Stopping comment spam, 2014 edition

I’ve been blogging for nearly 15 years, so I’ve seen my share of frustrations over the years. The toughest source of frustration for me to shake has been spam. I have actually had spambot traffic knock my site offline in the past–here’s what I did about that–so suffice it to say that if a computer can’t keep up with it, there’s no way a human can keep up with filtering the amount of spam even a moderately popular blog receives. I’ve used two plugins to augment WordPress’ built in antispam capabilities. Read more

How to maximize a Computer Science degree

Yesterday an interesting question popped up on Slashdot, asking for an alternative to a computer science degree for an aspiring web developer. He complained that what he’s learning in class doesn’t relate to what he wants to do in the field.

Assuming that by “web developer” he means someone who can code stuff in ASP and/or PHP with a database backend and do stuff in Javascript–as opposed to a designer who just does HTML and CSS–I think he’s best off staying where he is and asking better questions.
Read more

A b2 user looks longingly at Movable Type

This web site is in crisis mode.
I’ve been talking the past few days with a lot of people about blogging systems. I’ve worked with a lot of them. Since 1999, I’ve gone from static pages to Manilla to Greymatter to b2, and now, I’m thinking about another move, this time to Movable Type.

At the time I made each move, each of the solutions I chose made sense.

I really liked Manilla’s calendar and I really liked having something take care of the content management for me. I moved to Greymatter from Manilla after editthispage.com had one too many service outages. (I didn’t like its slow speed either. But for what I was paying for it, I couldn’t exactly complain.) Greymatter did everything Manilla would do for me, and it usually did it faster and better.

Greymatter was abandoned right around the time I started using it. But at the time it was the market leader, as far as blogs you ran on your own servers went. I kept on using it for a good while because it was certainly good enough for what I wanted to do, and because it was super-easy to set up. I was too chicken at the time to try anything that would require PHP and MySQL, because at the time, setting up Apache, PHP and MySQL wasn’t exactly child’s play. (It’s still not quite child’s play but it’s a whole lot easier now than it used to be.)

Greymatter remained good enough until one of my posts here got a hundred or so responses. Posting comments to that post became unbearably slow.

So I switched to b2. Fundamentally, b2 was pretty good. Since it wasn’t serving up static pages it wasn’t as fast as Greymatter, but when it came to handling comments, it processed the 219th comment just as quickly as it processed the first. And having a database backend opened up all sorts of new possibilities, like the Top 10 lists on the sidebar (courtesy of Steve DeLassus). And b2 had all the basics right (and still does).

When I switched to b2, a handful of people were using a new package called Movable Type. But b2 had the ability to import a Greymatter site. And Movable Type was written in Perl, like Greymatter, and didn’t appear to use a database backend, so it didn’t appear to be a solution to my problem.

Today, Movable Type does use a MySQL backend. And Movable Type can do all sorts of cool stuff, like pingbacks, and referrer autolinks. Those are cool. If someone writes about something I write and they link to it, as soon as someone follows the link, the link appears at the bottom of my entry. Sure, comments accomplish much the same thing, but this builds community and it gives prolific blogs lots of Googlejuice.

And there’s a six-part series that tells how to use Movable Type to implement absolutely every good idea I’ve ever had about a Weblog but usually couldn’t figure out how to do. There are also some ideas there I never conceived of.

In some cases, b2 just doesn’t have the functionality. In some cases (like the linkbacks), it’s so easy to add to b2 even I can do it. In other cases, like assigning multiple categories to a post, it’s difficult. I don’t doubt b2 will eventually get most of this functionality. But when someone else has the momentum, what to do? Do I want to forever be playing catch-up?

And that’s my struggle. Changing tools is always at least a little bit painful, because links and bookmarks go dead. So I do it only when it’s overwhelmingly worthwhile.

Movable Type will allow you to put links to related entries automatically. Movable Type will help you build meaningful metatags so search engines know what to do with you (MSN had no idea what to do with me for the longest time–I re-coded my page design a couple of weeks ago just to accomodate them). MT will allow you to tell it how much to put into your RSS feed (which I’m sure will draw cheers from the poor folks who are currently pulling down the entire story all the time).

MT doesn’t have karma voting, like Greymatter did (and I had Steve add to b2). I like it but I can live without it. I can probably get the same functionality from page reads. Or I can just code up a “best of” page by hand, using page reads, feedback, and gut feeling as my criteria.

The skinny: I’m torn on whether I should migrate. I stand to gain an awful lot. The main reason I have to stay with what I have is Steve’s custom code, which he worked awfully hard to produce, and some of it gives functionality that MT doesn’t currently have. Then again, for all I know it might not be all that hard to adapt his code to work with MT.

I know Charlie thought long and hard about switching. He’s one of the people I’ve been talking with. And I suspected he would be the first to switch. The biggest surprise to me when he did was that it took him until past 3 p.m. today to do it.

And I can tell you this. If I were starting from scratch, I’d use Movable Type. I doubt I’d even look at anything else.

CD’s; Duron deal; Journal site; Cheap nic; DMA problem;

MAILBAG:
From: Steve Delassus
Subject: Cheap CDs. Too cheap?

Hey, I found a spindle of 100 16X 80-minute CDs at Best Buy for $25 after rebate. Seemed like a good deal, so I grabbed it. They’re imation CDs, which I thought had at least a decent reputation. Have you heard anything to the contrary?

