Archive for the ‘ Internet ’ Category

This Link Kills Spam

Email harvesting bots — also known as data miners — trawl the internet for anything that looks like an email address.  When they find one, they send spam to said address.  They then search the site on which the email was found and search everything linked to there.  The good people at the Office of Strategic Influence have created a site with a script that generates gigabytes of fail email messages (like “”) and have handily provided links to it.  Whenever this site, or any other site that links to the script, is found by an email harvester, the harvester also checks the script-hosting site.  And dies.  They can’t handle the millions of fake emails.  Death to spam!

If you want a text-only link on your site, paste

<a href=””&gt;
This link kills spam</a><br />

into your posts.  If you want an image link (like the one below; both kinds work equally well) paste

<a href=””&gt;
<img alt=”This link kills spam” src=”; border=0></a><br />


This link kills spam

Why DRM is Bad: The Law of Unintended Consequences

DRM is software used to restrict your access to your files.  And it is one of the worst ideas of the modern world. To quote Cory Doctorow in his book Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town,

No one woke up this morning and said, “Damn, I wish there was a way to do less with my books, movies and music.”

It was intended, originally, to keep copyright laws working.  Before about the 20th century, copying another work was an arduous process (no computers, no recording mechanisms, etc), so restricting the copying of an item (like a song, or a picture) was most easily done at the stage of copying.

All that has changed.  Now we have computers, cheap cameras, video recorders, scanners, recorders, and so on.  It’s suddenly very hard to keep people from copying.

The Law of Unintended Consequenses states:

Any intervention in a complex system may or may not have the intended result, but will inevitably create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes.

Basically, that means “Anything you do might work, but it will always do something you didn’t expect or want.”

The attempt to keep copyright working in today’s day and age is DRM, which keeps you from copying and using files how you want.  And it’s not just constricted to copying, either:

  • In July of 2009 Amazon deleted copies of two books from Kindles, as the books were illegally placed in the Amazon ebook store.  Ironically, they were Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, both by George Orwell.Now, assume a leaked copy of a secret eight Harry Potter book (of which there are in fact rumors) is bound by an individual and placed in Borders.  You walk in and want to buy it — you don’t know that it shouldn’t be there.  The teller, who doesn’t really like fantasy, doesn’t know that they shouldn’t be selling that book.  Later that night, it is revealed to the manager that this book was sold.  Some of his workers break into your house, take the book (you had already been reading it; you were about halfway through) and leave.  I believe you would be sufficiently enraged.  What’s to stop Amazon from deleting or editing any book you have on a Kindle?
  • DRM is on many DVDs in order to keep the market from getting too segmented — spread out over too many demographics, which is a huge hassle (if I read correctly) for marketing and the company in general.  Now, assume you just bought a new DVD.  You’re going on vacation to Japan soon, and haven’t yet had a chance to watch it.  You bring with you, to watch in the hotel one night.  Woops, too bad!  Many DVDs only work in players manufactured for the same country the DVD was manufactured in, and possibly a few others.
  • Or maybe, while in Japan, you buy some anime DVD to watch at home. Too bad, so sad.
  • Don’t like Safari on the iPhone?  Want, perhaps, Opera Mini?  Oh wait — everything on the iPhone is slathered in DRM.  You can’t use third-party software not from the App Store, and Opera Mini hasn’t been accepted yet.  So, it does get accepted, then an update changes its code some.  Apple doesn’t like the new version.  Oh, sorry, it appears Opera Mini isn’t on your iPhone anymore.  Download a vehemently anti-Apple article on your iPad?  Nope.  It’s deleted.  They can do that, if they want.  At any time.  To any one.  On any thing.
  • So, you just downloaded this ebook and man, is it great.  You want your friend to read it, but he doesn’t want to buy it.  “Okay,” you think, “I’ll just send it to him.”  Woops, sorry!  You can’t share your files if their DRM says so.
  • Any song you download from iTunes has DRM on it. You can only have iTunes accounts on three computers, and those songs are very restricted. This is doubly stupid. Not only is DRM a bad idea, but each of those songs is available on CD without DRM. iTunes DRM’s its songs because the big music companies say so, but then they release unlocked CDs (which is a great thing) that you can rip.

And get this — DRM doesn’t, for the most part, do a thing except annoy people.  Pirates have cracked every DRM scheme out there.  Any file with DRM is available on BitTorrent without it.

Help spread awareness:  DRM is bad.

Facebook Chat Emoticons

You probably know most of these, but there’s probably also a couple you don’t know.  Try ’em out!

