So, ahh, what have you been doing for the past (almost) two years?

January 29th, 2009

Often I ask myself this very question, or a question quite similar at least, differing only in the period of time that would be, at that time, in question. The question is usually rhetorical, an expression of wonderment at just how little it seemed I had achieved over the stated period of time. This time however, it seems I have an answer.

Did that make any sense at all? Didn’t think so.

Anyway, for a while Twitter was restricting access to full archives of users’ tweets due to apparent database problems. Just the other day I noticed that it seems they’ve restored full access, right back to the beginning.

So, fearing the loss (as I always seem to do) of data that would be irreplicable if lost, I set about backing up my Twitter archive. Yes, it would be ideal if Twitter itself offered a backup utility, but of course they don’t. Most of the third-party backup tools were pretty much all rubbish as well, and I had almost resigned to just save each page by hand.

If it wasn’t for the 100 requests per hour API limit, my method of punching in

curl -O http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/phocks.xml?page=[1-243]

to my MediaTemple shell account would have worked a treat, and it would work for a lot of people who don’t have so many updates. This method also has the advantage of storing the updates in the versatile XML format.

I wanted something more human readable though, and something that I wouldn’t have to wait a few hours to download every time. Then it hit me to try using the HTTP web server instead of the API.

Very crudely I patched together some PHP code — helped a lot by this get_web_page.php script — that simply fetched and displayed each consecutive page of my Twitter archive. I found it was necessary to strip back all the HTML apart from the status updates to prevent Firefox from locking up, but in the end I had a neat little 2.36MB html file with all my twitter updates from the last year-and-a-half-and-a-bit.

Here’s the full html output and the zipped html and the small chunk of alpha code I strung together. Feel free to use it and build upon it. Mainly just a proof of concept, that could be developed in the future. Let me know if you’d like to give us a hand.

Sweet! Now we’re all backed up, in case Twitter’s servers go into meltdown, I’ll still be able to see that around this time last year I was wondering why it always rained on me.

Until next time.

Twitter 365 Project

January 20th, 2009

Thought I’d put my Flickr gift pro account, generously donated to me by @ccake, to good use by joining this Twitter 365 Project thing that it seems a few people have been doing since good old ’09 began. I held out on joining, even though I’d planned to from day one, due to the fact that I slept for that entire day, but I’ve long wanted to try something like this.

So basically it just involves taking a photo each day and posting it on Twitter, simple as that. I’ll be putting them up on Flickr, but I know people like Kate Edwards are using Brightkite to post them.

Anyway, we’ll see how long I can keep it up for. Maybe I’ll get through the whole year, who knows. Lot’s of snaps to come. One down, only 364 to go.

1/365 twitter 365 project: A Bit Late

Taking Flight

January 19th, 2009

“Does that mean your taxi will be here in five minutes?” come soft words spoken into my ear, seconds after resigning the alarm once again, by force of habit, to another five minutes of blissful snooze. It hits me, just a little woozy and boozy from the haze of celebration the night before. It’s 7am and I have a flight to catch.

First time off the ground in years for me, setting off in search of something, solitude perhaps, or just to get get away from it all. A two week holiday in search of soul. Life on the animal farm will continue in my absence however and thoughts of what might be missed at such a time as this are almost impossible to quell, however hard I try to pay it no mind.

Taking flight into a future uncertain, to see what mysteries await in the unfamiliar. Upon return I wonder at what things will have changed, and what changes in me will strike discord or harmony from this temporal separation.

With divergent histories coming together once more. Only time will tell.

