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Shiretoko 2 May, 2009

Posted by aronzak in Mozilla Firefox, Uncategorized, web.
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For some reason, the search box in Mozilla Firefox 3.0.8 decided not to work. So I installed the new version of firefox, codenamed “Shiretoko”, which looks good.  Named after a peninsula on the tip of the North Japanese island Hokkaido, Shiretokowas formerly called version 3.1, and is now version 3.5. The browser uses version 1.9.1 of the rendering engine Gecko, which is faster and supports HTML5. With the improvements in Gecko, Shiretoko gets an impressive score of 93% on the Acid3 test (especially when compared to the paltry 20 that IE 8 gets).

The inclusion of “private browsing”, irreverently dubbed “porn mode” is touted as a significant feature, but  is essentially useless as existing builtin tools and extensions like cookiesafe do a better job at protecting privacy.

The tab bar now has a plus at the end, allowing users to click to bring up a new tab. While this may be helpful to some users, and makes Firefox look more like the interface of other notable browsers, it is similarly useless for advanced users, who are fine with middle clicking links and using control-T. Having the tab bar display with just one tab can be disabled in Edit>Preferences (Tools>Options in Windows) and unchecking “Always show the tab bar” under the “tabs” tab.screenshot-1


Cyber safety test 11 February, 2009

Posted by aronzak in web.
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Are parents floundering in a sea of pornography? You’d think so, if you paid attention to the alarmist statistics published in print media, but you’d be wrong. Here’s a humourous cyber safety test to illustrate the point:

1. Which of the following is not a social networking site?

  • eBay
  • Club Penguin
  • Facebook
  • Piczo

2. What does the following acronym stand for – PAW

  • Phew, am wasted
  • Play and wide
  • Parents are watching
  • Push and wait

3. What is edonkey?

  • A virtual pet for children and young people to look after online
  • A type of computer virus
  • A file sharing programme
  • A key logging programme manufactured by Edon

4. What does the following acronym stand for – ASL

  • Age, surname, likes
  • Alias, sex, location
  • Age, sex, location
  • Attitude, situation, loathes

5. According to OfCOM, what percentage of 8-15 year olds feel confident at getting the internet to do what they want it to?

  • 87%
  • 76%
  • 25%
  • 51%

6. What does LMIRL stand for?

  • Let’s make it really loud
  • Losers move in real low
  • Let’s meet in real life
  • Loads more in rap love

7. What does IWF stand for?

  • Intensive wiki fulcrum
  • Internet watch foundation
  • Independent website forum
  • Independent wi-fi field

8. What is a Trojan?

  • A program that appears to be desirable but actually contains something harmful
  • A computer with over 1GB of RAM
  • A type of server which can connect over 200 client machines to the internet
  • A program that allows you to illegally download music

9. What does SAMAGAL stand for?

  • Stupid, am messing and getting all lairy!
  • Stop annoying me and get a life!
  • Sick and moaning again, get a life!
  • Stop always moaning and get away love!

10 According to OfCOM, how many parents felt that their 12-15 year olds knew more about the internet than they did?

  • 93%
  • 34%
  • 57%
  • 77%

11. How much video content is uploaded to you tube every minute?

  • 1 hour
  • 100 hours
  • 10 hours
  • 30 minutes

12. In the UK, on Christmas Day 2008, how many internet visits were to Facebook?

  • 1 in 50
  • 1 in 5
  • 1 in 10
  • 1 in 100

13. What is a BLOG?

  • A big log
  • It stands for buy lots of gadgets
  • An online diary
  • A type of Trojan virus

14. What are you doing if you are twittering?

  • Making high pitched sounds like a bird
  • Leaving a comment on a free social networking site
  • Speaking to a friend on a chat site
  • Using an instant messaging service but not making any sense to the others using it

15. What is “sexting” used to describe?

  • Sending an erotic picture
  • Sending a text message, it’s just a play on words
  • The process of online dating
  • Searching the internet for inappropriate content

16. What are Safari and Firefox?

  • Online games popular with teens
  • Software companies who specialise in educational materials
  • Web browsers
  • Operating systems
  • Install spyware so you can see what they are doing online

17. What does the following acronym stand for? POS

  • Emergency!
  • Parents over shoulder
  • Point of sale
  • Paedophile alert

18. What has happened to you if you’ve been flamed?

  • A virus has attacked your machine
  • Your online character has been deleted by another user
  • You have been insulted by another internet user
  • You’ve reached the highest possible level in the game you are playing

19. What does the acronym LMFR stand for?

  • Let’s meet for real
  • Lower Miami Fire and Rescue
  • Looking for more
  • Let me freaking read!

