Dylan: March 2004 Archives

Secret Port Knocking

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via BoingBoing, an interesting article from 2003 about a firewall access technique called Port Knocking. It works by listening for a pre-defined sequence of connection attempts to certain ports. If the sequence matches the pattern within a certain time limit, then a specific port is open to the requesting IP address to access.

Here is an implementation of the technique on SourceForge.

I'm a little surprised we haven't seen wider support of this technique. It seems it would be fairly trivial to integrate the client-side functionality into an SSH client like PuTTY to start some interest and encourage server-side support in software and hardware firewalls. Quite intuitive as well. Who didn't have a secret knock when they were a kid?

SPAM this!

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If you host your own domain, you typically will have the option of a 'catch-all' email address alias. This means you can specify the email address that receives all email that doesn't match up to your pre-created email addresses. I've set my domain to forward them all to my 'secondary' email account and have started using this to try an monitor how my email address is ending up in SPAM mailing lists.

For instance, when I need to provide a valid email address to a mailing list online, or to receive a trial license key for software, I use the name of the list or company itself in the username field of the email address. When I receive email to that address, there is no doubt of where it came from. If they turn around and sell that email address, there will be no doubt as to who sold it. This is useful for any instance where a valid email address is required. The local library. The dentist. That new car contest at your local mall. Let's start seeing how our email addresses really get passed around.

For throwaway email addresses that just require a single exchange, check out Mailinator. When signing up for something where you need such an address, just specify <somename>@mailinator.com and submit. To go and retrieve the sent email just visit the Mailinator homepage, type in the email address you just used (no password or registration needed!) and it displays any received email. No spam worries.


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I'm on a hosting hunt right now and am checking out different options. I currently host domains on Cedant and 1and1 but feel I would like a little more control and not be so constrained with options around storage and bandwidth. With Cedant I only have a measly 100MB of storage and they charge $0.30 for each additional 10 MB/Month which is $30 / GB / Month. What a rip off. Many places (such as 1and1) start you off at 1GB with their $10 account. Storage is cheap and Cedant needs to adjust their prices.

I'm setting up a trial account with Tektonic which offers VPS (Virtual Private Servers) using UML (User Mode Linux). This means I effectively get my own Linux installation to run without the added expense of having a separate server. It also means I would get to tinker to my hearts content on a Linux box (not that I don't get enought at work, mind you) and have the bonus that it will also be where I host my sites.

Tektonic will be $15/month for 3GB storage, 50GB data transfer, root access and unlimited hosting of sites. I'll let you know how it goes.

Museum of Bad Art

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Mama and Babe -- Museum of Bad Art via BoingBoing (via buffoonery) comes the online collection from the Museum of Bad Art, an impressive collection of pieces so bad, they're good! All masterpieces have been lovingly described and their eccentricities tastefully referenced.

Some of my favourites include Mama and Babe ("... an astonishing emphasis on facial bone structure ..."), Two Trees in Love ("... makes up for lack of realism with a surplus of symbolism.") and finally Head from Hell ("... forever to be taunted by the reclining though erect Adonis ..."). Quite the collection.

This to That

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via Cool Tools I learned about ThisToThat, a site with a simple form to help you select a glue for attaching two materials. Wood to styrofoam? Elmer's Probond Polyurethane Adhesive. Rubber to ceramic? Household Goop. Excellent!


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Bloglines I feel a little behind the curve admitting this, but I just discovered Bloglines, the web-based RSS/Atom reader, a few days ago and have already ditched SharpReader (sorry Luke!) to use it exclusively.

The interface is just so clean and easy to use. It seems like aggregators should always have been web-based. Here are some of my favourite aspects so far:
  • Web-based so when I read from home or from work I don't need to sync my feed list (or remember what I've already read).
  • The blog reccomendations feature is awesome. Since it is all centralized and they can easily compare people's subscription lists, this is definitely a no-brainer for them to do, but something that is near impossible with a native client aggregator. My reading list has already expanded immensely.
  • Seeing who subscribes to my blog. 1-click ego surf.
  • Aggregate information like most popular feeds, new feeds, overall directory etc. Dave Winer has been improvising similar functionality with things like weblogs.com and the Share Your OPML project, but it always relied on explicit user interest and buy in. Bloglines gets all sorts of interesting data for free just because they have a kick-ass service that creates such data as a side effect. Don't make me generate and upload my OPML file... just manage it for me!
I also wrote a small bookmarklet to facilitate the adding of subscriptions to my Bloglines account. To add the bookmarklet to your browser just drag the following link to your Bookmarks or to your browser 'links' bar.
Subscribe with Bloglines

