Category Archives: Technology

Gibberish Last Names Clogging up Subscriptions

I had been annoyed recently by an increasing number of SPAM subscriptions on my web site. The script behind the form for these subscriptions and requests for rebate immediate send out a confirmation email to the address entered (as well as to the admin of the site) and add the visitor to a database.

Initially there were a few of those spam entries and I could easily go into the database and manually remove them. But they became more and more numerous, so the first step was to add a link to the email the admin received which allowed for an easy removal of that spam entry.

But finally it got so annoying and time-consuming that I tried to think of a more automated way to handle the spam entries. What they all had in common was

  • a good first name
  • a gibberish last name like NLMAkPJpIVyqCkCeuEh, YijhgzswktJTVWqXhmA or MPSVPkfXInMzFYhEOpp
  • and a good email

The email was probably a good one because there were hardly any bounces for the automatic confirmation emails. That actually bothered me also because these poor recipients got some SPAM apparently coming from me.

Now the quest for me was to find something that all these spam entries had in common so that I could filter them somehow. Unfortunately php does not have a ‘gibberish’ function, so I had to come up with one of my own. Meditating over these entries I finally saw that these spam names often have longer sequences of consonants than would occur in valid names.

With a little bit of help from my friends at Google I came up with the following. With the hope that it might help somebody bothered by the same spammers, here the code snippet to filter those entries:

$first = $_REQUEST[first];
$last = $_REQUEST[last];
$gibberish = preg_match('/[bcdfghjklmnpqrstvwxz]{4,}/i', $first)
          || preg_match('/[bcdfghjklmnpqrstvwxz]{4,}/i', $last);
if (! $gibberish) {
    //do the regular processing
else {
    // pretend every thing went find for the spammer
    // but don't really do anything

Will see how many will slip through – gibberish with less than 4 consonants in a row.

What I am still curious about is ‘WHY’? What the spammer intends with these spam entries. I don’t see any way that could be beneficial to him/her. Discrediting me because the site sents out spam? But why then use gibberish in the last name? I am really curious.

Paperless Living

I am getting better at living a life without paper.

A few weeks ago I have started again to read a pulp science fiction series that I started to enjoy when I was at the tender age of 16. It is still available in print but hard (speak expensive) for me to come by. So, I found a real application for my tablet and am reading these novellas now on a screen.

But beside the entertainment part of my life, I  have also started to get rid of any receipt and other need-to-keep papers. There is a short decision when something comes across my desk if I will ever have to look at or refer to this piece again. If so, it get’s scanned and the  hard copy goes in the trash – or shredder.

This is also true for manuals. Fortunately most devices already come with electronic manuals or you can find them online. But unfortunately not always. Today I looked for the manual of the thermostat at our new house. There was one tucked right behind the wall unit, but obviously I will not leave it there. But I also did not want to start a new shoe box with manuals of things we have around the house, so the decision was made to scan it. But wait, maybe somebody else did this already and I can save the work.

Somebody did, but it was hidden behind having to jump through who knows how many hoops to get it free. Create a free account first. I still did that, but when I then was asked to try this subscription or sign for a trial membership on that other thing, I canceled out of that and did the scanning myself.

Hopefully Google will properly make it known that I did that, so, in case you need that particular manual you don’t have to sign up for any stinking free account – instead you get it right here…

DoIt Model No. 474045 5/2 Day Programmable Thermostat


Canon and Nikon together – At Last

Sometime in the dark ages – more than 15 years ago – I invested in a Nikon SLR 6006 with a nice 35-135mm zoom lens and it served me well until the dawn of the (reasonably priced) digital age. Early DSLRs were way too expensive and not worth the money, so I went with a few consumer digital cameras for some years, one of them also a Nikon, albeit not with exchangeable lens.

For many years my old 6006 sat in the closet losing value but I always had in mind  that at one point I would invest in a DSLR and then I could use the nice lens which was about five hundred bucks in the days I acquired it.

The time of the DSLR finally came in form of a Canon T4i. I had strongly considered waiting for the perfect mirror-less camera, but the deal I got on the Canon – I just could not pass up. I did not go with a Nikon DSLR because I also wanted to use the camera for video and Canon seemed to be superior in that department. Thus, I still had that good Nikon lens sitting there without any use. The idea of selling it on eBay shattered quickly when I saw for how little these cameras were traded – it really appears the time of the 35mm film is over.

