Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Building a Better Beast

I mentioned awhile back that I’d built a new computer and would write more about it. Now that the origin of the post is dispensed with, on to the actual content! It is going to be long – consider yourself warned. This post is for the casual tech geeks out there and won’t be as in-depth as individual reviews would be. However, it will still be a bit much for those not technically inclined.

The Beast 02

The titular beast with all the main components installed before the first power on. It’s a mess before cable rerouting was done. These days it is slightly less messy.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Slow But Fast Moving Sunday

Today has not been a good day thank to freakishly cold weather upping my pain and a digestive system that decided to get out of sorts. Sharp changes in temperature and weather fronts in general cause my allergies to flare up too, so it is a multiple pronged attack on my health.

So today there was no going to church to spiritually recharge and that is one sure way to ruin a Sunday for me. Next Sunday better be healthier, I’ve got a class on genealogy starting then that I’ve been looking forward to. Twitchy sinuses and extreme tiredness have shifted my brain into lowest gear which means I’m plodding along dully through whatever I attempt. Even so, it is 3:00 PM and I’m not sure what has happened to the day.

Tomorrow is going to be more of a Monday than usual since it is time to fill out reviews for assistance again. While not as burdensome as forms used to be, every time I do this it reminds me of that I’m not even a fifth of a normal person. Why a fifth? You have to be below 20% of functionality to qualify in the state of Minnesota.

I believe the old phrase “adding insult to injury” applies here.

Meanwhile, I’ve got another movie review to write this week. The old rotation of  Godzilla/Studio Ghibli/Marx Brothers/random has slowed down and will be changing a bit. Godzilla movies already expanded into kaiju flicks and Millennium Actress marks the beginning of my widening the Ghibli focus further to include animated films of all kinds, East and West. So now the Marx Brothers slot in the rotation will become a classics category.

The reason for that is I’ve discovered just how old some of the films I like have become. Black and white films are no longer fifty years ago, but closer to seventy so a lot of color films now count as classics. Anything pre-1975 can be classified as a classic in my opinion.

So next up to review is something falling under classics. Hints include: Technicolor, leeches, and a director looking to regain his reputation after being suspected of un-American leanings.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Change of Pace: Porn Spam

It’s been awhile since porn site referral spam showed up and today a false Blogger referral showed up from http: // asian . erolove . in / The title gives away the content right away, so don’t expect screen captures. A simple rule is that anything that has “love” or “ero” is going to feature pornographic material.

Strange as it may sound given my disapproval of pornography, this was almost nostalgic because I remember when porn spam and letters from Nigeria asking for banking help were the norm. These days weight loss and get rich quick schemes dominate with attempts to sell pharmaceutical products right behind.

One of the most bizarre things I’ve run into has been the flood of email spam from a Canadian pharmacy trying to sell Viagra and similar products.

“That doesn’t sound bizarre” you say thinking about your email account’s junk filter. What made it strange is that it posed as a lot of different things in the titles including weight loss, celebrity scandal information, and -- porn. It used to be the porn masquerading as something else! We live in a bizarre world.

Don’t click the referral!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Failure to Load a Spam Site

While I post about referral spam as a form of public service, I sometimes get sites that won’t load right in my Linux based virtual machine. I can’t tell if the error is due incompatibilities or attempted shenanigans by the spam site.

http: // ceae2122 . dyo . gs / is once such site that appeared in my Blogger stats today. It goes straight to LinkBucks and is supposed to be a video. When I clicked on the video it wanted me to update my video player.

ceae2122 spam 01ceae2122 spam 02

It looks like an ad before the actual destination, but curiosity led me to see what would happen if I clicked the button. First came instructions and then it got interesting:

ceae2122 spam 03

It wanted me to download and install a customized version of VLC player. Being very familiar with that software, I recognized that isn’t the real release file. Not being interested in cleaning up an infection when I haven’t even gotten to the final destination, I canceled that.

So where did clicking “skip this ad” end up taking me?

ceae2122 spam 04

Well that’s disappointing. I have no clue what it was supposed to be thanks to the server error. It could be a missing destination for all I know.

LinkBucks is a very shady bunch and to be avoided like the bubonic plague anyway. Don’t click on anything going to them!

I really need to get ReactOS or WindowsXP running in a virtual machine for some of these investigations.

Comment Spam in the E-mail

The experiment with removing bot checks from commenting continues and so does the spam in my email account. Always posing as an anonymous commenter, it only shows up in my Gmail account but not in Blogger. So at least some of the filters are working. That’s the only silver lining since I have to check each email out.

