Tinkering with anti-spam measures on SEB.

I’ve been flooded with spam user registrations as of late and the WP plugin I had been using to stop them is apparently no longer being updated. So I replaced it with the Stop Spammers plugin from Bryan Hadaway and, hoo boy, does it have a lot of features to it. That means there could be some issues with legit registration attempts by real people.

So, this is just a quick post to say that if you’re a real person who isn’t trying to register an account or leave a comment for spammy purposes and you find that you can’t then drop me an email (over in the sidebar) and let me know and I’ll poke the system with a stick to see if I can’t figure out what needs to be tweaked.

My goal isn’t to stop people from signing up or leaving comments — I’d just turn off registrations and comments if that were the case — but to slow down the bots that are constantly bombarding my site. I’m not even sure what they are registering accounts for because there’s nothing in them to point to someplace else and they never try to leave comments with them and they don’t ever seem to login to those accounts beyond the one time. It seems like a stupid and pointless exercise. They’re not stopping, though, so I’m left with no choice put to put systems in place to cut down on how many get through.

Oh hey, it’s September already.

It’s been almost a month since my last post so I suppose I should post something. It’s not like I haven’t been meaning to, just like I’ve been meaning to do a vlog or a live stream or something along those lines, but I’m getting lazy in my old age.

Speaking of old age, I turned 52 on the 25th of August. I meant to post something then too, but that obviously didn’t happen. I’d like to think I’d have some wisdom to impart by now, but I got nothing that isn’t something someone else has already said. I did buy myself a handful of RPG video games from Humble Bundle for my birthday with the thought that maybe they’d make for amusing live streaming content, but I really need to sit down and figure out a time and day to do it regularly if I’m going to build up any kind of an audience.

So this is just a short post to say that I’m still alive and still thinking of posting something if I ever get off my ass and think of something to post. After doing this for almost two decades you’d think I’d be better at it than I am.

It’s July 4th, 2019 and it’s feeling a little fascist out there.

I’ve not blogged anything in awhile in part because my creative juices have dried up and in part because every day there’s so many new outrages to come out of the Trump administration that it’s hard to keep up without being overwhelmed. Children in concentration camps, his unqualified kids sticking their noises in at the G20 summit, and now his big Russian styled military parade for the 4th of July.

This is why the title doesn’t wish you a Happy 4th. There’s nothing to be happy about this year. It’s all starting to feel way too much like the dictatorships Trump loves to buddy up to. More worrying to me, however, is how Trump has shown the willingness of Republicans to tolerate a wanna-be Stalin so long as he’s a Republican giving them want they want. Trump has already done so many things that they would’ve tried to impeach Obama for if he had done them that it really does put to bed any credibility they might have had. There was one Republican who stood up and called for impeachment, but he’s announced that he’s leaving the party so they don’t even have him to point to anymore.

So, have a safe July 4th. That’s the best I can do this year.

Surely my house will have good fortune now.

I came home to an unexpected delivery from Amazon yesterday. I originally thought it must be something Anne had ordered because she orders stuff all the time that I have no clue about, but she pointed out later that it was addressed to me. Puzzled, I opened the box and found a solar powered Maneki-neko or Good Fortune Cat.

A lot of folks think these are of Chinese origin as you will often see them in Chinese restaurants in America, but they are actually a Japanese lucky charm. I have a couple of porcelain figures in the house already, but I’ve always wanted one with a moving arm and so I put this fellow on my Amazon wish list.

Ignore the clutter in the background. I hastily took this pic with it on the dining room table.

I’ve no idea who sent it to me. The note that came with it simply read: “Hi Les, I’ve read your blog for a long time. We seem to be on the same page on just about every issue. It’s a small token, but wanted to say thanks. You’re a good dude. From – Just some Canadian guy living in the U.S..”

No, thank you, Some Canadian Guy! I’ve wanted one of these for a very long time and being solar powered means I don’t have to replace batteries in it all the time. I’d probably still be blabbing away on here even if no one was paying attention, but it is always gratifying and humbling when I realize folks make a point of seeing what nonsense I’ve spouted recently. It’s been almost two decades and that hasn’t changed for me. Thank you for dropping in.

My social networking expands.

With the pending shutdown of Google+ and my growing concerns about Facebook, I’ve been looking around trying to decide if there’s any other social networks I should consider making use of. I already have a Twitter account, but that’s a different beast than G+ or FB in my mind. I did set up a MeWe account, but I’ve not touched it in forever because the lack of an API to make sharing stuff to it easy is a sticking point for me. You’re welcome to follow me there if you wish, but I can’t say I’ll be doing too much there. So the search continues.

I’ve been following the development of Diaspora project for awhile, but hadn’t signed up for it until today. The basic idea is that it’s trying to be similar to Facebook, but without all the data mining and advertising. I tend to think of it as the Open Source Facebook and, much like Linux, there’s a whole bunch of different “pods” that are setup and run by folks for different reasons, but they all talk to each other. The upshot being you have to choose which instance of Diaspora you want to create an account on, but once you do you can communicate with and share stuff to anyone on any of the other pods. Most importantly, you own your data and you have control over whom you share what with.

