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SPAM, lovely SPAM, wonderful SPAM

June 23rd, 2005  · stk

Keep Your Email From Being "Harvested"

If you have an email address, I bet that you don't like all the unsolicited mail (SPAM) you receive. It's a waste of time. Mortgage refinancing, cheap software, "urgent" messages from Nigerians needing help (offering a percentage of 'millions' for assistance), links to XXX movies and pics ... these are but a few of the SPAM messages that made it past Yahoo's filter and into the inbox. What's a person to do?

Entity Values are a sneaky way of entering characters in HTML code. Instead of typing the letter "r" in - rain@rr.com - one can put "r" (ascii) or "r" (hex) instead.

On the screen, it still looks like - rain@rr.com - the entity values are converted to characters on the screen, by the browser. A harvesting bot, blindly looking at HTML code, sees only the string rain@rr.com (depending on how the ascii and hex entity values were mixed). Doesn't look like an email address, does it?

It's a technique that used to be effective. (Notice that the browser didn't format the entity value email, because it didn't "recognize" it as an email address? In a similar fashion, the technique would fool email harvesting bots. The bot passed over the string, thinking it was more HTML gibberish).

If you've got a website - Don't give the spammers your email address by posting it on your site! Email-harvesting spiders (or bots) are programs that spammers use to search through website code for thousands of sites every day, scooping up discernable email addresses. They key in on the "@" character (an address requirement) or the "mailto:" hyperlink reference in the <a> tag. I recently reviewed the 'harvestability' of randsco.com and discovered entity value encoding (see sidebar) no longer effectively "hides" addresses from harvesting bots. The programs have gotten smarter and many are now able to decipher entity values. It's high time for a new plan.

Not allowing email contact, you might think, is an option. Not for me. A contact link is a web-design requirement. Only poorly designed web pages do not provide a contact link and most of the better designed pages provide a link on EVERY page. Besides, if you don't put up a contact link because you wish to avoid SPAM, aren't you really giving in to the spammers? (I'd rather "out-smart" than "give-in".) ;)

After the overhaul, there are no longer any entity encoded email addresses or "mailto:" references, on the site . Now, not only isn't our email displayed, but there are even MORE ways for visitors to make email contact!

  • (1) PHP email form (fast and easy)
  • (2) javaScript-encrypted email links (the new "hide" technique)
  • (3) email image display (security and accessiblility)

The contact link (on the banner), displays on both b2evo and non-b2evo pages, alike. The link takes you to the contact page (which is integrated with the b2evolution and isn't a core hack), offering two methods for contact - the php form or email links (the non-java method kicks in, if you choose an email link and have javascripting turned off). After completing the php form, the script takes you back to whatever page you came from. There's also some error-checking to make sure that fields on the form are filled in properly. Nifty!

Go ahead, kick the tires and take it around the block for a spin. To learn more about SPAM, avoid SPAM, test the vulnerability of your site to harvesting, install a similar contact form on your b2evo installation or if you just want to watch the Monty Python SPAM skit (??) ... read on!

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1.flag DontheCat Comment
06/23/05
I'm getting SPAMed like 800 mails a day in all my domain accounts. I've a SPAM washer, but I still need to Tag them.

I'm waiting to read the rest...
2.flag Topanga Comment
06/26/05
What IS the downside for an extra blog ? Only the admin sees that blog..
I don't see it...

You can also combine it whit the 'colofon' posts on your blog...
3.flag stk Comment
06/26/05
Topanga,

There's probably very little 'downside', but for us, with only one blog (and non-b2evo pages) I thought it overkill to add a seperate blog, just to have a contact form.

The only tangible downside, might be having to manage both an email AND a database entry.

It's a worthy alternative and I'm just trying to offer good choices.

-Scott

4.flag the RealBigSwede Comment
06/28/05
Spam stinks.. I have my own site but I have starting to use the Spam Assassin which is part of my isp's xPanel.. and I stopping now 85% of the spam.

