comment spam

Comments are off for the day, because I don’t feel like changing things around again to block the one zombie-master who has figured out how to add comments to my blog entries. It’s only about ten a day, he doesn’t actually get anything out of it (my comment pages aren’t indexed in search engines), and the originating IP addresses are blackholed the moment his script posts one of them, but their existence offends me.

I have some code lying around that will defeat his current method (harvest URL from search engines, post comment from an address that’s never surfed my site before, then get the page and see if his comment was added), but I don’t feel like tinkering with Movable Type right now. When I do, it will scramble all comments less than one minute old, preventing the verification pass.

Zombies are pretty stupid, though, so I don’t expect it to stop them from trying. You’d think he’d eventually give up when it became obvious that his spam doesn’t work here, but apparently zombie masters are pretty stupid, too.

Update: I still don’t feel like hacking on the server, so I’m reopening comments on specific entries. The spammers mostly pick on well-indexed, well-referenced blogs, so the new stuff should be pretty safe.

Spam that almost works...

Got three of these today so far:

Subject: Best prices for complete Thundercats and more
Subject: Sabrina the Teenage Witch DVD giveaway
Subject: Whole series of transformers on dvd

They’re selling bootlegs, obviously, but there were no concealed URLs, no viral attachments, no embedded images. For junk mail, they’re positively wholesome; the closest thing to obnoxious porn was that they listed “The Nanny” as an available series…

Sometimes, life really bites...

As a rule, I’m reluctant to contribute when bloggers seek donations; for the most part, I’m a “friends and family” giver. In the specific case of Kate’s teeth, however, it’s the timing that really makes her stand out from the crowd.

Photoshop tips

Apropos of nothing, I thought I’d mention that the two most recently posted pictures here were resized in Photoshop CS, using the new(-ish) Bicubic Sharper resampling method, available in the Image Size dialogue box. I hadn’t seen any mention of it until about two weeks ago, and had been using Mac OS X’s command-line tool sips for quick resizing.

Bicubic Sharper is much better than the standard Photoshop resizing, sips, or iPhoto. It’s particularly good for rendered images with fine detail. I’ve been working on a Roborally tile set for Dundjinni, creating my basic floor texture with Alien Skin Eye Candy 5: Textures. Dundjinni expects 200x200 tiles, but Eye Candy renders best at larger sizes. Resizing down from 800x800 using the straight Bicubic method produced an unusable image. Bicubic Sharper? Dramatically better.

I found the tip in a discussion of photo-processing workflow, which makes sense. For a long time, photographers have been making Unsharp Mask the final step in their workflows, because if they sharpened at full size, the slight softness introduced by resizing for print or web use would force them to use Unsharp Mask again, which tends to look pretty nasty. Integrating it into the resizing algorithm takes advantage of the data you’re discarding, reducing the chance of introducing distracting artifacts.

Stupid card tricks

Okay, I’ve adjusted to the fact that online credit-card processing systems are written by morons who can’t grasp that entering a 16-digit number is a lot easier if you can use whitespace between groups of digits, the way they’re printed on the damn cards. It’s mind-bogglingly trivial to do the right thing, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of sites who even try.

Today was the first time, though, that I had a form reject me because I left out the leading zero in the expiration month. Blech.

Surfing Identity

So, nearly two weeks after I gave notice at my current job, I finally got the written offer letter and new-hire packet from the new one. I wasn’t terribly worried about the offer suddenly being withdrawn, leaving me out of work; anything that happened would be at best a temporary HR glitch, and I’m in excellent shape financially.

The worry came when I read the current version of the I-9 form and searched the house for acceptable documentation. I’ve never had a passport, and I couldn’t find either my Social Security card or a copy of my birth certificate. They’re both around here somewhere, but I haven’t needed them in 12 years, and my filing system is a touch “chaotic”.

Applying for a new SS card is easy, but they mail it to you in 7-10 days. It might arrive in time, but it might not. So I went to Google and asked it to conjure up the appropriate department of the Ohio state government for acquiring birth certificates.

I expected to get a short list of random offices with phone numbers. What I got instead was a long list of companies who will cheerfully sell you certified copies of birth certificates online, “just what you need to prove citizenship!”. Some of them looked reputable, others looked more than a little dodgy. The ones who promised the fastest service tended to look the dodgiest, taking shortcuts in the critical area of verifying your identity. Your credit card, yes; your right to have a certified copy of someone’s birth certificate, not so much.

So I called Mom. Her I trust.

New cold-call tactic, or confused user?

Just got voicemail on my cellphone from someone I’ve never heard of, asking me for help connecting to her web site. She said that someone else I’ve never heard of referred her to me, because I helped that other person with her computer problems. She even gave me her home phone number, in the 651 area code. And she called me “John”, not “J”. Yeah, it smelled funny to me, too.

A reverse lookup through Google supports the claim that this is a real person, at a real street address in Hugo, Minnesota. The satellite image makes it look like either an apartment building or office complex; another quick search turns up the City of Hugo’s color-coded zoning map, which confirms it as “low-density multiple family residential”.

[side note: with my color vision, I had to rely on Apple’s bundled DigitalColor Meter app to figure this out]

It’s tempting to call back collect, just to see what happens, but I think I’ve wasted enough time on this already. I just thought it would be fun to see how well I could track her down. Her husband’s name is Ken, by the way.

Safari 1.3, two steps forward...

…half-step back. I’m a big fan of the increase-text-size button in Safari, so while I appreciate the definite improvements in the version included with the 10.3.9 update, I have some…issues:

Safari 1.3 Error

This anime review site displays just fine at the normal text-size setting, but Safari 1.3 persistently hoses the images if you’ve hit the increase-text-size button. Sometimes a forced redraw fixes it, sometimes I have to decrease text size and then increase it again.

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”