Archive for September, 2011

Security Issues

Two such issues, actually.

When I recently installed a SEO plugin, it included a log of all “404” calls. Each “404” is a server response to an attempt to find a non-existence page the blog.

One of these issues involves a blatant attempt to fish for specific PHP files (the scripting language files that serve as the background for the website) that have a known security error. This file, named “timthumb.php” is not present in the standard WordPress installation but it is included in some themes and plugins, and is used to manipulate screen image files. The intent is to use access to this file to bypass the website security by taking advantage of this file’s ability to write a any kind of file into the WordPress directory, after which the person can use that file to gain access to the entire directory system, upon which they are able to modify existing PHP files or install their own software there.

Fortunately this website is not affected: I don’t have or use any other themes or plugins which include that specific file. However, the intermittent, repeated attempts to find this file does cause some load on the system and are annoying, which is why I am trying to block them any way I can.

The other issue involves the “spider” robot, the web device that scans website sites for information and changes to websites. All the major web search sites, like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., use them, and for the most part, they are well-behaved. But there is one that is not, and that’s the Baidu spider robot. Baidu is the major Chinese web search site. Ever since I installed the “404” monitor, I have seen dozens, if not over a hundred, attempts a day of the Baidu spider crawling my blog and searching for a specific, non-existent file under a combination of many different locations. Its almost as if the spider robot program is badly designed and doesn’t understand that is completely missing the picture here.

What links these two issues is the fact that I have not been able to block either using the two common website functions “robots.txt” and “.htaccess”. The Baidu system says that its spider robot obeys the “robots.txt” file but other web commentary insists that it doesn’t. The scanner that hunts for the “timthumb.php” file probably doesn’t either. That said, I have set the “robots.txt” file to disallow those two spider robots, without success. This is what I am using:

User-agent: Baiduspider

Disallow: /

User-agent: Baiduspider/2.0

Disallow: /

User-Agent: PycURL/7.19.7

Disallow: /

The other function is to use the “.htaccess” file, which is a system level directive to the server to ignore these robots according to the user agent name they give when attempting to access the website. Unfortunately, this tile is a little more difficult to code. This is what I have been recommended to use.

#Block bad bots

SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "^Baidu[Ss]pider" bad_bot=1

SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "^PycURL" bad_bot=1

Order Allow,Deny

Allow from all

Deny from env=bad_bot

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to work, either. I don’t know if this is a problem of coding the restrictions or if the restriction file is not in the correct places: this is an area that I have little experience with. My website host customer service has not been much help, either.

If anyone has a suggestion to make, feel free to respond.

A Midsummer’s Nightmare” — Justice League

[amtap book:isbn=156389338X]

All across the world, people are developing super-powers, and the established super-powered beings are nowhere to be found. Called “sparks” and the phenomenon “sparking”, it is turning the world into a super battleground as gangs of sparks battle for turf. Its a dream of some, of having super-powers, that is turning into a nightmare for the entire world.

⇒ Continue reading “A Midsummer’s Nightmare” — Justice League”

Banned Books Week — 2011

September 24th through October 1st has been designated “Banned Books Week” by the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Foundation for Freedom of Expression. Every year, ever since 1982, these two organizations publish a list of the books that account for the most attempts to somehow ban or restrict them the previous year.

Now, the question is, why is that something this blog should care about?

Well, for one thing, as a writer, it behooves me to defend my fellow writers from this assault not only on their own livelihoods but also against the majority who either don’t care or even support the ideas and issues exemplified in the books a few want banned. I feel it is a writer’s job (and any other creative person) to explore ideas that some people want kept hidden. This is more than just professional, its personal: I know many people in the writing and creative field (this applies not just to books but also to comics, movies, TV shows, you name it) and this affects them, as well.

But more importantly, what is involved is the restriction of the flow of information, which is a major concern of mine and one of the reasons for writing this blog.

And lastly, it is because of the subject of this blog. By and large, such banned books are often occult related, whether fictional (“Twilight”) or factual, and in some locations, even the actual subject of the blog, hypnosis, what with the stereotypes involved, is a subject of the supernatural.

And the above doesn’t even account the “unofficial” banning that takes place when people check out books from the library with the intent of destroying them or simply keeping them.

If should be noted that one of the perennial banned books is “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, which is about a dystopian future where the population is, among other things, conditioned from the womb into their designated roles in life.

So: read a banned book this week! If may even something from the Collection.


Update:

The following books are from the 2010 list of most frequently challenged books in the United States, according to the American Library Association:

1) And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

3) Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

4) Crank, by Ellen Hopkins

5) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

6) Lush, by Natasha Friend

7) What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones

8) Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich

9) Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie

10) Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer


Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; the National Association of College Stores; the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; and PEN American Center.

Vision Machine”

What could happen if there was the facility to share your vision, literally, with everyone else in the world? How would that change the way people see each other and interact? How could that change the world? How could someone else use that power of communication not to increase communication but to limit it?

That’s the question posed in “Vision Machine”.

⇒ Continue reading “Vision Machine””

The Hypnotized Audience’ — “The Shadow”

The March 27, 1938, broadcast of “The Shadow” was entitled ‘The Hypnotized Audience’. The Shadow and his partner Margo Lane are embroiled in a plot to free a convicted murderer by kidnapping the state governor and hypnotizing him into freeing the prisoner.

⇒ Continue reading “The Hypnotized Audience’ — “The Shadow””

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