October 27, 2003

Comment spam – what next?

Interesting … today, I stumbled across a whole discussion about comment spam when I went over to the Movable Type site to see if there were any updates to it. I’d mentioned a while back about the strange comments that I’d seen here and how I’d deleted them but couldn’t get the entries to rebuild. The entries not rebuilding was a separate problem (Norton Personal Firewall :p) but the comments turn out to have been comment spam. At that point, it made no sense to me at all as to why somebody would leave a weird comment on my site but I deleted the comments anyway in principle since their site URL always seemed to be a porn something or something like that. I simply assumed that they were trying to get people to visit their site by way of these inane comments. Turns out that it is more complicated than that – most people seem to think that these obnoxious comments are actually a way for these spammers to up their Google ranking!

Now that I knew of the situation, I wanted a solution – some way to thwart these idiots who would try to use my site for their own purposes :p Fortunately, the Movable Type discussion also had a link to a blacklist plugin by a guy named Jay Allen. The plug-in seems to be extremely easy to install – just upload three files, run a web-based configuration and you are done and instead of relying on the not so efficient IP banning, (which I never used with the previous comments I deleted since each comment was from a different IP … ) the blacklist plugin actually scans the comment content to see if the comment is acceptable or not. Of course, I haven’t had a major problem with comment spammers (I’ve probably got less than ten spam comments) and so probably need not worry about this at all. However, I hear some people have gotten "hundreds" of comment spam for one entry and so I want to make sure that I don’t end up in the same situation. So I’ve installed the blacklist plugin and will now await eagerly to see if it does indeed work or if it will block all my usual commenters out too :p

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Posted by Fahim at 4:33 pm  |  1 Comment

October 26, 2003

Another month, another entry …

Boy, how time passes! It’s been more than a month since my last entry and I really haven’t noticed the passage of time at all! Ah well, what can I say except that I’ve been busy? :p I’ve been coding up a storm, working and to top it all off, I’m probably going to start writing again too :) And when I say writing, I don’t mean here on the blog (unfortunately, my blogs are probably going to be the ones to suffer because of my writing – ironic since I used to write the most here) but for actual publications … I used to do quite a bit of writing for a local Sunday newspaper before I got into the whole blogging thing but that was about seven or eight years ago. Then I left for the US and most (if not all) of my writing got targeted for an online audience. When I came back to Sri Lanka, I thought of writing again for the newspaper but things never seemed to work out and I sort of forgot all about it.

Then last week, a friend of mine that I used to work with visited my workplace and she asked me if I’d want to do a piece on gadgets for her since she publishes a magazine here in Sri Lanka. I said sure and since she wanted it that day itself, dashed off about a page on my Sony Ericsson P800. In the evening, I received an SMS from her saying that she loved the article and asking me if I’d like to do it on a monthly basis for her and I said, sure. The next day, I decided to give my editor at the old newspaper a call and say “Hi” since the whole article thing brought up memories of writing for the newspaper. I call her and she says “I’ve been meaning to call you since I wanted you to think about writing a column for us again” and I was again set off wondering about whether there are is anything called a coincidence :p We discussed several ideas and as the day progressed, I began thinking more and more about one particular idea we’d discussed and by the end of the day, I was ready to write the article :)

I have this habit of going the whole hog when I do a regular column, I design the logo, I do the graphic and then I also do the column since I have a particular look or feel in mind and so I try to get my whole vision out – not just the words. This time was no exception – I scouted around for a specific graphic to convey the idea I had in mind and then worked over the weekend in creating a logo that I was happy with. I can’t say that I’m totally happy with the final product since I was kind of limited by the fonts on my machine but I decided to go with what I had and move on to the article itself – which I think I finished within an hour :) Now I’ve got all the pieces together but my editor still has not seen it and I have no idea if she will even like it … Guess I’ll find out when I present it to her this week and if she does, I’ll be writing again weekly – and never fear, I’ll post a link here to the online version of the paper so that you can read every word that I write – if you want to read them that is :)

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Posted by Fahim at 11:50 am  |  1 Comment

Yes, I’ve again not written for ages … and the promised Blog beta? It’s not seen the light of day either … and to top it all off, the comments system seems to have stopped working too!! Yes, I know … I know … but what can I say? Things have been really hectic. I’ve been coding … but not on Blog which is still on that promised beta which has not had much work done on it … instead, I have been working on two new apps – one is for my wife who is a writer. She needed an application which would work as a writer’s editor – something which would help her create a plot, write for each section of the plot and yet allow her to move plot elements around and still have the attached text move along with it too. I let her look at some of the treeview based editors out there like TreePad but she didn’t like any of them or they lacked all the features that she wanted. So I created what I call Amanuensis – an editor which is tailored specifically for writers. It’s got all the fancy stuff you’d want from a word processor and still allows you to have the document in a tree-based layout so you can move elements around and re-arrange things. I also intend to add a timeline feature to it so that you can move things and rearrange stuff even more easily but that is for the future. At the moment Laurie is still beta testing it and I’m still working out the kinks in the code.

The second app? It’s something that I wrote to help me keep track of stuff – yes another one of those :p I’ve noticed recently that when we go grocery shopping, the prices are different each week for stuff like fruit and vegetables and to make it even more crazy, the prices for the same item vary at different stores! I wanted to find out the trends in pricing as well as what was the cheapest at which store and I discovered that something like Excel was just not up to the task – not when it came to keeping track of multiple prices for the same item at different stores. So, in keeping with my policy of building it if it doesn’t exist, I set to work :) I first wanted to do the app in Borland’s C# Builder just so that I could get some experience with the new IDE but it soon became apparent to me that I was wasting a lot of time struggling with C# and the limited amount of components that I had to work with when I could simply do the job in Delphi. So, I dropped my code that I’d been working on for about three days and started from scratch in Delphi and had the whole thing working in less than two days! It’s fairly basic at the moment since all it does is allow you to enter stores, items and units (so that you don’t have to keep on entering the same info all the time) and then has an option to enter your purchases. Once youv’e got sufficient data entered, you can use the charting feature to compare the prices for a given item at different stores over a period of time as a line chart or a bar chart. Kind of basic but it does let me see pricing trends and figure out what the best places to shop are.

Then today I found out that the RazorSys mirror’s DNS is borked and that fahim.razorsys.com does not resolve and that means that the comments don’t work either! I’d been meaning to convert the existing comments system over to my new system (which I call Mentor) that uses PHP and mySQL and stores the comments in a database instead of the current flat file method. However, with all the stuff that’s been going on, I just haven’t had the time to move all the old flat file base comments over to the database. But it looks as if that’ll have to wait since I’ve decided to move the comments over anyway so that the comments would finally work off this server :)

And I guess that’s it for my (what is now becoming monthly) roundup and if I have the time, I’ll probably do an update over at SM too since there is even more stuff to talk about … but that stuff’s not coding related and so won’t really fit in here :p

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Posted by Fahim at 10:29 am  |  No Comments