I finally signed on in part because Dave Hill of ***Dave Does The Blog did it and I wanna be like the cool kid. Plus he found a node that was specifically set up for folks who were previously G+ fans called Pluspora. If you’re using Diaspora, either on Pluspora or one of the other nodes, you can find my profile here.

I’m still figuring out how it all works and I can’t promise I’ll be any more active there than I am at MeWe until I get a handle on it, but the fact that there is a WordPress plugin that will allow me to crosspost new entries from here to my profile there at least points to an API that may make it more enjoyable to work with than the previously aforementioned MeWe. In other words, there’s a fairly decent chance I’ll be active. At least with crossposts from SEB, if nothing else. I’ve not set up the plugin yet, but will be looking into it.

Oh, I just find a bookmarklet on my Pluspora profile page to “Post to diaspora” that lets you easily share webpages on your profile. So I already like it better than MeWe.

I’m hoping this will help me refocus on blogging more regularly too as now what I write here will go to Twitter, Facebook, and Pluspora. I’m already starting to take things that would’ve been a quick share to Facebook (the previous entry) and seeing if I can’t turn them into short, but amusing blog posts. So all of this is just a long way of saying, “Hey! You can now find me on yet another social media platform!”

SEB is now old enough to vote.

UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that my math skills suck. SEB is actually 17 years old, not 18. 2018-2001 = 17. That’s what I get for posting about it in 2019 and doing the math based on the current date instead of, you know, the actual date of the anniversary itself. Still, we’ve been around longer than a lot of other way more popular websites so that’s still something to gloat about even if I do need remedial basic math tutoring.

I missed my own Blogiversary. I started blogging on December 2nd, 2001 with a stupidly simple post that only said:

Well, it took awhile before I found a layout I was happy with, but I now have a home page up and running and some of the links even work. Seems like the part I have the hardest time with when making pages is the layout and coming up with some graphics that won’t cause visitor’s eyes to bleed the instant it comes into view. I’m still not certain what sections I plan to put into place, but the page as a whole will reflect my interests and opinions.

And that was it until January 10th, 2002, but it was a start. At the time I was creating pages by hand which is probably why there wasn’t much activity until we got into January when I got a script called Coranto set up to make updating a little easier to do. It was the crudest form of not-really-a-database system that updated flat HTML files to make the site. Then on February 3rd I made the move to the MovableType blogging platform and things really took off. For awhile there I was blogging quite a bit, but these days my output isn’t too dissimilar to what it was in those early days.

I had no idea what I was going to do with it back at the start and I assumed it was going to be a lot like many other endeavors I’ve undertaken over the years and only last a few months. Frankly, no one is more surprised that I’m sitting here 18 years later blathering away about whatever catches my attention. There were a couple points where it looked like I was going to have to shut it down either due to unemployment or just growing too big for the hosting services I was using at the time, but we squeaked through and a lot of you were with me during some pretty rough times.

Eighteen years is particularly amazing when you consider that Facebook didn’t exist until February 4, 2004 and YouTube wouldn’t arrive until February 14, 2005. Hell, MySpace wasn’t even a thing yet (August 1, 2003) and I beat Friendster by a year (March 22, 2002). You’ll forgive me for being somewhat impressed with myself.

I’m not as active as I was and my audience is not as big, but I’m still plugging away. Looking back and seeing the stuttering start I made at blogging makes me feel a little better at the similarly rough start to vlogging and streaming I’ve had. There’s a lot more involved in these new ventures which means it’ll take me longer to get into the swing of it and perhaps I’ll never manage to do as well at those things as I have at blogging, but that would be OK too. Much like when I started, I don’t know how much longer SEB will continue, but I’ve not run out of things to babble on about yet so if I had to guess then there’s probably still a ways to go.

Until then, a big thank you to those who have dropped by over the years to see what I had to say. You’ve made it all worthwhile and I am still amazed and humbled by it all.

Yaaaaay!

Oh hey, look, it’s July already.

Man, time sure does fly when every day is a new waking nightmare, eh? Once again I’ve allowed myself to get sidetracked and not blog at all for a whole month. Part of it is there’s so many terrible things happening with our government right now that I don’t have time enough to finish one entry about the latest outrage before two more have occurred. So I end up trashing what I was working on to try and write something that covers the latest shitstorm and nothing ever gets finished.

So too have my attempts at vlogging and streaming fallen by the wayside. I’ve got no excuse not to be doing those things as I have a pretty good setup for it these days. I just haven’t been doing it. Sadly, I’ve fallen off the bike riding bandwagon as well. It’s been over a month since I last got on that and peddled around. I step outside and it’s like walking into an oven and I turn around and go right back inside.

This week I’m on vacation and the only really notable thing I’ve done was had my first, small LAN party yesterday. Friends Bob, Greg, and Andy came over and we were all really bad at surviving in Left4Dead 2 and then, after Bob had to leave, we played a little bit of Diablo 3 as I helped Andy get back into playing it.

