Friday, July 30, 2004


Ok, how many instant messaging ids do you have? I know it's more than one. More than 3? How many clients do you have running right now? I tried a couple of hacks for more than one AIM screen name (supported by AIM now). Then I had to run MSN Messenger (or was that Windows Messenger?). And yahoo? And every now and then, you want to connect to an irc channel?

Why don't you try gaim? It lets you connect to all of these messaging services at once, even with multiple ids on each service.

But wait, there's more!

You can make your buddy window always on top, even transparent if you want. There's even a docking buddy list "crawler." Then there's the concept of "buddy pounces." What these are are actions to take when a buddy changes state. Say you want to send your friend a message when he goes from idle to active but you may not be there. No problem. Just setup a buddy pounce and you're done. The action can be to send a message or to just play a sound on your end.

Chat windows can be tabbed like Mozilla. You can separate them and then put them back together.

The thing I like best is that you can set it up so that every conversation is logged. I can go back and search through my logs for URLs that I've exchanged with my friends.

Did I mention that there are no ads?

There are lots more features but those are the biggies. Go read up on it, download it, and play with it.


From Microsoft Readies Next Round of IE Patches

Maybe this will fix this.

UPDATE: Here's the fix.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Bayesian e-mail Filters

A couple of entries ago, I mentioned Bayesian e-mail filters. I guess I ought to explain that.

I get spam (who doesn't?). I use every trick I can to minimize it. I first send my e-mail through who run SpamAssassin. From there, I forward it to who have their own spam filter. Unfortunately, even two spam filters don't eliminate all of it.

I wrote a bunch of rules in Outlook Express but I was always having to tweak them and watch carefully for false positives (good e-mail labeled as spam by my rules).

One day as I was surfing, I came across this concept of Bayesian filtering. There are a couple of good articles here and here.

Bayesian spam filters calculate the probability of a message being spam based on its contents. Unlike simple content-based filters, Bayesian spam filtering learns from spam and from good mail, resulting in a very robust, adapting and efficient anti-spam approach that, best of all, returns hardly any false positives.

The net of this is that Bayesian filtering programs parse each e-mail and score each string (word) as to whether it has appeared in spam before. Before is key as you have to "train" your filter initially by manually identifying e-mail as spam.

I'm running K9 as a e-mail proxy. It is small, only 77K to download. To install it, you have to change your e-mail account properties to point your incoming mail (POP3) server to and make a slight adjustment of your account name. The result looks like this:

I won't cover all the steps to implement K9 but it isn't tricky. Obviously, it only works on local e-mail programs. It won't work on yahoo, hotmail, or juno for example.

When you're done, each time you check your e-mail, it will be pre-processed by K9 and flagged as spam or not. A simple rule will throw spam into a folder to be spot checked periodically and deleted.

Here's what the results are:

Even after 2 spam filters, 66% of what gets to me is still spam! The good news is that of that, almost 97% is caught by K9. Since these statistics have been running, .54% have been misidentified as spam. Don't depend on that. Always make a quick look-see through the spam folder before you delete it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Lawnmower Game


Does anybody remember the movie "Drowning Mona?" It starred Jamie Lee Curtis, Bette Midler and Danny DeVito. The IMDB write-up for it is here.

In this movie, there's a minor story line about a dog getting run over by a lawnmower. When the movie was released, its web site had a Flash game on it where the objective was to run over the dog with the lawnmower. When you did, the dog yelped, spun around and blood flew all over the place. While driving the lawnmower, you had to avoid obstacles and make sure that you didn't run out of gas. It's funnier than it sounds.

When the movie came out of the theatres (which didn't take long, by the way), they pulled the web site and the game. I looked for it for years and finally found it. I squirreled it away here.


Are you tired of filling out those registration forms? Giving sites your e-mail address and then just waiting for the spam? Here's an answer: This is a site where others have logged user-ids and passwords for various web sites that are free but require registration (typically news sources). Be sure and check the "Remember me" box on the site requesting the registration so you won't have to go back to bugmenot.

An explanation of bugmenot is here and here. If you're a Firefox or Mozilla user, there's even an extension for you to use! As of tonight, it has been downloaded  62514 times!

Don't take the instructions too literally. I find that all you need for a URL is just the domain name, e.g. Also, try it with other non-news sites that you run across that require registration. I've found some interesting ones out there.

Monday, July 19, 2004

2.2 GB Compact Flash Card


Can you believe this? A 2.2 GB Compact Flash card for $145 with free shipping. And to think, I paid almost this much for a 128 MB CF 2 years ago.

I guess you need cards this size with the new 5+ megapixel consumer cameras. 

While I'm aghast, here's one more.

It's a terabyte for $1,199. Just to give you an idea on how big this is, a terabyte will store up to one month of non-stop MPEG-2 video.

