dmuth's blog

Ported my phone number rather painlessly

Pretty much what the subject says. I called AT&T around 10 AM this morning, gave them my temp phone number, main phone number, and Verizon account number, and they started the porting process. The rep then said, and I quote, "Verizon said that the porting will be complete by 10:19 AM". Not 10:20, but 10:19. These people are detail-oriented! Sticking out tongue

Sure enough, at 10:19, I got this text message:

My phone number was ported successfully

Yes, the background is what you think it is. Sticking out tongue

I also picked up this battery pack the other day:

My iPhone and battery pack

It's handy, because I can keep my phone (or iPod) charged while I'm traveling. Since using the net via 3G on the iPhone eats up the battery, this has proven to be a good investment. The battery pack may be small, but since it's one giant battery (as opposed to a fraction of the iPhone's value being a battery), I estimate I can get about 3 iPhone charges out of this. Not bad!

I've been really into Twitter lately. Moreso than LiveJournal, in fact. One of the reasons why I have been all over Twitter is because the clients for reading it are all stream-oriented. But that, it makes it very easy to go through a large number of Tweets, and I can click on a specific Tweet for more info about its author. LiveJournal really needs something like that.

So, does anybody know if any such software exists? No, an RSS reader probably won't cut it. The ones I've used so far require you to click on a link to read any part of an LJ entry, and wouldn't scale too well past 1,000 entries. (I'll hit that in a month) I'd probably need software that was written just with LJ in mind.

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Patrick Reed: 1979-2009


Furp at Dorsai Thing 31


Furp eyes one his many drink mixes.

I'm sure folks have heard the news by now, but Furp (Evil_Dwagon on LJ) passed away in an auto accident last night.

I first met Furp back in 2003 or so, when Uncle Kage felt that he would be a good addition to Con Ops. That totally turned out to be the case. He worked hard, and partied harder when the work was done.

Furp didn't just work Anthrocon, he worked other cons, and not always in an official capacity either. Furp was an EMT, and if there was ever a crisis situation, he would attend to it. I know more than once he spent the night in an emergency room with a convention attendee who had fallen ill, whether that person was a stranger or not.

Furp was also one of the most relaxed and good natured guys I know. I guess it comes with the territory when you're an EMT. Having worked my share of security incidents with him over the years, he was usually the calmest person in the room.

Believe it or not, I didn't initially hear of Furp's passing from furries, but from the other Dorsai Irregulars. Furp was loved by the DI, in fact some of our folks referred to working with Furp as a "highlight of Anthrocon". While Furp was never inducted into the DI, he is definitely "one of us", and I believe his induction was only a matter of time. Sadly, that will never happen now.

Con Ops won't be the same without you, Furp.

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Got coins? How about... 4,500 pennies!

One of the things I like to do is save my spare change in a container, and every few years go count the change and see how much money I end up with. So I drafted Uncle Kage to help, and we went to counting...

8,420 coins and $350 or so later... and this is what we came up with:

Coins!

Coins! Coins! Coins!

I figure this should be spending money for Furry Connection North when I go in 3 months.

Oh, and what happened to all of the coins? I sold them to Grandma Kage. I did NOT inquire what plans she had for them.

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MagFest 7 pictures

Just uploaded my pictures from MagFest, which I worked on the first weekend of January. It was a contract with the Dorsai Irregulars, so we were working security and badge check for the con.

Video Arcade The Dealers Area Gaming Room

One of the more memorable things about this year's MagFest was that we had a staff suite, complete with an actual chef, who cooked breakfast and dinner. Getting real cooked food without having to go offsite or order out was a really nice perk at this year's MagFest. I hope they continue it next year.

There was also a contest of the game Nibbler, which was held at MagFest during the weekend:

Nibbler Contest

Unfortunately, according to Retro Thing, Dwayne Richard's machine froze just shy of half a billion points, forcing him to abort his attempt.

Also, the Chairman of MagFest dressed up as a Wiimote:

Brendan Dressed up as a Wiimote

The Dorsai Irregulars also won an award at the MagFest awards ceremony. It was for "Best Hats". No, really!

If anyone is interested, my full set of pictures can be found here:

http://flickr.com/photos/dmuth/sets/72157612942430913/

Enjoy!

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PhillyCarShare Closes Ardmore Pod; Punches Membership in the Face

Yes, I know. I used to be such a big fanboy of PhillyCarShare. But, things changed over the last few months in a very negative way. Rates went up. And now with the sudden and unannounced closing of the Ardmore pod, there are no longer any pods within walking distance of my home.

Rather than reproduce the entire post here, I'll just point folks to where it lives on the Save Ardmore Coalition website:

http://www.saveardmorecoalition.org/node/2756

It's also been pointed out to me that local real estate developers in Ardmore were selling the town as being "walkable", and how car ownership was not required. Apparently the PhillyCarShare pod was cited as an example of such. Said developers might not be too happy at hearing of PCS's quiet departure. Whoops.

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I played around with GIMP a little today

And created this:

Beetlejuice and Dolph

It's based on the picture seen at http://data.tumblr.com/2TdG78uXThtowyrikxVnfESNo1_500.jpg

I'm not too happy with how my manipulation of the background around Dolph's head turned out (I copied and pasted chunks from elsewhere in the picture, then blurred them), but it's also my first ever attempt at manipulating a background, so I suppose it didn't come out too bad.

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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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