The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'replicators'
If you use a WiFi-enabled device in any public location frequently, sooner or later you'll find an open network labelled "Free Public WiFi". These appear in the most unlikely places, from secured corporate offices to the giant Faraday cage that is the London Underground, but wherever it is, if you attempt to connect to it, you will face only frustration.
It turns out that "Free Public WiFi" is not a scam or some sort of malware, but the result of a Windows XP bug. Some versions of XP, upon not being able to find any network, will attempt to create their own network, with the same name as the last one they connected to. (Why that made sense to someone, I have no idea.) Which means that, at any time, there'd be a lot of zombie WiFi networks floating around, hosted on Windows XP laptops and named after whatever they connected to last; in other words, a broad sample of network names, which don't do anything, other than inviting passersby to connect to them, like a giant petri dish to test wireless network name attractiveness.
Of course, when someone connects to one of these networks, they don't actually get an internet connection (or anything else, for that matter). If, however, they're running an older version of Windows XP, their machine is now "it", and will next create its own network with the same name as the last network it attempted to connect to. And so, the most attractive names spread like a mostly benign contagion though the wireless spectrum, with the most attractive name being, it seems, "Free Public WiFi". (One might argue that "Free Beer" or something similar would be even more enticing, but for the plausibility gap.) Other common zombie network names you may have seen around are the default names of hardware devices' networks, such as "hpsetup" and "linksys".
When memes compete for mindshare in the ideosphere, one of the things they're selected for is emotional impact. The most sensational story wins, as does the most disgusting urban legend, according to this paper. (via FmH)
(Which all makes sense; by the same token, there are other (so far anecdotal) laws of memetics. For example, it has been observed that urban legends that mention a "brand" of some category mutate to refer to the best-known brand. (For example, the one about some small fried-chicken restaurant chain supporting the Ku Klux Klan mutated into an urban legend about KFC, and it's probable that the "Albert Einstein said we only use 10% of our brains" UL started as a claim about some lesser known very smart person making that statement.) I'd speculate that this is the result of a selection for economy or consistency with one's existing knowledge/memes, or a streamlining process that erodes memes into more agile forms.)