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Abbotsford, B.C. honoured for a shitty attempt to censor my blog

In a post entitled “Hall of Shame: Something Stinks in Abbotsford“, Automattic, the San Francisco company which owns WordPress.com, the online content management system which hosts my blog, is highlighting a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) take-down notice filed in January against one of my posts, as yet another example of the misuse of a DMCA notice to muzzle legitimate free speech.

I learned about the DMCA notice targeting content on my blog on January 12 in an email message from a WordPress.cоm Community Guardian named Jasper:

“We have received a DMCA notice…for material published on your WordPress.cоm site. Normally this would mean that we’d have to disable access to the material. However, because we believe that this instance falls under fair use protections, we will not be removing it at this time.”

The DMCA notice was submitted by one Haley Hodgson, who listed her address as “City of Abbotsford—City Hall” but who’s email address belonged to a Port Moody marketing company called October 17 Media. Read more…

Welcome back western sky and goodnight

The reflected sunset at 8:47 p.m., as seen from an alley on the southeast side of Hemlock St. and West Broadway Ave.

Truth be told, Vancouver has been having a rather cool, wet spring, with notes of winter in the evenings. But it is spring and everything that grows knows it—what else are all the birds suddenly singing about?

One of the best thing about spring is that there’s no going back. Weather-wise we can now look forward to everything getting better and better for a good four or five months, which is such a weight off one’s shoulders.

As I write, it’s now just after 11 p.m. on Sunday, April 30. The temperature here in Vancouver is 9° Celsius under inky-dark skies. Just over two hours ago, before 9 p.m., the last sunset of April reflected golden off puffy ropes of cloud stretched across an otherwise blue sky.

Forecasters expect the temperature to increase in the first week of May, with a predicted high of 22° C by Thursday and the possibility of thunder showers on Friday (I’ll believe that when I see it).

Of course the really high temperatures and fireworks should be the following week, when the B.C. general election is held on May 9.

Remember what Mark Twain wrote in a 1908 letter to an unidentified person—”Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work”—and vote accordingly, if you are so inclined. Click the image to enlarge it.

Armoured personnel carrier seen on West Broadway

Everything eventually rolls down West Broadway Avenue. A westbound APC seen Friday evening.

What else to say? At 10:02 p.m., Friday, April 28, I watched a very large dun and olive-coloured armoured personnel carrier (APC) being hauled on a flatbed trailer westbound through the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue.

In configuration it was a prow-fronted, angular, slab-sided vehicle, mounted on eight large, un-tracked wheels. It had a turret mounted atop the front third of its body, positioned just behind low, forward observation ports. There were a total of nine packs strapped to the visible right side of its body. Read more…

rain, rain, stay and play, it’s a lovely springtime day!

7:31 a.m. Good morning everyone. It’s Sharkey’s day!

Wednesday, April 26th, was just the kind of pulsing green, water-drenched spring day that I needed to banish those last lingering winter blues.

It was an especially perfect day to enjoy Vancouver’s super natural back alleys and—good little homeless binner that I am—that’s just what I did. From sunup to sundown I picked my way through the dumpsters and recycling blue bins from Fairview to Mount Pleasant and back again—taking photographs along the way.

9:39 a.m. A Smithrite recycler truck navigates the blue box waste stream of a Mount Pleasant alley.

I have to say that what I liked best about Wednesday was the on-again, off-again, light rain, culminating as it did in an equally light rainbow.

After the aversion therapy that was December, January and February, the day’s spring showers were a delightful reminder of how precipitation can be a blessing as well as a curse—and that the difference between the two is entirely a matter of degrees. Read more…

So much for my photographic memory

I’ll date myself when I say that I recognize all the stores and buildings in the slightly vintage view of West Broadway Avenue that a friend of mine found in a Fairview garbage on Monday (April 24).

But I’ll be darned if I can precisely date the photo itself.

Physically, the photo measures about 20 cm by 10 cm and is printed in colour on Fujifilm photo paper. It shows a grainy, bygone view of the 1400 block of West Broadway looking west from the southwest corner of West Broadway and Hemlock Street toward the intersection with South Granville Street.

There is nothing descriptive written longhand anywhere on the photo and none of the dot matrix codes printed on the back as part of the development process reveal a date or a time stamp.

At first glance, all my friend and I could say was that the photo had to have been taken between 10 and 15 years ago.

And even after a good bit of Internet research I have only been able to narrow that range down from five to three years.

I can at least say that the photo was taken some time between 2003 and 2006—but that’s all I can say for certain.

Read more…

A reminder that Unicode fonts can still spell danger on the Internet

Opera 44.0 being halfway fooled by a fake Unicode URL.

Out of the blue, a neglected, eight-year-old security vulnerability caused by the way the Internet supports multi-language Unicode typefaces has resurfaced with a splash.

Two weeks ago an information security researcher demonstrated how easy it was to still use Unicode font tricks to make malicious faked websites look safe and legitimate in modern web browsers.

In an April 14th blog post entitled “Phishing with Unicode Domains

Of course, the website had nothing to do with Apple and neither did the URL—it just looked that way.

The “аррӏе” of Zheng’s URL was made using characters from the Slavic Cyrillic alphabet—an alphabet included in every Unicode typeface. The Cyrillic characters and the order which Zheng used them in just happen to bear a near-perfect resemblance to the Latin alphabet characters that spell “apple”, though the pronunciation of the Cyrillic “аррӏе” would be closer to “arr-eh”.

What Zheng had pulled off is well-known among Internet security experts as a homograph attack, one exploiting the superficial resemblance between characters in different language scripts to fake website URLs.

More specifically it is called an IDN homograph attack, because it exploits the Unicode font support of the Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) system, which has allowed for the creation and registration of non-English domain (website) names for the last eight years.

However, before I go any further to explain the flaw that Zheng exploited, I want to quickly address his claim that certain web browsers are still susceptible to it—specifically that Mozilla (the makers of Firefox) when informed of the vulnerability in January of this year, decided not to issue a security patch and therefore that Firefox continues to be vulnerable. Read more…