Tuesday, May 27, 2008


A small technical exercise testing the effectiveness of gmail to combat spam, which on their site says "Fast, searchable email with less spam".

This is true mostly. However, there is a downside to gmail spam filters w.r.t false-positives, i.e (filter mistakenly flags a good mail as spam)
These numbers are particularly high in case of gmail. I'm comparing it to, say using Spam-Assassin , or Akismet as your spam filter. I've had a sufficient number of good mails, not so useful, but not spam either-> which have been flagged off as spam.
This is unacceptable. In my case, I've the patience, and also a weird interest to go through my spam messages everday. But, busy people would consider this to be a "costly nuisance".
The Nuisance is obvious. It's also costly as the flagged message might have critical business information.
Most people however do not worry much about this. Because they trust their spam filters to weed out only the bad guys. As Matt Cutts of Google says about Google Search so elegantly, "
Sure, I could stop all the spam in the world if I didn’t have to return any search results." :) [source]

What people don't like, however, is the appearance of { stimulating/enlarging/Nigerian King bequeathing his 100 million $ /cheap adobe software or Rolex-es / mortgage loans at unbelievable rates } mails in their inbox. This is totally irritating, and this does more damage to the lay-user than the previously mentioned almost-rare case.
Spam filters involve many techniques which are constantly under development. These chiefly include heuristic[ drawing from previous experiences, a learning method], bayesian filters, simple database matching, matching ip's with regular spammers, and lots more involving complex probability/statistical models beyond my wildest dreams.
So, being the evil chap that I am, I did this nonsensical thing. I sent a spam mail to myself.

Self Spam
Granted, this is stupid. Gmail should place a trust on the sender[ me], and the sending server[gmail.com], and hence classify this as a legitimate mail.
So I repeated this exercise with a well-known email spoofer, www.pranketh.com . What this nifty project [written by two brilliant chaps from University of waterloo] does is pretty simple.
As the site says - "It allows you to send an email, that looks like its sent from someone else." Or in simple terms.
I can send an email from id's like mukeshambani[at]reliance[dot]in, or soniagandhirocks[at]congressrocks[dot]gov[dot]in.
[ note the delicate usage of "rocks", Blogger belongs to google. I don't want no risks]. A screenshot of pranketh's page.

Pranketh Page
Yes. I know your doubt. If its so easy, why do nefarious miscreants use stupid yahoo/gmail id's to threaten people, or send smokescreen bomb-footage, to the extremely retarded tv channel Aaj Tak[ self-proclaimed to be "Sarv-Shresht].
The point is the email server, folks. Your id is spoofed. But the smtp server name. No no. I couldn't dream in my distant dreams to get a gov.in smtp[ Since I don't happen to be a chinese (govt-sponsored) hacker :( ]. As a test case, try sending a prankethmail to your own id. And check the "original mail" option in gmail.
Ah. The post digresses from its core issue. Lets come back to the main point, shall we.
An important reason to gmail, not blocking my self-spam, was that it trusts my id, and its servers.
I tried sending the same text through pranketh. Guess what. It thrashes the mail left and right, before it even leaves their servers. Why?. They use Aksimet.

Pranketh Spam

My advice to gmail [ In the remotest probability that Matt Cutts is reading this,], and other mail providers is this.
Google's servers are checking all our mail-contents for generating their automated ads and stuff anyways. So, there is no illusion of privacy. So, the next time, I'm sending a mail, check the contents before hand. Warn me if its spammish. Keep the thresholds appropriately such that I'm not regularly annoyed with these warnings.
If all smtp servers start this routine, we can see at least some major changes.
  1. All the worlds emails would take a longer time to reach their destination. [ There's got to be some catch.This is it]
  2. Say I send one mail to a big bunch of people, it'd be scanned for spam-behaviour only once. Then some certification can be piggy-backed along, saying its reliable, and not spam. The experts can handle that bit. Not too difficult.
  3. Botnets prevention. Say, some dumbo privately runs a smtp server, and has been been subjected to a backdoor/trojan attack. And this is currently acting as a zombie sending out bunch of viagrish mails to innocent people, who've left their email id's lying out in the open.
I'm not saying you give up your earlier approach. That'd be foolish. But if its absolutely obvious that a mail is spammy[ self-spam for eg.]. Block it before it leaves your grounds.

