If you are looking for the epic motorcycle journey blog that I've written, please see the Miles By Motorcycle site I put together. 
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  • test article
    12/01/2008 1:06PM
    this is a test. please ignore.
  • Fraud through Verizon - ESBI
    10/24/2008 2:06PM
    So I get this months telephone bill and there's this charge from a company I have never heard from called ESBI. I called Verizon to get the charges reversed and they directed me to call ESBI. Going to the website listed on the bill, http://www.billview.com/esbi yielded no information. No one answers the number listed on the bill either. No one answers the phone number provided to me by Verizon either.

    I did some searching and found:

    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2001/08/billing3.shtm

    Doing more google searching yieded quite a few complaints about this company:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=esbi+verizon&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f&oq=

    I called Verizon back and spoke to a few more billing department people. Each would give me the same response, namely that I had to call the vendor directly. Once I told the nice billing person:
    • I had already called Verizon and gotten those instructions.
    • I had diligently attempted to contact ESBI through their website and by phone on more than one occassion during business hours.
    • I had done a search and found the FTC complaint against them.
    • I had done a search and found hundreds of complaints by individuals against them.
    Things moved forward. Verizon has the ability to put the charges in question on hold and attempt to send them back to the third party vendor.

    Separately, what you can do is request that Verizon put a "Third party and collect call block" on your account which will prevent any third parties from tacking their charges onto your Verizon bill. This makes it so third parties have to bill you directly making it much simpler to deal with them. If the charges are on your Verizon bill and you don't pay them, you fall into delinquency with Verizon which can ruin your whole day.

    I hope this is of help to someone out there.

    2008-10-29 Update:

    I received an email from ESBI indicating that the charges were being reversed.


  • Nasty FireFox "bug" - empty img src= loads current URL.
    10/08/2008 7:41PM
    2008-10-15 Update:

    Unfortunately, it looks like MSIE 6, and possibly others, do not reliably set the HTTP_ACCEPT header to reflect the content type being requested. Often MSIE will send a */*.

    So at the present moment it's not clear to me how one can recognize a request on the server which resulted from an img src="" line.

    It looks like this is a known problem but no good solutions are provided for cases of user contributed content:

    http://brian.pontarelli.com/2006/05/02/is-your-browser-requesting-a-page-twice

    There are a couple of hacks one could try such as using javascript to loop through the page looking for empty image tags or maybe doing some in-line filter operation on the server to check for the same. Apparently this double request behavior is actually according to the standard and it occurs in some form or another in many browsers. Extremely annoying.



    Unfortunately this does not work for MSIE:

    Let's say you have a simple PHP script on a page such as:

    <?php

    if ( @$_SESSION["counter"] == NULL )
       $_SESSION[ "counter" ] = 1;
    else
       $_SESSION["counter"] += 1;

    print ("<h1>Counter is currently " . $_SESSION["counter"] . "</h1>" );
    ?>

    You would expect that counter would increment by 1 on each subsequent page load.

    HOWEVER, a case can arise where you notice the session counter increasing by more than one on each page load under FireFox but not under MSIE. This occurs, as was the case in some code I was working on today, when you have an empty <img src=""> in your document somewhere.

    In this case, FireFox will attempt to pull whatever the current page is as the source for the image, which will load your PHP script page and increment the counter "in the background".

    MSIE will attempt to load the default directory index of the current directory as opposed to attempting to load the current page which is why this issue is typically not visible under MSIE.

    In the static content case this is not much of a problem as you just have to make sure all of your references back to the server are correct. However, in the case of dynamically generated content and content provided by endusers you are much more likely to run into this situation.

    To guard against this case you can check the HTTP_ACCEPT request header before manipulating your session. This works in Firefox but not MSIE, unfortunately. I have not come up with nor found a good cross browser solution.

    if (( @$_SERVER[ "HTTP_ACCEPT" ] != NULL ) &&
       ( preg_match( "/^.*image.*$/", $_SERVER[ "HTTP_ACCEPT" ] )))
      {
      die();
      }


  • Kubuntu Linux Hardy Heron 8.0.4 Shift Key problem
    09/28/2008 6:09PM
    I'm running the Kubuntu Gutsy Gibbon linux distribution. Randomly, the SHIFT key will stop functioning. It seems to somehow be related to running VMWare Workstation and switching screens. It's a known bug listed here:

    https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/195982

    Getting your SHIFT key working again does not require a reboot. Simply enter the command

    $ setxkbmap

    in a command window and it'll reset it.

    Update: Rumor has it that upgrading to VMware 6.5 fixes the problem.

  • Biochar-Agrichar: New/Old Technology As A Weapon Against Climate Change
    09/11/2008 9:30AM
    A new take on 2500 year old technology could help make a huge dent in the greenhouse gas problem, while simultaneously improving soils and agricultural output.

    See the video introduction here.