Highly recommend, little work that goes a long way to stop this plague!! I too start using e-mail addresses that are in use for a short time and then I "kill" them, very effective...hehe

Keep fighting the spammer. Plus I think that spammer should pay for the privilege to send their garbage out. But I still, will block them!! hehe
Filed in:Alexandra

Happy Father's Day to Me

June 18th, 2005  · stk
Alex wears too many bras

Life is good when you have a cute baby girl and, I suspect, Alex is about as cute as they come. She greeted me with a hug and kiss this morning, then promptly wanted to be put in her high-chair, because she wanted 'toas'(Oop-speak for TOAST). It's Father's Day, but for the Oop, it's just another gloriously sunny day in Edmonton and she's ready for whatever new adventure might come her way (though she thought she might prod things along by asking to go in the 'cor' - CAR).

We're now in the midst of that language explosion we've been predicting, but unfortunately, her vocabulary exceeds her ability to enunciate and (even for us parents) it's tough to know WHAT she's saying. The words we've been able to fathom so far, include: egg, car, truck, book, chocolate (a favorite), cookie, yogurt, bib, juice, nap, bread, banana (she's started saying 'banana', rather than 'mahtma', much to our mixed emotions), PJs, toast, socks, booby and please. She even said her first complete sentence, "No, mommy eat it," as she shoved some food that she didn't want, toward Rachel.

She's mimicking our speech quite regularly now, as her little mouth is beginning to get a handle on the various sounds that the English language uses. We're having to be extra careful, because we just know that she's gonna pipe up with, "God Dammit" at a very inopportune time (maybe Michelle's wedding?) ha ha. Still, for as many words as she now knows (and they're being added to on a daily basis), UNDERSTANDING her remains difficult. She was brought nearly to tears this morning, as she repeated the word 'brid' to me, several times (while putting on shoes to go outside). FINALLY, I had her SHOW me what in the World she was talking about and she led me into the kitchen and pointed in the general direction of the microwave oven (on top of which, we keep the BREAD). The time of morning and the activity (going outside) was completely out of context for eating, which was why I was having such a hard time understanding. It must be so frustrating to KNOW the word, but still not be understood.

Soon, however, she was contentedly munching on a piece of bread and drinking milk out of her sippy cup, sitting in her high-chair. Then, she asked for 'chokate' (chocolate) and because we're trying to teach her to append "please" onto the end, I asked her if she could ask, "chocolate, please?" She did and I realized that I'd just been conned into giving her chocolate as a reward to reinforce the whole "please" concept. She's no dummy, our Alex! She sat there, grinning at me, with blue lips and a chocolate smudge on her chin, busily chomping on her little M&Ms.

Ever since Alex began attending day-care, nearly a month ago, she's been constantly ill. She vomited a couple of days ago. (This is much more traumatic for the adults, then it is for Alex, as she doesn't seem to be bothered much by the activity. The cleanup isn't fun and I find my stomach is on the verge of releasing its contents, which only shows what a wimp dad can be.) She's been running a low-grade fever and her nose is constantly runny. She has a rattling cough that wakes her up early in the morning, sometimes as early as 4:30AM, but it generally seems to abate during the day. She's sleeping longer at night, generally and goes down hard for a nap, which is now generally only once a day, instead of twice. We keep telling ourselves that she's building up her immunity, from exposure to so many other kids and germs. She's going to get sick now or when she starts kindergarten. Either way, she's going to have to go through this. If she could only keep her fingers out of her nose, eyes, mouth or ears!

Each day is filled with wonder and exploration. She loves day care and often isn't even aware of our leaving, after dropping her off in the morning. In fact, she's unaffected by our absence and will often wander away, without regard to where we are, when were out at the supermarket, in a department store, or at the park. On one hand, we're glad that she's so sure of herself and her environment, but on the other, we'd prefer is she were a bit more aware. We just can't have it both ways.

She's very fond of shoes and she has a couple (with velcro closures) that she can actually put on and take off. She must repeat this activity several dozen times a day, as she can't quite seem to make up her mind if tennis shoes are needed, or if sandals would be a more appropriate choice. She's learned what PJs are (pajamas) and she calls her favorite crocheted blanket her 'nap' (though we're coaxing her toward 'nappy', to distinguish it from an actual lie-down "nap"). We know that she has a fondness for her crib, because if she's been overly stressed or experiences a hurt, she'll ask for 'pjs' or 'nap', wanting to be put into her "safe spot", so she can re-center herself.

