Hackers – part deux

While updating a number of other sites I also decided to clear out some of the test sites I have on my general hosting. Good move as it happens, I noticed the dreaded ‘1’ folder on my wordpress blog too. It’s usually found in the wp-content folder, nestling above the plugins and themes folders. Luckily there are easy ways to remove said inconvenience and I found them on the bontb website. Bontb, for those who don’t know or are just darn curious (like me!), stands for Blog or not to blog. Thank you Majo!

Hackers – you gotta love em >:[

I generally have a neutral view of hackers, you could say that they come with a territory and are always a risk. Lock it all as tight as you can and ride out the storm of school holidays and study leave.

Of course that all changes when files appear on your server that you think has been locked tighter than a nut. I will admit I don’t look at everyone’s site every day so it didn’t hit my radar until my customer tells me his site is down. (A week after he comes back from holiday. By which time of course, 2 weeks have gone past and there are no logs to check how this happened and for proof.) At this point there is no berating the customer, they didn’t ask to be hacked and they are always right…

So it is time to hate the hacker.
All the time I have to spend talking to the host while they pass the buck and pretend it never happened because there’s nothing they can do anyway,
All the time I have to spend reassuring the customer,
All the time I spend uploading and installing a clean script install to replace the already latest version I had running,
All the time I upload products and attributes and other such things to the database,
All the time I go through the configuration files line by line,
All the time I upload custom text files,
All the time I re-upload the images,
I hate the hacker for trying to grab credit card data that the site doesn’t even accept [grr]

But then I have to laugh, the site is so quiet at the moment that the chances of them getting any results would be nil. There’s no credit card data accepted or stored.

I have to love the hacker who is so incompetant that their injected files do nothing but produce error messages that then cause the customer to call me to say their site is down. If the site had been popular or the customer less on the road it would have been reported same day and then the possibilities for proof and tracking could have been endless.

So although I’ve spent hours putting a site back together, I have to quote Nelson in saying

Ha-ha!

Graphic tablets, HP scanners and Vista

I am now the proud owner of a graphics tablet, something I’ve always been meaning to buy and it is all I could hope for, except…

I have a windows laptop with Vista (32 bit home premium, what it came with…) – thus far no real problem, in fact Vista has all sorts of optional extras that enable themselves when you install a tablet: Journal, pen flicks, handwriting recognition. Great! you think… until you want to use the HP integrated scanner / printer you bought a year ago.

Vista’s extra tablet gimics use TWAIN exclusively, and I do mean it when I say Vista doesn’t share well – at least not with HP. Suddenly there was no way of communicating with the scanning software, no HP software update would solve it and due to Vista’s highly integrated nature creating a new user didn’t solve the problem. Unclicking the handwriting recognition box in the Tablet PC options also did not help; there seemed to be no easy way to disable this vista tablet functionality. Googling the problem confirmed that this is due to a largely unadvertised and seemingly unsolved clash between HP and Vista’s use of TWAIN.

More googling found a tutorial from the lovely people at bleepingcomputer.com, teaching you how to turn on and off features in Vista. It is really simple and I can’t believe I missed this on searching around in control settings. You may have to be really patient, it took a couple of minutes for the feature list to come up and about 10 mins for the feature to uninstall itself before restarting.

I was concerned that switching off Tablet PC optional components would switch off the functionality of the graphics tablet. Not so. I still have all the functionality that the wacom installer gives me, just none of the ‘handwritten notes’ style vista features. More importantly for me, I can now access my scanner as before.

Points to note:

  • The HP printer is a PSC1610, as far as I can find out this problem exists for all Printer/Copier/Scanners by HP but may not be experienced with separate scanners or combined printer-scanners from other manufacturers.
  • This problem has been reported with both Wacom and non-wacom tablets.
  • To date I cannot find a solution which does not involve choosing between the handwriting recognition features of Vista such as Journal and Writepad and use of the scanner. If you find one, please let me know!

prunella vulgaris – selfheal

Self Heal - prunella vulgaris
“hairy herb with erect flowering stems. Leaves oval, opposite. Flowers violet (sometimes white), in short, obling heads at the stem tips. Flowers April to July. Found in Field, woodland, wasteground, meadow and pasture habitats. perennial” – Gibbons 1992
Culpepper describes it as a small low, creeping herb and attributes it to the power of Venus. Like Bugle it is a ‘special herb for inward and outward wounds’. he also suggests its use for cleaning of external sores and ulcers, to flush green wounds and help them knit closed. Mixed with the oil of roses and anointed on the temples and forehead it was said to ‘remove the head-ach’ and mixed with honey of roses it ‘cleanses and heals all ulcers in the mouth and throat, and those also in the secret parts’.

So a cure all? A cleanse all to allow the body to heal itself, or just a pretty purple flower hiding in the grass?

Saille 1

She tasted and smelt mud and then raised her head and spat. Why was it always like this she wondered? why could it never happen when it was dry or just as she was about to fall into her blankets at the end of a long day. “Grandfather, Grandfather! come quickly!” The sound of her young brother’s voice pierced the painful haze surrounding her head. She felt the steady rain soaking her back as the rest of her body awoke, twinging and leaden.

Between them the two men helped her rise and stagger into the nearby hut, her basket of eggs forgotten. They would be broken and wasted but it did not matter, this was more important.

“What did you see?” Clamoured young Llew. “Go outside, impatient boy! Fetch the others, we will all hear then,” ordered their Grandfather. They all came, no one questioned a summons from Derw; Saille’s visions were not rare but they were always important. Everyone remembered when she foresaw the flooding last spring and the whole village left just in time to avoid being destroyed by the new path of the river.

