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June 2005

Spam, again

I need to take another look at the spam thing. First, they start abusing trackbacks as well as comments, then they stop using pinappleproxy, and now they're back to comment spamming my whole blog, including new posts. Plans:

  • Try the updated block on the spampop page.
  • Add an IP blacklist to RdMise again. I can probably do this as a normal app, as all RdMise apps are created before the response is made. I'll have any comment spam attempts that are caught by my other filters result in an addition to the list. This list should be a good start.
  • I turned off the tarpit a while ago. Not sure if it makes a difference, but I might try it again.
  • I really need proper moderation so suspicious comments can be hidden temporarily.

VLC 0.8.2: Over 1 million downloads!

According to the VideoLAN statistics (XML), the latest version of VLC (released 3 days ago) has been downloaded over 1 million times by Windows and Mac users.

Google has also used VLC's browser plugins for its video viewer.

And the mystery of the cone is solved. How disappointing.

Worms 4: Mayhem: Demo: First Impressions

I downloaded the Worms 4 Demo, and decided to make a post with too many colons in the title.

  • When I got it, the only host for the download was Codemasters, and they require registration for access to download links. Fixed with BugMeNot. Direct link: wormsdemopc.exe.
  • InstallShield thinks people care about its brand. Just install, damnit.
  • Both the installer and the start menu group are encouraging me to become a Code M member. Being a Code M member is the only way to get the demo. Fools.
  • The Codemasters name is more prominent than Team17, the actual developers. Though that doesn't really surprise me.
  • This might not be the game's fault, but Kerio Personal Firewall (4.2.0RC2) wouldn't let the game run until I added it to the buffer overflow whitelist.
  • The game refuses to minimize, so I can't be bothered actually playing it at the moment.
  • When I click Quit, I have to watch a splash screen for a few seconds. Not major, just unnecessarily annoying.

Stats, again...

Can you tell how bored I am? I was looking at my stats so far this month, and even bothered to put them into a pretty spreadsheet. Stats first, conclusions later.

  • 28.7% Internet Explorer (25.4% IE6, 3.3% IE4/5/5.5)
  • 68% Gecko (62.6% Firefox, 5.4% SeaMonkey/Galeon/Camino/Netscape)
  • 3.3% Others (1.2% Old Netscape, 1.2% Opera, 0.6% Safari/Konqueror, 0.3% Lynx/Wget/UP)

93.6% of my hits come from either IE6, Gecko, or a text-based browser that doesn't care about CSS quirks.

Opera's doing better than it's done before in my stats, though I still don't have enough hits to make much of a conclusion. IE4/5 usage is getting low enough that, even if I was making a serious site, I wouldn't bother too much trying to make it work. Opera and Safari are worth bothering with because they're growing, and have reasonably good standards support. Some of the problems I've had with them actually turned out to be Mozilla quirks.

Platforms don't (shouldn't?) mean much to a web developer, but we get the stats anyway:

  • 92.7% Windows (80.7% XP/2003, 10.9% 98/ME/CE/2000, 1.1% 95/NT)
  • 5.6% Unixish (3.7% Linux, 1.8% Free/OpenBSD, 0.1% Solaris)
  • 1.7% Mac (1.3% OS X, 0.4% OS9)

Software stopped supporting Windows 95/NT ages ago, and in a lot of cases 98/2000 as well. Both Apple and Microsoft are trying to get everyone to switch to their latest silly named operating system, though in Apple's case OS X has been updated 4 times (Windows XP had two service packs, but the first didn't really add any new features). This doesn't mean very much to web developers, except for the fact that Safari, Opera, and the next versions of Mozilla products only support OS X 10.2 and above.

Then there's always the user who never upgrades. I think Windows 95 shipped with IE3...

Anyway, I think that's about all I have time to write. I was going to note how the stats are skewed because I visit my own website, etc., but screw that. It's my site and I matter the most. This form I'm typing into at the moment has to be right, and so does the RSS reader I'm working on.

Note to angry IE4 users: I'm accepting patches. :|

RSS: To style, or not to style?

I've been working on an XSLT stylesheet for my RSS feeds, somewhat like the BBC feeds (example). But now that I've got it mostly finished, I'm not sure whether I want to use it.

Amongst other things, Dave Winer talks about this in his latest podcast (from about 16:30). He makes these points:

  1. People aren't stupid.
  2. Styled RSS feeds look just like a home page, but they're less useful.
  3. It's better to design for smart people.

Number 1 doesn't mean that everybody understands RSS. It just means that people who don't understand it will realize that, and know how to find the back button. I think I agree with that.

