Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

outlets and high speed connections

One thing that I had forgotten (or probably repressed :)) about the US: there are so many outlets in apartments! Outlets everywhere, and lots of them. I may still need expansion cords, but not so far. It's great! Such a difference from my outlet-challenged apartment in Ireland.

Another thing: happiness is a 4 Mbps connection at home. I can't say I miss my wimpy 512/128 kbps DSL in Ireland. At all.

Also, I had Internet connection in the apartment before I had phone service. An Ethernet port in the bedroom and another one in the living room.

If that's not a Silicon Valley experience, I don't know what is. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 26, 2005 at 6:54 PM

you have it all figured out -- until you don't

An interesting quote from an article in this week's Economist:

Inflation used to be described as too much money chasing too few goods. In a world where the supply of goods is more elastic—either because of technological advances or new sources of supply such as China—inflation becomes too much money chasing too few assets.
In the last couple of decades, most of science has been bent on accelerating the reinvention curve. Everything from Physics and Mathematics to Biology and Medicine has increased its rate of advance. But with Economics, save for some movement in the area of complex systems, we seem to have become content with the idea that market-based economies are really the ultimate solution. There are small "experiments" in various countries that are timidly moving in different directions, but no broad discussion of alternatives that I'm aware of. I remember some puzzlement in recent years as to how growth rates could be maintained without sparking widespread inflation.

So, are we to believe that when everything else in the world has changed drastically economics should remain unchanged? We already know the answer to that. The real question is whether economists will start seriously questioning the assumptions and techniques for analysis of our economies before or after difficult problems arise.

Categories: geopolitics
Posted by diego on February 26, 2005 at 6:43 PM

how to reboot an iPod photo

One of the things that happened while traveling was that about an hour into the LHR-SFO flight my iPod photo went nuts and started just to skip all songs without playing them. I came to the conclusion that it needed a reboot, but not having a notebook with me (I'm just carrying my data on a portable hard drive) I couldn't connect it and reboot it that way. I assumed (correctly as it turns out) that there should be a way to reboot it by using some key combination, but I didn't bring the iPod manual (such as it is) with me. I did have iPod: the missing manual but that was on one of the suitcases and so out of reach.

I tried a lot of options, mostly involving key combinations, but couldn't make it happen. Once I got here, I was able to check the book and the instructions to reboot both regular iPods and iPod minis were there, but, alas, no instructions to reboot an iPod photo. I decided to try the iPod mini way first (since it's a newer product) and it worked.

This is probably common knowledge to most long-time iPodders, but it was news to me. :)

Here's how to do it: put the Hold switch in ON, then back to OFF. Then press MENU and SELECT simultaneously and hold for a bit, and on release the iPod should reboot. According to the missing manual it is possible that the iPod is misbehaving due to battery charge confusion (not sure how that would happen, but anyway...) and for that you can plug it to the charger so that you can rule out that problem.

Speaking of iPod: did you know that European iPods can't play as loudly as American ones? Yep, the EU enforces "stricter" standard for maximum volumes in portable devices. Apparently, people aren't smart enough to know when they are blowing their ear drums off, or when they can't hear anything else except the music, and assumming they did want to do that, for some bizarre reason, then they shouldn't be allowed.

Now that is government regulation run amok.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 25, 2005 at 6:58 PM


Today I'm at the web spam squashing summit at Yahoo! HQ. I got here late, the result of a semi-crazy sequence of early-morning events that I will talk about later. Yes. More delayed posting. :)

Posted by diego on February 24, 2005 at 10:06 PM

the valley!

W00t! Here I am! :)

I was going to post before leaving Dublin but as it turned out I didn't have time. Too many things to prepare.

I'm totally psyched, even after not sleeping much for the last few days, and for the most part in "automatic mode" until I can manage to settle a bit. I arrived at SFO last night around 5, after leaving Dublin in fairly intense cold and hopping at Heathrow in the middle of an on-and-off snowstorm. Things ready for the most part, in a nice apartment, although no phone or Internet access yet (which is why I'm writing this offline, at 6 am in between software installs, organizing stuff around the apartment, and having some coffee :)).

More later as I start having persistent connectivity along with time to write!

