Hackers with a sense of humour, or at least a love of Chinese food

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A client asked me to check into a page on their web site that captures name and address registrations from users. The page is available to the public, and does not included a CAPTCHA. The form entries are saved into a database table, there were many entries clearly submitted by a bot over a period of time. Many of them had the address “3137 Laguna Street, San Francisco”, which presumably was just a piece of junk, the main prize was them adding a bunch of links off to dodgy web sites in a description field.

Out of idle curiosity I Googled the address. It’s a Chinese restaurant!

I bet the Syrian Electronic Army never leaves restaurant recommendations on the sites they attack 🙂

Smothered in the comforting embrace of our home wifi network


The screams from the furthest reaches of the house are muted at first, then build to a crescendo, and finally various household members’ heads pop around my study door – “Daaaaadd, the internet’s not working!”. Yup, you can tell the wifi is down in our house. Without wanting to create a shopping list for our neighbourhood burglars, at any given time there are upwards of twenty or more devices connected to our wifi networking including computers, phones, iPads, Apple TVs and televisions. There isn’t a single thing connected via ethernet wires anymore, just lots of gadgets floating on the Boyd-Eedle internet cloud. And boy does the world come to an end when that cloud evaporates in a puff of vapour.

Let’s take a quick inventory: me glued to my machine working; my loving partner plugging away on her book; our eldest simultaneously communing with her six best friends on social media whilst researching a homework task; our middle child wreaking havoc with his closest mate on Grand Theft Auto, every move planned while chatting over Facetime on his iPad; and finally the youngest trawling through an apparently endless chain of Hi-5 videos on YouTube – she’s a big fan of the Spanish-dubbed ones. Personally I find it hilarious watching Charlie and Nathan mouth ‘Hello’ on screen but say ‘Hola’.

Earlier this month we took to the road and stayed a week and a half in a holiday rental up in the high country, near one of the ski resorts. There was a complete absence of mobile phone reception inside the house, although if you wandered up the back garden, stood on one foot, and held your phone at a 22.45 degree angle to the event horizon one bar of coverage was possible, just enough to send a text, barely enough to pull down email headers, and definitely nowhere near sufficient to enable a wifi hotspot.

When we first arrived the kids gave me the impression we had just detoured into the depths of Mount Doom. I took pleasure from previous visitors’ entries in the guest book bemoaning the absence of internet access, my favourite was annotated with the scrawled riposte from the house’s owner “get over it”. My sentiments exactly, although my inability to read and deal with email led to reserving a day on our return to connected civilisation to chew through and handle the 150 emails that had accumulated in my inbox.

On the bright side, I read six books in ten days; played board games with my children; sat down to a home cooked meal every night with more people than just myself for company at the dinner table; and our son who brought a couple of teen friends, embarked on a backyard cricket competition worthy of Wide World of Sports coverage. Consequently  nobody had a chance to exceed their mobile data cap, a frequent and unwelcome occurrence in chez Boyd-Eedle – damn expensive too, the phone companies have finally given up taking us to the cleaners on wired internet data and focussed their rheumy eyes on the next price gouging frontier – mobile.

Between our ADSL and cable internet connections we have I think around 700Gb of data a month available, and despite Netflix being the television channel of choice, we never exceed the limit, even with my Orange is the New Black marathons. Now the telco parasites have latched onto wireless data like those annoying little ball of fur terriers incessantly humping your trouser leg, impossible to shake them loose. So an $80 a month mobile plan mystically morphs into $200 because Telstra charges $15 for a 1Gb data pack which, if they charged the same rate for our ADSL and cable internet, would lead to a bill of $10,500 a month by my calculations.

Arriving home from our holiday my children delivered their best impression of a dehydrated man crawling through sand towards a desert oasis, or maybe more suitably in my childrens’ lexicon, Kim Kardashian scrabbling towards the last TV camera in the world, as their various gadgets booted up and they were once again smothered in the comforting embrace of our home wifi network.

Oh and did I mention the kicker – no television signal either in our Faraday cage holiday hideaway. Just videos and DVDs. Note to self: I never ever want to see Disney’s Cinderella ever again.

If Kim Kardashian’s baby with Kanye West is called North West I’d improve my search engine rankings

If Kim Kardashian's baby with Kanye West is called North West I'd improve my search engine rankings

My random thought for the day was, if I stuff my blog post title with lots of interesting words and terms, just how many people would turn up. Sadly (perhaps promisingly) I did then have to go and check several key facts:

  • How to spell Kim Kardashian
  • Who her boyfriend is today
  • The name of Kim Kardashian’s baby (who calls their child North West? All that pops into my head is North By North West, a really rather good film from the late 1950s directed by Alfred Hitchcock).