Number 2 means that feed pages become confusing for smart people, and I think number 3 basically means that people who don't understand RSS probably aren't going to care about subscribing to feeds anyway. I can't disagree with that.

So I'm not going to be making a stylesheet, at least not one that "obfuscates" the XML.

It's that time again...

Database design. Bah. I'll post the current structure I'm planning for my feed reader so that people can get confused with / poke holes in / plan security exploits for it.

Table "feeds"

  • fid - Autoincremented primary key.
  • title
  • homeurl - URL of the HTML version.
  • feedurl - URL of the RSS feed.
  • enabled - If 1, the feed should be checked.
  • failcount - Incremented by 1 each time the feed fails. Set to 0 each time the feed is successfully checked.
  • visible - If 0, the feed and all new items from it are only visible to the admin.
  • lastupdate

Table "items"

  • fid - Secondary key.
  • iid - Autoincremented primary key.
  • title
  • itemurl
  • visible
  • starred - If 1, the admin has marked this as interesting.
  • created

I'll start off with a links-only reader for RSS 2.0 feeds, and see what I feel like adding in later versions.

Oh, and about PHP5 support. I can't be arsed.

This rock keeps tigers away...

I've changed the text next to the trackback URL and the comment form so it's a bit more non-standard. It's supposed to stop spammers that look for targets using search engines.

Stuff...

...I want to work on

  • The ChatZilla code viewer from my last post.
  • XSL to make my RSS feeds pretty.
  • Draft posts and comment formatting for this blog.
  • My RSS feed reader, name undecided.
  • A ChatZilla plugin giving easy access to options that aren't visible in XULRunner. Working name is "Clutter".

...that's distracting me

  • Gunz - addictive online shooting thingy-wotsit.
  • Moany people on IRC.
  • Information overload from my feeds.

...that's just pissing me off

  • Bug 296764.
  • T-Mobile, and their attempt at a GPRS service. (Note to people who think that should have an abbreviation tag on it: I haven't a clue what GPRS actually means, and don't feel the need to find out.)
  • Hayfever. 'Nuff said.

ChatZilla Source Highlighting

Pointless, but fun: ChatZilla Trunk source.

I've been playing around with CHIP, and managed to make a script that reads the source to ChatZilla, adds syntax highlighting (JavaScript only) and line numbers, and outputs everything. I then dynamically read in the processed files and add navigation with PHP.

It's sort-of a mini LXR, just for ChatZilla. Stuff I will hopefully do at some point:

  • Stop it breaking binary files (example).
  • Add syntax highlighting for shell scripts, makefiles, RDF, and XUL. CHIP already supports HTML, which should work for the last two.
  • Fix CHIP so invalid code doesn't produce invalid HTML.
  • Add some sort of search.
  • Support something like LXR's ?raw=1 as an easy way to get the original source.

Edit: Done the first three. Search is complicated, and raw view requires two copies of the source to be uploaded, but that shouldn't be too hard.

Karoo making some progress...

Dear Karoo Broadband customer,

KAROO BROADBAND - FASTER SPEEDS AT LOWER PRICES!

We are delighted to inform you of a number of exciting new changes we are making to our unlimited Karoo Broadband services from July.

Woh. Calm down.

Over the next few months, we will be automatically INCREASING your current Karoo Broadband speed, from 750kbps to 1Mbps, completely free of charge, making your Internet experience even better.

Yay, I suppose. A bit more upstream to go with that would be nice, but I'm not bothered.

We are also reducing the price of your Karoo Broadband service, from £27.99 per month to £24.99 per month, to give you even greater value for money, and saving you £36 a year.

Not like it's my money. But it's certainly a more reasonable price than before.

Share your broadband connection with other members of your household with our new broadband router for only £69.99 inc. VAT.

Fail.

Testing, testing, poke...

Just made a few minor changes to RdPress. I'll call it 0.6.1 if nobody minds.

  • Minor changes to spam filter for trackbacks.
  • Cleanup of the XML validation on the add entry form.
  • Titles only RSS feed.
  • Technorati links on tag pages.

Other Mozilla Stuff

  • Bug 176079 is fixed. From Firefox 1.1, websites won't be able to abuse Flash to create popups, and plugin developers like Macromedia will have a way of telling the browser whether a popup was requested or not.
  • ChatZilla now has a basic wiki page for development discussions.
  • I'm working on a build script for ChatZilla on XULRunner.
  • I'm having a go at building Lightning, the project to integrate the Mozilla Calendar with Thunderbird. Fun.

Tab Usability

Asa posts about tabs in IE7, and Gerv replies:

Actually, this isn't such a bad idea. Our tab implementation actually isn't a model of good UI design. I might say: "At the moment, in the Firefox tab implementation, you change a tab and then some UI above the tab (the URL bar) changes. WTF?"

