Which is worse: spam or bouncebacks from spam?

I don’t get much spam, usually. Through a combination of SpamAssassin on my email server and SpamSieve on my Mac, more or less everything stupid ends up deleted before it comes to me or stashed in my Junk folders in my various email programs.

Yesterday, however, some spammer somewhere decided he was going to send out spam emails using my domain name (the-word-is-not-enough.com). The spams aren’t going out from my server – they’re probably emanating from some botnet somewhere – but because there are now so many firewalls, invalid email addresses, authentication systems et al, I’m getting a load of messages as bouncebacks.

And when I say a load, I mean 3,800 in the last 24 hours.

Fortunately, I’m on fast broadband, have unlimited email storage (more or less) and have trained SpamSieve to simply junk the bouncebacks, rather than fill up my email inbox, so it’s not a huge problem. But it does mean that I’m not going to be able to even think about picking up emails remotely with my mobile phone or webmail any more until the spammer gets bored and moves on to another domain.

I could set up a load of rules on the server to filter the messages out, assuming I could find some sensible definitions that won’t stop me from getting any bounceback messages at all from any emails I send out.

But at the moment, I’m cheesed off!

UPDATE: Turns out setting out the rules was relatively simple, thanks to SpamSieve: all I did was check its log to see what things it was picking up on to exclude the bouncebacks, picked the guaranteed indicators of spaminess (a couple of IP addresses in Germany and a certain make of Outlook Express), then set up the corresponding rules on the server. Now, almost everything’s getting deleted before it comes to me. Fingers crossed I haven’t done something stupid that stops all mail inadvertently.

MT-MyBlogLog

I’ve created my first plug-in for Movable Type: MT-MyBlogLog. It allows users to include the MyBlogLog avatars for commenters to their blog without having to include the MyBlogLog widget. It works with both dynamic and static pages. You can get it from my site and there’s more about how I created it over on my technology blog.

Useful fan mail

Isn’t this nice?

Rob,

Your article in the Summer 2007 issue of .Net about Google Co-op was terrific, a real help to me. I was going to write a blog post about my experience getting a custom search engine up and running, and I wanted to link back to your article. But I can’t find a link online. Can you point me to one?

Curiously, though, I hadn’t realised the article had been published for a couple of reasons

  1. I wrote it in November last year
  2. I wrote it for Practical Web Design, not .net!

Still, it’s good that it’s seen the light of day, now that PWD has folded. And it’s good that I know it’s seen the light of day, too! The other missing article I wrote on Movable Type photo galleries has just been published, too, so that’s a double whammy from my informative correspondent. Thanks!

New scripts: Entourage Read Receipt

I’ve created a new package of scripts for Entourage X and Entourage 2004 users: Entourage Read Receipts.

Ever sent an email and wondered if it arrived? In this age of dodgy spam filters and abandoned email addresses, the disappearance of emails is a growing problem. Wouldn’t it be good if there were some way of finding out?

Fortunately, some clever people have already thought of a solution: the “Disposition-Notification-To” (DNT) email header. What does this do? If you add this, invisibly, to your email message, any compliant email program will send you back an email to tell you the message has been received or read.

Note the word “compliant” there. Unfortunately, Entourage X and 2004 – unlike their Windows-based cousin, Outlook – don’t have a facility for easily adding the DNT header to email messages, although you can configure any of your email accounts to add the header to every message you send out; they also ignore requests for “read receipts” in any incoming emails.

This is where this package of scripts comes in. Included is a script for detecting the DNT header in incoming messages and sending back a standards-compliant read receipt that includes both human and machine-readable notifications that you’ve received the message. There are also two scripts for adding the DNT header to your own outgoing messages: one that simply toggles the header on and off for each of your email accounts (if the account already has the DNT header it’s removed, without affecting any other headers you might have; if the account doesn’t yet have the DNT header, it’s added); and one that lets you pick which accounts you want the headers added to.

You can find out more and download the scripts from their home page.

Miami nice

Even when it’s a bit rainy, you have to admit Miami is still very pretty

The Doral Resort: a view over the golf course

Yes, I’m on another press trip.

Random acts of surprise

Friday evening, my wife and I were happily nipping round to my brother-in-law’s flat when we reached the corner of the road. What should happen next, but a car should hurl past at about 20mph and go flying off the road, down a grassy verge, through some trees and into the side of a building.

What was most surprising?

  1. That the driver didn’t seem to brake at any point
  2. That the five-month pregnant passenger and the driver got away almost unharmed, even though the front of the car was mashed in
  3. That when I ran into the reception of the nearby GP and told the receptionist that there had been a serious traffic accident outside involving a pregnant woman, she replied “Well, the doctors are all busy with patients right now”.

Did they have an appointment? Silly me.

I-visa done

Finally, it’s arrived. SMS delivered my passport with matching i-visa today. They didn’t text me, like they promised, but they did leave a note when they tried to deliver it last Friday and found I was out. Fortunately, I could use their lovely web site to reschedule a delivery for today – they even managed to miss all my interview times, which is a bonus with deliveries. The delivery guy was more interested in avoiding being clamped than asking for my ID, despite the great big “Identification required” sticker on the envelope, but you can’t have everything.

It looks the same as the last one, right down to the black-and-white photocopied passport photo look they gave that photo I’d spent ages trying to get. At least they’re consistent, hey?

Thankfully, I won’t have to do that again for another five years. Yey!

I-visa almost done

Finally, I’m almost there with the i-visa.

Yesterday, I made a brief trip to Passport Photo Service to get the much fabled 2“x2” photos of myself sorted out. The hardest part of that was finding the place: it’s nestled opposite Selfridge’s on Oxford Street, next door to Phones4u, I think.

You have to climb up 17 flights of stairs to get there, but once you’re in, everything’s very simple. You go in, say you’d like a US i-visa photo, they stick you on a chair, give you a minute and a mirror to prepare yourself, then take the photo. If you like it, they print out a couple (for £5.95; it’s £11.95 for four) and off you go. I reckon the whole process took about five minutes, including getting a receipt.

Today, though, was the date of the interview down at the US embassy. I set that up last week, so there’s clearly not much of a backlog.

At current exchange rates, the $100 fee for the visa interview will cost you £57 or so, but it’ll soon be heading towards a straight 1-1 $ to £ conversion by the time you’ve finished your premium rate call to set up the interview: looking at my recent Onetel bill, the call lasted seven minutes, for which I was charged £9.24.

The interview itself was remarkably easy. The hardest part was getting to Grosvenor Square by 8am. Read on for details of the interview itself.

Continue reading “I-visa almost done”

I-Visa photos

Finding somewhere that could take a 2“ by 2” photo for my i-visa is turning out to be harder than I thought. The specs for how the photo looks are quite precise and you’re not allowed to tinker with an existing photo to make it.

Anyway, I’ve just found a place on Oxford Street that takes them: Passport Photo Service, which is a couple of minutes from the Embassy. I’ll let you know how it works out when I get back from them tomorrow.