I finally a reasonable offer for an adapter for Nikkor AF lenses to EOS bodies and it arrived today.

First test with that ‘good’ Nikkor lens were rather disappointing. It appears that lens technology has made long strides over the last decade and a half. The lack of transfer of data to and from the lens through the adapter (none) was no big deal, as I grew up, focusing manually and with the camera set to aperture priority the exposure was still pretty automatic – if I wanted. One feature of the Nikkor lens I was looking for was the macro range – at 35mm I could push one little button and extend the barrel quite a bit further, thus getting much closer to the subject.

Here the closes with the Nikkor


and the closest I could get with the Canon 18-55


That was pretty good, but then I wanted to see how it fared when I looked closer, and this is where the disappointment took hold.

Big bad color fringes on the Nikkor lens


at least in the out-of-focus areas of the image while the Canon lens showed no such faults


I will have to make some more test to see how the aperture will affect this behavior as, I believe, the Nikkor was wide open, while the Canon was exposing with the lens closed to 11. Now I start to imagine how the quality will be for a modern lens for the price of the old Nikkor, and even more so for a modern lens that I can not justify to buy.

What this little experiment really drove home to me is that the experts are right when they say that glass is more important than body.


The above was written sometime in March of 2013. Since then I looked into other options of getting a closer look at things without using the macro setting on the Nikkor lens.

When it was time to buy something from Amazon with a price under the minimum to get free shipping, I added a Macro Extension Tube Set and a Macro Reverse Ring Camera Mount Adapter. The first one simply adds distance between the sensor and the lens, thus allowing to focus on objects closer to the lens (but losing the ability to focus on infinity with a ring inserted). The second allows to reverse the lens and mount it on the camera with the filter thread, allowing for extreme close-up shorts.

When I received these adapters I took my trusted lens cap and took a few shots to compare with what I could get with the old Nikkor lens. This time I was positively surprised. I got the same good quality of the image with my 18-55 lens – much better than the old Nikkor lens.

Close-up with Distance rings

Close-up with Distance ringsNow, that I have a solution to do close-up photography without the use of the Nikkor lens I can put that lens on eBay again, throwing in the body of the 6006 which I have not been able to just throw away so far.

How To Make Symbols With Keyboard

Alt + 0153   ™   trademark symbol
Alt + 0169   ©   copyright symbol
Alt + 0174   ®   registered ­ trademark symbol
Alt + 0176   °    degree symbol
Alt + 0177   ±   plus-or ­-minus sign
Alt + 0182   ¶   paragr­aph mark
Alt + 0190   ¾   fractio­n, three-fourths
Alt + 0215   ×    multi­plication sign
Alt + 0162   ¢   the ­ cent sign
Alt + 0161   ¡    upside down exclamation point
Alt + 0191   ¿   upside down question mark
Alt + 1   ?   smiley face
Alt + 2   ?   black smiley face
Alt + 15   ?   sun
Alt + 12   ?   female sign
Alt + 11   ?   m­ale sign
Alt + 6   ?   spade
Alt + 5   ?   Club
Alt + 3   ?   Heart
Alt + 4   ?   Diamond
Alt + 13   ?   e­ighth note
Alt + 14   ?   beamed eighth note
Alt + 251   ?   square root check mark
Alt + 24   ?   up arrow
Alt + 25   ?   down arrow
Alt + 26   ?   r­ight arrow
Alt + 27   ?   l­eft arrow
Alt + 18   ?   u­p/down arrow
Alt + 29   ?   lef­t right arrow
Alt + 0196   Ä   umlaut upper A
Alt + 0214   Ö   umlaut upper O
Alt + 0220   Ü   umlaut upper U
Alt + 0223   ß   german sz
Alt + 0228   ä   umlaut a
Alt + 0246   ö   umlaut o
Alt + 0252   ü   umlaut u
Alt + 0128   €   Euro

A more complete list of Windows Alt Key Codes.

The Lensman Series by E. E. Doc Smith

First LensmanMany years ago that I read the Lensman series by Doc E. E. Smith, the precursor to all modern space opera that came after it. Even at the time I read it the technology was dated as these books were written in the 40s and 50s (and even I had no read them when they were first published), but that all did not matter to me at all. These were just great stories.

