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Justin's Linklog Posts

Sunday Times vs. spam

Danny O’Brien: Help stop the flood of spam, in the Sunday Times. Great article:

We have had enough of the filth pouring into our mailboxes. Danny O?Brien launches a Doors campaign to clean up e-mail and puts forward a six-point plan involving government, industry and you the reader


SOFTWARE MAKERS must improve antispam software, and fast. Filtering spam is good, but only masks the problem. Spam-spotting software must report what and who it has found back to the ISPs, so they can block further spams.


Man uses cell phone to take snap inside schoolgirl’s skirt

Man uses cell phone to take photo up schoolgirl’s skirt. You knew it was inevitable.

Police said Hamano was riding behind the girl on an escalator at JR Kashiwa Station when he took out his mobile phone, held it underneath the girl’s skirt and took a photo. The girl was alerted to his presence by the noise emitted by the phone camera’s shutter. She turned around to catch Hamano with his hands between her legs.

(via 0xdeadbeef, from MDN’s “waiwai” section)

Caoimhe Butterly

Guardian: Courage under fire. No matter what you think about what’s going on in Israel and Palestine, Caoimhe, and the other international observers, require your support:

Friday was a very close call. Caoimhe was shot in the left thigh as she stood in between a firing IDF tank and three young boys in the street. I spoke to her on the phone shortly after the attack as she lay in her hospital bed. She explained that she had been trying to persuade the IDF, after they shot dead a nine-year-old boy, to stop shooting at the children. They had told her to get out of their way or they would shoot her. It was while she was clearing the children off the streets that she was shot. She is sure she was a direct target; the tank was close by, the soldier pointed his gun at her and fired, and continued to do so as she crawled to an alleyway for shelter.

I asked an IDF spokesman for his explanation. ‘We are in the middle of a war and we cannot be responsible for the safety of anyone who has not been coordinated by the IDF to be in the occupied territories right now. While we do not want innocent Palestinians to suffer, or internationals to get hurt, we are trying to ensure the safety of the Israelis and we will not tolerate internationals interfering with IDF operations. It is not the job of internationals to stand in the line of fire, unless they are the son of God, but he hasn’t come yet.’

The case of the 500-mile email. (fwd)

A great tale of systems wierdness, via 0xdeadbeef:

‘We’re having a problem sending email out of the department.’ ‘What’s the problem?’ I asked. ‘We can’t send mail more than 500 miles,’ the chairman explained.

Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2002 14:57:40 -0800
From: (spam-protected) (glen mccready)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: The case of the 500-mile email.

>Forwarded-by: Nev Dull (spam-protected)
>Forwarded-by: Kirk McKusick (spam-protected)
>From: Trey Harris (spam-protected)

Here’s a problem that *sounded* impossible… I almost regret posting the story to a wide audience, because it makes a great tale over drinks at a conference. :-) The story is slightly altered in order to protect the guilty, elide over irrelevant and boring details, and generally make the whole thing more entertaining.

I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago when I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.

“We’re having a problem sending email out of the department.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“We can’t send mail more than 500 miles,” the chairman explained.

I choked on my latte. “Come again?”

“We can’t send mail farther than 500 miles from here,” he repeated. “A little bit more, actually. Call it 520 miles. But no farther.”

“Um… Email really doesn’t work that way, generally,” I said, trying to keep panic out of my voice. One doesn’t display panic when speaking to a department chairman, even of a relatively impoverished department like statistics. “What makes you think you can’t send mail more than 500 miles?”

“It’s not what I *think*,” the chairman replied testily. “You see, when we first noticed this happening, a few days ago–”

“You waited a few DAYS?” I interrupted, a tremor tinging my voice. “And you couldn’t send email this whole time?”

“We could send email. Just not more than–”

“–500 miles, yes,” I finished for him, “I got that. But why didn’t you call earlier?”

“Well, we hadn’t collected enough data to be sure of what was going on until just now.” Right. This is the chairman of *statistics*. “Anyway, I asked one of the geostatisticians to look into it–”


“–yes, and she’s produced a map showing the radius within which we can send email to be slightly more than 500 miles. There are a number of destinations within that radius that we can’t reach, either, or reach sporadically, but we can never email farther than this radius.”

“I see,” I said, and put my head in my hands. “When did this start? A few days ago, you said, but did anything change in your systems at that time?”

“Well, the consultant came in and patched our server and rebooted it. But I called him, and he said he didn’t touch the mail system.”

“Okay, let me take a look, and I’ll call you back,” I said, scarcely believing that I was playing along. It wasn’t April Fool’s Day. I tried to remember if someone owed me a practical joke.

I logged into their department’s server, and sent a few test mails. This was in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, and a test mail to my own account was delivered without a hitch. Ditto for one sent to Richmond, and Atlanta, and Washington. Another to Princeton (400 miles) worked.

