The king is dead -- long live the king!

Spam; CC-licensed by phil-it; Source: of us Blog authors have kind of a spam problem. So do I, since my blog engine is quite popular not only among publishers but also among spammers. There are several anti-spam plugins out there. The easiest ones use a Captcha, what I never liked at all. It breaks any single aspect of usability. And it keeps annoying the legitimate users of the weblog. I want people to be able to comment on my blog entries with as little effort as possible. If I start bugging them with hardly readable and ambiguous characters, I simply deserve getting no comments. I should not waste people's time.

Others work with some sort of embedded Java Script stuff (assuming the spammers' user agents, unlike regular web browsers, do not interpret JS). That's better, but not good either. Lots of these plugins refuse to take a comment from a user if he or she disables Javascript of course or if the page is accessed through a proxy or whatnot. Just getting a "sorry, I don't like your comment you just spent 10 minutes on writing" will certainly scare away also the most curious visitor of your weblog.

The best approach currently available is similar to the one used by email spam filters: Accepting every comment, but doing a Bayes propability check on it to find out how likely it is spam and putting comments under a specific threshold either into moderation or the waste bin. When I still had Wordpress 1.5, I used to use the fantastic SpamKarma 2 that did a wonderful job on filtering my blog spam. After learning a few legitimate comments, it did not make any mistakes for the last year-or-so.

However, its major drawback was that it kept filling up my database (which is restricted to 50 Megs by my ISP) with spam comments until they were wiped after a week. At times where I got a real flood of spam comments, I even once experienced a broken blog since the database literally did not allow to write any single new record.

When updating to Wordpress 2.0, I therefore decided to give Akismet a shot, a new anti-spam web service whose plugin is now shipped with WP. You have to obtain an API key (which, AFAIK, you currently only get by registering a free weblog on, activate the plugin, hack in the key you just got and off you go.

Since tons of users are contributing good and bad comments, the web service does an impressively good job on putting spam where it belongs: in the virtual waste bin!

While I am still checking it out, I can already say that it does not seem to have a high false positive rate at all. Some legitimate comments went into moderation (therefore asking me to mark them as ham) but none of them was flagged as spam in the first place.

Akismet++ -- and kiss your captchas goodbye!

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Ja, sauber! Ist das noch derselbe Ort, der vor Kurzem einen Regenrekord verbuchen konnte? Wenn ich aus dem Fenster schaue, sehe ich einen tiefblauen Himmel, kein Wölkchen weit und breit, und zudem strahlenden Sonnenschein.

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When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

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Just as expected before, I was called by the local Mac store the next day to pick up my Mac Mini.

Apparently, the graphics adapter was broken, so they just replaced the mainboard and put the rest of the components back in. So I could finally upgrade to 1 GB of RAM and the system works like a charm again.

It was clearly a warranty case, so I did not have to pay anything. -- Lucky me, as the replacement mainboard is worth $361,- as stated on the repair report!

Fortunately, also all my data is still there, so they did not tamper with the harddrive. At least not much: The technician was obviously intimidated by the Linux bootloader I used for dual-booting my system, so as sensitively as a goat to an endangered mountain flower, he nailed the original OS X bootloader back on the system. -- If he mentions that in his resume, Microsoft will immediately hire him.

However, currently I am working on OS X again and I can say, the difference in speed is enormous. How can an Operating System swallow more than 500 megabytes of RAM at any given moment? It's just unbelievable. That being said, after the RAM upgrade, Mac OS X actually became usable and it starts being fun: I don't stumble on the totally unlogical keyboard shortcuts so often anymore :)

You see, everything's alright in Mac Mini land again!

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"Von Zeit zu Zeit soll (der Präsident) dem Kongress Bericht erstatten über die Lage der Nation und ihm diejenigen Maßnahmen unterbreiten, die er für notwendig oder ratsam hält." -- Verfassung der Vereinigten Staaten, Artikel II, Abschnitt III

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Okay. My Mac Mini's graphics interface died after 6 weeks of usage. Just like that. The system ran well, (meaning I could play around with it via SSH) but it was kind of "headless" without displaying anything. Who needs a monitor anyway??

