Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This blog is moving to wordpress

My blogspirit days are almost over. Thank Heavens.

17:39 Posted in Software | Permalink | Comments (12) | Tags: blogspirit, wordpress

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Leaving Blogspirit

It has now been about 48 hours since blogspirit stopped along comments that require user authentication through, and about six days since I last heard from customer support on any of my six outstanding tickets.

This is unacceptable.

I am currently in the process of migrating off of blogspirit. Blogspirit makes this as difficult as possible, but I believe I have managed to back up the current site, and I am currently writing the scripts that will be necessary to import all the posts, comments, and everything else from this site to a new home for tdaxp.com.

I ask for your patience in this transition.

14:35 Posted in Software | Permalink | Comments (11) | Tags: blogspirit

Monday, February 25, 2008

Blogspirit's comment nightmare

It appears that many, if not all, comments that require verification (in general, long ones or those with links) are being silently held and/or deleted by blogspirit. Very disappointing, but typical of the user-hostile, unhelpful, and generally low-quality service I've experienced from Blogspirit over the years.

09:20 Posted in Software | Permalink | Comments (17) | Tags: Blogspirit, Blogging, bugs

Thursday, January 31, 2008

HOWTO: Batch Download a Book in PDF Pages from NetLibrary

NetLibrary is an online book resources that universities or other individuals pay to supply them with virtual copies of books. These books are available online, and can be searched, downloaded, and saved. The catch is that NetLibrary's interface limits you to viewing (in horribly slow Acrobat reader) one page at a time. Given how unresponsive Acrobat makes many computers, this can make printing out a long book take hours.

Therefore, I took the effort to figure out how to batch download a book from NetLibrary, saving me valuable time.

My solution uses a combination of Firefox and Perl, but other solutions are of course available.

After I loaded up the first true page of the book in the NetLibrary interface, I gave the frame with the PDF its own Window used Firefox's Tools | Page Info | Media properties dialog box to determine the URL of the embedded PDF file. It turns out it's a call to a program named nlReader.dll, but it takes a book identification number and page number as arguments:

http://0-www.netlibrary.com.library.unl.edu/nlreader/nlReader.dll?BookID=BOOKIDGOESHERE&FileName=FILENAMEGOESHERE

Obviously, the library.unl.edu part requires my university proxy. For normal pages, the filename was in the format of Page_1.pdf, Page_2.pdf, etc. So I wrote a perlscript to create hyperlinks to pages 1 to 499, saved the output to HTML, used the DownloadThemAll! Firefox extention to get them, and...

Then Acrobat crashed trying to print out those hundreds of PDFs. Boo! Fortunately, Perl came to my rescue... I used ppm to install the module Perl::Reuse, then wrote a script to append all those pdfs into one. The final product is about 500 pages ans 70 megs, but quite easy to store, print out, etc.

Thanks, NetLibrary!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Batch Upload to Google Docs

Back in March '07, I requested two new features for Google Docs: automatic synching between openoffice and Google Docs, and batch uploading to Google Docs.

Well, batch uploading has just come true.


Batch Upload to Google Docs


Even cooler, the batch uploader is really just a tech demo for the new and improved Google Docs API, so advanced functionality like the add-in background uploader to Google Docs isn't too far away.

Thanks Google!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Blackboard is awful

The University of Nebraska - Lincoln uses "Blackboard" as its course-management software. This hurts students. Blackboard temporarily freezes both Internet Explorer and Firefox on my XP laptop -- a trick which no other website I visit does.

I don't think I would be able to write a piece of web software as awful as blackboard. It's clear that the designers of blackboard faced several instances of the question -- do we do this the usable way or the way that lets us say we implemented Java or some other hip technology -- and they went with the high-tech, gizmo-rich solution.

Too bad. Students and faculty of UNL pay for Blackboard's lousy coding in time, energy, and frustration.

11:32 Posted in Software, UNL | Permalink | Comments (6) | Tags: Blackboard, java, usability

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Vista: What a joke

This morning, I have had four browser crashes in Microsoft Windows Vista, in both IE and Firefox.

