Archive for the ‘BlogTech’ Category

Well, This Is a New One

February 18th, 2014 2 comments

I am used to the idea of splogs—fake blogs which steal content from real blogs so as to generate income from advertising—but today I saw something I had never seen before. Perhaps, in the spirit of “splog” (spam + blog), perhaps you could call what I found a “Spews Site”—Spam + News Site.

I was searching for more information about a news story and was running through dozens of syndicated duplicates, when I came across one which was almost the same as the other dupes… but was worded rather ridiculously. I soon realized that I had stumbled onto a site which took syndicated news stories, but presumably to avoid paying the fees, they had a robot script go through and replace every 4th or 5th word with a random synonym from a thesaurus. Since it was done mechanically, a lot of the words come across as somewhat bizarre.

Here’s an example—real story on the left, and ripped-off version on the right:

Confederate sub made history 150 years ago Monday

On a clear, moonlight night 150 years ago, the hand-cranked Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley glided out over glassy seas off South Carolina, sailing into history as the first submarine ever to sink an enemy warship.

A century and a half later — and nearly a decade and a half after the sub was raised — just why the Hunley and its eight-man crew never returned is a mystery, albeit one that scientists may be closer to resolving.

Monday marks the 150th anniversary of the Feb. 17, 1864, mission in which the Hunley sank the Union ship Housatonic as the Confederates desperately tried to break the Civil War blockade that was strangling Charleston. While the Housatonic sank, so did the Hunley.

Confederate underling done story 150 years ago Monday

On a clear, light night 150 years ago, a hand-cranked Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley glided out over slick seas off South Carolina, sailing into story as a initial submarine ever to penetrate an rivalry warship.

A century and a half after — and scarcely a decade and a half after a underling was lifted — only because a Hunley and a eight-man organisation never returned is a mystery, despite one that scientists might be closer to resolving.

Monday outlines a 150th anniversary of a Feb. 17, 1864, goal in that a Hunley sank a Union boat Housatonic as a Confederates desperately attempted to mangle a Civil War besiege that was slaying Charleston. While a Housatonic sank, so did a Hunley.

Now, to their credit, they link to the original… but it still comes across as pretty shameless.

The Pharma Hack and Fallout

October 30th, 2010 7 comments

I may have inadvertently set the access parameters to deny access to all but my own IP Addresses last night, so you may have found this site to be “forbidden” over the past 12 hours. I was following a security suggestion on a site with follow-up advice for cleaning up after the Pharma hack, and it may have locked everyone outside of my own IP address out of the site. Hopefully we’re back on now.

Here’s what happened. Apparently, the spammers have taken things to the next level. First, it was trackback spam–spammers pretending like they were referring to poasts posts on my site in hopes of getting their sited link on a “top ten trackback” list. IIRC, they were the main reason people stopped using those lists. Next, it was spam comments filled with links to their spam sites, including attempts to get smarter with contextual spam. That got fought off with spam filters. After that, it was referral spam, in which they pretended to refer people to my site via links on theirs, thus making the top-referrer lists (again making such lists unpopular). Then it was splogs, stealing content from genuine sites to attract attention to their own. Then a resurgence of comment spam which forced me to change platforms.

For the past few years, though, everything was fairly quiet on the spam front; comment spam was controlled by Akismet, trackbacks are long history, and I stopped caring much about referral stats or splogs.

And then Matthew noted in the comments that something was weird about my site on Google.

If you do a Google search for “BlogD,” he pointed out, my site came up–but instead of reading as normal, it seemed instead to be a site selling drugs. The Google result made even the name of my blog seem like a spam banner, and the content full of pharma ads. Now, if you clicked on the link to my actual blog, you’d be taken here, which would be perfectly normal. But if you clicked on the cached site, you’d see something like this:

Screen Shot 2010-10-30 At 3.05.50 Pm

That’s not just for the plain “BlogD” search, but for a search for any content on my site–the above result was from a search for “ Softbank iPhone 4,” for which I am high on Google’s results. In short, it seems that most if not all of my listings on Google are currently like this, and I’ll have to wait for the crap to cycle out.

