Category Archives: Soft Where It Hurts

[BlogEntry] Exception handling in Ruby

I'm not sure why every language feels the need to use its own keywords. What would be the crime if all languages used throw, raise, and catch?

Anyway, if you want to examine the Exception object in Ruby, in the rescue line, just add => e as in

    rescue => e

Now, the local variable, e, contains the Exception object, which you can log:

    $mylog.debug("In Rescue block: " + e)    

[BlogEntry] Is the Lycos anti-spam screensaver a DDoS?

I was very interested to hear about Lycos' anti-spam screensaver, particularly because I'd already written something very similar a year before.

I never released mine for two reasons. The first was the question of legality. I certainly didn't want to go to jail over spam. And the way the world works, it's easier to prosecute the good guy trying to right a wrong than it is to go after the real criminals. My approach had a reasonable defense, I thought, since we were simply following the links the spammers sent to us. Still, I had no interest in being the trophy in precedent-setting cybercrime judicial proceedings.

The second reason was less cynical and cowardly. I learned about "joe jobs." A joe job is when a spammer sends spam "on behalf" of an innocent third party to bring the wrath of anti-spammers down on them. Spammers have no shortage of dirty tricks and no scruples to get in their way when using them. I was concerned that control of this weapon could potentially get into the wrong hands and be aimed at innocent web sites. Given a high level of participation, even the largest sites in the world would be vulnerable.

Given all of that, I chose not to unleash my weapon on the world. It seems that it was a wise decision, because Lycos has pulled the plug, at least for now.

It's pretty amazing what an ugly little war this whole spam thing has become. The thing is, we're never going to reform the spammers; they are incorrigible. We either have to fix email technology or remove the incentive to send spam.

I still wonder who the morons are that continue to make spam profitable. If the customers would simply dry up, so would the spam. I mean, really, penis enlargement, software from questionable sources, potentially dangerous drugs, and Nigerians who want to give you millions of dollars because of your supposed relationship to someone you've never heard of. Can any of these things REALLY be good for your body, your computer, or your bank account? Who are you idiots?! If you've ever bought anything from a spam, I'd really like to hear from you.