Monthly Archives: May 2009

Has my WordPress blog been hacked?

At some stage, some weird text seems to have inserted itself into a bunch of my links on my personal blog… a Get parameter referencing phpMyAdmin and a long hexadecimal string, which appears to be the same every time.

So for instance the link:
<a href=”/1995/12/22/the-bill/”>

became:
<a href=”/1995/12/22/the-bill/?phpMyAdmin=3bceb1b20913e8babce341325e13bf76″>

And this one:
<a href=”http://www.ptua.org.au/myths/energy.shtml”>

became:
<a href=”<a href=?phpMyAdmin=3bceb1b20913e8babce341325e13bf76″http://www.ptua.org.au/myths/energy.shtml”>

A Google search suggests that this specific parameter appears to be unique to my blog.

It mainly appears to have hit internal relative links, but has hit some external ones too. But it hasn’t affected all the links, by any means. Maybe a few dozen posts. And for the most part they are like the first example, above, and don’t actually break the links.

At first I thought it was a hack back at some time when I might have had a vulnerable version of WordPress on my blog. Though I’ve been unable to find any other examples of it (not that it’s the easiest thing to search for), and now I’m wondering if it was some mistake during a migration of the database.

Weirdness.

Google blurs Colonel Sanders? Maybe.

Oh lordy. I wonder if this is some kind of joke, or if it’s true?

The Telegraph reports that Google has blurred the image of Colonel Sanders on KFC signs in the UK, on the basis that he’s a real person.

The company says it took the decision because he is ‘a real person’ – despite him passing away in December 1980 aged 90.


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If it’s true, then can I just say: IDIOTS!

1. It’s a cartoon image, not a photographic likeness.

2. He’s been dead for 29 years.

3. What, you think we won’t know who it is? “Hey, who’s that on the KFC sign?” “Dunno, could be any southern American military guy who knows about chicken.”

4. Are they doing the same for cartoons and photos of real people on billboards and the like?

5. How is the late Colonel’s privacy being spoilt if people could see the cartoon image of his face? Hasn’t the horse already bolted on that, given the image of him is up on thousands of KFC outlets all over the planet?

Of course, it could be that the whole story is a crock.

Or maybe they just haven’t implemented their policy (whatever it is) very well.

The reason I offer these two possibilities is that I found this unobscured KFC sign, and this one too, both in London.

Certainly it appears the Colonel in Australia is freely visible:


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If they did institute such a policy in Australia, I wonder what they’d do about other cartoon face logos, especially of people who are still alive. Dick Smith is one who springs to mind, though now I think about it, I think they’re phasing out use of his face on their signs and literature.

The button

The non-profit I volunteer for got an iMac in the office. So lovely. Such clean design, spoilt only by the Post-It note someone had to put on the front of it to tell people to reach around the back to find the power button.

When critical systems fail

There’s some interesting things coming out of the bushfires royal commission; the last couple of days has highlighted the limitations of the emergency Triple-0 system, when surges in the number of calls outstripped available capacity, and overflow calls were put on hold, got recorded messages or were diverted.

The first half-hour of Jon Faine’s show on 774 is worth a listen for those interested, particularly the section from about 10 minutes in, with Garth Head, a former adviser to Minister for Police and Emergency Services. For geeks, it’s a reminder that sometimes the systems we design, implemennt and manage are sometimes critically important to those who rely on them.

Extracting RAR files online

As a Windows user I occasionally receive .rar files that I need to expand. In the past I’ve had to install a piece of software (I generally went with Stuff It Expander) to extract the contents. Of course every piece of software you install wants to add context menus, program groups and system tray icons – something I wanted to avoid adding to my new machine.

I’ve found www.wobzip.org that will allow me to extract the contents of .rar files online. As my need to do this is infrequent the overhead of uploading the file isn’t too much pay. The beauty of this site is that as well as downloading individual extracted files you can also download a .zip file that can be handled natively by Windows XP/Vista.

Media PC

I recently updated my main production machine and was left with a fairly recent (three years old) machine. After pondering what to do with it I remembered it had a silent power supply and this would make it an ideal candidate for a media PC.

I did some research on open source media software and had almost settled on Media Portal when Microsoft released the Windows 7 RC. The RC is the Ultimate version and has Windows Media Centre included. With W7 being a freebie for the next six and a bit months (before it begins to nag) I thought I’d give it a go.