But then I tried to send an email to Memphis (600 miles). It failed. Boston, failed. Detroit, failed. I got out my address book and started trying to narrow this down. New York (420 miles) worked, but Providence (580 miles) failed.

I was beginning to wonder if I had lost my sanity. I tried emailing a friend who lived in North Carolina, but whose ISP was in Seattle. Thankfully, it failed. If the problem had had to do with the geography of the human recipient and not his mail server, I think I would have broken down in tears.

Having established that — unbelievably — the problem as reported was true, and repeatable, I took a look at the file. It looked fairly normal. In fact, it looked familiar.

I diffed it against the in my home directory. It hadn’t been altered — it was a I had written. And I was fairly certain I hadn’t enabled the “FAIL_MAIL_OVER_500_MILES” option. At a loss, I telnetted into the SMTP port. The server happily responded with a SunOS sendmail banner.

Wait a minute… a SunOS sendmail banner? At the time, Sun was still shipping Sendmail 5 with its operating system, even though Sendmail 8 was fairly mature. Being a good system administrator, I had standardized on Sendmail 8. And also being a good system administrator, I had written a that used the nice long self-documenting option and variable names available in Sendmail 8 rather than the cryptic punctuation-mark codes that had been used in Sendmail 5.

The pieces fell into place, all at once, and I again choked on the dregs of my now-cold latte. When the consultant had “patched the server,” he had apparently upgraded the version of SunOS, and in so doing *downgraded* Sendmail. The upgrade helpfully left the alone, even though it was now the wrong version.

It so happens that Sendmail 5 — at least, the version that Sun shipped, which had some tweaks — could deal with the Sendmail 8, as most of the rules had at that point remained unaltered. But the new long configuration options — those it saw as junk, and skipped. And the sendmail binary had no defaults compiled in for most of these, so, finding no suitable settings in the file, they were set to zero.

One of the settings that was set to zero was the timeout to connect to the remote SMTP server. Some experimentation established that on this particular machine with its typical load, a zero timeout would abort a connect call in slightly over three milliseconds.

An odd feature of our campus network at the time was that it was 100% switched. An outgoing packet wouldn’t incur a router delay until hitting the POP and reaching a router on the far side. So time to connect to a lightly-loaded remote host on a nearby network would actually largely be governed by the speed of light distance to the destination rather than by incidental router delays.

Feeling slightly giddy, I typed into my shell:

$ units 1311 units, 63 prefixes

You have: 3 millilightseconds You want: miles

  • 558.84719 / 0.0017893979

“500 miles, or a little bit more.”

Trey Harris — I’m looking for work. If you need a SAGE Level IV with 10 years Perl, tool development, training, and architecture experience, please email me at (spam-protected) I’m willing to relocate for the right opportunity.

My TiVo thinks I’m gay

WSJ: If TiVo Thinks You Are Gay, Here’s How to Set It Straight: when a learning “personalisation” algorithm gets it massively wrong.

PS: I think it was Mimi Smartypants who noted that she occasionally misses the odd TV program, just so TiVo doesn’t get the wrong idea.

PPS: Joe McNally, who fwded this, notes that IMDB’s learner has gone a bit haywire recently, too: “If you liked ‘Iris’,” it told me the other week, “you’ll also enjoy ‘Planet of the Apes’.” Click further, and apparently you’ll also also enjoy ‘Pearl Harbour’, ‘Donnie Darko’ and ‘Bend It Like Beckham’. Sounds like a game of What Links?

PPPS: all irrelevant in Europe — TiVo’s west-pond-only.

Ireland vs Spam

According to the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Mr. D. Ahern, Ireland will “transpose into Irish law the requirements of European Parliament and Council Directive 2002/58/EC concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector” before the end of 2003.

It will be nice to be able to point to the law, eventually — for what that’s worth. Since most spammers are USian, relaying via other countries, actually acting on the law will not be quite so simple. But it will be an improvement.

[forteana] Hashish ‘fell on to back of army lorry’ (fwd)

Hashish ‘fell on to back of army lorry’. “Spain’s defence ministry is still at a loss to explain how three-quarters of a tonne of hashish had turned up in an army truck. … ‘Anybody could have put the toxic substance there,’ said the defence minister”. Don’t worry minister, I’m sure the customs officials haven’t heard that one before…

Fantastic ending:

But now both he and the armed services are being ruthlessly lampooned by, among others, The Puppet Show News … Mr Trillo, a member of the strict Opus Dei Catholic lay order, is routinely portrayed as a uniformed pothead whose favourite pastime is getting stoned with the mascot of the Spanish Legion, a little white goat called Blanquita.

As both he and Blanquita mourned the lost Eurofighter by lighting up a giant joint at the weekend, the defence minister declared: “It’s the only way to fly.”

Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2002 10:43:29 +0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Hashish ‘fell on to back of army lorry’

The Guardian

Hashish ‘fell on to back of army lorry’

Giles Tremlett in Madrid Tuesday November 26, 2002

It is a matter, you might say, that is shrouded in dense, aromatic smoke – Spain’s defence ministry is still at a loss to explain how three-quarters of a tonne of hashish had turned up in an army truck in the country’s north African enclave of Melilla.

Embarrassed officials tried to claim that the troops it has permanently stationed in north Africa would never have succumbed to the temptation of smuggling the region’s most important cash crop across the Mediterranean.

The high-quality Moroccan hashish, almost certainly produced in the nearby Rif mountains, was found by police sniffer dogs in the port of Melilla as the truck waited to be shipped to Almeria.

“Anybody could have put the toxic substance there,” said the defence minister, Federico Trillo, after explaining that the truck had been parked, unattended, in Melilla’s port for about two days.

Local police disagreed. The truck had only been parked there for a few hours, they said. They suggested that the khaki kit bags stuffed full of shrink-wrapped dope could only have come from within the Spanish armed forces.

The questioning of eight uniformed suspects has shed no further light on the case and opposition politicians have called for a full explanation from Mr Trillo.

The drugs bust has done little to improve ties with nearby Morocco, which claims Melilla as its own and is constantly accused by Madrid of turning a blind eye to hashish-smuggling.

The find also came at a troubled time for the newly professional Spanish armed forces, which are failing to attract recruits and retain their aircraft: they lost their only trial version of the £50m Eurofighter in an accident last week.

Mr Trillo, a proud military man and stern Catholic conservative, hoped the standing of the armed forces had improved after special forces ejected six poorly armed Moroccan gendarmes from the Parsley islet over the summer.

But now both he and the armed services are being ruthlessly lampoonedby, among others The Puppet Show News, Spain’s equivalent of Spitting Image.

Mr Trillo, a member of the strict Opus Dei Catholic lay order, is routinely portrayed as a uniformed pothead whose favourite pastime is getting stoned with the mascot of the Spanish Legion, a little white goat called Blanquita.

As both he and Blanquita mourned the lost Eurofighter by lighting up a giant joint at the weekend, the defence minister declared: “It’s the only way to fly.”

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002

diary of an autopsy

Sliced liver, anyone? “The first public autopsy in Britain for 170 years brought back vivid memories of medical school – and an acute sense of hunger – for the Guardian’s junior doctor Michael Foxton.”

“The process of dismemberment is a deeply weird and dysphoric experience, and it is a dangerous border to cross. I remember the first time I had to do it, as a medical student in an operating theatre. It was a man with stomach cancer, who I had been talking to on the ward the morning before his operation. When the surgeon brought his knife down to make the first cut on his belly, it was everything I could do to stop myself reaching out and grabbing his hand to stop him. Doctors have to cross that line. We have to separate the thinking, smiling, family man from the clinical material. If I hadn’t done that I couldn’t possibly cut a hole and force a huge chest drain tube a centimetre across into a writhing patient on a respiratory ward at three in the morning, without going mad.”

who, me?

now that’s a great name tag:

‘these children are the main entree for dinner’

I just dug up this classic piece of lunacy from the Montauk UFO contingent. Highly recommended if you like reading this kind of wierdness…

DA: Hmmm. Who do these aliens eat?

AC: They specifically like young human children, that haven’t been contaminated like adults. Well, there is a gentleman out giving a lot of information from a source he gets it from, and he says that there is an incredible number of children snatched in this country.

DA: Over 200,000 each year.

AC: And that these children are the main entree for dinner.

yum yum!

**Gore at Hallowe’en**

Blather: I See Dead People, by Mick Cunningham and Dave Walsh. “It’s Halloween, it’s Trinity College in Dublin, and we’re in a packed lecture hall … for an evening of public lectures entitled “Over Their Dead Bodies… The Secrets That Dead Bodies Tell”. And dead bodies speak volumes. ”

I went along to this — it was fantastic stuff, although extremely gory at times. Worth reading, and be thankful they don’t have copies of Dr. Harbison’s slides.

vote for IrelandOffline

hooray! IrelandOffline (in the person of chairman Dave) has been nominated for the Irish Internet Association‘s Net Visionary award for Social Inclusion.

Everyone (in Ireland I guess) is entitled to vote, so please, please do so and show your support for our call for decent internet access on this benighted isle.

A Prayer Before Dying

Wired – A Prayer Before Dying: “the astonishing story of a doctor who subjected faith to the rigors of science – and then became a test subject herself”, by Po Bronson:

In July 1995, back when AIDS was still a death sentence, psychiatrist Elisabeth Targ and her co-researchers enrolled 20 patients with advanced AIDS in a randomized, double-blind pilot study at the UC San Francisco Medical Center. All patients received standard care, but psychic healers prayed for the 10 in the treatment group. The healers lived an average of 1,500 miles away from the patients. None of the patients knew which group they had been randomly assigned to, and thus whether they were being prayed for. During the six-month study, four of the patients died
  • a typical mortality rate. When the data was unblinded, the researchers learned that the four who had died were in the control group. All 10 who were prayed for were still alive.

