Archive for October, 2006

A pox on Netcathost!

I blogged earlier about blocking some ip ranges to prevent comment spam, but the Russian-owned, Italian-spam-spewing range expanded to get past the two ranges I had originally blocked.

So, Netcathost,  your whole range is now a welcome and permanent fixture to my firewall deny table, all packets from are forever banished into the ether.

Up yours spammer.


Technorati tags: ,

October 31st, 2006

Of IE7, Firefox and fonts

When IE7 was launched, I dutifully installed it, since it had a few features that I was interested in and it was reportedly more secure than IE6. All in all, slightly underwhelming, but a big improvement on IE 6, but then that isn’t really hard.

For day-to-day surfing I use FireFox, so I dutifully downloaded Firefox 2.0 when it became visible on the Mozilla ftp site. So far I’m impressed: it feels faster; the majority of my extensions worked a treat; I like the improvements to the tabs and so far no crashes.

But, by far the biggest change to my system was brought about by IE7, and that is my switching to using Cleartype instead of the normal XP anti-aliasing for fonts. I had always assumed that Cleartype was only for LCD displays, which I don’t use on my desktop, but IE forces Cleartype for it’s font rendering and I liked how it rendered. So I switched over to Cleartype in Windows and, frankly, I think it looks a whole lot better.

So, thank you IE7 team; I may still need some convincing that your browser isn’t a monolithic security hole that I only use on sites that absolutely, positively refuse to work with Firefox, but you have indirectly made Windows look new and fresh for me, and I’m grateful for that.


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October 25th, 2006

US were "arrogant and stupid" over Iraq, or not

In an admission that will greatly surprise the seven people in Arkansas that think the war in Iraq is going well, Alberto Fernandez, a member of the US State Department has admitted:

I think there is great room for strong criticism, because without doubt, there was arrogance and stupidity by the United States in Iraq

He also said that the US is willing to “talk to any insurgent group, except Al Queda” in an effort to reduce the bloodshed. This in no way constitutes a change from the stance of “no negotiating with terrorists”, since they’re not terrorists, they’re ‘insurgents’.

Mission accomplished, eh?

One day later, under no pressure from his bosses at all, he retracted his statement.

In further news, the war isn’t being won and the US will not be able to stay for the long term.

So, with certain estimates putting the number of dead in Iraq attributable to the war as over 650,000 (warning, PDF link), civil war being almost inevitable and the most likely outcome would result in the country splitting into three ethnically divided regions, each probably trying to blow up the other two.

But, on the other hand, Iraq has some lovely oil reserves!

I’m not saying that Saddam Hussain was a lovely man who hugged puppies and enjoyed long romantic walks in the rain, but do people really think that post-Saddam Iraq is a better place? More importantly, do you think you’re safer from terrorism now than you were before the invasion?

I don’t.

Still, there is all that lovely oil…

October 23rd, 2006

nVidia drivers can bite hard

I’m a big fan of nVidia graphics cards, unlike my past experience of ATI, nVidia cards have never given me problems.

Recently, my PC would have issues with processes consuming 100% CPU and making Windows grind to a halt. I have a dual CPU machine so the process would only get 100% of one of them, but the process that would suffer the most was explorer. Now when explorer being over-demanding the rest of Windows tends to go with it – programs continue to run but actually interacting with them is a bit of a hit and miss affair. Manually killing explorer would move the problem to another process, and eventually a slow spiral of death from a thousand cuts occurred, in most cases hitting the big red switch was the only solution as shutting down turned into an avalanche of hitting ‘this process has stopped responding’ dialogues.

I was quite prepared to believe that it was just XP suffering from a bad case of bit rot and is in dire need of a re-install, however I don’t like to let things be when they’re bothering me on my own PC so I broke out the heavy tools and started debugging.

The heavy tool of choice in this case was the terrific Process Explorer from SysInternals, it allowed me to dump the stack of the locked up explorer process and at the bottom, sucking all the CPU was the nVidia nView dll, which is part of the nVidia drivers.

I had enabled nView months ago for something and completely forgotten about it, until my debugging session.

One quick trip to control panel and nView was disabled, and I’ve not experienced any process lockups since. If I was a betting man I’d think it was a race condition exacerbated by having dual processors, but in these days of dual-core CPU’s this problem could become more prevalent.


October 23rd, 2006

Blog comment spam – the firewall is your friend

My blog was getting hammered by comment spammers, none of them were getting through thanks to Akismet, but still I found it annoying to say the least.

Fortunately, the spamming morons were always coming from two address ranges, so I just dropped their /24 blocks into iptables and now they don't even know that this blog exists any more, as their packets simply disappear into the ether.

So, for peace of mind, drop these two ranges into your server firewall and live a slightly happier, less spamful life.

If you don't know how to do this, ask a responsible adult and / or your server admin.

Naturally, the really scummy comment spammers will use trojaned pcs so this won't help for those purveyors of junk.

