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Month: November 2007

Dear Yahoo, Please Stop DOSing me. Thanks, bye.

Yahoo is sending 3 requests a second to my webserver for no apparent reason, requesting files that do not exist, and using a HTTP/1.0 browser (WTF is up with that? Can Yahoo not access virtual hosted websites? Are you serious? Is it possible they are further behind than Microsoft?)

I realized this when trying to search my logs for an IP that a spammer used to sign up for a webhosting account with — at first I thought *he* was flooding my site with requests to prevent that information from being available to, say, figure out who he is.

The requests already violate common sense, check this out:

[Fri Sep 7 15:13:13 2007] [error] [client] File does not exist: /home/sites/
[Fri Sep 7 15:13:13 2007] [error] [client] File does not exist: /home/sites/
[Fri Sep 7 15:14:21 2007] [error] [client] File does not exist: /home/sites/
[Fri Sep 7 15:14:21 2007] [error] [client] File does not exist: /home/sites/

First off, don’t request the same URL twice in the same second. The reason this does not make sense is obvious. Second, if you receive a 404, that file does not exist. It is quite unlikely that some random jib of content was created between your first and second request (which are only separated by one minute).

Also, it’s complete rubbish to NOT IDENTIFY YOURSELF CORRECTLY AS A ROBOT: – – [28/Nov/2007:20:19:45 -0600] “GET /nmfjopqw80gty HTTP/1.0” 404 284 “-” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)”

This gives me no information as to who is constantly barraging my server with requests.

Going through the last 50,000 requests (which only reaches to about 15 hours ago) over 49,000 are requests from Yahoo for non-existent pages.

avid alliteration appears appropriately again

I noticed the following story in my Google mail:


And this made me reminisce.

You probably won’t know it unless you ever did paste-up on the staff of a newspaper (my experience being from my high school newspaper), but typically headlines are not written by the same person who wrote the article. This is typically because it’s unknown what size the headline will need to be — it’s often not until the day of layout that the width, height, and specific layout of a story is determined.

So the two things you need to know:

– Those people laying out the stories for the paper also write the headlines.
– Paste-up is typically a several hour tedious process. I never even had to do the worst parts, because I wasn’t an editor, but I helped out a lot. I thought it was fun; most people didn’t share my opinion.

Paste-up is putting together a puzzle, except every piece is looks the same, it’s just a different size. Also, you can kind of cut pieces of the puzzle off. Or split them in half. But doing so sometimes means that other piece you already cut needs to get glued back together and put somewhere else…

Anyway, enough rambling. By the time you start writing headlines you know how much width you have and are given a point size. This means, since printed fonts are not fixed-width, a varying amount of characters that again you have to fiddle with to fit yet not be too short.

(We used a WordPerfect 5.1 macro for this, if you were curious. I’d include a WordPerfect 5.1 screenshot, but it’s completely unnecessary. Close your eyes and imagine a completely blue DOS screen. Now imagine gray fixed-width characters which represent variable-width characters. Or just Google it you lazy jerk).

It’s pretty much the only creative part of the entire paste-up process I got to participate in. As such, I tried hard to write some great headlines.

Let me tell you: there are not many literary devices one can employ in 5-8 words. Allegory? Characterization? Certainly you can’t build an entire climax in there.

The headline writer’s crutch is alliteration. It’s the only thing you can do to make a headline pop.

Thus, you get so many “W”s in a headline.

Personally, though, I think this shows this guy’s a newb… “W” is the widest point-size character; I would have tried to alliterate on “I” or something, to get more words in.

My personal best was an entire headline — 7 or 8 words — with words starting in S. I had to fight my editor (Ericca Pollack, if I recall correctly) and eventually our teacher said it was OK. I need to dig up that Tiger Tales (more alliteration! I told you!) if I still have it. I’m still very proud of it.

this just in: handbrake is awesome

I’m leaving on an airplane in a few hours to go to Vegas to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving with my family.

Seeing as I recently picked up an iPod Touch, I figured I should throw some video on it in case I don’t sleep through the flight (which is at 6 AM — in other words, the need for videos is actually academic).

I’d been hankering to re-watch Firefly for the hundredth time, so I figured I’d pop the series on my iTouch and enjoy.

Last time I attempted to convert a DVD to anything else it took about a day for one DVD. With this outdated knowledge, I decided to acquire some AVIs of the show, even though I already own it, as I figured that’d run a lot quicker.

