Adam Rice

My life and the world around me

Category: net stuff (page 5 of 9)

Correct run-in headings

I’ve recently noticed a couple of blogs that use an awkward “span” kludge to create “run-in” headings. These are both by smart guys who should know better. Instead of using structurally correct headings and paragraphs, the heading text is part of the paragraph, and is just bracketed with SPAN tags so that it can be styled differently.

CSS-2 does include a “run-in” display style that achieves exactly what these guys want, but it is not universally supported. There are a couple of possible workarounds, both of which I’ve documented. One is to float the header; the other is to style the header and the paragraph immediately following as “inline.”

Fighting spam by putting a pricetag on e-mail

I’ve written before about this, and now other people are too.

This solution is elegant–I like the “reusable postage” concept.

Nifty browser trick

I’ve only tried this in Safari, but imagine it would work in some other browsers.

Safari allows you to set a custom base CSS stylesheet. In fact, this is the only way to turn off link underlining in Safari. Since I prefer this, I had already set one up. Simply create a text file, call it “mystyles.css” (or whatever) and drop it in ~/Library/Safari. Put the appropriate CSS in the file, quit Safari, and restart. For example, to turn off underlined links, I used the following:

a:link { text-decoration: none; }
a:active { text-decoration: none; }
a:visited { text-decoration: none; }
a:hover { text-decoration: underline; }

It occurred to me that I could use the often-ignored attribute-matching selector capability of CSS to create a primitive ad blocker. Banner ads are normally 468 x 60 pixels. Using CSS, it is possible to select images that have declared height and width values, and style them as invisible. Here’s how:

img[width="468"][height="60"] {visibility: hidden;}

You can add variations on this with different dimensions for the tall sidebar ads one occasionally sees, use it with different tags, etc. For example the New York Times hides gigantic sidebar ads inside an IFRAME, and use javascript to indirectly load an image (actually, I think it’s a flash animation). This makes it hard to block the image if you have javascript turned on, but you can just block the IFRAME instead

iframe[width="352"][height="852"] {visibility: hidden;}

I’d be eager to hear any other uses for this trick. It would be nice if CSS allowed partial matches, so that we could match on, say *[href="**"] As far as I know, this isn’t possible.

Tribe: another social network is yet another social network, still in beta. Unlike Friendster or Ryze, this one seems to be an all-purpose site, for helping people find each other based on interest or proximity, for whatever purpose they want. Nice interface. I’m signed up, just for fun. Still too soon to say how it will evolve.

Spam in my name

I previously hypothesized that we’d eventually see viruses/trojan horses used to relay spam, and later reported that it was, in fact, happening. Now it is happening in my name.

There are plenty of Outlook viruses that infect computer A, mine the address book, and then send out infectious e-mail to parties B, C, D, and E, but pretending to be someone else from the address book, making it much more difficult to trace back to the infected computer and fix the problem. It would be simple for one of these virus writers to substitute spam for infectious e-mail (and probably add in hooks for updating the spam messsage remotely).

I have just received a bounce message for a piece of spam that purports to come from me, and was apparently sent to an invalid address. It is also interesting to note that the entire message text is base64-encoded, which no doubt helps it slip past spam filters.

Needless to say, I am chagrined. For those who care, I have posted the raw text of the bounce message (e-mail addresses changed to protect the innocent).

Meanwhile in related news, Spamotomy looks like a good clearinghouse of information on spam.


The domain-name registration was about to expire, so on a tip from Prentiss, I transferred the registration from the spooks at Network Solutions to Go Daddy. A stupid name, but for $7.75 instead of $35, I’ll put up with it.

Anything involving domain-name changes is always fraught with the potential for problems, and I was concerned when I saw what appeared to be a glitch in the making, so I called the Go Daddy domain-support line. A human being answered the phone on the first ring. Go back and re-read that sentence, and think about it for a moment. The guy was helpful and gave me relevant information. I’m sold.

Mr Popular

Friendster seems to be growing explosively. I can almost sit there and hit the reload button in my browser, and watch the number of people in my network increase. It’s grown by about 250 in about 5 hours today. Apparently I am connected through 4 degrees to Gwen Stefani (if we can take the entry at face value), along with nine other Gwens, none of whom are the Gwen I’m seeing. It would be interesting to see a map of the connections between people. I suggest that some people are major nodal points (one guy lists 676 friends, which is kind of unbelievable). I am apparently 4 degrees removed from Jack Black, by way of some guy who lists 881 friends. Zoinks!

No surprise that it’s already spawned Fiendster and Enemyster as parodies.

Spam report 2

Over the past 7 days, I’ve received 506 511 (some came while writing this) pieces of spam. Of these, spamassassin correctly tagged about 450, a 90% hit rate, with no false-positives that I could see. Interestingly,’s internal junk-filtering rules gave me three false-positives. One of these was mailing-list mail with a spamassassin score of -9, two of them were paypal notices, one of which had a spamassassin score of -98! Interesting to note how disparate the two are.

Spam report

Over the past eight days, I have received 397 pieces of spam. 328 were flagged by Spamassassin and dropped in my spam-box before I ever saw them; one of these was arguably not spam (it was bulk, commercial e-mail that I didn’t particularly want, but I have bought stuff from the sender before, so they had obtained my e-mail address legitimately). Only about ten messages had subject lines that might fool me into thinking they weren’t spam.

I don’t have exact numbers, but spam accounted for well over half the total e-mail I received in this period–possibly over three-quarters.

Social networks

There’s been a lot of interest lately in social software. A related phenomenon is the way the Internet can make social networks explicit.

I like playing around with this. I recently created a FOAF file (see my badge-zone). And there’s a brilliant “FOAF explorer” (where you can see I really need to flesh mine out).

One problem with FOAF is that it’s nerdy, and while I think it’s a good approach, not everyone will bother putting FOAF files on their websites (oh wait–not everyone even has a website). Friendster answers that–it approximates FOAF’s functionality, but lets the user sign in and point to friends rather than post a file with arcane formatting. It would be nifty if Friendster could read FOAF files, and conversely, if Friendster had an interface for feeding information into FOAF files.

None of this is particularly new. Six degrees did roughly the same thing as Friendster back in 1995, I think. But the Internet is big enough that network effects make the idea more viable. It’s also interesting trolling through Friendster–so far, the only friends I’ve found in there are part of my fire-freak circle of friends, so all the same faces keep popping up. It would be interesting to find someone from a different circle there and be the point of intersection between circles.

Later: Seems that Ben Hammersly had the same idea.

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