[Edited: Blocked comment posting, because, amazingly enough, this entry is the one the spammers like the most]

Technorati tags: comment spam, akismet, iptables

2 comments October 20th, 2006

Religious freedom – the good, the bad and the ugly

There are a number of stories in the news at the moment pertaining to religious freedoms, and how far they should be allowed to intersect with someone’s job.

Firstly, we have the story of Aishah Azmi, a 23 year old teaching assistant in West Yorkshire, who was asked to remove the veil she wears when doing her job. She’s a Muslim and believes that the Koran instructs women to ‘be modest’ in mixed company, so she dons the veil when there is the possibility of men being around. She also wears it when she’s teaching in class, which is where the problem arose, her employers had asked her to remove it when she is teaching English as it’s hardly the most effective educational technique to only show your eyes to your pupils. She refused, and kicked up a fuss about it.

However, when asked, she revealed that when then she was interviewed for the job, she was unveiled, even though there were, *shock*, men present!

The second case hitting the headlines is the case of a BAA worker who is on unpaid leave for not hiding her crucifix necklace while working, as it contravenes the company uniform policy. They specify that all religious paraphernalia should be hidden beneath the uniform, except Sikh turbans or Muslim hijabs since they plainly can’t be. There are plenty of people complaining of religious intolerance towards Christians while not enforcing such stringent rules for other faiths.

Interestingly, I think BAA are being a bit ridiculous, and the school are acting reasonably.

As much as I find the whole ‘invisible man in the sky’ idea utterly stupid, I don’t see a problem with some people showing off small representations of the gallows their founder didn’t die on (as I don’t believe Jesus as portrayed in the Bible actually ever existed); I may think it’s silly, but it’s not going to effect their job.

However the woman in the silk mask is directly interfering with her ability to do her job by hiding her face in case some man sees her and becomes inflamed by lust, or whatever other reason is used to subjugate women in the Koran.

It’s a matter of application – when dealing with people a crucifix or a turban or a hijab or a yarmulke doesn’t impact on their ability to do their job, but a veil?

So, BAA wrong, school right.

I should get a Darwin Fish pendant and wear it proud!

October 15th, 2006

New theme

I thought I’d try a new theme for the blog, so I’ve used Dark Blix with a change of the main graphic to a picture of a sunset I shot a few years ago using a Canon PowerShot G2, which harks back to my days when I was just getting back into photography.

Overall, I quite like it, so I think I’ll stick with it a while to see how it comes out in the wash.

PS, here’s a picture from the same shoot, I was going through a phase of photographing churches at the time and I recall it was a bitterly cold November in 2002 and it was blowing a gale. My fingers were quite numb so you’ll have to forgive my chopping the top off the picture, it was a tricky shot to get!

Nice light though, that’s the magic hour for you.

October 12th, 2006


When I got back into photography a few years ago I started to re-train myself from the point-n-shoot mentality and to actually think about what I was shooting. I spent quite some time learning framing, controlling light et al, to get the technical side of photography sorted out so I could concentrate on the creative side without really thinking.

Then, one day, I was firing test shots with a new lens, paying no attention to any of the above, just seeing how it handled. I was shooting through a dirty window, with the curtains in shot most of the time, you know, basically messing about.

And I got this shot.

Many people have told me they really like it, yet there was no thought to any of the technical matters, it was pure luck.

Ok, I did some post-processing, mainly to fix the framing to remove the shadow of the curtain from the right hand side and colour-correct it.

Since then, I've gotten a whole lot better technically, not to mention gotten better equipment, but I still like the shot even given it's completely serendipitous origins.

October 9th, 2006

When one probe photographs another

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken a picture of the Opportunity Rover, which, frankly, I think is an amazing picture. The more we learn about Mars and other planets in our solar system, the more we will learn about the Earth’s history.

No doubt some moron like Greg Hoaxland will deny it ever happened, or that it’s some artifact from a long-dead Martian civilisation, but the day I pay attention to him is the day I will pour my brain out of my ear.

October 8th, 2006

Spam, Spyware and Scum

[Since I missed yesterday’s post, I’ll put up two today]

I’ve had to disinfect a laptop that was infested with spyware, not the most pernicious variety – the majority of it was hopelessly amateurish – but highly annoying nevertheless.

Pop-ups were flying, search engines co-opted, dozens (and I do mean dozens) of extraneous processess were starting at boot time and making the whole pc practically grind to a halt.

Most of them were fairly easy to remove, however one remained incredibly stubborn, and took several hours to finally purge. But I managed it.

So, makers of Look2Me and WinAntivirusPro, if I ever meet you I shall remove your kneecaps with a screwdriver.

Then make you eat them.

And when you shit out your kneecaps that I made you eat I’ll make you eat it so you shit out the shit that was your kneecaps.

Then, perhaps, you’ll feel a quadrillionth of how you deserve to feel.

1 comment October 8th, 2006

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