Hacking

Viewing filtered mailing lists on Bloglines

There are a lot of mailing lists out there that occasionally discuss an area of interest, but don’t necessarily have a great signal-to-noise ratio. I generally want to filter them by either sender or for keywords in the body, and trash the rest of the messages. I also prefer to have the filtered messages forwarded to a Bloglines email subscription, where they fit in nicely with the rest of my RSS feeds. (The only downside to this approach is that Bloglines doesn’t thread messages, but that tends not to be important since I’m just pulling out certain messages anyway.)

Here are the procmail scripts that let me do this. Note that Bloglines should really add this filtering capability directly as part of the their aggregation services.
Continue Reading »

Hacking

Comments Off

Permalink

Google AdSense doesn’t honor their policy on inappropriate content

First, let me make clear that I think Google AdSense is one of the most extraordinary services on the web and is hugely important in making large parts of the web sustainable over time. It’s a new service that they’re constantly enhancing, and so I expect them to fix this problem eventually. The issue today, though, is that Google AdSense displays ads that are inappropriate and even dangerous given the page’s content, and offers no way to fix the problem.

I administer PWS Notes, which is an informational and support site about the rare genetic disorder Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS). The site provides a variety of useful information about treatments, medical research, support groups, etc. In 2000, PWS sufferers were granted FDA approval for use of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to help treat the severe obesity associated with the disease. Therefore, there are pages on the site about HGH, and over time, many pages are likely to mention it, such as this one about a child’s progress. All proceeds from Google AdSense are being donated to the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research.

The problem is that every Google ad regarding HGH appears to be a fairly fraudulent pitch for herbal supplements that they say “release” or “activate” HGH. In fact, these advertised products have nothing to do with HGH, which is a very powerful but also quite dangerous drug that is controlled by the FDA. The issue is the Google ads may confuse (in fact, are designed to confuse) na´ve parents to think that these cheap (and, frankly, worthless) herbal supplements are any replacement for physician-prescribed HGH. You can see the ads here. Although ads for worthless herbal supplements are legal, they are potentially dangerous in this context.

What Google needs is a tool so that I can set www.pwsnotes.org with a “-HGH, -GH and -’growth hormone’” regarding Adwords, so that no HGH products will be advertised there. I believe this would be an example of “Sensitive content filters: At times, certain ads may not be appropriate to run on all pages. For example, Google automatically filters out ads that would be inappropriate on a news page about a catastrophic event.” However, the only tool Google offers is block out specific URLs of advertisers. I did this for 60 of them (4 at a time), but there appears to be an unlimited supply of advertisers, due largely to affiliate sites.

The temporary solution was for me to modify the wiki code to not show any ads on the HGH page. However, this isn’t a real fix, because other pages already mention HGH (and it’s a wiki, so they change over time), and any of those pages may get the same problematic ads.

The temporary fix was a change to my previous directions:


-<?php include("adsense.php") ?>
+<?php if ($_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'] != "/HGH") include("adsense.php") ?>

Google’s only reponse was a form letter.
Continue Reading »

Hacking

Comments (3)

Permalink

Cisco VPN fails after suspend/resume and causes Matlab execution failures

My wife’s new Toshiba Tecra M3 was hobbled by two major Cisco VPN bugs. The first problem is caused by a bad interaction between the Cisco VPN client and the Intel Wi-Fi driver, which fails to work when resuming from a suspend. The second is that the newest Cisco VPN drivers cause random Matlab execution failures while the VPN is connected. I fixed both bugs and thought others might find the solutions useful. However, Windows Explorer still crashes occassionally, so I’m very interested in a new Cisco VPN Client release that fixes both bugs without any side effects. Having to deal with issues like this is a fairly damning indictment of the whole QA process theoretically employed by the 3 biggest tech companies: Cisco, Intel, and Microsoft. Each bug separately was a nightmare to diagnose (who would think at first that the Matlab problems could be caused by the VPN?).
Continue Reading »

Hacking

Comments Off

Permalink

Training SpamAssassin with a LearnAsSpam IMAP folder

I’ve found that many installations of SpamAssassin work well, but end-users don’t optimize them to train their Bayesian filters on false negatives (i.e., spams that get through). A LearnAsSpam IMAP folder is a great solution for this, which even works with Exchange users (they just need IMAP turned on at the server).

I wrote up directions for installing this on the SpamAssassin wiki.

