SN 841: Minh Duong's Epic Rickroll

Beep boop - this is a robot. A new show has been posted to TWiT…

What are your thoughts about today’s show? We’d love to hear from you!

@Leo’s mention of the silliness of the MO Governor labeling a reporter “a hacker” because he did a “View Source” on a webpage reminded me of an early experience on the Internet:

Somewhere around 1995 or so (before even The Screen Savers!), we had access to the Internet at work. That was before the time of Internet Explorer or even Netscape – I believe we were using the Mosaic browser; that looks familiar. I don’t think there were any search engines at that point. There was a contest looking for Easter Eggs on the Internet; such a search would have made no sense if pages had been indexed and searches could have been preformed. OTOH, there were a tiny number of websites and essentially zero commercial sites at all…

One semi-commercial site was (a different website today), which hosted the Riddle du Jour. I found an archive of some riddles from the old website on this MIT webpage. At the time, the RdJ was offering daily prizes from sponsors; I recall that a hand-crafted wooden mechanical pencil was offered as a prize. The winners were announced the next day; I remember they were stored in a primitive database which had the date stored in the URL.

I was curious what would happen if I manually entered the URL for next day’s prize-winners into Mosaic; I was surprised to see that the winner was already declared before today’s contest was over! Perhaps they chose a winner before they left for the day, which would make it rather difficult for late daily entries to win. :cry: My friends and I did this for several days to make sure we weren’t hallucinating, and I then notified some of the advertisers (i.e., prize-providers) of the apparent wonkiness in the contests. The owner of the site (Carol?) accused me of hacking their website – ridiculous! IIRC, they did fix the problem. The point of the story: authority figures were ignorant of how the web worked in 1995. they’re still ignorant 25 years later – but I’m sure everyone will be up to speed by 2045. :grin:

Minh Duong’s enrollment in the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was an excellent choice. This school has high academic standards and a large list of notable alumni. Even more important, the worldwide headquarters of Wolfram Research is 3 blocks away from campus. Wolfram Alpha is well-known to most students and Mathematica (available free for the Raspberry Pi) is a tremendous engine for solving math problems, creating simulations, and visualizing how all sorts of dynamic systems work. The Wolfram Language has a comprehensive blockchain library. Stephen Wolfram even launched a project a year ago to derive The Fundamental (computational) Theory of Physics. That work is definitely beyond my pay grade.

Minh could work as a security expert for companies, but he may have an opportunity to leverage his broad understanding and be a great storyteller/explainer/visualizer – like Steve Gibson :+1:. I hope he uses their software and at least visits these wise neighbors in Champaign.


Great story @floatingbones - thanks for sharing!

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I saw this in @WhiteHoodHacker (Minh’s) twitter feed:

Minh noted a $2,240 charge from his provider for the 11TB of bandwidth used on his website, but the service provider reversed the charges:
“Netlify support confirmed it was an attack and not just because my blog post went viral. They reverted the charges, but just in case, I’m using Cloudflare now.”

Apparently, he got hit with an attack on simply because the Rickroll story whent viral. Sheesh.