But read on — it’s not as simple as all that…

FTC’s ”Spam Harvest”

FTC: “Spam Harvest” Results Reap Help for Consumers Trying To Avoid Spam. Some good prosecutions (yay!):

The FTC alleged that NetSource One and James R. Haddaway, operating as WorldRemove, used spam and the Internet to sell a service they claimed would reduce or eliminate spam from consumers’ e-mail. The claims were false. In fact, using an undercover account to test the claims, the FTC found it received more spam after signing up for the service. The agency charged the defendants with violations of the FTC Act.

Plus some good official studies to back up our own, unscientific research:

In an effort to determine what online activities place consumers at risk for receiving spam, Northeast Netforce investigators seeded 175 different locations on the Internet with 250 new, undercover e-mail addresses and monitored the addresses for six weeks. The sites included chat rooms, newsgroups, Web pages, free personal Web-page services, message boards and e-mail service directories. One hundred percent of the e-mail addresses posted in chat rooms received spam; the first received spam only eight minutes after the address was posted. Eighty-six percent of the e-mail addresses posted at newsgroups and Web pages received spam; as did 50 percent of addresses at free personal Web page services; 27 percent from message board postings; and nine percent of e-mail service directories.

Plus, the lie of “targeting”:

Spam Harvest partners also found that the type of spam received was not related to the sites where the e-mail addresses were posted. For example, e-mail addresses posted to children’s newsgroups received a large amount of adult content and work-at-home spam.

meet the enemy

WSJ: For Bulk E-Mailer, Pestering Millions Offers Path to Profit.

I’m just trying to make a living like everyone else, says Ms. Betterly. … (she) quickly discovered that she could make a profit if she got as few as 100 responses for every 10 million messages sent for a client, and she figures her income will be $200,000 this year.

And she’s based in Tampa, Florida. What is it about Florida?!


Some folks reckon that mailservers should have reverse DNS — in other words, that the SMTP server should have a fully-valid forward-to-reverse mapping for its address, to cut down on spam and forgeries. All well and good.

Some other folks reckon that filtering on it is therefore a good way to cut down on spam.

It’s a nice idea, apart from 2 things:

  • filtering based on this suffers the same problem some DNSBLs have: a false positive hurts the user, rather than the person who is at fault; also the user is virtually powerless to fix it.

  • the correlation between spam and missing reverse DNS is no longer as strong as it used to be, as far as I can tell; spammers know they should pick a relay or proxy with a reverse DNS entry to get through filters, and as it becomes a requirement for relaying in general, more hosts have this anyway (regardless of exploitability or not).

recommended: Leaky Abstractions

Joel on Software now features a great new article on what he calls “Leaky Abstractions”. Some snippets:

  • Even though network libraries like NFS and SMB let you treat files on remote machines “as if” they were local, sometimes the connection becomes very slow or goes down, and the file stops acting like it was local, and as a programmer you have to write code to deal with this. The abstraction of “remote file is the same as local file” leaks. …

(jm: the ‘transparent does not always mean good’ problem)

  • Something as simple as iterating over a large two-dimensional array can have radically different performance if you do it horizontally rather than vertically, depending on the “grain of the wood” — one direction may result in vastly more page faults than the other direction, and page faults are slow. Even assembly programmers are supposed to be allowed to pretend that they have a big flat address space, but virtual memory means it’s really just an abstraction, which leaks when there’s a page fault and certain memory fetches take way more many nanoseconds than other memory fetches.

(jm: the ‘why objects are not always the way to do it’ problem)

And finally, he ends with a killer:

Ten years ago, we might have imagined that new programming paradigms would have made programming easier by now. Indeed, the abstractions we’ve created over the years do allow us to deal with new orders of complexity in software development that we didn’t have to deal with ten or fifteen years ago, like GUI programming and network programming. And while these great tools, like modern OO forms-based languages, let us get a lot of work done incredibly quickly, suddenly one day we need to figure out a problem where the abstraction leaked, and it takes 2 weeks. And when you need to hire a programmer to do mostly VB programming, it’s not good enough to hire a VB programmer, because they will get completely stuck in tar every time the VB abstraction leaks.

Well said! Read the article!


ICAP-server, an (imaginatively-named) daemon which implements ICAP. This seems to be a transcoding proxy server; in other words, it will convert HTML content on the fly, while you browse.

ICAP itself seems to be a protocol for rewriting HTTP responses; in other words, it allows a proxy server to include a small snippet of ICAP client code, and call out to an ICAP server to do the rewriting. Nifty.

Sounds like this could be very handy for low-bandwidth situations; use ICAP to “downshift” web pages into low-bandwidth versions. For example, banner ads can be trimmed out, heavy images converted to small, low-quality JPEGs, etc. One to watch (or help out with).

