Blogs, Blog software, and other drivel.

Well, as some of you might have noticed. My blog has had a bit of a facelift.

A few months back, when I was thinking of starting up this rant sheet, I started looking at some of the possible blog systems to "help" me achieve this.

Recommended was Bloxsom which is nice and pretty, seems to be widely used, however requires CGI and perl.  The other big name was Movable Type, but that seemed way over the top for a puny little personal blog.

So, what to do?  I thought "well let’s look for something PHP based", which if you know me, I’m a bit of a php whore…   Recommended* was S9Y as it is PHP and authored by many core developers of PHP – seemed perfect!   { * I’ll not be listening to that guy again ;) }

Oh how wrong I was, what a pain in the ass S9Y turned out to be… Badly structured, poorly thought out, and quite lacking in foresight.   To get it to display blog posts on my homepage, I had to hack it into my homepage.  The authors clearly accepted people would want to do this, and made a config option to turn off all the peripheral crap (calendars, search, archives) – but this then made the regular blog "page" useless.  Customising it was, frankly, a bastard.

And so after a couple of months of S9Y, it was time to move on.  Now the challenge again was What software to use?

Then it hit me, just what is a blog anyway?  It’s a place where I can post a message and others can comment. Sounds like a forum / bulletin board system to me.  I had recently set up a punBB based forum for the ops of the EfNet #php channel and I really liked that for its simplicity and speed.  Poking around on the punBB support forums eventually led me to a couple of modifications: Reply Only forums and PunNewz which makes punBB perfect for blogging (with a fix and a tweak).  Both, by the way, are written by Julian, aka cuteseal, of http://www.shuttertalk.com/.  Kudos to Julian for his work on these.

So there we have it, I now have a bulletin board / forum based blog, PHP based, powerful modding ability and, for now at least, I’m a happy camper.

Tech Support drones.

Now, I work in Technical Support, so don’t take this as a lament against all technical support people – just those who can’t see past the script in front of them.

Yesterday, I had the following conversation with a McAfee TS representative.

The issue wasn’t that difficult, I would have thought, for someone familiar with McAfee’s product line, and it might be reasonable to assume that Technical Support would be familiar… Oh how wrong I was.

The issue at hand was that I wanted to buy VirusScan Command Line Scanners for FreeBSD (just google for it and your find numerous references including McAfees trial download) – the fun comes when you want to buy it.  Nothing anywhere tells you what product actually contains the Command Line Scanners.

Anyway, read and weep.

Establishing Connection

Please wait while we find a technician to assist you…

You have been connected to Andrew Jennings

Andrew Jennings: Paul, thank you for contacting McAfee Online Support Center. How can I assist you with your McAfee software today?

Paul Gregg: Hi Andrew, I’m at a loss in finding out what product I need to buy… I want to get the VirusScan Command Line Scanner for FreeBSD

Andrew Jennings: Could you please tell me in which country you are in?

Paul Gregg: UK

Andrew Jennings: Paul, I would be happy to help you guide you through

Paul Gregg: Thanks

Paul Gregg: I can find the eval download ok – but nothing appears to say how you go about buying it

Andrew Jennings: What are the McAfee products that you already own?

Paul Gregg: none

Paul Gregg: I think I need the TVD or the virusScan Suite, but neither of those itemises the Command Line Scanners for unix based systems

Andrew Jennings: Please tell me the full form of TVD

Paul Gregg: total Virus Defense?

Paul Gregg: McAfee got it when they bought Dr. Solomon

Andrew Jennings: Do you own a Home PC?

Paul Gregg: yes

Paul Gregg: I run FreeBSD, *not* Windows

Andrew Jennings: Thankyou for the information

Andrew Jennings: This issue or concern is best supported by our Customer Service group. Please call 020-794-901-07, and select the option that best meets your needs. You may also visit www.mcafeehelp.co.uk for more information.

Andrew Jennings: Is there anything else that I can assist you with today?

Paul Gregg: You don’t know what VirusScan product contains the Command Line scanners?

Andrew Jennings: We do not support the Operating System that you are using

Paul Gregg: yes you do

Paul Gregg: http://download.nai.com/products/evaluation/virusscan/engli … ine/bsd/v4.32/vbsd432edocs.zip

Andrew Jennings: What version of Windows are you using? (95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP)

Paul Gregg: I’m sorry Andrew – perhaps you could transfer me to someone else… I already told you I don’t use Windows. I’m using FreeBSD. McAfee *does* sell Virusscan for FreeBSd.

