We should call it Treet

I really love SPAM. Spam musubi, spam & eggs, ramen with spam… the list goes on. Sure it’s made from unknown parts of a pig with surely unhealthy amounts of salt and other things but it tastes good. And millions of people throughout the world love Spam. I never got why we call unwanted mail or postings “spam” when it’s such a good thing. Shouldn’t we call it something else like Treet? Really, who eats Treet? And why would you eat a chicken and pork product when you could have 100% pure pork and ham? (Apologies to my kosher friends out there.)

Why am I talking about this? Well, after a couple of months of minor spam comment postings, my little blog fell under attack in the last day with dozens of bogus comments advertising all kinds of gambling services. Most got flagged as needing moderation but a lot still made it through and needed to be manually gotten rid of. If you’ve seen the commenting area of a post, you’ll notice I’ve been using reCAPTCHA to help prevent spamming. Since it’s turned out not to be an end-all solution, I started to look at alternatives.

First step was to straight away ban the most common IP addresses. Current WordPress versions have this as an option. Since the traffic and number of comments is very light, I don’t think there’ll be much collateral damage to legitimate posters. It’s also possible to alter the .htaccess file to totally deny access but that felt to be a bit much since I’m not really under a heavy attack. As a longer term solution I’m looking to see what other options are out there. A couple of notable are Spam Karma 2, Peter’s Custom Anti-Spam Image Plugin and Bad Behavior. Depending on how effective updating to the latest reCAPTCHA and just blocking annoying IP addresses turn out to be, I’ll take a look at these solutions.

Thanks to a posting on Jammed for some of these plugin pointers.

iPhone Web Apps

While I’m writing posts, I’ll update on my Comics DB web app. I’ve started to do a mock up of a user interface for iPhone. Not that I did a huge amount of investigation, but the most serious choice for a framework looks to be Joe Hewitt’s iUI. It’s a combination of JavaScript and CSS which neatly transforms simple HTML elements into nice iPhone-like menus.

I really need to put more time into this as I’d like to get it up and running in time for field use at WonderCon next month.

A Day with 30% Recycled Materials

I finished reading the latest issues of Amazing Spider-Man, the end of the One More Day story line and the first three issues of Brand New Day. From this post title, maybe you can get the drift that Brand New Day brings back a lot of old Spider-Man themes and accents. Initially I was pretty disappointed with end of One More Day. Not just what was done but how it was accomplished. Brand New Day has at least turned my feelings lukewarm. Strangely, this arc was enough to prompt me to actually send mail to Marvel for the first time. When I suffered through the ’90s Clone Saga, I was so disgusted near the end that I just stopped collecting for a few months and started reading the coincidently revamped Green Lantern. This time, since it feels like as much of a reboot as Spidey has ever had (let’s not think about Chapter One), I felt the urge to comment.

Here’s what I wrote:
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Quick Progress

The long Thanksgiving weekend was a good opportunity to make some progress with my comics database web application. I was actually surprised how easy it was to get something more or less fully functional running in a few hours spread across the weekend.

I ultimately decided to just go with CakePHP. For the reasons listed before, it ended up making to most sense based on what I’ve already had experienced with and what seemed to be installed by default with my ISP. I just followed the Cake Blog Tutorial, recasting blog postings into comic book titles with the appropriate field changes. Some retyping of code and minor editing of values and voila! a complete web application was born.
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Comics DB Update

I spent a little bit of time this past week familiarizing myself with the current crop of web database application technologies. Of course everyone’s heard of Ruby on Rails. I checked on Django, which has been used at my work for some projects. Lastly, I read up on CakePHP. My search for some introductory screencasts on CakePHP lead me to railsenvy.com and some critical videos of other solutions.

I’ll have more in depth to say after I’ve finished my reviews. I might settle on CakePHP if for no other reason than to be able to apply increased PHP knowledge to my blog at some point.

Managing a Comic Book Collection

I’m still planning to write some additional articles on Japan, specifically on Akihabara. Since pictures are always good, I’ve started to look through my backlog of trip photos. Unfortunately, organizing family pics have taken precedence. In the mean time I’m contemplating my first private programming project in a while.

