DNS Blacklists Suck

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

In a passive effort to “fight spam” I made some changes to my filtering. First I configured postfix to use a few reputable blacklists, four in total; second I started using several of the RulesDuJour SA rules.

This has worked fairly well, I’m not getting much spam hitting my main mailboxes now. But I’m now down to two blacklists, why? Because dnsbl.sorbs.net and bl.spamcop.net have had to be removed because they block important legitimate email. Mail from some family members who use Hotmail has been blocked by SORBS and mail from some online services that use Yahoo servers have been blocked. Causing Yahoo and Hotmail servers to be blocked is not good; I understand the argument that “if they allow spam to be sent they should be blocked” but I cannot agree with it in practice. It is just too inconvenient – and if you make things inconvenient people wont use them. While you may hope that it makes using Hotmail a pain in the arse and thus not used the truth is it’ll make use of your blacklist the PITA and it’ll be dropped well before people stop using one of the world’s most popular email services. (Just try explaining to a tech-illiterate Hotmail user that they should stop using Hotmail because your mail server blocks their email; watch their eyes glaze over when you attempt to argue that they’re supporting spam by using Hotmail and should stop. I can’t believe I used to actually think like that, Hotmail works for them and it works for their family and for all their friends and as far as they’re concerned you can just get back into your little geek hole and die.)

I can see the value in commercially maintained blacklists in this arena, a company that need to sell a blacklist is going to make sure that there is a balance between the effectiveness of their lists and the potential inconvenience caused. Ordered, well thought out and, ultimately, profit-margin driven goals can sometimes beat fanaticism. Unfortunately I can’t use their blacklists for free on my little server and life is expansive enough without paying for a list of numbers. It’d be nice for a company to make lists free for small users for “the good of the Internet”; but the big profits lie in the millions of small users who’ll pay a little and not the thousands of big users who’ll pay a lot.

What makes it sadder is that of the 143 emails blocked in the last 40 hours only one has been from a Yahoo server and it was legitimate. I’m forced to lose all the good entries in the SpamCop blacklist because of a minority of bad ones that make their services unusable.

No complaints about RulesDuJour by they way, I’m happy with that so far (almost all the spam that gets through the blacklists is caught and no false-positives so far, and the difference with a SpamAssassin rule as opposed to an MTA blacklist is that even if you do have an FP you still have the email in quarantine!). I’m still using SORBS and SpamCop but they’re in SpamAssassin now, they’ve lost their ‘very good spam indicator’ privileges.

The two remaining blacklists are DSBL and SpamHaus… we’ll see how long they last.

Team[less] Work

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

There is no i in team, but there is an i in exterminate… exterminate, Exterminate, EX-TER-MIN-ATE!

Sorry, a spot of randomness there; I don’t think the James simulation unit is quite up to scratch. One of the hardest things about being exiled to the UK is suddenly being very isolated. The last big move was to Sydney, but that was into Uni which is an entirely different situation. Over here it just Kathlene and myself – and almost everyone else has comes under the loving wing of the term “business relationship”. We have one friend here outside of work links, and that is a blessing; fact is that meeting people who don’t annoy me is very hard.

All in all it’s not too bad, I am a fairly reclusive person by nature although I do enjoy occasional “events” and I really miss having friends over for a good feeding.

You should never underestimate the important of working with friends; which is what I have done ever since first year Uni up until this whole UK lark. I get along well with many of the people I work with at the moment; but it is different. One can work with excellent people, people with whom you get along very well and maybe even have an occasional drink – but it is a whole different world to working with people you’d call “friends” before calling “colleagues”.

Above all, the hardest thing is not working with a team. Working on projects as a sole developer is difficult because there is nobody else following the thread and thus nobody to discuss developments with and no peer driven motivation and interest. It really is terribly difficult! I report to a VP in another country and most of my internal company interaction is with a “sales guy”! I’m just thankful that both have an engineering background; the guy I report to still writes code for internal projects. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that management/sales is bad – just that as a developer I find having non-developers as primary contacts strange and not having other developers to work with is rather isolated. Piled on top of that is the general sense of externality when dealing with core development teams, the feeling that you’re now an outsider in the eyes of (what was formerly) your own group.

In many ways some level of logical separation is necessary, for example from a legal standpoint there sometimes have to be boundaries – such as “Chinese Wall” situations. I really believe that this must be kept to a minimum, after all (in this instance) some of us who’ve been exported have been involved since the early days before the first customer, before we went up in the world (literally;), before sliced bread back when the world was still flat and beaver was the other white meat. They really didn’t perform secret lobotomies on us, I swear.

Hmmm. It might sound like it but I am not saying that things are bad, there is room for improvement and no doubt this comes with time and practise, in fact things are generally good. With a peppering of the occasional hiccups that make life interesting. Working solo is something I’ve done a lot of and can do well; it may not be my favourite situation and it has its uninspiring moments but it is hardly hell-on-Earth.

There is no i in electroencephalographs, but there is an i in counterrevolutionaries!