While that acquisition was taking place, I figured a dry run would be in order. I had the entire Arrested Development series on my HD, and figured there’s nothing wrong with taking one of the funniest shows in history along as well.

Things did not go well.

I found a piece of free software — ffmpegX — that would convert the AVIs to MP4 (iPod format) but it didn’t have a built in option for iPod Touch/iPhone size. Also, it wouldn’t let me add more than one AVI at a time, and it would reset the settings each time I tried to load a new file. This led to incorrect settings and skewed pictures and all sorts of unhappiness.

So everyone was talking about this other thing, VisualHub, so I give it a go. Converts the first video quite fine, so I drop $22 to get a licensed copy.

Of course, once I do that, it decides to no longer work and all the converted files have audio off by many seconds. Tweaking options didn’t help. They were useless.

“Bah,” I say to myself.

Then I remember some co-workers telling me about Handbrake, a nice little tool to convert DVDs straight into whatever you want – DiVX, iPod Touch, ASCII, etc. I figure I can rip the first disc overnight and the second today — I’ve got a few cores now so I assumed it would take at most 12 hours each.

I was wrong – apparently the state of DVD conversion has come leaps and bounds since my last attempt. To convert the whole DVD (which includes ripping the content and decrypting it from the disc) only took about 1.5 hours for a bit over 3 hours of content.

Not only that the quality was leaps and bounds better than re-encoding the AVIs I had downloaded. Despite the same bit rate, they looked fantastic. I understand re-encoding causes quality to suffer, but the AVIs were pretty good quality, so I was surprised to see it cause such a large difference.

Huzzah! I will have Firefly on the plane. How exciting for me. I might rip Arrested Development, too.

(By the way, one HUGE thing — despite ripping stuff, consuming both cores 100%, the Mac responded instantly throughout the entire process. Even playing a video file while ripping didn’t skip. I was shocked that I could both encode AND still use my machine. On my Vista box, which was a 3 ghz machine, I couldn’t do *anything else*. I could hardly open a run window).

the day amazon saved newspapers

Amazon announced their eBook reader today, The Kindle. As an Amazon Junkie, I of course must give my opinions:

– “We wanted Kindle to be completely mobile and simple to use for everyone, so we made it wireless. No PC and no syncing needed. Using the same 3G network as advanced cell phones, we deliver your content using our own wireless delivery system, Amazon Whispernet. Unlike WiFi, you’ll never need to locate a hotspot. There are no confusing service plans, yearly contracts, or monthly wireless bills—we take care of the hassles so you can just read.”

Amazon is the first company to realize integrating wireless at no cost to the user is HUGE. Sprint is brilliant working with the company to provide this (it’s something, I think, a large number of devices will start to do). It’d be ridiculous for someone to expect me to pay a service fee for my eBook reader. While I don’t expect the Kindle become widespread, I expect this concept to catch on.

– The price is way too high, and I suspect Amazon knows that to be the case. I’d expect, especially with the service tie-ins, the price will drop to their cost or lower in a year or two. Especially considering they’ve got you as far as purchases go — you have to buy your books from Amazon — they’re going to make a good amount of money off of you just on the book purchases.

– It’s ugly as Betty

– Once again, as I felt with Amazon Unbox, they’re in a position to do combination purchases. For example, with Unbox, if you buy Season 2 of “Lost” you should get a free digital copy (you don’t, but you should). With Amazon, if you buy a hardcover, you should get a free or extremely discounted eBook copy (no more than, say, 99 cents). After all – you already own the book. If Amazon did this, I’d most likely buy this hideous device and also buy all my books from Amazon.

– Prices are reasonable for lots of things: 99 cents a month for full, wireless delivery of blogs isn’t bad (again, seeing as you grab them over a cellular network adds that value), $9.99 for a hardcover release isn’t bad, $.10 to send any document wirelessly to your reader isn’t bad (free cable-based support is allegedly there; if not, it should be). Some blogs appear to cost $2; that’s getting a bit expensive.

– This is a great delivery method for newspapers, and I can see their relevance returning if devices like this catch on.

– Free access to Wikipedia on the device and an integrated dictionary are awesome. I certainly could have used the latter when reading “Name of the Rose.”

If you travel a lot, I could see the expense making sense (though if it was half the price, it’d make it a no-brainer). Clearly they need to get Apple to design them some hardware.

The huge negative, of course, is the simple fact that I own a lot of books — I even own a lot of books I want, but have yet to have the time, to read. I don’t want to re-buy those books in order to read them on the new device.