but the content is hidden by default. Skype similarly allows one to block all calls from a particular user, such that one never even sees that the calls were made, while Android, iOS, and even most feature phones allow one to automatically ignore or reject calls from a particular number.

But is all this control over other people’s ability to contact you a good thing?Read More »

Success

The following is a piece that I originally wrote for an English assignment in college. It appears here somewhat late due to technical issues with my computer which have subsequently been resolved.


If there is one lesson that I have learnt in life, it’s that one should never set a goal, expect to achieve it, and expect to find such a thing fulfilling. People often talk about having a “goal in life”, but I find that having “goals” only makes life more disappointing. Most of the time, the goal is and can never be met. In the rare case that it is met, it is often tainted in some way. And when one seldom does achieve exactly what they wanted, it comes at such a high cost that you feel no better off.

Now, of course, the idea of “success in life” closely relates to one’s goals. After all, success means to achieve something, and in the generalised sense that something is always going to be a goal of sorts. Thus to succeed means to meet one’s goals.

But I disagree. To me, true success does not mean meeting goals; to me, success is to be happy and content with one’s life. Meeting goals for me is only a stressful frustration, but when I feel content in life, that is what feels like success to me. That is what makes me feel strong. That is what makes me feel like I have a life, and that I can achieve whatever I want.

So I conclude that success does not come from having a goal in life, but from being content with where you are as of now. Yes, right now. Are you happy with how your life is? If yes, then I call it success, and you should too. If not, then think about how you could change it. The ultimate goal in life is, after all, happiness, and if success means to meet one’s goals, then to be happy is to succeed.