Ericsson used to have a commercial product which did something similar, but I can’t find it now…

Trinity College, home of the Jedi

Trinity College, Dublin is currently embroiled in a minor kerfuffle with Lucasfilm over “an uncanny resemblance between the 18th-century Long Room Library at Trinity, and the “Jedi Archives” in the latest episode of the “Star Wars” epic.” (Reuters)

The resemblance really is uncanny — I noticed it myself on watching the movie, but assumed there must have been a hundred similar libraries around the world. Sounds like Trinity think there’s only one after all. Given that it’s Trinity, maybe they’re right.

Compare: the Jedi archives vs. the Long Room.

the Anti-Telemarketing EGBG Counter-Script

the Anti-Telemarketing EGBG Counter-Script:

Telemarketers make use of a telescript – a guideline for a telephone conversation. This script creates an imbalance in the conversation between the marketer and the consumer. It is this imbalance, most of all, that makes telemarketing successful. The EGBG Counterscript attempts to redress that balance.

Half of the coolness here is the excellent, form/script-based design. Well suitable for printing out and sticking to the wall beside the ‘phone…

The Da Ming Hun Yi Tu

I’ve been reading an article in Edge Magazine, How To Get Rich, by Jared Diamond (author of Guns, Germs and Steel). He investigates more deeply into the differences between cultures, and the effect this has had on their history and dominance, as he did in GG+S; this time with economic might in mind.

For example, he notes that the Chinese, in the middle ages, were a sea-faring nation of astounding skill, exploring most of the coasts of Asia and Africa for trade. They were on the verge of rounding the Cape of Good Hope (and, in the words of Diamond, “colonising Europe” ;) when a new emperor with an anti-Navy bias took power, and recalled them. Since the entirety of China’s empire was ruled solely by one power, the emperor, that was that. (Compare with Columbus, who could “shop around” the many superpowers of Europe until his trip across the Atlantic was funded.)

Then, this morning, a pertinent link arrived via Kyle Moffat of forteana: an ancient Chinese map of Africa is now on show in Cape Town (BBC).

The Chinese map, covering more than 17 square metres, was produced in silk. It is thought to be a copy of a map sculpted into rock 20 or 30 years earlier. …

The Da Ming Hun Yi Tu, or Amalgamated Map of the Great Ming Empire, is a unique snapshot of history. Created in China in 1389, and clearly showing the shape of Africa, more than 100 years before Western explorers and map-makers reached the continent.

BTW, worth noting that I came across the Diamond article from a link in Clay Shirky’s guest-blog at Boing Boing. Clay, as usual, is throwing up lots of reading material, which I just don’t have time to read ;) so I’m syncing it all to my Palm with Sitescooper. Come on Xerox, where’s that electronic paper!?

The top 100 PageRanked CGI scripts

similar to the much-discussed-elsewhere http search trick, which figures out the top 100 websites according to PageRank, here’s the top 100 CGI scripts according to PageRank. They’re incomplete, since only scripts with “cgi-bin” in the URL will show up, but hey ho. The top ten:

And the winner is:


more Googlism

let’s ask Googlism some hard questions.

Googlism, what is the web?

  • the web is like canada

  • the web is dedicated to breathing life into women’s

  • the web is crippling

  • the web is ruined and i ruined it self

OK, what about the internet?

  • the internet is falling

  • the internet is not printed on paper

  • the internet is like is like a penis

  • the internet is no substitute

And Ireland?

  • ireland is dedicated entirely to development aid

  • ireland is at an end

  • ireland is again the “dirty man” of europe when it comes to

  • ireland is not disneyland

  • ireland is british (what?!)

  • ireland is looking for a german inhouse translator

Right. That’s quite enough I think…

more on vehicular travel

rOD links to Massholes, an incredible gripe site for residents of Massachusetts to bitch about shitty driving, for example:

Dear Masshole Driver,

WHAT on earth makes you think that making a right hand turn from the left hand lane is a good idea??? Really, I’d like to know.

Signed, The-nice-person-you-totally-cut-off-and-almost-killed

Incredible stuff. Sounds like they could do with the cool innovation recently introduced here — the “dob-a-dangerous-driver” line (1).

Let’s say you’re doing what a friend of mine did a few months ago: crossing the road, with your kid in a buggy, at a pedestrian crossing, with the lights in your favour — then a speeding driver breaks the lights at top speed and nearly totals the pair of you.

This great innovation then allows you to whip out your mobile phone (hey, this is europe, everyone has one (2)), and immediately report the car’s registration number — and 2 weeks later he receives a fine! Hey presto, instant justice. (3)

And in the last week, they’ve introduced penalty points for bad driving; 12 points and you lose your license. Things can only get better — for the pedestrians that is, at least. ;)

(1: no, it’s not really called that BTW)

(2: except me, that is — I’m so far ahead of the bleeding edge I’ve given them up)

(3: well, I’m exagerrating, I think there was more witness and due process involved, but it’s pretty close.)

