dmuth's blog

Search-and-Destory.com: are they spammers and scammers?

So... I checked my email this morning, and found approximately half a dozen comments spammed all over my website identical to the one below:

Search and Destroy spam

These comments came from a user who registered with the email address stevedhiwar@gmail.com and the IP address of 59.98.205.130, which is somewhere in India.

A quick search of the website search-and-destroy.com (not hyperlinked on purpose) reveals a horribly boilerplate site with nothing much in the way of contact info (here's a screencap), save an email address. Doing a WHOIS on their domain name shows the following:

Registrant:
Domains by Proxy, Inc.
DomainsByProxy.com
15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
United States

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: SEARCH-AND-DESTROY.COM
Created on: 25-Jul-04
Expires on: 25-Jul-11
Last Updated on: 25-Jan-08

Administrative Contact:
Private, Registration SEARCH-AND-DESTROY.COM@domainsbyproxy.com
Domains by Proxy, Inc.
DomainsByProxy.com
15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
United States
(480) 624-2599 Fax -- (480) 624-2598

Technical Contact:
Private, Registration SEARCH-AND-DESTROY.COM@domainsbyproxy.com
Domains by Proxy, Inc.
DomainsByProxy.com
15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
United States
(480) 624-2599 Fax -- (480) 624-2598

Domain servers in listed order:
NS21.DOMAINCONTROL.COM
NS22.DOMAINCONTROL.COM

What kind of company fails to list any real-world contact info on their website and then hides behind a domain proxy service? And the answer would be: one that has something to hide!

I can't help but question the legitimacy of any company that resorts to spamming peoples' blogs and refuses to give out any real contact info on their website. I warned ya!

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MFF 2008 con report!

I'll start this con report off by mentioning that it was my first Midwest FurFest that I attended since 2003. I wanted to attend it since then, but I ended up having other Christmas travel plans (some trips to Europe, among other things) that sucked up my money and vacation days.

The executive summary was that it was nice to come to a con where I didn't have to work as much as I did at Anthrocon. I still worked this con, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Smiling

I flew into to Chicago on Thursday night before the con. I ended up sharing a flight with this guy:

Finnish Fox

Apparently his parents let him come to MFF, provided that he shared his flights out and back with a responsible adult. Sometime my name was mentioned. I have no idea how this happened.

Now that pic was taken just outside of the Art Show, where I was working for Aureth this year. It was nice to work the art show, because I didn't have to be on my feet as much, and it was a relatively quiet environment. It also awesome to work with Mindslide again, seeing that I hadn't seen her since 2003 or so.

On Friday night I hit the dance, so I could dance to the sets of Kale and other DJs. And yes, this a pic of Darth Vader at the dance:

Darth Vader visits the dance

The good news is that my cardiovascular system was in good enough shape that I could dance for 30 minutes without stopping. The bad news is that my muscles weren't used to this sort of activity and I paid for it dearly the following days with very sore calf muscles. Well, at least I know my limits now. :-/

On Saturday afternoon there was the fursuit parade. While the pictures came out nice, I was totally freezing while I took them. It was around 40 degrees with a bit of wind when these pictures were taken:

Fursuit Parade

Fursuit Parade Fursuit Parade Fursuit Parade

At some point on Friday, Orvan Ox came by the art show with some deliveries:

Orvan Ox delivers!

Aside from the art show, I ended up volunteering a few shifts with security at the con. I had originally packed my Dorsai Irregulars beret, since I knew a few other DI would be attending the con. I never thought I'd actually end up having to work as a DI at that con. There was some joking amongst the DI about it being the shortest time ever to negotiate and complete a contract.

The downside to helping out with security is that it affected my performance in working the art show. I was rather tired and Saturday and Sunday and it hurt my productivity a bit. I'll have to be more careful about over-extending myself in the future.

On the way out on Monday, I saw this incredibly cool Okami-themed car, complete with a Michigan license plate that read "OKAMI":

Okami Car

Okami Car Okami Car Okami Car

The rest of my pictures can be found at: http://flickr.com/photos/dmuth/sets/72157610262520115/

I know I didn't mention a lot of names in this con report. It's not because I forgot about all of you, it's just that I felt it'd be redundant since I've been to so many cons in such a short time.

My next two cons will be MagFest in January and Furry Connection North in April. I'll see you there!