My first read was in a German translation and I am rather certain that I read at least a few of the books in English after I came to the US of A. For a long time now I wanted to read them again but these books are hard to come by – most of them were out of print and I believe still are – you can’t really find them on Amazon in form of inexpensive paperbacks, maybe as bound collectors items but not for an amount that I was willing to spend.

So I had given up for a while to find a complete set, but recently discovered the first, Triplanetary, as an ebook and am about to finish it on my tablet (apparently the only useful application for a tablet.)

As I was approaching the last few pages I needed the next one – First Lensman. Quite a bit of googling later I finally hit the mother-lode at Arthur’s Bookshelp. He had them all and as I was at it, I also got the Skylark series for the time when I’m done with the Lensmen.  That could be a few years at the slow pace I am going.

Just in case you need the sequence of the book, because it is sometimes hard to figure it out the chronology:

  1. Triplanetary
  2. First Lensman
  3. Galactic Patrol
  4. Gray Lensman
  5. Second Stage Lensman
  6. Children of the Lens

And here – as we are at it, the sequence of the Skylark series:

  1. The Skylark of Space
  2. Skylark Three
  3. Skylark of Valeron
  4. Skylark DuQuesne


The Internet is Humming with Dr. Who

The-Doctor-and-ClaraToday the wait was over – the second half of season 7 of Dr. Who has started.

I bet that most views of the show happened on the official channels like BBC America here in the US of A, but, as we are out in the boons, with the cable left behind, we depended on the good old pirate bay to get our fix of Dr. Who (obviously this is a lie, as we would never download any tv show illegally.) Had we actually looked at the torrents we would have been surprised by all the buzz on the interconnected pipes that make up the internet. Way over 2000 seeders is rather rare, and still, download speed would have been – had we done that – still rather slow, so there would have been many, many people as excited to find out about the Doctor’s new adventures and all with a new companion.

Had we been able to watch the show after downloading it illegally we would have been able to actually watch it on the west coast before it officially aired. As I write this, it’s only a bit after the show ended and we would have finished it hours ago – way ahead of all the people waiting for the BBC to start it – Man – are time zones cool, or what?

I’m really curious if the Doctor will get lucky with this companion, but I’m not really holding my breath as one of the big tensions in the series is that that never happens. Strange things can happen if time travel is involved, like Amy turning out to be the Doctor’s mother in law – who comes up with those things?

Thanks, Steven Moffat!

Patrolling Space In the Spaceship Orion

I have mentioned the spaceship Orion previously in my post about Living Under Water. The German science fiction TV series Space Patrol (Raumpatrouille) follows the crew of the space ship Orion on their adventures through the galaxy.

Orion landed on a desert planetI remember waiting very excitedly for the première of the series and then every next week’s show. It came out at about the same time in 1966 as the original Star Trek, but it was much later that I finally watched my first Star Trek episode and it confirmed the German arrogance that we (the Germans) are better at creating things but it also confirmed the other stereotype that America is much better in marketing. Orion lasted seven episodes with a remastered movie version in the early 2000s, while Star Trek is still going strong after nearly half a century. Sets and special effects were so much more creative than the original Star Trek even though some people dared to make fun of some of the props, like the electric iron used to do some mysterious tuning task on the navigation console. In my mind then, those people just didn’t get it.

I do have the whole series on DVD and it is about time to watch it again, but today I enjoyed running into another fan of the series who took his admiration for the show a bit further than just buying the DVDs – he created stunning illustrations of the adventures of the star cruiser Orion.

I discovered Crossvalley Smith through a post on Facebook that featured one of his illustrations from the Perry Rhodan universe, another sweet memory of mine, a science fiction series published as weekly pulp novellas.

A scene from a landing of the Orion on a desert planet has for now replaced an anime illustration as my computer wall paper – go check out Crossvalley’s site, maybe you find something you enjoy.

All About UFOs

I have (probably) never seen one and I don’t remember being ever abducted by one.

Still, it makes sense that they are around and all the evidence is hard to ignore. Additionally, I ran into a web page today that has lots of video footage of testimonials of rather credible witnesses. What I like about these witnesses is that they just report their observation and don’t try to mix it with their own interpretations and opinions.

Take a bowl of popcorn and a beer because some of that stuff is long…

adamski_type_ufo(click on picture)