Alexander The Great

November 20, 2008

The Economy is So Bad – We’re All Nigerians?

Filed under: Modern Life — alexanderthegreatest @ 10:32 pm

Jon Stewart made the joke that our economy has tanked so badly under Bush’s stewardship, that Americans are now writing emails to Nigerians, asking for help smuggling the funds.  (“Don’t fall for it!  It’s a trick.”)

Truth is sometimes almost as strange as fiction.  This is an email that made it somehow through the spam detector

Hello, My name is Jean Malik, employed to work in Iraq as a language translator. I am attached to 1st BN, 68th Amour Reg, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry as an interpreter. As you aware, we were being attacked everyday by insurgents through hostile fire and car bombs. SOURCE OF FUNDS: In April 2003, I and some other crew members in my team discovered $650M USD in Saddam Hussein’s palace. In the process of cross-checking the funds, I and my unit head managed to move away a total sum of US$12 Million dollars cash out of the $650MUSD, mostly 100-dollar bills and was quickly flown out of the war zone as a military cargo. The cargo was later disguised and declared as personal military effects before it was flown to Europe where it is now deposited in an undisclosed FINANCE, SECURITY & TRUST COMPANY. You can as well click on the site below for more details about the source of the funds. The site will give you a bit of idea of our operation and how I came about the fund though the security & finance company where the cash consignments are deposited is not aware of all this information. Unfortunately, my colleagues lost their dear life through hostile fire from the wicked Iraqi insurgents. I therefore seek your! partnership in claiming and receiving the cash consignments from the finance and security firm where the cash consignments are deposited for safety for possible investments on viable businesses of mutual beneficial interest. I will take 60% while you are going to be entitled to 40% for your participation and assistance. I wish to inform you also that it is my fervent wish to leave the United Kingdom as soon as we successfully and smoothly conclude the transaction. Upon your response, I will send you the full details of the Security & Trust Company in whose custody the funds are lodged as well as the modalities of claiming and receiving the cash consignments. But you must assure me and demonstrate it that you can be trusted as I need your unwavering assurances. I am presently in the United Kingdom where I am presently receiving treatment due to injuries sustained after our convoy came under heavy fire in a suburb area of Baghdad. Please reconfirm your full names, address an! d direct phone number immediately so that I can submit the inf! ormation to the finance firm where the cash consignments are deposited for change/transfer of ownership in your favour to enable you claim and receive the funds. I promise you that there is no risk on both sides as far as you follow my instructions and take my advice. The transaction will be concluded under a legitimate arrangement. Respectfully yours, Malik

(Notice the decent grammar, unusual word choices, and downright bizarre use of exclamation marks?)


June 12, 2008

Is Spam the Dominant Species?

Filed under: Evolution,Science,Software — alexanderthegreatest @ 12:09 am
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A friend told me we should round up all the spammers, and throw them off the Golden Gate Bridge, down to the sharks below. Trouble is, others will take their place. Spammers, sadly, aren’t a hereditary breed – it’s a learned behavior. (Almost Lamarckian!)

Even if you don’t agree about where spammers come from, we’ll have to agree there are too many of them. Spam is a very successful meme, a unit of cultural information that’s better than most at copying itself. In the realm of intellectual selection, spam is to be found far and wide in the meme pool. Spam is maybe a parasite working on (or against?) the get rich quick meme – if people stopped wanting a quick and easy buck, spam would vanish overnight.

What’s this rubbish about it being the “dominant species” though? We eradicated small pox, a more difficult and more important thing than going to the moon, and we’re losing the war against spam. It’s beating us. America gave fire water to the “Indians” to take their land – now, in some places, native casinos are using greed to take modern culture’s money. Spam is doing much the same thing.

Spam is a concept, an idea, that by producing a lot of useless drivel, a person can strike internet riches. It comes in a few varieties, from the email sitting in your box, selling you viagra and mortgages, to the affiliate and “search engine friendly” links in a forum and a blog. It’s PayPerPost, where a blogger can beat the 1849 gold rush by telling you how wonderful a sponge and a bank account are. It’s Digital Pointless, where you can buy other people’s Wikipedia and eBay accounts. Fine, that’s what spam is, but what are we? It’s hapless accomlices, we’re machines, some of us, that spam uses to copy itself.