Steve
~~~~~
I’ll take that over private label who-knows-what. I like Kodaks best, but Imations are certainly better than, oh, Infodisc… But what were you doing at Best Bait-n-Switch?
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “David Huff”
Subject: good Duron deal

Dave,

Here’s another good deal for those wanting to build an inexpensive PC:

AMD Duron 750 OEM – $38.00 http://www.gpscomputersvcs.com/amdprocessors.html

Not too shabby ๐Ÿ™‚

Regards,
Dave
~~~~~
Wow. Thanks much. A Duron for a song. A Backstreet Boys song.
~~~~~~~~~~
From:
Subject: A good journal site.

Dave,

I would like to suggest Blogger.com. I’ve used it since February and haven’t had a problem with it. You can setup your own templates or use one of theirs. You can use your existing FTP account or they can provide one at blogspot.com. I set my journal up and just copied their template information to use my existing page format. I have my journal online at http://mkelley.net/notes .

I also must say that we have the same tastes in music, with the Pixies and the Church and some of the others you’ve listed. I have a video that came out for the album after Starfish and it has all of the Church’s music videos from the early 80’s to their end in the 90’s. If I can find it’s name I’ll pass that along. It should be cheap at your local used video/music stop.

ever listen to the Smiths?

Thanks, Mike Kelley
~~~~~
I’ll look into Blogger, but I’d really prefer something Linux-based, preferably Open Source so I can make changes to it down the line if I need a feature, and something using a database backend so I can rapidly make changes. If I’m going to change, I want to make a change that’ll give me lots of versatility.

I’m familiar with The Smiths but never really got into them. As far as Manchester bands go, I pretty much stuck with Joy Division and to a lesser degree, New Order. I think it’s Morrissey I object to, because I really enjoyed Johnny Marr’s guitar work with Electronic and with The The. Morrissey’s veganism (or is he just a militant vegetarian?) and asexuality just weirds me out, I guess.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Jeff Hurchalla”
Subject: cheap nic

Hi Dave, Don’t know if you’ve already caught this, but I got a linksys 10/100 nic at Best Buy for $5 after rebate ($10 regular) on Thrusday 4/26. I can’t say how long it’ll last, but at that kind of price I thought you and your readers might like to hear about it. The card is suppoosed to support 95/98/me/2000, possibly NT and macOS, and also has unsupported drivers for linux. On another note, I’m having the most horrendous time setting up networking in win98 imaginable. I used to work in Tcp/ip programming so of course it feels like it shouldnt be anywhere near this hard to do.. but that wasn’t using anything microsoft. Well enough complaining, as fun as it is ๐Ÿ™‚ Do you have any suggestions for a web page to look at that goes in depth? I want to connect win98 computer to another win98, I’m using a linksys card in one and an NDC card in the other. The one with the linksys also has a Dlink card connected to a cable modem. I’ve attempted to set up internet connection sharing on the computer with 2 cards(it is 98se), but right now I can’t get either computer to see the other one. They are in the same workgroup. The ICS computer appears to have assigned 192.168.0.1 to the linksys(home) tcp/ip adapter, and the other nic in that computer is connected to the cable modem and working fine. For the other computer, I’ve set windows to automatically assign an IP address. Well if you’ve got any quick suggestions or places for me to look, let me know – I wouldn’t want you to waste time on it – I can do that for both of us quite easily! Take care, Jeff
~~~~~
Easy solution. Don’t set it to obtain an IP address automatically. Give the other (non-ICS) PC an address in the 192.168.0.x range yourself, with subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 and gateway of 192.168.0.1, then open a command prompt and try to ping the other one. If that works, specify your DNS addresses, then try pinging yahoo.com. I’m betting both will work, as will file and printer sharing if you turn that on (but be sure to unbind the Microsoft client from your Dlink card).

Unless you’ve got a DHCP server somewhere on the network, Windows will assign it a goofy address (in the 64.x.x.x range if I remember right–it’s some range that makes absolutely no sense) and you won’t see anything.

As for the NIC, that’s a nice price but I really don’t like to use Linksys cards. The Netgear card selling at CompUSA for $10 this week is a better card. I can confirm that Linux readily recognizes the Linksys, but the failure rate is higher than I like to see. Thanks for the tip though.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Al Hedstrom”
Subject: The Move

Dave –

I also want to move my stuff, but I’ll move it to a host and probably use something like Coffee Cup. One question: How are you moving all your archives? Page by page?

Al Hedstrom
~~~~~
Yep, I think that’s the way I’m going to have to do it. I’m looking into alternatives but right now I don’t see any. I’m going to set up a test server and play around with it. I haven’t downloaded my Manila site yet; it may be possible to extract the stuff. That’d be nice. If I can extract the text I can probably wrap the template around it and fake out Greymatter, but I haven’t really looked into it the way I should. Maybe next weekend.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: Mike Barkman
Subject: DMA problem

Hi Dave —

A small problem: I’m hurriedly converting my spare box for my son-in-law, as his second office machine has carked.

It has a Gigabyte GA5AA m/b with the ALi chipset and 100 MHz bus. The processor is AMD K6-II-350 and 64 MB of SDram. I’ve transferred his two drives over — Seagate medallists, one 6 GB and the other 8 GB. I cleaned off the c: partition and reinstalled Win98SE and his working software.

Problem: I enabled DMA for each drive and the CDRom; but it won’t stick — reboot and the checkmark has vanished.

Any ideas? I was transferring files over my network, and the speed was dead slow — that’s what tipped me off.

Cheers /Mike
~~~~~
Sounds like you don’t have the proper drivers for your ALi chipset. Download those from your Gigabyte’s site and install them, and chances are that’ll clear up the DMA issue.

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