20. What does a cookie do?

  • Make you fat
  • A piece of information placed on a computer by a web server
  • Remembers your passwords for you
  • Shares your information with other users that you choose

16 D shows that the authors are probably geeks and have a sense of humour.

How did I end up looking at this? There’s an amusing aarticle on Crunchgear about research findings. PS. What’s 100 divided by 3.5? 28.6. Divide by 7? 4. Scary.

The sad thing about most of these companies is firstly the focus on children and secondly the peddling of disinformation. The whole “hackers can turn your computer into a bomb; buy our products” still persists in 2009. If anyone is interested in real products, check out open source tools, or consider quality products such as those from  xxxchurch or covenanteyes.

Internet content filtering in Linux 27 January, 2009

Posted by aronzak in Linux, Mozilla Firefox, web.

For some reason you want to use content filtering software. You’ve probably heard of or used a few tools specifically for Windows.  Here are some solutions for Linux:

1. Dansguardian

Dansguardian works best with the proxy squid. It does some advanced url filtering, using slightly more complicated techniques to block some URLs. sites containing both one and a second listed word are blocked, as well as media such as pictures and video URLs with listed words. This is fairly clever, but has some problems. Sometimes, this has blocked Google for me, as some URLs with random strings of characters (used to track which search results are clicked on) can be blocked.

Content filtering is done with words and phrases having scores, positive or negative. Sites then get a total score based on their content.Interestingly, this can be positive and negative. For example, the word ‘breast’ is bad, but ‘breast cancer’ is a good phrase. In theory, this should limit the amount of overblocking. Dansguardian also filters against anonymous web proxies, which could otherwise be used to bypass filtering.

Sites are blocked if their score is over the ‘naughtiness’ threshold as defined in /etc/dansguardian/dansguardianf1.conf.

Dansguardian is meant to be used in a public sector network, such as a school or library. By default, it blocks many downloads that could contain viruses, or filtering circumvention software. In a home setup, this is just irritating. To stop this, blank out the configuration file that controls blocking files based on extensions; echo “” > /etc/dansguardian/lists/bannedextensionlist

Installation instructions

Dansguardian needs to be used with a web proxy. The installation of Dansguardian itself is fairly easy, with Dansguardian filtering on one port. Getting it to filter the entire connection is more complicated.

1 Install the squid and dansguardian packages.

apt-get install dansguardian squid

2 Edit /etc/dansguardian/dansguardian.conf file and remove the line that says “UNCONFIGURED”.
3 Start the dansguardian daemon.

/etc/init.d/dansguardian start

4 In Firefox,  open up edit -> preferences -> “Advanced” tab -> “Network” Tab > “Settings” button. Set it to manual proxy. Put (localhost)  in the IP address box and 8080 in the port box.
5 Try to connect to goolge.com to verify you can still connect to the internet.
Finally, check that the filter is working by checking that the network traffic is being logged. Open the file /var/log/dansguardian/access.log.

cat /var/log/dansguardian/access.log

There should be an entry there saying google.com. If the file doesn’t exist, something isn’t set up right.

2 Willow Content Filter

Willow adopts the novel concept of using Bayesian analysis to filter the web. Bayesian analysis is currently useb by most spam filters. The concept is that you have a ‘good’ and a’bad’ sample, and the filter can find ‘spamminess’ as a percentage match to the samples. Unfortunately, spammers attempt to make this difficuly by inserting ‘normal’ text into spam. Unlike spammers, most adult website owners are probably broadly supportive of efforts to more effectively filter the internet, as evidenced by the existence of voluntary labelling efforts.

In theory, Bayesian web filtering should work better than the more rigid score based system, with less overblocking or underblocking. Not only does it use words in the title, metas and body of a page, but it analyses the structure of the page itself. The system may also run faster than Dansguardian.

One issue this creates is that samples of content must be provided, including both kinds. Currently, these are not encrypted, or obfuscated. This creates some potential legal and moral hurdles in distributing and using willow.

