Comment Spammers are getting “Sneaky”

I run a few blogs for myself, my business interests and some clients so I get to see a LOT of spam come through the filters. Suffice to say, the idiot Russian spammers keep coming back here and there, but now the latest are what I’m calling the “copy n paste” spammers.

This is where a spammer takes a comment from your blog and tries to repost it (usually against the same entry) in the hopes you’ll think it’s a real comment and allow it through. In the process they include a site URL that gets recorded as a link in your site if their comment gets through.

Yes, it’s the “website promotion” bastards again. These are the folks who say “Pay us some money and we’ll make sure your website gets promoted around the ‘net, gets lots of links and rises up in the search engine results.” The concept is that by having lots & lots of blogs out there pointing back at a site, it makes it look more important to seach engines plus people click through to it from the various blog comments.

First they tried to string fake messages together with random selections of words, but that was pretty easy to spot. Then they tried to make semi-real messages saying how cool your blog and/or blog post was but they got easy to spot when they’d appear against your daily twitter summary post.

So now they’re finding a random comment from a post’s history (remember, this is all done by automated systems) and re-post it so you’ll be suckered into publishing their comment. Nice one!

Of course, the other side effect of this is that on most blogging systems, once you’ve had a message published, your email address is in the clear and you can post any message you want. Hello, the doors are open, come on in and go nuts.

Fortunately most of us have spam filters that help weed these idiots out. Still, makes for an amusing moment or two when I go and check what the filters have dredged up :)

Waiting for…

I’m not sure about the rest of you folks, but I certainly do seem to be spending a lot of time waiting for Google these days. I’m using their RSS Reader & doing searches, both at their home page and through the search box in my browsers. I’m also using their maps, translation system, documents and, of course, their web traffic analytics system on all of the web sites I manage.

It also seems that many of the sites I visit during the day have decided that Google’s products are pretty good and are using Google Analytics as wel as displaying adverts supplied by Google.

With so many sites & people making Google a central part of their online experience. perhaps it’s no surprise that I’m frequently seeing the phrase “waiting for” in the status bar of my browsers. Given it’s all free for a non-advertiser like me (so far :), I shouldn’t be complaining about having to wait, but it seems that whenever I’m thinking “Damn, this is taking a while” I see “Waiting for”

So long as it all stays free as it currently is, I’m willing to put up with it. Certainly wouldn’t want to be paying for it, that’s for sure.

Screw this “Gardening is Relaxing” Shit…

I knew we’d become domestic when we went to Bunnings for the express purpose of buying a lawn mower & some gardening gear (spade, trowel, fork, rake, etc). Despite flashbacks to my initiation into the psychedelic world of Sydney’s 1992 dance party scene and hazy recollections of nootropics, virtual reality rigs and funky/chunky graphics, the closest I got to the Lawnmower Man was that I was this guy pushing a lawnmower around the back yard.

Oh well, at least I had a stack of aviation podcasts to listen to under my tarmac worker quality hearing protection.

I’ve been willing to put up with the boring hassle of mowing the lawns, even when the spring & autumn seasons meant rain and grass growing at a rate you could watch all day without having to pretend you saw movement. Sadly, however, today took me over the edge. I’ve spent today mowing lawn, ripping out crap from flowerbeds & driveway edges and otherwise trying to make the space look acceptable. What makes it worse is that we’re moving out of here next week and all this is just to ensure that the place doesn’t look too run down/dilapidated when the contractors come through to renovate the place.

After a day of mowing, bending, ripping, carrying & dealing with pissed off insects & arachnida, I think the next gardening tool I buy will be a flame thrower. Screw this “beautiful looking garden” shit – it’s either paved or the place comes with a gardener who gets paid to make it look good while I get my weekends back.

Getting Published Again

Many years ago while I was living in Buenos Aires, I wrote a few articles for the local English language newspaper including the problems inherent in calling the Internet a “Super Highway”, a guide to safer driving in Buenos Aires and going comet chasing. I also worked on an article with a friend about mobile phones as fashion statements for Latin American mobile phone magazine.

Things went quiet for a while until I wrote a couple of articles for aviation magazines, one on the Albury Airshow in 2002 and the other on a session in a full motion 737 sim. They were both back in 2002/2003 and aside from various blog posts here or at Fly Me Friendly, I never really produced any further articles.

This all changed today when Shashank Nigam published my article on his very well read Simpliflying site. The article provides a background on the birth of Jetstar, its growth to date and how it is destined to consume more of QANTAS’ mainline routes & aircraft.

Head on over to Simpliflying and check out the article.

Thanks to Shashank for giving me the opportunity to gain further exposure to the global aviation world and helping to promote PCDU, it’s very much appreciated :)

Moving Boxes

We’re moving house again in a few weeks after only moving in here a year ago. We came here to be close to Nykolai’s new school and are only 5 minutes walk from the front gates. Sadly, the owners want to rennovate and then move in, something we weren’t aware of when we agreed to rent the place (lesson learned!)

When I was a kid, we used to move house every 3 years or so and the longest I stayed in one city was 5 years in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Then we moved to Brisbane, Australia and still wound up moving every year or two as places we rented were sold (DOH!).

I wound up staying in Brisbane for 10 years but kept shifting around even after moving out from my parents (actually, they moved out on me, but that’s another story :). Eventually I moved to Sydney and bounced from place to place there as circumstances changed.

