Saturday, 18 December 2004

Despite the fact that it’s right there in front of my face every time I walk out the door, I’ve started to forget that St Helens is still quite active and spewing steam. A fresh series of four earthquakes (magnitude 2.5 to 3) in the past couple of days and more steam vents prove it. In fact, the mountain is adding new material to the dome growing in the crater at a pretty amazing rate – the equivalent of one dump truck load of new material every second.

This picture was taken this morning from my front porch:


If you’re too young or just plain don’t remember, St. Helens used to be kind of pointy and tall (click the image below for historical photos from before and during the 1980 eruption event:


Scientists say that at this rate, in just 11 years the mountain could be back to the about the same size it was before it completely blew its top back in 1980. There’s no guarantee of that, and lots of variables are involved, of course. However, it’s pretty amazing to note that in just the last couple of months, the new lava dome in the crater has grown one third the size of the dome that took six years to form after the 1980 eruption. Here’s a picture of the growth of the new dome as of November 12, 2004, with a football field graphical overlay for scale purposes:

The mountain remains under what they call a Level Two volcano advisory, meaning the Johnston Ridge visitor center – the one closest to the crater - is still closed, but the Coldwater Creek visitor center is open. For those who cannot visit, the Volcano Cam offers a great view into the crater 24/7.

I have had a lot of inquiries from people who know me (and some who don’t) about how close I live to the mountain. I guess people think we’re all gonna die. We’re not. My house is something like 50 or so miles away as the crow flies, so no worries there.

The latest info can always be found at the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network web site and the USGS Cascade Range web site. KATU News in Portland did a good update, and you can read it on their web site and watch the streaming video of their news report.

By the way – St. Helens is not the only volcano in the area, it’s just the one that’s acting up right now. All the other volcanoes in the Cascade Range are all at normal levels of background seismicity. They include:

  • Mount Baker, in Washington
  • Glacier Peak, in Washington
  • Mount Rainier, in Washington
  • Mount Adams, in Washington
  • Mount Hood, in Oregon
  • Mount Jefferson, in Oregon
  • Three Sisters, in Oregon
  • Newberry, in Oregon
  • Crater Lake, in Oregon
  • Medicine Lake, in northern California
  • Mount Shasta, in northern California
  • Lassen Peak in northern California

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Mt. St. Helens
Saturday, 18 December 2004 12:31:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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For someone like me, who uses SharePoint Portal Server and is starting to appreciate the usefulness of the MSN Desktop Search, this was an awesome find:

Mark Bower: Searching SPS using MSN Desktop Search

Mark explains how to add a shortcut to the MSN Desktop Search “deskband.” In less than a minute, you’ll have quick search shortcuts set up that allow you to enter a shortcut keyword and your search term (for example, type “sps documentation” into desktop search and a window will be opened with the search results on the portal server).

UPDATE: A site all about shortcuts for the deskbar ( has popped up – very cool! (via Scobleizer)

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SharePoint | Tech
Saturday, 18 December 2004 00:28:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 17 December 2004

Scott Hanselman has been working on some very cool updates to a private build of the current version of dasBlog (the blog software this site runs on), and last night he and I stayed up late plugging his new build into my weblog site and his. We did some tuning and troubleshooting (he tuned, and I took direction and troubleshooted/shot/sha– eh, whatever…), and got to where things are looking pretty darn nice.

The net effect of the changes is significantly improved performance and some new functionality for site owners.

It’s faster. Big time. Between the dasBlog changes and cleaning a few things up in my blog template, the site is loading well over ten times faster than it was 24 hours ago. Wow. Scott’s blog is also running on the new bits, and its much faster, too.

Before anyone asks, it’s a private build, and it’s not mine to give away. Scott said that “if its righteous,” Omar will take a look at it for possible inclusion into dasBlog v1.7.

