Why social media aren’t happy with topless women in pictures…

People generally wonder why Facebook and Twitter seem to ban all forms of nudity, including the display of bare breasts. (Well, female breasts anyways.) Other sites have less troubles with displaying a bit of nudity. And people will always wonder why e.g. Facebook is that prudish. They even have troubles with pictures of women who are breastfeeding. Raevin WhiteBut on other sites they tend to have less troubles with the same type of content.

For example Tumblr has almost no restrictions to the material posted there, as long as it is legal to publish. On Twitter you’re allowed a bit more, like posting nipples in tweets. They won’t allow pornography, though. Many sites won’t, anyways. Still, there’s a good reason for this. The people who will join a specific site do so because of the generic content of the site.

Many social sites are aiming at teens and young adults and this means that the content needs to qualify to specific rules, especially if the site operates in the USA. For example, most people won’t be happy when their teens are visiting sites that has the occasional nude image. (Like this blog, for example.) They would block those sites, thus the site can’t target those teens with advertisements.

For Facebook, this would be a problem. Facebook has plenty of advertisements but also plenty of games that attract teens and young adults. They use Facebook to meet with friends, play games and whatever more. Thus, Facebook depends on this group of people and thus has to respond when people report “inappropriate material”. And because they have plenty of teens, they are extremely strict at that. Tumblr has less troubles with this. They make money from the bloggers themselves by offering premium services and premium themes. They also provide advertisements, although those are barely noticeable.

Tumblr doesn’t really target teens so the content can include nudity and even pornography. Because of that, it’s no surprise that you can find plenty of those on Tumblr.

And WordPress? Well, WordPress is available in several versions. You can host it on your own server, you can have it hosted by a service provider or you do as I do and let it be hosted by WordPress themselves. The hosted versions might be a bit more strict because the hosting provider has a reputation to keep up. Worse, since the blogger is paying the provider, the provider might prefer to have less visitors instead of many, to save bandwidth. Nude pictures are often large amounts of data and with many visitors the provider loses bandwidth.

Self-hosted WordPress sites have no restrictions, though. The worst thing that could happen is that police will confiscate your hardware and arrest you if you happened to host some illegal content.

So, one main reason to block nudity is because people don’t want their teen children being exposed to it. (While plenty of teens might actually be specifically looking for this material and might even exchange nude selfies with friends.) Social sites will have to know the type of visitors they generally have and adjust their content to those visitors.

At SecondLife, for example, the rules for content within the game were mostly quite relaxed. People were allowed a lot in their own lands, as long as it was marked as mature or adult. But SecondLife got into troubles after it was discovered that many underage teens would play the game too. And those teens were suddenly exposed to nudity, sex and a lot of other things. So they decided to create a separate version just for teens and kicked every teen from the adult world to the “nicer” teen world. And if new teens are discovered in the adult world, they too are kicked to the “kindergarten”.

And they banned most of the adult stuff from most areas except for the adult areas. Since you have to pay a lot to have an adult area, this meant that many people just left the game. SecondLife now has some competition because some developers started to create the OpenSimulator where people could just host their own second world on their own system.

This became even more complex after some groups started to combine forces and started hosting virtual world similar to SecondLife, but for much less money or even free. Because of this and the ban on adult material, SecondLife has lost a lot of people.

There are, of course, more reasons. Sites that want to have viewers in e.g. China need to be aware of the restrictions the Chinese government puts on content. No pornography and preferably no bashing of the government itself. Sites focussing on the USA might also block pornography because there are a lot of people in the USA whose religious views are against such images.

In the UK they’re even demanding that providers just block all pornography and adult sites, which led to plenty of protests because too much was blocked. So, sites who want to target citizens in the UK better clean themselves up so they will get past those (faulty) porn filters.

Again, Facebook belongs to those, thus they definitely want to stay clean. Basically, social sites have to choose between those who claim there’s too much nudity versus those who want to have more nudity. Some want more, others want less. And social sites just tend to listen to those who have the most power. Not the majority but those who have the biggest influence. And those would be the lawmakers.

For example, mentioning the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 will likely get you banned in China. Not practical if you want to trade with people in China. Facebook has similar problems but all over the world. In too many countries the law puts some very strict restrictions on nudity. The USA and UK aren’t even the worst of them.

Facebook is also popular among Arab people, India and plenty of other cultures that frown upon female nipples. They want advertisers everywhere to pay them so they make a lot of profit and thus they have to give in to the demands of those lawmakers. Fortunately they also want to be in Europe so they can’t be too strict on their content, but still…

Nipples are banned because it might offend advertisers in certain areas. That would even apply to pictures of women breastfeeding their child. Male nipples are generally less offensive, though. So yes, there’s discrimination in the Facebook policies. But giving in to the demand to allow more nudity would cost them some of their advertisers, thus some of their revenue. It would only be worth their trouble if people would ban Facebook because of this strict policy.

Unfortunately, no advertiser is blocking Facebook because they don’t show enough nipples. And that’s why social media block nipples…

MtGox is close to bankrupt.

TodaY I received a PDF file called “Announcement of Commencement of Bankruptcy Proceedings_212014” And basically, it tells me that MtGox, a bitcoin market, is definitely going bankrupt. But that was to be expected. I have less than a single euro in bitcoins at MtGox I have no regrets for trying out their service. But plenty of other people have made big investments in bitcoins and stored them at MtGox. Chances are that they will have lost it all, since MtGox has plenty of bills it needs to pay first.