Standard Smileys
Happy :)
Really happy
Sad :(
Crying :'(
Wink ;)
Anime face ^_^
Laughing eyes >:o
Cat smile :3
Mad >:(
Surprised :o
Tongue out :p
Glasses 8)
Shades 8|
Skeptical o.O
Dopey smile -_-
Bored :/ or :\
Devil 3:)
Angel O:)
Kiss :*

Not smiley faces
Penguin <(")
Putnam :putnam:
Shark (^^^)
Heart <3
Pacman :v
42 in a box :42:

Some Great Webcomics

I read a whole bunch of webcomics, all of which are great or at least worth a look. Without further ado, here’s the list:

  • Ctrl+Alt+Del is along the lines of Penny Arcade, but deals more with the characters than with games. In my opinion, it’s better.
  • Irregular Webcomic, also written about here, is made entirely out of legos.  And is loads of fun.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja is about a ninja who is also a doctor. He descends from a long line of ninjas who, of course, have a long-standing rivalry with pirates.  His vehicle of choice is a velociraptor.
  • XKCD is the well-known techie stickfigure webcomic. I like it.
  • Questionable Content is definitely worth going through the entire archive. I got very little done this weekend because of it. Among other things, it’s really interesting to watch the progression of the author’s art style. If you have not read it yet, you should. Now. Click that link!
  • Order of the Stick, a D&D webcomic, is set out to use every trope (clicking on that link may cause you to click on other links uncontrollably. You are warned.) and is full of excellent humor.
  • Goblins – Life Through Their Eyes is another D&D comic, from the point of view of a party of goblins who become adventurers. It’s got some heavy stuff in it, but is definitely worth checking out.

Ta-da!  If you haven’t read any of ’em, at least check out the first couple.


So, here’s a whole bunch of cool links for your enjoyment.  Check ’em out!

By the way, middle-clicking (or, often, Ctrl+clicking) opens the link in a new background tab, so you can keep reading the post until  you’re done, at which point you can just close this tab and move on.

  • Star Wars Weather Forecast
    Compares the weather of a user-defined location to various Star Wars planets.  Right now the description for mine is “Wow.  18 C, Light Rain?  It’s like Kamino out there.  Wet.  There’s also a significant chance of unconvincing CGI aliens.”
  • Earthship Homes
    Earthship homes are houses built entirely eco-friendly:  insulation from old tires, glass from recycled bottles, and so on.  It’s pretty sweet.  Check out the link for the full post.
  • Space
    Simply an amazing picture of a section of space.  Once there, click it to zoom in.
  • The Star Wars Opening Crawl Finally Reaches Earth
    Some genius decided to show what would happen if the text from the opening of Star Wars made its way to Earth.  Definately worth checking out.  Very funny.
  • Pokescience
    Proof that Pokemon are “freaking hax,” taking into account things like the fact that Blaziken can apparently jump 60 times its own height, and that Magcargo’s body is somewhere around 1.8 times as hot as the surface of the sun.
  • Electric Umbrella
    An instructable detailing how to build an umbrella with embedded LED lights for maximum awesomeness.
  • The Something Store
    Buy a $10… something.  It’s a mystery.  You can get anything with a value of or greater than $10.  Just go for it!  If you don’t like it, well, it was only $10 and there’s a good chance it’d be something cool.
  • Where To Start With Young Adult Science Fiction
    A list by io9 of young adult Science Fiction books, most of which I think are great to read if you haven’t yet.  At least give it a look.
  • Gizmodo Reading Room:  Fiction
    Another list of great fiction books, but this one isn’t limited to Sci-Fi.
  • Orisinal Winterbells
    A fun little game in which you are a rabbit, jumping as high as you can off of floating bells.  Control with your mouse.  Not much of a point, but fun and (perhaps?) calming nonetheless.
  • Return My Pants!!
    A site to keep track of who’s borrowing stuff from you, and whose stuff you’re borrowing.  
  • ColorJack
    A color picker, with a nice look/feel and great for grabbing the hex or RGB value of a given color.  Worth a look for any web designer or dabbler in HTML.
  • Facepalm
    A great facepalm image.  Insert it into threads where a facepalm is required.
  • Pirate vs. Pay
    Describes why people pirate, through a few images and some arrows.  Humorous, but very very true.
  • Math Heart
    An equation that, when graphed, makes a very nice heart.  You may have to scroll down a bit to see the graph
  • Math Leaf
    Along the line of the above, this equation makes a leaf.  Maple, I think.
  • Binary — It’s Digitalicious!
    A great non-laggy Binary/Hex/Octal/English translator.

Et voila!

Relaxing Things

First, two relaxing games:
Boomshine, with incredible music by Tim Halbert, is played by clicking the field to create a bubble.  When this bubble touches small disks bouncing around the screen, they turn into bubbles – hopefully creating a chain reaction.  You must turn a certain number of disks into bubbles on each level.

Obechi, from the creators of Boomshine, is played by creating rings that grab small disks and pull them into the center.  You must grab a certain number of disks by using a certain number of rings on each level.


Then, some good relaxing music:
Rainymood, as seen here.

Show Me by Michael Lington.


Here’s a bunch of cool links I’ve been saving up:

The Case Of The 500-Mile Email
The statistics department at a certain college seems to be unable to send email more than “500 miles, or a bit more” away.  There actually is a valid reason.

This open-source machine can, when given a diagram and a load of raw plastic, ‘print’ three-dimensional objects, from eyeglass frames and wall brackets to action figures and 3D renderings of Walt Disney’s head.

Better Late Than Never
A Japanese man completes a marathon after 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes, and 20.3 seconds.

Road Lights
These towers use the wind of passing cars on a highway to generate electricity to power streetlights.  I bet that electricity could be used for other uses, too.