As the thumping in her head receded and her normal vision cleared, Saille saw the waiting anxious faces around her and began to speak:

“I sat on a darkened hilltop and heard voices speaking quietly in some strange harsh language. They were coming towards me up the hill so I hid and watched from behind a rock. Ten geese flew across the moon as I waited for them to appear. They were strangers dressed for battle but muffled so their swords would not strike against their belts. They were happy to see such an open land in front of them, quiet in the dark with no lookout. ‘And so shall the daughters of the sea be unprotected as we come upon them and though their fathers shall rise, they will be cast down’. Then the mists rose and fell and I stood above a battlefield and all the pennants of men were broken and torn and blood ran in streams down the cliffs into the sea. As the sun set, a wolf stood and howled above the Dragon’s Tail and the laughter of men and marching of feet rang in my ears. The moon was full and the night black with ravens that covered every path and stream and rock like a cloak.”

“What does it mean?”

“A darkness is coming and we must be vigilant,” Derw concluded. “The king should know of this.”

“But when is it coming and how?”

“We will have to watch and be ready, be it ten days or ten generations until they come.”

A note on confidence

I’ve always stuggled with confidence in my own voice whether singing, writing or taking photos. There is so much already ‘out there’ on the infinitely accessible web it seems as though my voice is too small to be heard. In all that volume there must be someone out there with more important things to say than me and if there is I shouldn’t be saying anything.

In defence of myself and others like me, I now think that’s nonsense, as I’ll explain.

I read an article (in The Countryman of all things) in which a professional photographer waxed lyrical about the sheer volume of photography on the internet which is a direct consequence of the ease of access of the internet and the rise in affordable digital photographic equipment. I’ve noticed this volume first hand on Flickr. There are groups for specific types of photography such as ‘flowers’ which are posted to by hundreds of people world wide every day. That is a lot of photographs and I must admit I find it very daunting. My one little picture of a primrose (of which I am very proud) has been lost a day later under the weight of new entries.

The gist of the article as I understand it is that to get noticed (and rise above the crowd of equally amazing macro shots of exotic petal edges or whatever) you have to take photographs with impact, relevance and purpose. In other words your pictures (singing or writing projects) have to tell a story that stops people in their tracks. I find this concept incredibly daunting. In order to have a voice that is heard (assuming you don’t write or photograph for your own amusment or simply to pass the time) you have to be better than everyone else at finding the right shot, subject, turn of phrase at the right time and then publish first.

Inside all of us is a wish, not to be better than everyone else, but to be valued and listened to. Perhaps we believe that maybe just one person will read what you’ve written or see what you photographed and regardless of what they took from it, it will change their life.

There will be many people out there who would read that article and not worry whether the internet is overloaded by confident people shouting their opinions and so perhaps they shouldn’t overload it any further. They won’t worry that there might not be any small arenas anymore where tiny lights can shine. Are they the ones overloading the internet in the first place? Why should we who care shy away from having our voice ‘out there’? Are we afraid that actually the internet is being overloaded by those people that seem to need their voice ‘out there’ as a boost to confidence?

Perhaps there are three types of people: 1] people with something to say who are confident in their forum choice, 2] people with something to say who feel daunted in their forum choice, and 3] people who want to be heard before they have something to say.

I feel an affinity with people of type 2 but as this journal is witness I no longer feel as daunted as I once did.

So I now present the opinion:

If you’re worried about it, you probably shouldn’t and if you’re not worried you possibly should be.

People who think long and hard about their views and whether or not they should voice their opinion may be more infomative, rational and full of sense than someone who hasn’t wondered whether there’s already a lot of ‘guff’ on the internet and if they should be adding to it.

There’s always the option of local gatherings, small clubs or writing groups and if you do find them full of ‘guff’ at least you’ve had the chance to get out and meet new people!

So much less and yet so much more

When there is so much more to be seen we record so much less, have you noticed? Even though I’ve decided to commit more to paper (or at least virtual paper) I’m so frightened I might miss something, I daren’t look at the keyboard. In the last couple of weeks the weather has got warmer, I’ve seen blackbirds fighting over territory and Hazel catkins have opened, glowed and gone brown.

All the crocuses I planted in the garden are out and I don’t know which day they first opened. I remember I noticed it the day the first daffodil opened but I didn’t write it in the diary so I can no longer tell you when it was. The wintry hedges have been revitalised with flashes of bright green hawthorn leaves and pale ghostly blackthorn flowers. Pussy willow catkins are showing their first silver fur and my neighbours ornamental plum has turned pink and frothy seemingly overnight.

Even though I work in an office in the country with a window overlooking paddocks, drive over the Malverns every morning and evening and apparently have more time than everyone else (I am employed part time) I miss things. I make it a habit to notice the world around me and yet sometimes it still spins away to appear reborn anew and different a couple of weeks later.

As I get older I find I’m not so afraid of missing seeing things; I carry a notebook and diary around with me. Now I’m just afraid of forgetting to write them down.

Little and often

Isn’t it amazing how you can lie in bed and compose paragraphs of coherent text and yet once the fingers are poised over the keys it fades to so much fluffy cotton wool.

These are rules just to remind me more than anything, but if they help others then so be it.

  • write little and often
  • don’t linger for hours if nothing happens, go do something else and come back if inspiration strikes
  • stick to one subject per post – it’s a lot easier to focus and to find a meaningful title!
  • shorter sentences reduce the dangers of rambling
  • don’t worry about quality before quantity to start with, review as a separate process
  • don’t be afraid to bin if need be – it is better to have written and binned than not written at all!

Sometimes it is not clear to me whether I pale at the blank white page because my head really is empty or because there are too many unfocused words and ideas in there tripping over themselves to get out and be expressed. The only way to test the theory is to start writing and find out.