Thursday, July 29, 2004

And Don't Forget Your Towel

Anonymous Registration

Just an update to the temporary email address article. If all you want to do is anonymously register for a website, you don't have to do all that much work. The site collects username/passwords for site registration, and will give them to you for free. If they don't have a login for the site you want, they'll create one for you.

Thanks to The Internet Tourbus for this tip. If you don't subscribe, take a look at the site. It's primarily directed towards Windows users (e.g., how to do the impossible -- use IE safely), but they often have sites of general interest.

P.S. Hope spelling hasn't gone completely to heck. With Blogger's new design, spell check doesn't work here anymore, and I'm not going to cut-and-paste everything into emacs just to do a global spell-check.

Essential Googling

Well, maybe not essential, but has a lot of useful tricks for using Google.

For example, did you know that the string (fay | scow) thomas will tell you about sites which mention the only professional baseball player born in Holyrood, Kansas, whether they refer to him by his given name or his nickname?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Mail Temps

OK, you want to see some web site's one and only picture of Ann Coulter voting in a Democratic primary. But, the site requires you register. So you give it the relevant information. They want an email address. But, having seen some of what this site offers, you really don't want them to have your email address. So what do you do?

It so happens that there are two (count 'em, two) choices:

  1. mailinator: Tell the site that your email address is, say, Then, after you submit your information, go to enter sample in the box, and press go. Any message sent to will show up. You can click any confirmation links they have, and then go look at Ann.
    Two warnings:
    • Anyone who knows email is being sent to can read the email. If you want to keep things secret, use a less obvious name. Mailinator will suggest random email addresses, e.g.
    • The mail is only kept for a few hours. This is a Good Thing.

    For more information about Mailinator, read the FAQ.

  2. spamgourmet: I haven't tried this one. It's a little different than Mailinator. You have to register a username and a forwarding email address. Say your username is samiam. Then you set your email for the above example as, e.g., The registration bot sends information to this address, and it's forwarded to you. The "4" is means that only 4 emails can come into this account before it's closed. This would seem like a good way to track who's spaming you, then cut if off before the spam gets to heavy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Cookie Machine

When surfing the web, cookies are little blips of information that a web site you've visited stores on your computer. Cookies are good in that they let a site you visit often store your preferences, making it easier to work with. For example, many sites which require registration will save your registration information in a cookie. Cookies are bad because they leave traces on your computer of where you've been. E.g., not that this applies to anyone I know, if you search for some steamy books/videos online, any site which can access that cookie knows what you've been looking for.

Firefox, like all Mozilla (and I suppose all other) browsers, lets you manage your cookies. In Ff > 0.8 you do this by going to Edit => Preferences => Cookies. Here you can examine the cookies on you have stored, delete the ones (or all) you don't like, designate sites which can always leave cookies, and forbid certain sites to leave cookies on your machine.

That's all well and good, but I'd like a slightly better option: There are a list of sites with cookies I'd like to keep, e.g., the Double-Click Opt-Out, various newspaper registrations, SABR, etc. Everything else I'd like to delete just by pressing a button.

And so we have the Firefox/Mozilla extension CookieCuller. It loads just like a regular extension. In Firefox, you then right-click on a blank spot of the navigation tool bar and click Customize. In the box with the icons will appear a large cookie. (It's really too large for the Pinball theme I'm currently using, but never mind.) Drag the cookie onto the navigation tool bar. Now, when you click on the cookies, you'll see list of those on your browser. To the left is a column labeled "Protected". You can toggle the status of a cookie from protected to unprotected. And clicking "Remove All Cookies" does just that -- it removes all cookies you haven't protected. Exactly what I wanted.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Getting Back At Scammers

So you get another email saying,

Dear wondrous Soul,

My late husband/wife/father/mother stole about $15 billion from our local government, and they won't let me take it out of the country!!! Can you help? They'll let you take it out. Really!! Just send me all your account information, Social Security number, a few credit cards, and your firstborn child, and I'll deposit the money in your account. Then, if I can get out of here, we'll go halfsies!!

I'm sure no one here believes these things, though such scams still get bites. (Click on the circled "P" to see the whole article at once.) But wouldn't you like to scam the scammers, get back at them?

No problem, others are doing it. Check out Scam-O-Rama, which answers those annoying emails and strings along the scammers.

Let's Return to Those Days of Yesteryear

Let's just pretend. Suppose it's 1994. During a "discussion" on the Senate floor, the Vice President of the United States suggests that a Republican Senator perform an anatomically impossible act. Not in a microphone, not to the public, but it's heard and reported.

WWRD?. Somehow, I doubt that he would have said that it was "Way Overdue".

I guess the not-so-fat man has a higher tolerance level these days.

Sunday, July 04, 2004


Awhile ago, I tried the Helix Player, an open source version of RealPlayer. I didn't have much success with it.

But now, RealPlayer 10 is out for Linux. It's not free, but it's not obnoxious like some versions of yore. So I decided to try it out. There's an RPM and everything, though for some reason the code goes in the /usr/local tree instead of /usr.

