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R.I.P. Western Black Rhino

Created 1152603780 by Mithandir in category Misc
The BBC reports that an expedition to the last known habitat of the Western African Black Rhino has failed to find any trace of their continued existance. Humanity has once more been able to utterly destroy an entire species.

Spam

Created 1150884480 by Mithandir in category Misc

I hate spam.

The Chasing the Sunset site, and especially those areas running the WillowCMS system (like this blog and my picture gallery) are under a rather viscious spam attack. WillowCMS has some contra-measures to make spammers life at least a bit difficult, but they are proving insufficient. It's so annoying ...

To give you an idea, Willow's blacklisting is blocking over 100 spam comments a day coming from over 90 different IP addresses. Another 10-40 or so are deleted manually by my, also on a daily basis.

The problem is that quite a few of them are proving to be impossible to block using trasnparant means. "Transparant" in this case means ways that don't bother normal commentors and are mainly hidden keys and blacklisting.
I can't use ip blacklisting, because they use zombie networks. Nearly every comment is from a completely different ip address.
I can't use content blacklisting agsint many either, because their content either a) does not contain anything blockable (they just leave a comment with "nice site" and a link to some company site, often using link forwarder services)) or b) is not consistant enough to block (we get spam for matrasses, baby clothes, etc etc, we can't block all of that) or c) advertises something that people might want to talk about in the blog (we get some spam for bookstores).

Now of course I don't need to tell you not to follow the links in such spam. You know that people who use such unethical advertising are bound to have very very low standards in every part of their business. That's not their aim, they just want to use this site to increase their google ranking. this doesn't work, of course, since I add a nofollow to every link in comments, but they don't know that (heck, they try to use wiki or bbcode tags).

Anyway ... it's looking like I may need to step away from the transparant means and introduce a form of captcha. If I do, I'll try to make it one that is not too annoying.

Some macro pictures

Created 1149976860 by Mithandir in category Misc

Nice weather today so I went to take a few shots. Managed to sneak up on a nice bug, so I figured I'd show you guys :)

Pictures can be found in my picture gallery

Update: I took some more pictures a day later, check again to find cute little toads.

Warning to Metal Lovers

Created 1149502080 by Mithandir in category Misc

Hey all,

As some of you may know I love Metal (the music, not the material). In the rather diverse world of Metal my preference is bands in the quadrant of Blind Guardian, Sonata Arctica and Nightwish. Part of the latter group are two dutch bands: Epica and After Forever. These two bands both use the dutch firm "Transmission Records" as their label.

I hereby implore you NOT TO BUY ANY albums produced by the Transmission Records label. The reason? Copy protection.

See, I don't own a CD player. I got a PC with a good sound card and good speakers and I have a portable mp3 player. So the first thing I do when I legally buy a CD is rip the tracks to mp3's so I can actually listen to them. But now I have two CD's that ... well I can't listen to them. Oh sure, they put a bunch of 128kbps encoded wma's on the CD too, but my portable player can't understand those and while my PC does, they are of crap quality with a tonal range more usually associated with early 30's sound recordings. 1830's at that.

On top of that, the CD runs a 2.2 Mb autorun.exe file when you insert it into your PC. This starts up WMP to play the wma's.... right ...

Look, I'm a programmer. You don't need a 2.2 Mb .exe (and some additinoal DLL's, data files and configuration files) if all you're doing is starting a program. Heck, you don't need a .exe at all. So they're doing something else there and they're not telling what.

Oh, also there is NO indication on the box that a copy protection system is used in these. The only external indication is a small logo on the CD itself (which you all know they take out in the CD store to prevent theft so you only get to see that after buying the CD). This logo sits right underneath the official "Compact Disc digital audio" logo. I'm not a lawyer, but Reinder informs me that it is illegal for a CD with copy protection to bear that logo.

Stealthily reopening blog

Created 1139607900 by Mithandir in category Misc
Doubt anybody will really notice.

The once and future Mith

Created 1121671500 by Mithandir in category Misc

So what have I been doing? Well I've been reading some. Yesterday I finished the latest Harry Potter. In fact I finished all Harry Potters, as before two weeks ago I had only read the first one. Constant nagging from friends has been pushing the series ever higher on my to read list so two weeks ago I started reading from book 1 and saturday around 16:00 I finished book five. I then went out to get book six (which was released that day) and finished that too for good measure.
I'm not going to give any spoilers about it as I know people here will skin me alive if I do, but just want to say I thought the latest installment to be far superior to the order of the phoenix and I'm looking forward to the seventh, because after the ending of this one, that one looks to be very interesting.

All this reading (apart from the harry potter books I also finished some books in the sword of truth series as well as some short stories by Ursula Leguin) has kindled once more the desire in me to write. You see, I'd love to become a writer. The problem is that I'm no good. No, don't argue with me. People are always so kind when they feel I'm being too harsh on myself but I feel it's important to be realistic and when I compare myself to published authors, I'm crap (people often tell me I should not compare myself to those, but I can't honoustly see why not. Yes, I'm an amateur, but that doesn't mean I don't want to be a *good* amateur, or in fact, eventually, a proffesional).

Now, I know what it takes to get better: practice. Loads and loads of practice. I can't even remember how often I have decided to spend at least X time a day writing, but I know I've never held that promise to myself for longer than two days. Well, I'm going to try again! This time however I'm also doing some other things. I made/am making an application to help me keep track of my writing. Just a simple little thing to keep my notes and characters organized, tho I'm hoping to expand it to keep track of relationships and timelines as well. If there's enough interest, I might open up that application to others.

I know there's some other amateur writers reading Chasing the Sunset (hi Stormdancer, for instance) and was wondering whether they had any tips for me. If so, well, my email address is on this post and there's this nifty link form to leave comments with as well!

Meanwhile, I'm going to continue Small Steps into Fantasy. I missed last week's installment due to Murphy's law, but will make up for that with a larger than usual installment tomorow.