She's an absolute delight to take out, as she rarely cries in public, is cute as a button and flirts with anyone that will look in her direction. Last night we went out for dinner (a rare event, but not as rare as it was during the winter months) and she interacted with another child near her age, as we were leaving. She hugged him! (I was slightly concerned they might start playing "doctor" right there, but a clingy hug was what she wanted most and she wasn't going to take "no" for an answer ... heck, she didn't even bother asking. Just boom, hug!

She's growing up quickly and was even caught on video 'trying on' mom's bras, which is very cute. We're looking forward to our summer vacation, where we can show off our little girl to her adoring grand parents and other friends and relatives. (Those childless friends are already stressing over the thought of a toddler in their midst, but those who have children are eager to make her acquaintance). Look out everyone, here comes 'the Oop'!

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1.flag Don Comment
06/20/05
Scott, you just made me very nostalgic. Oh, what fun it was watching Ashwanthe start to speak. We speak at least 3 languages at home and it was a pot-pourri of them all.

And the lovable fun is just starting for you n Rachel and eveyday it gets better, trust a guy who's going through it. :-). From what I see of Alex in the video , you have a very charming, yet mischievous darling there.

I know that you and Rachel are loving every bit of it... Enjoy :-)
2.flag DAD Comment
06/20/05
You are going to have to watch that girl and teach her that she shouldn't be taking off her bras in public, especially if someone has a camera going!

She is quite the clothes horse.
Filed in:CSS
Site News·b2evo

Introducing: Photo-Caption Zoom 2

June 15th, 2005  · stk

 

The images on your left are a demonstration of the new and improved Pure-CSS PZ2 "Pure-CSS Photo/Caption Zoom (Version 2)".

The images expand upon mouseover, displaying a larger image and corresponding caption (just like the original), but this advanced version won't distrupt the flow of the XHTML page.

As I learn more about CSS, I've tried to improve upon the original Pure-CSS Photo/Caption Zoom (or PZ as a certain someone from India likes to call it!)

This is the third attempt now, and "by jove", I believe I've got it! (Of course, I'm referring to the holy grail of Photo Zooms ... the OVERLAY method - where the image doesn't jolt/shift/migrate/move the text and surrounding elements).

The technique employed here is not without it's eccentricities, as it is not nearly as easy to deploy as the original. However, it remains much more user-friendly than it's progenitor - "Magnify Image", which requires the use of two image files. In contrast, PZ2 uses a single image file, saving both bandwidth and headache - and of course - adds the capability of a nicely styled caption.

Compared to the original Photo/Caption Zoom, PZ2 requires the use of an extra <div>, prior to the normal PZ code. Why? Because the only way to keep things from shifing is to use "position:absolute" (which removes the element from the document flow). However ... this doesn't really work for showing the un-zoomed image (as it would overlay the text). So ... to overcome this problem, one can place an empty <div> (sized to the photo) UNDERNEATH the "absolutely" positioned image. Boom. Text can be READ!

Of course, in order to place the empty <div>, one needs to know it's dimensions. Sadly, width is not enough. So ... whereas the original Photo/Caption Zoom utilized ONLY width, PZ2 requires the height (only the thumbnail height and it's entered directly into the HTML).

There is another idiocyncracy of this second version and I blame it COMPLETELY on MSIE (as it isn't an issue with FireFox). The MSIE problem: they (currently) don't differentiate between the z-index of an un-hovered -vs- hovered element. WHAT? The bottom line: To satisfy MSIE, each PZ2 image MUST be uniquely named and be assigned a z-index value greater than the image that follows, or it won't "overlay" that image.

Edit: A work-a-round to overcome this problem has been discovered and applied to the next version - Photo-caption Zoom Version 3 (PZ3).

This isn't a problem within the post, but becomes difficult to manage from post-to-post. Bottom line: don't place PZ2 images near the bottom and for images that expand to tall dimensions ... place them near the top.

One other thing. The overlay (position:absolute) method dictates that ALL images open from the upper left-hand corner. No big deal for images floated left, but for images floated right - be aware.

Edit: Not an issue in the next version - Photo-caption Zoom Version 3 (PZ3).