Finally I had a quick look at the Google Trends site which gives you an idea of what lots of people are searching for at the moment. Today it turns out the top of the hit parade is:

  • NFL
  • Julius Thomas (had to look him up as well)
  • Anthony Weiner (will that man never give up?)

Which means I probably should write something like how I went to watch an NFL game with Anthony Weiner and Julius Thomas scored a goal/basket/point. Yes, just realised Thomas plays basketball and the NFL is American Football, but hey, who cares when you’re just a search engine traffic moll.



A blast from the past, apparently Peter Beattie is repeating the same online mistakes as 2004


Out of idle curiosity, because I have no better way to spend my days and it’s hard to avoid the ‘e’ word this week, I searched my blog for any mention of the word ‘election’. The earliest post I’ve written containing that word is from 15 January 2004 (yes, I’ve been writing stuff for way too long), and was a quick note that Peter Beattie, then Queensland Premier, had called a snap election ‘Queensland Labor Online‘.

This is the main part of the post:

“There was a minor hiccup this week when an enterprising activist registered peterbeattie.com and directed it to the rival Liberal web site, but this seems to have been altered and it now goes to the teambeattie, so someone has had a word to someone. Fascinating how the media blew it up as a hack attack. Nothing of the sort of course, just a piece of online activism, and serves Beattie for not spending the few extra bucks to register the domain in the first place.”

Again, because I have nothing else to do in my long idle days, I checked both the domains peterbeattie.com and teambeattie.com.

The former leads you to site of Peter Beattie “…internet entrepreneur, motorcycle junkie and world famous hardcore porn star. (one of those might be fake)”

The latter is now sitting on a domain park, and available for purchase from whoever owns it – which I can’t tell because WHOIS shows it’s registered behind one of the domain privacy companies.

Pretty surprised some enterprising Liberal hasn’t picked up on this and taken action. And even more surprised that ‘Team Beattie’ couldn’t be bothered to pay a few bucks to renew the domain. Then again Mr Beattie did say he’d never run for political office again after stepping down as Premier in 2007, so guess wasn’t top of his mind at the time.

I need to write more blog posts about SQL server and missing toolbars in Excel


I have absolutely no plan or strategy for my blog, it’s purely an entertainment and I write about whatever happens to be on my mind at the time – usually something I’ve seen or heard during the day, or encountered in my normal working life. I also tend to be something of a help desk for all sorts of contacts, plus I provide 24/7 tech support to my own household and extended family, an unpaid gig I need to point out (that’ll change come the revolution).

As a consequence I pay virtually no attention to any of my blog statistics, visitors, who reads what etc – because to be honest it’s not relevant.

Last October I moved my blog from Typepad to WordPress, and WordPress has a much, much better statistics system in-built, so I noticed I could easily check a list of the most read stories, here are the top 10:

Looping through records in SQL Server Stored Procedure 1,671
Missing Formula Bar in Excel (for Mac) 964
ASP Timeout expired error: Microsoft OLE DB Provider for SQL Server error ’80040e31′ 888
Solving ‘Login timeout expired’ Problem on Windows Server 2008 419
Drag and Drop stops working on Mac Lion 163
How to host IIS7 web site on Mac OSX folder via Parallels 128
Cricket Scoring Signals and Symbols 103
No honey, actually it’s NOT my speeding fine. Google Location History – bit creepy, pretty useful 82
SQL Server mqSQL “Commands out of sync; you can’t run this command now” 66
How to refresh Facebook’s cache of your blog post when you update 55

The problem is, if I followed traditional blogger convention I should be analysing all this and zeroing in on what my audience wants. Apparently, people REALLY want to know how to loop through a set of records in a SQL Server stored procedure (you know you want to as well….). And a way to recover a missing toolbar in a now old version of Excel.

I hate to disappoint you, but the reason I write most of these more ‘geeky’ posts is actually to act as a reminder for me, so the next time I encounter the issue I can look back and check how I solved the problem last time – kind of my own knowledge base you might say.

Video: Wangaratta beer fridge animation

I received a lovely email overnight from the guys at TomoNews US – they’re part of Next Media Animation, the company that makes the fun Taiwanese animations.

They noticed my blog post about the beer fridge in Wangaratta interferring with the mobile phone network, they’ve made a cute video about the story!


Please help Newt Gingrich name his hand-held computer (hint, smartphone)

Apparently Newt Gringrich, the prominent US politician, is trying to keep up with the times. In this priceless video posted on YouTube the other day Newt muses over a conundrum apparently keeping everyone up at night over at Gingrich Productions. Gingrich Productions is, incidentally, “a performance and production company featuring the work of Newt Gingrich and Callista Gingrich”. One naturally presumes as a ‘production company’ some involvement with technology and communications equipment.