All of this is Darwinian. If you have variation (spam, job, investment, invention), heredity (new spam is very much like old spam, but refined in its sales pitch or its delivery) and selection (spam filters, forum moderators, people seeing through it), you have evolution. This works in biology (genes), and it works in ideas (memes). If you have the struggle for existance among things that copy themselves, the one that’s better at making copies will come to dominate, to fill its world. Ladies and gentlemen, this is exactly what spam is doing – a digital thing filling its internet world. One of the dominant species in the meme pool.


This proves our point – bad spam, the least fit, failing in the struggle for existance.

April 10, 2008

Spam Words

Filed under: Software,spam — alexanderthegreatest @ 8:24 am
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Many of my readers know by this point that I have an aversion to spam.  Add to that a strange sense of humor, and a little bit of sadness at the way the internet has been colonized by corporations – even to the point that companies we all pay for access to the internet want to charge extra fees for using particular sites, see Comcast – and we have Alexander the Great.

I’ve been thinking about moving my blog from Word Press to a self hosted ASP.NET server.  There are several reasons to do this, but many of them come down to the fact that I pay the mortgage with my job as a .NET programmer.  Version 3.5 is out in production, and I haven’t had much hands on experience with LINQ yet.  My own blog system will take some work, but it will also give me a chance to experiment with a lot of new concepts and make myself more valuable in the market.  But I digress, the real problem, in my mind anyway, is to create a spam filter that’s anywhere near as good as Akismet, which comes built in to WP.  I publish any comment that makes it past the spam filter (I believe in free speech), so I need my own,k and it has to be good.

I’m thinking the easiest way to do this is a rules based approach.  I can have a list of prohibited words, and give each of them a point value, then add up all the points for violations.  I’ve been thinking about which words to ban?

That’s what I’ve got so far.  This isn’t a terribly well planned post, really more of a brainstorm.  I would love to invite readers to share their thoughts on the matter, and, ultimately, I plan to open source what I come up with.  I firmly believe that ASP.NET is a better platform in most ways than PHP, but, sadly, there’s far less open code available for it.  A problem to be solved!

Here are some links to different spam research, in case anybody else is interested in tackling the problem.  Even if it’s already been done before, I think this is a valuable learning experience.  Like a muscle, the brain works best when it works often.

March 13, 2008

Stumble Upon a DP Spammer

Filed under: spam — alexanderthegreatest @ 9:56 pm
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Digital Pointless is a cesse pool, but if you have a wet suit you can dive right in. Yeah, it’s filled with urine drinking monsters, but some of them look funny. It can be an interesting and illuminating journey through the bowels of the web. (I would recommend you to defend yourself with marijuanna, my dear reader, lest you become angry at the filth you see. The point is to spread awareness – anger by itself helps nobody.)

One thing that becomes clear right away is the spammers and scammers all have an angle to push. It’s a lot like prison. Virtually all of them make money through the web – in fairness it’s only the most prolific who use underhanded methods, but these are who stand out most. Because most of these schemes demand a sucker (it’s ironic that some are sheerly for the benefit of search engines and PageRank), web traffic is of the utmost importance.

Enter Stumble Upon. She’s the pretty girl at the party, but she has a reputation as being easy. 5 million users with diverse interests, and an efficient method of showing them things they might like means that a fun site is also a spammer’s dream. It’s pretty often I find someone on DP begging to trade Stumbles. Here’s how I deal with it

  1. Copy the message the spammer posted asking to trade Stumbles – a violation of the terms of service.
  2. Visit their site (ideally the page they’re “campaigning”) and give it a thumbs down.
  3. Review the page, and type SPAM, along with a link to the offending message. Beneath that, paste the message they posted into a <blockquote> tag.

Why? Spammers are invading Stumble Upon and other social networks to make a profit. The only way to make them stop polluting the waters, hurting the system for the rest of us is to remove the profitability. And to do that, we must expose their spam campaigns for what they are – give fellow users the full evidence, and let them reach their own conclusions.

When this happens on a large scale, Stumble Upon will stop being attractive to spammers, but still allow people to find quality information and entertainment on the web.

For fun, here are some other anti spammers

Now forward this to 800 of your friends in the next 32 seconds, or I’ll steal your underwear.