I hope that this little demonstration has whetted your appetite for more, however, with the workload currently sitting on my desk, it will be some time before I'm able to properly document everything and make it available for public consumption (CSS code, XHTML code and b2evo-specific instructions).

Hang tight ... as I WILL get around to doing this. Check back periodically (or, if you so desire) skids can be greased via PayPal ;) (Just email to get the correct address).

Cheers!

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1.flag Inker Comment
06/16/05
Awesome stuff, I really hope you get to document it sooner rather than later. I post quite alot of images on our newly created family blog and so I could really use this.

I just hope once setup its not too complicated for my not-so-computer skilled family members to utilize.

Cheers Inker
2.flag stk Comment
06/16/05
Glad you like it!

Because of MSIE bugs, it's going to be longer than I was hoping.

The goal is to find a balance between functionality and ease-of-use. By necessity, it will be more involved than the original, but I still think it will be pretty easy.

Cheers,

stk
3.flag Inker Comment
06/16/05
I see. Well take your time. Just wanted to let you know that I'm indeed interested in this.

Gosh, I wish I knew more about css.
4.flag Murali Comment
06/17/05
Hoya, thanks Scott. I'm swimming with the sharks (tax guys) here - not fun. Getting updated thru your Feedburner feed.
Love PZ2.

I'm sending you a detailed email on the activities this side of the planet.

Looking forward to having you folks here in Chennai anytime ...
5.flag Maggie Comment
08/03/05
Scott,

My name is Maggie and I've been reading a bit about your Pure-CSS PZ2.

I think it's great! Is it available, and if so is it easy enough for a
newbie like me to install it correctly?

Thanks, looking forward to hearing from you!
6.flag stk Comment
08/03/05
Maggie,

Thanks for your interest in PZ2. Unfortunately, I developed it just prior to our summer holidays and it isn't finalized yet.

There are two problems with IE that keep it in 'development' mode. (1) failure to recognize multiple CSS class names (in certain situations) and (2) failure to change z-index on hover. (Neither is a problem for Mozilla ... surprise, surprise.)

I've found a solution for multiple class names, but the z-index problem remains.

The University of Alberta resumes in September and I'll be able (once again) to devote time to the project.

If you want to test drive it, you can right-click and copy the pertinent source, then go here to get the PZ2-specific CSS.

If you're a newbie, I'd recommend instead the original version, which is better documented and tested. (It pushes text to the side when the image zooms, rather than overlaying the text).

Hope this helps.

-Scott

7.flag Jon Comment
08/16/05
Dude! This totally rocks. I'm about to update a pretty good sized slide show & the VP types at our university would just love it!
8.flag stk Comment
10/12/05
I have finally gotten around to finalizing the code and documenting it on it's own page.

Because of the complexities, I will (at some point) provide examples and instructions for installation, usage (along with some b2evo-specific stuff).

Cheers,

-stk
9.flag Hilary Comment
10/21/05
Amazing - I been looking for ideas like this and finally!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! Its wonderful, fantastic, awesome!!! We do alot of product/image displays and I wanted to find away for peope to skip seeing an image bigger on another page - THANK YOU - you have solved that!!!!

Now I need to figure out how you do the multiple images in a row, like you have here on "Photo/Caption Zoom 2".

The original one I learned from you using Photo-Caption Zoom CSS is great to show one image. But when I have two images side by side, like you have above - the blowup image of the 1st goes behind the small thumbnail image - showing both. I cant figure out how to get it to go above the 2nd image when blown up.

HELLLPPP - And thank you so much for doing this!!!
10.flag Hilary Comment
10/28/05
Ok I figured out how to do the above but the problem is still have the blow up picture showing up behind a thumbnail in the area the picture expands. I have two table rows each with a picture and below that another table row each with a picture - the above right picture shows up behind the bottom right picture when its expaned. I can not seem to get the top right picture to show above the thumbnail below it. Yet the left top picture does show above the bottom left picture thumbnail. Weird!!!

Any ideas??

PS Thank you again for teaching us - this is such cool stuff. I did see the normal photo caption zoom setup does not work in netscape communicator 4.7 on my macintosh. Not sure on the IBM. Anyone???
11.flag stk Comment
10/28/05
Put a link to page where you're having problems and I'll have a quick peek.