So far it works. I did have to tweak the plugins to get them to run in Firefox, though. The Mozilla Realplayer Plugins are in /usr/local/RealPlayer/mozilla. With my non-standard setup, the plugins didn't get into the Firefox plugin directory, so I did
$ cd /usr/local/firefox/plugins
$ ln -s /usr/local/RealPlayer/mozilla/ .
$ ln -s /usr/local/RealPlayer/mozilla/nphelix.xpt .
This works pretty well. The CBS News site lets me play some content within the browser window. However, for some content it insists on launching Xine, which I use to play .wmv files, and then not playing the file. Even though I've set my preferences to RealPlayer.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Browser Updates -- Mozilla Firefox 0.9

I played with the upgrade to version 0.9 of the Mozilla Firefox browser, but couldn't get things to work the way I wanted. Then a bugfix version 0.9.1 came out. I still waited, but then I found that, like most browsers, Firefox 0.8 was subject to this Frame Injection Vulnerability. (Try the test. It's impressive.) Firefox 0.9.1 is supposed to have this fixed, so it's time to upgrade.

Unfortunately, several things have changed going from 0.8 to 0.9.1. In particular, the way Firefox installs extensions has changed, as well as the default theme. The extensions are particularly worrisome. I've been using:

  1. mozex, to let me click on mailto: links from the browser,
  2. Adblock, to rid pages of annoying graphics, and
  3. a fixed version of the RSS Reader Panel, which lets one read newsfeeds from the browser.
Getting all this to work again is going to require a rather careful upgrade, hence this long post.

First, download the new version from The default version for Linux comes with an installer, but I want to put the browser in another location, so I clicked on the "other languages" link and found the "no installer" version for Linux. This yields a file called firefox-0.9-i686-linux-gtk2+xft.tar.gz.

I could only get firefox to run from my own account or as root. Since I want to let other people use the code as well, I'll put it in /usr/local as root. So su, cd to /usr/local, and run
tar xvzf firefox-0.9-i686-linux-gtk2+xft.tar.gz

Now set up a link to the firefox executable from something in my path:
ln -s /usr/local/firefox/firefox /usr/local/bin/firefox
(the soft link lets Firefox remember where it really lives)

Launch firefox. OK, problem number 1. I use a script which changes checks to see if firefox is already running. If so, it opens up a new tab on the browser, rather than another instance of the browser. Unfortunately, the new-tab/new-window behavior of firefox has changed. It requires a new script. I modified one from the viewall link on Bugzilla. Modified, it looks like this:

# See
# and
# If firefox isn't running, launches it.
# If firefox is running, opens requested page in new tab.
FFOX_REMOTE="${FFOX} -a firefox -remote"
#    $FFOX_REMOTE "openurl($URL,new-window)"
    $FFOX_REMOTE "openurl($URL,new-tab)"
    $FFOX $URL
if $FFOX_REMOTE "ping()" 2>&1 | grep "Error:" >/dev/null; then

A "now what?" box pops up. Firefox 0.9.1 can import settings from the old 0.8 account, but personal settings have moved from ~/.phoenix/default/wierdstring to ~/.mozilla/firefox/default.something. Since I don't want to move all my extensions and everything, I'm not going to import anything. Click that and go. This gets to the firefox home page. Set my home page where I want it, using
Edit => Preferences > General => Use Current Page.
Note that this changed from previous versions, when it was under Tools => Options.

Resize the window and exit the browser. Copy my bookmarks from ~/.phoenix/... to ~/.mozilla/firefox/....



After getting all the font preferences set (now in Edit => Preferences > General => Fonts & Colors), start adding extensions. To do this, go to
Tools => Extensions => Get More Extensions
The page isn't well organized, IMHO, so click on "All" and scroll through until you find what you want. So far I've installed:

  • mozex, primarily so that when I click on a mailto: link I can send mail from evolution. Click on the "preferences" (little check button) by mozex in the extension window. Click the "Intercept mailto: clicks" box. In the Mailer command line, add the string
    /usr/bin/evolution mailto:%A?Subject=%S&Cc=%C&body=%B
    This is a slight change from the Mozex FAQ, since we can't seem to find the evolution executable otherwise.
  • Adblock. Oddly, this isn't on the extension page. You have to go to the link at the beginning of this bullet, click on Install, the Dev. Builds, and then click on the latest link. Today (3 July 2004) it is Adblock 0.5 d2 nightly 39, but I'm sure that will change. Come back to the Adblock page to update. You can probably ignore the part that says "tested solely on Mozilla..." At least this one works with Firebird.
  • The old RSS Reader Panel isn't available, but Sage, based on Reader Panel, is there. Alt-S puts the panel in the sidebar, and options lets you set it up the way you want it.

Note that you have to restart Firefox before an extension starts working.


Look at the entrees in the plugin directory of Firefox 0.8. Copy those into /usr/local/firefox/plugins. Note that if a soft link was used in the old directory, you have to set it up here, e.g.,
ln -s /usr/lib/flash-plugin/flashplayer.xpt .


Firefox comes with a variety of Themes for changing the look of the browser buttons, backgrounds, etc. The current default theme is rather XP like. I kind of liked the old theme, Qute, so for now use that. Go to Tools => Themes, etc., etc.

Hmm. Changing themes seems to wipe out your windows so that you have to restart Firefox. Hope this is fixed by 1.0.

You can create your own themes, but I'm not going to try to figure that out now.

And Done

At least for now. So many browser options to play with ...