March 12, 2008

Who Will Clean My Inbox When I’m Dead?

Filed under: Modern Life — alexanderthegreatest @ 9:24 pm
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Every day I get about 50 emails. About 45 are spam. MF Doom put it best in Kookies “Supposed to be checking emails but all I’ve got is spam from ass nekid females. I don’t know a Jenny, but she says it’s free and I won’t owe her a penny. Last I saw of that one, but there are thousands more horrors in online Gomorrah.

Back to my Yahoo and Gmail accounts. Every day I delete and blacklist 45 or so spam messages. Every day 45 more get through. Sometimes I win the lottory in some foreign country like England or South Africa. Other times they want to give me a college degree. Usually it’s viagra. Or credit card debt. Every now and then they want to give me a bigger pencil – that one confuses me because I don’t write on paper anymore. 🙂

I used to curse the internet out whenever I checked my email. But I’ve gotten used to it. In fact it’s become a habit, a routine, and eventually given me a sense of purpose. I may be a cog in the machine like Pink Floyd, my name may have been replaced by a number (in hex, of course), but I clean spam from my inbox, and I do a good job of it. Thank you sir, may I have another?

This task has grown in importance. No longer is it the annoyance I felt in the 1990s. Having a spam free inbox is mission critical, it’s like being free of sin if you’re Catholic, so that when your time comes you can meet God proudly. Or having clean underwear on when you get hit by a car – for the kids. It’s necessary not to have spam in my inbox.

But the gates of heaven beg the question, who will clean my inbox, purge it of spam, when I’m dead? I can’t bear the thought of spam piling up like dust in a forgotten basement somewhere, never to see the online recycle bin?

March 5, 2008

The Best Captcha I’ve Ever Seen

Filed under: Modern Life,Software — alexanderthegreatest @ 10:49 am
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Captcha = Computer Anal Probe To (confuse) Computers & Humans Alike

Forget squiggly letters!

Captchas are those stupid forms you have to answer when you get a new email address. Most of them are like trying to read the newspaper after a modest dose of LSD. I like how this one gets creative with it.

Some people use a newer (and weaker, it would seem) type of captcha, where the reader has to perform a menial task in order to procede. Math is a pretty common challenge, although it’s usually more trivial than this!

The problem, dear reader, is this. Spammers began to take advantage of every free service on the internet in one form or another. Blogs are targets for comment spam, designed to bring people and search engines to another site. Wikipedia uses them to keep people from doing same, when adding references. Hotmail uses them to prevent the proliferation of viagra in your inbox. The solution, for the past 10 years or more, has been to “challenge” readers to prove their humanity.

I'm tripping!!!

Remember eating magic mushrooms (with chocolate or iced cream to disguise the taste!) and seeing things like this? The gradients in this picture are designed to stand up to a particular attack. A software can examine the image pixel by pixel and look for ones that don’t match the background color. But a gradient means there is no background color! But even the appearance of a background is skewed in a way that makes me feel dizzy.

But making a computer “read” a captcha the way a person would is only one way to break the things. Spammers have long known a easier way, because spammers are a lazy people. They prefer to download a collection of pornography, then upload it into a script making a membership only porn site. Memberships are given away for free, but to activate them requires solving a captcha. See where this is going? Web surfers who want porn do the “hard” work solving the puzzles. Spammers record the answer along with the image in a database, then the next time their software is challenged with the same image, they pull the answer from the database. This is less work (meaning more ROI) than even making a script to execute the math problem (usually something like 4+3) for a simple test we’ve described earlier.

What all this means is that captchas are broken, so don’t rely on them if you need security!

January 11, 2008

Conservatipedia – A Spammer, Cheat, and Idiot

Filed under: Modern Life,spam,Terrorism — alexanderthegreatest @ 6:58 pm
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Conservatipedia is a web site that proves its possible to consistantly produce lower quality drivel than Wikipedia. Like most spam, it’s a Google BlogSpot splog. (Splog = spam blog) What’s unusual about this particular site is that the paranoid delusionals seem to have found their way onto the internet. Consider this quote, whining about Disney’s cartoon, Aladdin

Alababistan is a fictional city in the Middle East. The movie tries to show how “great” the Middle East is and how “happy” Muslims live. They never seemed to showcase masked men running around with AK47’s shooting little girls that are trying to goto school.