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on February 24, 2005 at 1:57 AM


So, you're going to be away for about 3 months, around 5,000 miles from the apartment where most of your stuff is stored. What to pack? The answer: not much. A few books. Some clothes. All of my data (portable hard drives come in handy for that). This is the first time in many, many years when I'm traveling without a notebook --- my data will be a couple of portable drives, and I plan on getting machines (note the plural! --that was unconscious :)) in Palo Alto when I get there.

I'm leaving in 8 hours or so. I don't expect to sleep much. There'll be time for that next month. Or next year. :)

PS: Thanks to Russ, Matthew, Erik, and everyone else who's left comments on my commencement news. :)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on February 22, 2005 at 12:06 AM

and now...

Still thinking about what I wrote here, and comments/pingbacks about similar ideas. Wondering if something like this little box works... problem is that the RSS feed won't know how to represent it (if you're looking at this through an RSS reader, click here to see what I'm talking about).
It's a couple of days of backups, small-scale internal bickering about what to pack and what not to pack, and so on. To simplify, I'll be traveling only with a couple of portable hard drives, and that means making sure that I really have everything I need with me. Just a few books as well. Oh, and ripping a few CDs that I haven't got around to yet, just so the collection in the iPod is really complete.

It's a beautiful day out today, Dublin seems to have decided to give me a preview of Palo Alto. A bit colder, and more cloudy, perhaps. But similar. :)

I'll be there Tuesday. Yes!

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on February 20, 2005 at 12:23 PM


comm-1.pngYesterday was Commencement.

It's not every day that you get to participate in a ceremony that dates back hundreds of years (around 400 in this case, at least certainly for parts of it). The entire ceremony is in Latin, except for a few words here and there, and with a well-defined structure. Now, I am generally skeptical of rituals, since in many cases the ritual itself has both outlived the need for it and any knowledge of why it was being done, leaving only an empty shell of repetition. What's interesting is that, in this case, skepticism or not, I was eventually pulled into it. The slow but determined pace, everything in Latin (in which, to someone who doesn't know Latin, even the menu for a restaurant sounds portentous), the process by which the degrees are conferred, where a sort of conversation is pretty much "enacted" between the Proctor and the University's Senate, where the Proctor "presents" some people for conferring and requests that the Senate recognize them and award them the degree (which they do of course, although I suppose that theoretically someone could throw a tantrum and deny it!). More subtle things are also interesting, PhD candidates enter last guided by a guy with a scepter or something (I still don't know what that was for), in essence being guided into the ceremony by someone external. But when it's done you leave following the Provost and the Senate, pretty much declaring that you're now "part of the team" to a certain degree.

The colors of the gown (or the "technical" term I prefer, "cape" :)) were, um, slightly unexpected. Having no idea about these kinds of things, I was completely surprised when they it handed to me. The red and yellow colors of the PhD gown are for Trinity College Dublin, and each College has its own colors (and this applies to other Universities in Ireland and in the UK, like Oxford and Cambridge on which TCD was modeled). There are more "rules" related to the gown's colors (e.g., a Professor's gown is based on the colors for the Ph.D. I think) but I'll have to find a good historical guide for all that eventually, it sounds like there should be some interesting stories behind some of these things. The weight of the "cape" is something to behold and after a while you can't help but feeling different just by wearing it. Which I guess is the point!

One more thing, a small matter of language. I think it's great that this ceremony is called "commencement," which aside from its meaning as the ceremony itself or the day for it, also means a beginning, a start. In a sense, the ceremony celebrates the new stage that's about to follow. The formal Spanish term for Commencement is "colación" which, in Spanish, pretty much sounds like a mix between "collating" (a good translation for one of the meanings of the word) and flushing something down a toilet (yeah, not a nice image, I know). In fact, "colación" comes from "colar" which aside from meaning "the conferring of a degree" also means "to pass through a tight space, to pass liquid through a filter" and even "sneak through." Anyway, aside from the imagery, all terms in Spanish refer to the fact that you're finishing something rather than starting a new phase, more of a looking back than the looking forward implied by "commencement". I wonder if similar things happen in other languages.

So afterwards (cue Monty Python) "there was much rejoicing", then Dinner at the Commons Hall with my parents (a tradition that's 200 years old too) and then, of course, off to the Pub with Philip, who was also graduating, and others from NTRG, in a ... tradition... that is... probably as old as humankind itself. :) At some point during the night I learned the slang "fair fucks to ya" which means something like "way to go" but much more, um, endearing (how could I graduate without knowing that?! Shocking!). Then I said goodbye and walked back home, through cold wind and clear night. It was a good day.

