No good deed goes unpunished

Disclaimer: I don’t blame people working on AMO for anything. They face extremely difficult problems and are working very hard. I am simply noting some areas where they still have a long way to go.

I started a little experiment — downloaded all extensions from addons.mozilla.org (AMO), unpacked them and tried to find security holes by searching for specific strings. As expected, it wasn’t all too difficult, one can easily find a dozen vulnerable extensions in an hour, and that not even accounting for the fact that there is a certain unpopular class of extensions on AMO all sharing the same buggy code. The only reason I didn’t hit all too many high profile extensions was that I was going through the extensions in alphabetical order instead of going by popularity.

What happened to the promised spam solution?

Do you still remember? Sometime in the beginning of year 2004 Bill Gates promised us to take care of the spam problem by 2006. It was big in the news all over the world. Well, the year is almost over and I don’t see anything change for the better. A look at my inbox tells me that spam got much worse if anything. In fact, spammers have made considerable progress in these two years. They are now making heavy use of botnets thus rendering the spam protection methods based on IP address checks or identity verification almost irrelevant. They successfully use randomized mail content and images to trick Bayesian filters. And they got much better at social engineering. What did Microsoft do? They sued a few spammers — which didn’t quite make the expected impact because spam is still much too profitable.

It’s not that I really expected them to find the silver bullet. I mean, it was obvious that Bill Gates was selling hot air there. But I miss the public outcry. Where are the newspapers who reported about this two years ago, do they want to let him simply get away with a lie?

Moving to Germany

I just came back from Germany a few days ago and now (in a few hours) I am going there again. This came quite unexpectedly, I didn’t know myself until two days ago. This time I will stay in Darmstadt for a few months, working with the guys at the university and hopefully producing something useful together. I should come back to Oslo in the beginning of March to finish my PhD thesis — plan is to be all done before May. That’s some crazy time coming up…

It is traveling time again

I will be traveling a lot, starting this Saturday. I am taking the remaining week of my vacation visiting Cologne and Hamburg, then I’ll be attending to ACM Multimedia in Santa Barbara, CA and NetGames in Singapore. I won’t be back in Oslo until November so don’t expect me to do much Adblock Plus development until then. I’ll try to answer mails from time to time.

Google does it again

When I first saw this, I could only think — wow! Word processing and spreadsheets are classical examples of areas where web applications will never be able to achieve the quality of desktop applications. But Google made a habit out of overthrowing accepted wisdoms and so they’ve gone great lengths to make their spreadsheets web app feel like a desktop application — with success, for most part.

I have to give Google credit for their user interface design again — using the application is very simple and self-explaining. Everything behaves the way you expect it. Most operations I tried are very fast, almost as fast as what we are used from Excel & Co. When I edit a field, its value changes almost immediately and same goes for fields that have formulas depending on it. Merging columns, formatting — fast. Other things like selection are done entirely on the client’s side, so there is no delay at all. Inserting rows or creating a new spreadsheet is relatively slow — those aren’t operations you use all the time however.

“Don’t mail us unless you are in the US”

I am back from my vacation and working through all the mail I got in the two weeks. Amongst others I found a funny email bounce for the forum’s confirmation message: “We are not aware of anyone in Germany needing to email us”. That is already weird enough but ok — the forum sends mails using a DE domain as a sender, maybe they don’t like that. So I forwarded the mail using my @adblockplus.org address. The new bounce message was: “We are not aware of anyone in Norway needing to email us”. This time I finally got it — Americans only want to speak to other Americans :)