The weird thing is, my actual site is completely unaffected, at least on the surface. But it is as if Google is seeing an alternate-universe version of my site, choked with spam. Interestingly, in the cached site on Google, most links are normal and point back to my site. Even added links–a “Similar Posts” list, which doesn’t exist on my site but is added to the cached page, links back to my site despite the link tags being spammy–but they also added a “Trackbacks” listing, and that’s where you’ll find loads of their links, and the reason they did what they did.

So, what did they do? Apparently, they hacked my site, in what is being called the Pharma Hack or the Google Cloaking Hack, in which the spammers somehow gain access to your WordPress blog (likely through a vulnerability in a plug-in or the blog software itself, I haven’t found anyone who knows how it works yet), and essentially take it over. They hide their code in various files throughout your site, inject code into your database, and then they have their way.

The clever part of it is that on the surface, your blog looks normal–and you won’t know anything is happening until you do a Google search. The hack leaves your site apparently untouched, a smart move as outward changes would prompt immediate corrective action. But you have to remember, the spammers are not as much interested in your site as they are in the Google Juice that it can generate for them. And that’s what this hack is primed to do: harvest all your Google Juice and redirect it to the spammers.

Even as the site looks perfectly normal to you and everyone who visits, when Google’s crawlers come to your site, somehow the hacked parts of your blog make Google see only a heavily spammed version of your site–what shows up in Google’s cache, as shown above.

So in response, I followed the laundry list of advice on the sites reporting it–updated all my software, deleted all plug-ins and reinstalled only a few, checked my database and deleted the hacked portions, as well as a half-dozen other things.

One of them, unfortunately, was an attempt to restrict control of the site via access files, which inadvertently seems to have shut down the site to anyone but myself. I caught this when Ken reported my site down, and corrected it, which should be evident if you’re reading this post.

Alas, the hack often leaves bits of itself in places hard to find, so I will have to keep watching the database to see if re-infection occurs. So far, the hack does not seem to be destructive in nature, just parasitic. But it may be a while before I can feel somewhat confident that the site is clean.

What worries me is what will come next. Trackback, comments, referral, splogs, comments again, and now site hacking. I have to figure it will only keep ramping up.

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Been Away

May 15th, 2010 Comments off

Sorry I haven’t kept this updated recently–the new semester started, we’re still moving in, lots of projects to see to, I’m lazy–the usual slew of excuses. Posts coming very soon.

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Giving It a Try

September 13th, 2009 2 comments

I just added Twitter to my blog. Too bad my handle, “Blogd,” was already taken (a Spanish-language Twitter), so Blogd1 will have to do. I’m going to reserve it for (a) stuff that’s happening that I want to share with friends and family, and (b) quick thoughts that might not be enough for a blog post. The feed will show up at right, and you can follow the header link to the main Twitter page.

Next, I’ll have to figure out how to use Facebook better.

Update: Turns out that you can install Twitter as an “application” on Facebook–now any tweet I send will post to Facebook automatically, though it won’t include photos directly (just by the Twitter Photo link). Still, that’ll save some time, and allow me to be active on both.

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Fun with CSS (Safari-centric)

September 12th, 2009 Comments off

Apple is developing a rather involved set of CSS attributes which allow for some pretty nifty effects on web pages with pretty minimal coding. One that I found out about a while ago was rounded corners for table borders (Firefox has its own version of this, as it has for many of the effects; I do not know nor care what IE8 has).

But recently, a lot more has been added, including some pretty nice animation effects. You have to be using Safari to see them, but they’re pretty nifty. Chrome recognizes them as well (at least on the Mac), though the animation is less smooth on that browser. The ones I’ve been playing with allow for slow movement along a path, spinning, and fading in and out–as well as combinations of any of those. You can even define how they work–if they start or end fast or slow and stuff like that.

To see what I’m talking about, go to my home page and hover the cursor over the table headings, as well as the “Bb” (“Blackboard”) logo on the right. And for a little bonus, see if you can find the tiny little speck between the 2nd and 3rd table columns–just to the left of the Doonesbury link. If you can manage to hover the cursor over that, you’ll see a little homage to a 60’s TV show.

It seems like there is a bunch of these new effects lurking like Easter eggs, waiting for you to stumble over them; sometime I’ll have to see about finding a master list of these somewhere, I’m sure such a thing must exist.

