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Broadband: Socket to Me

October 2nd, 2005  · stk

Every existing electric socket in your home can be a broadband connection, thanks to Matsushita Industrial Co. (an Osaka-based company that's the manufacturer of Panasonic brand products). They have developed a new chip that does away with Ethernet cables and wireless networking equipment.

The new chip allows the existing copper wiring in your home to carry BOTH electricity and data. The obvious advantage is that there are commonly multiple sockets in every room of your home, each a potential broadband connection. The other advantage? Data rates are 170 MBPS, faster than even Cat-5 Ethernet cables.

Not very often does technology advance with such universal appeal. If you can plug in an appliance, it can be powered AND be Internet-ready all at the same time. (Think network-capable refrigerators, microwaves, coffee-makers, and Televisions).

Read more about it.

Apparently, Matsushita isn't the only player, as this Telkonet News Release indicates. All 31 Sandman Hotels, Inns and Suites throughout Canada have been equipped with "powerline communications" (PLC) technology.

Learn more about PLC here .

Learn more about BPL here.

FOLLOW UP:

19-Dec-2005 - BPL Rollout in Texas

As part of an upgrade to the existing grid, TXU and Current Communications Group announced the nation's first major BPL rollout in the United States. The $150 million dollar project will convert TXU Electric Delivery's power distribution network into the nation's first BPL-enabled "Smart Grid".

The rollout will make BPL available to approximately 2 million Texas customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, at prices competitive with existing cable and ASDL solutions. (Current's only other widespread BPL availability is through Cinergy Corp. in Cincinnati, where it charges $20-45/month for BPL connections, with speeds of up to 3 MBPS.

Current, with backing from Google and The Hearst Corporation (among others), has smaller pilot BPL pilot projects in Hawaii, Maryland and southern California.

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Updated: 4-Mar-2006
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Filed in:CSS
The Web

z-index on a:hover elements

September 11th, 2005  · stk

An(other) IE6 Shortcoming

UPDATE 10-May-2006: Thanks to Stu Nicholls & ¥åßßå, I have found an effective work-a-round for this IE z-index issue. (See the solution).

I developed the second, more advanced version of the pure-CSS Photo Zoom (PZ2) in mid June. Besides our long summer vacation, one of the reasons I haven't yet published a 'production version', has revolved around a couple of problems with MSIE. I've found a work-a-round for one, but the other issue - a Z-index change on hover - remains.

I believe that the problem is "unsolvable". The work-a-round is not ideal, as it adds unnecessary complexity and limits PZ2s application. I am not happy. >:(

I blame it all on Microsoft's poor support for CSS standards.

At issue: IE's inability to support a z-index value change for a hovered element.

For an explanation and demonstration, as well as an IE "fix", read on...

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Updated: 24-Jul-2008
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Filed in:The Web
Noteworthy

SETI@Home

August 7th, 2005  · stk

Idle Computer Processing Time

I've always thought that screensavers were a silly use of a computer's CPU. Why not put it to use calculating something useful?

I learned about SETI@home in 2000 and I've been a member ever since, using idle CPU-time to analyze radio signals from the Arecibo Observatory in a world-wide distributed computing project, initiated at UCB.

The concept is simple. SETI@Home collects mounds of radio wave data from outer space. The analysis of these data require more computing power than UCB can afford. So, they (ingeniously) devised a plan to chop the data into little bits and allow each bit to be analyzed by volunteers, like me, who donate the unused portion of their home computer's CPU.

So, when I'm not blogging, or playing solitaire ;), my computer is assisting UCB search the skies for signs of intelligent life. I'm no astronaut, but what a great way to help mankind finally locate conclusive proof that "we're not alone in the Universe". Of course, finding a needle in a haystack would be easier.

5 Years Later

My contribution hasn't found any alien life forms, but I have contributed over 51,702 hour of CPU time to the scientific endeavor (4,327 Work Units), as measured by the "classic SETI@Home" software. (I'm still crunching work units using this older version, on a 1997 266MHz desktop and a 1999 366MHz laptop - when they aren't stalled).

The software used by SETI@Home has changed and is now called BOINC and there are now other distributed computing projects that vie for my idle processing time, but so far, I've just stuck with the original.

I'm currently a member of the World Wide S.E.T.I. team and presently have a total credit of 94,821.47 (whatever that means).

My CPU is always maxed out, crunching fast-fourier transforms and looking for a signal in a sea of radio noise. Too bad I can't say the same for my brain, which is never maxed out and is idle a lot.

:D

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Updated: 26-Feb-2006
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SpamBack - Green Eggs & SPAM

June 29th, 2005  · stk

Serving a Tasty Dish for Any Spammer

Maybe I have a soft spot for the spammers? After removing all the "mailto:" references and entity-encoded email addresses from the site, email harvesting programs don't yield a single thing. That just doesn't seem right. So, using a process coined SpamBack "Green Eggs and SPAM", I changed that!

If the thought of giving spammers a dose of their own medicine is appealing to you, read on ...

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Updated: 21-Aug-2005
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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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Updated: 23-Jun-2005
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