To make it more complex, its unclear if bitcoins can be considered equal to money or not. They’re just a collection of bytes in a specific order and format and they’re worth exactly what people are willing to pay for them. It will be interesting to see what the Japanese court system will think of the value of bitcoins. People might still get their bitcoins if the Liquidator thinks they’re worthless. But if the system in Japan is similar to the Netherlands, that Liquidator could just auction off all bitcoins that MtGox still have to pay off the debts. The remaining cash would then be compensation for anyone who had their bitcoins stored there.

Of course, plenty of other countries (the USA and UK) are probably willing to dig into the action and try to get some financial compensation too. Plenty of American people have lost a lot of money because of this. But the Japanese government goes first and all others have to pick the remaining bones. And I don’t think there will be a lot of meat left on those bones…

The lesson learned from this is, of course, that bitcoins aren’t that safe. Especially if you have them stored at some bitcoin site as MtGox. You are losing control over your money and considering how much bitcoins have been worth in the past, being careless with them can cause a big financial blow. Then again, people can also lose bitcoins if they store them on their own systems. Bitcoins on your phone can get lost if your phone is stolen or damaged. Bitcoins on your computer are always at risk of getting wiped away. I’ve heard of one guy who threw away his old laptop and later learned that he had a few thousands of bitcoins on it, each worth over $1,000 in cash! A very expensive mistake, although he had mined them himself so he did not really lose money. He just made no profits from the mining.

So, please consider what you’re doing when you will use some crypto-money like bitcoins. Make sure you’re well-informed and don’t buy them in large quantities if you just want to save your money somehow. It’s better to just start mining them yourself so your losses can be under control.

And yes, banks can go bankrupt too, but crypto-currency is a bit more riskier since there’s no proof to tell that you really owned them. Once they’re gone, you won’t get them back. This is still something that you should leave to true pioneers who are willing to take risks.

The email itself:

関係人各位

株式会社MTGOX(以下「MTGOX」といいます。)につき、平成26年4月24日午後5時00分、東京地方裁判所より破産手続開始決定がなされ、当職が破産管財人に選任されました(東京地方裁判所平成26年(フ)第3830号)。
今後、破産管財人において、MTGOXの財産管理換価、債権調査等の破産手続を遂行していきます。
つきましては、関係者に対する情報提供を目的として、破産手続に関する基本的事項を添付のとおりお知らせいたしますので、ご確認ください。

なお、このメールアドレス(mtgox_trustee@noandt.com )は破産管財人からの送信専用であり、貴殿が本メールアドレス宛の返信等をされても内容確認及び回答などの対応はできません。
破産手続の進行等については、ウェブサイト( http://www.mtgox.com/ )で情報提供をする予定ですので、当該ウェブサイトをご確認ください。
宜しくお願いいたします。

破産者株式会社MTGOX  破産管財人弁護士小林信明


To whom it may concern,

At 5:00 p.m. on April 24, 2014, the Tokyo District Court granted the order for the commencement of the bankruptcy proceedings vis-à-vis MtGox Co., Ltd. (“MtGox”), and based upon such order, I was appointed as the bankruptcy trustee (Tokyo District Court 2014 (fu) no. 3830).
The bankruptcy trustee will implement the bankruptcy proceedings, including the administration and realization of the assets and investigation of the claims.
For the purpose of providing information to the related parties, we hereby inform you of the basic matters regarding the bankruptcy proceedings as attached.

This email address(mtgox_trustee@noandt.com) is used only for the purpose of sending messages, and we are unable to check and respond to any replies to this email address.
Since we plan to provide the information regarding the bankruptcy proceedings by posting it on the website hosted by the bankruptcy trustee ( http://www.mtgox.com/ ), please check this website.

Bankrupt MtGox Co., Ltd. Bankruptcy trustee Attorney-at-law Nobuaki Kobayashi

Betaalverzoek inzake CJIB

Once more some stupid spammer trying to get people to pay them lots of money. It was sent to my sister who could not understand how she had to pay so she asked me how. I quickly discovered that this is a big scam and told her so. And I’m posting it here to warn other people about this scam too and how scammers try new tricks every time hoping for the suckers who are scared enough to pay.

Since this scam was written in Dutch, I will continue in the Dutch language.


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Mijn zus ontving vandaag deze email van het “CJIB” betreffende een verkeersboete van 155 euro. Het dreigt ermee dat haar bankrekening wordt geblokkeerd met ingang van 13 mei, wat dus al gebeurd zou zijn. Ze moet voor 19 mei betalen, dus op de dag dat ze de email ontving. En ja, dat is de manier waarop spammers proberen om hun slachtoffers mee onder druk te zetten zodat ze betalen zonder na te denken.

Wat belangrijk is, is hoe de spammers aanwijzingen geven om een prepaid credit card aan te schaffen om zo de boete mee te betalen. Vervolgens moet je naar een site toe, waar geeneens een domeinnaam aan hangt. Het is een URL met IP adres 153.122.39.197 en daarbinnen een folder. Daar zie je vervolgend een vrij kaal scherm met een betaalknop.

