Fighting Spam

Operating your own website or blog, you will soon realize lots of comments with nonsense content and embedded links to obscure websites. These are comment spammers making your life difficult. Everyday you have to clean up or moderate all comments. In the past I used a wordpress plugin “spam free wordpress” to protect my blog, and for long time it was working fine without any problems. Writing a comment to my postings, you were asked to copy and paste a password from one to another field in the comment form. Suddenly it was not working any longer, and I found out that the developer changed his policy: I have to pay a license fee. Maybe I also should change my policy, and ask for a license fee to download my AHP excel template? So I was searching for a new free plugin. I installed SI Captcha Anti-Spam from Mike Challis, but still spam comments were coming through. So I enabled the honeypot spambot trap and it seems to work.

What is a honey pot spambot trap?

I learned some new things about spam, and also found an interesting project “Project Honey Pot” on the web. There you can find out more about harvesters, spammers, dictionary attackers and honey pots. You can participate in the project, install a honey pot or implement a quick link to fight spam. A honey pot is a – for humans invisible – link to a dynamic website providing “fake” e-mail addresses and forms for spam programs. If the form is submitted or an e-mail sent to one of addresses provided there, then you can be sure it is a spammer and record/block his IP address. Here an example of a quick link (opens in a separate window, don’t submit.) Usually this link is hidden -only visible for bots, spider programs etc.

Project Honey Pot also provides a useful service HTTP Blacklist to check IPs against a list of known harvesters, comment spammers, and other suspicious visitors to websites.

Now I can monitor  suspicious activities on my website: within only two days I could see more than 100 attacks!

List of recent suspicious visitors listed in project honeypot.

Check your own IP address.

Video Editing Workflow – Canon XA-10

Source

Camera settings depend on the type of recorded video. The Canon XA-10 has only two full HD (1920×1080) recording modes: FXP and MXP. Based on these, most of my videos are recorded in FXP mode as it is a good trade-off between quality and file size.

Recording Modes of Canon XA-10

Edit and Archive

For video editing I use Adobe Premier Elements 10. Editing is done without changing codec (H264), resolution, interlacing, etc. As I have the PAL version of the XA-10, the Adobe project settings are AVCHD Full HD 1080i 25 under PAL. Once the video is edited, I  render the clip with the highest quality settings (2 Pass VBR, Render at max. depth, Macro block Adaptive Frame-Field Coding), and a maximum bitrate corresponding to the source (FXP: 17 Mbps) for archiving. In Adobe Premier Elements 10 and for XA-10 FXP mode the settings are:

Archive settings in Adobe Premier Elements 10 for XA-10 FXP mode

Target Media

Depending on the target media the clip to be published is adjusted in codec, resolution etc. I have predefined settings for:

  • Standard clips to be watched on a PC:
    MP4 – PAL DV Widescreen SD – HiQ (576p, VBR 3/6 MBps)
  • Tablet/phones:
    MP4 – PAL DV Widescreen SD – LoQ (576p, VBR 1.3/2.6 Mbps)
  • Youtube as basic HD clip:
    MP4 – HD 720p 25 (720p, VBR 2.5/5 Mbps)

Calculation of Video Bitrates in Excel

I use a simple excel template to calculate the bitrate for the target medium. As input you simply select:

  • Codec (H264, MPEG-2)
  • Standard (PAL, NTSC, FILM)
  • Definition (VCD, SD, HD 720, HD, full HD)
  • Channel (PC/Web, Disk/TV)
  • Action/Motion (low, normal, medium, high)

and as a result you get the recommended bitrate for rendering your video clip.

Comments and feedback are welcome!

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How to extend the AHP Excel Template for more Participants?

As I received many requests to extend the number of participants in my AHP excel template, here a short information how to use it for more than 20 participants. There are two possibilities

  • Use my AHP online Software.
  • Use several templates, each  of them for up to 20 participants, and then combine the consolidated results in an additional summary template.
  • Modify the template.

As the template is quite complex, I strongly recommend to use the first possibility. But if you really want to modify the template itself, follow the step-by-step instruction below. This instruction does not include the AHP consensus indicator calculation.

