All posts by Nigel

Anti-Bayesian spam

If you get spam, you’ll probably have noticed the recent trend towards spam full of random words. This is intended to defeat Bayesian anti-spam filters which mark emails as spam if they have words in them which are found in other spam. And it does generally seem to get through SpamAssassin which is the filter I’m using on my mail server.

The reason it gets by is that the random words e.g. “storm antiquated biaxial genevieve askew evensong compressor foothill ludwig eyeglass irwin delano narcissist calumny messrs dan begin oratorical depict platitude“, are not in themselves spam-like. However, real non-spam email never has strings of words like that. Of the anti-Bayesian spam I’ve seen, none actually looks like real mail; there’s no grammar and too many consectutive long words (or maybe the people who send me email have small vocabularies?). There are too few occurances of “the”, “it”, “and” etc.

The next step towards defeating this spam could be to perform basic lexical analysis of the content, to see whether it looks like real text. There are a number of problems with this though:

  • Non-English languages may be much harder to handle.
  • The spammers may start including random sections of real text
  • It’s yet another load on the spam filters

The blacklists have taken a battering over the past few months, which various viruses being targetted at bringing them down, but they’re still one of the best weapons we have to stop spam.

Most of my spam arrives through Demon as my mail server blocks blacklisted hosts. I use fetchmail to pull my Demon mail onto my server, where it’s passed through SpamAssassin . SpamAssassin marks the stuff that it thinks is spam, which is then dumped into an IMAP folder for later checking. With Demon finally annoucing that they’re putting in some spam filtering, the level of spam I get should drop off even more.

Update: Just after posting this I got my first piece of spam marked with the Habeas mark which is a short verse of trademark poetry used to indicate that a sender is trustworthy. I’ve reported the spam to Habeas; the idea being that illegal use of their trademark means that they can sue the spammer. We’ll see…

From Outlook to Apple Address Book

I’ve been trying to consolidate the address books on my various machines (Windows PC running Outlook 2002, Apple Powerbook running Address Book, and Sony Clie UX50). Being the nice program that it is, Outlook 2002 will let you export contacts as vCards. Great! Address Book will read those. However, Microsoft don’t want to be seen making it easy for people to migrate away from their programs so they only let you export to vCards one contact at a time. I could learn VBA and write a script to export all my contacts, but, frankly, I have better things to do with my time. Fortunately, someone else has encountered much the same problem, though they were creating vCards for import into Evolution So, if you want to export multiple vCards, for importing into another contact manager, I can recommend Outport which does exactly that (and also handles all of the other data stored in Outlook).

I’ve now consolidated everything onto the Mac, and using Missing Sync I can sync that with my Clie, and my Sony Ericsson T68i.
If only I hadn’t somehow managed to delete all the birthday dates from Outlook’s calendar…

Art and Parties

Vic and I went to Taunton for the weekend, to attend Vic’s friend Lisa’s 30th birthday party. That all went well, despite the weather being occasionally grim. We had a good time, with a nice walk on Saturday afternon to the local pub, the Hatch Inn in Hatch Beauchamp. The pub stayed open on Saturday afternoon because there were so many people from the party there.
Two of the guests at the party were Nigel Skinner and Heather Green . Nigel is a painter, Heather is a sculptor, and examples of their work can be found on their website.

Are We Not Men?

The DVD fairies at have sent me Devo: The Complete Truth About De-Evolution”. Great compilation of a most of the Devo videos from the 70’s and 80’s, including “Whip It”, “Satisfaction” and “Girl U Want”.

It’s actually a pretty straight-forward transfer of the 1992 Laserdisc, and even includes several segments of the Devo guys talking about Laserdiscs. There are a bunch of extra features including clips from early Devo gigs, memorabilia etc. Not bad for £13.

Anyone want to buy my old VHS tape of Devo videos? Ah well, must get myself set up for selling on Ebay

Return of the King

Vic and I went to see Lord of the Rings: Return of the King last night at the Barbican Cinema . I really enjoyed the film; I thought it was pretty true to the book and one of the most spectacular films I’ve seen in a long time. Vic wasn’t so keen, and found it a bit cheesey, though I put that down to a lot of the dialogue being close to how it was written. The books are very much an epic creation, with lots of pre-battle speeches etc, and that’s reflected in the film.

Favourite parts of the film: Lighting of the beacons, the attack on Minas Tirith, and the arrival of the men of Rohan.

New Year, new blog!

As previously mentioned I’ve been reworking the weblog software I use here. I’ve switched to Movable Type which is a very sophisticated piece of code which is widely used for blogging. Even Jag uses it so it can’t be all bad.

As yet, I’ve hardly scratched the surface using the features it has, but I intend doing some more digging. The design of this page is pretty much all done using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which means that I can change layout etc without having to edit the HTML pages. I found a sample template for MT on the Movable Style website, and changed it considerably. I also cleaned up the sidebars, some of which were only really of use to me anyway.

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