Sunday, February 27, 2005

Super Size Super Size Super Size Me!

I finally got around to watching the DVD of Morgan Spurlock's funny documentary on the effects of eating only at McDonalds for 30 days, as well as the social and nutrional reasons behind this craziness. It's a cool film, not overly evangelical, letting the facts speak for themselves as the best documentaries do. Morgan Spurlock also provides a unique sense of humour taking both him and viewers through his unequaled journey.

The other weird thing is that his girlfriend, Healthy Chef Alex, is vegan! His detox after a month of McDonalds pureeing his liver was 8 weeks on a special vegan diet. She's got to have a special sense of humour and humanity herself to have supported crazy guy through 30 days of slowly killing himself, getting depressed and losing his sex drive. They're having fun now having lived through it though - to top it all Super Size Me is up for an Oscar for best documentary! Morgan Spurlock has a blog detailing his ongoing fun.

Just read: The Line of Polity by Neal Asher (Well worth a read, sci fi that is worth a series of novels set in the universe he's created, but is actually the only one currently. Deals with the overthrow of a petty, religious dictatorship on a planet with no breathable and brutal wildlife, helped by the galactic interference of an AI ruled/assisted human federation, the Polity. A little like Iain M Banks Culture series.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Certain death - birth of a vegan cafe

We went along to Certain Death last night, the new vegan cafe that opened in Dublin just around the corner from us. Unfortunately we dilly-dallied and missed most of the food. By the time we got there all the real stuff was gone - they were a little surprised with how many people showed up. They were making pancakes then, so Jasmine had a few, stuffed with golden syrup. The band was remarkably low key industrial noise, presumably so the place doesn't get shut down!

The kids are all psyched up to go back next week and so am I. It's a very relaxing environment to spend an hour or two, band or not, for as long as it lasts (being cynical!).


Saturday, February 19, 2005

New design - rounders4

I've swapped the template on which I've based the design on the blog and my sites. It's a bit brighter, less gloomy! It's based on the rounders4 template with a few minor changes as before - it was previously based on rounders3. With the joys of CSS I didn't have to touch a word of content, except for a couple of places where I'd thrown some CSS directly into some PHP code. That's all fixed now, hopefully this one is nicer. For a while anyway!

Google maps hacks

Lots of folk are having fun with the new Google Maps. They are blessed with some of the same hacks as regular web searching. Some obvious ones have already been found, no doubt more obscure ones will come out as time progresses:

George Bush: miserable failure in washington, dc
Microsoft: weapons of mass destruction near redmond

This way is cheaper and probably more accurate than the old way of searching for the weapons.


Friday, February 18, 2005

Knocked down a peg on Google

So in the hurly burly of an ever changing world, my websites have gone from being number one on the Google searches for relevant terms to page 2 or 5. Some change has made them suddenly look really bad when a few days ago they were the most relevant result. Working there clearly gives no advantage!

There are two things that may be causing this I think, first is linking my old site to my new one, it may make it look like two websites with the same content, which is apparently a bad thing (spammers do this to make their sites look more important). So I guess I'll have to try changing the old site to have pages with "click here for new site" links, instead of automatic redirects and see if that helps.

The second thing which might I may be getting punished for is all these dodgy spam sites that crawl Google and generate directory type sites from the results. When a spammer's website links to mine that can't be good for my Google karma. But I can't do anything about that right now.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

McLibel two win

Helen Steel and David Morris, whom McDonalds sued for libel in 1990 for distributing leaflets criticising the fast food firm, have finally won their case in the European Court of Human Rights. It's worth remembering what McDonalds won at the original trial - £40,000 damages (uncollected), but they incurred an estimated £10 million in legal costs. The two defendants had no money and no legal aid and so had to defend themselves. Even when McDonalds "won" at the original trial, here is the bitter taste of "victory":
The judge rejected claims that McDonald's was to blame for starvation in the Third World or had used lethal poisons to destroy vast areas of Central American rainforest.

But he also decided, in what was seen as a PR disaster for the corporation, that McDonald's had "pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which their food did not match"; had exploited children in its advertising, and paid low wages, "helping to depress wages in the catering trade".


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Vegan wine mailing list

I've setup a vegan wine mailing list, in part to try out the new Google Groups. I already moderate the Vegans Ireland mailing list using Yahoo Groups. I thought it might be fun to find out how they compare. I've invited a bunch of people that have contacted me over the last couple of years with queries about vegan wine. Build it and the shall come? We'll see!

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Phish Report Network - a scam?

There's a new organisation doing the rounds called the Phish Report Network that is making high claims about being "the cornerstone" of the industry's efforts to fight phishing attacks. In fact the site seems to be a front for a vendor of anti-phishing software, WholeSecurity.

There's a long established organisation devoted to understanding and combating phishing, The Anti Phishing Working Group. Compare and contrast and I think you'll see what I mean.

ClamAV, the open source anti virus software, has been detecting phishing attacks for some time and is well worth a look if you're looking for something to help ward off the bad guys, :)

Fox hunting goes the way of bear baiting

Except in Ireland. This weekend, hunting with dogs will finally be illegal in England and Wales. It already is in Scotland. In Ireland, however, nothing has changed. Hunting deer and fox with hounds continues and hare coursing is still regarded as a "sport". It does look as though there may not be the large scale "hunt tourism" into Ireland initially feared, as the hunts here are much smaller than in England and say themselves that they can't accommodate extra numbers. As Northern Ireland retains separate domestic law in these areas, fox hunting continues to be legal there too, although "carted deer" hunting (where the deer is kept domestically and transported or "carted" to the hunt) and hare coursing have already been banned there by the back door.