Good UI design says that tabs should be above all the content which changes when they change. So the links toolbar (if installed) should be inside the tabs, and the URL bar should be inside the tabs. The bookmarks bar should be outside the tabs. The navigation buttons could probably be either but, given that they are in the same toolbar as the URL bar, inside seems better.

I think that browser tabs are one case where ease of use beats good UI design. The single thing I do most often in my browser is tab switching, and having the tabs directly above the content means I don't have to move the mouse as far, and I'm less likely to slip and hit the refresh button or something. I remember when I tried Opera's default layout I just couldn't get used to it.

ChatZilla tabs (screenshot) are another good example. 90% of the time, my mouse cursor is over the input box, the tabs, or the bottom of the the output window using my scroll wheel. Having the tabs below nearly all their content sounds stupid in theory, but in practice, it works.

On a Mac, the menu bar is always at the top of the screen, but it changes when the user switches windows. Although I think I'd find that hard to get used to, it makes some sense because it's predictable. In fact, that makes me wonder - could I put browser tabs at the very top of the screen and benefit from "infinite height"?

Maybe after my exams...

1.1

They said it would never work. They said everybody would wait. Sixty million downloads later...

Some people are still waiting. The fact is, Firefox and Thunderbird are still "just 1.0". As 1.1 approaches, there really needs to be at least a marketing focus on the fixes that make Firefox and Thunderbird well-rounded products. Products that listen.

There was a massive demand for drag-and-drop tabs in Firefox, so much that multiple extensions added the feature in their own different ways. It's in 1.1.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd like to have the option to auto reply to certain messages without messing about with my server. It's in 1.1.

Well, that's what I think.

About that PSU...

I recently bought a new PSU from a local company. The receipt shows a VAT-inclusive cost of £13.37.

>:|

ChatZilla Status

Since 25th May:

  • Fixed: Bug 180574 - ban, unban aliases not implemented
  • Fixed: Bug 283521 - Add security icon/button to the Chatzilla status bar.
  • Fixed: 9 other bugs
  • Awaiting review: Bug 134814 - Collapsing messages will collapse too much
  • Awaiting review: Bug 207195 - cannot hide joins/parts in chat window [conference mode, already in 0.9.68.x]
  • Ready for checkin: Bug 297417 - Can not exec whois to a Chinese nick sometime.
  • Open ChatZilla bugs: 151

Longer Podcasts, Shorter Promos

Got a new power supply, and I'm busy catching up with podcasts.

I'm really enjoying all the podcasts I subscribe to, and the longer ones just seem to flow better. Who needs promos?

Thoughts on technology

This is really the other half of the audio post I was going to do.

When I got home yesterday and found the computer didn't want to work (the power supply's blown), I picked up my phone, logged on to a website, and blogged about it. Then I sat down and realized how strange that actually was.

I know it's a cliché, but if somebody told you this five or ten years ago, would you believe them? I can pick up a telephone, press some buttons, and within a few minutes, people (admittedly, not very many in my case) will automatically be alerted to my posting, and be able to add comments. Bizarre.

Standards have also impressed me over the past couple of days. The fact that I can temporarily replace my computer with one that's at least five years old, and still be able to connect my ethernet modem. The fact that I can use the same web browser and IRC client on almost any computer. The fact that my website works on a device with a square inch display. And most importantly for my immediate situation, ATX power supplies are fairly cheap.

T-Mobile sucks

I did have an audio post recorded for this, but the backup PC doesn't seem to have any USB ports.

T-Mobile are annoying me. They've changed the name of my price plan to "Relax Pay-As-You-Go", which is silly simply because they only have one pay-as-you-go plan. It comes with the added benefit of the same rip-off rate no matter who you're calling.

And if you spend £40 per month for three consecutive months, they'll give you a half-decent rate - for the rest of the month. You have to spend about 5 hours on the phone to get there, and if you do that, you're probably better off on something else.

On the other hand, my GPRS started working properly today. It only took two years...

BOOM

My computer smells of burning and won't start up, so I think now is a good time to check for phone usability. It seems fine, but the search box is annoying.

A good day to bury news...

Apparently there's a verdict in the Michael Jackson trial now. Picture of the day: "Sky News, over the top? Don't be silly!".

I dunno, am I meant to express an opinion here or something?

All I can say is that from the skewed version of the evidence I've seen via the mainstream media, I'm not convinced either way.

Junk email is getting ridiculous

Seriously. 700 emails overnight. Mostly viruses from the "Rdmsoft Support Department". My POP3 account is using about ten times as much bandwidth as the website itself.