Yes, Newt is seriously discussing what to call a smartphone – by which I mean it seems he has never heard the word ‘smartphone’ and instead is asking viewers to come up with suggestions of what to name this new-fangled multi-purpose device. His best idea so far is ‘hand-held computer’.

Curiously, in an interview with The Weekly Standard the interviewer asserts:

“it’s clear that Newt is fascinated by tipping points–moments where new technology or new ideas cause revolutionary change in the way the world works.”

It seems Newt hasn’t been keeping up. Perhaps he’s been too busy reviewing books on Amazon. Fun fact of the day, despite his day jobs, including a stint as Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Newt is, wait for it, a Top Reviewer on Amazon.

Google thinks I’m the spitting image of Zach Galifianakis


Apparently the ability to search Google Images using an image you upload has been around for a couple of years, I only fell over it today by accident.

Go to Google Images and click the camera icon at the right hand end of the search box. You will be prompted to upload an image, and Google will then search for images in its index that match.

I searched using the image above – it’s a studio shot taken for an investment prospectus a few years ago. Lo and behold it found a list of pages that include that image, and then gave me a list of “visually similar images”. Which is when things turned a little scary:

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Apparently I look similar to a bunch of Korean nuclear scientists, plus at least two chaps  named Christian.

For fun I tried with the charcoal sketch I use as an avatar on most sites:

charcoal cleaned up small

Here’s where I struck gold.

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Check out the first image on the bottom row. Google thinks I look like Abraham Lincoln. Most importantly note the middle image on the bottom row.


Yup, you got it right, Google reckons I’m the spitting image of Zach Galifianakis.


Turns out I’ve been scuppered by my complete lack of celebrity knowledge, apparently the image is of Bradley Cooper, it’s just that Google Images showed me the name “Zach Galifianakis” when I rolled my mouse over. So that’s who I presumed it was. Clearly I’ll never make an entertainment reporter on the E! network.


Caught out by my own child over an Aston Martin


After nearly 16 years as a parent I really should know better, but clearly I never learn. My son knows full well I covet a Maserati, as a fall-back an Aston Martin would suffice. I’m constantly buying lottery and sweepstakes tickets where one of the prizes is a car such as this.

From time to time, like many parents, I have been known to lament to my children that if it wasn’t for them, I’d be retired and living on my tropical island, and tooling around in an extremely expensive motor vehicle.

This desire is made all the harder by our neighbour over the road, who often parks his Maserati in the drive way, straight in my eyeline as I walk out our front gate. Of course, the Maserati lives in the driveway because all the space in his garage is taken up with his Ferrari. That’s what comes from living in a ‘nice’ suburb.

And with the text message above my 12 year old now clearly believes you can have your cake and eat it too.

An Australian in San Francisco, translation guide

Each time I arrive in the USA I try to mentally unplug my Australian English dictionary, and insert the USA English cartridge. Whilst I’m sure my American friends find my accent charming (well, the woman who cut my hair, and the checkout chick at Safeway certainly said they “luurve my accent”) on occasion I just plain confuse the locals.

I continue to refuse to spell words using ‘Z’, or drop my ‘U’s when writing, even when producing work-related documents where the primary audience is American. Need a little subversion here and there. And that’s despite me working with HTML code a lot, which is firmly USA – ‘centre’ is ‘center’ and so forth. Which reminds me, I was standing outside an office building one day in San Francisco, named the ‘something something centre’. I pointed out, tongue in cheek, to my American friend how pleasant it was to see the word spelt right – to which he replied the owners probably wanted to make the building sound ‘fancy’! So there you are, ‘centre’ is fancy, ‘center’ is not.

There are many websites offering Australian <-> American translations or word equivalents. Here are the ones that confuse my US friends if I forget the mental dictionary change.

  • American leaves fall off trees in Fall. Australian leaves wait for Autumn
  • Americans plug things into power strips. Australians plug things into power boards.
  • Americans buy Advil at the drug store. Australians buy Panadol from the pharmacy.
  • Americans eat their entrees after their starters. Australians eat their entrees before their mains.
  • Americans cook with cilantro. Australians cook with coriander.
  • American babies poop in diapers. Australian babies poo in nappies.
  • Americans wear their thongs on/in their bum. Australians wear their thongs on their feet.
  • Americans use the restroom. Australians use the toilet.
  • Americans lounge around in tracksuit pants. Australians lounge around in trakky dacks.
  • Americans wear their fannies at the back. Australians wear their fannies at the front
  • Americans go up in elevators. Australians go up in lifts
  • Americans use bathroom paper. Australians use toilet paper
  • Americans walk on sidewalks. Australians walk on pavements
  • Americans open trunks. Australians open boots
  • Americans buy gas. Australians buy petrol.
  • Americans drive pickups. Australians drive utes.
  • Americans root for their sporting teams. Australians root their…..hmm, perhaps we should stop here 🙂

Image: tedeytan