Rick Glos Life in Portland, Oregon.

Blog comment spam

6. October 2009 11:25 by Rick Glos in

I’ve been getting quite a bit of blog comment spam the past few days.  When someone leaves a comment, I currently receive an email.  It’s a nice feature of BlogEngine.NET which is the blogging software I currently use to power this site.

After 3 years of mostly clean comments, apparently I’m now the target of an automated spammer called a bot in the techie world.  It leaves your inbox looking like this:

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In the course of a few minutes you can receive hundreds of these.

So now you’ve got multiple problems:

  1. Clean out your email inbox.
  2. Stop this from happening on your blog.
  3. Do it in a manner that isn’t annoying to users that want to leave comments.
  4. Clean out the spam on your blog.

Clean out your email inbox

Not sure if there’s a better way to do this but shift clicking and or selecting all and clicking delete.  Using gmail this wasn’t too painful.

Stop this from happening

It had been awhile since I’ve upgraded the BlogEngine.NET code.  I think 2 years.  I was one 1.2 and they are now on 1.5.  First step was upgrade.

The latest version of BlogEngine.NET has the ability to add Extensions.  I was hoping that there would be some kind of spam management built into the engine but there is not.

One method would be to turn on comment moderation.  I don’t want that.  That means every single comment, good or bad, would need me to click and ‘OK’ button before it gets posted.  Sounds like work and I want automation.

Unfortunately there isn’t a clear list of extensions available for BlogEngine.NET.  Sure there’s an extensions page on their website but the list is certainly not complete and some of the links are link dead.  In particular, of the two ‘Anti-Spam’ extensions, SpamFighter is link dead and Akismet Anti Spam is outdated.  With some googling, I found an extensions project on CodePlex, that however has gone stale, the last release over 1 year ago. 

I finally found one that was somewhat recent called AkismetExtension (initial post|update).  It basically uses a service to check the body of the comment for spam and if it passes then it posts.  Ok fine.  Sounds good for now.  I’ll have to see how it pans out.

In the mean time the only change you the user should see is a new blog style.

Do it in a manner that isn’t annoying to users that want to leave comments

My wife was looking to leave a comment on blogger and I’m sure you’ve all seen those images where you have to figure out what the word is from some image.  She could not read it.  I could barely make it out.

How many users get turned away from using that method?

I also don’t want to have to do registration or force moderation, etc.

Compounding this is two types of spam.  Automated spam and spam from someone who is actually paid to manually add a spam comment.  I have been getting these for some time but the volume is very low so it’s easy to delete these.

Clean out the spam on your blog

Now I have to individually delete each spammed comment on blog.  This is going to be pretty tedious.  Logged into the blog, I get a few extra LinkButtons that you normally don’t see.  Like the IP address of the comment, the users email and a Delete option.

10-6-2009 9-17-27 AM

I’ve left a post lamenting the lack of comment management tools in BlogEngine.NET.

Looks like I have some work to do…

Access your programs using Start in Vista and Windows 7

10. September 2009 15:46 by Rick Glos in

I was watching someone today launch a program in Vista by clicking (with the mouse) Start then All Programs then scroll through the list and try to find the right Program folder… 

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This isn’t the first time and I watch people over and over do this.

Don’t do this.  It’s taking you minutes for what could be seconds.  Imagine all the time added up and you might get a week back to your life in just a year…

Built in the Start menu is a very handy search ability.  In fact, you could improve your productivity immensely by not touching your mouse at all.

Simply hit the Windows key, and start typing the name of the program, the website, the filename or whatever you’re looking for.

Imagine I want to launch Excel.  Windows key then two words ‘Ex’ and I get Excel second in the list.  I could then use the down arrow key (remember to keep your hands off your mouse to save you from wasting your life) to highlight Excel and hit the Enter key.  (note I could just type one extra key ‘Exc' and hit enter as well).

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Remember.  Start.  Type.  Enter.  Hands off of mouse.

7-Zip

9. September 2009 15:45 by Rick Glos in

My wife asked me today, “where’s safe place to look for software to zip a 26 MB file?”

I think this happens a lot too people that don’t have technical jobs day in and day out.  Where do you go to get software and feel safe that it doesn’t have any malicious or devious intentions when you install it?

Well I don’t have an answer for that.  But if you are look for the best software for packing and unpacking files.  You should be using 7-zip.

It’s open source (read free), it handles multiple formats (zip, tar, rar), it compresses 2-10% better than PKZip and WinZip, it’s easily accessible from the windows shell, etc.

The clean windows shell integration is my favorite feature.  Right click on any file or folder and you have what you need.

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Internet Personas

27. August 2009 05:54 by Rick Glos in

I always have trouble describing to people what I do for a living.  I usually just say software developer.  If someone wants to know more though, how do you make it an elevator speech?  Does someone know what data warehouse or business intelligence means?  It seems that my niche at the office has become creating tools for this, mostly in Silverlight lately but it’s always evolving.

I like finding examples that people can relate to.

MIT Personas Web Page

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MIT has an interesting example of mining the internet to create a portrait of your identity.  After all the internet is like another vast database.  Unstructured but still. 