Once again it is time to fire up the virtual machine with Ubuntu on it to do some investigating. Here are some examples and where the links lead to:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)":
Cygiefiania xaikalitag icergeallonia [ url = http: // usillumaror . com ] iziananatt [ /url ] Juicillenna http: // gussannghor . com EnedonoMory

The first link is embedded in xaikalitag and is ww2 . wikaswieier . com which throws up an error message. The secong link gets the same result.

Gussanghor spam

The third time is the charm and we get to see a fake search engine made to mine money from click referrals.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Millennium Actress (2001) Review

Spirited Away wasn’t the only brilliant anime movie to come out of Japan in 2001 though it is the one everybody has heard of. While not as famous, this movie meant for adults is every bit the equal of anything Studio Ghibli has put out. Depicting the life of one actress from the tender age of ten to her seventies, it’s use of flashbacks that blur the line between film and reality make for a wildly inventive film. Incredibly vivid animation, a stellar score, and a terrific story make this a must see.

Millennium Actress Title

Most people associate animated movies with fantasy or comedic stories aimed at children. If you mention “anime” you will most likely will draw a blank look. If they have even heard of the term, the stereotype of kids using balls to summon monsters prevails. Mention something like Spirited Away and finally something positive will be said since it is the most well known anime movie in the United States. The whole concept of an anime movie telling a story aimed at adults never enters the picture.

As a result, people miss gems such as Millennium Actress rather easily. A mix of comedy, drama, and a touch of romance using the history of 20th Century Japanese filmmaking as a backdrop, this lovely movie is not for kids. No, this movie is for those who have lived long enough to have known success and heartbreak. It is also for fans of movies, period.

Millennium Actress IntroMillennium Actress Genya Tachibana

First impressions can be everything, especially with a movie. The film opens in somewhat surprising fashion with a scene that could have been out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A moon base is the setting with a woman determined to launch in a spaceship for a solo voyage despite the protestations of a man. Her stubbornness is fueled by a desire to fulfill a promise to another man.

Did I wander into a science fiction story by mistake? This certainly wasn’t what I expected from the description at Netflix way back when I first rented it.

A sudden pause of the scene reveals that it is a movie being watched by a middle aged man. Genya Tachibana (Shozo Izuka) is a fan of the actress, perhaps her greatest fan. Interrupted by an earthquake, he is notified by his assistant/camera man that it is time to leave and get to work.

Flashes of one woman’s life go by, first in black and white then color, as the videotape is fast forwarded. Not only is it an artistic way to start the credits, it helps explain the unusual introduction. Tachibana is making a documentary for the 70th anniversary of Ginei Studios and a certain actress was at the heart of their productions for decades.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Man of Steel Sequel Announced

Starring Batman!

No, I’m not joking. Superman/Batman is going to be made with the cast from Man of Steel returning and a Batman yet to be cast. Filming is set to begin next year and the movie released in 2015.

From the hint given, it sounds like the hero with two fathers will be facing off against the hero with no father. Plenty of inherent drama in that alone, but it will be their conflicting approaches to crime fighting that will drive the movie, I suspect.

I know the actor who should play Batman, but we’ll see how casting actually goes. After watching Man of Steel, I wondered how they could possibly top the events in that for a sequel. Well, this could do it.

Time for Some Polish Comment Spam

One of the best reasons to enable Recaptcha aka the oddly colored and jumbled letters in the comments form is the fact you will very quickly see spam show up in your comments if you don’t. I moderate every post and had done this to save time though it does stop real people from commenting due to frustration deciphering the text.

To make it easier for people to post, I disabled the Turing test last night. At 2:17 AM this morning, the following arrived in my mailbox (edited to defeat autolinking):

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Godzilla vs Biollante (1989)":
[ url = http : // www . page1 . pl] pozycjonowanie [/ url ]

Needless to say, that looked suspicious sort of like a masked man robbing a bank does. Firing up the trusty virtual Ubuntu machine, I investigated the link which led to a very professional looking site put up by a company called Arteria.

page1 spam 01page1 spam 02

It’s a rather large page involving a lot of scrolling, so I present only the top and bottom of the content. I’ve edited out the actual contact information which includes an address in Krakow, Poland.

Courtesy of Google Translate, the opening text in English:

page1 spam 03

As you have probably guessed, they are selling something. In this case, SEO optimization and placement. What’s SEO? Search Engine Optimization. That’s why they are spamming websites, hoping to get someone wanting higher traffic to pay them for their services.