Clip_2Clip_3Clip_5Klik je vervolgens verder dan krijg ik met Google Chrome al een waarschuwing dat de site is geblokkeerd wegens phishing. Ik neem even het risico en kom bij het volgende plaatje. Daar moet de 3B pincode worden ingevuld, waarna de oplichter de gehele creditcard kan leeghalen. Wie uiteindelijk een 19-cijferig nummer invoert krijgt vervolgens een pagina te zien die aangeeft dat de betaling succesvol was (terwijl ik een willekeurig nummer gebruikte) en ik zal binnen drie tot 5 dagen bericht krijgen van de belastingdienst.

Belastingdienst?

Het bedrag van 155 euro komt mooi overeen met de hoogste waarde van de betreffende maatschappij. Gelukkig hebben ze al door dat er dergelijke nepmails over het Internet gaan zodat iedereen op Beltegoed Opwaarderen daar nog eens de waarschuwing over deze oplichterij te zien krijgt.

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Jammer dat de waarschuwing onder de betaalknoppen staat en niet erboven, waar ze nog beter opvallen. Maar iedereen zou dit toch als een waarschuwing moeten zien. Hopelijk is het duidelijk genoeg maar er zullen altijd mensen zijn die in dit soort oplichterij trappen.

Hoe komt het dat er zoveel mensen in trappen? Dat is heel simpel. Dergelijke berichten worden vaak naar grote aantallen adressen verstuurd. Als 1% van de bevolking er in trapt en ze versturen het naar 100.000 adressen dan zijn dat toch al weer 1.000 slachtoffers. En dat maal 150 euro maakt het een winstgevende actie, maar wel illegaal. Gelukkig is het percentage slachtoffers nog veel lager dan 1% maar al zijn er 10 slachtoffers in die grote groep, het geld komt dan wel binnen met relatief weinig moeite.

Hoe kun je je wapenen tegen deze oplichters? Eigenlijk moet je daarvoor gewoon goed opletten en goed weten hoe bepaalde bedrijven en organisaties werken. Het CJIB zal echt niet via prepaid creditcards betaald willen worden. Het CJIB zal sowieso nooit via het Internet boetes proberen te innen.

Dergelijke constructies zijn vooral bedoeld om geld weg te sluizen zodat het slachtoffer er niet meer bij komt. Je bent het geld gewoon kwijt zodra je op deze manier hebt betaald. Ook de creditcard maatschappij kan het niet terugkrijgen omdat ze het beltegoed erop gebruiken om bijvoorbeeld een duur 06-nummer mee te bellen. Dan is de creditcard leeg en ligt het geld bij een telefoon maatschappij die het weer moet doorbetalen aan een bel-bedrijf. En van daar gaat het geld weer verder weg van het slachtoffer.

Wat ook van belang is, is dat de site nergens om mijn persoonlijke gegevens vraagt. Deze staan zelfs niet in de email. Het is gericht aan de bestuurder, zonder zelfs een nummer van een kentekenplaat te vermelden. Dat kunnen de oplichters ook niet want ze hebben deze gegevens niet. Als iemand een rekening per email verstuurt dan zou je toch meer gegevens in de email verwachten. Het gebrek aan deze persoonlijke gegevens is ook een waarschuwing.

Wie technisch iets handiger is kan ook nog eens naar de ‘headers’ van de email kijken om te bepalen waar de email vandaan komt. En dan blijkt dat de email afkomstig is van hetzelfde IP adres als de site zelf. Een adres dat ergens in Japan te vinden is. Mogelijk een Japanse computer die onderdeel is geworden van een botnet en dus misbruikt wordt zonder dat de eigenaar dit beseft. Om de oplichter te vinden is dit dus geen behulpzame manier. Daarvoor zul je het geld moeten volgen…

Maar sowieso moet je altijd oppassen met verzoeken tot betalen per email. Eigenlijk zou je dat standaard moeten weigeren, tenzij je zeker bent dat het iets betreft dat je nog moet betalen.

Nu nog even de volledige email zoals deze is ontvangen via de hotmail account van mijn zuster:

