Workbench

You Should Be Reading Shelley Powers

Washington state wolf

Shelley Powers has a lyrical blog post up on Burningbird called The Rule of Small Deer. I'd quote it but it should be appreciated in its entirety.

Powers is known as a techblogger and computer book author, but she's also an advocate for animal welfare who does some terrific original reporting on the subject. You can find recent posts in her blog's Critters category.

The way she ended one post on the unjust elimination of a wolf pack in Washington state serves as excellent general advice:

Don't accept this. Get in people's faces. Be mad. Be vocal. Be loud. And if being loud means to hell with respectful and civil discourse, so be it.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

We Have Always Been at War with Comment Spammers

This site continues to get 10-30 comment spams a day, along with the occasional comment to an old post that makes it worthwhile to continue offering the opportunity for reader feedback. I'm thinking about switching to a comment form in which the only way to add bold, italics and links is to use buttons that add the formatting in a markup scheme that nobody else on the planet uses. Comments that use HTML or Markdown would be rejected.

Coming up with oddball and ultimately futile anti-spam techniques is a long tradition around here. In 2006 I invented comment flak, a system of putting fake form components on a page and hiding them with CSS so that their use caught spammers. It did not work.

Creator of cURL Denied Entry to U.S.

cURL creator Daniel StenbergDaniel Stenberg, a Mozilla senior network engineer and the creator of the cURL open source library, has been denied entry to the United States, he revealed early Tuesday morning in a tweet.

Stenberg was coming for business to All Hands, a twice-yearly Mozilla conference bringing together staff and volunteers that began Monday. An hour after tweeting, "On my way to San Francisco and Mozilla," he said this:

That took an unexpected turn. I'm denied entry by ESTA out of the blue. So ... no trip for me I suppose. Shocked really. What a disappointment. ... I can't think of a single good reason why they would do this.

ESTA is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, which is used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Stenberg said that he was checking in at Arlanda Airport north of Stockholm when told he couldn't fly. "I couldn't check in online for unknown reasons so I approached the counter, where they informed me," he said. No reason was given for the refusal.

The cURL library is used by software to download data across websites and web services using HTTP, FTP and many other protocols. I've used it on many of my sites, often to get RSS feeds. The cURL site states, "It is also used in cars, television sets, routers, printers, audio equipment, mobile phones, tablets, set-top boxes, media players and is the internet transfer backbone for thousands of software applications affecting billions of humans daily." The project had its 20th anniversary earlier this year on April 8.

Update: Stenberg has blogged about the experience and the support he's received across the programming world. There's still no explanation for his exclusion.

Since I began blogging again on Workbench, I've been kept company primarily by comment spammers. Every morning I weed them out. Some are bots, but others have a human who writes a few sentences in clumsy English that are incorporated into the spam. I figure they must do hundreds of these an hour.

Some of these spammers are targeting my eulogy for my dad. This one came in from Pakistan:

This is good to know that you deliver eulogy to your dad and give him credit with name. Mostly sons not do this for their parents but we care about them and always talk with peace http://example.com/ also provide you the good lessons on parents and child relation and you learn from here a lot.

I removed the link. It's a site selling term papers.

Welcome, Readers of the Future

I'm working on the next edition of Sams' Teach Yourself Java in 24 Hours. Java 9 has a new HTTP client package, jdk.incubator.http, that makes it a lot easier to GET and POST to web servers and other software that communicates over HTTP.

For a demo, I needed a simple server that could take POST requests and do something with them without requiring a user login. I was about to write one when I realized I already had. This blog takes comments submitted over POST.

When the book comes out, I'll be able to see from these comments that readers have reached Hour 22.

The Adam West Series That Wasn't: Lookwell

Adam West died Friday at age 88. As a child of the '70s, I thought West was a giant of Hollywood. I watched the Batman TV movie and show as often as they came on.

When cable TV arrived and my parents let us watch movie channels with precious little oversight, it was quite a shock to see him in The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood. Holy titillation, Batman!

West was underrated as a comic actor. His deadpan Batman performance was legendary, but he could do a lot more than that. Around 15 years ago a TV series called Brilliant But Cancelled showed the pilot Lookwell, created by Conan O'Brien and Robert Smigel with West in the lead. It aired once but wasn't made into a series.

West was perfect for the role of a washed-up TV action hero who thinks being a celebrity deputy means he can solve crimes.

There's new energy in blogging these days with Manton Reese's Micro.blog and a new syndication format created by Reese and Brent Simmons, JSONFeed. This inspires me to put more of my efforts into my neglected blog instead of posting in silos like Twitter and Facebook.

I want to put content of all types here: tweet-like messages, photos, videos and full articles with headlines. There will be bugs. Now I'm going to hit Save and see how my homebrew software handles content without titles and tags.