Among the new CSS facts I learned: one can identify more than one CSS class within the quotes after a single style attribute–just separate them with spaces.

If you know CSS basics and want to learn these, then visit here and here.

Tweaking, Part III

May 19th, 2009 10 comments

Okay, most of the graphics issues have been taken care of, but a few remain (I have to fill out the Blogroll, and fix that footer). I have also reworked the LinkBoard to remove outdated links and add new links to sites I frequent more than I did the last time I changed the board, a few years back. Getting close to wrapping it all up.

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Tweaking, Part II

May 18th, 2009 3 comments

Well, I broke down and spent four or five hours doing that blog-theme makeover. You probably noticed that things look a LOT different now.

What’s involved is kind of… well, involved. I don’t just want anyone’s theme, I want my own theme–but I cannot even come close to writing a whole theme by myself. So I have to find a free theme which I can then re-work to be my own theme–with my own background images, separators, styles and all. That I can do. But since nobody has anything very close to the style I like, I have to choose a theme which looks even moderately compatible, and then go into the CSS stylesheet (as well as some of the PHP templates), and change everything to what I want.

For example, most blogs have big blank areas on the sides to account for varying screen sizes; it’s easier to maintain formatting when your widths are strictly set, but it wastes tons of space on larger screens. I like to have my content fill out the screen dynamically. That involves finding the main and sidebar sections, setting them to just the right proportions, and then dealing with a half-dozen faults that suddenly appear because the theme’s designer did not intend for the sections to be variable-width. Blank areas appear in the background image in many spots, and I have to leaf through hundreds of style variables to figure out exactly which ones ore the culprits.

And that’s just the beginning. I won’t bore you with the details, but there’s a lot–getting images right, setting margins and padding, getting fonts the way you want them–everything has to be tweaked just right so it fits together more or less seamlessly.

Two major notes: First, you may notice it’s not finished. That’s what happens when you start late in the evening. It’s 3 am and I’ll deal with the minor stuff later.

Second: the blog WORKS again! The Eyelid Twitching post is back up and running, for one thing. But other stuff is much better, like category notations no longer end with a comma, and I imagine that the comments and the moderation notice for them will actually work now.

The reason for this is that the last time I chose a theme to work off of, I unfortunately chose a really bad one, one which had bad coding which broke lots of stuff. The author even built in a message that would display to Internet Explorer users but no one else, and did not give warning on the materials that such a message would be displayed. However, I did not realize this until well after I had spent six or eight hours tweaking it–after which I did not feel like going through all that again. After that, it was a case of “I’ll get to it eventually.”

So I would like to thank everyone for being so patient over the past 18 months or so, putting up with the buggy software. The new theme (iNove) seems well-built, is aware of the latest WordPress build and of CSS3, and from what I can tell is doing a great job holding this old blog up. It’s one of the most-used themes, which speaks well for it.

If you see any problems (aside from the glaring graphic glitches, like the green icons in the sidebar hiding behind text, or corners of rounded graphics not fitting right), please let me know. Especially when it comes to functional elements, like comments and notices. The graphic stuff I’ll clean up in the next day or two.


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May 17th, 2009 Comments off

If you’re using a CSS3-compliant browser (e.g., Safari or Chrome) then you may be seeing drop shadows for the blockquote panels, in addition to the font and background changes for the quotes which everyone should be seeing. Just part of a little tweaking which I hope will lead up to a blog design overhaul not too long from now. The blog theme I’ve been using for the past few years is a pretty lousy one, with half-broken comments and other problems, and now I’m dealing with the top-drawing blog post shut down by comment overload. So I am attempting to compensate, and will use a new theme eventually for the blog template, and will make a few changes in visual style.

Strangely, Firefox is not registering drop shadows. I don’t know why not–I suppose they just haven’t implemented the new CSS features yet?

One decision: I am done twisting my code into knots to satisfy Internet Explorer–any version. I will no longer test that browser at all. If you really are married to it, then this blog will start looking worse as time goes on. But I am fed up with having to dumb down the code and surrender really nice design elements, or else contort it in hideous ways just because Microsoft can’t get their act together.