Try it out for yourself.

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Funny developer quirks

26. August 2009 06:51 by Rick Glos in

I was reading a funny stackoverflow post on ‘What technologies are you using even though they are embarrassingly out of date’.

There are some funny responses.

One that made me laugh is ‘Give up and use tables.’  For those of us who have fought the good fight to try and use CSS for layout and looked up at the clock hours later without any progress…

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I’m finding myself using Silverlight more and more and less HTML and I don’t miss it…

Trip to Sisters Oregon

4. August 2009 06:49 by Rick Glos in

Heidi was visiting her friend Anne in Sisters Oregon this weekend so I tagged along to check out the mountain bike trails.  Sisters is near Bend Oregon which is home to a number of pro mtb and road racers.  There is alot of mtb trails in and around Bend.  I thought I would do as many as I could but in the end I focused on just one.  A fast smooth and swooping trail that starts right out of downtown Sisters and I could ride to the trailhead from out hotel room which made it convenient.

The country on the east side of the Cascade mountain range is high desert.  Elevation on the Garmin said 3500 feet.  The trail was very dusty and sandy the first day I rode it.  I weaves in and out of a sparsely populated forest of small trees, bushes and lava rocks all over the place.

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Reminded me abit of the trails in northern Wisconsin actually.  Levis Trow came to mind while I was riding.

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Huge rock formations and boulders were all over the place.  I assume these were formed from some kind of lava.

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There was over 28 miles of singletrack.  I got kind of lost on the first day but was able to figure out how to get back via the GPS on the Gamin.  The second day I climbed a small bit of that lava rock and here was the view.

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Can’t complain about that.  Time to celebrate with a Session from Hood River Oregon.

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A late afternoon storm rolled through and I got to see lightening and thunder which I haven’t seen in awhile so I camped out on the deck of the hotel and watched with Heidi.  Although it rains in Portland, it doesn’t get thunderstorms.  A nice rainbow tried to form during a colorful sunset.

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Rode the trail once more on Sunday and went home.

Other things to note.  It was hot in August, mid-90’s weather – almost 100.  Bring plenty of water or ride earlier in the day for cooler weather.  I drank 3+ liters in 3 hours of riding the first day.

Register for PDXLAN 14.5

17. July 2009 07:34 by Rick Glos in

Well as I get ready for a weekend of gaming at PDXLAN 14, they’ve opened registration for the next one.

I just now registered for PDXLAN 14.5.  I’m in seat L at table 8 if your interested in coming and want to hang out.

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Come on out and get your geek on.  I’ve now done 12.5, 13, and 14 alongside by friend Matt and we’ve had a blast.

Meals on two wheels

3. June 2009 16:58 by Rick Glos in

Monday (2009.06.01) was my first day delivering meals on my bicycle.  Here’s my commuter/utility bike all rigged up and with the bike trailer attached on one of my deliveries.

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The leadup

I’ve been considering donating for awhile.  Time or money?  I didn’t just want to give money.  Time I think is a little more important.  I’d thought of some kind of mentoring for kids or working with troubled youth but was concerned about the commitment.  Heck I don’t even have a dog cause I’m worried about that commitment.

My wife Heidi had mentioned this organization called Loaves & Fishes a few months ago.  They provide hot meals to senior citizens.  Their main program is called Meals-On-Wheels (wikipedia) where they deliver the food directly to the senior citizen living at home.  There was a meal center just 2 miles from my house in Multnomah Village.  I thought about it for awhile and put it on the back burner.  Seems like there’s always something else competing for your free time.

Then about a month ago they announced a program called Meals-On-Two-Wheels where you could support the program by sponsoring a route or volunteer to deliver the meals by bike.

I’m fortunate enough to have a good job working from home with a very flexible schedule.  I also feel pretty blessed to have a good life.  So I emailed to find out more.

The logistics

Being a programmer, I’m always curious about how stuff works.

I first pinged them by submitting a form through the website.  Jody Grant, the Southwest location manager, then emailed me saying they were starting up their first route by bicycle, what day it was on, and that if I chose do do it, I would be doing it twice a month or every other Monday.  Once that was out of the way then you had to fill out a form to sign up, including showing your drivers license and giving your social security number so they can run a criminal background check on you.  There are websites which will give them this information immediately.  In fact I watched Jody use the website.

So I showed up to meet her and see the location a week before my first real attempt.  She then gave me the route and stops along the way via Google Maps.  Pretty cool usage of technology.  Each waypoint was marked with the name of the person I would be visiting as well as their address.  Since I don’t seem to race anymore just pre-ride (haha),  I thought I’ll take a spin and see how hard it is.  Only 5 miles or so, part of it on a twisty hilly road with no bike lanes and the other half on the return leg was along busy road with a nice bike lane.  I was concerned about how hard the hills would be with a trailer and some of the stops were along either a steep incline or a gravel road.  How would the bike and trailer handle?