Then when you are reading a weblog you would like to read with Bloglines, just click the Subscribe with Bloglines button (or select the bookmark) and you should be taken to the Bloglines weblog subscription page showing information about the weblog and asking for confirmation. Note, you will need to already have a Bloglines account and already be logged in. Also, not all weblogs have RSS/Atom feeds and so Bloglines may have some troubles determining the RSS/Atom feed for the site you would like to subscribe to.

Touching the Void

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I saw an excellent movie on wednesday, Touching the Void, a true story about two British climbers that went to Peru to climb the west face of Siula Grande and how their journey goes horribly wrong.

Note, although I don't overwhelm with details below, it is possible some may feel I say too much about the movie. Just so you know.

The movie switches back and forth between the talking heads of the original climbers describing what happened and a brutally realistic re-enactment by actors playing the young climbers. The movie scared the crap out of me. Some horrible situations and some extremely tough decisions.

You witness one of the climbers change from a confident, fearless young man into a broken, abandoned cripple that has shed all dignity. I found these scenes almost overwhelming in their realism and subject matter. Which is why I was confused that a good portion of the theatre (including a friend I saw the movie with) laughed uproariously at anything that was even remotely funny. For instance at one point one of the climbers is describing, with a somewhat reserved expression, how he actually came to enjoy the sensation of urinating in his clothing. This for many was laugh-out-loud funny. "HAHA, he just said urinate!"

Check out the movie. It really is incredible. Just don't forget your compassion at home.

Distorted Bush

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NYT : Scientists Say Administration Distorts Facts
More than 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, issued a statement yesterday asserting that the Bush administration had systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad. read more »
Jeez. I'm sure the administration was just kidding around, right?
"Changed your report.. now it's back!"

The above article makes the recent pro-Bush television ads seem like parody... or some alternate universe.

creative commons

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You've likely come across the creative commons license image attached to sites around the web. It looks like this:
Creative Commons If you've ever wondered what the creative commons license does, then you're in luck. The site recently held a Moving Image Contest specifically for that purpose and they posted the contest winners just a few days ago. Go and check out some of the shorts. People are so damned talented.

Random Orkut Sighting

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I found this on diveintomark and thought it deeply amusing.

"Mr. Smith, skydived every day for 30 years, died in his sleep of natural causes. He is survived by his wife, two children, and a thriving Orkut community."

urban freeflow

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Urban Freeflow Scot Hacker recently posted about urban freeflow, an impressive new exercise in fluid movement through urban landscapes. Participants run, jump, climb, drop, twist, rebound and flip on buildings, stairs, walls, hills etc. Urbanfreeflow.com is a great site explaining the behaviour and provides some great photos, very effective videos and tips on technique.

link update: parkcore.net, Urban-Climbing.com, tracers.ru, buildering.net, glossary

Genetically Engineered Beast

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Webpronews.com has an article about Google's own Craig Silverstein and his view on the future of search. Craig predicts we'll eventually have search pets that are effectively "genetically engineeered beast[s]' able to read our emotions and give insight into everything from symptoms of an illness to the hidden meaning of a recent conversation. For the standard fact-style searches we do today, he foresees a brain implant that directly interacts with our thought process. I've been wanting one of those for years!

Recommended Software

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I've started a recommended software list to share with you all the great utils I've found. These are those must-have applications that I immediately install onto any new system I get. You can also always just click the good software link in the right-hand nav.
If you open My Computer on the windows desktop, or take the agonizing route of Start .. Programs .. Accessories .. Windows Explorer, then Windows Explorer opens and automatically displays the left-hand folder tree-structure pane. It is very convenient for moving files around and provides a constant overview of your system file structure.