Hacking

Comments (1)

Permalink

Link to NYT Single Page format

It’s a trivial annoyance, but I’ve never liked that the default for viewing NYT articles is a multi-page format. Whenever I start an article, I always click on the Single Page icon so that I can digest the rest of the article without waiting for any page reloads. Now, with the the Firefox extension Greasemonkey, this is done for me. I still prefer Single Page view to Print view, because it includes pictures and occasionally links to popup sidebars. Besides, with Adblock installed, I never see any advertisements.

Here’s the script, which is based on one for Print pages from Evan Martin.

Hacking

Comments Off

Permalink

Adding Google AdSense to MediaWiki 1.4

More publishers are becoming familiar with AdSense as a revolutionary business technology for monetizing eyeballs (i.e., for generating revenue from the viewers that spend time perusing your site). Here are the directions for adding AdSense to your MediaWiki 1.4 installation. You can see the results at PWS Notes, a wiki on a rare genetic disorder that I administer for my sister-in-law. I’m only using text ads and I place them under the rest of the options in the navigation column, so as to be fairly unobtrusive.

This info was inspired by these directions, which work for Mediawiki 1.3 but not for 1.4. Note that if you use the highly recommended Firefox extension Adblock, you need to hit Shift-Ctrl-B first to disable it and see the Google ads.
Continue Reading »

Hacking

Comments (3)

Permalink

Firefox Extensions

I highly recommend switching to Firefox, which is a much better browser than Internet Explorer. To really get the value, I recommend installing a bunch of extensions. I took the time to go through the ones currently available, and here is what I’m currently using:
Continue Reading »

Hacking

Comments Off

Permalink

Mediawiki

I set up a wiki for my sister-in-law about the rare genetic disease, Prader-Willi Syndrome. I used Mediawiki, which is quite impressive. The hardest part of the configuration was rewriting the URLs so that pwsnotes.com, www.pwsnotes.com, and pwsnotes.org would all point to www.pwsnotes.org. This improves cacheing and search order ranking, and also looks better. The following Apache .htaccess file did the trick:
Continue Reading »

Hacking

Comments Off

Permalink

Airport Express woes

It only took me over two hours to install my two new Airport Expresses. The problem is that Airport Express Assistant is not compatible with XP SP2 (it keeps giving an error about Windows not managing the wireless and then doesn’t see any of the networks). The solution was to configure the units with Airport Admin Utility instead. Further, this is the page the explains setting up printing from XP. The units now work great.

Hacking

Comments Off

Permalink

Buying a Treo 600

Several friends are buying or thinking about buying a Treo 600. So, here is my advice in doing so:

1) First, don’t buy the Sprint phone. It’s cheaper and has good coverage, but is completely unusable as a primary phone. The problem is that when the 1x data link is active (such as when you’re checking email or the web), all incoming calls are sent to voicemail. This is so egregious as to be absurd in a shipping product, and makes the device completely unusable, except as a glorified data-enabled PDA.

2) I highly recommend the AT&T Wireless phone. Until 2 weeks ago, coverage was somewhat poor. However, AT&T just signed a roaming agreement with Cingular as part of their upcoming merger, and so I find the coverage is now superb.

3) Crack the GSM lock as described on my blog or this FAQ. Now, if you’re in a foreign country, you can buy a cheap prepaid SIMM card at any gas station and not pay international roaming rates. (If you want to be clever, you can get an ISP account and configure the phone to dial up over circuit GSM, since prepaid GPRS is not yet available.) Then, update the firmware to 3.04 to get the camcorder functionality.

4) Top software apps:

a) WebPro is much, much better than the built in browser, since it uses a proxy to drastically reduce download time and displays incrementally as the page is loading.
b) I use Good software for complete integration with Exchange. It works great but is very expensive. My portfolio company Sproqit should have a Treo-compatible single-user Outlook-connected product soon. I understand from Walt Mossberg that for POP/IMAP, SnapperMail is the best software.
c) Ptunes. Buy the deluxe version, as being able to use shoutcast to listen to tens of thousands of radio stations around the world is particularly cool.
d) Audible for the Treo
e) zLauncher is a replacement application manager that moves applications to the SD card with a single click. This is essential if you want to install extra software and not run out of memory.
f) Bob’s Clock to make the device an alarm clock. (click files under the Yahoo Group for pay $5 through Handango.)
g) PdaNet
h) miniSync cable
g) Zap!2016, Tetris

Hacking

Comments Off

Permalink