When I got back from my pre-ride, a guy was delivering the bike trailer so I got to check it out and talk to the guy a week before I actually had to use it.  I would be the first person to do this, bike delivery, at the Southwest location.  Other locations around Portland have been doing the bike delivery already.  What makes Southwest unique, for those of you not from Portland reading this, is the vast number of hills and roads that are not straight or grid-like.  Other parts of Portland (SE, NE, N) are very much like Milwaukee or Chicago and laid out in a grid pattern with flat roads.  Not SW Portland.

I also got a chance to see how the bike would attach to the trailer.  It’s modeled just like a vehicle.  You have a trailer hitch that you attach to your bike.  This is done by the back wheel.  You mount the hitch via the skewer  like so:

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So just like the diagram above – here’s it being mounted on my bike:

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Here’s what the hitch looks like mounted:

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Then you just hook up the tow bar to the hitch.  It has a strap you wrap around your frame in case the pin falls out (just like a normal car trailer uses a chain for that).

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The day of my delivery I showed up and there were other folks showing up as well.  First you sign and initial your name in a log book for the route you are going deliver.  I’d say there were a dozen routes.  Then you right your route name on a whiteboard in the kitchen area.  This is order the kitchen will then fill the orders.

You get 1 cooler for hot food and 1 cooler for cold food.  They put a hot water in an old plastic milk gallon and place it in the hot cooler to get it ready and warm for the hot food.  The cold food cooler already has it’s cold food in it.  So when you deliver the food, a lunch is the combination of 1 cold food and 1 hot food plus an option milk carton (1 pint).

So the cold food cooler looks like this (I took this shot at the end of my ride with 1 delivery left).  Not the a cold food item is a plastic wrapped container with a fruit, bun, and some other kinds of fruit.

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Here’s what the hot food cooler looked like:

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Couple of veggies in there and some kind of pasta.

Some folks have special diet needs on top of all this.  So in addition to giving them 2 food containers (1 hot/1 cold) you also need to give the right container.  Some are marked for diabetic and some are marked for vegetarian and some might even be marked up special.

So how do you know who gets what?

Well the last piece of information you get is a 3 ring binder with your route name (Ashcreek in my case) that has a nice bill of materials for who gets what.

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The trailer itself is built by Burley.  They are located right here in Eugene, OR.  In addition to all the child/pet carriers I’m sure you’ve seen around. They now make a flatbed trailer.  This is what we are using for our deliveries. 

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Since this is a volunteer organization, they took donations to buy the trailers and you can even sponsor a trailer or your business can.  I think it’s only $200 for the whole trailer.  They mount little billboards on the sides.  Already mentioned to them that they should have something on the back so that cars approaching me from behind can see that it’s a Meals-On-Two-Wheels rig because not many folks except walkers and cars at intersections will see the signs.

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The ride

You can see the rig in motion with this news story here.

I was concerned a little about how heavy the ride would be and did I need ‘trailer brakes’ – after all there’s hills!  Well the ride was smooth.  It barely felt like I had a trailer – it was built very sturdy.  I could only feel the extra weight.  Stopping or going downhill was the very easy as well.  I took it a little easy and didn’t brake hard.  My speed varied anywhere from 4 mph (up those steep inclines) to 26 mph going down hill and around corners without any issues.

I only had 4 stops and it took about 30 minutes of riding round trip, about 60 minutes including stopping and chatting with the people I was delivering to.  I’m not sure you would be any faster in a car.  And I would submit that speed really shouldn’t be your focus in life.

The people

Meeting the elderly people was very fulfilling emotionally.  I had some great conversations.  One woman I later learned was born in 1911!  She’s almost 100.  She even mentioned during our conversation that traffic was concerning her by her home and that she’s seen women with “buggies or whatever their called nowadays,” and was concerned for them.  We may call them strollers now but it was great hearing her talk.  She also informed me that she felt bicyclists should contribute to roadway maintenance and should be required by law to wear lights.  I figured I’d discuss those merits with her next time.    :)

Another woman was very happy I was delivering by bicycle and she told me her son was out for 6 hours on Sunday riding his bike.

I’m looking forward to future discussions.

Conclusion

I had a great time and I’m looking forward to the next one.  I’m hoping one day that Heidi might even be able to join me or if you are looking for something to do, ride along with me.

Also, I’d like to use the trailer a few more times but I think I might purchase one.  I’ve also been told that I may get a better deal through Loaves & Fishes through Burley than buying it directly.  I think it would make a great way to run larger errands like making runs to Target for toilet paper/paper towels, etc. 

Also for those of you with large families, now you can do your grocery shopping too.

Stepping Stone Cafe

1. June 2009 07:34 by Rick Glos in

Saw this place in Portland called Stepping Stone Cafe on an episode of Man V. Food. Their motto, “You Eat Here Because We Let You”. 

Built like a diner with a modern vibe atmosphere.  Breakfast was good and the pancakes large.   Eating them while Guns n roses played Welcome to the Jungle.  The rest of the menu looked promising.  Burgers and milk shakes for lunch, meat loaf and mac n cheese for dinner.  Going to have to make a return trip here to try the rest of the menu.

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