Off To Tasmania

words for an inside cover

January 13th, 2009

we will greet the mourning sun, together we will shine, we’ll send the light to everyone. – evolution in the heart, evolution in the soul, evolution in the part, evolution in the whole. – we come in the name of all that is insane, we come from a time when our ancestors are strung out on the line, our crime is such that the answers don’t seem to mean that much. – you sit there so patiently in your room, and you dream that the end is coming soon. you listen to the modern prophets, shouting in the street, fed with the instruments that you play with your feet. you go a-wandering, through the crowd, but they don’t hear you speak. with your mouth wide open, you make no sound. – staring into sounds, the cacophony of june. twenty-one hundred miles away, the crystal bell begins to sound and the people recall the tune. they heard it long ago, a faded rainbow on their minds. and so we stumble in the dark, with bright signs all around, calling our numbers through the crowd. it’s all connected. trees with hollow souls, we climb them in the night, never wanting it to end. the diamond light begins to shine and echoes over the town. they take it in their stride, the rapid paintings that fill their minds, and slowly we command the time, to fall away in fine lines, tempered to boiling point inside. it’s all connected. – all the children played, laughing in the rain. long ago they looked just like you and me. no longer do they need their meagre shells of existence, to leap from tree to tree, clinging to their lives high above. – i’ve seen the sunshine. i’ve seen the rain. i hear that whistle a-blowin’. it’s driving me insane, again. i’ve seen her pack her things and leave on the train. i’ve seen a thousand painters, with the sun in their eyes. i’ve seen the children walking, with no place to crawl. i’ve seen the pictures playing, to only empty seats. i’ve seen the people marching, up and down those ancient streets. i’ve heard the newborn baby crying, all alone in the dark. i’ve played to a crowded room, with no one in sight. i’ve seen the sunrise, hang around for days. i’ve seen the playground, from when i was a child. i’ve heard your silence. i’ve sung a song to you. i’ve heard the old man laughing, outside in the rain. i’ve heard the gunshots blasting, down my own front door. i’ve seen a hundred archers, with no targets in sight. i’ve seen a girl in the pale afternoon, just looking for fun. i’ve seen the man a-wandering, throughout the city streets. i’ve seen the pickets heading down to the blood-soaked beach. i’ve seen the flowers bending, in the gusty wind. i’ve watched as people flushed their freedoms down the drain. – the smouldering ruin that was your last regret, is saying hello to all the people you met down town, while you were there, pretty people everywhere, with coloured ribbons in their hair, coming back to haunt you in your dreams, so it seems. the silent chattering of your alphabet, is burning down with your cigarette. billowing smoke around the room on some foggy afternoon, and in time you’ll be there soon, floating around inside a red balloon, away, to another day. – o doom and delight they fight battles in the mind. – configurations of existence, for your pattern to arise, a victim of circumstance. time to go out through the window. you know you’ve never been through, though you know just where it goes. mine for gold, out where the cool wind blows, your mind is an overflow, a garden waiting to grow. and the songs you sing are written in your dreams. and the dreams you dream are never what they seem. when you figure it out, without a doubt, you’ll never say what you mean, and never mean what you say. – i know you know what i know. i see you know what i see. i hear you know what i hear. i am you know that i am. – now we can see the roads you’re walking down. and we can see the histories being spun around. it will come to show you’ll need a little self-control, when you’re living your life and dancing to our rock n roll.

How To, And How Not To, Kind of Half-Heartedly Secure Your Wireless Network

December 6th, 2008

So we finally got our own internet for the house.

It’s BigPond cable broadband with the wi-fi net gateway option so we don’t have to have a million network cables running all through the house like back in the good old days. And thus so, we have successfully added to the band of happy little access points that seem to be peppered around the various units and houses surrounding us.

Most these days popping up seem to be of the WPA or WPA2 variety (essentially the same thing), though there are still a few of the tired old WEP strains still kicking around in the wild. We even managed to spot one or two of the rare unsecured, unencrypted access points, sitting and waiting,  inviting, though at least they seemed to have evolved the ability to filter MAC addresses in the event of any attempted interfacing.

Well, first off, MAC filtering might sound like a pretty good defence mechanism against parasites and leeches, blocking packets from any and all devices excepting the trusted few. Unfortunately it is quite easy with a program like Macshift for a device to masquerade as another device, thus fooling the little unwary access point into serving tasty data — a bit like those cuckoo birds that trick other birds into raising their young.

WEP is not that much better. It’s been dead for years. Most can be successfully penetrated within ten minutes using linux, a bit of know-how and the aircrack suite.

WPA seems pretty solid at the moment, and that’s what we’re using. If you can capture a handshake between a client and an access point you can run a dictionary attack if their password is pretty simple, or a brute force attack, which can take considerably longer — at worst up to a few billion years of computation.

