With all the snow on the ground, I decided not to go in to work.
I tried working from home, but there was a limited amount of stuff
I could really do. After that, I figured I may as well
get something useful done with the free time.
When I bought my cell phone, it was the latest and greatest.
But it didn't support tethering (using the phone as an internet connection).
There was a software update for all the other phones
to support tethering,
but none had appeared for mine.
There was some payware stuff,
and I'd tried the trail versions on the train in
Massachusetts, but they didn't work very well.
So yesterday, I decided to try one of the open-source ones.
There wasn't a working binary for my phone, but I had
the Android SDK up and running and figured I'd compile it
myself for my phone.
This took a fair amount of research and tweaking,
but I finally got a clean compile.
I rounded up the appropriate cables and my phone and
While I was uploading, the power failed (this tends to happen
when there's interesting weather afoot).
I didn't know if the process had completed or not.
I rounded up the laptop and tried pairing the phone with it
and connecting to the internet. I didn't know all the right
parameters for this lashup, and things had changed somewhat
since the last time I'd done this (I have no idea what Bluetooth
DUM and PAN are, for instance). But I tried various things
until I got a connection. It took a while to negotiate, but
hadn't failed, so I let it be. I went to make a sandwich,
and then curled up with a book by the window to eat.
When I got back to the laptop, it had made a connection.
So I tried firing up AIM (a utility that doesn't use too
much bandwidth) to test it out. It connected, slowly,
but I didn't see anybody I knew on. I figured my ISP
might be having connectivity issues too, and didn't worry
about it. Then I got a message. I didn't recognize
the sender, and figured it was just a scammer, but had
nothing better to do, so I accepted it. Yeah, looks like
junk. In Korean. But a few seconds later, I got another
message. Usually the garbage messages send one URL then
disconnect. This wasn't a URL, and didn't disconnect
immediately. Probably someone trying to talk to someone
with a similar AIM ID.
I tried using the Systran widget in my Dashboard (much less
bandwidth than firing up a web browser and using Google Translate
or somesuch) to make a short message in Korean,
explaining that I was probably not the person they wanted.
I cut and pasted the result into the chat window and sent it.
I immediately got back several lines of text I couldn't read.
So I cut and pasted that into Systran, and asked it to translate
Korean into English. No joy, the symbols stayed unchanged. Maybe
it wasn't Korean? I can recognize many of the scripts used around
the world, and it did have that blocky, phonetic look like Korean,
but closer examination revealed it was something else.
Oho! A mystery! The sort of mystery my language-loving friends
like ayasdollz and dcseain would enjoy.
Too bad I couldn't reach them. I tried launching the Facebook
app on my phone, but it crashed as usual (I really wish Froyo
could come out for this phone, I suspect a lot of things would
I sent some English text, and received a few more lines back
that I couldn't read. Maybe it was someone's secret code?
I cut and pasted some into some cryptography software I'd written
and did the basic analysis on it. Yup, looked like language,
character distributions were consistent with a phonetic language,
and several short words occurred more than once. Didn't look like
With nothing better to do, I chose a few of the short words,
pasted them in the chat window and sent them.
There was a bit of a delay, then a brief response.
Also short words. Probably useful, but I was out of my element.
So I sent a few short words in English.
Another pause, then a very brief response that looked to me
like punctuation. Were they asking for more of my text to
I cut and pasted a couple of simple children's stories and
some stuff I'd written, chunk by chunk.
Eventually, I got two foreign words back. I guessed it was
"hold on" or "that's enough" or somesuch and waited.
I got back "what is". Okay, sure looks like they're trying
to use my language, but don't have a lot to go on. Are they
asking what language I'm using, or what? I sent back "I am
After a little while, I got back "send more". So I started
grabbing whatever text files looked likely and sending them,
piece by piece.
Then I got back "Where speak English". English is pretty
well known around the world, but maybe they just want to
know where I'm sending from. "I am in the United States."
Another long pause, then "Not hear of", followed by "Sun up".
Were they telling me the sun is up where they are, or asking
if the sun is up where I am? Sort of like the old Star Trek
ep where the Horta writes "NO KILL I", with similar ambiguity.
I replied "The sun is up here. It is snowing. Where are you?"
There was no reply to this, and I realized that while they can
apparently puzzle out what the words mean, they don't have a
workable phonetic mapping, and can't tell me something like
"We are in uhzbekeestan" or whatever.
So I sent "What time is it where you are? It is 2:30PM here."
No reply. And the phone battery is running low. Apparently,
the local cell site is down and I'm burning transmitter power
talking to a more distant site.
I had no idea how distant.