Five Web Comics I’m Reading

Something that I will try to do every once in a while is give a review of five of something that I think is particularly noteworthy to take a look at. It could be plugins, software utilities, websites, photos, or, web comics, like today. Today’s installment of Five Things is about five web comics that I make a point of reading whenever they update.

1. Everyday Decay

http://everydaydecay.com

Everyday Decay takes place in a post-apocalyptic zombie survival scenario, updating Mondays and Fridays. The art is quite impressive, with an interesting story line including drama, comedy, and “a healthy dose of WTF”. If you like zombies (and who doesn’t?), this is definitely one to check out.

2. Cyanide & Happiness

http://explosm.net

If you’re looking for a daily giggle involving plays on words, take a look over here. The art isn’t amazing, but it’s always worth reading for the comic relief, and there’s no story line so you can pick up at any point without feeling that you’re missing some key point brought up a year and a half ago.

3. Optipess

http://optipess.com

This is currently one of my favorites that I never miss. Kristian Nygård from Norway does a great job with each comic he makes. The name, Optipess, comes from the combination of two opposite words, optimism and pessimism. And, as Kristian puts it, “the comic is devoid of continuity, character development, story arcs, logic and wit”. Despite that he thinks that his art isn’t great, I disagree. Optipess updates every Monday and Friday.

4. Least I Could Do

http://leasticoulddo.com

LICD is not for the prudish. Its quirky story lines and abundant sexual humor are great for an open mind. The stories are great, the art is fantastic, and it updates every day. Seriously. Check it out.

5. Return on Insanity

http://returnoninsanity.com

Return on Insanity is a comic starting out by my good friend Tyler. It’s had its ups and downs trying to get itself started, but it’s doing great now. There’s a committed artist helping out, and I help with the web design. The story lines have departed nicely from reality, and center around Tyler getting started with his first business endeavor. The art and story has improved ten-fold over the past year as you can see from the archives, and this is one comic not worth passing up.

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Posted in Five Things

Education, Please

Sometimes it scares me how woefully uninformed some people are.

I realize that this sounds like I’m bashing people for not knowing about [insert subject here]. I don’t mean that. Really.What I mean by this is that it worries me how some people will talk about topics like they are educated about a topic clearly without doing any prior research about it. More specifically, it worries me how some people who are in positions of teaching, say, as my professor, will talk about some of these topics.

I’m sitting in my economics class one day, and we happen to be discussing monopolies in microeconomics. At some point, my professor starts discussing examples of monopolies, and happens to bring up Microsoft as a monopoly. Now, me being me, I am quick to object and quickly raise my hand, politely correcting her that Microsoft hasn’t been a monopoly for several years; rather, it still (disappointingly) holds a majority share of the market. (Aside: although Windows is on about 55% of servers, I couldn’t find any recent numbers for desktops. Let me know if you find it). She continues on like I didn’t mention anything.

The crème de la crop, however, happens to be her discussion about the Microsoft legal battle regarding patents a few years ago. For those of you which have not heard about this (and there’s nothing wrong with that – providing you’re not talking about it like you do), Microsoft faced a legal battle regarding patent issues with its Microsoft product Word. Rather than having done this research before, my professor instead decided to describe it in her own words, which came out something like this: “Microsoft was sued for putting special codes in the programs that they made so that people who didn’t use Windows couldn’t use the programs, and Microsoft refused to release the special codes”.
This seemed about the right time for a strong face-palm. It doesn’t take a third-year computer science student as I am to figure out that she has no idea what she is talking about; rather, anyone who has an idea about how computer programs are made knows that she hasn’t said anything right. If she had done her research about the legal case, which certainly isn’t hard to do with our good friend Google, she would have found that not only that she wasn’t saying anything right about source code, but that what she described was not even what the legal case was about.

I have no qualms about those who have a fact or two slightly off when talking about a particular subject which doesn’t happen to be their forte, but I feel it increasingly hard to sympathize with people who talk about topics in which they have no real knowledge. For clarification, the “special codes” that my professor described is called “source code” which is how people write programs, keeping a program closed source (ie. Not releasing the source code) is perfectly legal, and a company is under absolutely no obligation to compile their software to work with all operating systems on the market.