Now, a general warning to all those who think spams are obnoxious. Your bigdaddydog@rediffmail.com might be the prettiest email id around. But don't leave it on some arbit website, for all the world to see. One syntax-based text crawler and you get thousands of them.
Believe me, some of these spammers are millionaires[ Not the Nigerian kind]. And run their business professionally. And have awesome technical expertise too.
If anything, don't make their job easier. Let them just fight it out with the big-guys[ yahoo, google, msft et al].

I reiterate. If you desperately want to put your email id on the net, use images like these.

email id
And, a word of caution. Even this is not safe. Within 1-2 years, google image search is going to search the contents in images. And character recognition. Piece of cake.
So, what do you do next. Do not fear, I have the ideas.
  1. When you must, put your email id's with re-captcha. I'd written a post about this some time back. My email id through this schema would be abhi...@gmail.com .Go to their website and register for their free service. The only reason this idea is safe, however, is because Spammers, like all of us, are average-ramesh hard-working people. They do not have time to fill your captchas. Where as, your friends and people who want to see your email id so desperately, do.
  2. Use images, but this time, write them with 3-d blocks. Even by extreme image processing hacking standards, this is nearly safe for 5-6 years.
  3. Do not put email id's on the internet.

This is probably the first in a series of spam-related posts to come.

P.S: I kinda remembered the first word of my blog's title, and how I hadn't paid any attention to it, for the past few months.
And, let me clarify. I love gmail.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Holiday Hoo-Hahs

I’m a particularly strange person. I don’t like vacations. They seem to drag.
Especially the post-college-no social contact ones.
Makes me feel like a social retard. [ Nice post, dude].
Without much nonsensing, here’s some peculiarly interesting/irritating incidents that happened over the past few weeks.

I arrive back from college. Mom’s lambasting me on my apparently obvious weight-loss. Unlike some hoggers, I lost nearly 5-6 kg’s while at college.
Most relatives think that its due to my burning of the mid-night oil-esque studying.
I don’t like to disturb pretty thoughts.

She proclaims with full gusto. “ Before, you leave for Bangalore, I’ll make sure you gain at least 8-10 kgs.” Its gone off to a point where I actually said,
Amma, I’m bored. Eat, Eat, Eat... Give me a break ”.
So, Ladies, the next time you see me, in addition to the awesomely dashing, supremely bright looks, I might also be slightly chubbier. Be prepared, lest you be swept off your feet.

Needless to say, gone are the days when Parle-G used to be my

Whole family went on major temple touring. Dharmasthala, Kukke Subrahmanya, Aane Gudde[Near Kundapur], Kota Amritheshwari…. yada yada. I hope that this fulfils my religious affiliations for this year.

Non-faith reasons aside, these visits were still pesky. Getting up at 4 in the morning, AND taking a bath, both on the same day, is quite an ask.

On the Aane Gudde- day, I had only one T-shirt left to wear, and by an act of cosmic co-incidence, it happened to be one with the awesome Black-Sabbath band pic on it. Was laughing to myself at the apparent irony. Mom asked why.Told her about the whole satanic/atheistic stuff about Black Sabbath.
She laughed at my stupidity.
Now, That’s a Wardrobe Malfunction, I feel.

Last year. December to be precise, I went to Strands Book Exhibition in Bangalore. Nice place, books at decent prices. One of the many books that I purchased that day was "The Devil's Alternative"- by Frederick Forsyth. I finished it last week. Ace book. They even called it unputdownable. But that's how I read. Shame...

Boarded a bus from the M.G.M stop[ My P.U college, I miss it very much too, but too much senti is not good, so I skip intro]. The conductor saw me and gave me a C.
That’s a half-ticket in Udupi/Mangalore lingo. There used to be a time, when my friends and me were immensely pleased at this 1-2 Rs. savings.
But C’mon. At 21? You got to be kidding me. Probably I need to look a bit more refined/mature.
I think I should sport a beard. Maybe I will.