Those of you still using IE version 6 may see the blog’s title with a jarring white back to it. This is because I am switching to using PNG images in the theme which have transparency; IE6 cannot handle these. Solution: upgrade. I am sorry if you don’t like hearing it, but IE6 is the worst browser ever, and barring very unusual circumstances, there is absolutely no reason to use it. Upgrade to version 7 or 8. You might like hearing this less, but even better, switch to Firefox or Safari, possibly Chrome. End of preaching.

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Problems, Reboot

May 4th, 2009 Comments off

A problem has come up. The site’s most popular page, the Eyelid Twitching post, seems to have hit some kind of limit. With 1,945 comments, it now returns an Internal Server Error when you try to list all the comments. I have tried using some comment plug-ins, but to no avail. Therefore, I will try to upgrade the blog software–which may cause intermittent outages. Please be patient. Thanks.

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February 15th, 2009 2 comments

I’m having a hard time trying to figure out if I am getting a new form of spam, or if something else is happening. Suddenly, on a variety of old posts, I am getting comments which are suspiciously like spam, but not exactly.

The new wave of comments look like spam for several reasons. First, they are short–just a sentence or two. Second, they end with a common spam technique, which is to give the blogger a compliment. Third, they are hitting specific blog posts, some of which have been targeted for spam before; just in the past week, one post from a year and a half ago, dealing with spambots, has gotten two such comments, and previously several spam attempts were made on that one post (posts about spam are commonly targets).

However, the new comments deviate from past spam attempts in that they contain content which seems specifically in response to the blog post content. It could mean they’re legitimate, but it could also mean that the spammers have better AI in their software and/or are getting better at making their spam content-specific.

A few of these comments do not contain specific sites to link back to, but I’ve seen that before in blog comment spam, and I have always expected spammers to leave legit comments so as to get on a spam whitelist so they won’t get moderated the next time.

Finally, when these new comments do carry a link to a site, it is usually to a site which looks like a legitimate blog or something–but when you look carefully enough, there are commercial parts of the site, and links to commercial sites. Nevertheless, these sites could be private endeavors, which just happen to have a little selling on the side to make it worthwhile for the operators.

However, the fact that a variety of this type of comment suddenly started arriving and looks enough like spam to raise some flags has me concerned.

Has anyone else running a blog started getting comments like these in the past week or two? Or perhaps earlier (and they just found my site recently)?

Until I get this figured out, I’m going for a compromise: I’ll post the comments, but delete any links contained.

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February 1st, 2009 Comments off

Missed a day! Quite appropriately, the streak of blogging ended at 2009 days.

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January 22nd, 2009 4 comments

Well, that’s it folks. An unbroken, 2000-day streak of blogging, spanning more than five years.

2000-Img-01I started this madness on a lesser scale back on August 5th, 2002, just when I secured the domain name. Like many, I started my blog as an outlet for my opinions in the wake of 9/11. At first, however, it was a blog in name only–I did not post regularly (just nine times in one month, from 8/5/02 to 9/1/02), and I stopped blogging because it was so much work–I had not yet discovered blog software, and so I wrote the entire code for the site by hand. (The original logo I made for the site at the time adorns the top of this post.)

Nevertheless, I maintained the domain name and in April 2003, figured out how to install Movable Type. I blogged for a bit, then broke off for my trip to Spain, and then came back, blogging several times a week, but not without breaks.

But then, on August 2, 2003, I started blogging daily. It was a conscious decision–I wanted to prove to myself that I could maintain a regular task. At that time, I had trouble when confronted with even mundane stuff, such as keeping a schedule book or regular exercise. Blogging without a break became kind of my demonstration to myself that I could keep up a regular activity. Plus, it was valuable to me in other ways: it helped sharpen my writing skills (one blog post made it into a college reader), and it forced me to be more read-up and knowledgeable about current events. While such writing was also an enjoyable catharsis, I didn’t have stuff to say every day, so it was often somewhat of a challenge to find topics to write about.

After a while, the streak took on a life of its own, and I didn’t want to break it simply because it was a streak. However, when I saw the five-year mark coming, I asked myself what I thought I was doing–after all, I didn’t intend to keep this up for the rest of my life! And if not at five years, then when would I stop? It’s not an easy thing to suddenly stop for no reason.

But I couldn’t stop at the five-year mark, not with the most momentous election in my life coming up three months later. But shortly beyond that was a different landmark, the 2000th-day anniversary, and I figured that that would serve quite nicely. It was only later that I realized that this would work out to be the day after Obama’s inauguration.