Even the patently ignorant would admit the movie takes place before the AK-47 (a Russian weapon) was invented. Here’s another bit of schizophrenia spilling into the blogosphere

The Genie in the Bottle
No it’s not Christina Aguilera, but a metaphor of the Islamic belief of suicide bombing infidels. The Genie in the bottle will grant three wishes to that person that gives it a rub. The idea that there are virgins waiting in heaven after you blow yourself up, is the same false belief of a Genie in a bottle granting a wish. All this movie did was have children running around rubbing bottles and learning how to be suicide bombers.

The site boasts 2 RSS subscribers. It’s “marketed” (ie spammed) by cheating Stumble Upon using Digital Point (banned from Stumble Upon) to recruit fellow spammers. The entire thread is in violation of SU’s terms of service, and has been reported.

Like many Republicans, the owner of this site is a hypocrite. This purveyor of spam actually has the text “Spam will not be tolerated.” on his side bar.

January 5, 2008

Digital Point – Misunderstood?

Filed under: Ethics,Modern Life,Web — alexanderthegreatest @ 6:37 am
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Common Sense has a song on his new album (Finding Forever) called Misunderstood. It begins with a singer opening the tune with “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” This line, finishing the sample, is preceded by other lyrics making it clear that all people have a bad side, and should rather be judged by their intentions than actions. After this 1970s soul introduction, Common resumes the modern era, telling the story of a hood drug dealer

He on the ground he could feel God touchin’ him
He heard the sound of his mom sayin’ trust in Him
At heaven’s gates he sayin’
Lord, please, let me in!
Or send me back so I can
tell my people to be better men

Digital Point(less) is a web forum, a place where people discuss all aspects of running a site. “All aspects” is jargon for how to bleed every penny from it. Aptly put by the newest member of my blogroll in an article titled 100 Reasons Why Digital Point Sucks, the place is literally infested with spammers. Infested in the sense that it’s crawling with them like termites in a condemned house, festering like a rotting corpse being torn apart by vultures as it rots in the sun.

There are far more reasons, though, and some of them are very compelling. Digital Point itself is banned by the social networking site, Stumble Upon. The once respected member who wrote their Reputation FAQ is banned by their very own site. High risk methods of promoting one’s web site are taught to people new to the industry and looking for advice.

Is Digital Point misunderstood? Yes, by anyone who looks there for true information or useful analysis.

Common’s song, Misunderstood, ends

She dance and she dance she dance for them
Her body move but her mind was manickin’
Thinkin’ I don’t know where they hands had been
Relationships with men have been so damagin’
She thought back to when she was in howard and
Dreams of doing scenes with Terence Howard and
Broadway plays and dancin’ with Alv and them
The ones that make it always ain’t the talented
Some dreams get lost never to be found again
At first strippin’ seemed so empowerin’
Most every girl wanna do it now and then
But bein’ meat everyday is devourin’
Cats put paper where she put powder in
Life would break up now she powderin’
She was high when she fell down and then
Crowd surroundin’ and heart was poundin’ and
She fell into a deep sleep, the siren sounded and
Seein bright lights in the mist of clouds and then
Talk to god feelin like his child again
said lord let me live so I can make you proud again

Don’t let me be misunderstood,
I’m just human

The life we lead, will always lead us
and we pray that he will never leave us
It’s the price we pay, I guess that’s the reason
Why my grandma say “We all need Jesus.”

Like the Whores of Babylon (DP Users), the anti-heros seeking redemption only after death here point to a common excuse. “I’m just human.

January 2, 2008

Choosing a Military School (Spam is Fun)

Filed under: Ethics,Modern Life — alexanderthegreatest @ 8:01 pm
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I got this personal message webmaster talk, a forum about the internet in general, and blogging in particular.  I like the forum because there are generally very intelligent people.


I want to exchange links with your education related site. In return I will provide you back links on PR-specific sites.

My details are

Link URL:
Link Text: choosing a military school
Link Description: Military Network with Military Schools information.

sites for link back



A new site, Creeps & Morons, has sprung up to not only combat spam, but to display it to the adoring public.  After all, robots are working tirelessly to produce metric tons of the stuff every second.  The least we can do is be entertained.
Stumble Upon a Spammer

Blog at