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Authentication-Results: hotmail.com; spf=none (sender IP is 153.122.39.197) smtp.mailfrom=cjibnoreply@cjib.nl; dkim=none header.d=cjib.nl; x-hmca=none header.id=cjibnoreply@cjib.nl
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Received: from vps1.cpanel.net ([153.122.39.197]) by BAY0-MC6-F21.Bay0.hotmail.com with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.4900);
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Received: from [62.140.132.229] (port=27929 helo=newran)
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(envelope-from <cjibnoreply@cjib.nl>)
id 1WlTE6-0002gc-Bo; Sat, 17 May 2014 10:15:51 +0900
Reply-To: <noreply@cjib.nl>
From: “Centraal Justitieel Incassobureau”<cjibnoreply@cjib.nl>
Subject: Betaalverzoek inzake CJIB
Date: Sat, 17 May 2014 03:15:51 +0200
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Geachte bestuurder,</DIV>
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U hebt een beschikking en vervolgens twee aanmaningen ontvangen voor het overtreden van een verkeersvoorschrift.</DIV>
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Het openstaande bedrag is niet volledig op de rekening van het Centraal Justitieel Incassobureau (CJIB) bijgeschreven.</DIV>
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Daarom zullen wij de bank opdracht gegeven uw rekening te blokkeren per dinsdag 13 mei 2014.</DIV>
<DIV>
Alleen persoonlijk bij het BKR zelf kunt u inzage krijgen in de informatie die het BKR over u ontvangt.</DIV>
<DIV>
Het blokkeren van rekening betekent dat de toegang tot uw rekening geblokkkeerd is met ingang 13-05-2014 voor een periode van vier werken.</DIV>
<DIV>
&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>
&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>
Met de 3v online krediet kunt u online op onze website de betaling voldoen. U dient hieronder te klikken op<B><I> </B></I><I>3v credit kopen</I> .</DIV>
<DIV>
<B>&nbsp;</B></DIV>
<DIV>
<B> </B></DIV>
<DIV>
<A href=”http://beltegoedopwaarderen.nl/3v”><FONT color=#0000FF><B><U>3v</B></U></FONT></A><A href=”http://beltegoedopwaarderen.nl/3v”><FONT color=#0000FF><B><U> credit
kopen</B></U></FONT></A></DIV>
<DIV>
<B> </B></DIV>
<DIV>
Let op: nadat uw de 3v (prepaid credit) heeft gekocht dient u de 19 cijferige nummercode hieronder te activeren om de betaling te voldoen.</DIV>
<DIV>
Klik hieronder op <I>aanmaning betalen</I><B><I>.</B></I></DIV>
<DIV>
<B>&nbsp;</B></DIV>
<DIV>
<B>&nbsp;</B></DIV>
<DIV>
<A href=”http://153.122.39.197/~newran/”><FONT color=#0000FF><B><U>Aanmaning betalen</B></U></FONT></A></DIV>
<DIV>
Het volledige bedrag van Eur 155,00 (inclusief kosten) moet uiterlijk 19-05-2013 worden betaald. Doet u dit niet, dan wordt u per 19-05-2014 geregisteerd bij BKR.</DIV>
<DIV>
Voorkom blokkade van uw rekening.</DIV>
<DIV>
&nbsp;</DIV>
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<B> </B></DIV>
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<B> </B></DIV>
<DIV>
Hoogachtend,</DIV>
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Centraal Justitieel Incassobureau.</DIV>
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Great photography, licensed or self-made…

The Internet has become extremely important in our daily lives. And more importantly, the Internet requires many developers to think more graphically. Twenty-five years ago, computers were mostly text-based with some little graphics. The Internet was about to be born and graphics was mostly restricted to small icons and images with a limited amount of colors. When you were lucky, your graphics card would be a VGA card, able to handle images with 256 colors at resolutions of 640×480 pixels. A need for a graphic standard was required back then and a few new formats were born.

The PCX format, created by the now-defunct Zsoft Corporation, turned out reasonable successful because it supported up to 256 colors with an extra color palette that allowed the selection of 256 colors from any of the true-color images. It also supported data compression, making it reasonable small. Yet the decompression method was pretty fast, thus the processor would not need to work hard to display the image.

The PCX format has extended to true-color more recently but the JPG format turned out to be a better format. Since processors started to improve their performance, the more complex compression of the JPG format was fast enough to use and resulted in smaller files, although the images would lose some details.

Another popular format was the GIF format, that allowed images with 255 colors plus a transparent layer. (Or 256 colors without transparency.) This format is still popular since it’s great for logos and cartoons and it allows animations. And the compression of GIF files would reduce the image considerably in size without losing any details.

The PNG format has become more popular and was created as successor of the GIF format. It was needed because modern graphics required more colors and there was a demand for a better transparency layer. The PNG format uses 24-bits or 48-bits for its colors allowing more colors than the human eye can detect, plus an alpha channel (24-bits only) allowing images to define the transparency level of each pixel to be anything between transparent and opaque. This was great to e.g. create dirty glass windows or thin, silk nightgowns as graphics.

There are, of course, many other graphic formats but I want to talk about art, not formats. And this time, I want to talk about Pavel Kiselev, also known as photoport (NSFW), who likes to create glamorous pictures of pretty women. Today, he posted this picture of Irene, of one of his models. (I’ve licensed it for personal use, and this is my personal blog so it should be okay.)

IreneAnd this is the kind of photography that I love to see. Should I say more?

Well, okay… I do have to keep in mind that I wanted to relate this to software development so I should not distract myself by continuously looking in those pretty eyes. 🙂 So, back to the software development part…

When you’re designing websites, you have to keep in mind that you will need a lot of graphics. Something simple like an icon to display in the browser is already a requirement these days, else people have some trouble finding your site among their favorites. They can, of course, read the labels in the menu but most people will glance over all icons first and clicking on the icon that they recognise as your icon. Without the icon, they have more trouble finding you so never forget to add a Favicon to your site! Something that people will easily recognize as your brand.

Next, your site will need a logo and a background image. Or at least a logo. The best logos are PNG or GIF images, because they are small and allow transparency. The image of Irene would be bad as logo since it’s big and has a lot of bytes. When people visit your site with a slow internet connection, it would just look bad if the logo takes too long to download. Thus, keep it small yet detailed enough to be recognisable.

The background image might be bigger, unless you’re designing websites for mobile devices. For mobile devices, no background image would be better since it will take less bandwidth. Many mobile devices are accessing the Internet through providers who charge by the megabytes of data sent or received. Thus, for mobile sites you need to keep the amount of data to an absolute minimum, else it becomes expensive to visit your mobile websites forcing visitors to stay away when they’re roaming around…

But a favicon, logo and background aren’t always enough. Let’s forget the mobile devices for now and focus on the regular browsers and users who pay a fixed price for their connection. Your website will probably offer some services to customers and you need them to easily recognise what they’re looking at. And these days, more and more people dislike reading descriptions and prefer to see something more graphical. You might consider hieroglyphs on your website but not many people are capable of reading ancient Egyptian. You you need your own set of icons and images for the most important actions on your website. Preferably icons with an extra label next to it.