-stk
12.flag Luke Comment
01/13/06
One of the most incredible tools I ever seen on the net. Thank you 50 Billion times. You now rank up with Stu Nicolls as one of my favorite sites.

Thanks again.
Luke UK.
13.flag Keimzelle Comment
01/26/06
Great. Exactly what i´m searching for. I´ll try to use the photo zoom for the redesign of my portfolio site on february. Thx and greetings form Hamburg/Germany
14.flag Jonathan Comment
02/21/08
I am an amateur photographer who just made the jump to linux system and learning it's feature, trying to work mostly with low cost software or license free, like samba and ruby on rails etc. Thank you for this tutorial. Always wondered how it's done and searched on examples until I finally found this site. Will be practicing until I can get it right and when I do will gladly send a link to my website.

Keep up the good work
Jonathan
15.flag stk Comment
02/22/08
Jonathan,

If you liked PZ2, you might want to look at the newer version - PZ3.
Filed in:Our Life
CSS·b2evo

April Showers bring May Flowers

June 12th, 2005  · stk

In Edmonton, it's more like "April snow - June show"! It seems that only a short while ago, I was shoveling mounds of snow and the whole yard was blanketed (NO ... smothered) in a covering of white. Fortunately, the show-shovel broke at the appropriate time and we're now enjoying a bountiful summer.

However the saying goes ... the time to be in Edmonton is NOW. Flowers are blooming all over the place and it's completely amazing. (Of course, Alex is bent on destruction and thinks that each bloom is something for "pick and play", rather than "show and tell". Our irises have taken quite a beating, recently. And so have a number of our other plants! The only exception, of course, is the dandelion. Although Alex does love the yellow blooms, she often passes them by, in favor of the more rare, exotic and alluring flowers. You know ... the ones we want to keep!)

It's difficult to believe that the summer solstice is still a week or so away. We go to bed now at 10:30 PM and it's still light out. Wake up at 4:30 AM ... it's still light out!! (Where was all this light in the winter, when we REALLY needed it?) Our neighbor, Paul, across the lane (who loves a good joke) ... was eager to point out to Scott that, "Soon will come the soltice and 2 weeks after -- the first frost." YIKES!! Scott's nether regions puckered up as he thought of the prospect. ANOTHER winter ... OMG!

Southern Alberta has been innundated with rain these past few weeks. Not here. In fact, up till the day-before-yesterday, Scott was hand-watering the back yard and dancing a jig, just hoping that 1/8th indian blood would result in SOMETHING "aqua". (Of course, if we were REALLY desperate, we could have expended the energy and actually WASHED the car ... which is 10X better than any native American dance, as far as producing rain.) We were too lazy, I quess. The rain dance was as much as we could muster and fortunately, it's paid off ... because, during the past two days, Edmonton has looked more like Vancouver.

Well ... the summer plans are laid and we'll be embarking on a trip in less than a month's time. Nothing like the PCT Hike we did in 2002. More of a 'family visit' thing ... Vancouver, Red Bluff, Seattle and a few points in between (okay ... mostly pit stops at the local 7-11, where Scott can test the water depth ... ;) ). Hey! It's tought to time your pit-stops with your pee stops. Ask my grandpa (God rest his soul) ... who wrote a letter to the oil companies, complaining of his peeStop-pitStop dilemma. "You go gramps!")

Back to the flowers. They're not ALL from our backyard, but they ARE from backyards ... three of them ... all in our immediate vicinity. (1) Anna, who lives next door. She's a single lady that emmigrated from Ghana, Africa and runs a couple physical therapy practices. (2) Paul, (the Oop's buddy) from across the lane. He's an ex-firefighter who lost his wife a number of years ago to breast cancer. (3) Our very own yard (at least, whatever the Oop hasn't eaten, mutilated or spindled)!

Funny, but because the weather has turned, we're getting to know folks again. (Everyone was shuttered in for the bulk of the winter months, just like us). BBQ parties, go-carts up and down the alley, kids staying up and playing into the night ... are among the new sounds that we hear, well into the twilight.