  1. Unprotect sheet In20; create a copy of the sheet In20 and rename to In21.
  2. Go to “Formulas – Name Manager” and delete name Matrix20 with scope In21.
    Mark matrix cells of the decision matrix in In21 (C79:L88), and define new name Matrix21 with scope workbook.
    Go to Sheet multInp, unprotect sheet. Add additional matrix, e.g. copy/paste from matrix 20 (2 matrices per rows, same structure as for matrix 1-10).
    Mark content cells of new matrix and define new name “m_p21
    Set it {=Matrix21} ( {} = array function, see below).
    Mark the consolidated matrix (B9:K18), and modify the formula
    {=(M9:V18*B22:K31* …*B74:K83)^(1/N4)} to include the added participant’s matrix.
  3. Go to sheet Summary, unprotect sheet.
    Mark matrix starting at line 38, and add new matrix m_p11 in the formula: {=IF(p_sel>0;CHOOSE(p_sel; m_p1; m_p2; … ; m_p20; m_p21);MatrixC)}.
    Select field C7 (number of participants). Menu “Data – Data Validation”:
    change range from 1 to 20 to 1 to 21.
  4. Continue in the same way for additional participants.

Note:  {} is the Excel array function: mark cell area, and use Ctrl-Shift-Enter.

All matrices in the input sheets are named Matrixn, n = 1 to max. number of participants. (Matrix1, Matrix2, etc.)
The matrices in the multInp sheet are named “m_pn” (m_p1, m_p2, etc.)

Making your wordpress blog more secure

You find the individual steps easily in a web search. Most critical is the change of SQL table prefixes. I did it manually using phpMyAdmin. When finished, no link was working any longer. Reason: permalinks were set to %postname%. After switching first to default and then back to %postname% everything was fine.

I also struggled with the password protection. Inportant: add the line ErrorDocument 401 default, otherwise you might always get the “page not found” message.

Steps to do:

  • Move config.php file one directory above wordpress installation directory
  • Remove admin user
    (create new user with full rights and delete old user)
  • Protect wp-admin and wp-includes directories
    (read for owner and group only = 751)
  • Hide wordpress version and login error messages
    Add in functions.php (in your ChildTheme directory):
    <?php remove_action(‘wp_head’, ‘wp_generator’);
    add_filter(‘login_errors’,create_function(‘$a’,”return null;”)); ?>
  • Delete readme.html file from web root directory
  • Password protect wp-admin directory (I used CPanel to create .htaccess).
    Modify .htaccess file in wp-admin – add:
    ErrorDocument 401 default
  • Modify .htaccess file in web root:
    <IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteBase /
    RewriteRule ^index\.php$ – [L]
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
    RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
    </IfModule>
  • SQL: change prefixes of database tables from
    “wp_”  to “new_prefix_”

10 business e-mails you shouldn’t send (CNN)

See also my post Writing E-mails

Imagine a tiny boat afloat on a thrashing sea, water pouring through a gaping hole in the hull.

A sailor is frantically bailing dark, angry water, but no matter how much he scoops, the water line never seems to recede — more waves just pummel him in the face like a particularly insecure middle-school bully.

That, my friends, is our metaphor for the average worker’s e-mail inbox.

Yeah, we know, there are tons of new communication technologies out there, but e-mail still reigns supreme in the worker realm: A recent study even shows that e-mail eats up the most mobile time among Americans.

Which is why we think it’s high time to outline some of the most annoying practices when it comes to business e-mails — practices that might make your compatriots drown themselves in frustration.

Read on to avoid making these 10 mistakes:

1. “YELLING”

Ever get an e-mail like this?

Subject line: MY CLIENT URGENTLY NEEDS TO SPEAK WITH YOU!

Hot tip: When you type in all caps, you’re basically likening yourself to those crazy dudes who yell about the End Times on the subway (who are perhaps a bit subdued at present). Yeah, no one wants to talk to you.

2. Going all kindergarten with your fonts

Remember when LeBron James spurned the Cleveland Cavaliers and joined forces with the Miami Heat, prompting Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to pen a long letter on the team website tearing into James?

