Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Saturday, February 28, 2004day link 

 Moblog
Alright, so having a mobile phone with a camera I of course need to have a moblog. "Moblog" is an even worse word than "Blog", but that's somehow what it got to be called. It is essentially that you can make a posting on your blog while on the go, from a phone or PDA. Typically it is done by having the latest picture in a sidebar, which then links to the gallery of past pictures. So it becomes sort of a different track, with smaller snapshots of things one is doing, without having to be able to say something clever about it.

I had in mind programming it myself, so that it could be integrated with my NewsLog blogging program. So, the first thing needed was a gallery. And there's of course no reason one should only be able to post to it with a phone, so I made it so one can upload from a normal file too, or grab a picture from a URL. And so one can edit the titles, delete mistaken pictures and stuff like that.

OK, then the aspect of how we get from my phone to a file on the server, if I go that way. I could make my own approach, but I glanced at other people's suggestions to see what might be the best practices. Like this how-to guide by David Davies.

So, I set up a separate e-mail account for the purpose. No problem to send a picture from the phone to an e-mail address. Then I'll put a password in the subject line, which will ensure that no random spam gets posted. And I'll put some descriptive text in the message itself.

Now, picking up e-mail from a pop account, and finding an attached picture, is not quite as trivial a programming task as it might look like. It is no wonder that most e-mail programs do something different and often screw up each other's messages. The standards are rather complicated, and everybody doesn't keep them. So this part took the longest time. I used PHP's built-in IMAP functions, which is based on a common IMAP library. Which exposes a lot of the dirty detail, rather than just doing the job for me, like handing me the attachment no matter where it was hiding. For starters, I made it so that it at least picks up the text and attachments the way my phone sends it. Which happened to be two different ways depending on whether it was a photo or a drawing. Next I'll try sending pictures from my normal e-mail programs and debug what goes wrong with that. Anyway, I made the program pick up mail once per hour, as the mail pickup is rather slow, and I don't want to overload anything if there ends up being many of these accounts.

You can see the current result in my right sidebar. Just a few pictures so far, but you get the point.

And for you other guys who use my NewsLog program, I need to work out a few more details, then this functionality will be available for you too. I.e. you can have a picture gallery, and optionally post to it via e-mail. Only hurdle for that part might be to acquire an extra e-mail account for the purpose.
[ | 2004-02-28 17:10 | 15 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Snow and Crime
picture It snowed last night. It snows very rarely here, so it is an event every time. We rushed out and had a snowball fight and made a snowman before it melted again.

Then, after we got in again, a little later, I walked outside and realized that somebody had made off with our two bicycles. Locks and all. Which is a bummer, as that is basically our transportation, and the cost isn't exactly trivial for us. Plus it is always an uncomfortable feeling when somebody has invaded your space and stolen your things. Here we're talking: behind a big closed iron gate one needs to roll aside, and at the end of our driveway around a little corner.

We had otherwise been snickering about the French paranoia about burglars and thieves. Everybody seems to lock their gate with a key whenever they go in or out, and they live behind closed shutters, and, I'm sure, multiple locks and alarm systems. And warn everybody who will listen about the dangers of leaving anything not secured, and how bad people are roaming everywhere. Despite that we haven't seen any. OK, we roll down the shutters too when we leave. And we lock the front door when we leave, which we didn't take very seriously in the U.S., where we didn't even think much about leaving a car unlocked in the street. So here we're a little more secure, but locking the gate seemed a little excessive.

Guess we have to change our mind a bit. Lock the front gate all the time. Chain bicycles to something stationary behind the gate. Maybe I should dig up that box of X10 video cameras I never have gotten around to playing with, and watch the perimeter at all times. Make sure anybody who touches the fence gets electrocuted. Dig a mote filled with piranhas. I don't know.
[ | 2004-02-28 17:57 | 14 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Verisign sucks
Verisign is one of more despicable and corrupt companies I can think of. They still have a bit of a monopoly position in that they maintain the central registries of .com and .net domains, amongst others. The domains can be sold by many other registrars, but Verisign maintains the central database. If that's all they did, even as badly as they typically do, it might be fine. But they keep coming up with clever business schemes for tricking people into registering domains with them rather than with competitors, or paying them ransom money for useless services.

