Archives » November, 2003

November 19, 2003

New forms of spam

I’m starting to see some of the new forms of spam cross my path. For one, I’m seeing referrer spam on this site. Sites like kwlablog and jennifersblog (no links, for obvious reasons; just add .com if you want to see them) are showing up in my referrers, and while they look, smell, act, and taste like real weblogs they’re really just fronts for linkfarms and porn sites, trying to use my PageRank to boost theirs. Each one has links to news articles and a little blogroll (which actually seems to be the last 16 referrers), and probably takes 30 seconds a day to maintain. And at the very bottom, in a hidden link, is a pointer to their “adult-webcam” site. And that link is the whole point of the site.

There’s more analysis at, as well as someone who’s tracking down the original sites whose designs are being stolen for these ripoffs. But the most pessimistic analysis comes from Mark Pilgrim:

Weblogs may turn out to be The Next Thing for spammers, the next vector to exploit. And if that’s true, then things are going to get really ugly really quickly. If you’re up for that fight, then take them on, Godspeed. But prepare yourself for the worst, and then imagine something worse than that, and then accept that your imagination is too limited, because it will be so much worse than that.

I’m also getting good old fashioned comment spam on an MT site I don’t even use, but suddenly that doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

November 18, 2003


Now I might be confused about this, but I thought maps were just supposed to reflect how things are laid out in the real world. If things in the real world are “too confusing”, the mapmaker just needs to buck up and draw it. It’s not their job to rename streets. But that’s just what the cartographreaks down at City Hall are trying to do.

Here in Carson we’ve got one street that starts at the north end of town, swings aroung in a big semi-circle, and meets back up with the highway right next to downtown. It dead ends at the college at one end, and the railroad museum at the other. Along the way you can stop to stretch your legs at an empty Kmart, the airport, the State Prison, and the sewage plant. Quite a grand tour of Carson City. But it wasn’t designed as one solid ride from end to end. The roadway was cobbled together in multiple sections over a couple of decades, and so the name of the street changes a few times as it winds its way around town. No big, you live here for more than two weeks and you get used to it. But it’s just unacceptable to the map jockeys downtown. “People will see one name when viewing data on and gives Carson City a better presentation of itself.” Yeah. Screw the people who actually live here, gotta make it easier for tourists to find their way around town. Gotta make it easier for the people who aren’t able to grasp the concept of a street actually changing names as you drive along it. Heavens! What kind of chaos is that?

I think the guys down in City Hall just got bored and tried to think of some way to get their names in the paper. Because how could anybody seriously propose this? And why pick on just one street, when there are others in the same town that change like this?

If people stopped thinking absurdly, the world sure would be a boring place to live in.

November 15, 2003

Hi. I’m this terrifically huge brick building that’s over a hundred years old. But I really wanted to make it on Broadway.

It’s the little things that really make life fun. Like the fact that the Laxalt State Building, in downtown Carson City, just a few blocks from my office, has bells that chime out the hour. But it doesn’t just play a standard chime, followed by six dongs, or anything like that. The bell tower plays showtunes at the top of the hour. That is so goddamned excellent. You can hear them for a mile in each direction. Right now it’s playing “Singing In The Rain”. Last week when we were going to dinner it was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. I hear these things all day when I’m at work, but I never stopped to appreciate how brilliant it is. I’m going to have to start keeping track of all the songs it plays.

November 13, 2003


By popular request—most notably that of the W3C—the US Patent Office is going back to re-evaluate the fitness of the Eolas patent. If this patent is overturned on prior art, it could form an important precedent for other cases where basic internet technologies have been patented. In the Land of Pipe Dreams, it could even lead the patent office to re-evaluate the way they give out such patents in the future. So let’s all stand behind Microsoft on this one!

November 12, 2003

The mistake you only make once

I was squeezed in the back seat of the car, wedged between the door and the baby seat, wearing a heavy jacket. We parked and I opened the door, spilling limbs everywhere. I grabbed the door handle and contorted myself into the right shape to get out of the door, and that’s when I heard the thud. My digital camera had fallen out of my jacket pocket and landed squarely on the asphalt with a crack.