If you are a webmaster or blog owner, do not click on this and feed their shady practices.

UPDATE: Turns out I missed another comment spam from a mere hour or two after I disabled the robot check. What’s hilarious here is that the link goes to a page that no longer exists:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)":
When some one searches for his essential thing, so he/she wants to be available that in detail, thus that thing is maintained over here.
My weblog: southwest florida art galleries

atlcurling . info / wiki / index.php?title = User: JZFLourde

Once these spambots are set loose they seem to keep going long after the site is dead. I wonder how much zombie spam is out there?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Referral Spam Overload

Updated 15 July 2013 with screen captures and testing Tor for browsing.

A very quick post; referral spam went nuts the past 24 hours on the blog totalling 35 hits. The culprits:

adsensewatchdog . com

adsensewatchdog spam 01

This is what it looks like without Tor and NoScript. A wide index of terms so they get hits. Just another fake search engine riding the real ones to get traffic and money for pages served.

adsensewatchdog spam 02

With Tor (an untrackable browser) and NoScript it looks completely different. Fancier parked graphics and no links.

Running on Less than Empty

The problem with having CFS/CFIDS is that you never have enough energy and if you do have any it expends quickly with little rebound. I write “little” because if there was none, you’d be dead. Instead returning energy trickles in at glacial rate. Add in being a type A personality and it becomes a recipe for running one’s self into the ground the moment you have any energy.

This month of July has been a tough one of burning up energy and crashing repeatedly with each crash harder than the prior one. It began with family visiting and being on maximum output through the first week. Somehow I made it through that with only a small lapse into a bronchial infection that cleared up after two days.

Spam and an Apparent Pyramid Scheme

Commenter Charlotte gave a heads up that a new spammer has shown up in Bloggers stats so I checked it out several days ago. I didn’t get the spam myself and wasn’t feeling the love from referral spammers. Then the last 24 hours produced 22 spam hits of various kinds including the new one awsurveys . com / ?R=1070526 which showed up seven times. I guess they still love me. Is this what they call “bad love”? UPDATED with another link being used and a shady service connected to it.

AWSurveys Spam 01

So I fired up my virtual PC and checked out the link. Remember folks, don’t try this yourself! Clicking on referral link spam can cause any number of problems including getting you computer infected with malware.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pacific Rim Short In-Theater Review

Giant robots bashing giant monsters using the latest in state of the art computer generated special effects. What could possibly go wrong?

Nothing actually. The movie was my most eagerly awaited of the year due to being a fan of kaiju and giant robots since childhood. I didn’t expect anything brilliant but did fear a turkey that would ruin any chance at the genre getting a fair shake in Hollywood again. I won’t say my fears were unfounded, however it is a simple fact that Pacific Rim is a good movie.

The director, Guillermo del Toro, is on record as wanting the movie to be something airy and light, not something brooding or contemplating the human condition. Frankly, if he thinks this story was airy I worry about what he thinks is dark. While clearly an action movie first and foremost, it is pretty grim from the start.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Old Spam Is Still Indigestible

Getting back to posting reviews is turning out to be harder than I expected and the new rounds of referral spam have taken up time meant for writing on other topics. The latest to hit by Blogger stats is from newsuc . com and according to DuckDuckGo it is a parked domain which means no real content is hosted there. The page showing up from this dedicated to spamming site is newsuc . com / blog / blog1 . php / 2009 / 07 / 20 /giant-quake-tsunami though there are several others at the site.

newsuc spam 01

I fired up my virtual machine (VM) running Ubuntu for safe investigation of the site and to take screen captures. Remember, don’t click on the links from newsuc! What I found looked like a real blog, if out of date by three years. But why would they be linking me now?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Tricky Bit of Spam

Spammers apparently never sleep and so it isn’t long before a new referral spam hits Blogger or an old one appears under a new link.  This particular one is a new one to me and came in as t . co / 1kXhhiBfBE using a shortened Twitter link. So what is it really?

Screenshot - 7_11_2013 , 8_49_44 AM

A misogynistic offer to teach men how to seduce women. Apparently it is a video and the format looks all too familiar. The content is different, but I never did see the presentation due to this:

Screenshot - 7_11_2013 , 8_52_25 AM

Firefox on Ubuntu failed to install when the camera icon was clicked on. Children don’t try this at home! Digging into the page source code revealed the video link claims to be in SWF format but as you can see, nothing happened. If it is malicious code aimed at Windows, it found the wrong operating system to play with.