(4: errno==EDANGLE: dangling footnote found)


ThinkGeek sent me a voucher for 30 bucks. Thanks ThinkGeek (or Sourceforge, I’m not sure which)! So here’s what I got:

Mousetrap For Your Fridge Or File Cabinet!

When is the last time you played with your marbles? Welp, dust off your old marble collection (or use the included marbles) and set them on a journey they’ll never forget.

You design the marble’s treacherous path down the steep slope of your fridge or file cabinet (or any metal surface, as these things are magnetic). You have at your arsenal a combination of chutes, funnels, catapults, spinners and sheer drop offs to arrange according to your mood and tastes.

Give your marble the gift of extreme sports, all in the comfort of your own home or office. Because happy marbles breed happy times…

Too cool. Thanks ThinkGeek/Sourceforge!

(On the other hand, BTW, their chosen shipper for Europe happily charges an extra 6 euros for “import duty”. but hey, the toy was free.)

BBC front page for Ireland Offline

man, this is sweet! BBC front page coverage for Ireland Offline

“Eircom has cited congestion of the network and not enough demand as the arguments against unmetered (internet access),” said Mr (Dave) Long (IO chairman).

BT-owned ESAT is just one of the telecom operators challenging Eircom to offer a wholesale unmetered product.

“There is huge pent-up demand and our ears are sore from listening to our own customers. For Eircom to say there is no demand is condescending and naive,” said (Una) McGirr (of ESAT BT).

Maybe what Eircom mean, is that there’s not enough demand to outweigh the unfeasibly large revenues they make from metered internet calls…

the ever-tricky ‘getting semen from a gorilla’ problem

(ish!): The management of Sydney’s Taronga Zoo has mooted “manual stimulation” of Kibabu the gorilla, in order to grab some monkey semen for artificial insemination.

“I believe it’s done in Europe”, they say (maybe they’re harking back to the days of Weimar Berlin). Zookeepers, being the ones who’d get their hands dirty (so to speak), are — understandably — not too keen.

It now looks like something called “electro-ejaculation” will be used instead… sounds painful. (Link from forteana.)

Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 07:04:12 +1000
From: Peter Darben (spam-protected)
Subject: Gorilla Wankers

—– (from The Age (Melbourne) 31.10.02)

Gorilla tactics rejected

October 31 2002 By Phillip Cornford

Kibabu the gorilla’s inability to produce offspring has become an embarrassing industrial issue for Taronga Zoo in Sydney.

The zoo management’s proposal for an artificial insemination program using manual stimulation of the sedated gorilla was vetoed by zookeepers.

“It was too bloody dangerous,” a zookeeper said last night. “What if he woke up?”

Red-faced Taronga officials last night confirmed the masturbation program was proposed last May, but said there had been no further attempt to employ it. “I believe it’s done in Europe,” a spokesman said. “There’s been a lot of discussion on how to get semen from Kibabu for artificial insemination.”

Instead, Kibabu – whose harem numbers five females – will probably be stimulated by an electrical device, a process called electro-ejaculation. Kibabu’s failure emerged yesterday as about 350 zoo staff planned to stop work at 2pm tomorrow to discuss workplace agreement issues, including wages, working hours, stress and job-related risks.




My googlism: apparently I’m a tool to autoretrieve news from popular, or am I scheduled to be tried on those charges in december? yikes.

Cod fishing ban needed in Europe

the EU’s scientific advisors have stated that cod stocks in Europe are at their lowest ever levels, and will collapse without action. grim! More at New Scientist.

Blog Is Good

blog is a Good Word — official. From Bayesian analysis of my mail spool, blog shows up 1525 times in non-spam mail, and never in spam. blocked by AOL for two weeks

Things are getting crazy in the fight against spam: it seems AOL blocked access (for two weeks) to its mailserver from, one of Sweden’s biggest ISPs (if not the biggest), due to spam.

Attached is an unauthorized translation of an article in the Swedish IDG paper Computer Sweden (web edition, Oct 24), provided by Claes Tullbrink.

Until a (previous) article was published, noting this ban, AOL had not succeeded in contacting Telia to talk about it. Amazing stuff.

Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2002 14:51:19 +0200
From: Claes Tullbrink (spam-protected)
Subject: not blocked by AOL any longer

Computer Sweden (in Swedish, password may be required after today):

Oct 24, pm.

For more then two weeks mail from was blocked by AOL.

Jocelyn Cole, AOL UK, confirmed the block, which was due to big amounts of spam sent from Telia domains to AOL. The block is now removed, and AOL is cooperating with Telia to find a long term solution to decrease the amount of spam sent from Telia, to protect AOL customers.