Installation instructions

1. Download willow

2. Extract it to /var

3. Edit /var/willow/willow.conf and remove ‘exefilter’

4. You might need to.install some more software. Try installing python-profiler and python-central

5. That should be it. Run /var/willow/willow.py –config=/var/willow/willow.conf

6. Set up Firefox as above, to port 8000 (or whatever it is set to in /var/willow/willow.conf)

If that doesn’t work, edit the configuration some more. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much support for willow right now.

3 Fx Extensions

While not as effective, Procon is extremely easy to install. Foxfilter is another filtering extension, but I find it a little slower and more clunky. If firefox is your only browser, this is an easy option.

(4) MintNanny

Linux Mint has introduced a novel way to prevent domains from being accessed by redirecting the request to by modifying the /etc/hosts file. This is a neat approach as it does not require any software to be set up, but, unless you are going to try and subscribe to a domain blacklist, it is relatively ineffective. Most web routers will give you this kind of simple filtering anyway.

If you want to give this a go, you don’t need the MintNanny frontend. Just get in there and edit /etc/hosts yourself. You can even redirect to another IP. Just add in a site you really don’t want to see, as in the example.          microsoft.com   microsoft

The IP here is one for google.com. Neat. You could also put in the IP of your own server.


So there you have it. If you are setting up a non-home network, you’ll probably want to filter transparently. This is complicated to set up and involves editing the configuration of iptables or your proxy. Good luck. Below are some extras that you might want to use if you do use DG or willow

You may want to edit the page that Dansguardian shows when a resource is blocked to give you the full reason. This can be quite long, so I stuck it in a box.

	<font color=red>
	<font color=black>
	<form action="/html/tags/html_form_tag_action.cfm" method="post">Full Reason:<br />
		<textarea style="width:500px;height:100px;background-color:#FF9900;">
		</textarea><br />

The logs Dansguardian gives contain a whole lot of sometimes irrelevant information. Below is a list to process a log file using the tab format, so that it is easier to read. In the future, it would be nice to work on a way of adding this to a database, and sorting into domains.

# Author: Aronzak
# License: GPL
# A script to process Dansguardian log files

# Use tab formatted access.log
# 1	Date Time
# 2
# 3	IP
# 4	URL
# 5	Full Denied report
# 7	File size
# 8	Score
# 9	Short Denied report
# 10	1
# 11	HTML error code
# 12	Type
# Edit the following variable to add/remove wanted fields in processed log:


cat /var/log/dansguardian/access.log | cut -f $DESIREDFIELDS > $DEST/full
cat /var/log/dansguardian/access.log | grep DENIED | cut -f $DESIREDFIELDS > $DEST/denied
if [ -f $DEST/old ]; then
	diff $DEST/denied $DEST/old > $DEST/diff
	if [ "`cat $DEST/diff | grep '<'`" != "" ]; then
		echo "bad"
cp $DEST/denied $DEST/old

Willow has a minimal page displayed when a resorce is blocked. I changed this to be more like the Dnasguardian page. The page that is displayed is set three times in urlfilter.py, domainfilter.py and contentfilter.py.

DEFAULTMSG = ('<html><head><title>Content Filtered</title></head>'
              '<body bgcolor=#FFFFFF><center>'
              '<table border=0 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=2 height=540 width=700>'
              '	<td colspan=2 bgcolor=#FEA700 height=100 align=center>'
              '	<font face=arial,helvetica size=6>'
              '	<b>Access has been Denied!</b>'
              '	</td>'
              '	<td align=center valign=bottom width=150 bgcolor=#B0C4DE><font size=1 >'
              '	<a href="http://www.digitallumber.net/software/willow/" target="_blank">Willow Content Filter</a>'
              '	</td>'
              '	<td width=550 bgcolor=#FFFFFF align=center valign=center><font size=4>'
              '	Access has been denied.<br><br><br><br>'
              '	The content of the resource requested has been determined to be innappropriate<br><br>'
              '	If you have any queries contact your ICT Coordinator or Network Manager.'
              '	<br><br><br><br><br></tr></table></body></html>')

You might want to back up the files before editing them. Have fun.

A look at Mozilla Snowl 17 January, 2009

Posted by aronzak in Mozilla Firefox.
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Mozilla Snowl is a new experimental Firefox addon that acts as a more advanced feed reader. It can display RSS feeds and also Twitter messages. I’ve never gotten into microblogging, but it’s an interesting concept. Here’s how Snowl works as an RSS/ATOM aggregator.