Take a look at your browser and find the following buttons: Back, Next, Refresh and Home. Did you read some text to find them? Most likely, you found them by looking at the images. Arrows for back and next buttons, an arrow in a circle for the refresh button and a symbol of a house for the home button. Images that have become standard so make sure you have a few of your own to put on your own website. Especially when you want navigation buttons on your own site. However, do keep in mind that you either have to create these images yourself or get a proper license for the images created by someone else. Considering that many icons are already in the public domain or have been created under a Creative Commons license, it should be no big problem to find any for free.

Next, you will probably need images for the products that you want to sell or display. While Irene looks very pretty, I would not use it when I want to sell socks. I would use a picture of socks instead. And make sure I have licensed that picture or created it myself. Preferably, I would create multiple images at different sizes so I can display thumbnails first and a larger version if the user wants to see more details. Again, this would speed up loading your site.

It does create a bit of a challenge, though. Would you resize the image to a thumbnail dynamically or will you store the image as thumbnail and original format? Both have their advantages. Dynamic resizing will allow you to change the thumbnail size when you like and even allows you to create all kinds of custom sizes. However, your server will need more processing power to do the resizing, which is slow if your original images are created at huge resolutions. (Like most of my artwork.) If you’re expecting a lot of visitors, storing images at different sizes would improve performance considerably but will require more disk space, which could be a minor problem when you have your site hosted and have to pay for the storage per megabyte. Then again, hosts don’t charge much for extra disk space these days, if they’re even charging anything at all.

The image of Irene would be practical for dating sites and sites for bathing products. Her hair has a wet look, giving the impression that she just washed it. She also looks very seductive which would certainly attract attention of many men and probably a few women too. However, on dating sites the members would probably recognise her as a professional model and thus consider it a fake image. She’s too pretty to use a dating site. You’d probably scare a few members away if you would use this image. It would still look great for selling shampoo, though.

So, you’re designing a website and thus you will need images to fill it up. This is often the biggest problem for many companies. In many cases, developers will just use Google to find some image and copy it to the project, ignoring the need for any license. They have good reasons to work this way, because adding proper images isn’t a real task for developers. But it could cause legal troubles if the site is published and some photographer recognizes his images. Without a proper license, it could cost you hundreds of euros to correct the situation and that’s without any other legal costs. Thus it is really bad when developers have to search for the proper images themselves.

A better solution would be by creating placeholder images. Provide the developers with some dummy images that you’ve created yourself by adding a textual description to a newly created image at the preferred size. Make sure it has a proper filename too. This placeholder can then be used by the developer to insert in the proper location, allowing him to continue his work while you start to look for a nice image to replace this placeholder. This will allow time to get a proper license or to make it yourself. Once you’re about to publish the site, all you have to do is replace the placeholders with the images that you want to display.

One more, very important thing to remember. When you get a license for any image that you use, make sure that you keep track of the specific details of the license. It would be best if you have your own database where you can store the image with more information about where you’ve licensed the image, where you found the image and the license and the name of the author. You will need this information if the author or some company representing the author finds your image online and thinks you don’t have a proper license.

Of course, there’s a risk of having a fraudulent license. You might have gotten a license from someone pretending to be the author. This is a risk which you might avoid by keeping track of the origins of every image used by your organisation. And yes, it’s a lot of additional bookkeeping. With this information about where you got your license, you will have a good excuse to get away without any financial damages if the license turns out to be fraud. If you can continue to use the image will depend on the local legislation of the country where your organisation is located and the legislation of the country where your website is hosted.

My personal preference for images is to just create it myself. This takes time and I need opportunities to create those images. For CGI artwork, my computer is fast enough to render an image in the background while I continue to work on developing my sites. Still, I am limited to one image per computer at any time and my license for Vue limits me to using the software on just a single computer. Rendering can easily take a few hours, even days, so I have to be patient.

Of course, I could just take one of my digital cameras but that often means that I need a model, a place and the right weather if I’m going to take pictures outside. This is a lot of work for a bunch of images and I will need to do extra work on those photos once I’ve taken them. They need to be cropped, lighting needs to be adjusted, colors need to be enhanced. This is just too much work for a software developer to do. Thus, you’d better hire a professional to do this work if you don’t have someone in your organisation dedicated to this. Do make sure the photographer you hire will do a “Work for hire” so you’re the official author. Otherwise, the photographer will have influence on how you can use the photos he took!

So, organisations will have a complex task of maintaining licenses and their own images. A lot of organisations do tend to forget about these details which can result in costly problems. Make sure your developers will have something to work with while they are developing. Make sure they don’t have to waste time on those images themselves since developers are costly too. They should focus on the code, not the graphics themselves. Make sure someone in your organisation will manage all images and who is responsible for checking anything that’s about to be published for unknown images. If the image isn’t in the system maintained by the image manager, then you should block the publication until this is fixed.

Is XML in decline?

I happen to be one of those older software developers who saw the rise of XML. I even remember the older SGML standard, although I never used SGML. Version 1.0 of XML became an official standard in 1998. Once it became a standard, many companies started working to create the Killer App to work with XML without much of a hassle. And although at first many companies started to create their own XML parsers, not all of them were completely conform the standard. Those parsers disappeared fast enough too.