I won’t pretend to understand the guts of it (that’s Excellent Programmer Scott’s job), but here are a few of the new things he’s implemented (in my words, not his, so forgive me if it’s in not-too-programmerish terms):

  • Speed Improvements: Site content that used to be cached on the file system in blogdata.xml, categoryCache.xml, and entryCache.xml are now stored and manipulated in memory, which means no more of the thrash-and-wait disk IO associated with those files, and therefore a faster application requiring less overhead. Category pages are incredibly fast now. My RSS loads faster in the reader. Speed, speed speed…
  • New Config Setting: Blocks unwanted referrers by keyword, and logs the action taken along with the matching keyword. Does not count as a referral or visit in stats.
  • New Config Setting: Send an HTTP 404 response (page not found) to blocked referrerals.
  • New Config Setting: Enable Captcha for comments. Captcha is the tool that creates an image with numbers and letters that you have to type into a form field when submitting comments on the site. It’s purpose is to prevent comment spamming, and it is now integrated directly into dasBlog.
  • New Configuration File: Block access to the weblog application by IP address by adding them to blockedips.cfg.
  • HTTP Compression Changes: Makes larger pages transfer and load faster.
  • New activity logging features: Logging of dasBlog application activity is enhanced with things like source IP addresses for referrals (in case you want to block it or look it up), keywords used on referral filtering, refused referrals, and I am sure a bunch of others.

It’s all so super fast, slick and nifty, but then again that’s exactly what I’d expect from Scott. He’s wicked smart and more than just a little driven. ;-)

It’s such a bonus to have friends around that you can learn so much from and who can make such cool things work. Thanks as always to Scott, and woo-hoo for dasBlog!

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Tech | Blogging
Friday, 17 December 2004 19:13:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Santa’s having a rough year. Go go JibJab. Niiice. :-)

Be sure to click on the link to send toys to kids in Iraq. It’s time to give a little.

Update: By way of Sean Alexander, It’s a Wonderful Life, in 30 seconds, performed by bunnies. Uh, yeah. Enjoy.

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Friday, 17 December 2004 15:58:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 16 December 2004

Near and dear to my heart (professionally speaking), the latest increasing numbers related to the number of fraudulent phishing sites (sites that look like a bank or other business, but which are actually set up by bad people who are wanting to steal your personal and private information) are worth taking notice of:

“The number of phishing sites, or fake Web sites set up to fool victims into handing over personal information, reached 1,518 last month, the Anti-Phishing Working Group said in a report released on Wednesday. The total was up almost a third over October and three times the level in September.”

That’s an increase of 29% over the previous month. It’s also – in my opinion – an understatement of the real number, since it deals only with reported phishing sites. But it pays to be conservative with numbers, I suppose.

“A total of 51 brands were hijacked by cybercriminals during the month, the group found. Financial services was again the most targeted industry, averaging 75 percent of all hijacked brands. ISPs faced a fair share of scams, accounting for 16 percent, according to the report.”

The Anti-Phishing Working Group publishes the monthly stats. You can find them here.

Also close to me professionally is the fact that recently the company I work for banded together with and a few other organizations to form the Anti-Fraud Alliance - a team of companies with existing, powerful software and services that can be used together or individually to combat fraud online, including phishing.

Note: My employer, Corillian Corporation, is a member of the Anti-Fraud Alliance. I mention them here simply because I wanted to and because I believe its relevant. No compensation involved, and opinions expressed here are my own, not those of my employer.

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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, 16 December 2004 14:42:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Apparently some are of the opinion this is not a security vulnerability, according to Microsoft’s comments to ZDNet reporters, but in the real world – it’s a hole. A Mack-Truck-sized security hole. The news story reads a bit like one team saying “Hey, we’re not in charge of that, so it’s not a problem” and the other one saying “We do things the way we do them, and that’s what we do.” Oof.

Anyhow… If you run Windows XP with SP2 you need to make sure you have this update.;en-us;886185

After you set up Microsoft Windows Firewall in Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), you may discover that your computer can be accessed by anyone on the Internet when you use a dial-up connection to connect to the Internet.

This problem occurs because of the way that Windows Firewall interprets local subnets when the “My network (subnet) only” option is used. Windows Firewall is included with Windows XP SP2.

Because of the way that some dialing software configures routing tables, Windows Firewall in Windows XP SP2 can sometimes interpret the whole Internet to be a local subnet. This can let anyone on the Internet access the Windows Firewall exceptions. When the "My network (subnet) only" option is enabled, it is automatically selected for file and print sharing. Therefore, your shared drives can be unexpectedly revealed on the Internet when you use a dial-up connection.

To resolve this problem, you must download and install the Critical Update for Windows XP (KB886185).

Use Windows Update or click the above link. If you’re not already set up for automatic updates, make that change now.

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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, 16 December 2004 13:44:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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