Snowl has three modes; List, Stream and River.

River modes shows a list of messages in a page view. It shows the title and a small snippet of text, and the author.


List mode shows messages like an email client. It allows the a news article to be displayed in full by double clicking the message. There doesn’t seem, however, to be any way to open up links in a tab.



Stream mode displays a sidebar with the latest messages at the top, with nice icons.


Snowl has a lot of nice concepts, but it seems to be more intended to be used with Twitter than web feeds. The small amount of text in river mode, the small size of the frame for viewing articles in list mode and the ability to select people, rather than just feeds, all point to this. It would be good if Snowl was more customisable to better suit needs one way or another.

1. It would be good to be able to select how much text is displayed in river mode.

2. It would be even better to have a feature to expand the text, like in the old Isohunt.

3. It would also be good to be able to customise the number of messages that are kept. I’m not really interested in anything in a feed if I don’t read it after a day.It would be good to limit the time of messages, as well as the number that display in stream mode.

4. It would look nice if icons are displayed in river mode.

5. It would be good to be able to use something like greasemonkey to alter the way in which Google news appears.

6. It would be good if river mode could support the formatting in Google news, rather than just displaying it as text, which repeats the title.

Otherwise, Snowl is looking good.

Accessing Yahoo Main in Thunderbird 10 January, 2009

Posted by aronzak in web.
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Yahoo has relatively recently introduced a feature that lets some of their users access their mail via POP3. Apparently, this is only offered in some regions, supposedly not the US. Despite what many people say in old articles and forum posts, you can access your mail now with Mozilla THunderbird, rather than Zimbra Desktop. Here’s the process.

1. Create an account and log in.

2. Click on optionssnapshot443. Click on POP Access and Forwardingsnapshot45

4. snapshot46

5. Set up Thunderbird. Probably because of Mozilla’s relationship with Google, it is very easy to set up a gmail account. The easiest way to set up a Yahoo mail account is actually to select gmail account, then substitute the details that Yahoo gives. This gives you sane defaults, such as leaving mail on the server.

6. Done.


For the most part, this is a humourless proceeding. There is a good moment, though:

If you can’t click the link above, you can verify your email address by cutting and pasting (or typing) the following address into your browser:


That would only take abut 10 minutes to type out.

Spicebird; Spice up Thunderbird and Sunbird 4 December, 2008

Posted by aronzak in web.
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Spicebird is a new tool that brings together mail, calendaring, IM and rss, borrowing design ideas from iGoogle. It uses a five tab interfae, combining Thunderbird and Sunbird along with its own elements. It’s a very cool idea, and could save you a lot of time, by using just one application.


You can easily add a second clock for a non-local timezone. The company developing sunbird is Indian, which may account for their default choice of timezones. Usually, people run their clocks according to the three major stock markets: London, Tokyo and New York. By default, there is an option of Berlin, Los Angeles or Calkutta. Slightly strange not to include London there. Colonial hangover?

I found a variety of minor design issues in the current beta.

The first thing I see in spicebird is the home tab, which by default is blank. This looks wrong. There should be a clock on it, as a reasonable default.

The next thing that gets me is that there is no way to move the contacts tab. The calendar tab is far more frequently used. The contacts tab can be turned off, as with an IM bar at the bottom of the screen, which I didn’t use.

Most of my other qualms are very minor differences in what I would like for design.One of the more obvious ones, as apparent in the picture, is that the name of the calendar is written on the top of the calendar events. The korganiser default is std.ics, an abbreviation of ‘standard’ but also ‘sexually transmitted disease’. This is customisable.

Why Flock is no good. 3 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Cloud Computing, Linux, Social Networking, web, Windows.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

After selling out to the man and getting a wordpress and facebook account, I was reminded of Flock, a web browser focused on social networking. My conclustion is that it is no bloody good (NBG) after less than five minutes. Here’s why:

1. The flock website automatically prompts me to download a windows executable (.exe) unless I allow javascript. The installation instructions are for the windows one to. Linux users are just expected to know how to extract the program themselves and run it (and make their own links).

2. According to Wikipedia, Flock collects usage information, passed back to the company, but it is possible to turn this off during installation. I got no option, because I had no windows installer. I also couldn’t find any options in ‘preferences’. I don’t mind this, but as a matter of principle, the informed user should be able to choose.