Right now, version 1.1 of XML is the latest standard. Yes, in 16 years not much has happened to this standard. And the changes that have been applied are more about supporting EBCDIC platforms and the newer Unicode definitions. There are discussions about a version 2.0 but it’s not likely to become a standard soon. Strange as it might sound, XML seems to be in decline if you look at how it’s used.

The power of XML was, of course, in the way how you defined these files and how you could do transformations on these file types. While we used DTD definition files at first to define the structure of an XML file, some smart people came up with the XSD schema format, which allowed more flexibility and is by itself an XML file. Combined with some nice, graphical tools, the XSD made it easier to define an XML file and to validate if an XML file conforms to the proper structure. And I’ve made plenty of XSD files between 2000 and 2010 since my work required a lot of XML data exchanges.

Of course, transformations are also important and here we use stylesheets. An XSLT file would be made in XML itself and define how you would convert an XML file to some other output format. In general, this output would be another XML file, an HTML document to display it in a web browser, a simple text file or even a comma-separated file. And in some special cases it could even create a complete rich text document that you could open in Word. This meant that you could e.g. send an XML file to a server and the server would then process it. It would validate the file with a schema and could do additional validation tools by using a style sheet. If it passed these validation style sheets, other stylesheets could then be used to extract data from the XML and send it to other servers for further processing, while it could also generate documentation to return to the user. You could do a lot of processing with just XML files.

Of course, XML also became popular because more developers started to create web services. And they used the SOAP protocol for this, which is a slightly complex protocol that’s heavily dependant on XML standards. Since SOAP also had some build-in version mechanism, you could always make sure if the client was still using the right SOAP definitions or not. You could even use several SOAP message formats on the same system with only the version number as difference. It wasn’t easy to set up, but it worked extremely well.
And more has been developed to support XML even more. The XPath expressions would allow you to point to specific elements within an XML document. With XQuery, you could execute queries on XML files and process the result. With namespaces you could even combine multiple XML definitions that uses similar entities. And then we have things like XLink, XPointer and XForms, which never have been very popular.

Between 2000 and 2010, it seemed that XML would be a dominating development technique. No more writing code in other programming languages that needed to be compiled, simply because XML happens to be a fast scripting environment. Many platforms started to have a standard for objects that could process XML files and knowledge of XML became a hard-needed requirement for developers. So, what changed?

Well, many developers consider the XML format a bit bulky, especially because tags are often used twice. Once to open the element and once to close it. Thus, if an element is called ‘NumberOfElements‘ then you have to write <NumberOfElements>10</NumberOfElements> and that’s a lot of text to store the number 10. As a result, some developers would then shorten those tag names so the resulting XML would be smaller. If you have 10,000 of these tags in your XML file, shortening it to TOE would save 26 characters per element, thus 260,000 characters in total. This doesn’t seem much but developers feel they gain more by these kinds of optimizations. With modern multi-core processors and systems with 8 or more GB of RAM, such optimizations might make the code half a second faster, which you barely notice with web services, but still… Developers think it saves a lot. And yes, when resources are truly limited, it makes a lot of sense but modern mentalities are that companies will just add a second server if one is too slow. Or more, if need be. This is because the costs of the more hardware is less expensive than the costs of having developers optimize the code even further.

These kinds of optimizations make XML files less human-readable while the purpose was to make this kind of data more readable. It becomes slightly worse when the XML file uses namespaces, since those namespaces are also shortened to just a few letters.

Another problem is the need to parse XML to extract the data. More and more companies are creating web applications that run within web browsers and heavily rely on JavaScript. These apps need to be able to run on multiple devices too. Unfortunately, not all browsers support parsing XML files and even those who do are a bit complex to use. With regular expressions it’s still possible to extract some data from the XML but if you need to fill a grid with 50 rows and 20 columns, things become real complex. And to solve this, developers started to send data to web applications as JavaScript instead of XML. This could then be executed and thus the data would load itself into memory. Since JavaScript objects are less bulky than the begin/end tags of XML elements, it made this new format very practical and thus JSON was born.

The birth of JSON also demanded a change in web services. Since web applications would call these services directly, it would be very clumsy if they have to set up SOAP messages and then parse the SOAP results. A newer, simpler style of web services arose, which uses the REST protocol. Of course, there are many other web service protocols but REST seems to become the new standard. Especially because it’s a simpler protocol that relies on the HTTP(s) protocol.

Of course, web applications have become more important these days because we’re getting more and more devices with all kinds of different operating systems, which all have web browsers. And, as I said, not all of those devices have a native XML parser built-in. They do support JavaScript though, and as a result it becomes quite easy to develop web applications for all devices which use data in JSON formats.

Of course, many devices also allow special platform-dependant apps that can be created with development tools for their specific platforms. For OS X and iOS-based devices you would use Objective C while you would use C++ or Java for Android devices. (Java is the preferred development platform for Android.) For Windows RT you would use .NET for Metro-style applications with either VB or C# as primary language. This makes it a bit difficult to develop software that runs on all three devices but there are several parties who have created compilers that will compile platformdependent executables from platform-independent code. Unfortunately, working with XML parsers still differs on all these platforms and those third-party compilers need to wrap their parsers around the built-in parsers of the underlying platform. That makes them a bit slow.

