Do Not Reply (.com)

You know all of those emails that you get from companies that say “DO NOT REPLY”? As it turns out, some genius programmers really like to go the extra mile to make sure that their users do not reply…to them. These geniuses program the emails they send to have a reply-to address in the form of something@donotreply.com. You know, so they don’t get the replies (or bounce-backs).

Trouble is, donotreply.com is actually a real domain. And, any email sent to that domain, will be received by someone. In fact, Chet Faliszek will probably get the email, because he owns the domain donotreply.com. He also likes to post the best of the embarrassing mistakes.

Via Coding Horror.

Multi Columns in websites

For the past couple of months I’ve been working on creating a new website that uses WordPress as a CMS for the organization Girls Get Connected (That’s the old site, because the new one isn’t quite done yet). The project has been a great one to work on because I’ve gotten to do everything including the design of the site and development of the WordPress back-end and templates.

Early on in the project, after the design mockup had been approved, I knew there were going to be some difficulties implementing it. One of the things that I knew would be a problem was the fact that I had designed a rather prominent section on the home page of the site which called for an article to be split into multiple columns. This being a content managed site, I also knew it wasn’t really going to be an option to ask the end users to break up their articles into two even sections so that it would make nice and pretty columns. Also, CSS3 really wasn’t an option, since this site would have to work on all current browsers. Something else would have to be done.

The solution I ended up using was a very elegant JavaScript program written by Randy Simons. The script is called Multi-Column Text and is pretty easy to implement. It automatically splits the text into multiple columns (you chose how many), and includes support for liquid layouts. This means that the content and columns aren’t static; they will automatically adjust as the page is resized. Check out the demonstration page to see what I mean. This script is also works on enough old browsers to actually be usable.

What impressed me most about the script was that it requires very little extra markup. Assuming all of your markup is in some sort of standards compliant state, all that is required is one (or possibly two) extra div tags. Say you wanted to make the following code segment use the multicolumn script:

<h2>Maecenas</h2>
<p>Pellentesque mi. In lacinia iaculis ante.</p>
<h1>Ut dapibus</h1>
<p><em>Nunc non dui.</em> Maecenas quis lacus sed dui commodo elementum.</p>
<p><strong>Pellentesque rhoncus sollicitudin libero. Phasellus nunc risus, tincidunt vel, bibendum eu, molestie ac, tortor. Etiam in felis.</strong></p>
<p><strong><em>Pellentesque id erat. Mauris condimentum pharetra nibh. Fusce sollicitudin auctor tortor. Aliquam placerat,</em></strong></p>

All that needs to be added are two div tags to wrap the content. The first div must also include an id or class name for the JavaScript to hook to. You can use whatever class or id name you want when you implement it. I chose to use id=multicolumn. The finished markup would look like this:

<div class="multicolumn">
  <div>
    <h2>Maecenas</h2>
    <p>Pellentesque mi. In lacinia iaculis ante.</p>
    <h1>Ut dapibus</h1>
    <p><em>Nunc non dui.</em> Maecenas quis lacus sed dui commodo elementum.</p>
    <p><strong>Pellentesque rhoncus sollicitudin libero. Phasellus nunc risus, tincidunt vel, bibendum eu, molestie ac, tortor. Etiam in felis.</strong></p>
    <p><strong><em>Pellentesque id erat. Mauris condimentum pharetra nibh. Fusce sollicitudin auctor tortor. Aliquam placerat,</em></strong></p>
  </div>
</div>

I like the way that looks: clean and simple. You can even use this in in a WordPress template with PHP tags included and everything still works. This is what is actually coded into one of my WordPress template files:

<div class="multicolumn">
  <div>
    <?php ggc_the_long_excerpt(); ?>
    <p class="readmore"><a href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" rel="bookmark" title="Continue Reading <?php the_title_attribute(); ?>">Read More &raquo;</a></p>
  </div>
</div>

My favorite part is what happens when Javascript is not available. In my case, the page still works fine and no content is lost. Sure, there are some rather long line lengths, but everything still works.

Bunny Jumping

Mac OS X Security

Preface and Disclaimer

This paper presents an overview of the security situation of Mac OS X. The purpose of this paper is to present security in a very easy-to-understand fashion. I firmly believe that there is an absurd amount of FUD about computer security in general, mostly propagated by vendors of antivirus software and their partners. In the case of Mac OS X in specific, it is very difficult to get accurate, non-sensational information about what the real security threats are. This paper began as a genuine effort to figure out, and then convey, what the real status of Mac OS X security is.

Please be aware that I am no security expert (nor am I a hacker), but simply a normal computer nerd with a passion for most things relating to computers and design. I have made every effort to consult the writings of security experts and convey accurate information. If any security ninjas out there find any inaccuracies, please let me know.

With the exception of the section “Out Of The Box Security and Additional Hardening Measures”, the entire report refers to Mac OS X 10.4 and prior versions. Where possible, I state specific versions of the operating system that I am referring to.

I’ve broken up this report into several pages because it is quite long. You can also download the report in its entirety in PDF format.

(more…)

Comcast’s Traffic Management Practices

There is an interesting article on ARS Technica about Comcast’s FCC filing regarding its practices of secretly filtering network traffic. For those of you not up on the latest news, the FCC has been investigating Comcast’s network management practices after Vuze objected to Comcast’s practices of degrading P2P connections.

The article gives a really nice explanation of what is actually going on. It’s also some good reading for people who don’t know how Comcast actually structures its network (ie. what your neighbors are doing makes a big difference on your network speed).

The basic problem here is that Comcast oversells its network on the premise that nobody will use all of it. When a few customers actually attempt to use all of the bandwidth, the whole thing chokes. So instead of actually upgrading its network, Comcast filters out the traffic using lots of bandwidth (read P2P traffic).

While overselling is nothing new, what Comcast does strikes me detrimental to everyone. The main problem is that when the internet became popular, networks were designed for mostly downloading content. Most people were consumers, a few were providers. Todays internet, is different. P2P networks are more prevalent. YouTube is huge. The dynamic has shifted. More people are now providers, and more importantly, this trend will continue. Eventually, internet providers will have to restructure their networks to account for this change. Filtering content is only a stopgap.

I don’t necessarily disagree with the idea that Comcast should limit the amount of bandwidth that individuals can use. But if this is to be the rule, there needs to be a lot more transparency in the matter. Consumers need to be informed of what is the bandwidth cap for each service plan is. There also needs to be an easily accessible method for consumers to track their bandwidth usage. Most importantly, Comcast should notify consumers when they are filtering their packets, instead of just sending TCP reset packets.

If consumers have the actual information to make informed decisions, the market will decide whether or not this strategy is okay. This is of course, assuming that consumers do actually have alternative providers and that the ISP market is actually a fair market. Yeah right. Score one for corporate welfare.

Update: Upon further consideration, I’d like to clarify my point about it being okay for Comcast (or anyone) to filter internet content. What I actually meant, was that I think it is okay for an ISP to filter or lessen high-volume traffic from individual sources, provided that there is sufficient transparency in the matter. ISP’s certainly need to start selling what they can actually provide, but they also should be able to keep some users from adversely affecting others.

I do not under any circumstances support the filtering of traffic based on content. This is not the job or role that ISPs should be in the business of playing.



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