To beginnings...

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on February 19, 2005 at 7:46 PM

don't panic!

I've been listening to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the original radio series, on the iPod(s). Still can't get over the scene where missiles turn into a bowl of petunias and a whale, courtesy of Zaphod's Infinite Improbability Drive.

"[And whereas the whale expressed bewilderment at materializing several miles above the surface of the planet...], the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was 'Oh no, not again.'

Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now."

The H2G2 movie, as it happens, will be released on April 29 this year. Here's the trailer.

Can't wait!

PS: btw, I'm not sure if Douglas Adams gets enough credit as a Science Fiction writer. He should. H2G2 is fantastic as a piece of SF, and we forget that it was written more than 25 years ago.

Posted by diego on February 16, 2005 at 10:05 AM

a week of many

Things? Events? Happenings?

Friday is Commencement, wherein I will wear a suit, gown and funky hat, and receive the degree, apparently with stuff written in Latin. Hopefully they will also provide translation, or maybe I will find subtitles somewhere for download. Btw, I prefer the term "cape" instead of "gown". Or "cloak". Or something. My parents are arriving today for a few days, with the intention (aside from just visiting of course) of attending the event.

Then next Tuesday it's leaving on a jet plane, for a couple of months or so in Palo Alto. Where the weather has been unusually is bad (rain all week). Not as cold as here though. I'll work on fixing the rain problem when I get there. :)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on February 16, 2005 at 9:42 AM

today's (re-)readings

Some articles I've been re-reading, in no particular order:

If you're wondering why these articles, it's simple: as I've been, in the last few days, trying to impose some order on the unremitting chaos that is my apartment, I've found articles, books, and references that I had read long ago and "shelved" somewhere. Some of these, as I find them, I set aside and read again. Hence the random nature of the list. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 13, 2005 at 11:57 AM

a tool's influence

I keep seeing flashes of text, sentence-bursts that I have the impulse to blog and then, inevitably, evaporate in a "nah, too short." I have no doubt that in my case not just the tool (movabletype) but also my weblog's design have influenced me to go for longer, article-like posts rather than the shorter posts we see elsewhere. Similarly, weblogs based on other tools (most notably Radio) tend to be more of a mix of snippets and medium-length posts with the occassional medium length article and only every once in a while a really long post...

So what I've been wondering is, how to merge these two? Not just in terms of the tool (currently no tool seamlessly moves from one end of the spectrum to the next, at best, some provide plugins to deal with linkblogs, etc, and Radio has both "posts" and "stories" but the granularity isn't enough and stories are outside of the normal flow of the weblog). Also, in terms of the UI, navigation, and content evolution. A newspaper view comes to mind.

I've been looking for something entertaining to do with PHP. Maybe this is it.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 13, 2005 at 11:42 AM

tag surfin'!

Yesterday Russ "officially" announced a service that he and Anthony are developing, called tagsurf, a "tagging-enabled hyperforum." Russ showed me one of the very first revs when I was visiting last month. It is a very cool idea: create loosely-coupled threads (or "forums"), where the coupling is determined by tags, the new new thing that's been making the rounds for the last few weeks in the blogsphere (this Salon article has a good summary on tags). Because you can attach any number of tags to a message, you are actually enabling multi-dimensional browsing on topics, for very little extra effort. (MetaFilter started doing something similar in January).

Anyway, go and give it a try. And congrats on the release guys!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 10, 2005 at 2:58 PM

myeclipse: wow

As it happens sometimes, I've now come full-circle on MyEclipse. To recap, I started thinking that, while nice, it was too slow for my needs. Then several comments on the entry pointed out that they were not seeing those problems. So after a few days, I decided to give it another try, and discovered that with the proper configuration it was actually not noticeably slower than Eclipse on its own.

Now, after about 5 days of using it constantly, I have to correct myself and say that it is truly a fantastic addition to Eclipse. The hot deployment feature is the key to it all. Once all the proper deployment features are configured, you can be editing a file, make a change, save it, and then go to the browser and reload, and the changes are there, and this applies to both JSPs and servlets. Sometimes the hot deploy fails (usually when modifying static members or persistent classes) but that's not a big deal, and restarting the server is a span in those cases anyway. This, across pretty much every major application server that's out there, "out of the box". Other cool features include autocomplete on JSPs, support for JSTL and other JSP tag libraries.