These wireless earbuds, when clipped into their case, can fit into any AA battery charger to recharge.

This wireless hotspot finder is shaped like a dowsing rod and points toward the strongest spot.  It can also act as a repeater, to strengthen the signal.

Cube Jigger
This jigger is shaped like a cube and can measure liquids in six common measures.  Each side has gradients, also, so using the ‘Cup’ side you can measure out 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, and so on.

SWITCH Screwdriver
The handle on this screwdriver can swivel to form a ‘T’ shape, offering better grip for stubborn screws.

Proof That Girls Are Evil
While in fact most of them aren’t, it’s a good (and funny!)mathematical proof.

How To Get Your Camera Back
One man made a series of pictures on his camera to convince someone to give it back to him (and how to get in contact) in the event of loss.  He also compiled them together in .gif format just for the web.

Star Wars Status Updates
Hilarious.  Facebook status updates by Star Wars characters.   Nothing more needs be said.

Metal Pen
This pen has no ink.  It works because the nib is a special alloy that slowly comes off onto the paper; when used on printer-paper-style paper, it looks similar to a pencil’s mark but does not smudge and cannot easily be rubbed of the paper.  For a full-length alternative, see the Beta Pen.


I’ve got a whole ton of cool links that’ve been building up for quite a while.  Here you go:

Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale
At this year’s World Science Festival, Bobby McFerrin does an interesting demonstration of how audiences can always hit the pentatonic scale right on. [Vimeo]

5 New Technologies That Will Change Everything
USB 3.0, Video streaming over Wi-Fi, 3D TV, Augmented Reality in mobile devices, and HTML5.  All very very cool. [PCWorld]

A very cool site:  plug in the type of airplane you’ll be flying on and it shows you the seating chart for that plane, with the benefits (or lack thereof) to each seat.  E.g. “This seat may have extra traffic in the aisle due to its proximity to the lavatory” “The large TV screen is not visible from this seat” [SeatGuru]

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja
A webcomic about a doctor.  Who is also a ninja.  In a family of ninjas who came from Ireland (or perhaps Scotland).  ‘Nuff said. [Dr. McNinja]

Metal Chess Pieces
A very cool metal chess set, made out of screws and flanges and such.  Also, a diagram of the heart and lungs.  You can ignore that one. [Flickr]

Repair a Broken Ethernet Plug
Everybody hates broken connectors on an ethernet plug.  Now you can fix them.  Enjoy. [Instructables]

T-Shirt:  Ninjas Can’t Catch You
I would totally buy this t-shirt, except holidays are coming soon so I think I’ll just add it to my wish list. [TopatoCo]

Tron Legos
I will make this, once I get around to finding the parts. [Flickr]

Cardboard Kayak
I will build this, once I convince mom to drive me around to look for cardboard.  I sense a theme here. [Instructables]

Silent Conversation
A very cool game where you are the cursor and you have to touch words in a story – words moved into patterns so you have to jump and swerve.  Also there are words that can kill you if their ‘spirit’ hits you.  [Armor Games]

Anatomy of a Black Hole
Self-Explanatory.  Very easy to understand, very well presented. [ThinkTechnologies]

Screws and Nails
Detailed description of different kinds of screws and nails and their uses.  [Web-pros]

A Story About ‘Magic’
Cool, chuckle-inducing story. [Catb]

Fraction-Of-An-Inch Adding Machine
A very cool, very useful machine (made out of paper) to add fractions. [EvilMadScientist]

EZ-12 Parabolic Reflector
Stick this over the antenna on your router and view the speed boost.  I went from 48 to 54 Mbps, as defined by the popup thing in my System Tray. [FreeAntennas]

Ta-Da!  Also, hopefully the Favicon issue is resolved.  What happened was that the site it was hosted on had a crash and lost a whole bunch of images.  I reuploaded, reset, and it seems to work now.


Instapaper gives you a little button to put on your bookmarks toolbar when you sign up (just give them a username, that’s it.  Passwords, as far as I can tell, are optional; I put one on mine).  Whenever you go to a site that you think would be interesting to read but you don’t have time or are busy, click the little button and the page is added to your Instapaper site.  To read that page, just go to the Instapaper site (I’d recommend a separate button on your toolbar) and click on the title.

You can also star things, like say if your employer sends you a link while you’re working on something else, you can save it with a star so you won’t miss it.  Or if  you especially like something, or want to send it to someone, or just because you can.

From what I’ve seen, it works on any site with anything on it, as it’s really just making a link to the site you want to save.  Try it out, it’s totally free.

You can get to your Instapaper list from any computer, as long as you remember your username and, if you set one, your password.  As far as I can tell, Instapaper saves your sites indefinitely, although I could be wrong as I haven’t been using it very long.

Instapaper, here.

My Instapaper list:


InterfaceLIFT is a site with all kinds of cool wallpapers.  It’s got widescreen resolution, fullscreen (standard), HDTV, dual monitor, triple monitor, and mobile device sizes.  It can handle most any size wallpaper, though I couldn’t find one at or to scale of 2048×768.  Still, awesome stuff.  Check it out here.