Not that I’m quitting blogging, or that the site is shutting down–far from it. I will continue to blog, just not every day–from now on, it’ll only be when I feel like it. That means that probably a lot of my traffic will switch to RSS, as it is of more use when you don’t know when new posts will appear.

Initially, I might not even stop posting daily, though I will stop writing daily. That is, I’m starting a new feature: Recycled BlogD (“Classic BlogD” sounds too pompous and clichéd), in which I’ll find what I think are still-readable posts from the past which are of some significance or interest, along with links to other posts of interest from the same period which didn’t make the “Recycled” cut. That ought to keep material appearing on a regular basis while not requiring me to blog every day. Considering that there are almost 70 months of posts (over 3,500 entries in all), even choosing only one out of every 30 or 40 would keep me going for a few months, even without any new blogging.

Also, I won’t quit blogging regularly, either–I’ll just be shifting focus. I’m going to try to switch to blogging for my college’s web site, combining posts on events and local news with articles on subjects of potential interest. Partly this is to increase student interest in the site, but it is also partly to increase search engine traffic. As I found out on this site, incoming traffic increases a lot when there is a good deal of content being produced; the more content you have on a wider variety of topics, the more traffic comes your way. It might be a good way of bringing more attention and publicity to the school.

More on all of this later. In the meantime, thanks for your readership, and don’t erase that bookmark–this site still has lots of life left in it, new stuff as well as recycled. Enjoy!

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December 10th, 2008 Comments off

I just realized… my plan was to scale back my blogging efforts to a few times a week after my 2000th day of consecutive blogging. I just now realized that this will coincide exactly with the Obama inauguration. That was completely unplanned–I only noticed it when I started using the Obama Inauguration countdown clock, and saw that it had about 43 days left as I start my 1957th day of blogging. Funny how things work out.

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That Explains It

September 8th, 2008 2 comments

I always know when some aggregation site has linked to one of my posts when I start getting a bunch of comments from people I’ve never heard of before. About 11,000 visitors came from Reddit. And of course, it happens to be one of the briefest posts I’ve written–but on a topic I think is important. I just hope a few people looked at more than just the one brief post.

An associated problem from this: for the next month, my Google Analytics chart will look like this:


The one peak flattens out the rest. Google’s service may be free and have a lot of analytical tools, but they do a bad job on that main-page graph in a few ways.

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Sad to See…

August 13th, 2008 6 comments

I had been a fan of the web site Japan Probe… until they sold out and started including vapid, annoying blinking and otherwise animated ads. I hate those. So I posted that I would stop visiting the site because of the ads.

Within a few hours, the comment was deleted… and, apparently, another comment as well–the comment count on the post was 5, the number appearing was 3; I can only guess someone else chimed in.

Poor form, indeed. Advertising I can accept; people work at these blogs, and they want revenue. But blinking, flashing, moving ads? Can’t stand ’em, and won’t. Yanking critical comments? Even worse.

I’ve gotten quite a few offers to put ads on my blog, many actually appearing valid. I just don’t like the idea in general. And if I am ever so hard up that I break down and accept them, I will damn sure have a policy wherein I will not tolerate any ad that moves even a single pixel.


August 2nd, 2008 9 comments

Nope, your computer is not going to self-destruct. Bobbeh had it right: today is my 5-year anniversary of nonstop blogging–1,827 consecutive days of writing some form or another of babbling stream of consciousness on this virtual slate. Whether that is a remarkable achievement or a sign that I need counseling is up for interpretation, but I just wanted to mark the milestone. (Another one coming in three days: Sachi’s and my 2-year anniversary since we first met!)

One thing I decided was that after the five-year mark, I would not longer hold it as a rule that I have to blog every day. I will still try to, but if I miss a day somewhere along the line I won’t hold it as a big tragedy or anything. I’ll certainly keep up the volume, especially over the next three months until the election, but if I have nothing much to say some days, or if I am really incredibly busy with other stuff, then I won’t force myself.

Anyway, on with the babbling!

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August 1st, 2008 3 comments
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July 31st, 2008 Comments off
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July 30th, 2008 1 comment
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July 29th, 2008 5 comments
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