3. The first thing after opening it up is you are confronted with buttons. Everywhere. It’s just like FF3, except that there are heaps of extra (useless?) buttons.

4. While the learning curve is high (for a browser), you get a constant stream of patently stupid notifications of the bleedingly obvious. Like, for example, if I didn’t notice that a big blue button turned orange after I clicked on it.

5. While it is good that many websites are supported, the browser is full of advertising, for the sites it supports, as well as some specifically. Stuck striaght into the main bar, in a place where it seems impossible to remove, is a bright orange link to digg.

Why is this elevated above an ordinary link? Who knows? There’s also a button to email a link to a friend. Just in case you weren’t on top of copy and paste.

As well as digg, there are plenty of links to the main Flock site. Also, the browser seems to choose to use Yahoo over Google as a default. This is annoying and counterintuitive to me given that the FF default is to use Google.

4. As well as the search bar, the web address bar by default incorporates searches from Yahoo. Great, you can’t even type a URL without it being passed to a third party. Clearly, this is a sensible default for idiots that cannot remember web addresses.

5. Flock guides you to their own extensions site, ignoring the main Mozilla addons site (many FF addons work). This is a good idea, except that there are 4 addons. Good one.

All of these annoyances are poorly justified by the features available. No, I haven’t subscribed to 26 social networking sites. While many of the features available are interesting, I didn’t find any particularly useful as essentially I don’t get control over them. And yes, I’d rather just rite up my blog posts in a browser window. That’s what google gears are for.

So, all in all, Flock undermines your privacy and irritates you for seemingly little benefit.

NoScript preventing Clickjacking 12 October, 2008

Posted by aronzak in web.
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Clickjacking; where a user’s click is unknowingly redirected to another (hidden) object on the page, is something that has scared many security experts. It works on all major browsers, with the only possible exception of lynx (fight the power!). But NoScript has released a stream of new versions that include new code called ClearClick, that prevents clickjacking. I saw this in use here. THe video isn’t that funny.

First, click on the script to allow it.

Now, the video appears. Next I click on it.

And NoScript comes up with a warning.

And Voila, it’s a like to the ad at the bottom of the page.

So there we go, NoScript has succesfully defended me from an attempt to show me an ad.

Over 1% Running Linux? 9 September, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Dying XP, Linux, web, Windows.
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Saw this article that references Ubuntu marketing as saying that there are already 8 million installations of Ubuntu. If that’s accurate, that means that there’s a huge lot of Linux installations. Based on figures from the article:

Ubuntu 8 million
Windows 1 billion (rough, by 2010)
Ubuntu is a 125th of Windows
Windows has ~ 90 % share
0.8% x 110%

Now, if these figures are accurate, then that’s only 30% of linux distributions. So the figures are wrong somewhere (it’s definitely not above 2%) but Linux probably has over 1 % of market share. This page suggests that Linux has 0.93% as of August.

Aspire one: number one in bad marketing 21 August, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Acer, Aspire one, Asus, Cloud Computing, EeePC, Linpus, Netbooks, Uncategorized, XP.
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Poorly directed marketing

Poorly directed marketing

Many global corporations seem to like using different advertising in different regions. Acer has a good general marketing campaign that attempts to market the Aspire One as a wanted product. But someone decided to put this on the Australian site. And I thought that I might buy one(*sigh*). After getting through the cringeworthy presentation, what I thought was the intro, oh look it repeats. Great.

The focus on children is greatly misdirected. Originally Asus had a focus on children, childhood and learning with the EeePC. Crap version of Linux, crap hardware. Who would ever want to buy that? Unfortunately for them, all of the people that don’t want to shell out 2000+ for an ultraportable. Apple must not be happy. It seems that nobody expected that consumers would flock to the devices, eager to mod and hack, getting rid of the childish OS on it and putting on something decent (like Hackintosh ). Or, just putting up with it and using it as a coffee shop toy (cynically, that’s all the Mac book air is, too).

Better, more trendy, and perhaps more effective marketing

Better, more trendy, and perhaps more effective marketing

Coming round to the realisation that ordinary consumers don’t want to be sold things marketed as children’s toys, Asus has cleverly updated their UK site to better target the market. Hopefully other manufacturers will learn from the mistakes of Asus, and now Acer.

Edit: I think that I should also show good marketing from MSI.

"Love edition"
“Love edition”