It's Just this Little Chromium Switch Here

Weblogging and commentary by Chip Rosenthal

He's Dead, Jim

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Here is another update--maybe the final update--on my "invasion of privacy" spammer. (first posted Dec 23 and updated Dec 29)

It appears that our spammer is no longer with us. Their DNS is offline. If you ping their web host (63.164.122.10) you get back a Destination Host Unreachable error from a router buried in the Sprint network.

This is a good sign that spammer has left the building. While there is some satisfaction in seeing a spammer squished, there is the frustration knowing, like cockroaches, there are ten more to take their place.

This blog has unrelentingly denounced network service providers who shirk their duties to stop spam. This time let's recognize one for a job well done: good going, Sprint!

Guess-the-Spam Contest

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spam cartoonWith great fanfare, I'm pleased to announce the First Annual IJTLCSH Guess-the-Spam Contest. It's good clean fun for the whole family, and your chance to win a fabulous prize.

The goal of the contest is to guess how much spam I received (number of email messages) in 2002. The person who guesses the closest wins.

Post your guess as a comment to this entry. You have until noon CST on Sunday, January 5 to submit your guess.

If you win, you'll get some wonderful--albeit cheap--crap. The grand prize is your choice of either: a ten dollar gift certificate redeemable online at Powell's Books, or a used 3COM 3C509-TP0 ISA Ethernet NIC.

Contest rules: One entry per person. Purchase not required, but bribery is always appreciated. Decision of the judges (that's me, buster) is final (and probably a little capricious). I'll only ship within continental U.S. If you live elsewhere, you have to come pick up your winnings. Void where prohibited. Spammers need not apply.

Spammer Host Surfaces: Innocent Victim or Spammer Chutzpah?

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Last week, I wrote about a horribly rude and invasive spam I received for a web site hosted at www.amazinghealthconcepts.com. (View a copy of the original spam here.)

The network that hosts this spammer has been listed in the SPEWS block list. Yesterday, the administrator for that network appeared in news.admin.net-abuse.email and posted a message saying they don't spam.

This person is either a terrible victim or a spammer with amazing chutzpah.

Jan 1 update: I have posted an update to this entry.

A cc Update

Bill (not cc) the Catcc the cat was a total bitch last night. He's something like fifty pounds overweight and is on this diet that makes him completely miserable. He's not losing any weight on this diet but he finally stopped getting bigger.

I've been doing a lot of cooking recently and that makes him even grouchier. Well, breathing in the same room makes him grouchier, but he's really pissed about this food thing. He sees me preparing all these delicious meals, and all he gets is a scoop of crunchy kibble at midnight.

I think he reached wits end last night. He was quite upset I was enjoying my cheeseburger, and he was letting me know what he thought about the situation. I rolled my chair back to--I dunno, taunt him or something.

That's when I heard one of those sounds that you never want to hear coming from a cat

I finally chased him down and did a bodypart count. Fortunately he had as many appendages as he woke with, and they all still seemed firmly attached. But he's been punishing me ever since. I haven't caught him, but I know he's been moping around the house all day muttering, "You suck!" behind my back.

Dec 29 update: Apparently I have been forgiven and things are back to normal, which mostly entails sleeping a lot.

Santa Comes Late: New pxytest Released

I bet you thought I was being a lazy slug, shirking my weblog duties over the holiday week. Ha! Nothing could be further from the truth. I was doing something useful: writing code instead of generating blather.

I'm pleased to announce the second public release of pxytest, a tool for detecting unsecured proxies. This release, version 1.36, is a significant update. It fixes one bug, adds one new proxy type, and provides a whole slew of new features.

Spammer Says: We Know Who You Are, We Know Where You Live

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When you receive dozens of spams a day, not much shocks you anymore. Yesterday's inbox, however, provided a surprising new low. Here is an excerpt:

    Click Here: http://www.amazinghealthconcepts.com/mortgage1/

    Mark Harper
    Mortgage Consultant

    Your Information:
    chip rosenthal  -  austin, tx  -  ph= 512-442-XXXX

Notice the bit of personal information tagged onto the end. This invasion of privacy is a remarkable new spam low.

I wondered, "How the hell did the spammer get this information?" I do have my mailing address and phone number on my resume, but there my name is listed as "Leonard." So, I don't think it came from there.

There is a sleazy marketing practice called e-pending, where companies try to correlate your email address with personal information without your permission. I'd be surprised, however, to see chickenboner spammers spending the money on these services. So, I remain perplexed as to how he got it.

Then I wondered, "Why the hell did the spammer do this?" Is he trying to intimidate me? We know who you are! We know where you live! Maybe he thought by presenting this piece of personal information, I'd believe he had some right to spam me. Instead, I am creeped out and offended, which I suspect is not what the spammer wanted.

This incident brings together the worst of two worlds: spam and data (non-)privacy. It's a pity our Federal legislators are too busy attending Enron and Global Crossing fundraisers to do anything about these problems. Over on the other side of the globe, the Europeans have instituted strong personal protections. As somebody on a mailing list noted, "With the EU data-protection laws, the spammer would be looking at a jail term."

Dec 29 update: I have posted an update to this entry.

Windows in Austin: Insult and Injury

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Link: Seeing through the Linux-Windows TCO comparisons.

Joe Barr reports a story that is distressing in so many ways.

Last August, Joe reported how the City of Austin responded to a Microsoft license audit by swallowing huge fees for an Enterprise License agreement. Fast forward to earlier this month, when a Microsoft-funded study is released that claims Windows is cheaper than Linux in some applications.

Joe uses the City of Austin as an example to illustrate the flaws in this "total cost of ownership" (TCO) study. In fact, Joe finds the city is burning wagonloads of money on Windows licensing. See, the city buys Windows once when it purchases the PCs, and then buys it again at the end of year when it makes its Enterprise License payment to Microsoft. The city even has to pay for Windows licenses on desktop PCs that might not even run Windows. Ouch!

In these lean times, I'd rather see the extra money going to parks or libraries rather than Bill Gates' wine collection.

Sometimes Everybody's a Loser

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In the ongoing spam wars, sometimes everybody loses. We're all victimized by the actions of the spammers, and sometimes we're harmed by those fighting back.

A friend wrote to me complaining his outgoing email is being widely blocked. His email server is listed on the SPEWS block list, and sites that use this list to block spam are refusing his email. My friend, I assure you, is not a spammer. (Well, a lawyer, but even lawyers don't deserve to be treated like spammers.)

Lowe's: Spamming Home Improvement

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No spam, LowesLink: Letter from Lowe's (95KB scanned image).

Lowe's spammed Dave Lugo with unsolicited email. Dave complained, because he never gave Lowe's permission to email him. Instead, Lowe's probably acquired Dave's email address through means such as web scraping or e-pending. Lowe's responded to Dave, pretty much saying, "Our shit doesn't stink."

Here is the problem: Lowe's acquired Dave's address, but they never acquired Dave's permission. Lowe's performed a mass emailing to people without ever having their permission, and that, my friends, is spam. What's worse, not only is Lowe's email campaign unethical, it is outright illegal in many states.

This gives the potential Lowe's customer pause to consider. First, Lowe's is in denial regarding their offensive marketing policies. Second, they stand firmly behind their "opt-out spam" policy. Finally, they engage in unethical--and possibly illegal--marketing practices. If the cost of doing business with Lowe's is more spam in my mailbox, then I think I'll shop elsewhere.

Santa Likes Beer!

Thirsty SantaLink: You Better Watch Out!

Is there anything more distressing than turning the corner and seeing a hoard of rowdy, drunken Santas bearing down on you? Why, it's Santarchy! (via MeFi)