Inside the store I gave it a thorough inspection. It turned on, it beeped, the lens protruded like it was supposed to. The case seemed to still be in one piece. But then I looked at the viewfinder. The little LCD screen that normally lets you frame your shot was instead glowing a dull grey. I pushed the buttons to bring up the menu. Nothing. I switched it to the mode where you look at the pictures you’ve already taken. Nothing. I turned the camera off. I took out the batteries. I reseated the memory card. I gave the thing a couple of good whacks. Nothing. I even got out the screwdriver when I got home and cracked it open. Still nothing. Something had gotten severed, and although the viewfinder still technically worked, there was no signal getting to it. The screen was worthless. And the screen is not just used to frame your shots. It’s also how you change resolutions, turn the flash on and off, and erase pictures. Bascially, without the screen you are very limited in what you can do with the camera. And I had just killed it.

So the bad news was that my camera was crippled. But the good news was that I got to buy a new one, and buy I did. I replaced the old Fuji 2650 with a new Fuji A210—just like the old one, only better. 3 megapixel instead of 2. 60 second movies instead of 20. Easier ways to change flash and macro settings. In short, it all worked out good with a better camera. And the best news – no interruption of service to Sammy’s Photoblog!


Clay Shirky once again exposes the realistic underbelly of hype in his latest article, The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview. This time he skewers the notion that the Semantic Web will bring about the Golden Age of machine intelligence that its proponents suggest. And why? Because they’re solving the wrong problems.

This example sets the pattern for descriptions of the Semantic Web. First, take some well-known problem. Next, misconstrue it so that the hard part is made to seem trivial and the trivial part hard. Finally, congratulate yourself for solving the trivial part.

One of the best rebuttals comes from Shelley Powers. She says they’re not trying to bring about the Golden Age of machine intelligence, just make it easier for machines to find things when they’re asked.

November 11, 2003

Internet Explorer is dead almost dead just limping along

No more Internet Explorer releases? Apparently that wasn’t quite true. MS is readying IE6sp2 to be released sometime next year. I’m almost positive this has to do with the whole Eolas thing, so now you’ll have to click OK in a pop-up box before you can view a Flash file. But that isn’t the only change MS is making to the browser; they’re also going to be adding pop-up blocking features, like Mozilla and Opera have. This was a little surprising to hear. I thought they were only releasing this updated browser in response to the Eolas issue. I didn’t think they’d be slipping anything else in there, especially since they’d already delcared that IE as we know it is dead. But now it’s looking like since they know they have to have at least one more version, the IE team might want to slip in some of the whizzier features they’ve been working on for Longhorn. Just to get the buzz buzzing a little more for this long-time-coming-long-time-left operating system. By putting these features in, they’re doing their usual embrace and extend dance with the marketplace, making most of the pop-up blocking software out there obsolete. But they might also use it as a little bit of an advance marketing message for Longhorn. “If you like pop-up blocking, just wait until you see what we’ve got in store for you in ‘06!” I wouldn’t put it past them.

And the optimist lurking deep down inside of me wonders what else the IE team might try to slip into this release. I’m sure they’re well aware that their proud baby IE6 has gone from the darling of the Internet to the laughingstock, just because Mozilla and Opera have brushed by it so well and so far. Could they possibly be readying a version of the Longhorn rendering engine to slip into IE? A version that solves some of the problems that IE6 has taken so much slack for, like its haphazard CSS support and PNG transparency problems? Might they be slipping these advances into this new SP2, just to pull in a bit of good PR and douse their critics? One can only hope. Now that we know they’re actually adding features instead of just mucking with stuff to make it Eolas-compatible, the floodgates of speculation are open. Will IE6sp2 turn out to be the IE7 that we’ve all been waiting for?

Breath is not being held.


Ask Tog: Security D’ohLTs:

I’ve been watching security people for years as they’ve slowly increased the security of everything they can get their hands on until any idiot can wander in.

November 9, 2003

Keep CSS Simple

Peter Paul Koch, in Digital Web Magazine: Keep CSS Simple:

CSS hacks are actively dangerous for your Web site. A cursory glance at the underlying “theory” (if one can call it that) will rapidly convince you that the average CSS hacker doesn’t have the faintest idea what he’s doing.

A certain browser has a certain CSS bug. Good to know. This same browser has another bug, usually in its parsing of CSS selectors or comments. This, too, is important information. However, a CSS hacker proceeds to use the second bug to “solve” the first one.

In an ideal world the next release of the browser would solve both bugs. In an uncaring world the next release of the browser would solve neither. In the uncertain world we live in the next release could solve one bug but not the other!

PPK has also just started

November 8, 2003

Inside Fedora

First thoughts on Fedora Core 1? It’s Red Hat 10.

More later.