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Archives for: November 2005

Filed in:b2evo

Comment & Trackback anti-SPAM Script

November 18th, 2005  · stk

Here is an anti-SPAM Perl script that provides an excellent defense against comment and trackback SPAM. It automatically renames the htsrv directory, using a random, 6-character/number sequence. It turns the "htsrv" directory - necessary for trackbacks and comments - into a moving target, making it difficult to SPAM. Hurrah!

3-Jun-2006: NOTE: The three techniques outlined in this article once worked as a defense against blog comment/trackback SPAM. They have all been defeated by spammers and are no longer effective.. :(

It's recommended that you look here for a table of SPAM-fighting options.

11-Dec-2005: Added - Support for both pre/post Phoenix b2evolution releases. Setting a switch will allow the script to run on either.

Here is an anti-SPAM Perl script that provides an excellent defense against comment and trackback SPAM. It automatically renames the htsrv directory, using a random, 6-character/number sequence. It turns the "htsrv" directory - necessary for trackbacks and comments - into a moving target, making it difficult to SPAM. Hurrah!

Renaming the "htsrv" directory has been our first line of defense and this script makes it even better. I used to manually rename it (then edit the _advanced.php file - only one line - to note the change). Because it was manual, I didn't do it very often - maybe once every couple of months. (One time, I waited too long. The spammers found the new name and BOOM - SPAM). Grrr. :> Changing it often is ideal, but I want to blog, not spend my time renaming files and such. I'm no geek! :roll:

Thanks to Dan MacTough (and some handy-dandy modifications by yours truly) ... there's now a PERL script that does it for you, randomly and automatically! The script runs as a cron job, periodically renaming the "htsrv" directory. Even IF the spammers FIND the moving target, there's only a small window it'll accept SPAM, because the script will run again, change the name & yield 404 "File not Found" errors. HA! Take THAT spammers! :D

If your b2evolution blog has ever been under attack by spammers, either leaving automated comment or trackback spam, then you'll appreciate this tool. I'll also provide two other techniques we use ... both of which are a good defense, as well. I can't guarantee these techniques will keep your b2evolution blog SPAM-free, because that's the nature of SPAM. (You're only SPAM-free ... till BOOM ... you're not). :-/ Still, they've worked for us for nearly a year & this script only tightens the defenses.

For the details on these 3 easy anti-SPAM techniques & the code for the "hidehtsrv" script ... read on ...

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Updated: 17-Jul-2006
Web View Count: 253811 viewsLast Web Update: 17-Jul-2006
Filed in:Site News
The Web

Site Feature - Clustr Maps

November 16th, 2005  · stk

I've been looking for a way to represent the geographical, world-wide diversity of our readership. I believe that "ClustrMaps" (a unique service that graphically shows (on differenct scaled maps) the world-wide distribution of our readers) might be the solution ....

World-wide Visitor Count & GIS Mapping

Visitor Locations Around the World

Ever since I began tracking online users using an IP address database, I've been looking for a way to represent the geographical, world-wide diversity of our readers. I believe I've found it!

"ClustrMaps®" is a unique online service that tracks website visitors and displays their geographic distribution on various scaled maps. The maps are updated daily and for users with less than 1,000 visits per day, the service is free. An upgrade (costing less than $1/month) offers greater storage, zoomable continent maps & is ad-free.

Check it out by hovering your mouse over the globe in the "Site Tools" area. Doing this will bring up a thumbnail image of a world map (like the image above). At a glance, you can see our current visitor distribution. This thumbnail is DYNAMIC, as it is updated every day (about 4AM GMT). Click on it for a larger detailed map, served from the clustrmaps site. Then, drill down by clicking on a continent and get an even more accurate assessment of visitor distribution.

We are thrilled to have found a way to help show Alex, our daughter, about our interconnected World! We think that this is an innovative service. Perhaps it is something that you would like to add to your site? Thanks ClustrMaps!

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Updated: 26-Feb-2006
Web View Count: 11829 viewsLast Web Update: 26-Feb-2006

Are You Serving XHTML with the Wrong MIME Type?

November 10th, 2005  · stk

20-Feb-2006 UPDATE: Code modifications strengthen the PHP script.

We've had our b2evolution blog for just under a year. One of the reasons we picked b2evolution, was because it was written to XHTML standards. Like many b2evolution "skins", ours has a W3C validation button, which boasts of our XHTML compliance. Great!

So I was, stretching my technological legs and validating to the XHTML 1.0 (Strict) standard. Then, six months later, I realize there's a newer version (XHTML 1.1). What? To keep up with the technological Jone's, I begin validating to THAT. However (I find out, a few months later) that THIS WHOLE TIME - despite my learning XHTML, careful coding and validation frustration - our pages are being served as PLAIN OLD HTML!