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Apache RewriteRules 101

If you run your own machine, you probably don't want to use Apache as a webserver. Its configuring is complex, arcane, and it sucks up memory like a Microsoft toaster. There are lighter, faster alternatives out there, such as Nginx or thttpd. But, if you buy webserver from someplace, you'll probably be forced into using Apache, and will be for the foreseeable future. That being said...

What is a rewrite rule?

A rewrite rule is a way that Apache can rewrite an incoming request "on the fly". In essence, a user can ask a webserver for one file, and the webserver can serve up a completely different file to the user instead.

Isn't this like a redirect?

No, a redirect is when the webserver tells a user, "that's not the file you want, you need to go over here", at which point the browser loads the new URL. Redirects aren't always desirable, especially of the files/PHP scripts/whatever are currently living a temporary location.

Why would I want to use one?

Let's say you're installing an app that somebody else wrote, and the app lives under /very-long-application-name. You could use a rewrite rule so that users could go to /short-app-name, and Apache would rewrite that request behind the user's back to be /very-long-application-name. And the best part is that this is transparent to a properly built application.

Another example is maybe you're starting up a video "tube" site, and you want to have the smallest embed code possible for sharing videos. Problem is, the video player lives at http://mysite/app/version1.0/video/player.swf. You could use a rewrite rule so that http://mysite/player.swf is rewriting to the longer URL. And what's even better is that when you release version 2.0 of the video player, you can just update the rewrite rule, and everybody will start seeing version 2.0 of your player.

Is this really used in real life?

Yep. The best example I can think of is Drupal. When you load a URL from a Drupal-powered site, such as http://drupal.org/drupal-6.6, that is really rewritten by Apache to be http://drupal.org/?q=drupal-6.6. Regardless which URL you load, Drual sees that the variable $q is really set to "drupal-6.6". It doesn't care which URL was used.

Okay, so how do I do it?

Ah, here's the good part. The first thing you need to do is put the following in your .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine On

If doing this gives you a "500 Server Error" when you try to load a webpage, go ask your web host to enable mod_rewrite. If they refuse, I would suggest moving to a webhost that doesn't suck.

Now, let's say you wanted to rewrite the path to your video player, as described in the example above:

RewriteRule ^player.swf$ /app/version/1.0/player.swf

Note the "^" and "$" in the "left hand side" of that rewrite rule. That tells Apache to match ONLY the string "player.swf", and not "/path/to/player.swf". This will prevent an infinite loop wherein that string is matched over and over. (Infinite loops are bad, m'kay?)

Most Drupal configurations have something like this:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ index.php?q=$1 [L,QSA]

That's some pretty advanced stuff there, and it uses a new directive, "RewriteCond". RewriteCond allows you to do 1 or more levels of matching in addition to the matching in the RewriteRule line. In this case, if the URI that the user attempts to load is neither a valid file nor a valid directory, then it is rewritten as index.php with the original URL passed in as $q.

I hope that this post was helpful, and saves you from going through some of the pain that I went through when learning how rewrite rules work. Smiling If this wasn't enough pain for you, full documentation on Apache rewrite rules can be found on their official site at:

http://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.2/mod/mod_rewrite.html

Enjoy!

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Vint Cerf's Twitter account... hacked?

I've gotten quite into the Twitter thing lately. I'm following close to 100 people, someone of whom I know, some of whom I think are interesting. It's not unlike LiveJournal, except that the messages are smaller and the time to ramp up your number of followers (and people you follow) is much shorter.

One of the people I follow on Twitter is Vint Cerf. For those whom the name does not ring a bell, Vint is best known as the father of the Internet. No, really. Among his other accomplishments, he is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocol suite. Those two protocols form the backbone of the Internet as we know of. If you load a webpage, send an email, or receive an IM message, you just made use of TCP/IP. The protocol is quite robust and has aged as newer technologies such as the web and Instant Messaging made use of it.

That being said, I noticed some really strange messages coming from Vint Cerf's Twitter feed over the last day or so (http://twitter.com/cerf):

As of this writing, there have been over 45 such messages, which are all variants of what's above. Most of those links (ab)use the site tinyurl.com and will cause you to end up on the site baysearch.net, which appears to be a website that searches eBay. (Yeah, I think their site looks like crap too.)

Of course, I think I need to step back and ask what may be an obvious question: is that account really owned by Vint Cerf? I do not know the gentleman personally, nor do I know anyone else who knows him. While this account appears to be legitimate, there is also the possibility that it could have been an attempt to impersonate him, gather loads of Twitter followers, and then spam them with ads.

