The Case of the Lost JPEG

This is a sorry tale. I think it's about the transience of life on the Internet. Let me tell you the story...

I had an email from Shonsu the other day. He'd found a major new clue. As he said:

Hey I dont know if you have every seen the comment's on this jpg it has the same comments as the riddle with only a slight variation, maybe it will shed some light on it...
Just view the comments of the jpg...

Attached to the message was a JPEG file, the one that Fravia links to on his main entry page.

labyrin<- this one [click to view original]

Well, I was quite captured by the idea. This could be a real breakthrough. So I fired up Hedit and looked at the file. Alas, no Riddle. Just the text "(c) Copyright 1994-95 Nicolas Pioch".  I downloaded the Fravia image. It was byte-for-byte identical. I also checked it for signs of a hidden digital "watermark", but no luck. I checked all of Fravia's GIFs, too. No Riddle.

What had happened? I thought perhaps Shonsu had sent me the wrong file, or was playing a joke at my expense. I emailed back to tell him I couldn't find the text. He replied the following day:

well i used vueprint pro 32, and you know what after i read your email i rechecked the comment's on the jpg, it's strange they are no longer there... i checked a couple of time's on the file last night to make sure they where there... hmmm strange... i wonder what happened then sorry maybe just a false alarm... although i did run vueprint a couple of time and saw it each time...

Well, what can I say? It appears the file Shonsu sent me, and subsequently looked at in VuePrint, was not the same file he saw the comments in. So where has it gone? I passed the information on to gthorne and Fravia. Here's what they said:

+gthorne was just frustrated:

man oh man! this really does frustrate me if all of the clues are erased from the net

Fravia took it very seriously. Here's (most of) his email:

Of course I checked immediatly my images as soon as you wrote me. Needless to say there was nothing in there.

Now it would be intersting to know WHEN exactly did Shonsu (thinks of having) see(n) it: after the mygale and geocities incident? Before?

1) shonsu ... got images AND the real text of the riddle mixed and does not remember/noticed/know that this happened.

2) orc found my password on mygale or geocities and modified it (he cannot have the last password on my tana, because I change password every time... unfortunately BOTH my geocities and mygale passwords were the same, and if +ORC knows who I am really (and I think he does, he even seems to know who +gthorne is, which is much more difficult, from some hints he gave us), he could have guessed it, not easy, but hey, it was a password that has to do with my real life unfortunately (from now on I will follow my OWN advices... always a couple of numbers, at least, in any password).

I agree with you:
> And it is just the sort of place +ORC would put a clue:
> not obvious but right in front of everyone's nose

Still I believe that the first hypothese is more correct, I have only hard disk (and on diskettes) a HUGE amount of copies of my pages, and I checked all of them (with sr.exe) for parts of the riddle... nothing.

do not answer at this address... it's pilfered, I'm travelling in undercover on the wide wide net with my applets killer on... I halted only to have a look at the last developments... it is not that +ORC has already given you the answer and you are misleading everybody on some foul paths, is it?


I hooted with laughter when I read the last para: *no*, unfortunately, +ORC has *not* taken me into his confidence!!

If Shonsu really did  see the text, my guess is that it may have been a GIF or a JPEG on Fravia's previous pages at Mygale or Geocities, and that was displaced from Shonsu's cache by later downloads. Certainly I lost the earlier images in my cache when Mygale and Geocities gave me their elaborate 404 errors. Whatever the cause, the file seems to have been **lost**... so near and yet so far. Shonsu is looking at other graphics files on his hard disk to see if it was another file he found the comments embedded in. But I'm not optimistic. Things in this medium are transient at best. Sic transit gloria mundi, as +ORC might say.

Sounds like there's a need for a "safe cache" plug-in product that captures everything you see that you tell it to save (not just what Netscape wants to save) -- does anybody know of one? Matthias Wolf's excellent Netscape Cache Explorer (and his related MSIE program) goes a long way to letting you retrieve stuff, but it, too, depends on what gets cached in the first place. And new stuff removes old stuff. For example, I went to look at the cache for Fravia's previous pages: all gone, thanks to the Mygale and Geocities "404 Error" pages. [Not a lot of use, Mygale and Geocities: why not just let Netscape give me a standard 404 Error instead of all those junk GIFs?]

Where does that leave us? It may be that a major +ORC Riddle clue has disappeared. That's life, I guess. Unless someone out there has a copy of the JPEG or GIF with the text lurking in it, unbeknownst.

On the other hand, could this be a wild goose chase? or, worse, a hoax? Even a +ORC hoax? We may never know. I think this is something everyone will have an opinion on... Hackmore Readrite has his doubts that the file ever existed. But I have no reason to think Shonsu is misleading us. And it is just the sort of place +ORC would put a clue: not obvious but right in front of everyone's nose!

What can be done?

Well, if you believe Shonsu, you may be able to help. Many of you will have come here from Fravia's site. If you haven't clobbered the old site images with the junk 404 messages, have a look in your cache, and anywhere else you might have stored a likely GIF or JPEG. Take a look at it in a hex editor, and see if the Riddle text is there... and let me know if you find it!

28 May 1997

Any comments?