Perhaps the lack of knowledge of how programs are made is a moot point, seeing as how the legal case didn’t even involve programming at all. I guess my point, if one even has one when rhetorically ranting to the world, is that it frustrates me when those in a knowledge-distributing position (ie. A professor) distributes information without doing the proper research on it. The only part of the legal battle that my professor had right was that Microsoft was involved. I realize that this is a monumental, nay impossible, problem to combat, yet it still feels like a rantable topic. Rest assured, when I pass along information to the masses, you won’t need to put a [citation needed] tag after everything I write. [citation needed]

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Posted in Rants, Technology

Meat In A Tin

Over the past week or so, I’ve found that one of my other websites, H2H Security Group, has been getting a lot of spam. Unfortunately, it’s not just the random ads from bots. Bots I can deal with, and it’s unlikely that they’ll ever get past registration because there’s a reCAPTCHA in the registration. No, I have to deal with credit card spam.

Most people I know get spam in their email; it happens to almost all of us if we have a presence on the web with that email address. If any of you have read the spam before, usually it’s just a random string of words with a few links in them. Heck, some of them are just downright amusing. But credit card spam is more of a problem; not only is a nuisance, but it’s highly illegal. Not something that you want on a legitimate website.

The first problem was determining if the spam was automated (ie. from a bot), or a person who was posting the spam. The easiest way to do this was to install the reCAPTCHA system as I mentioned above. If you’ve signed up for any major service recently, chances are you’ve encountered a CAPTCHA of some sort. CAPTCHAs are the images with random numbers and letters which is supposed to be hard to read by an automated system, but fairly easy for a human. They are specifically designed to prevent bots from accessing the system. Although the reCAPTCHA system I installed stopped some of the spam, it didn’t stop all of it.

Stopping spam requires ruling your web site with an iron fist. Some automated scripts will help minimize it, but on a long enough timeline, spam will get through. It’s bound to happen. Currently the only way I’ve found to stop the spam is to start blocking IP addresses. In the case of this incident, I was forced to block an entire subnet of IP addresses. I found that ISP in Vietnam was producing a lot of the spam that I received. Despite numerous emails to their abuse department I found out that they deleted the emails without reading them, and made the decision to block the entire ISP from my web site.

Doing so is a bit of a double-edged knife. On one hand, the spam has stopped since I’ve done this (although I only did this two days ago – let’s see what happens!). On the other hand, I have pretty much cut off an entire country from visiting my site. Granted, the primary language there is not my primary target for my site, but still has the problem of cutting off legitimate users.

Of course, this is not a foolproof solution. There’s no reason that a person on that ISP couldn’t use a proxy to access my site and post more spam, but I’m taking a proactive approach to preventing this spam, and that’s about all one can do. Perhaps an interesting project would be to keep a central repository of known spamming IP addresses so that those IPs could be blocked by many websites around the world, and not just by a single server. Allowing a group of servers who pick up spam regularly to add IPs to the list for a number of days, and then many servers could download a list. It’s maybe something to consider to stop the spread of spam across the world.

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Posted in Development, Security

I Caved…

I vowed never again to use WordPress, but here I am.

Why, do you ask? Mostly because I got sick of having a domain just sitting there and not doing anything. When my own software is developed, I will probably swap it out again for my own custom software.

Ok, I’m getting WAY too far ahead of myself here. Who am I, and why do you care? Well, you probably don’t. I’m one more person with an opinion. But I will hopefully discuss some interesting things from time to time, both about life, computing, technology, and anything else that happens to strike my fancy from time to time. Hopefully, I will be able to update regularly. And hopefully I might say something that may get the cogs turning and provoke some thought. I’m sure my blog will most likely be about programming and the like, but will hopefully also discuss my other interests such as music and photography.

Stay tuned, San Diego,

–Brian

Posted in Everything Else