net stuff

De-spamming tools

We all hate spam, right? (I’m assuming that anyone who actually likes spam is probably a spammer, and therefore not the type to read this blog) We hate receiving it, and those of us who have websites have to face the prospect that if our pages contain any e-mail addresses, that spambots will attempt to strip-mine those addresses from our web pages, consuming resources on our web servers and making us complicit in their evildoing.

The simplest and most Draconian approach is to remove all e-mail addresses from your site. But that goes completely contrary to the two-way spirit of the Internet. You could just show a graphic representation of your e-mail address, but that’s inconvenient–your legitimate correspondents would need to hand-type it into their mail clients. (And what happens when spambots are wired up to optical-character recognition software? And what about people who have image-loading turned off?) Some people have gone to extraordinary length to foil spambots. One approach is to create a spambot trap, also called a tarpit. Another approach is to encode your address in a way that most web browsers will represent as a normal, usable address with a clickable link, but will confound an unsophisticated spambot. I was impressed by this one, which actually uses javascript and prime-factoring encryption to conceal the underlying address.

I’m telling ya, it’s a jungle out there.


I recently heard about Spamassassin, and was thinking about setting it up. I mentioned it to the guy who runs my website’s hosting service and within a couple hours, he just had it running. I’ve taken the somewhat Procrustean measure of deleting all spam before it even gets to my computer, so if you write to me and don’t hear back, it might be because spamassassin mistook your mail for spam. But it seems to be pretty smart.

If you have an interest in the Japanese language, is a startling, fascinating website. It takes other websites (or whatever plain text you feed it) and displays them with a translation layer, so that when you point at a word in Japanese, the translation appears.

Unfortunately it’s a bit buggy, and it seems to work better with Navigator than IE, but I’m still very impressed.

Learning CSS

I’ve been studying up on CSS positioning, a potentially powerful technique for writing web pages that can make the code for a page much simpler, while allowing the author to do all kinds of neat things. Note the weasel-word “potentially.” It seems there are all kinds of things one might want to do (all of which I seem to be the first things I thought of) that either don’t work quite as expected, or aren’t implemented correctly in the most popular browsers. For example, you can have a section of the web page (graphics, text, whatever) stay locked in place in the browser window–very much like with frames, but without all the drawbacks of frames. The problem with this technique is that it renders any links in the fixed section dead. Oops. It’s not a feature, it’s a bug. Oh well. I’ve put up a test page, which at any given moment may be incredibly ugly or attractive. Or both, since you can associate one page with multiple style sheets and toggle the active style sheet as desired. Yeah, that’s one of the cool features.

jackanape jigger

Ok, now I’m just being silly. The googlewhack du jour: jackanape jigger. Score: 7,073,100. I actually thought it would score lower, but this suggests a variant of the game: alliterative googlewhacks.

What’s incredible is that prolegomena delicatessen actually returns 13 hits. I mean, seriously!


Googlewhacking is a new game where you try to find a pair of ordinary words that appear together on only one web page, as revealed through a Google search. This is a little like trying to find an actor with a Bacon Number of 5.

Your score is the number of hits for each word individually, multiplied together. My contribution: zoroastrian vicuna. My score: 388,600,000.

e-mail finally spat out

How weird. I just got a copy of an e-mail that I received about a year ago. Must have been caught in the metaphorical throat of some mailserver somewhere that just got metaphorically Heimliched.