Press officer Jan Sjöberg, Telia, says it was the article that solved the issue: a Telia contact person name was mentioned in the article, and it seems
that AOL had read the articles [and *so* and in no other way knew who they could contact? CT]

Jan Sjöberg is still not sure how the block was related to spam: due to spam, reports of spam or a customer’s open mail relay. Telia will investigate. [proxies was not mentioned. I don’t know if “reports of spam” relates to refusing to accept plain mail reports sent to (spam-protected)


Damn those foibles

Over on Boing Boing, Danny O’Brien notes

People who know me well enough, or google well enough, to uncover out my weirder behaviours will know that I can’t drive. It’s not some high-falutin’ statement about the environment. I’m just not very good at remembering which pedal does what.

Well, it’s good to hear there’s one more out there; me neither. It’s become a bit of a worry recently, since I may be moving to LA, which is notoriously one of the most ped-unfriendly places in the world (Antarctica excepted).

But why, you ask? I don’t know — but I think it’s a combo of these factors:

  • owning a car in Ireland is phenomenally expensive: due to bizarre traits of the insurance biz over here, it costs about $100-$140 a week to drive a car. That’s quite a luxury. For that price, you might as well just take cabs everywhere and let someone else do the hard work.

  • I live more-or-less in Dublin city centre, so walking and cycling does the trick nicely.

  • Dublin’s got good public transport for when the weather’s bad (see also cabs above).

  • er, laziness.

I guess it may be something I’ll have to sort out, at some stage, maybe. Eventually. (Damn that laziness!)


Bernie Goldbach is currently blogging live from the floor of OPEN_HOUSE_001, Media Lab Europe’s inaugural conference.

I’m impressed — by the technology, that is ;) . He’s blogging via email from a Nokia 9210i Communicator, to a Radio weblog, then via XML-RPC to the Kirbycom New Media Cuts Movable Type blog. cool!

Anyway, that’s enough of that — gotta get back to work!

IEDR spams all .ie Postmaster addresses

Nice one! The IE Domain Registry (IEDR) has just sent out a ‘free newsletter‘ to all postmaster addresses in the entire .ie top-level domain. Yes, every one.

And did they follow the best practices for legit mailing list operators, like

  • (a) never mailing without a previous sign-up, or even

  • (b) setting up the list to use verified opt-in (“reply to confirm that you want to receive further mail”), instead of opt-out (“reply if you do not want to receive further mail”)?

Of course not:

YOU WILL BE RECEIVING this free bi-monthly ezine because you are one of our 31,000+ .ie domain name holders, an Irish journalist, with an Irish government body or have a legitimate interest in matters relating to the Domain Name System (DNS) in all Ireland, concerning .ie domain names. This publication is delivered by email and will serve as an official channel of the IEDR to deliver notices and announcements.

If you do not wish to receive, you can unsubscribe by clicking on the link below.

Not my emphasis, BTW. But don’t worry — their mail host was already listed in the DNS blacklists as a Confirmed Spam Source by the time I received it, so I don’t think we’ll be actually receiving many more of them ;)

For more information on the hi-larious antics of our national registrar, take a look at IEWatch.

Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2002 06:08:10 -0400
From: “Sophie Pozzey” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: The IEDR’s e-mail newsletter – Welcome

Dear Sir/Madam,

The IE Domain Registry Ltd. (IEDR – is an independent not-for-profit organisation that manages the .ie country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) namespace in the public interest of the Irish and global Internet communities. In line with the Best Practice Principles of IANA, ICANN, and CENTR, the IEDR is committed to the concept of administering .ie throughout all Ireland in an open and transparent manner.

INSIDE.IE, THE IEDR’S FREE BI-MONTHLY E-MAIL NEWSLETTER, assists us in attaining and maintaining this standard and in ensuring that recipients will be kept abreast of .ie and DNS related issues, nationally and internationally.

YOU WILL BE RECEIVING this free bi-monthly ezine because you are one of our 31,000+ .ie domain name holders, an Irish journalist, with an Irish government body or have a legitimate interest in matters relating to the Domain Name System (DNS) in all Ireland, concerning .ie domain names. This publication is delivered by email and will serve as an official channel of the IEDR to deliver notices and announcements.

If you do not wish to receive, you can unsubscribe by clicking on the link below.

Yours sincerely Sophie Pozzey

Co-ordinator, Head of Public Affairs & Communications IE Domain Registry Ltd Tel: 01 2300 797
Email: (spam-protected)

-|To be removed from this list, use this link: (spam-protected) To receive future messages in HTML format, use this link: (spam-protected)

Cat Herding

Danny at Oblomovka bought a Roomba, and finds it extra useful for scaring cats.

Still, we did our final moving cash splurge today, and bought a Roomba. And, what do you know, it’s actually pretty good: both at cleaning and removing the bejesus out of nearby cats. It backed Dyson into the corner of our living room within minutes – she kept tottering backwards for about ten yards, like she was facing the Feline Terminator.