The problem though, is I rarely have my desktop visible to click on 'My Computer', and I proudly admit I have never made use of the three-menu, four-click start menu path to the Windows Explorer shortcut. I typically just use the run menu (Ctrl-ESC, R) and then type c:\<enter>. This of course, well known by all that regularly take this route, does not automatically display the Folders pane. No amount of digging through the Tools .. Options .. View Tab preferences will turn up anything either. I've tried. Read on for the solution.
  1. Open a standard Explorer window. (Ctrl-ESC, R, "C:\<enter>")
  2. Select Tools Menu .. Options .. File Types Tab
  3. Scroll down to the Folder file type. It should be one of the top 10 entries with the extension (NONE).
  4. Select the Folder item and click Advanced.
  5. Select the explore option and click the Set Default button.
  6. Click OK a few times and you are done.
Now give it a try. All of your folder views should open by default with the explorer look and feel, including the much anticipated Folders-pane.

Internet over Powerlines

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There has been talk about it for a fair while, but now a Cincinnati power company has actually done it. Cinergy Corp in Cincinnati will be rolling out $29.95 a month broadband Internet access that all runs over existing power lines. 1 Mbps both ways.

NASA's master sniffer

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NASA employs George Aldrich not as an astronaut, but as their 'master sniffer'. His job is to evaluate the smelliness of just about everything that gets sent up in the space shuttle. From circuit boards to feminine hygiene products to dirty shoes, he's been doing this for 27 years.
blog link :: Wired article

Seeing Voices

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I'm currently reading the book 'Seeing Voices' by Oliver Sacks and came across a passage that I just had to share. The book is about the incredible world of the Deaf. How deafness was once perceived by society, what we've since learned (and still need to learn), different education approaches, how deafness affects learning, the beauty and complexity of sign language, and much, much more.

The book is very eye-opening and directly contradicts a lot of the assumptions I had made about the limitations of deafness. What I wanted to share though was some passages from Chapter 3 where Oliver Sacks describes his experiences while witnessing the student strike at Gallaudet University, a school for the advanced education of the deaf, during the week of March 9th, 1988. The strike was in protest of the election of a hearing President to lead the school. In the 124 years the school had existed, it had never had a Deaf President.
On Sunday, March 6, choosing between three finalists, one hearing, two deaf, the board chose Elisabeth Ann Zinser, Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affars at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro -- the hearing candidate.


The next day, a thousand students marched to the hotel where the board was cloistered, then the six blocks to the White House, and on to the Capitol. The following day, March 8, the students closed the university and barricaded the campus.


Thursday morning, March 10: A taxi deposits me on Fifth Street opposite the college. The gates have been blocked off for forty-eight hours; my first sight is of a huge, excited, but cheerful and friendly crowd of hundreds barring the entrance to the campus, carrying banners and placards, and signing to one another with great animation.


The crowd itself is both strangely silent and noisy: the signing, the Sign speeches, are utterly silent; but they are punctuated by curious applause -- an excited shaking of the hands above the head, accompanied by high-pitched vocalizations and screams. As I watch, one of the students leaps up on a pillar and starts signing with much expression and beauty. I can understand nothing of what he says, but I feel the signing is pure and impassioned -- his whole body, all his feelings, seem to flow into the signing. I head a murmured name -- Tim Rarus -- and realize that this is one of the student leaders, one of the Four. His audience visibly hangs on eveyr sign, rapt, bursting at intervals into tumultuous applause.


I edge past the barricades, the speeches, the signs, and stroll onto the large and beautifully green campus, with its great Victorian buildings setting off a most un-Victorian scene. The campus is buzzing, visibly, with conversation -- everywhere there are pairs or small groups signing. There is conversing everywhere, and I can understand none of it; I feel like the deaf, the voiceless one today -- the handicapped one, the minority, in this great signing community.


A great many dogs are on the campus -- there must be fifty or sixty on the great greensward out front. Regulations on owning and keeping dogs here are loose; some are "hearing ear" dogs, but most are just -- dogs. I see one girl signing to her dog; the dog, obediently, turns over, begs, gives a paw. This dog itself bears a white cloth sign on each side: "I UNDERSTAND SIGN BETTER THAN SPILMAN."
A fascinating read.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Dylan in March 2004.

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