Anyway, if you use Eclipse and develop web apps and haven't tried MyEclipse yet, give it a try. Just make sure you configure it properly. :)

Posted by diego on February 10, 2005 at 2:47 PM

the new toy


Thanks Feedster!!!!

PS: Funnily enough, I got the iPod Photo exactly one month ago, on January 9th. I should probably decree the 9th to be "iPod day" on d2r or something. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 9, 2005 at 12:58 PM

add(E), but remove(Object)?

Martin notes that in Java 5, the new-super-shiny-generics-enabled Collection interface has some inconsistencies. Most notably, the add method is dependent on the specific type for the collection, while remove and contains (most notably) are not. Here are the method contracts:

boolean add(E o)
boolean remove(Object o)
boolean contains(Object o)
Martin wonders why the discrepancy. I see two options.

Option one is a hilarious story that involves a monkey, a pantsuit, and a cherry cake interfering with the programmer's work and making her/him commit the grievous error for which she/he will feel regret the rest of her/his days. Let's call this the low-probability option.

Option two is that the Architecture Astronauts involved in the spec were carried away by the following definition of the remove method :

Removes a single instance of the specified element from this collection, if it is present (optional operation). More formally, removes an element e such that (o==null ? e==null : o.equals(e)), if this collection contains one or more such elements. Returns true if this collection contained the specified element (or equivalently, if this collection changed as a result of the call).
and this one from the contains method:
Returns true if this collection contains the specified element. More formally, returns true if and only if this collection contains at least one element e such that (o==null ? e==null : o.equals(e)).
My theory (and hoyven mayven, this is a theory only!) is that because the formal definition involves the use of the equals method and the method specifies an Object (and cannot, given that is the class at the top of the Java object hierarchy, know anything about "E") then the contract for contains and remove also follows with Object rather than E.

Sounds reasonable?

If anyone has the skinny on this, please pass it on. Alternative theories will also be appreciated. Especially if they involve monkeys (monkey-butlers are also accepted).

Posted by diego on February 7, 2005 at 10:23 PM

so THAT'S why!

I had a sequence of reactions to this article in the New York Times which deals with Google's recent approval as an Internet registrar.

First, the obligatory rolling of eyes at people "wondering" and "worrying" and "speculating" about every single move of Google. Let the guys do their work in peace ok? If it's world domination, then fine, let them try.

Second, was a raised eyebrow as I read the following:

Eileen Rodriguez, a Google spokeswoman, hardly quelled the speculation by explaining that the whole thing was really a learning opportunity for the company.
To this, I followed with an interested (muttered) "A-ha". But then the actual quote went on:
Google "has become a domain name registrar to learn more about the Internet's domain name system," she said recently in an e-mail message. "While we have no plans to register domains at this time, we believe this information can help us increase the quality of our search results."
To this, I just laughed out loud, quite literally, for several seconds. I still giggle at it every time I read it.

Come on boys! That's the line you feed to your spokespeople? "We became a domain name registrar to learn more about the Internet's domain name system"?!?!?? Yes!


Maybe this is practice, you know.

When Google announces they are releasing, say, a web browser, they will say "We are not interested in the browser business, this is just to learn more about web browsers and stuff."

Then, if they want to release an Operating System: "We are not interested in OSes. This is just to learn more about computers. And stuff."

And Larry or Sergey will show up and whisper something in the ear of whoever is giving the interview, and then they will add: "Right. To improve search results too. You know?"

Cue Mr. Burns: "And remember... a shiny new donkey for whoever brings me the head of Colonel Montoya."

And still laughing... :)

PS: Before anyone starts "explaining". Yes, I know that some of the info available only to registrars, and that can help, etc, etc. I just find the spokeperson's choice of words quite hilarious (aside from imagining the innocent look on their eye while they essentially say, straight-faced "Thinking of a product that is not pure search engine? Us? Noooooooooooo!").

Don't you? :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 7, 2005 at 1:26 PM

myeclipse: it's all about the config

I got several comments to my myeclipse: slow post a few days ago, from others that said, basically, that they didn't see any of those performance problems in their daily usage of Eclipse. Additionally, there was a comment from Riyad (from MyEclipse support) which mentioned a few things to look at, etc. Thanks to everyone for their comments, they definitely made a difference in making me take a second look at the product.