Other than that it’s been eat, work, play video games, sleep, repeat for the past few weeks. Anne has been unemployed so we’ve not been going out and doing things because the budget is tight. All in all, other than keeping up with politics, my life has been relatively quiet. I will try not to let it go a month without posting something again.

Is SEB affected by GDPR?

Back in 2016 the E.U. passed a new law to protect user’s data called the General Data Protection Regulation that goes into full effect on May 25th, 2018. This is why you’ve been getting emails from so many online businesses on their Privacy Policies and how they handle your personal information. According to Wikipedia, the general gist of the law is this:

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (EU) 2016/679 is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union and the European Economic Area. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU and EEA. The GDPR aims primarily to give control to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.[1]

Superseding the Data Protection Directive, the regulation contains provisions and requirements pertaining to the processing of personally identifiable information of data subjects inside the European Union. Business processes that handle personal data must be built with privacy by design and by default, meaning that a system must be designed from the start to adhere to the principles of data protection, and use the highest-possible privacy settings by default, so that the data is not available publicly without explicit consent, and cannot be used to identify a subject without additional information stored separately. No personal data may be processed unless it is done under a lawful basis specified by the regulation, or if the data controller or processor has received explicit, opt-in consent from the data’s owner. The business must allow this permission to be withdrawn at any time.

A processor of personal data must clearly disclose what data is being collected and how, why it is being processed, how long it is being retained, and if it is being shared with any third-parties. Users have the right to request a portable copy of the data collected by a processor in a common format, and the right to have their data erased under certain circumstances. Public authorities, and businesses whose core activities centre around regular or systematic processing of personal data, are required to employ a Data Protection Officer (DPO), who is responsible for managing compliance with the GDPR. Businesses must report any data breaches within 72 hours if they have an adverse effect on user privacy.

When I first heard about the law my first thoughts were, “Well, I’m not in the European Union so this doesn’t apply to me,” but it turns out that there’s a chance that it might. So much so that WordPress has had new features put in place specifically for creating a Privacy Policy and giving users the ability to see what data has been collect and export that data from the blog. There’s been a ton of articles out there on what the GDPR is and how it might affect bloggers, but all of the ones I’ve seen so far assume you’re blogging as a small business. I’ve yet to find a clear article on what it means for someone who does it as a hobby.

From what I’ve been able to gather, any website that captures so much as the IP address of someone visiting it is at risk of being in violation of this regulation and thusly possibly liable for fines for up to €20 million for non-compliance.

Now, I’d be surprised if the E.U. suddenly decided to come after me and the blogs I host for myself and friends and family as we’re decidedly small fish in the ocean of the Internet, but I’ve noticed a sudden influx of new user registrations on SEB from a bunch of people all using the same domain name which is a known SPAM account domain and I have to wonder if there’s going to be a trend of scammers trying to blackmail non-compliant bloggers into coughing up some dough. Which is why I’ve been trying to learn more about how this law applies to people like me.

In short, the whole thing is a huge pain in the ass and could bring about the end of Stupid Evil Bastard if I can’t figure out what I need to do to be in compliance. Turning off user registrations and disabling comments wouldn’t be enough as IP addresses would still be captured and that’s enough to be an issue. Short of blocking all traffic coming from the E.U. (and that wouldn’t stop users on VPNs), I don’t see an easy way to deal with this and I’ve got three days to figure this out.

Considering I’ve been researching it for a couple of months already, I’m not sure I”m going to be compliant in time.

UPDATE: It turns out that WordPress’s privacy policy tool helps you to set one up with suggestions that take into account what plugins you have installed. You can see SEB’s shiny new Privacy Policy here.

It’s back! Return of the Son of the SEB PODCAST!

Despite it being almost three years since the last one and no one suggesting anything for us to talk about, Dave Hill and I managed to blather on for an hour about whatever we wanted to including some spoilery talk on Avengers: Infinity War. You’ll find it embedded below and the spoilers start at 47:17 so skp the last 13 minutes if you don’t want to hear them:

The Return of the Son of the SEB Podcast.

Hey, remember how Dave Hill of ***Dave Does The Blog and I would occasionally get together online and talk about stuff that you guys wanted to hear our opinions on? Remember how the last time we did it we were both shocked and appalled that it had been three years since the previous podcast?

Well, fuck me if it hasn’t been almost three years again since the last one.

So it’s about damned time that we get together for another one. The last one was accomplished via a Google Hangouts live stream and, other than a small technical hangup audio-wise early on, it worked pretty well so we’re doing that again!

That means we’re once again looking for suggestions of things you’d like to hear us talk about whether we’re qualified to pontificate on it or not. Given the political prediction I made during the last one that I was completely and totally wrong about, you can be sure I’ll probably be completely wrong about something I say during this one.

You can leave your suggestions in the comments here, on ***Dave Does the Blog, or on our social media accounts if that’s what suits you. We’ll scrape ’em together and see what kind of trouble we can get into with them.

The actual live stream is set for 1PM EDT on Sunday the 6th of May so you’ve got some time to think up something good. I’ve got an event for it on G+, but it’s currently set to private. If there’s sufficient interest in watching it live as we stumble through it I can always make the event public. Let me know.

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