Remember what font Gilbert used? That’s right, Comic Sans — aka “The Great Underminer.” Stick to Helvetica, folks, and people will remember your sentiment instead of your poor choice of typeface. (To say nothing of pink fonts and Word Art-like signatures splashed across floral graphics.)

3. Misnomers

Unless you are supremely stupid, senile or illiterate, there is no real excuse for getting a business contact’s name wrong, because it’s right there in his/her e-mail address. Consider this cautionary tale.

If you’re prone to typos, well, then, that’s what copy-paste is for.

4. Emoticons

As we have stated in the past — back when we called for a brief break from the smiley — emoticons have reached “STD-like proportions since their inception, spreading from one person to another like particularly expressive herpes.”

OK, we can see the necessity of using a placating “smiley” in an e-mail to a contact who might need a spoonful of sugar to make the “your idea sucks” medicine go down. But nix emoticons from any initial e-mails with new contacts.

5. Overly informal greetings

“Helloz Sar-Sar! Imma tell you about a super rad product that, let’s face it, all of us gurlz should totally peep if you have a burnin’ hot love life but want to avoid burnin’ hot other things (you know what I’m talkin’ about!).”

No one has a strong enough stomach to deal with epistles of this sort on a daily basis. Save the LOLCat speech for when you’re old and gray and shooting off adorable, kitten-packed e-mails to your grumbling grandkids. They can’t fire you for being obnoxious.

6. Rambling

Allow me to narrate the internal dialogue of the average desk-bound minion: “Spreadsheets sure have a lot of lines… I’m hungry… I hope no one notices this hickey that Joe from accounting gave me after Happy Hour last night…. I’m hungry… Look! There’s a blue bird outside and it cocked its head at me!”

Get to the point. You have approximately three sentences to cut through said desk worker’s mental clutter before she — Oh, someone sent me a video of a dog hugging a turtle!

7. Unclear subject lines

Do you have important news? Then, by all means, say so in your subject line. Hiding a vital correspondence behind a “Subject Line: Hey” is not doing anyone any favors — except for your competition.

8. Sending too many e-mails in a row

You probably spend, oh, 20 hours per day glued to some form of computer-esque device (soon the machines will destroy us all), which means that when you don’t receive an immediate response to your e-mail, it’s possible to, well overreact — much like a clingy lover waiting for an answer on that “Dinner tonight, then a different kind of spooning?” text.

Don’t be a desperate loser. Wait at least 24 hours before sending a follow-up e-mail, unless it’s an emergency, in which case there’s this handy thing called the phone or, you know, the five-second walk over to your co-worker’s desk. Yeah, we know, real life communications are hard.

9. Clip art

I imagine most of you are intelligent enough to figure out why this is not OK.

10. Not using the right method of contact

Never message a business contact on Facebook. Seriously. Why? Because Facebook is where you go to look at pictures of people from high school when you’re drunk — there’s even a plug-in to prevent you from ruining your social media life whilst whiskey-soaked.

Sending a business-oriented message via Facebook is like wandering into a debauched party and expecting everyone to listen to you when you start talking about sales figures.

If you’re having issues finding someone’s professional contact info, sure, send him/her a message on Facebook or Twitter asking them for that info, but don’t carry on a whole convo right then and there.

Unless you’re looking for dirt on said contact, in which case be sure to send the ol’ message at around 4 a.m., when his defenses are down.

By Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich, Special to CNN

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Writing E-mails

WritingSkills
© zettberlin, www.photocase.com

Extract from my book “Technical Writing Skills for Engineers; A practical guide for students, engineers and other professionals writing or reviewing technical documents“, Chapter VII. Tips and More; © Klaus D. Goepel, 2006 – Picture: © zettberlin, www.photocase.com

E-mails are probably the most often utilized, but informal written documents. In today’s information age they are used extensively for all kinds of communications. As they are much more informal, spelling, grammar, punctuation and wording are not as important as in formal documents. Nevertheless, many of the principles described in the previous sections should be applied to e-mails. How you use e-mails is a question of politeness, and it will show your respect for your e-mail addressee.

Continue reading Writing E-mails