After a few years in Sydney, I moved to Boston for work, then back to Sydney a few years later and then within 8 months was off to Buenos Aires for a couple of years, again with work. From there I wound up here in Melbourne where I’ve been living for 13 years, the longest I’ve ever stayed in one city in my life. It’s also appproaching the longest I’ve stayed in one country in my life.

The joys of having a kid and wanting to give him some stability, I guess.

Nykolai and I lived in an apartment for over 6 years and Kitt moved in with us there over 4 years ago. Now it’s time to box everything up again and move about 500m up the road to a place that’s on the other side of the school.

The house is full of boxes, things are disappearing off shelves & book cases, plans are being made, friends begged for assistance and a truck rented. With luck we’ll stay at the next place for a few years before having to move again ‘cos I for one am getting totally over this relocation thing… :)

Nykolai’s back from camp

Nykolai went on a sort of Ukranian scout camp at the Sokil eco arts retreat in the hills behind Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road. He was invited to attend by friends and spent 8 days going on multi-day mountain bike riding expeditions, bush walking and sleeping in a tent.

He got back this evening and is currently blissed out in his bed following a hot shower and a good meal. He was also very happy to be back to a “civilised” toilet :)

We’ll be hearing all the stories for the next day or so as he returns to reality, all while making the most of his Christmas and birthday presents over the next few weeks of school holidays.

Yes, it’s great to have him back.

Religion as underwear?

Maria Langer, a helicopter pilot & author in Arizona, keeps a rather insightful & amusing blog where she posts her thoughts, experiences and other items she finds worthy of archiving. One of her posts commented on Christianity and, like rancid meat, it’s drawn the annoying, sickening horde of rabid Jesus-freaks in to comment.

To say it’s amusing to read the article’s comments is an understatement. For a religion that professes to be based on love, these folks are certainly destroying that brand image.

Aside from an amusing read at 03:00 in the morning after weather forced us to cancel this morning’s scheduled balloon flight, it also inspired me to make this observation:

Religion is like underwear – it says a lot about who you are, shapes your actions and can give you a comforting feeling, but if you keep showing it in public you can get a really bad name for yourself.

Always check your plugins

I wound up losing about 2 hours of my day today (yes, New Year’s Day) thanks to some problems with the latest version of the PodPress plug in. While making some changes on the Plane Crazy Down Under site, I noticed that a Plugin was ready for update. I dutifully ran the update process and upgraded to the latest PodPress version (8.8.2). All seemed OK and I went about my day.


An hour or so later, I received an SMS from Steve, my partner in PCDU saying there was a problem with the podcast’s feed. Yup, the feed’s text was there but the mp3 files couldn’t download.

I ran the feed through the Feed Validator and it confirmed that the mp3 file had to have a full path, not a relative one. Damn – looks like the updated PodPress is to blame.

With a bit of effort I picked up the previous version of the plugin, deleted the current version from the site and loaded the previous version. NOTE: WordPress makes it easy to load updated plugins (and themes, and WordPress versions – for which we’re all extremely greatful :) but there’s no easy way to roll back to a previous version. Oh well.

Once rolled back, I then spent a while getting the FeedBurner feed sorted out (took a ping to get it to refresh) and did the same (ping) for iTunes. After that it was just a matter of “Check for Updates” on the podcast in iTunes and everything started working fine again.


The lesson learned: Don’t upgrade to the latest version of a plugin without checking to see a) how long it’s been around and b) whether anyone’s hit any snags with it yet. Also a good idea to not upgrade when you’d rather be spending the day chilling out & relaxing :)

Guide to writing letters to the government

So, you’re pissed off about Conroy’s idiotic mandatory “Clean Feed” Internet filter and want to tell him your thoughts? Perhaps you’re angry about the shambles in Copenhagen and Australia’s bully-boy attitude to some other counries? Or heck, maybe you just want to have a c’est la vent moment against the government in general because, like some of us, you’re over all politicians and the mandarins of the civil service.

Usually I’d bang out some snide email or fax to the minister in question, often with cc’s to other ministers and the PM to boot. I’m sure many of you have done the same.

Well, guess what – while doing that may help vent some anger, it is very likely that it won’t have much impact on the idiots in question. Sad but true.

If you really want to get noticed and cause a problem, follow Bernard Keane’s guide to writing to Ministers over at Crikey. It’s so essential for everyone to read this that they didn’t put it behind the pay wall. Excellent.

So, please go and read this now, learn its simple key points and then use them in all your letter writing to the Government. It’s time to make the bastards honest and do the work we elected them for (you know, listen to the electorate, think beyond their own selves, make decisions that are for the greater good rather than the next election, etc :)

The Russians are Back

Whoever is trying to post Russian spam on the blogs I run must be a bloody idiot. Not a single posting they submit ever sees the light of day ‘cos it all gets caught by the spam-filters my sites run (or, in the case of one, generates a request to moderate as it’s not running a filter).

Most of the other spammers try to embed unique text in their “test” messages to see if they show up at some point in the future. Once they realise they’re being blocked, they tend to go away. Not so these guys.

Oh, sure, after over a month of auto-chucking messages into the black hole of our flters, they disappeared entirely for a month or so. I thought they’d finally figured it out, but no, they’re back and they’re trying it all again.

Talk about your clueless idiots. They’re not just scum of the earth spammers, they’re also stupid.