We didn’t want to make ours too difficult to crack however (where’s the fun in that?), so you’re welcome to come down Brunswick Street and give it a try. SSID is currently beaconing as “rocknroll” and we’ll even give you a special clue: the passphrase is a line from a song befitting the SSID.

The prize is free internet! At least until we change the password :)

But seriously, if you know you’re the jealous type with who your wireless access point associates with, use WPA encryption and a long password, preferably one with a random series of letters, numbers, and special characters. Then people would probably have more luck physically breaking into the house and plugging a network cable in directly than they would trying to hack your wireless.

Stay safe!

This So-Called Disease

December 1st, 2008

by Walter S. Fisher III

They’ll be expecting something for sure, so I may as well get on with it. They advised me that they wouldn’t read it, but I understand that in all probability they will. I’m sure they will not be expecting this however. They’ll be expecting something childish, immature, something they would expect to come from some kid with no brains or ability at anything worthwhile. They’ve misjudged gravely in their falsely elevated state, the way they misjudge every kid with any real talent in this godforsaken school. It’ll be over before too long anyway. It escapes me at this very moment what exactly I mean by that.

As compared with the majority of children, I guess it could be argued that I am rather atypical. While the other boys are out playing hug the guy with the big ball, you’d find me spending my high time reading or playing guitar in my room or something else weird like that. I’d read all kinds of silly books alone in my room. No one bothered disturbing me at all really. Most of the time I would have the whole empty house to myself, with my Aunty Olivia out all the time dabbling in god knows what. My brother Earl would come to visit once in a blue moon. I liked him, despite him being a complete and utter nut case, but far be it for me to hold that against him, me of all people.

Well, just recently my feeble existence it seems has taken on a rather eccentric element. Some might argue that that is a vast understatement. None is as uncertain as to what the future holds as I am in these unsettling times. Perhaps Rev Gallantry is right in making me record all this craziness. Perhaps it may help in some strange way, for it seems that nothing else is helping much at all. The darkness is setting in, and I can feel it creeping up upon me, ready to engulf me into its eternal oblivion. Sounds depressing I know, but at times it can really get like that, the highs contrast so completely with those death-defying lows.

None of them can say what’s truly the matter with me, the expensive doctors, the kind-hearted musical therapists (the rapists), hungry for your soul, or even if there is anything really the matter with me at all. I can’t say myself really. I only have these perceptions and no one else’s, just as anyone else, and as such, as everyone, it becomes a matter of guesswork as to whether your own world view is in some way sub-standard to the rest of them. But perhaps that’s not it at all, levels of standards out the window. Sometimes I think that it is a mere case of compatibility. Though if what they say is even remotely correct, then how have I seen the things I’ve seen, the way things have been?

And yet another thing comes clear to me, that if they are indeed right, then they had better lock us all away quick smart, if preservation of their precious established system is in their high priorities. For it seems for those sitting upon the fence, that it is catching, this pestilence, this so called disease.

A generation, my generation, our generation, emerging upon the world.

Second Time Out With Walter S. Fisher

November 10th, 2008

So it seems the younger brother of Earl Gray Fisher, the main character in my current NaNoWriMo novel, is half-heartedly attempting to hijack the book, appearing periodically to say a few strange words. Here’s what he had to say for himself this time:

Well now, it seems that during my relatively brief time on this so-called planet earth, a few people may have already guessed that the name I usually go by in this part of the woods is Walter Fisher. I guess I should get that one out of the way quite early on. Oh and this as well, as most introductions usually go, that most people who know me, do not in actual fact call me Walter. Somehow, though I most definitely do not purposely influence them in their calling me it, they get it in their heads to call me Wally. I don’t particularly mind it though, and never really persuade anyone not to call me Wally, so it’s fine either way. To further elaborate on my current existence at this time, I feel, would be quite unnecessary. I will in all probability cover all that when the time comes around.