One of my clients had a couple of domains names I had registered for her. When it came time to renew them she didn't get my messages because of an old e-mail address, so they expired. They were registered with OpenSRS, which is the registrar I'm a wholesale provider for, and which generally does a great job. They have very clear rules about what happens when a domain expires. After a few days it stops working in DNS, and after a 40 day grace period, it gets deleted. And that is how it works. The domain becomes unregistered after 40 days. After which I, or anybody else, should be able to go and re-register it.

But Verisign got the bright idea of offering a special "service" for domains that are deleted. It consists of that they don't actually delete the domain as instructed, but they offer the recent owner that for $80 they can re-instate it. Which is as well fairly cumbersome and takes 7 days. The period where this arrangement is in place should supposedly be a 30 day "Redemption" period (beyond when the domain should have been deleted) and a 6 day "Pending Delete" period. So, one could just wait till after that time and re-register the domain? Not even that, because Verisign doesn't even stick to their own guidelines. Like it has done for many years, it keeps the domains for much longer times, without any explanation as to why or how long. One of those domain has been two months in the Redemption period. Another has been a month in the Pending Delete period.

ICANN, the entity actually responsible for the whole domain system, is also being blamed for this. However, looking an their previous proposal, meant to help domain owners avoid losing their domain by forgetting to renew it, I realize that it is what my own register already had implemented, as had most others. I.e. if your domain expires, your domain will be on hold for about a month of grace period. Then it will be "pending deletion" for about a week or so after that, and then it will be gone. That's normal registrar practice. That Verisign then adds their own procedure on top of that is totally unnecessary and nothing more than a scam. Kind of like if the post office kept a letter sent to me and then offered me the service of paying $80 for receiving it sooner than in a couple of months.

There have been a string of other similar business practices from Verisign, or proposed future plans. Verisign and ICANN just got sued by a group of registrars for a planned scheme that involved selling already registered domain names by auction to other people, to "guarantee" that one would get the domain name if it expired. And at the same time sell insurance to the actual domain owner, to ensure that nobody else can get their domain.

And Verisign just sued ICANN for trying to hinder them from running the "Site Finder" scam they had started up last year. The idea was that whenever anybody mistyped a domain name address, and accidentally asked for a domain that didn't exist, they'd end up on Verisign's site which would offer to sell them that domain name. Remember, as a registrar Verisign is just one of many competitors, but they used their control of the underlying database to lead people to their own registration service, making them think it would be the "correct" path to follow.

Before that, they tried their luck by sending out phoney renewal notices for domains that weren't registered with them, just like several other unscrupulous companies were. I.e. you get a "renewal" notice in the mail, saying that your domain is expiring on such and such a date, and that if you pay now, it will be renewed and taken care of. Except for that the domain wasn't registered with them, so what they're really asking you to do is to *transfer* the domain to them from your current registrar. But many domain owners don't really understand the fine points of that, and renewing one's domain before it expires always sounds like a good idea.

Around that time too, another of their schemes was that they would automatically throw a wrench in the machinery whenever a domain was requested to be transferred to another registrar. Which is a standard function in the domain system. The receiving registrar checks with the owner of the domain that they really intend to transfer it, and then file the transfer instruction with the domain database, which should then be carried out in a day or two without incident. Instead, Verisign would automatically throw away all of the transfer requests, and not say anything to the owner of the domain, nor to the requesting registrar. And after a couple of weeks, the transfer would time out and fail without explanation. Only if the customer called Verisign and verbally instructed them to allow the transfer to go through would it actually happen. And talking to Verisign is a bit like getting through to the IRS. Plus that the actual customer is likely to have a hard time explaining what is going on to them, as it is naturally a bit technical.

Oh, there's a good deal more, but that's enough of a rant for now. But look at the Verisign Sucks page, as lots of other folks have had the exact same problems I describe here. Or go here or here. Lots of stories of fraud and deception.
[ | 2004-02-28 18:00 | 17 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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