tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

Airport problems since update

Since I installed the latest update to OSX just over a week ago, my wi-fi hasn't been working. When I click on it, I get the spinning coloured ball that says it's waiting for the application to do something, which doesn't clear unless I click on another application. I get the same thing if I try 'Internet Connect', it started to load, then would just sit there with the spinning ball.

Sam from MacAmbulance let me know there was a problem with some Macs with the 4.2 Airport update. He advised downloading Pacifist from Version Tracker, feed it my OSX install disks, then use it to reinstall the following packages:


From the 'Essentials' section.

I did this, rebooted and it still wasn't working. Turned off AirPort, rebooted again, then when I turned AirPort back on it asked to update the Keychain, which I agreed, then it started working again.

Cue one happier me, and big up to Sam for telling me how to fix it. Hopefully things will stay working. I don't normally install updates straight away as I've had problems with that in the past - admittedly only on Windows - but I'm going to have to remember to double-check anything coming out from Apple before I install it from now on.

PHP contact form spam checking

I've written up the code I'm now using to block spammers trying to usurp the contact forms on my PHP sites. It seems to be catching them all OK, one of the sites mails me their IP address and it's catching everything consistently.

Contact form spam blocking. The function at the bottom of the page is more elegant than mine, but I wrote mine up anyway, having put it all together.

Funerals and vandals

It was my grandmother's funeral today, and while a funeral is never a good thing, she had a decently long enough life to do what she'd wanted to do with it, and fortunately she'd seen most of her family in the last few weeks. I was rather more worried about the funeral bringing up bad memories of my sister's one a few years ago but that hasn't happened, at least so far. The day was made worse when I walked across town this afternoon to pick up my car (which I have to park quite a distance away as I'm still on the waiting list for a permit to park in my road, thirteen months or so after applying for it.) Someone/s have been good enough to smash in all my car's lights, the wing mirror, tear off the windscreen wipers and put a big dent in the bonnet.

The workman resurfacing the front of the house next to the carpark said it was apparently "some kids", but that doesn't really tell me anything. If someone saw them, did they call the Police? And if they had, wouldn't the Police have called me, they have all the details of the car, after all it's only a few weeks since someone ran in to it.

So now I have to go to the Police again with all my details and get a crime number so I can do an insurance claim. In a way it's a positive that I hadn't got all the damage from before fixed yet as some of the same areas were damaged again. But once it's fixed I'll have to leave it in the same area, meaning it might get vandalised again by the same people. Terrific. This is the fourth time my Beetle has been randomly damaged, the second time in a couple of months, and if this is the way Brighton is going I'll have to start moving out to somewhere nicer nearby. It's difficult enough to own a car around here without having to worry about it being wrecked when I can't keep a direct eye on it.

Of all the days to find out about this, today was not the best. With a bit of luck with the train I managed to get over to my parents before the funeral cars arrived with just enough time to get my shirt on and get in the cars. I didn't even get a chance to say hello to all the family until afterwards.

Ack, not the best of days. Hopefully I'll get the car booked in to a garage before I go away and at least it's fixing will be in hand. None of the damage is too bad, I'm just worried about it happening again once it's all fixed up.

Turning off DHCP in a D-Link DI-614+ Router

Also when messing around with the network the DHCP on my router kept over-riding Richard's. I've got a D-Link DI-614+ router and we couldn't get it to turn off DHCP, it kept saying 'Invalid starting IP address' or something very like it. Eventually we thought to upgrade the firmware from the D-Link support site and the 2.33 revision released in July 2004 sorted out the problem and we could turn off DHCP.

I'm normally very wary of flashing stuff, I heard too many horror stories back in the 486 days of a floppy corrupting the new BIOS file and people turning their fancypants PCs in to large beige doorstops. Now I must remember it's a much more common way of fixing bugs.

HP Laserjet 5 and Jetdirect 2552 IP address setting

Just been re-arranging my network to join Richard (my landlord) inside his network so we can do funky video things. We finally found out how to get my Laserjet 5 configured to use a static IP address by using the instructions on this HP page...