Paul Gregg: I just can’t find out which product contains it

Andrew Jennings: We do not support any other Operating System other than Windows. We cannot continue this chat session any further. Please contact customer service for getting to the right place

Andrew Jennings: Your reference number for this chat sessions is 5159845.

Andrew Jennings: Thank you for visiting McAfee Online Support Center. Please feel free to contact us again if you face any problem.

The Tech Vote, and how to lose it.

We techie types are a fickle lot.  We hate our spam and will positively discriminate against any company that used this medium to market their message.

So today, the day before the European elections in the UK, arrives a political spam from a John Gilliland, http://www.gilliland1.org, promoting himself as the IT friendly vote.

Well I have got news for you Mr. Gilliland, you’ve one less vote tomorrow.

I also wonder how Mr Gilliland obtained his list of spam addresses, because it does seem his spam was very much targeted to any address he could get in Northern Ireland.

Read on….

Yes. Perhaps Mr Gilliland isn’t aware of the law.  I know it’s not an excuse to be ignorant of the law – especially for one so in-tune with the IT industry.  Let me explain.
Mr Gilliland, may fully be aware that on the 11 December 2003, a new law came into force: The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 specifically prohibiting what he has just done.

Section 22, Use of electronic mail for direct marketing purposes states:

22. (1) This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communications by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers.

    (2) Except in the circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.

    (3) A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where –

(a) that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;

(b) the direct marketing is in respect of that person’s similar products and services only; and

(c) the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.

    (4) A subscriber shall not permit his line to be used in contravention of paragraph (2).

So, in particular:
Individual subscribers?  Well I certainly did not subscribe.  This is the infamous "business" get-out clause where the law does not cover spams to businesses.  However, I would contend, and Mr Gilliland will know this full well, that businesses cannot vote in elections and so his message was clearly directed at any individuals who received the message.

Opt in – No, I didn’t opt in.
Neither has Mr. Gilliland given his "subscribers" a mechanism to opt-out, a legal requirement.

Mr. Gilliland, please feel free to comment on this.

The spam in full:


Return-Path: <john@gilliland1.org>
Received: from unknown (HELO siberia.nocdirect.com) (69.73.172.20)
  by roadkill.pgregg.com with SMTP; 9 Jun 2004 13:30:36 -0000
Received: from [62.231.37.136] (helo=DNS1)
        by siberia.nocdirect.com with asmtp (Exim 4.34)
        id 1BY33W-0007cL-VH; Wed, 09 Jun 2004 08:23:51 -0500
Message-ID: &lt;019b01c44e24$b4a1ac60$6a0aa8c0@DNS1>
From: "John Gilliland" <john@gilliland1.org>
To: <info@kainos.com>
Subject: Gilliland – ‘Optical Fibre, the Motorways of the Future’
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2004 14:21:19 +0100
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;
        boundary="—-=_NextPart_000_0196_01C44E2D.086BE4C0"
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2800.1409
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2800.1409
X-AntiAbuse: This header was added to track abuse, please include it with any abuse report
X-AntiAbuse: Primary Hostname – siberia.nocdirect.com
X-AntiAbuse: Original Domain – pgsecurity.com
X-AntiAbuse: Originator/Caller UID/GID – [0 0] / [47 12]
X-AntiAbuse: Sender Address Domain – gilliland1.org
X-Source:
X-Source-Args:
X-Source-Dir:

John Gilliland argued for rethinking Northern Ireland’s IT strategy. 
"Northern Ireland must set ambitious telecom infrastructure targets if it is to encourage genuine high-tech, knowledge-based companies to site their operations in the province. The motorways of tomorrow consist of optical fibre cables, connecting businesses in our key towns and cities to Europe and the rest of the world via the internet….

Read the full press release at 
http://www.gilliland1.org/pressroom/releases/000183.php

John Gilliland is standing as an independent candidate in the European elections on June 10th

No Politics Just Action

Gilliland 1

Unit 3b,
Weavers Court Business Park
Belfast BT12 5GH
Tel 028 90333550   Fax 082 90333613
Email team@gilliland1.org   www.gilliland1.org