It comes with FireWire and USB 2.0 so you just plug it in. You better buy two so you can back one up to the other.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

BloggerBot and Hello

I kept seeing references in Blogger to BloggerBot and Hello. When I followed the links, it took me to a page about Picasa. Picasa is some kind of picture editor/manager that google has bought. I have enough of those hanging around already. What I was looking for is just the "bot" to let me upload/host pictures on Blogger. Today, I ran across this link. Eureka!  Skim over that page and go on to the Download link. You'll have to register and then Hello will download. Here's what Hello's window looks like:

You can pretty much run your blog from here. You can "Post a Picture," "Post Text Only," and "Edit a Post." I've never seen this last screen anywhere else. It pretty much lets you edit your blogs inline.
Notice that the images are hosted at so you don't have to provide your own web space for images.
There's another subtlety that was hard to find. If you have Hello running and restart your browser, you'll get a new icon on your browser's "Standard Bar" toolbar entitled "Share in Hello." Click on that and you can send a screen shot of the current web page to Hello and then on to your blog.

My Honda Accord V6 6-speed

Well, mine looks like that!

I Wuz There!

Kanaan holds off Hornish for win

Friday, July 16, 2004

How Cool Is This?

I've been looking for some kind of Content Management System (CMS) for Dummies. What I'm up to is to give people the ability to update simple content on their web site without having to call or e-mail me. To me, FrontPage is easy to use but I've finally realized that there are one or two people out there that don't use PCs for 16-18 hours per day.
I'd searched SourceForge (my favorite place for software) and come up with Plone. This seemed like it would do what I wanted but it was bigger than a breadbox.
I kept on looking and stumbled across FlexWindow. All it takes to use this is to send an e-mail. The subject contains the reference to the page that you want to update. The body is the text that you want to put there. That's it.
You can make it fancier than that by using html formatting of the e-mail but you don't have to.
To see an example, go look at Southaven Elementary. The text between the picture and the horizontal line is the FlexWindow. Go look at the source code and you'll see how they do it. Pretty cool.
Now the best part. It's FREE! You can register for a personal account and setup 2 FlexWindows for free. Go try it.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Home Theatre PC

I've ordered all the parts to build a Home Theatre PC (HTPC). It really is just a PC-based Personal Video Recorder (PVR).

The basis of it is SageTV. I'm using a SageTV bundle with the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-350 ($219.95). This has a hardware MPEG-2 encoder and decoder. This will let the SageTV present its On-screen Display overlaid on the TV picture. Functionally, SageTV is a lot like TiVo. SageTV will support multiple WinTV cards so you can record more than one program at a time.
For a system unit, I picked up an off-lease Dell GX150, 933 MHz with 512 MB of RAM from RetroBox ($108). It comes with a 20 GB hard drive which obviously isn't enough. BestBuy had a Seagate 80 GB hard drive this week for $39.99 after rebate so that cured that.
I'm into it less than $400. Now, I'm just waiting for the PVR-350 to come off back-order.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Zero-Day Exploit - Now is a good time to be scared!

If you're concerned about the confidentiality of information you enter on the Internet, take a few minutes and read these articles:

Now, go back and look closely at the dates. The report of the vulnerability was on June 24, 2004. The Microsoft information on the vulnerability was on June 24, 2004. Subtract those 2 dates to get the difference and you get ZERO!

Now is a good time to be scared!

Ah, but Microsoft just released a bunch of patches didn't they? Surely BillG would have put out a patch for this. Think again while you read this.

There's some help for IE users worried about last month's Download.Ject security scare, but you are going to have to wait for a comprehensive fix.

Now is a good time to be really scared!


Have you heard about gmail? It's google's new e-mail offering. They're trying to change the way people reference the data in their e-mail. If you've ever tried to find something in one of your e-mail folders, you'll understand the problem. gmail addresses this by using google's search engine to index and search your e-mail. Further they allow each user to have 1 gigabyte of e-mail stored. This is a HUGE amount of e-mail. This means that you pretty much don't delete e-mail but just "archive" it.

And gmail is free. But, gmail is still in the beta testing phase so it is limited to membership by invitation. Not to worry, go to eBay and bid on one. I bought 3 for less than $4 total. And you don't get the advertising signatures like Juno. Just targeted (yes, they scan your e-mail) ads down the right side when you're reading the e-mail.

Remember it is still beta so it burps now and then. Their spam filters aren't up to my Bayesian filter in Outlook. It does have some nice features that let you set an alternative reply address. I use this to try to keep people sending e-mail to my address which is easier to redirect as needed. I even use my mail server to "clone" my e-mail to my account and to! That way, it shows up in both places. (An interesting side effect is that I get to see what the spam filters keep out. They're pretty good.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Canada 2004

We just returned from a week in Canada's Maritime Provinces. We flew into Halifax and drove on to Charlottetown. Pictures are here.