I have a lot of comic books… when I stopped counting years ago I must’ve had around 3,000 by estimate. With many short boxes added in the last few years, the count should be over 3,500, maybe even 4,000. Since I’ve long stopped remembering comics by issue number or cover, I’ve turned to databases over the years to keep everything organized.
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Little Red Robby

Little Red Robby on Tekzilla Among the shows I watch is Tekzilla, Revision3’s follow on to InDigital. Tekzilla is a weekly show aimed from beginners to intermediates with topics spanning all areas of technology. Besides gadgets, CE devices, computers and software, they’ve covered other things too like the 50th anniversary of Sputnik and visited the Exploratorium but with just three shows under their belt it’s hard to say what are the limits of their coverage. So far I’m thinking I liked InDigital a bit more but maybe I’m still a bit miffed that it was pulled not long after I started regularly watching it.

Anyways, they’re still working on their temporary set and this week they adorned the fake brick backdrops with shelves holding little items including a little red Robby the Robot tin toy.

Not much to see but it’s always good to see something of Robby.

Panda! Go Panda!

I still need to write my next post on Japan but have again gotten side tracked by life in general.

In the meantime, here’s something to entertain you:

Now, the title of this post is a little odd because even though I know of “Panda! Go Panda!“, I’ve never seen it. I just liked how it sounds. And I’m sure someone will see the panda and think, “Oh, Algernon as in ‘Flowers for Algernon‘.” But alas, the panda is actually named after Algernon from Pandamonium, a cute 80’s cartoon I watched as a kid.

Cashless, Touchless Society

For the past few months I’ve been seeing ads for MasterCard PayPass and recently I’ve seen ads for Visa payWave. These are “contactless” IC cards which allow for easy and quick transactions. The only place I’ve seen PayPass at is a local Jack in the Box (yes, I like my junk food) and I don’t think I’ve seen payWave anywhere. Still, Visa claims to have thousands of establishments including big names like McDonalds so maybe I’m just not looking hard enough.

Continuing with my Japan theme (albeit a week late), I can say that like many things, IC cards have been available in Japan for a while. One of the major retail card I’m familiar with is Edy, a rechargeable debit card accepted in everything from retail stores to vending machines. Edy is quick, just touch the card over the pad and wait for the pleasant tones of money going out of your pocket into the retailer’s hands. Much nicer than the single beep demonstrated on MasterCard’s PayPass site.

Suica and Pasmo cards

I’ve actually had more experience with IC cards for train and subway usage. The Suica card has been available for use on JR trains for years, employing the same technology as Edy. At it’s introduction, the Suica card was a new concept and there was a decent ad campaign to just “touch and go”, referring to the ease at which passengers can get through turnstiles. Recently, the Tokyo Metro subways systems have adopted Pasmo. Pasmo, which I found out after picking one up, is completely compatible with the Suica cards. After years of tiny ticket juggling or buying disposable cards, there’s a single system to get around the greater Tokyo area. These cards are really convenient. It’s easy enough to just leave them in the wallet, slide the whole thing over the reader and run on to catch your soon departing train.

While these technologies in some ways make for a more secure transaction since you’re always in control of the card, it seems that once a thief has hold of the card it’s a lot easier to get away with illegal transactions. The major credit card companies offer no liability policies for lost or stolen cards as a means to mitigate cardholder worries but that only helps after the fact.

In Japan, Always Know Where Your Towel Is

I was in Japan last week for the Tokyo Game Show, among other things. There are a kajillion sites with direct coverage of TGS better than what I could offer so I’ll hold off on commentary in that area for now until it all sinks in a bit better. In the meantime, I’m going to make a couple of posts this week about Japan. I’ve been going there for about a decade now and it’s still a pretty fun place to visit even when the days are consumed by business topics.

Today’s lesson: you should always know where your towel is when in Japan. While The Guide says the towel should be big, like a bath or beach towel, in Japan you can get away with something much smaller like a wash cloth. Of course, most people don’t actually carry towels, they carry handkerchiefs. Typically these handkerchiefs serve much the same purpose as a small towel, used for drying hands, wiping sweat off your face and wetting to clean yourself up with. Very versatile!

Why is such an accessory which seems relegated to old men with runny noses or fashion statements in the US essential in Japan? Well, many restrooms still don’t have any means to dry your hands. Of course most even moderately trafficked areas will have paper tower dispensers or some kind of air dry system, but many older public restrooms and restrooms in smaller establishments are traditional and without something to dry your hands. Many restaurants will have paper napkins or provide a wet hand towel to clean your hands before eating and you can continue to use it during the meal, but there’s no shortage of restaurants which at best have only tissues as “napkins” or maybe nothing at all. Again, a small hand wash cloth or handkerchief will come to your rescue.

That’s just a couple of cases where a towel could be handy. Next time you find yourself in Japan without a handkerchief, be sure to bring along a small towel from your hotel room when heading out exploring and your day will go by with one less thing to worry about.