Michael J. Radwin

Tales of a software engineer who keeps kosher and hates the web.

Currently Viewing Posts in The Web Sucks

big@boss.com virus update

If you search Google for big@boss.com, you’ll see that I’m #2 today. And the #1 site is in German.

It’s been a week and a half since I first wrote about the fact that I couldn’t find any information about the big@boss.com virus, and the blog comments keep streaming in. One of them even claims that big@boss.com is an MIT conspiracy!

Maybe if the anti-virus vendors stopped calling it the W32/Sobig@MM virus they’d move higher up in the Google search results.

big@boss.com virus

I just got another email from big@boss.com which looks to me like a virus. This is the 3rd or 4th in a couple of days. So I went to both Symantec‘s and McAfee‘s anti-virus pages, and didn’t turn up anything.

Then I tried a Yahoo! search for “big@boss.com virus”. Nothing. For kicks, I tried a Google search for “big@boss.com virus” but that turned up no search results, either.

Google AdWords to the rescue

But wait a minute: on the right-hand side of the Google search results, I saw an advertisement that looked like this:

SoBig Virus Information
big@boss.com emails may contain a
virus attachment. News and Links.

Someone bought an ad on Google to help spread the word faster than the Google search engine can index pages about the virus! That’s really generous of them! They should add a PayPal donations button to their page. (No such helpful advertisements were found on the Yahoo! search results.)

Hunting around a little further, it appears that this is the W32.Sobig.A@mm virus (the subject line of Re: Movies and attachment of Document003.pif matches what I’ve been getting). But no mention of big@boss.com on the Symantec page. Bizarre.

Recapping the scores: Symantec 0, McAffee 0, Yahoo! 0, Overture 0. Google AdWords: 1.

Adding content previews to MT Main Index

mt-logo-small.gif I’ve got a 30-second improvement to the Main Index template for MovableType. In the Recent Entries section on the right-hand column, I have added HTML title=”…” attibutes so you can get a sneak preview of the content before you click.

I simply changed this:


href="<$MTEntryPermalink$>"><$MTEntryTitle$></a><br />

to this:


title="[<$MTEntryDate format="%x"$>] <$MTEntryExcerpt$>"

href="<$MTEntryPermalink$>"><$MTEntryTitle$></a><br />

If you’ve got a modern web browser, simply hover over the links and the first few words of the entry will appear in a tooltip.

Keeping my blogroll up-to-date

My blogroll (the list of RSS feeds I subscribe to, which appears in the right-hand column of my blog page) is now going to be more consistently up-to-date. Here’s how I did it.

First, I set up a cronjob to fetch mySubscriptions.opml from my Radio Userland page. Next, I’m using Jeremy’s opml2html.pl script to convert from OPML to a list of HTML. I’ve actually tweaked it slightly since I sent patches back to Jeremy to clean up some charset issues.

I went into the MovableType management UI and clicked on Templates. I clicked on the Main Index template and changed the Ouput File to index.shtml. Next, I edited the Template Body and added a <link> tag to the top of the page:

<link rel="subscriptions"

type="text/x-opml" title="Subscriptions"


Below the Archives section on the page, I added the following:

<div class="sidetitle">

<a title="RSS channels I read in XML format"

name="blogroll" href="mySubscriptions.opml">My



<div class="side">

<!--#include file="mySubscriptions.html" -->


And that was it! Now my blogroll will get updated daily without me needing to edit the HTML by hand.

Top 10 Web-Design Mistakes

Jakob Nielsen’s Top Ten Web-Design Mistakes of 2002:

“Every year brings new mistakes. In 2002, several of the worst mistakes in Web design related to poor email integration. The number one mistake, however, was lack of pricing information, followed by overly literal search engines.”

As usual, Jakob is right on the money. Did you notice how radwin.org borrows the “trail of breadcrumbs” style navbar from useit.com? Imitation is the most sincere from of flattery.

Would you like clean underwear with your fries?

Men's Regular Full Cut Flannel Boxers After seeing Amazon suggest purchasing clean underwear with almost every item we put in our shopping carts, Ariella and I have wondered if the Internet superstore’s recommendation engine is broken.

Amazon.com Admits Concocting Some Recommendations, a TechWeb News story from a couple of weeks ago, reveals the truth:

“Amazon.com made the shocking admission that it doctors some of its product recommendations, which are supposedly compiled by objective software that compares each customer’s purchasing history with the histories of others who’ve made similar purchases.”

I think it’s great that the world’s biggest book seller is also selling clothes (and even electronics and kitchen stuff). However, while throwing in bogus recommendations might generate some more short-term sales, it is just going to dilute consumer confidence over the long term.

We Are Robots

We Are Robots Watched an episode of We Are Robots with Ariella and Hannah. It’s hilarious.

“My credit card isn’t rejected. You’re rejected. I didn’t want that sweater anyways.”

I am AngryBot.

Looking for a free Win32 RSS aggregator

I’ve been using AmphetaDesk for a few weeks now, but I don’t really like it. The fact that it doesn’t display date/time of the individual items in an RSS 1.0 feed drives me crazy! And I’d prefer that it not show me pages full of items that I’ve already seen.

I tried out Radio UserLand and I’m definitely impressed with the product, but not sure I want to splurge for the 40 bucks quite yet.

So I downloaded FeedReader today and am trying it out. Except for some ugly timezone bugs, I’m pretty impressed. Easy to install, easy to add channels, easy to see what you’ve read and what you haven’t.

How do we fix the blogrot problem?

I’m concerned about linkrot in blogs. Blog entries tend to mention interesting stuff by hyperlinking to news articles, websites, and other blogs. Since it’s so easy to create a link to something (rather than excepting a relevant paragraph), you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a 404 when you try to visit that link at a later date. This might not be such an obvious problem on the surface because blogs are an ephemeral, fresh and up-to-the-minute medium, and linkrot usually takes a few weeks or months to set in.

But blogs are also supposed to serve as a diary or journal, so you should be able to go back 6 months from now and revisit all of the cool stuff you used to think about. That’s when linkrot is going to burn you the worst, because you’ll want to re-read an article or another person’s blog, and most likely it won’t be there anymore.

I think it would be cool if MovableType or some other popular blogging software could provide a PermaLink feature for external content. I’m thinking of something like the Google cache, which would mirror the content locally and add a header that would say something like:

This is Michael J. Radwin’s blog’s cache of http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/19912.html. This cache is the snapshot that I took of the page as I wrote my blog.

The page may have changed since that time. Click here for the current page.

It would work even better if there was some clever integration with your browser that says to visit this HREF first, but if you get a 404, try this alternative HREF (which happens to point to a snapshot of the page in your blog archives). I’m sure XHTML has something like this when you go beyond xlink:type=”simple” but I doubt browsers do anything intelligent with it.

Heck, even blogs themselves are prone to linkrot. I recently decided to switch my MoveableType settings to use Date-based archives instead of Individual Item archives because I rarely write more than one blog per day. Clicking on that convenient “Rebuild Site” button caused everything to get rebuilt. But what if someone had already linked one of my old Individual archives that’s no longer there? Apparently that PermaLink feature is not so “perma”.

I’m encouraged that people are working on solving the linkrot problem in a generalized way but not everyone is going to care to do it right.