Monthly Archives: December 2007

Project Honeypot: Closed for Maintenance

I paid Project Honeypot a visit this morning to get instructions for the http:BL facility and found the site closed for maintenance.  The explanation is that there are insufficient resources available to run the honeypot system and the public site (at least that is my interpretation).  Did I, as a member, receive a mail saying “help, we’re running at our limits, can anyone mirror the site”?  No.  Is there any indication of the URIs that we need to find the documentation in the Google cache?  No.

I am thorougly unimpressed as I was, this very morning, about to implement http:BL in an application that I am writing – it allows user-submitted URIs to be checked against a blacklist of “spamvertised” and phishing sites and the like and return a risk level that can be used to determine what to do with the submitted data.  Very useful tool – but hard to implement without the instructions and my access key.  (Even the members-only area of the site is out of commission).

Whilst I appreciate that the project may have resource issues, this smells to me like a case of management incompetence.


— Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells.

Beyond ALT Text – The Nielsen Norman report for free

Get your copy of the Nielsen Norman Group Report Beyond ALT Text: Making the Web Easy to Use for Users With Disabilities – for free. (At least it is free as I write this – normal price 124 USD.)

I have yet to read the report myself, but have been advised by reliable sources that it is an excellent piece of work.

Get them while they’re ‘ot, they’re luvverly!

Perl 5.10 Now Available

Well, this is good news and no mistake – Perl 5.10 is now available!  Perl 5.10 has (or is supposed to have) a faster interpreter than 5.8 and previous, with a smaller memory footprint but for me the most exciting thing is that finally we get a switch statement.  The slightly confusing thing is that it’s not called ‘switch’, it’s called ‘given’.  It appears that this is a feature that was designed for Perl 6 but since Perl 6 is the ultimate in ‘vaporware’, it has been ported to Perl 5, which actually exists in the Real World.

The new switch (or given) statement relies on the new smart match operators – don’t ask me how they work yet because Perl 5.10 has yet to appear in Gentoo Portage, so I don’t have it on my machines.  Soon though, and l am certainly looking forward to it.

And lo, there was much rejoicing!

Perfecting Gluten-Free Fish and Chips

This is not the first time I have written about gluten free fish and chips.  Since my original experiment I have managed to get both thebatter and the chips just the way we like them.


To be perfectly honest, I had never given much thought about how to make chips; I just assumed that you needed decent potatoes (you do) and you fried them, end of story.  Not so – there is an art to making chips, but it’s not a hard one to learn.  I picked up an invaluable tip watching the BBC food show, The Hairy Bikers Ride Again.

Firstly, find out what type of good chipping potato your greengrocer or supermarket (or garden!) has available.  I don’t grow my own potatoes due to the fact that our soil goes between a slurry when (and if) it rains and concrete in the summer – not conducive to harvesting things that need digging up.  Of late, I have been using a variety called ‘Red Rascal’.

If the potatoes are not washed, wash them thorougly.  If the skin is manky, peel them, otherwise don’t waste the best bit of the potato!   Slice the potato into chip-thick slices.  Are the surfaces of the slices really wet?  If so, get as much water out as you can with paper kitchen towel, unless you want the fat to boil over.   Then cut the slices into chips.

Pop the chips into the deep fat fryer for about 10 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius.  Remove, allow to drain, then set aside and allow to go cold.  That’s the Hairy Biker tip.

Turn the fryer up to 180 degrees Celsius, then fry the cold, nearly-cooked chips “until ready” – about five minutes, but may vary.


As I mentioned in my previous article, Tommy Ruffs (Arripis georgianus) make for great fish and chips.

My rice batter now consists of a cup of rice flour, about half a teaspoon of guar gum and a cup of water.  If too thin, add more flour.  If too thick (you want it to cling to the fish, but not the whole bowl-full), add more water.  The temperature of the water does not seem to matter too much, we’re not making tempura here.  You can add salt to the batter or not – it doesn’t appear to affect the way the batter sticks or cooks.  One variant is to replace part of the water with white wine.

Make up the batter, dip the fish in, fry at 180 degrees Celsius in threes or fours (based on something the size of a Tommy Ruff fillet) for a couple of minutes, remove and reserve.  Once all fish have been battered and have had their initial fry, get them all in the basket together – provided that your fryer is big enough –  to finish them off.  The reason for batching is to ensure that all pieces get roughly the same cooking time.


If you are lucky enough to have the time and energy, serve your fish and chips the civilised way with some freshly made mayonnaise.  (If you can get Hellmann’s, it’s probably the best you’ll get out of a jar, although I can only speak for the British variety.)  Otherwise, salt and a little balsamic vinegar.

Screen Size Tracker

I present for the use of any who may find it useful a PHP/JavaScript programme, sizetracker.php.  This code allows us to record the screen and windows sizes of JavaScript-enabled user agents visiting a page.  A cookie is set to prevent repeated recordings of visits to the same page.

Sufficient documentation is provided inline to get this working – other than that, you are pretty well on your own.  If anyone has any real issues with this, please post a comment against this article so that my responses are available to anyone else who may have the same problem.

Thanks to Craig Francis for pointing out the security vulnerability – now fixed.

Blogathon 2007

It has been some time since Smiffy’s Place last saw any new material – some 3 months in fact.  Maybe an explanation for this lapse would be appropriate.

Since this past June, I have been busy.  With my impaired health, I am only able to work about 5 hours every other day – combine this with 3 client projects, one rather large, and that accounts for nearly all the time that I have spent in front of a computer in the last 6 months.  Whilst still working on one of the client projects, I am allowing myself some “me” time to work on some of my own stuff.

Due to the combination of ill-health and general busy-ness, a few projects have fallen behind.  One of these, I am sad to say, is my Dublin Core for Drupal project.  As my paying clients have to come first and because I am moving away from Drupal for my own projects, it is with some regret that I must put this project on indefinite hold; I simply cannot commit the time required at present to learning the Drupal API to the degree required to produced an effective module that integrates correctly with the Drupal core.  Should anyone interested in the project wish to see the database mechanisms that I was going to use, please get in touch.

Another sad miss was this years OzeWAI conference.  Although too sick to attend last year, I was at least able to make a presentation via Skype and some remote-controlled HTML.  This year, pressures of work prevented even that.  Hopefully next year…

One personal project that is about to “go” is a simplified re-write of my “Aggie the Aggregator” RSS aggregation software which will be driving the Gluten Free Feeds site.  This site is an aggregation of feeds from sites and bloggers with the topic of gluten-free living.  The site is currently generated using the RSS aggregator module of Drupal.  Unfortunately, the Drupal aggregator is highly intolerant of errors in feeds so content frequently does not make it to the front page.  Whilst I would like to live in a world where all site feeds are well-formed, valid XML and contain no weird (like Windows character set) characters, I believe that this world – which has also cured cancer, eliminated poverty, war and Western-style fast food – is one that does not, and never will exist.  So, the plan is to build a light-weight aggregator that uses the Perl HTML::Parser module – a most lenient and forgiving piece of code that should ensure that all but the worst of feeds may be parsed, sanitised and displayed.

In other news, I will be reporting on the iPod Nano, weight training with Chronic Fatigue, an anti-disablist cartoonist, and how to make perfect gluten-free fish and chips.

Blogathon 2007 posts will be filed under the Blogathon07 category in addition to any others.