Since the number of operating systems have risen since the market starts getting more and more new devices, it becomes more difficult to keep a single standard that’s supported by all those systems. And the XML standard is quite complex so the different parsers might not all support the same things. In that regard, JSON is much simpler since these are just simple assignment statements. And these assignment statements are based on the Java syntax, which also happens to be similar to the C++, C# and Objective C syntax. The only difference with these languages is the fact that JSON puts the field names between quotes too, which you can’t do inside these languages.

So, XML is becoming less useful because it requires too much work to use. JSON makes data serialization simpler and is less bulky. Especially when developers are more focussing on web applications and apps for specific devices, the use of XML is in decline in favor of JSON and other solutions. But there’s one more reason why XML is in decline. And this is something within the .NET framework that’s called LINQ.

LINQ was implemented as a separate library for .NET version 3.5 but has become popular since then. Basically, LINK allows you to support data in a structured object and use simple queries to, or to execute transformations on extract data from those objects. This would be similar to XPath and XSLT but now it’s part of your development language, allowing you more choice in functions that you can apply to the data. This is especially important for date fields, since XML doesn’t work well with date formats. LINQ actually makes extracting data from object trees quite easy and can be used on an XML document if you’ve read this document in memory in a proper XDocument or XmlDocument object. Thus, the need for XSLT to transform data has disappeared since you can do the same in C#, VB, F# or Oxygene.

The result is that .NET developers don’t have to learn about XML anymore. Their .NET knowledge combined with LINQ is more than enough. Since .NET also allows serialization to and from XML formats, it’s also quite easy to read and write XML files in .NET. You can import an existing XSD file into your .NET application and have it converted to code, but since most XML data starts as objects that need to be stored in XML before serialization, you will often see that developers just define the objects and include attributes to tell if the object and its fields are elements or attributes, and have the serialization library use these object definitions to serialize it to and from XML. Thus, knowledge of XML schemas is not a requirement anymore.

Because .NET development made the dependency on XML knowledge almost obsolete, the popularity of XML is in decline. It’s still used quite often, but the knowledge that you need to do practical things with XML with XML tools is disappearing. And similar things are happening on other platforms. Java and PHP also started supporting LINQ queries. And, as a result, those environments can work on structured objects instead of XML data. Thus, XML is only needed if the data needs to be sent to some other process and even then, other formats might be chosen too.

In fact, many developers are less concerned about the data format that’s used for inter-process communication. The system is handling this for them and they just use a specific serialization library that does the bulk of the work for them. XML isn’t really declining, but less developers need knowledge about the XML format since development tools have nice wrappers around them that allow these developers to use XML without even realizing they’re using XML. It’s not XML that’s in decline. It’s the knowledge about XML that is in decline…

The FBI in Lithuania wants to pay me 15 million dollars…

 

 

 

I do love some of the spam messages I receive. Especially when the spammers try to pretend they’re the FBI or other important organisation and they want to pay me a few millions. And I can’t really imagine that some people are stupid enough to fall for this. Then again, if they send 5 billion of these messages, the chance is quite big for them to find an idiot or two willing to fall for this.

Those people must be even more brain-dead than the spammers…SpamThis is not a very expensive scam. They just ask for 420 USD instead of thousands of dollars. A payment for the ownership papers or whatever. And they tell me to stop being in contact with the other scammers, which is very good advise.

So? Well, it starts with Mrs. Maria Barnett from Canada. The address seems real, although it has been misused by plenty of other spammers. The address is actually used by an organisation with domain name standardchart.org and is registered by Joseph Sanusi. Too bad that name sounds a bit suspicious since there’s someone in Nigeria with the same name. (The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.) He is 75 and I don’t think he’s the spammer, so someone else either has the same name or they’re faking things even more. The domain name is registered but doesn’t seem to be linked to any site or server, because it’s pending a deletion.

Then they refer to Mr. Fred Walters of the FBI. Fred helped Maria to get their money from some Nigerian bank, and they got even a lot more. He even showed her a list of other beneficiaries and my name was on the list and I am eligible to get lots of money too. All I have to do is contact Fred on the email address of Steve Reed in Lithuania, who seems to work at super.lt, which is a Lithuanian website. I don’t really understand the language but Google Translate does. It seems to be an online book store. A strange place for the FBI. I would expect the CIA in that place instead.

Maria herself seems to work for Shaw, a Canadian internet shop. They sell televisions, phones and other stuff. So we have two shops in two different countries that are somehow related by some victim of a Nigerian 419 scam and a FBI agent.

Now, the email headers, visible at the bottom, show some more interesting connections. For example, I notice the name ‘Dealer.achyundai.com’, another chain in the spiderweb of the scammers. That domain is also pending deletion too. The IP address 67.211.119.59 seems to be down too, so it’s likely the scammers have already been taken down.

But this spam message just shows how dumb the spammers make their requests and yet people keep falling for it. If the story was more logical and the email addresses and domain names had actually been more real  then I could understand why people fall for this. But this?

