Stupid things, account creation, being greedy and The Big Con

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007 at 11:33pm

Tonight was the first Melbourne Perl Mongers meeting since March. A few weeks ago I realised that the last time I posted about one of these meetings was at the start of last year so I decided that I would make an effort this month.


Thre was a decent turnout of around 15 people to listen to Paul talk about “Doing Stupid Things with Perl” and Jacinta talk about greediness and regular expressions. In between there was a sysadmin question (I didn’t get the name of who asked it) about the best way to go about rolling back system processes (eg creating a user account) midway if there was a failure. This turned into an interesting discussion of both how to reliably run a system process and various ways of keeping track of where the overall process was up to in order to run other processes to revert changes that had already been made.

I recall Paul, Leif and Kirrily contributing the most with suggestions of IPC::System::Simple to reliably run the processes and various state tracking and/or nesting structures to know how to roll back.

So what is with the title of this post?

The discussions in the pub briefly turned to confidence tricks and at the time I couldn’t remember the name of an excellent book on the subject.

First published in 1940, The Big Con is a book I picked up a few years ago that is considered to be a definitive work on the subject. I find the social engineering aspect of it all to be fascinating and I would cite the following two things as the source of my interest:

  • The Sting – the 1973 movie staring Robert Redford and Paul Newman that features the wire as the main con in order to get revenge for a murder
  • Hustle – a contemporary television show from the UK that “follows the fortunes of a gang of five expert con artists let loose on the streets of London”

There are other influences (such as the 2003 movie Matchstick Men), but those are the first ones that come to mind.

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