Where spam comes from, part 379

So maybe there aren’t as many open SMTP relays as there were a couple of years ago, but somehow spam thrives. To get their product out, some spam kings have evidently resorted to hijacking web email-contact pages, or so I’ve concluded from the contents of the jls.cx HTTP logs. Here’s some sample statistics for 404 (page not found) errors:

URL Error Hits
/cgi-bin/formmail.pl 42
/cgi-bin/contact.cgi 26
/cgi-bin/formmail.cgi 23

Straight from the log, here’s evidence of one of the more brain-dead attempts: - - [19/Aug/2004:12:58:53 -0600] "GET /cgi-bin/formmail.pl?email=rockstar@mail.com

Basically, somebody’s out there trolling for a web page that will automatically send email. In this case, the troller was dumb enough to use GET, which logs all of the details of the request and thus leaves fingerprints all over the log. Most of the other attempts use POST, which hides the details from the log.
Anyway, if you’ve got a mail script page that allows unauthenticated sending of mail, take it down please. The Internet isn’t as nice as it used to be.

Marathon Mice and the performance-enhancing bug

Yesterday’s article in Wired about genetically modified mice with superior aerobic exercise capacity sparked a thought from Elise today – could a naturally occuring virus have a similar effect? The link between viruses and some disorders, such as the relationship between HPV and cervical cancer in women, is well established. I suppose it’s also possible that a virus could have a beneficial effect, though such a thing would be rarer than a detrimental effect. I’d expect an essentially random change caused by a virus to have more of a chance disrupting a human system than enhancing it.

Mount Greylock Century 2004

Back in June, when I first heard my clubmate Sean describe the Mt. Greylock Century, I knew I was in trouble. In terms of single-day efforts, it was far beyond anything I’d ever done on a bike. Having spent most of my life in the relatively flat parts of the midwest, I’d never even climbed anything that could reasonably be described as a mountain before this year. I’d only started riding with any intensity in May, after a long winter and spring doing fairly short indoor rides on the trainer. I considered my mileage base barely adequate to even consider doing anything like Greylock, but I was hooked. I had to find out if I could handle the three major climbs and nearly 10,000 feet total climbing that MGC offered.

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Not bad for a guy who doesn’t know the alphabet

Lately Andrew has taken to “reading” his favorite book to us, and the other night we finally got it on tape. Here it is for your viewing pleasure in QuickTime (7.5MB) or WMV (4.0 MB) format. My QT codec is somewhat lousy so in that version it’s hard to tell that he’s actually doing a good job of parroting the words on the page. At least we know he’s paying attention.
Today was a rough day for the little guy, he’s got a pretty bad cough so we spent the whole day on the couch. History Channel was running a “Hands on History” marathon so we got to see how Mack trucks, John Deere tractors and Honda Gold Wing motorcycles are made…maybe cable ain’t so bad after all.

Following the money

I know of two sites with more information on campaign finance than you’ll ever need. The first, opensecrets.org, takes a top-down view of political donations and expenditures, showing things such as the employers of top donors. I especially like the page describing donations and ambassadorships.
In contrast, fundrace.org shreds its data a bit more finely and has a GIS bent to it. One feature allows a user to search for individual donors by address or name. The “top addresses” feature is cool – how else would I know that people who claim the address of 975 Memorial Drive in Cambridge, MA (including someone who’s either unemployed or a housewife and another who’s a clergy spiritual counselor), have donated more than $100,000 to the DNC and Democratic candidates?
These are two more fine examples of the Internet giving new meaning to the term “publicly available data.” Maybe we can’t remove money’s influence from the process, but at least now we can see who’s buying access.

New toys for the boys

Andrew received a box from his Gammy today and very much enjoyed playing with the contents. I had just as much fun taking pictures of him with my new digicam, and one turned out well enough for me to actually post. This is an unretouched image from my Konica Minolta Dimage X31, which is about the size of a deck of cards. I think at some point I’m going to want a camera that provides creative control in the form of manual exposure control, but I also wanted to try a subcompact that would be easily portable on the bike. My research led me to conclude that those two sets of cameras are pretty much disjoint. So I decided to go for the tiny one first and see how it goes.

Reunion ’04 Pictures

Reunion was back in June and I’m just now getting around to posting the pictures. I blame the USA PATRIOT act (seems popular) and the fact that I’m still using a film camera. Takes us forever to use up a roll and remember to get it developed. This time around, all of the pictures were upside down on the Photo CD and the transfer was really noisy – the digital image quality isn’t great, but the film prints look pretty good. I’m shopping for a digital camera now so I don’t think I’ll have to put up with that again.
Here’s my original blog entry on reunion that links that great video clip. I swear I’m gonna pull that one out when he comes around the house with his prom date.

That way lies Sherborn. And madness. But you should get to Sherborn first.

Had a miserable four-hour ride in the rain last weekend. When I met the club at 6am, the air was thick enough to chew – 75°F and humid as can be. We chatted briefly about routes and return times while we eyed the bulging, leaden clouds uneasily. We rode for about half an hour before the first spatters appeared on our sunglasses. Those few drops rapidly became a shower as the sky unzipped and dumped its load.

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