Could get a little bumpy here on the Regensblog

Short technical note here, folks: I’m trying out a new hosting service. Things seem to be working OK, but I’m tweaking stuff in the background and I guess something could fall down go boom — though I’m trying to minimize that, of course.

If you want the technical details, I can post (some of) them here, or if you prefer to keep your geekery slightly less public, email me. I use gmail and my username is the same as the author of this post. Aside: I probably won’t respond to random visitors via email.

WEBUM 2009 – Keeping it moist

It’s right around the corner! The Whiney Expat Blogger Unmissable Meetup is happening in Munich, September 4-6, 2009. If you want the details, go to the discussion board and sign up for an account or login if you already have an account and haven’t been there in a while. To get access you need to:

-be an expat blogger or
-know an expat blogger who will vouch for you.

These are measures to keep spammers and bots away. We’re not mean high school girls guarding our lunch table or anything. Last year’s event in Bremen was a lot of fun (thanks again, Claire!) and a great opportunity to discuss your discoveries with fellow expatriates. Cliff and I had a good time checking out an area of Germany in which we hadn’t spent much time, so if you need an excuse to come to Munich, this might be it!

Is the long, dark winter over?

I guess it has been for a few days now, according to the orbit of the earth around the sun. But I’m not so sure — last night before bed it was sleeting ominously.

But there were offerings of pineapple and fresh spinach at the grocery store on Saturday. Those are good signs! In celebration of the coming of spring, I decided to switch the default theme of this blog to one I made based on Rémuzat. If you’re reading this blog through a feed reader, you probably won’t notice a change. If you’ve explicitly chosen this theme in the past, you might not notice a change now. If you prefer one of the other themes, they’re available in the sidebar menu under “Themey Stuff.”

WEBMU 2008 — Bremen (and Bremerhaven)

Bremen WEBMU 2008Rolled back into town a couple hours ago after a 6-hour trip back to Regensburg from Bremen for the 4th annual Whiny Explat Blogger Meetup. The trip went smoothly, despite several long delays in the train schedule. Try not to spend a layover in the Würzburg Hbf if you can help it (ugh…).

Big, big thanks to Claire for her organizational wizardry and friendly welcome packets, waiting for us at our respective hotels (even ours, 25 minutes out into the burbs via tram line). How she managed to get the weather to be just perfect, I’ll never know.

This was our first meetup and I’m sure it won’t be our last. It was great fun meeting in person the authors and commenters of many of the blogs we read. I would be tickled to have any of them give us a call (or even better, an email) when they plan to visit Regensburg or meet up with them for a drink or a meal or museum outing or something when our travels bring us to their towns. Easiest way I can think of to avoid those “Aw, shucks, had I known you were going to be in town…” realizations? Sign up for dopplr and connect to me or Sarah. You can follow our travel plans via that site, or RSS, or email. It’s really, really, intuitive and (this is the best part) extremely unobtrusive. And no, we’re not getting points or referral bonuses or anything like that. I first heard about dopplr from a banner on J’s blog and since then, four different expatriate blog authors I read have also shared their travel plans with me/us. How cool would that be to discover I know someone who’ll be in Romania or Berlin or Paris the same week that I am?

Here are the best shots I got from the trip:

the IRL meetup


Tonight we met the Eurotrippens. They are really cool people.

One thing we Sarah noticed: they are the first American couple we have ever met over here where both parties are American. I thought that couldn’t be true when she first said it, but when I think about everyone else from our budding little ex-pat community in Regensburg (thanks go to Christina for her organizational efforts), they’re all not a couple, or not both American.

One thing I noticed: meeting people in real life, with whom our first contact was via our blogs or other websites (or, in our case, a BBS) has been a singularly cool experience, every time.