HP Jetdirect Print Servers -How to Determine, Reset, and Configure an IP Address on an HP Jetdirect Print Server

Wish I'd known we could use Telnet to set it last time I tried to set it up with Alex, as it greatly simplified the job rather than using the router hack that we set up. Hopefully putting this post up means I'll be able to find the instructions again.

Spammers attacking contact form reprise

So far I've had attacks from the following IP addresses:, registered to "Datacommunications Company of Iran", registered to "TRICOM"

I messed up my PHP code the first time around and managed to leave one of the form fields open, I closed that as the attacks started getting through so hopefully none of the attacks they're using at the moment will work any more. Once I've improved the code a bit I'll make an article or something out of it.

A poor space

I've been fiddling with MSN Spaces and set up another blog there to give it a proper go.

One thing I'll say for it is, if you've all ready got an MSN login from something, e.g. Messenger or Hotmail, it's a piece of cake to start using. I started mine whilst roughly legless from the p2b launch and a Brighton Bloggers meet, downing some toast and water to try and stave off a hangover. Hmm, wine, cider, toast and peanut butter, all the major food groups covered there.

The sign-up process is understandably rather hazy, but it must have been pretty easy.

It's great that they're trying to cover everything for people: blog & blogroll, picture store, music listing, but it's a great shame they made a set of weird decisions on the design...

  • Crowded, difficult interface

  • Bizarrely long URLs for blog posts (making them hard to cut & paste when linking to them)

  • No integration with major ping sites

  • Difficult posting form

  • No way of changing the look

I'm not sure if this last one has changed now. I was going to say no RSS/Atom/whatever feed, but there does seem to be one, or at least there is now. I find the inability to make it look the way I want the most annoying thing. They've made the design decision not to underline links in the main content, and also make the shade of blue of the links too dark, so it's very difficult to make them out compared to standard text.

Away from that, the posting form uses some extra Javascript controls to 'simplify' things, but more often means I can't tell which mode I'm in and I end up posting something with a bunch of HTML turned in to text and I have to edit it back to being links. When I first tried Spaces in IE on the Mac I managed to force it in to a mode where I could type in HTML, but I haven't found it again since.

About the only handy thing about it for me is that it makes your icon in MSN Messenger 'glow' when you've recently made a post (or so I'm told, no one else on my Messenger list has a Spaces blog so I haven't seen one.) And this means I can potentially use it to keep the clients on my Messenger list informed of businessy events.

All in all, given the huge number of free blog and photo systems out there, I think MSN are going to have to put some huge improvements in to make Spaces a success. At the moment it feels really half-arsed, and they should be able to make a much better effort rather than staying with their usual comes-good-on-third-revision tradition.

Spammers attacking contact forms

A few of my sites have contact forms on them and I've received a spate of spam attacks through them over the last couple of weeks.

First they attacked the form on tenpastmidnight, which wasn't a problem as the attack just bounced off the standard CFMail coding as it isn't written to exploit ColdFusion. However, the same thing on SpiderTest does seem to work so I've put some code in to stop the exploit working and instead mail me some details about what/who is trying the attack so I can see about blocking it.

Piers helpfully pointed me to a page on e-mail injection explaining what's going on. Basically the spammer is shoving a load of data through my form which convinces the PHP mail() command that I want to send the message to extra people. The spammer puts in their message and it gets sent to me and other people.

Normally I code to avoid exploits like this, but somehow I'd missed this one, I think I'd been lulled in to a false sense of security by ColdFusion's in-built security (which is pretty good at preventing some other exploits) and forgot that PHP just doesn't have it.

If you're getting weird messages through with things like "This is a multi-part message in MIME format." and lines of "to", "from" and "bcc" then it might be the same thing. They seem to be trying a couple of different attacks, as some have managed to spam others through my form, whereas with others the message has just come to my hard-coded address.

Ack, bleedin' spammers, who needs 'em?

Regrowing mice

The Times reports on mice that can regrow organs and limbs. If they can find those genes in humans and they have no serious side effects, then we're not far away from an incredible leap forward in health care. Damaged liver? Cut out the bad part and re-grow it. Frostbite and lose your toes? Re-grow them. Now that would be amazing!

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