Of course, when the UK proposes changing their law in a major way by making all residents carry ID cards, the Irish government says they may have to follow suit. But hunting is different clearly.

Further information:

Friday, February 11, 2005

Favourite error message

Favourite error message:
kernel: VFS: Busy inodes after unmount. Self-destruct in 5 seconds. Have a nice day...
Still playing: Medal of Honor Pacific Assault (yes, still, what are you going to do, I went away for a while!)
Reading: Poul Anderson's Boat of a Million Years (quite like Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt so far, although it preceeds it. A tale of immortals through the years from the Phoenicians onwards).


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Link spam and SQL injection

As the spammers possess eternal vigilance I've been getting lots of nice poker offers masquerading as helpful restaurant reviews on my Vegan and Vegetarian Ireland guide. As these have to get manually approved before appearing on my site, the problem is just having to plough through them. So I improved the input validation to reject any input containing HTML markup, which is not needed for this particular application. At the same time I've been trying to improve the sanitising of all the input to help guard against SQL injection attacks. Hopefully it's not tempting fate to write about it!

In fact, the surprising thing is that it took the spammers a couple of months to start trying to exploit my site. Since I made the changes not a beep out of them. So far, so good. There's a fascinating interview with a link spammer over at the Register - "nothing personal". While they're getting rich from it, they're going to keep at it.

In fact, a small percentage of visitors to my site(s) come via spam link farms which link to me. These seem to scrape the web at most every few days probably via scraping snippets off Google and other search engines. But obviously some people follow these and click on the links, so some of them are undoubtedly clicking on the ads there too, making the spammers rich. When they show up high in the search engines results they attract visitors.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Humanoid-Type Vegans: not just green monsters

Read about the real Vegans. This site is just great! They really are from Mars. Well, some planet out there anyway. A few facts about vegans, for example, how do you recognise a vegan?
If they walked down your street they would be very unusual looking, but you would not necessarily think they were alien.
I know what you mean mate, we've all met a few vegans like this.
However, there are some groups who not only have a greenish tinge to the hair but also to the skin. It's not very pronounced; we don't want you to think we're talking about some type of green monster.
That's punk rock for you.
The skin is not as soft as human skin, is much tougher, able to withstand high levels of ultraviolet radiation and heat as well as cold. A much sturdier and more durable humanoid being.
A more succinct summary of the health benefits of a vegan diet I don't think I've seen in a long time. It must be all the miso soup. It makes you immune to the radiation. Enjoy.

Certain Death vegan cafe grand opening

The Certain Death Vegan Cafe! Grand Opening
Sunday 20th of Feburary at 5:30pm in the UnaWarehouse
The Apostles play an exclusive set to mark the event!

Then every Sunday 5:30-8:30
The Certain Death cafe is for alternative leisure and social spaces. It's for super vegan grub and brainpoppin Zapatista coffee. It's for dropping in of a Sunday to an autonomous space. It's for DIY events every week. It's against paying to be social. It shares its space with the BAD BOOKS and Forgotten Zine Libraries.
Where is the UnaWarehouse? (Map)
It has a big gate and is at the bottom of Strandville Ave. which is a right turn at Costello Doors on North Strand Road, Dublin 1.



Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Solaris 10 & Fedora Core 3 dual boot

I got Solaris 10 installed nice and smoothly. Java Desktop 3 aka customised Gnome looks nicer than the last time I saw it, I just need to poke around a bit and find everything again. The only downside so far is that it appears the Atheros wireless driver I need won't be available until maybe the next update of Solaris. Maddeningly, the Solaris engineers merrily blogging away are happily using the driver, but we can't. Roll on the rest of OpenSolaris! Which of course may not include this driver depending on where it's come from....

As I was waiting on Solaris 10 final release shipping, I had Linux installed first on the laptop. Which is not the easiest way to do it. So of course Solaris installs it own boot loader and I could no longer boot Linux (Fedora Core 3). To fix this:
  1. Boot with Fedora rescue cd
  2. Type chroot /mnt/sysimage
  3. Edit /boot/grub/grub.conf and append:
    title Solaris
    rootnoverify (hd0,2)
    chainloader +1
  4. Reinstall grub as your boot loader; type grub, at the grub> prompt type:
    grub> root (hd0,0)
    grub> setup (hd0)
    grub> quit
  5. Reboot
Pretty straightforward. The above assumes Solaris is on the same disk (hd0) as your Linux partitions and that it is on partition 3 (hd0,2) - adjust to suit. Now to get the graphics working nicely before moving onto some more exciting stuff.


Solaris 10 - absence makes...

...the heart grow fonder. While I was in Horizon I never put Solaris on my laptop as we had a shared laptop with Solaris that I could use when needed (almost never). Plus I had access to a Sun workstation and was working on Sun servers the majority of the time. So now that Solaris 10 has finally been released it's time to put it on my laptop.

Is it just me, or did waiting for Solaris 10 feel like waiting for Firefox 1.0? Visibly getting closer month by month, but always just over the horizon. Anyhow, all downloaded now, just have to burn some CDs and off we go.