Okay, now the problem was that I had uninstalled, reinstalled a "clean" eclipse, and didn't have time to try everything again, until this morning. I set out with patience early today. I installed a clean copy of tomcat (5.0.30), a clean copy of MyEclipse 3.8.4 (for Eclipse 3.0.x), and tried again.

Initially, I saw the same problems as before. JSPs would appear to have syntax errors (ie. I couldn't get myEclipse to find the JSTL files, etc). I tried adding on the JSTL config myself but couldn't make it work either. Riyad's instructions did not help.

Ah, but then I thought, wait a minute, maybe the problem is that I'm trying to use a pre-existing project with the web development features.

So I created a new project with J2EE/Web Development, and, sure enough, things worked. I selected JSTL right from the start, along with the proper directory configuration, and a few minutes later the "hot deploy" feature was working.

Additionally, I haven't (yet) experienced any slowdown related to all the features that myEclipse provides.

So, take note: if myEclipse is running slowly, it's possible that the problem is that your configuration is wrong somewhere. Try creating a new project from scratch (and when it's working, removing the old ones) and properly specifying libraries, features you're using (such as JSTL or Hibernate), etc.

Conclusion: much better now that everything seems to work. The hot deploy feature is pretty good, although I've already seen it get confused a few times, the integration is definitely a plus. More later when I've had more time to play with it!

Posted by diego on February 6, 2005 at 3:28 PM

microsoft natural keyboards: evolution or devolution?


I am, like many of us, very specific about certain things in my work environment, and there's stuff that I have "requested" (read: demanded!) everywhere I've been to in the last few years. One of those things is a Microsoft Mouse. The other is a Microsoft Natural Keyboard.

Yep, that's two Microsoft products I actually like a lot (the other main one is MS Bookshelf, which sadly got discontinued in 2000 and got swallowed by Encarta, which is ok but too big for basic dictionary/thesaurus needs).

I got a Natural Keyboard when it was first released (it was one of the first USB keyboards) and then got a new one in '99 when MS released the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro. That very keyboard has been with me since then in every machine I have at home, crossed oceans back and forth and been in as many cities as I've been, and it's been a rock. Nice feel, good construction and key placement. I particularly like that the keyboard is huge, and since I have big hands I feel comfortable with it.

I have yet to meet another person that feels as comfortable as I do with this keyboard, I wonder if I'm the only one buying them. :) But my problem is that in recent years, as the new Wireless versions have appeared, Microsoft has been "compressing" the width of the keyboard, with the result that even the Pro version compresses the Insert/Delete/Home/End/PgUp/PgDn key set from a 3x2 configuration to a 2/1/2 configuration (the insert key is gone, the alignment is vertical instead of horizontal, and the delete key is two keys tall).

What truly drives me crazy about this is that there is no option to get the old keyboard layout (and don't even get me started on the crosshairs cursor keys of the Natural Keyboard Elite! For a while it seemed that every new keyboard came with a different key layout). You either get the Natural Keyboard layout with vertical keys over the cursors (and compressed design) or a regular keyboard layout, with more space.

Also, every new version keeps adding weird function keys, integration and whatnot. It's starting to become a problem, like the million features in Microsoft Word that no one uses. Wake up MS! You had a great product with the basic Natural Keyboard and regular keyboards, along with Intellimouse. Stop adding buttons and lights and gizmos. Just make a good, simple keyboard. Notice how Apple keeps going for simplicity? Try that for a change!

So last night I "retired" my old set of Keyboard/Mouse and now I've got a new one, the Wireless Optical Desktop Pro, which is as close as it gets to the old version. It's the Natural Keyboard, plus the Intellimouse explorer, but alas bluetooth versions don't yet come in the "Natural" split-keyboard format.

Here's hoping that when they do, Microsoft will restore the standard Insert/Delete/Home/End/PgUp/PgDn 3x2 key arrangement over the cursor keys. And enlarge it a little bit. And remove some (just a few) of the crazy functions they keep adding to the keys. That, and I'd be happy.