Lawn-mowing has resumed again (with a fevor), as rain only makes the grasses grow. Dandelions (the second-batch ... "the reinforcements") are coming up as thick as thieves. The spot that the cat peed in all winter-long? THE BEST and THICKEST grass around! (Nice to see that our expenditure in cat food paid off! Now ... if we can only get him to 'spread it around'!)

I hope that you've enjoyed the flower show. Some of these things, like the 'bleeding heart', I never really noticed (or saw) until I migrated north. Yes ... I definitely miss the Yuccas, the palms, citrus and other plants of the desert. I especially miss the smell of the desert after a rain storm, when the wetting of sage and creosote yields an especially wonderful aroma ... or the early spring scent of orange trees in bloom. Those who live in the American south-west know what I'm talking about. (Before I die, I want to find a way to bottle that smell and sell it, because it is so fresh and so pure.) :)

The lesson here, I think, is to enjoy where you are, in the moment, as you never know when that smell, that sunset, that feeling, will be the last.


Did'ja notice? This is our first post using the hot-off-the-presses "Photo/Caption Zoom" version two!

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1.flag DAD Comment
06/16/05
ENJOYED THE FLOWER SHOW AND THE LAST FEW SENTENCES HAD ME LONGING AGAIN FOR A SUMMER DESERT RAIN. YOU ARE RIGHT, EVERYPLACE HAS SOMETHING SPECIAL TO OFFER, EVEN IF IT IS NOTHING MORE THAN SNOW. ENJOY THE SPRING.
2.flag Ann Comment
06/21/05
WOW! Great photos, with or without Zoom, but this new Zoom is awesome. I spent a year in Tuscon and a decade in high desert in Colorado and Washington state -all pure magic. Is high desert the same as low? Who knows, but you are right, beauty flees too quickly!
Filed in:Site News

Tracking Online Users

June 8th, 2005  · stk

A "Site Tools" Upgrade

When I finished my little project, yesterday, I wrote:

EXCELLENT!

I've finished the upgrade it's pretty neat ... even if I do say so myself. ;) Check out the "currently visiting" number in the "site tools" area. I've written a PHP/MySQL utility to figure out how long folks are on, what they're reading and where in the World they are! :D

Just today, while working on it, we had visitors from Costa Rica, Netherlands, the US, Australia and Taiwan.

When I realized that IP addresses number ranges correspond to various countries, I thought it would be interesting to discover where our website visitors come from. I first added this capability to the comments and just yesterday, to our real-time "users online" feature. It was a fun project and I learned a lot in the process.

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1.flag Justin Comment
06/09/05
Hi Scott! Long time. I just wanted to ask you a quick question about your "photo zoom" technique that I started using some time ago on my site. I finally got around to redesigning the layout so that only an archive view is presented on the main page. But doing so seems to have created some odd problems for some viewers (a problem I've been unable to reproduce) where now only the first photo will zoom, and the other photos "seizure," as they put it, when you move the mouse over them. I really don't know much about web programming so I'm sure my code is a mess, but I was curious if you'd happened to encounter this problem before?

Thanks! :)
2.flag Sieg Comment
06/09/05
Thats good stuff I cant wait for you to start selling that bit of code, Ive been getting mad hits and would like to find out where people are from as well.
Sieg
Oh and I know how the E.R. thing is for nursing people, my wife is a nurse and she gets pissed when they talk smack that would never fly in a real hospital:)
3.flag stk Comment
06/09/05
Justin - I've replied in a private email. The problem you're experiencing is a manifestation of the fact that the large images you have (800x600) don't have enough room on the page to fully zoom. Anyway, the solution is in my email.

Sieg - Glad you like it! (I see an Italy flag right now ... is that you? Ha ha.) If you want me to install any of these tools on your site, send me an email.

-Scott
4.flag Justin Comment
06/09/05
Thanks! That was EXACTLY what I needed to hear :)

(You were right, the problem can be fixed simply by adding "overflow: hidden;" to bPosts in CSS file for the skin you're using.)

:)
5.flag Comment
06/10/05
Hi Scott,
Yet another cool tool, you'll have to buy a factory to churn these out ;)

Considering the length of your posts, you might want to up the online time to 4 hours :p

¥