Spinach Pasta

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Making pasta is easy and fun; fresh pasta leaves packages stuff for dead. I bought a large bag of spinach last weekend and simply couldn’t use it all, so today (2006-08-20) I salvaged what leaves I could and set out to make some spinach pasta!

Spinach Pasta: Ingredients


  • Pile of Spinach (about 2-3rds cup after cooking)
  • Strong Plain Flour (around 1.8 cups I guess)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Boil plenty of water and salt it a little; throw in the spinach for only a few seconds, leave it in too long and all the flavour will end up in the water! When the spinach looks nicely softened scoop out and squeeze out as much water as you can (I use a wooden spoon and a sieve for this). Place the spinach into a food processor (keep the boiling water for boiling pasta later if that is your plan).
  2. Put the flour, salt and olive oil into the food processor and process until spinach is completely blended with the flour (see photo on right).
    Spinach Pasta: In the food processor
    In the food processor
  3. Drop the egg into the food processor (preferably minus the shell) while on a slow speed – the mixture should fairly quickly start to ball up (if not you may need to add a little more egg from another egg, or water – if too sticky adjust with some more flour).
  4. Relocate from food processor onto a floured surface and kneed until dough is evenly blended and nicely elastic.
  5. Break dough ball into manageable portions and roll very thin on a floured surface.
  6. With a sharp knife cut into fettucini.
  7. Put aside for later cooking, if not cooking today you can hang it to dry a little and use it in the near future (you could probably refrigerate or freeze it without drying, but I”m not familiar with doing this).
    Spinach Pasta: Dryish
    Spinach Pasta: Dryish

When you want to cook it just treat as you would any other pasta, put into plenty of salted boiling water and drain when it is done!

Spinach Pasta: Ready to eat!
Ready to eat!

I threw together a very simple sauce to go with this, just a tin of tomatoes, onion, garlic, green olives, capers and anchovies – done in less than 10 minutes.


Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Oh how I hate benchmarking! You run a few benchmarks, get some results, and then people start thinking you’re making conclusions! No! They’re just a bunch of numbers in a spreadsheet! I think I’m going to have to write some sort of Excel/VBScript type macro-thingo that displays an EULA to the reader and makes them confirm that they’ll treat all benchmarking figures as the product of a collection of vague assumptions with appropriate error values. Wouldn’t help of course. Anyway, benchmarking is over – long live porting Python self-compiling binary parser modules to Win32.

I have a picture stuck to my computer of a war-axe smashing through a wooden bench – I hope this doesn’t intimidate anyone (well any more so that already achieved by growling at my computer like an enraged bear).

Normally when consuming my lunch I read blogs and news, but it seems to be a bad week for both. Blog people (friends, not randoms) aren’t writing much and the news is getting ever more tiresome – people tried to kill us, yay – we killed people in the middle east, yay – some more western soldiers have died in the middle east, yay – Israel killed people, yay – people killed Israelis, yay – Muslims are killing Muslims, yay. Kill, kill, kill, KILL, KILL. And that is the news. Aside from that we have politicians being fuckwads, as usual (and mostly related to killing people anyway); the environment getting fucked over, as usual; and boring famous people doing boring things, as usual.

Look at the way things are, “we” means UK/USA/Western-Powers(laughingly inclusive of little old Australia). Muslim groups want to kill Israelis because Israelis are killing Muslims. Israelis want to kill Muslims because Muslims are killing Israelis. We want to kill Muslims because Muslims are killing us. Muslims want to kill us because we are killing Muslims. (I’ll leave out all the other groups in the world who are killing each other since the media doesn’t care about them. Africa? Who cares, don’t they just have, like, desert and lions and stuff.)

I don’t think I’m being over dramatic with “want to kill” – wherever things started out be it the rightful removal of an evil dictator, revenge for a terrible terrorist act, border protection, plain old religious or racial hatred, reclaiming stolen land or some conspiracy over control of the world’s oil supply in the end it is all about killing. You drop bombs on people if you want them dead. Sure, you can claim that you just want one of them dead and the deaths of 20 children are an unfortunate side-effect but ultimately your wanting of that one target dead resulted in you wanting the 20 children dead as part of the deal. If you actually didn’t want the children dead then you wouldn’t drop the bloody bomb.

Yes, there are counter-arguments. “We didn’t want them dead; it is unfortunate but they were in the way.” That simply doesn’t work for me. “It was a mistake, I swear!” Oh, that’s okay then – I feel sooo sorry for you, the burden on your soul must be so heavy. I wish there was a hell, because then I could say: Hah, you poor bastards are all going to hell, enjoy!

The supposedly terrorist groups are a step above all of this, at least those evil, fucked-up, shitheads are willing to say “we bomb you because we want you dead”. The rest of the world needs to come clean. Shout it out and be proud.

You are not us! You must die!

And when the last man is left standing he can look around himself; a peaceful scorched earth – free from all dissent and strife. He can sigh, smile and be happy for at last the story of death and hatred, the story of humanity, is over.

Yes, benchmarking puts me in a bad mood.

Sod off and die already.