If there's a lesson to be learned from this incident, it is this: Trust, but Verify.

Maybe what Twitter and other online services need to introduce is some sort of "web of trust" system, not unlike what PGP, GnuPG, and others use. If you know someone's identity because you know them in real life, you could mark their account as "certified". Then, if someone else wanted to trust you to "verify" someone else's identity, they could do so. Who you trust (and if you trust the people they trust) is up to you.

Ironically, despite being the Father of the Internet, I could not find a working email for Vint Cerf. I'm sure he would get LOTS of email, so I can understand if he didn't publish it. Does make it harder to get in touch with him, though...

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Twitter, JetBlue and Furries

Let it never be said that JetBlue doesn't have a sense of humor:

From http://twitter.com/xenijardin/status/1023637372:

And JetBlue's response, from http://twitter.com/JetBlue/status/1023680195:

I guess that means we'll need to check our fursuits?

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FurFright 2008 Con Report

Well, FurFright 2008 has come and gone, and what a blast it was!

Farraptor, Kojac, and Finnish Fox

From a socializing standpoint, this convention was a success. The hotel had an atrium in the center which made for a great gathering point, and since the security desk was also there, I got to bump into a great many people even while on duty. This made the con much more enjoyable as "work" was less like "work".

Random people I chatted with (and some I met for the first time at the con): Shortwave> (Thanks for the glowsticks!), Oryx Gazella, Gray Wolf, Vega (sorry about having a mouth full of Oreos), Petercat, Uncle Kage, Grandma Kage, Grandpa Kage, Finnishfox, Kojac, Canus Lupus, Midori, Creature, Davin Warter, Farraptor (It's not every day when I meet someone for the first time when they're in fursuit), and Tilt Longtail (it was nice meeting you OUT of fursuit!).

Keapano, Raff, and Tamen, it was a pleasure meeting you folks for the first time. I hope you'll be able to make it out to more furry cons.

Fennecus Kitsune, it was also cool meeting you for the first time.

Benji, it was good seeing you again for the first time in what, 3 years? Smiling

Keapano in the Fursuit Parade The Bride and Duncan the Dog Loki, Farraptor, Kojac, and Amalthea

Wallaby, Bleis, and Red XIII Loki drives the batmobile Loki on his Motorcycle

As I was working security with the Dorsai Irregulars, I got to see some familiar faces there, both DI and non-DI. Steve Simmons, Renegade, and Carol Gobeyn were all present, as were Dave Stein, Xander, Kasi Frost, Furp, Mrianti, ToraCub, and the rest of you.

Mrianti and Sgt. Steve

Athy and Cliff Husky, you guys completely cracked me up at Cakecon. Yes, Cakecon. It was a real life party with cake. Lots of cake.

Cake Con flier Cake Con Cake Con

If you made it this far, then you're probably looking for my full dump of pictures. They can be found on Flickr at http://flickr.com/photos/dmuth/sets/72157608249142588/.

For a final photo, this is Tilt Longtail and Grandma Kage, reenacting a famous picture:

Tilt Longtail kisses Grandma Kage

My head asplode.

So anyway, I'm looking forward to next year's FurFright.

I'm also looking forward to Midwest Fur Fest next month. I hope to see everyone there!

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Weekend, ConClave visit, and BBQ

Allow me to sum up my weekend with this picture:

Lasers

I flew up to Detroit for the weekend to briefly stop by ConClave 33 as well as hang out with the Michigan furries at Gir Tygrin and Nik Vulper's place.

The lasers above were courtesy of Skan, who brought by his laser equipment and smoke machine.

I flew into Detroit on Thursday night and was pleased to learn that the sh*tty Smith Terminal there (complete with torn seats and ratty carpeting) has since been closed down. Having been around since the 1940s, it definitely outlived its usefulness, and needs to be destroyed. Sticking out tongue

I stopped by ConClave briefly on Friday evening to visit some folks and then briefly on Saturday morning for the Big Argument Dorsai Irregulars business meeting. Somehow I wound up becoming responsible for the DI website during that meeting. Did I hear someone whisper, "Yet another Drupal installation"? That's what it sounded like to me!