In roughly chronological order:

  1. Sarah (homerun on the first at-bat!)
  2. Miss-Efficiency and her husband via BookCrossing
  3. Zmrzlina via BookCrossing
  4. Ron & Kaori via BookCrossing
  5. a bunch of German bookcrossers at various meetups
  6. Margot and Nick, indirectly via BookCrossing
  7. Christina and Rainer
  8. and now B and Jim

Are we just lucky? Or are you all as thrilled with your on-line meetups as we are? You can post anonymously if you want.

breaking my own rules

I’m doing a sort of experiment here of sorts. It’s pretty nerdy, so read the the next couple of lines and then call it quits if you like. There’s a link to an email address below; please click it and send me email. I’ll be happy and send you a friendly response back — IF you’re not a scum-sucking spammer or email-harvesting spam-enabler. Please briefly tell me who you are and how you got here if your name or email address is not one that I’ll recognize immediately on sight.

november18th2007@cliff1976.com

Okay, on with the nerd show!

I’m so pleased with the Bad Behavior plug-in for WordPress over the last day or so with regard to blocking comment-spam that I want to give it a real test-drive in the realm of harvester blocking as well. It’s supposed to prevent harvesters from sifting through my blog looking for email addresses to be collected and bombarded or sold for further bombardment.

That’s Part I.

Part II is in conjunction with my awesome hosting company, NearlyFreeSpeech, whose staunch policies about only accepting email from well-configured servers do a good job of cutting down on spam…so good, in fact, that occasionally legitimate mail from ill-configured servers is incorrectly flagged as spam and it never makes it to me. I’m talking about mail servers owned by organizations such as Google and my mom’s employer and my parents’ cable internet service provider at home.

It would seem that the world of server administrators is getting lazier and lazier every day. NearlyFreeSpeech.NET has identified that most spam comes from servers whose IP addresses fail a reverse-lookup test. Put simply, every computer on the internet sending email should be identifiable via both a name AND a number, and anyone should be able to ask what the corresponding name is for a given number, and vice-versa, and get corroborating answers to those questions.

It’s kind of like me saying to you,

Hey, I’m Cliff. Here’s my mobile number: (212) 555-1234.

and if you call that number, you expect me, and only me, to pick up (because it’s my cellie!).

If NearlyFreeSpeech.NET gets email addressed to me where the server’s number doesn’t match the name it’s reporting, they assume it’s spam and throw it away for me. This has worked great, except for the growing number of apparently legitimate server administrators who are too lazy to make sure their servers names corroborate their numbers. Apparently I’m not the only who’s been affected by this.

So, I’m beta-testing a hybrid email filtering service of theirs. They still prevent suspicious-looking emails from reaching my email inbox, but there will be a quarantine area where I can look to see what the spam traps have caught should I ever seem to be missing an important message (like from the car rental company sending us the confirmation about our rental in December). I would prefer that the rest of the world simply properly configure their email servers: that would totally preclude the need for a quarantine area or filter queue or whatever you want to call it. However, that is sounding less and less realistic over the years. I mean, even Google can’t consistently identify themselves on the internet!

Here’s the dirt on my little test: I want to see if Bad Behavior keeps the harvesters from finding the email address above and NearlyFreeSpeech.NET correctly allows messages from you, my loyal and non-spammy readership, to arrive at my inbox unencumbered by ideals of the 1980s, back when everyone pretty much trusted his cyber-neighbor to know his phone number.

Oh yeah, and I’ve disabled comments on this post. Just send me an email using the unmissable address above (click it or copy it into your favorite mail program), please. I may do a follow-up post here with comments enabled depending on how well this test goes. Thanks for helping with the test!

blog and other sites will be down for four to eight hours tomorrow

Hi,

I realize it’s not much notice, and it’s a weird coincidence with our vacation, but this blog and other sites (most notably http://bcwish.cliff1976.net) I run which are hosted at nearlyfreespeech.net are going to be down for four to eight hours tomorrow.

Don’t freak out. The hosting company is just moving across town; that’s all. We’ll try to post from the ship when we get there.