Mac Mini; CC-licensed; Source:, this is not a very rare problem, as there is already a support page by Apple addressing the problem. Anyhow, resetting everything doesn't really help a hardware error, so I brought the box downtown to the local Mac store.

From Germany, I am quite used to sometimes getting the worst customer service ever (though it has become better since the last European customer protection laws), so I was (and still am) sceptical how/if they will repair it and how much they want to get for it.

But, Apple is quite famous for its good customer service, so I am quite confident that they will do a good job to my Mini, too. For now, I am at least impressed that I can check the status of my repair online and get quite a few interesting pieces of information:

  • Your "mac mini 1.42 combo" was received at our Corvallis location on Friday, January 27
  • Your system arrived at our service center on Friday, January 27
  • Diagnosis was performed by our technician
  • We ordered parts for your system from the manufacturer on Monday, January 30
  • We received parts for your system on Tuesday, January 31
  • Work was completed on your system on Tuesday, January 31
  • Your system is being transported

Not bad! There are not many companies that have such a transparent repair process. Now they only have to call me tomorrow for picking the box up and not make me pay anything for their hardware problem and I am truly happy.

The real test if a Mac is worth its money, to be continued ;)

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Eigentlich weise ich in meinem Blog ja nicht gerade oft auf andere Weblogs hin. Das sei langweilig, sagen sie. Und geschäftsschädigend sowieso.

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We need a tagging extension for Thunderbird. Urgently. It's just a pain (and soooo "web 1.0"!) not being able to combine emails in an IMAP folder by other means than making yet another folder. I currently have a class whose mailinglist covers many different topics, and sometimes more than one in the same email. And even though there are only 30 emails so far, yet it has become near to impossible to find what I am searching for efficiently.

Wait - there is already a tagging extension available, right? Well, somehow. It's called "Tag the Bird" and provides some sort of automated tagging approach for your email.

Tagging; CC-licensed, by GliderKing; Source:, I don't feel good about sending all my emails in full text to some sort of web service. No matter if I trust them or not. That's maybe nice for one or two newsletters a week you want to condense to a handful of keywords on the fly (just to find out that the current issue focuses on dancing hamsters so that you can delete the boring thing before even looking at it any closer).

But apart from any automatic tagging approach, I suggest to write a Thunderbird Mail Tagging Extension that allows the users to manually tag their emails (and of course includes searching for the tags). The on-the-fly search field in Thunderbird would not only have to handle sender and subject then but also tags.

Considering large amounts of email in some people's postboxes, it would be neat to store the tags in some sort of field that's searchable by the IMAP server (for not having to download all of the emails in order to execute a search). Additionally, the server itself is the only logical place to store the tags as everything else would require an additional storage facility (file? WebDAV?) that would totally kill every aspect of portability -- a step back to the times where POP3 was state of the art.

I could think of a custom email header called something like X-Tag or so. Still, I don't know if this is a) "legal" with respect to the E-Mail RFCs (it should be, though, considering the vast amount of "X-" tags already used by all sorts of MUAs) and b) if these fields are efficiently searchable by an IMAP server.

Any comments to my raw, unformed "web 2.0" ;) thoughts?

Update: I just found out that somebody seemed to have some sort of similar idea already and announced to be writing a proposal on it soon.

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Heute ist der ehemalige Bundespräsident Johannes Rau gestorben.

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That the local gas and water supplier of Lübeck, Germany also acts as an ISP for residential DSL connections is maybe surprising, but not particularly bad.

Painful, however, is that they apparently keep the administrative interface of their customers' DSL modems open to the evil, evil Internet. No prob, as long as it is password protected, you might think. Of course it is. But, to make attacking the poor customers a piece of cake, the current password is automatically provided in a value field of an HTML form.

Every, even only partly intelligent fifth-grader can probably write a script to use this invitation for playing around with other people's internet connection. Which - of course - did not lead the ISP to do anything about the situation so far. Even if they were already mailed a username-password list of all their customers...

This shining example of ISP insecurity really makes me want to cry.

And, considering I am a Comcast customer, I hope that at least they know what they are doing. The last time I had to do with their customer service, I honestly did not have that impression -- so I wonder who's possibly playing around with my modem in this very moment? ;)

(via a German story by Isotopp)

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