Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rule #1: Spammers are stupid

A post on the Sunbelt Blog caught my attention today: Spammer guy gets $11 mill judgement against Spamhaus, no one cares. That's more interesting than the title will make it seem - spammers rarely (if ever) win anything in court. So what made this one win? Intelligence? Legitimacy?

There are several unwritten rules about spammers, that most people in IT can tell you. The first one is the title of this blog post: Spammers are stupid. Face it: sending millions of people email messages they don't even want in the first place, selling stuff that doesn't work or doesn't even exist, hardly sounds like a good business model. I admit that there are spammer success stories on news sites sometimes, about a spammer who made millions, against all odds, while staying reasonably morally correct ('I never send adult-oriented bulk email. That's just wrong. What if children see it?'). What you don't read on those sites, are the thousands of stories of spammers who don't make a dime with their 'business'. Sure, there may be a handful of experienced spammers who make a few hundred bucks a month and can afford a second car, but even if they run a profit they'll stay under the radar, since spamming is becoming more and more illegal by virtue of some reasonably effective laws in a handful of states in America.

Yes, I know that I said 'few hundred bucks a month' while I mentioned success stories earlier about spammers making millions. I did this for a reason, which brings us to the second rule about spammers, as well as taking us back to the original story: Spammers lie.

The lawsuit mentioned at the beginning of this post is about a spammer called David Linhardt, who is particularly whiny and stupid. After Spamhaus blacklisted his spam-spewing domains a few times, he sued them under Illinois law - and he won $11 million by default judgment, since Spamhaus wasn't there to defend itself.

You want to know why? Because Spamhaus is located in the UK. Where US law does not apply. Linhardt may be happy about the ruling, but he won't be able to collect a dime from Spamhaus unless he files the same suit in UK court, and wins. The same goes for the removal of his domains from the ROKSO list (a blacklist with the 200 worst spammers in the world). All this is about as likely as the Earth reversing its rotation at this very moment. Because Linhardt is stupid, and lied to the judge in Illinios by saying that Spamhaus did business in Illinois and therefore fell within Illinois jurisdiction. Yep, he lied in US court. I told you spammers are stupid.

This is Darwinism at its finest. At one point this Linhardt douchebag will pick up a gun, load it, aim for his foot - and shoot himself in the nads.

Read all the articles for yourself:
CNet: Spam fighter hit with $11.7 million judgement.
Slashdot: Spamhaus Ignores $11.7M Judgement
Spamhaus: The offending ROKSO record on Linhardt (this includes several of the hilarious complaint emails Linhardt sent in response to his spam being blocked)
Spamhaus: Legal answer to David Linhardt

Oct 9 update: Uh oh. The e360insight wants the judge to order ICANN to take down the domain. And since ICANN is located in the US, this could get ugly.

Oct 12 update: Well, it could have. ICANN refuses to take down the domain, saying it can't - only the domain registrar can! Who that is? It's Tucows. And guess where they are located: Canada. Where US law doesn't apply. ZING!

Oct 20 update: Phew - it looked like the judge was going to pull the domain anyway since ICANN was responsible for it, but he did not want to 'impose a sanction that does not correspond to the gravity of the offending conduct'. Also, it seems SpamHaus now has wised up and is now represented by Jenner & Block.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Beginner's Guide to Miranda Instant Messager

This post is about the multi-IM client Miranda. This is a very light-weight instant messaging client that can connect to a multitude of networks, offering a lot of features by means of plugins (think FireFox and its Extensions). I've been using it for a few years now and I am very satisfied with it. The amount of different plugins can be overwhelming for a new user, so I've decided to put together a little guide on the essentials.

Default Miranda interface

First off, get the bare client straight off the download page. And when I say bare, I don't really mean that: it includes the Miranda client itself, and plugins to get online with AIM, ICQ, MSN, IRC, Jabber/GoogleTalk and Yahoo. (A note on GoogleTalk on Miranda.) It also has a plugin to import contacts and history from ICQ. It should look something like the screenshot to the right when you first run it (though probably with more contacts in less groups). Skip ahead to the bottom of this post to see what my contact list looked like after everything was installed and configured.

The Options dialog is very, very complete - especially when you enable 'Show expert options'. You'll want to start at the Networks section, to fill out your account details for all IM networks you have an account on. The 'Status' menu in the main window allows you to set the status for each IM protocol independently, or all at once.

Now I know you're going to ask yourself: 'Is this it? A completely boring contact list with some icons?' and I know it looks pretty bland like this. Luckily, we can fix that! There are plugins for nearly everything you're used to in the regular IM clients. Installing plugins is really easy: you just grab it off the Addons page, unzip it, drop the dll (or two) in the 'Plugins' folder and restart Miranda. It loads right away and if it has options, it'll add a section to the Options dialog. Occasionally a plugin has a separate dll for icons, a smiley pack or documentation, which you can drop in folders 'Icons', 'Smileys' and 'Docs', respectively. Usually the Readme file included in the zip is helpful as well.
If adding a new plugin causes Miranda to start crashing, look for a Unicode version of the plugin (Windows 9x/ME uses ANSI versions, Windows 2000/XP and newer use Unicode versions) or a newer version. If both fail, hop on the Miranda forums, find the discussion thread for the crashing plugin and start reading. Most likely someone has the same problem and posted a solution or a workaround.