Screenshot - 7_11_2013 , 8_54_31 AM

Finally, when you try to close or back out of the page, the javascript launches this appeal to the profoundly desperate. I’m sad to say this will actually work on some guys.

UPDATED: This is now coming in as a full address, thetaoofbadass . pw / ?a_aid=517d032416eac which makes it seem even more silly.

Looking at the source code (with no expertise on my part) was revealing in that this appears to be a prefabricated template complete with instructions. A talented coder will glean a lot more than I did, but it shows just how polished the malware and spam pushing has gotten. It is all very professional now and it seems that the weight loss spam used the same form.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

One Week Later: Scars of the Flood

A sunny July 1st provided an opportunity to get a close up look at two places in the Yucatan Valley heavily damaged by the flooding on June 23rd. First up is the bridge at the junction of County 4 and Hwy 76 which was the object of much government concern during the flood.

Flood Damage 01Flood Damage 04

All the waters funneled to this location during the flood and exerted more force than I saw elsewhere. Approaching the bridge from County 4, you can see a damaged field and water left behind. The bank has been carved out more and there is an object sticking out of the ground with a plastic bag over it.

No, it isn’t debris. That’s a fiber optic cable that was severed by the flooding. It actually goes under the creek rather than on the bridge. Why was this done? To avoid being damaged by flooding. Best laid plans of mice and men…

Flood Damage 05Flood Damage 06

It isn’t until you crest the hill to make the turn that the dramatic view is seen. A vast cornfield has been obliterated leaving sand and trees behind. The tractor path down reveals the wasteland that used to be very fertile soil with young corn plants growing in it.

Monday, July 08, 2013

The Day After the Flood

Floods do a lot of damage and the full extent of it doesn’t show up until after the water recedes. With that in mind, I went out and took some videos of the damage in the Yucatan Valley and near Houston, MN. Between building a new computer and family visiting, I didn’t get a chance to post what I’d shot.

Here it is at last:

After the Flood

Notice the Ace Communications trucks clustered at the Yucatan town hall. Amazing as it seems, we never lost the Internet during the flood. Others were not so lucky and also had their phone lines out. I used transitions to mark where we traveled on different roads. Okay, it was an excuse to use transitions, I confess.

In order to stitch things together and remove the sound, I ended up having to buy software for the task, Corel VideoStudio Pro. This is my first attempt with it and also using YouTube to host. One of these days I’ll get something that can record better than 480P, but not anytime soon.

Better Pictures of the 2013 Yucatan Flood

All photos are courtesy of Randy Roland, neighbor and friend. Most of the following pictures were taken around 10:00 AM and show some differences from the 5:00 AM ones that I took.

Yucatan Flood RR01Yucatan Flood RR02

Once again we start close to home at the intersection where the old Yucatan Supper Club once operated. Water has never stood in the area shown despite prior floods and heavy rains.

Yucatan Flood RR03Yucatan Flood RR04

Creamery Drive was still under five hours after first light. The new bridge held up well but the water simply went over the road in front and behind. It shows man’s limitations in dealing with the weather in a rather pointed fashion.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Going for the Hat Trick

I said I wouldn’t build or buy a new computer until it was possible to get three times the performance of my upgraded old warhorse. Opportunity came knocking and initial results are in…


Benchmarks were not done under perfectly clean circumstances because I wanted something closer to real world performance reflected. Dropbox and other utilities were running at the time. Also, the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 actually performs better now once I found the hardware fan settings were too low. Setting a new software profile changed its performance a great deal so it would be a full five stars now.

Benchmarks increased by the following multipliers:

  • Passmark Rating 3.57
  • CPU Mark 2.95
  • 2D Graphics Mark 2.11
  • 3D Graphics Mark 2.56
  • Memory Mark 3.74
  • Disk Mark 8.27

The focus was on CPU and memory speed rather than gaming benches since I consider myself a power user foremost. Video and image editing is incredibly fast now. Games are through the roof, of course, but less impressive than the multitasking boost.

I’ll post more about the build down the road a bit.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Slowing Down for the Holiday

With Independence Day coming up I’m slowing my posting down. House cleaning for company and wrapping up a technical project are consuming what energy I have. If time and health permit, I’ll get more photos of the flood and its aftermath up. Notes for a movie review are completed so that is in the pipeline. Eventually I’ll post about the technical project, which is going extremely well.

Also, I want to get outside a little since the weather has turned into something nearing perfect with sunlight, no rain, temperatures in the lower 80’s, no rain, cool nights, no rain, and most importantly, no rain.