Revenge of the spam-bot

I guess the spammers saw my totally useless complaint about spam, because somehow they managed to defeat the capcha for comment posting.

I’m guessing there was a nucleus exploit, so I have upgraded to the latest version and will see what happens.

Confederate flag = State's rights?

The argument I have heard from “open-minded” individuals is that the use of the confederate flag, or an appreciation / loyalty to the Confederacy is not so much about slavery as it is about state’s rights.

I hereby proclaim this bullcrap.
The Cornerstone Speech is so named because of one section.
In particular,

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted.

(Jefferson’s) ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. … Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner–stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.

I’m afraid this leaves no room for discussion. The confederacy wasn’t about state’s right; it was about slavery. The confederacy was formed because Republicans – the anti-slavery party – had gained power, and the south didn’t want to lose their cheap labor.

Rationalizing the use of the confederate flag, and glorifying the confederacy is much like doing the same for the swastika, and the nazi party.
Indeed both movements were based on the belief that one race is somehow superior to another.

The difference:
Germany has the common decency to be ashamed of what it did.
The Southern U.S. still doesn’t see what it did wrong.

Hate Spam?

I know I do. Not the meat product – I’m man enough to admit liking it – the emails.

What I find fascinating about them is that I can usually tell in under 1 second whether an email is spam or not from the subject alone. Even on those rare emails that slip through gmail’s filters. Granted, not all people have such a finely tuned spam-o-meter, but it still amazes me that spam continues to be difficult to block. It is so easy for me to tell, yet so hard for a computer. There must be a way to represent the problem is a way that is easier for a computer to comprehend… but I’m not going to waste time pondering that.

Even if we block it, spammers will still send it because it is essentially free, and guaranteed to make it as far as your mail server, and at least into your spam folder where you MIGHT look at it.

The way to significantly reduce spam is to put the filtering software at the other end. Spammers send out large numbers of emails from the same IP address (or small range of IP addresses). When these emails first hit the network, there could be “filtering” software watching for abusive emailing. My support of such a solution depends on how email works – which I am unclear about. If email works like http – where I can set up a server and the ISP does nothing beyond routing packets – then it would be bad to allow ISPs to start snooping. But if sending emails requires the use of an ISP – or somebody’s email server, then the ISP is already involved, and such a filter would be a small imposition. Done right, it could cut spam off at the source, before the complaints start rolling in.

Of course, if everybody used gmail, spammers might realize they are wasting their time.

Open Source

I have long been fond of Open Source solutions, often choosing Open Source over other commercial alternatives for my own use. One reason for this is purely financial: I simply cannot afford a personal copy of photoshop or windows server. So I use The Gimp and Linux.

Now that I am searching for a solution in a corporate environment, needs change. The company will pay for whatever solution I choose.

In particular, I am looking for a future-proof replacement for a bunch of Oracle Forms and Reports. I was initially considering following Oracle’s recommended migration path – switching to Oracle Application Server using Oracle’s java Application Development Framework.
Until I saw the licensing and support costs…

For what we need, the cost is outrageous. The fact that we have to pay a full licensing cost for the dev and production environments is unreasonable.

So I have started looking into other free or Open Source alternatives. JBoss and Geronimo are the two main Open source app servers, but there is no clear winner, nor any decent comparisons other than pseudo-religious GPL vs Apache licensing debates. I need something that will be easy to manage and diagnose. As a relative Java newbie, ease of use is the most important feature.

If I choose a commercial solution, I will undoubtedly get some kind of support from the manufacturer. After having worked with Oracle’s Global support services for two years, I can confidently declare that it is not worth $8,800 / CPU / year (and that is just the database).

But if I choose an open-source solution, I am on my own if something breaks… sort-of.

Oracle’s database is robust and feature-packed, but not if you don’t have access to Metalink (Oracle’s paid support site). Following the publicly available documentation will often run you into bugs. For example, if you try to install Grid Control on a SuSE machine, it will invariably fail if you have any environment variables with spaces, semicolons, percents or other strange characters. This information is only available through Metalink.

Searching the internet will usually not get you any better info about Oracle, because all the support info is hidden in a very expensive support site.

In the case of Open Source software – such as MySQL – all that support information is on the internet. MySQL has a paid support site, but it is generally less useful than newsgroups or forums.

My point is that with commercial software, there isn’t much support on the internet because not as many people use it, and those that do only deal with the software vendor for support. Additionally, the software vendor may consider support proprietary information, and not allow it on the internet. The only option is to pay for support.

With Open Source software, most people look to the internet for support, therefore making most solutions available to the public free of charge.

I still have not made up my mind, but I believe that ultimately free software will provide a significant cost savings.