After downloading the .iso and burning it to a DVD using the free burner program ImgBurn I put it in the DVD drive and rebooted the PC. A fresh install of Windows 7 took about 15 minutes. From memory I only had to make three selections for the entire process. Once the install had finished there were a couple more reboots that added about 10 minutes to the process but once these were done Windows 7 was set to go.

First impression is that Windows 7 is quick. Very very quick. I have Vista running on a Quad Core with 4GB of RAM but Windows 7 on a Dual Core with 2GB seems snappier. It takes the best of the visual elements of Vista and improves the task bar with icons and great preview thumbnails.

Setting up Media Centre was a breeze, all I did was point to the directories I wanted to use for movies and television shows, change the setting to make Media Centre run on start up and it was ready. The interface is stylish and intuitive, although options once are playing a file and you wish to quit can be a bit confusing.

I want to keep the media PC as lean as I can so this meant finding a way of getting content on to the machine without installing uTorrent. The answer was Windows Live Sync. I added a wireless network card to save running CAT6 through the roof and installed LiveSync. Now all I do is add/download the media I want on my main PC and it automatically syncs to the media PC at the other end of the house. It takes about 5 minutes to transfer an hour tv show, about 10 to do an average movie.

The biggest plus is that we may now actually get around to watching all the shows we have stored up. Prior to this we would have to decide what we wanted to watch and either convert them to DivX or create a DVD, burn the DVD and watch it that way. Given the time this takes, and the media we went through (we always seemed to loose the RW discs) we’d just sit and flick through channels instead. Now everything we have is there, ready to watch straight away.

I’m impressed with the set up and Windows 7. I’ll be upgrading my production machine and the media PC once the final version is released. Microsoft certainly seem to have got it right with W7.

iTunes with less bloat

(Part of my project to re-install my main home PC.)

I’ve been re-installing my main home PC, and trying to avoid putting junk on it.

iTunes 8 has blown out to a 70Mb download, up from about 20Mb just a couple of years ago with version 4, 33Mb for version 5, 35Mb for version 6, and 49Mb for version 7.

Part of the reason is that they bundle in a bunch of stuff: Quicktime, Bonjour (for networking), Apple Mobile Device Support (for iPhone and iPod Touch), MobileMe (for syncing with the service previously known as .Mac) and Apple Software Update (automatic updates, but includes shovelling in more stuff you don’t want).

The very intelligent Ed Bott investigated and found the following solution to cutting out the crap.

Download the iTunes setup. Then open it with an archive program such as 7-Zip or WinZip or WinRAR.

For people like me who have only old iPods, Nanos and Minis in the house, all you need is iTunes itself, and Quicktime. So extract and run the following:

Quicktime.msi /passive

iTunes.msi /passive
(For 64-bit: iTunes64.msi /passive )

…and that’s it. Done.

More details from Ed Bott — including what to do if you have an iTunes Touch or iPhone.

I hate relative time

As I’ve mentioned in passing before, I hate relative time on updates.

Twitter is the obvious one here. “About 8 hours ago”. “About 9 hours ago.” WTF use is that? Why not just tell me the time it happened, so I don’t have to mentally work it out?

It’s particularly useless if I want to compare the time of that Tweet to something outside Twitter.

Likewise the ABC Online News “4 hours 37 minutes ago” … jeez, just give me the publish time.

It’s doubly-annoying when presented on web pages, which may or may not get read immediately, and sometimes sit there for a while without being refreshed or updated. I come back half-an-hour later… “About 3 minutes ago”… oh really? When was that? 3 minutes before I last refreshed the page? Again, useless information.

The annoying thing is some programmer has actually jumped through hoops to display the time like this.

PLEASE, just give me the option of showing the ACTUAL time, not the relative time.

Now, does anybody know of a good Windows Twitter client that will show me actual times?

(OK, some people on Twitter reckoned Tweetdeck is one to try.)

Directing Mailman replies

For an announcements list, you don’t want people replying to the list, which will reject their messages. I had to do some digging to find out where to set this in Mailman. It’s under the General Options:

Where are replies to list messages directed? Poster is strongly recommended for most mailing lists. — which lets the recipient replies go back to the list, to the poster (which is the old-fashioned way to do it on discussion lists) or you can set to go back to an explicit address — which for reasons I won’t go into right now, is the way I wanted it.

OK, so this setting probably should have been really obvious, but I only just found it. Call me slow if you like.