Modern Contact List (aka clist_modern)

This is the most dramatic change to your contact list that you will see. Download the Modern Contact List plugin to enable skins on your contact list, user avatars and other fun things. The default skin is pretty snazzy, and you can get even prettier ones from the Miranda website. Customizing an installed skin isn't that hard (Options > Customize > Skin), though you'll probably screw up once or twice trying to figure out what everything does (like me), so make a backup of your database first.

Other plugins that go with clist_modern nicely:
  • Loadavatars and Fingerprint
    Avatar Service (aka Loadavatars)
    This is a general avatar service to complement Miranda's own, which can be used by other plugins. By itself, it makes sure all your contacts' avatars are current and displayed on your contact list.
  • Fingerprint
    This plugin detects what IM client your contacts are using, as well as the client's version. Very cool. This goes together very well with mToolTip, described below.
  • Icon Library Manager (aka icolib)
    Another 'core' plugin that allows you to customize icons for pretty much everything.



The standard layout for the sending and receiving messages module (SRMM) is probably what you are used to: one window for each conversation or contact. If you have a lot of conversations at the same time (or just keep them open, like me), this will produce a lot of windows and clutter things up. The Tabbed SRMM plugin groups all conversations in one window, using tabs (again, think FireFox). The keyboard shortcut 'Esc' to close a conversation tab is especially great.



This one is not available on the Miranda website itself, but it's great: it creates a bubble tooltip with useful information when you hover the mouse cursor over someone in your contact list. The plugin itself is just the engine, so it still needs settings to create the tooltip content. It's a bit complex, but well worth the effort: get a mToolTip template from the Miranda website, then get the Database Editor++ to load the .ini file from the template. Detailed instructions on doing this are in the Readme file for the mToolTip preset.

Popup Plus

Popup Plus

Miss the popups that MSN Messenger creates on events like receiving a new email, getting an IM, seeing someone come online? Well, no fear: the Popup Plus plugin is here to save you. It will even notify you of people typing their first message to you (before the conversation window has opened), which is useful as well as good fun ('hey, how'd you know I was going to ask you something?').
This also alerts of you of new email on the protocols that support it.
Popup Plus email notification



I bet you REALLY miss this in conversations, huh? Well, just get the SmileyAdd plugin and all smileys you type or receive in messages will be converted to pictures. You can select to have each protocol use its own smiley pack, or have all use the same basic one. The only drawback is that MSN Messenger's custom smileys are not supported. (The MSN plugin itself seems to support them from Miranda 0.6.6 and up.)
For the MSN protocol, I'm using a smiley pack with the exact same smileys that MSN Messenger has, but unfortunately it's no longer available from the Miranda website: here it is.


Since Miranda is an open source project, updates will happen often. Very often. The Updater plugin can keep track of this, and if you put it on the most sensitive setting, don't be surprised when you get updates to some plugins several times per day. Put back the 'Update on .. change' setting a notch and you should be fine. The only thing it won't alert you to is new versions of the Miranda core engine itself - so you'll have to check for this periodically. I subscribed to the Miranda blog myself to keep an eye on this.

History++ 2in1


To keep track of your messaging history, there is a default (embedded) plugin that logs all messages. This default is not very good, though - you can't see more than one message at a time and it's 'find' function can be a bit... dyslexic. The History++ plugin has a lot better features and gives you a much better overview. It tracks conversations as well.



Very useful if you want to know it the weather's going to be any good this week. It acts as a special protocol plugin, so you can add weather stations all over the world as contacts in your list, then group them together.



MSN Messenger has a frame at the top that shows your current avatar picture, your nick and your status. If you get the MyDetails plugin, Miranda can have this too! The plugin is still in developmental alpha stage, but it works very good. A bit of tweaking with the settings and you'll have it look very much like MSN Messenger. And this plugin works for all the other protocols as well! If they support avatars, you'll see them in the frame as well.

Final result

After I finished installing everything, tweaking my settings and got everything working, my contact list looks like the lower right picture. You can see the progress nicely when I install additional plugins.
Default layout
Default layout
Modern Contact List
Modern Contact List
Fingerprint + Loadavatars

UPDATE: Since the implementation of the MSNP11 protocol for MSN, developers are starting to add features from the new MSN clients to Miranda. Nudge and ListeningTo (alpha stage) are among these. If you have Miranda 0.6 PR 2 or newer, you can add the 'listening to' information to the mTooltip settings. (You won't need the ListeningTo plugin for this.)

Add this to your mTooltip.ini:

Then add this somewhere in the MSN mTooltip setting (Options > mToolTip > Advanced > MSN) to show the info, if it is set by a contact:
%%Media: <b>(8) %user_ListeningTo|%%%%|</b>

ANOTHER UPDATE: Miranda 0.6.6 (in rapid succession to 0.6.5 and 0.6.4) was just released, and if you upgrade from 0.6.3 or earlier you'll find that Miranda can't find your profile anymore. You need to move the profile.dat file, see this thread on the Miranda forums.