Delivered-To: ********@********.***
Received: by 10.50.87.105 with SMTP id w9csp17960igz;
        Sat, 1 Feb 2014 05:42:38 -0800 (PST)
X-Received: by 10.50.80.75 with SMTP id p11mr1777051igx.19.1391262158192;
        Sat, 01 Feb 2014 05:42:38 -0800 (PST)
Return-Path: <mrs.mariabarnett@shaw.ca>
Received: from Dealer.achyundai.com ([67.211.119.59])
        by mx.google.com with ESMTPS id x1si3519252igl.27.2014.02.01.05.42.07
        for <********@********.***>
        (version=TLSv1 cipher=RC4-SHA bits=128/128);
        Sat, 01 Feb 2014 05:42:38 -0800 (PST)
Received-SPF: softfail (google.com: domain of transitioning mrs.mariabarnett@shaw.ca does not designate 67.211.119.59 as permitted sender) client-ip=67.211.119.59;
Authentication-Results: mx.google.com;
       spf=softfail (google.com: domain of transitioning mrs.mariabarnett@shaw.ca does not designate 67.211.119.59 as permitted sender) smtp.mail=mrs.mariabarnett@shaw.ca
Received: from User (unknown [207.10.37.241])
    by Dealer.achyundai.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id 02525A7FA30B;
    Sat,  1 Feb 2014 06:57:03 -0500 (EST)
Reply-To: <stevereed1@super.lt>
From: "Mrs. Maria Barnett"<mrs.mariabarnett@shaw.ca>
Subject: Make Sure You Read Now.  
Date: Sat, 1 Feb 2014 06:57:10 -0500
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/html;
    charset="Windows-1251"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2600.0000
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2600.0000
Message-Id: <20140201115704.02525A7FA30B@Dealer.achyundai.com>
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

One more spammer caught…

Well, it seems that a message about spam attracts other spammers. Fortunately you can also report spammers who try to spam through comments at SpamKlacht. And if the spammer or company mentioned by the spammer is located in the Netherlands, then they can take actions against them.

So, let’s display part of the report at the end of this post that I’ve received from SpamKlacht, which happens to be written in Dutch. (Sorry, but maybe Google Translate can help?)

In short, a french website has posted a Dutch message on a blog that’s mostly written in english. It’s likely that the servers from society26.com are hacked and misused to send this kind of spam. These spammers know that forum and blog spam is harder to trace and stop than regular spam by email. They also know that many blogs and forums don’t have very good systems against this kind of spam, although WordPress does an incredible job in stopping them.

What’s more interesting is that this message doesn’t contain an email address, phone number or even a URL to their own site. Most likely, that link would be www.euromovers.nl or that of one of their members. It’s not really helping much, unless people like me decide to look for them by using Google.

What actually happens is that the spammers are smart. They just pick up random texts from the Internet, in this case the About-page from Euromovers, they just shorten some of the paragraphs and use the text as their comment, hoping it somehow makes sense for the forum or blog administrators to let it pass. They know that if an administrator passes one spam message, it’s likely that the spammers account has become whitelisted and thus is allowed to post more comments. When that happens, the spammer will flood the blog or forum with spam.

With WordPress, it’s actually a practical way to bypass the spam filters. Fortunately, even though my site operates under a dutch domain name, its main language is english. As a result, I tend to consider comments in dutch a bit suspicious. But I also learned to just trust it’s spam filter, which hasn’t failed me yet.

The report from SpamKlacht:

U heeft een spam-melding geplaatst op spamklacht.nl, een website van de Autoriteit Consument & Markt. Dit document geeft een samenvatting van uw melding.

Spamklacht gemeld op  : 20-01-2014 09:43
Uw gegevens
Naam  : W.A. ten Brink
Adres  : xxxxxxxxxx
Postcode / plaats  : xxxx xx Amsterdam
Telefoonnummer  : xxxxxxxxxx
Gegevens van het mogelijke spambericht
Bericht ontvangen per  : Social Media, namelijk https://blog.wimtenbrink.nl/
Ontvangen op datum / tijd  : 19-01-2014 13:53
Ontvangen op adres  : Spamfilter heeft het tegengehouden.
Ontvangen van adres  : Verhuisbedrijf Euromovers uit Vlaardingen
Genoemd adres  : marita-cockett@gmail.com Www.solution26.com 87.98.172.16
Onderwerp  : Het betreft een bericht dat in mijn spamfilter van WordPress terecht is gekomen. Het bestaat uit drie delen, te weten de auteur, het bericht en een URL naar het bericht waar de spammer het probeerde te plaatsen.

[Author start]
Www.solution26.com
solution26.com/liens/?page=824
marita-cockett(at)gmail.com
87.98.172.16
[Author eind]

[Bericht start]
…… Verhuisbedrijf Euromovers uit VlaardingenVerhuisbedrijf
Euromovers uit Vlaardingen maakt deel uit van
het internationale netwerk van Euromovers International.
Dit netwerk bestaat uit hoog gekwalificeerde en betrouwbare
verhuisondernemingen in geheel Europa, de VS, Rusland, China, Australië
en Nieuw Zeeland. In Nederland is elk…….Bent u opzoek naar een professioneel
verhuisbedrijf dat werkt met ervaren verhuizers, professionele materialen, zelf vervoer
op maat regelt en werkt met een goede motivatie aan elke klus?
Kies dan voor de Verhuisbeweging, hét ideale verhuisbedrijf van Rotterdam en
omstreken. Wij zijn een erkent verhuisbedrijf dat zich door de jaren heen
heeft bewezen als betrouwbare en professionele verhuizer, daarom hebben wij ook een schadeverzekering gekregen, dus mocht er eventueel schade oplopen tijdens het verhuizen, geen punt!
Onze verzekering dekt de schade en betaald het aan u uit!
[Bericht eind]