Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Blogs are offensive
According to the report created by ScanSafe, 80% of all blogs contain "offensive" and/or "unwanted" content. I haven't read the report myself, but according to the post about it at Ars Technica, it is enough for a blog to have one instance of one of the "bad words" to be considered offensive. I suppose this is one of the rare cases where I prefer to stick with majority. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Posted by Mad Wombat at 12:26 PM 0 comments
Web statistics from the command line
There are a lot of web statistics packages out there. And some of them are good. To name a few, there is Analog (especially when paired with Report Magic), AWStats and Visitors. There are also excellent commercial packages (but they don't pay me to advertise :) ). Most of these have one particular problem. They generate a number of static reports. So if you just want to see how many hits your site received per day during last week they are excellent. Unfortunately if your question is more like "What are the top 10 pages hit by users with Internet Explorer who were referred to us by Google?" all of these programs become rather useless.
Posted by Mad Wombat at 9:50 AM 2 comments
Thursday, April 19, 2007
First look at Thunderbird 2
As most of you already know, Thunderbird 2.0 was released today. I have been running the 2.0 release candidate for some time now, so I can share my opinions of the new version, while the going is still hot.
- New default theme and icons
- I have found both new icon theme and the new user interface controls theme to be slightly better looking. There are no major changes here, just everything looks a little bit crispier, a little less intrusive, a little better organized and a little aesthetically more pleasing.
- Unlimited tags
- This is not as much a new feature as a fix of an old bug. Older versions of Thunderbird used to allow you to tag messages using either manual tagging or filters. Tagged message would be colored into particular color, so you can at a glance find out what emails you have received or what is left to do in your inbox. Unfortunately at the same time previous versions of Thunderbird would kill this feature by providing a fixed set of five pre-made tags (you could edit the labels, but you couldn't add your own). The new version still defines the same set of five tags for backward compatibility, but will happily allow you to add any number of your own. You can easily tag your messages by hand with the first nine tags in your list by pressing number keys and you can define message filters to tag messages with particular tags.
- New Gecko Engine features
- Since new Thunderbird is based on the same version of Gecko (the rendering engine under Mozilla products) as Firefox 2, it inherits some features from it. Spelling checks while you type, auto-completions etc.
- New mail notification
- The new version is able to notify you about incoming mail by either playing a sound or flashing a small pop-up (self-destructing in a few seconds) with subjects and senders of new messages.
- Better support of large IMAP folders
- Thunderbird 1.x used to consistently crash on me when I tried to manipulate 10K+ messages IMAP folders with it. Thunderbird 2 seems not to notice the difference between a 15K messages in a folder and 15 messages in a folder.
- Finer customizations (they are there... but they are not)
- Something bit me to customize the "such and such wrote" message that appears on the top of quoted message in your replies. And to my surprise, to do this you need edit some obscure configuration files in Thunderbird profile directory. Yes, it is documented extensively on the Tips and Tricks page, but I think this would not sit well with a casual user. Same goes for many other features that Thunderbird has, but you will never find out about them unless somebody tells you.
- Some icons are inconsistent with previous releases
- Took me some time to get used to the new junk mail icon. Not a big deal though.
- Still no "Reply to All" shortcut of any sort
- This is especially annoying when you are trying to CC on some of your business correspondence to some people (say your boss and your team) and every time you reply to a message you cannot just hit CTRL-R or some other key, but actually need to go through the menu to catch all the addresses in the original message. I suppose there has to be an extension for this somewhere, but so far I couldn't find it.
Update: Ctrl-Shift-R does reply all. I should have RTFM'd more
- If you are already using Thunderbird, you should strongly consider upgrading. The new Thunderbird is leaner, meaner, faster and with sharper teeth :) The only reason to wait is if you are using some specific extensions not yet available for the new version
- If you are not using Thunderbird and you do not require Outlook-like abilities such as calendar, to do lists, exchange compatibility etc., but only use your mail client to send and read email you should definitely consider giving Thunderbird a try.
- The general feeling about the new Thunderbird is that it is not a huge leap forward, compared to previous versions, but a lot of small useful improvements making the overall experience of using it a much more pleasant one.
Posted by Mad Wombat at 4:02 PM 2 comments
Monday, April 9, 2007
Freedom vs. accountability in system administration
One of the standard security measures on a contemporary UNIX system is sudo command. For those unfamiliar with it sudo allows a user to run commands under privileges of another user, so for example a regular user can run a command as root. This, at the first glance, seems very similar to su, but sudo allows a very fine configuration of what exact commands are allowed to be run by what user and coming from what host and sudo, as opposed to su, doesn't require the user to know root password. Also, sudo will log every use of itself, weather succesful or failed therefore leaving an audit trail of administration command used on the system. Sudo is exceptionally good, for giving regular users fragments of root power where they need it. For example using sudo you can give your developers rights to restart development database server or development web server or give them rights to use network sniffers etc. One of the other things sudo seems to be good for is to record actions taken by system administrators, for accountability purposes. It all seems very simple
- Create regular users for every administrator
- Configure sudo to allow administrators run any command as rot using sudo
- Disable the actual root logon
sudo vim /var/log/secure, where the first one will run interactive root shell (allowing one to start running commands as root directly from the shell without any logging) and the second one starts editor on the sudo audit log (log name may be different on different systems) allowing to delete or edit any audit lines one deems unsightly (for example change your user name to somebody else's in that line that says rm -rf /oracle :) ). What are the ways to prevent this?
- Exclude potentially dangerous commands such as command shell and editor without arguments from the sudo config
- Set a strict list of administration commands that is allowed for execution by administrators
- Use external auditing mechanisms such as auditd daemon
- Use external privilege restriction mechanisms such as SELinux.
Posted by Mad Wombat at 11:18 AM 0 comments
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