Plain old HTML?

Pace Picante sauce aside, this causes me to pause. What am I doing wrong? I'm validating against the the XHTML 1.1 standard (it says so when I hit the W3C validation button). I've got the XHTML 1.1 DocType statement. I've even have a Meta tag that SAYS the "Content-Type" is "application/xhtml+xml". I should be all set, right? Wrong.

In a totally twisted plot that involves the Pope, GWB & a hoard of marauding Vikings, I discover that I'm not alone. MOST PEOPLE using XHTML serve their pages the same way ... as plain old HTML.

To find out why and to find out how to serve your pages as true XHTML ... read on.

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Updated: 4-Mar-2006
Web View Count: 41596 viewsLast Web Update: 4-Mar-2006
Filed in:Alexandra

Angelic Halloween

November 9th, 2005  · stk

Frostbitten Wing-Tips & An Angel on a Sugar High

Despite our concern that Halloween would have our daughter in tears (from all the scary things going "bump" in the night) ... our girl, dressed like an angel, had a GREAT time! The only problem ... getting her to bed after consuming too much sugar.

Halloween nights are cold in Edmonton, so there aren't many scantily dressed "ballarinas" knocking on doors. Popular costumes are full-suit affairs ... furry animals, super-heros and such. They must appeal to the kids but, more importantly, must keep them warm.

We debated about how to dress Alex. Purchasing a full costume seemed a bit much, partly because we didn't think Alex would last long into the evening and partly because she would outgrow the thing by next year. So we bought a pair of 'strap-on' wings and a wand, then dressed her all in white. Who could resist a 'little angel'?

The problem was finding enough white clothing! We put on EVERY SINGLE PIECE of white clothing she owns! She needed more. But Alex was so excited, she didn't seem to mind. With a cold nose, red fingers and teeth chattering ... she tried to say, "Trick or Treat", at each door. We only took her around the block ... making sure to stop at the houses of people we knew ... Paul's (across the lane) and Anna's and Grant's (the neighbors on either side of us).

Our street was a Carnival, because there is a house up the street whose owner goes all-out for Halloween. For days in advance, he erects an entire facade on the front of his house. He had a big pipe organ (and organist), playing scary tunes, in the front yard, with billows of dry ice "fog" covering the leaf littered lawn. The porch was transformed into a witch's lair. It was quite something! A news crew was filming, a parade of cars were slowly driving past and hoards of people were trick-or-treating. (Neighbors are forced to purchase ten times more candy than most, as the house draws visitors from outside the neighborhood, who then "trick-or-treat" up and down the street.)

Alex, in her angel outfit, was a big hit and on more than one occasion, picked up extra candy, "because she's SOOO cute!" If we were gypsies ... we would utilize this cuteness to our advantage. She received so much candy, that we had to 'sandbag' some, because the weight of it ripped the handle off her paper sack.

Back home, Alex excitedly sorted through her sack of goodies, wanting to sample each. Parent's had to limit the number of pieces consumed, for fear that our little angel would turn into a grumpy devil if she were to ingest that much sugar! She was still bouncing off the walls at 8:30 (a half-hour after her normal bedtime), but despite her protestations, our little angel fell fast asleep.

What will life be like, now that Alex now knows the word "candy"?

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Updated: 26-Feb-2006
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Filed in:GoodCo-BadCo

Spank a Bank, Pass Go, Collect $200

November 8th, 2005  · stk

I ran into a problem with an electronic bill payment to my MasterCard Company. I had to "spank" my Internet bank, but in the end, I *think* I might have been paid $761.24 to do it!

History

I detest banks. In the early 90's, my local branch bank in California announced that they would charge a fee for returning my canceled checks. A fee here, a fee there ... I was tired of it and said, "No Way". Not only did I switch banks, but I put as much distance between me and my local branch as I could - by signing up with an Internet Bank somewhere on the East Coast. I have been Internet Banking, more or less happily, for over 10 years.

Some of the Internet banking advantages:

• Never having to stand in a line.

• Earning a good rate on my checking account.

• Using any ATM machine I want ($6/month credit for foreign ATM fees)

• Written correspondence, via email, for any help I need.

• Unlimited bill payment via "ePay" (no more postage stamps)

To read about my snafu & how I *might* have been paid $761.24 to deal with it .... read on ...

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Updated: 26-Feb-2006
Web View Count: 10262 viewsLast Web Update: 26-Feb-2006