I'm going to block emails addressed from support, admin, mail, service, webmaster, and info @ this domain and see what happens.

On the subject of spam, I don't seem to have had any referrer spam or comment spam attempts this month, and my trackback filtering is holding up. Good times, I suppose.

More negative

Note: tunnie.com is dead, links to it removed.

Tunnie: Practices and justification

Heh.

You make some good points, but I don't think I'm convinced on the abbreviation tags. I suppose my main reason for not using them (much) is laziness. Or I suppose, I don't really feel I owe anything to my visitors, at least not those who can't be bothered to JFGI. Anyway, I'm not too sure my pages would make sense if you read them backwards ;).

I guess my point is that a user who sees "HTML" and thinks "WTF?" isn't going to see "Hypertext Markup Language" and suddenly receive enlightenment.

I agree on the validation buttons. It depends on context. For rdmsoft.com, a personal site that happens to valid and fairly semantic, I think I'll put a note about it somewhere leave it at that. (It's important to promote other good design practices, but these generally become obvious after a bit of work trying to make things validate.)

One other thing for "Not In My Backend" - pretty quotes. I quite like the idea of changing "this" to “this” automatically like WordPress, but I often post code samples and it'd be a lot of work to avoid screwing them up.

I'll close with a question. PNG - acronym or initialism?

Quote!

Jeremy Zawodny (works at Yahoo!) comments on Asa's post about Firefox compatibility:

On Launch and Firefox...

Yeah, we know.

We know.

WE KNOW.

Classic.

karooed.

I made a new word. Well, sort of. I verbified a trademark, which is always fun.

karoo, Verb: To randomly cut off a user of your service.

  • User: "Argh, my ISP karooed me three times last night!"
  • Engineer: "I'm bored, let's karoo somebody."

Edit (June 16th): Now defined at Urban Dictionary.

Microsoft Download Center blocking Deer Park users

I noticed bug 297177 this morning. Apparently users of the Firefox 1.1 Alpha (Deer Park) can't access the Microsoft Download Center. It was also sent in to Reporter, so I decided to investigate a bit.

It worked fine when I pretended to be MSIE, and it worked fine when I set it to Opera. It worked with Firefox 1.0. I eventually worked out that the Microsoft script is failing on the Gecko version of "1.8b2". Remove the "b", and it works.

A bit pathetic that the script crashes out if the User-Agent isn't exactly as expected, but meh, at least it doesn't seem to be intentional.

Technorati picking my tags up

Technorati has been confusing me for a while. At first it didn't seem to index anything I posted, then it worked a bit, then I added tags and they didn't work...

Meh, things seem to be okay now, from looking at Google caches and my referrer log. I still need to remember to keep pinging them, since I don't have anything automatic sorted yet.

ChatZilla Stuff

I've re-done my ChatZilla pages, adding an IdentD plugin, a motif, and instructions for running ChatZilla on XULRunner.

Internet Circus Provider

Karoo sucks. Everybody knows it, but as far as I'm aware nobody's made a song about it until now.

So tunnie.com presents: Karoo.

Not In My Backend, part 3

This is the final part, I promise.

  • A Blogging API - I don't really oppose this in principle, but I don't think I'd ever use it. Every time I think that creating posts in an external program would help, I realize it's just because my form sucks.
  • Static page generation seems like too much work for very little gain. I really wouldn't know where to start. One thing I will hopefullly be doing soon is adding support for If-Modified-Since to reduce RSS bandwidth.
  • RSS 1.0 (I would link to the spec, but I can't find a copy that works at the moment.) - A Really Simple way of describing RSS1 is "RSS2, but not really simple". I found an incredibly useful article detailing all the things you could do with RSS1, but really never felt the need to. Maybe I have "onomacoelphobia", or maybe I just want to make a feed for my blog that other people can parse easily ("other people" includes PHP4 users). I'm undecided on Atom. It's certainly more complicated than RSS2, but its features might be useful.
  • XHTML and CSS vaildation buttons. Validation is never bad, but this strange form of boasting is just pointless. Most users will be confused by it, search engines will see it as another useless link, and experienced users will use it as an opportunity to mock you if you misplace a single tag.

Google Sitemaps

Interesting. Google's latest surprise is asking webmasters to make indexes of their sites.

Though I thought that was meant to be Google's job, I can see how it might help. The new format includes modification dates and indexing priority for each page. There's already a basic script for WordPress, and I could certainly write a script for this site, but I'm not sure whether it's worth it since RdMise doesn't have modification dates, or any idea which pages are more important.

Still... some form of site map is on the RdMise/0.10 list.

tH