Choosing Vista instead of XP on this laptop was a mistake.

Comparing the pain that Vista regularly causes with the "it just works" niceness of the OS X machine I use while editing vista is staggering.

What a joke.

06:49 Posted in Software | Permalink | Comments (5) | Tags: microsoft, windows, vista

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The urchinTracker() method: How Dozier Internet Law, PC's website secretly spies on its visitors

Many web sites track or (to use a less friendly word) "spy"on their users. As tdaxp.com sits on top of blogspirit's blog content system, I can view aggregate data about who is accessing my posts. Many other sites use SiteMeter or another third-party tool to get even more detailed information.

Some attempt to hide their espionage, however. One such good example is Dozier Internet Law, PC (a company which forbids hyperlinking). They forbid the "view source" option in a web browser that allows individuals to see what code is being activated by their presense. A view source on Slashdot's copy of their web code reveals the following

<script type="text/javascript">
_uacct = "UA-294347-1";
urchinTracker();
</script>


Curious about what this (I was inspired by Raise the Hammer's investigation) I searched, and found that it is part of Google Analytics:

Google Analytics' urchinTracker allows you to track events on your site that do not generate a pageview. Using the urchinTracker JavaScript, you can assign a specific page filename to Flash events, JavaScript events, file downloads, outbound links, and more.

For more information on using urchinTracker, please refer to the following help articles:


To be, this presents an ethical dilemma. Dozier eavesdrops on the browsers that visits it. Simultaneously, Dozier's rules make it impossible to notice the eavesdropping while obeying its terms of use. I'm not sure what the ethics rules for "attorney advertising" (which Dozier's website is classified as) are for lawyers in the jurisdiction where they operate, but I assume they do not encourage making informed consent impossible.

Related:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dozier Internet Law: Click View | Page Source, Break Copyright Law

Dozier Internet Law, fresh from costing SecureComputer one million dollars, forcing Cuppy's Coffee to get a P.R. firm, and making life miserable for DirectBuy, now takes on its latest enemy:

View Source


That's right! Boing Boing, the biggest website to pay attention to Dozier yet (it's the number three blog on the planet) enters the fray. Here's the best part of the user agreement from John Dozier's company website:

We also own all of the code, including the HTML code, and all content. As you may know, you can view the HTML code with a standard browser. We do not permit you to view such code since we consider it to be our intellectual property protected by the copyright laws. You are therefore not authorized to do so.


Their website downloads code to your computer, but you can't even examine the functions that it runs. And of course, Dozier's website doesn't ask you for permission before executing its super-secret javascript.

In the comments, Keithirwin accuses Dozier Internet Law of stealing the code of others, and using the user agreement to try to keep this secret. What does the term Dozier Internet Law and plagiarism seem so familiar?

More information is available at Public Citizen's blog

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Is DirectBuy Hacking Wikipedia?

I don't know, but Wikipedia's Revision history for "DirectBuy" now discusses "possible user of sleeper accounts. The text that keeps getting removed reads:

Complaints

Many customers have complained that they have been deceived by DirectBuy into signing expensive contracts for the privilege of purchasing goods supplied by the company. A three-year membership usually costs about $5,000, with yearly fees in the hundreds layered on top of that. Furthermore, potential members are told at the information sessions that unless they commit to it right then and there, they will be ineligible for membership for another seven years. While DirectBuy prices have been proven to be lower than some of their competitors' prices, all purchased items incur a processing and shipping fee, which is not included in the original price quote. In many cases, these additional costs usually bring the total price to that above what can usually be found at many traditional retailers.[citation needed]

Critics of DirectBuy



The section has been removed repeated by users "Wiseard" and 206.228.159.59."

While it is clear that DirectBuy intimidates those who complain and floods the web with spam, the question of whether they violate Wikipedia's conflict of interest policy is an open question. Certainly I've run against over-zealous wikipedians in the past (who deleted the entry for "5GW" and wished to destroy information on "Unrestricted Warfare"), so nothing is certain at this time.

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