PS: Since I'm asking... also, there's a trend of designing Mice so that they adapt ergonomically to the hand. This is fine, but it becomes a problem for people like me, who frequently switch the mouse hand throughout the work day. I'll probably have to end up working with two mice at once. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 6, 2005 at 1:13 PM


I'm reading Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and I come across this paragraph:

Human history at last took off around 50,000 years ago, at the time of what I have termed our Great Leap Forward. The earliest definite signs of that leap come from East African sites with standardized stone tools and the first preserved jewelry (ostrich-shell beads). Similar developments soon appear in the Near East and in southeastern Europe, where abundant artifacts are associated with follu modern skeletons of people termed Cro-Magnons. Thereafter, the garbage preserved at archaeological sites rapidly becomes more and more interesting and leaves no doubt that we are dealing with biologically and behaviorally modern humans.
(My emphasis). To the archaeologically or anthropologically inclined of you (you know who you are!), this probably sounds normal. You may even find something to object to in that. But I had never, ever thought of garbage as something that was archaeologically useful. Strangely, I have considered many times what future generations will make of our garbage. But when I thought of artifacts found at excavations, etc, I've always had this weird image of the pristine arrowhead, being brushed carefully out of the sand. Something static. But "a pile of garbage" is... alive in some way. I'm not glorifying the fact that humans are filthy as hell, but rather the messiness of the process that is brought to light but that simple image.

BTW, this book is great, although a bit infuriating in a strange way: As I read it, I can't help but agree with his logic, at almost every step. I want to dissent, damn it! :)

Posted by diego on February 5, 2005 at 10:03 PM

russ @ yahoo! v2

Russ is now full-time at Yahoo! Congrats!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 5, 2005 at 4:29 PM

what I'll get... right after I get a powerbook


The iLap. Not expensive, and very cool (literally and figuratively). Even if I don't get a powerbook soon, I'd still want one of these for the Thinkpad, assuming that it works fine with it that is. [via Tom Yager].

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 5, 2005 at 11:20 AM

funny stuff

SF Gate: Why does Windows still suck? or "how I learned to stop worrying and appreciate the 4 minutes my windows computer works without being infected". (I found this through slashdot, but I'm too lazy to look for the link).

The Onion: Google in 2005, top secret plans from the googleplex for this year, including "Enter beta testing of Google Apartment, which will let users search for shoes, wallets and keys", "Patent the idea of looking for something" and "Occasionally shut down so people stop taking them for granted."

Hee-larious. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 5, 2005 at 11:13 AM

firefox weirdness

I've been using FireFox for quite a while now, but suddenly something strange started happening: if I'm editing something on the browser (say, a post), and I do a "preview" I used to be able to press the back button and continue editing. Now, though, when I press the back button the form contents are wiped out. I can press "forward" though and the contents are re-posted, so they're still in there somewhere. Strange. I'm pretty sure I didn't change any settings on the browser. I wonder why this started happening...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 2, 2005 at 11:19 AM


Martin on duck typing which is not, as you might expect, a discussion involving Daffy Duck and keyboards, but rather the differences between the Java and Ruby object systems. He's been working up his Ruby-ness recently, coming from Java, and has already posted a bunch of cool stuff on the topic. Most excellent.

Posted by diego on February 2, 2005 at 11:12 AM

the arrival of trackback spam

At least in this weblog. This morning there were some 50 spam trackbacks to different entries.

I've been waiting for this to happen--until today trackback had never been abused massively. But it was clearly just a matter of time, particularly since trackback allows to set snippets and in many weblogs they are rolled in with the rest of the comments.

Conclusion: I'll do what I did for comments: change the 'allow trackbacks' flag. Luckily I switched to MySQL not long ago, making it easier to access the raw data, since Movable Type still doesn't support a "close all comments & trackbacks in entries after this date" feature (and for me using SQL is easier than using a plug in).

Anyway. Another line crossed...

Update: Very strange. A couple of hours after closing the trackbacks and rebuilding the weblog, spam restarted. I verified that the entries had trackbacks closed, and yet spammers were able to post trackbacks anyway. I tested sending a trackback myself to an entry which was closed, and correctly got a message "Ping 'ENTRYID' failed: This TrackBack item is disabled." The trackback was not received. I have to assume that they have found a way to post trackbacks even if they are closed... (some unknown hole in MT's trackback implementation? Or maybe the additions were in a queue somewhere and got in anyway, since they were so many?). As a temporary measure, I've changed the name of the trackback script, so they shouldn't be able to post to the URL they have crawled.

Another update: Definitely some form of queueing was at play. I have done some more experiments and looked at my logs and enabling/disabling the trackback script returns the spammer (which is still going at it) a 404 and a 500 HTTP Error alternatively, so the check is working. Leaving the old script disabled is better, obviously, since it doesn't hit the MT db for checks.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on February 1, 2005 at 10:19 AM

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