To explain this body of work, which I expect will certainly not be extensive by any means, I should state that, through no fault of my own of course, I am reluctantly being forced into writing this, and as such, I fully expect that whatever ghastly rubbish I write down here will almost certainly not be worth the paper it is written on — especially should that same paper be of the expensive kind that you might find in some kind of fancy stationary store. It was in fact the only paper I could find in the drawers. My Aunty never writes letters these days anyway. I do quite like the fancy little gold trimming around the edges however. So classy!

This will supposedly help me. It will be beneficial to my development as a young individual on my way forward in this world, towards wherever the hell it is they want me to go.

Somehow I don’t think so.

Time Out with Walter S. Fisher III

November 7th, 2008

With the absent-minded, and somewhat pathetically ignorant thought of starting this thing off — whatever this thing actually turns out to be — with a peculiar statement somehow pertaining to the fallacious assumption that I am in some overarching way, different from everyone else, I, Walter S. Fisher the third, it seems in actually fact, to be merely delaying the inevitable: the eventual forgone conclusion that this is in all likelihood, not the case at all. We are all unique in our indifference. That will be perhaps, to everyone’s relief and wellbeing, my first and final attempt at humour in this brief account of whatever it is I am supposed to be accounting for.

In fact, there is more than probably a hundred million young boys — and what the hell, girls as well — who look, think, and act just the way I do, and what’s more, who somehow emperorishly believe themselves to be one of a kind, a snowflake, an anomaly of nature, that no one knows what it’s like to be the bad man, that no one understands. A snowflake however is a snowflake is a snowflake is a snowflake, just as a duck is a bird is a plane, is superman. Ok I will stop now.

Of course, that being said, there always remains an inkling, a sinking suspicion — call it a minor defect of consciousness in its quest for self-promotion — that there is that certain special something, the differentiating quality lying dormant deep within the soul somewhere.

It’s the same in us all.

Suppress Spam Count in Gmail

October 29th, 2008

Ever been tempted to check that spam folder just one more time even though you know there’s never (or only on the rarest of occasions) any legitamite mail in there?

Here’s what I did to automatically mark all spam messages as read, thus eliminating the spam count and stopping me from wasting my time looking in that folder over and over again. You can even have gmail look for certain words, such as your name or company, in emails that may be not spam (yummy ham) and bring them to your attention as a false positive.

So what you do anyway is from the Gmail inbox click Create a filter. Now in the Has the words box type in:spam and in the Doesn’t have box type any words that you want to exclude (your name for instance). Click next and disregard the warning message that shows up; they don’t know what they’re on about.

In the next step check the Mark as read box and then Create Filter.

And you’re done. No more spam count. Just make sure you check it every so often in case something slips through.

Now go get some real work done :)

Secure Mail with S/MIME

October 24th, 2008

Support for S/MIME seems to be everywhere now, to enable secure email transactions. Still, it appears no one is using it; too hard to set up; don’t understand all that certificate authority mumbo jumbo; and no one else uses it (a catch-22). Actually it’s pretty easy, and far more widely supported and more versatile than PGP, which I was experimenting with a little while ago with moderate success.

First thing you’ll need is a free email certificate. I was previously using thawte to generate certificates, but found Comodo‘s system to be heaps easier and vastly superior. So head on over and generate a secure email certificate. They will send an email to you instructing you how to collect it, and assuming you’re using Firefox (and you should be), the certificate, combined with a unique private key, will be stored within your browser.

Export the certificate/key file to your desktop or somewhere through the Advanced Options -> Encryption tab by clicking View Certificates, selecting your certificate and hitting Backup.

Then you need to import the certificate into your email client; most modern ones support S/MIME. In Thunderbird Account Settings find Security in your account then View Certificates -> Import. Then select that certificate for Digital Signing and Encryption.

Now when a new message is composed, there will be an option to encrypt the message, or digitally sign it, or both. Signing a message ensures that the email really came from the person it says it came from and was not tampered with during transmission. To encrypt a message so that nobody can read it except its intended receiver you need to have the recipient’s public email certificate. The easiest way to obtain this is to get them to send you a signed email.

I’ve set Thunderbird to automatically sign every outgoing message, so that people can reply with a secure email. Otherwise here’s my public email certificate in case you wanted to send me a secret message.

I’m phocks at gmail.

Take care.