In a similar vein: I can vouch that, if Lego Mindstorms is good for anything, it’s scaring cats with its Otherworldly Silicon Intelligence. I think most cats eventually figure out that if there’s a string or stick linking a menacing object and a human, odds are that the human is controlling the object somehow. As a result, a robot really freaks them out.

But with Lego Mindstorms, they do get their revenge eventually, by eating the smaller bricks next time you build a ‘bot.

So like, a third of the rootservers went down and we didn’t even notice. (fwd)

wow, seven to nine of the thirteen DNS root servers were flood-attacked on Monday, and nobody noticed. That’s cool.

… experts said the attack, which started about 4:45 p.m. EDT Monday, transmitted data to each targeted root server 30 to 40 times normal amounts. One said that just one additional failure would have disrupted e-mails and Web browsing across parts of the Internet.

Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 19:59:06 -0400
From: (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: So like, a third of the rootservers went down and we didn’t even notice.

Yea, I certainly didn’t notice. Its cool and scary really — Cool that the whole net didn’t cease to be (even for an hour) and bad that 9 rootservers died period.

Scary mofo shit.

Powerful attack cripples majority of key Internet computers

TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

(10-22) 16:07 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) —

An unusually powerful electronic attack briefly crippled nine of the 13 computer servers that manage global Internet traffic this week, officials disclosed Tuesday. But most Internet users didn’t notice because the attack only lasted one hour.

The FBI and White House were investigating. One official described the attack Monday as the most sophisticated and large-scale assault against these crucial computers in the history of the Internet. The origin of the attack was not known.

Seven of the 13 servers failed to respond to legitimate network traffic and two others failed intermittently during the attack, officials confirmed.

The FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center was “aware of the denial of service attack and is addressing this matter,” spokesman Steven Berry said.

Service was restored after experts enacted defensive measures and the attack suddenly stopped.

The 13 computers are spread geographically across the globe as precaution against physical disasters and operated by U.S. government agencies, universities, corporations and private organizations.

“As best we can tell, no user noticed and the attack was dealt with and life goes on,” said Louis Touton, vice president for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Internet’s key governing body.

Brian O’Shaughnessy, a spokesman for VeriSign Inc., which operates two of the 13 computers in northern Virginia, said “these sorts of attacks will happen.”

“We were prepared, we responded quickly,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We proactively cooperated with our fellow root server operators and the appropriate authorities.”

Computer experts who manage some of the affected computers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were cooperating with the White House through its Office of Homeland Security and the President’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Board.

Richard Clarke, President Bush’s top cyber-security adviser and head of the protection board, has warned for months that an attack against the Internet’s 13 so- called root server computers could be dramatically disruptive.

These experts said the attack, which started about 4:45 p.m. EDT Monday, transmitted data to each targeted root server 30 to 40 times normal amounts. One said that just one additional failure would have disrupted e-mails and Web browsing across parts of the Internet.

Monday’s attack wasn’t more disruptive because many Internet providers and large corporations and organizations routinely store, or “cache,” popular Web directory information for better performance.

“The Internet was designed to be able to take outages, but when you take the root servers out, you don’t know how long you can work without them,” said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, a security organization based in Bethesda, Md.

Although the Internet theoretically can operate with only a single root server, its performance would slow if more than four root servers failed for any appreciable length of time.

In August 2000, four of the 13 root servers failed for a brief period because of a technical glitch.

A more serious problem involving root servers occurred in July 1997 after experts transferred a garbled directory list to seven root servers and failed to correct the problem for four hours. Traffic on much of the Internet ground to a halt.

— Best regards,

bitbitch                          (spam-protected)

Why giraffes stink

Giraffes smell so bad for the same reason tourists do: to repel parasites.

(Explanation: in Laos, we heard a funny story about a tourist on the bus who noticed that no locals wanted to sit beside him. He got talking to a local kid and asked why this was, and the kid let him in on the secret: the locals reckon tourists stink of insect repellent. And they’re right) (Link)

Date: Mon, 21 Oct 2002 11:04:22 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Why giraffes stink

Ananova: Scientists explain why giraffes smell so bad

Researchers say they have evidence that giraffes smell bad to repel parasites.

Scientists at California’s Humboldt State University have found their skin contains a cocktail of antibiotics and repellents.

The team arrived at its conclusion by analysing hair from the neck and back of a zoo giraffe.

They identified several smelly chemicals that work to stunt the growth of fungi and bacteria on skin.

These included indole and 3-methylindole; the same chemical compounds that make faeces smell.

Another compound present – para-cresol – is present in creosote and serves to repel bloodsucking ticks.

Biologist William Wood says rangers and zookeepers have long “noted that giraffes have this overpowering aroma.”

South African vernacular for an old male giraffe is “stink bull.” He suggests the aroma probably plays an important sexual function. He told Nature an overpowering smell would give potential partners a clear signal that an individual is free of fleas.

Story filed: 10:54 Monday 21st October 2002