Then it was off to Gir and Nik's place for cooking meat with fire, beer, and games. Ciaphas, Gen Talon, Ed Hyena, and AndrewNeo were all present, as were some local furs not all of who I know on LiveJournal. Sticking out tongue

BBQ Rockband 2

Chilling in the basement Gir BBQs

Later in the evening (read: after 1 AM), I played a little Dead Rising and had fun killing zombies. I hear the game is coming out for the Wii and can't wait for it.

Also, I need to never sing in Rockband 2 again. I completely failed at that.

As always, my full dump of pics can be found online at http://flickr.com/photos/dmuth/sets/72157607775873467/

Thanks for having me over, guys.

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KainCon Report

I drove down to Virginia for KainCon this past weekend and made a few side trips along the way.

On Friday night, I met up with Loki for dinner. It was the first time I really got to hang out with him since he got out of the military.

I made it down to Kain's place late Friday night and hung out through early Sunday afternoon. I got to see Creature, Davin, and Drakien again. Bill Cosby Stahi was around, too. Talyn was also there.

There was something about a pretty crazy game of Wii Tennis with Sir Kain, who totally stomped me in a Best 3 of 5 match.

On Saturday evening, we took a trip to the Todai sushi buffet, and I saw this on the way out:

Got soy sauce?

More pictures from KainCon:

Wii Sports kaincon Creature

The full archive of pics is at http://flickr.com/photos/dmuth/sets/72157607568251631/, for anyone who is interested. I also created a Flickr group for KainCon photos at http://flickr.com/groups/kaincon/.

On Sunday, I went a little out of my way to visit Reuven in Maryland. It was the first time I saw him in uh, about 3 years or so. We grabbed a late lunch and got to play catchup on recent events in our lives.

I finally got home just after 9 PM that night. It was a fun and busy weekend.

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Convention Meme / Convention Staff Meme

Since people seem to be posting what conventions they went to, I suppose I'll do the same.

Anthrocon: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Camp Feral: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
ConClave: 2005, 2006, 2007
Confluence: 2006, 2007, 2008
DexCon: 2006
Eurofurence: 2004
FurFright: 2006, 2007
Furry Connection North: 2008
KainCon: 2006(?)
MagFest: 2007, 2008
MarCon: 2007, 2008
Midwest FurFest: 2002, 2003
Otakon: 2003

Years with links are where I have photos online. Bolded years are where I worked staff.

So that's 34 conventions in all. And I was staff at 22 of those conventions. Wow.

And there are still more conventions I'd like to add to that list. Megaplex, Confusion, and Penguincon, for starters. And FurCoNZ, too. (I've never been to New Zealand before!)

Oh, and the next couple of months will be busy for me, as I'll be attending the following cons:

KainCon - A gaming con run out of Sir Kain's house over a weekend.

ConClave 33 - A science fiction con in Michigan. This is considered the "home" con for the Dorsai Irregulars, so I'm looking forward to seeing many other DI there.

FurFright - A halloween-themed furry connection in Connecticut.

Midwest FurFest - The big furry convention held out in Chicago just before Thanksgiving. I'm pleased to be returning here after missing it for the last few years.

I'll hope I'll get to see folks I know at at least one of those conventions! Sticking out tongue

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Our $20,000 Grant

So, on Friday night we at the Save Ardmore Coalition were officially presented with our $20,000 Grant from the State of Pennsylvania:

From left to right: Ken Haskin is in the white shirt, I'm in the green shirt (with the shaved head), Scott Mahan is in the black shirt, Si Simons is in the peach colored shirt, and Sharon Eckstein is immediately to his right. It was nice of everyone to wear different colored shirts!

I have no idea why the check is dated last December. Ah, Bureaucracy.

Also, some local folks swung by:

Omnibahumut, Me, Dolph, and Uncle Kage

Yes, that's a Dolph plushie I'm holding. It's a long story. (But thanks for the hookup, Wolfspawn3!)

Oh, the Philly Phanatic stopped by too:

The Philly Phanatic

Yes, he's standing in traffic on Lancaster Ave. Fursuiters, please do not do this at the next con. Sticking out tongue

If anyone would like to see the full set of my pictures, they're at: http://flickr.com/photos/dmuth/sets/72157607164585627/

The user Mainline Clicks also took a bunch of photos of the event: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mainlineclicks/sets/72157607160295075/

The Ardmore VFW was also selling "social memberships", which I took advantage of and purchased one. So if of you vets out there decide to visit me, I can take you to meet other vets and drink with them. Sticking out tongue

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