Archive for June 2011

Phishers Are Getting Lazy

Back in the early to mid-1990’s, access to email really was free, though the general Internet was rather expensive.  AOL would charge $9.95 US per month for up to five hours in that month (no rollover), and then $2.95 US per additional hour[1].  CompuServe, which – at the time, I preferred over AOHell – was a whopping $12.80 US per hour for basic and $22.80 US per hour for web access.  They then generously reduced their cost to just $8 US and $16 US per hour, respectively[2].  My favorite ISP of the time, however, was Prodigy — which was a mere $9.95 US per month for up to five non-rollover hours, then $2.95 US per additional hour[3].  That’s without remembering, of course, that some new providers like MSN were coming out with flat-rate plans.  And the best part was that – remember this?!? – Internet access was like old home phone plans.  Nights and weekends were cheaper, while business hours were considered “peak times” and would cost more.  And that’s not including anything about the speed of your modem and how those rates were considered “premium” rates and were also billed accordingly.

Price didn’t matter, though.  I was a teenager without a credit card, and my mother thought the Internet was too dangerous.  Thankfully, many of the dial-up ISP’s of the time were all-too willing to offer free trials, and they did a poor job of keeping track of who tried what, when.  You couldn’t keep an always-on connection, but if you spread it out among several, you could connect for a good 5-10 hours per week.

Obviously, I’ve seriously digressed here.  Far enough from the opening statement of free email, and a universe apart from the title of this rant.  Be patient.  I’m coming full-circle in a few moments, starting with the free email bit.

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What The Heck Is World Environment Day?

Last Tuesday evening, with a large party/barbecue planned for the then-upcoming weekend, I found myself swamped once again with a combination of client projects and work needing to be done around the house.  Wishing I’d used my time more wisely that and the previous day, I had come up with an idea for something I was going to use as an internal organization system and self-motivator for completing more projects per week.  I’d hoped that, in the future (as it was too late at the time), I’d stay better focused.  My idea: a hyped-up TODO list for the week that needs to be 75% complete by each Wednesday, affording more time for spending with the family on the weekend.  I decided to call it (rather obviously) the Wednesday Challenge.

Because I’m a geek, I started building it out (in PHP, natch), with hooks to my office computer to display alerts on my desktop, SMS for text alerts throughout the day, and of course, email.  Eventually, I hoped, I’d hook it to the API for my Google Calendar as well.  The plan was, with enough reminders throughout the day, I’d be less susceptible to distractions leading to a complete derailing of my originally-planned schedule.  Obviously, I needed a domain name, too, because – who knows? – maybe friends or family would want to use the system, too.  So I opted for a simple version of my uninspired project name: wedchallenge.com.  I registered it that Tuesday night.

Enter actor Don Cheadle and fashion model Gisele.

I had noticed that I was getting a bunch of traffic on the domain, so I checked to see if perhaps the domain name had been a drop — that is, a domain which had once been registered, but then expired.  Oddly enough, it all seemed to be not only organic, but without referrals.  That meant it was being typed directly into the browser.  I puzzled over it for many, many seconds before I got sidetracked on something else.

Then, one evening, while preparing dinner, I happened to see a few commercials, thanks to the useless and skip-laden DVRs we have with DirecTV (that’s another story altogether).  One commercial caught my eye, not because of the content or the actors, but the domain: wedchallenge.org.  At first glance, I thought it was my own domain.  Then it clicked: that’s why I’m getting hits, and that’s exactly why it’s all type-in traffic.

The wedchallenge.org site has nothing to do with my little project.  Instead, theirs is actually WED Challenge — World Environment Day Challenge.  A campaign launched by the United Nations Environment Programme.  Apparently, it was held on 5 June, 2011, but ads were still being run on TV at least as recent as the 16th or 17th of the month.

So while I can’t offer any information, advice, or anything at all with regard to the WED Challenge, I can tell you that, if you came in here via wedchallenge.com, you should instead go to wedchallenge.org.  And while I find it a really odd coincidence, you can accept my half-hearted apology, I suppose, since you’re apparently not just all interested in my idea.  ;-P

Announcing the Release of the System Detonation Library for PHP

As discussed somewhat at length in a rapidly-devolving thread on the PHP General mailing list, I am in favor of a function that, when called, will initiate on the host system a self-destruct sequence.  Well, being a nice, sunny, spring Friday morning, I decided to offer just that:

Introducing the first public release of the System Detonation Library for PHP.

This useless extension provides one function with one purpose: to cause your server to explode.  Due to the obvious hazards involved, including (but not limited to) loss of hardware, limbs, and potentially life and liberty, this has only been tested on one single occasion, using a PC with Ubuntu 10.10 and a heavily-modified SVN version of PHP 5.3.6.  Thankfully, as the test was successful, there were no serious injuries.

Firstly, you may download the package here.

Second, as a very basic course on the compilation and installation of this unofficial PHP extension, here are some simple instructions for Linux users.  All others are on their own, and this may (read: probably) will not work anyway…. which is a shame, because I know plenty of Windows boxes that should have the right to self-destruct as well.

  1. Download the package above.
  2. Extract it: tar -zxf detonate-0.2.tar.gz
  3. Change to the newly-created directory where the files are located: cd detonate-0.2/
  4. Build the wrappers for your version of the Zend/PHP API: phpize (NOTE: on Ubuntu-built packages, this command may be: phpize5)
  5. Build the necessary makefiles for your system: ./configure –with-detonate
  6. Compile the code: make
  7. Install the binary (as root, or using sudo): make install
  8. Edit your php.ini to load the newly-installed extension by adding this line: extension=detonate.so
  9. If you plan to use it via the CLI, you’re done.  For use on the web, remember to reload/restart your web server.
  10. Create a basic PHP script with the following: <?php detonate(); ?>
  11. Check your insurance coverage.
  12. Run the script created in Step #10.

And that’s all there is to it.  Feel free to install this on all of your systems and use it as a replacement for exit or die() in your scripts.  Because, unlike die(), this function will absolutely get the point across, once and for all.