One major improvement over the past vacations, is that I finally am getting to surf through Broadband this time. Dial-Up’s a pain in the Bottom if you ask me. [ Did you spot the pun. Ya right there, that’s it. Read on].

Here, I’d like to mention the extremely suave, gracious BSNL folks who came over to my house, installed the ADSL modem+router, and made sure that the connection’s up n running. Granted, its their job. But, it is nice to see govt. officials who are courteous.
It restores my faith in the system.

Now, I surf at nearly 200+ kbps. And as Dha says, I can now download anything that “tickles my fancy”.

Oh ya. I take only the legally downloadable movies, music, sitcoms, software.
After paying for it, of course.

Ah. My board. With Sarcasm written in large letters. Where’s it?.. Better hold it up high.

A Linux guru from Bengaluru, Atul Chitnis does more justice to BSNL’s efforts. It is also a stepwise guide to the whole deal of getting a dataone connection.
He's written it better, hence I won't dare repeat it here.
Read Maadi. His first opinion on this was cynical, and then he changes his mind in this entry after getting the connection. Likewise in my case.

To Atul : I installed it myself on Linux. You took their help. Ha ha…


Atul says: kill -9 ‘pidof logik

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Senti - -

So this is it. The bluesy feeling finally came. Initially, in small doses. But eventually, as time passed, and we came closer to the end [ if you could call it so], the senti-jolts were obvious and caused intense discomfort.

4 years seem to have swished by in a jiffy.

The realization of that, however, came a bit too late[ which was good, btw]. It probably started as soon as Inci got over. Random flashes- scenes from the past years, events of importance, the funner things in life that I experienced here
- appeared at times. And me got all pensive, which is, you can safely say, not normal; considering my nature.
A CnH strip, that probably describes my situation. With due apologies to Watterson.

[Pls right click and open the image in a new tab, will ya.]

The last few days were unbearable. Every task that you did in college had some kinda tag associated with it. Last time this, First time that etc. Add to that a whole bunch of drippy farewell ceremonies. The senti-meter kept showing intense readings as the days passed.
Senti graph
[Pls right click and open the image in a new tab]

Each of these peaks had some significance associated with it.

For instance, on 21st was the impulse outburst after the exams, the moment that I realized that I am an Engineer…

On 27th, after certain touchy fare-thee-wells, Chindu, Shishir, KK, and me set about strolling in the campus. We went to SAC. I delighted them with impromptu renditions of “If you come Today”, and “Another Brick in the hall”, with a booming voice atop the stage, and was well-received.
[ Three is a crowd, remember?].
Sat there contemplating, and discussing. What went right, what went wrong, memories etc. The discussion eventually became about IPL. So zip it…

On 28th, bored after packing, and late in the night, 2-ish, I set about doing a Noorie-like walk, taking a route from the 8th block, to Main Building, S.S, G.B and Coffee Dabba[was closed], SAC, S.J.A, and back. Trying to remember moments.

The remaining peaky spots on the graph involve reasons unbeknown to many. And probably realized by a certain close-knit set of friends. They know. I know. That’s pretty sufficient.

I’m saddened to leave the place that nurtured my academic curiosities, the place where I met a wide assortment of interesting people. Passers-by like me, driven by zeal to make the most of their stay, to find a purpose to their erstwhile directionless lives, and most importantly, the folks who were here just to have a jolly good time.

All of you made this place special. Memorable. Stand up, and take a bow….

To good friends, arch-enemies, SPICMACAYites, fellow tronixians, Bloggers, Tronix-Bloggers, room-mates, wing-mates, ENGI-INCI junta, all those people of the 7 batches , that I’ve had a chance to interact with, and uttermost importantly,
Our esteemed faculty.
I’ll miss you.

So, hoping that, “With the world being a small place”, “Keep in touch”, “ Ping me” and all other clichés turn out to be true in this case.

And as Watterson rightly said,

It’s a Magical World out there, Hobbes.

Lets go exploring…


My room. 8th Block, 2, has the above lines etched as a means of frustu-graffiti. The kind soul who occupies it next is requested not to erase it, and other brags that I might have written there.
Final visit to Sunder’s was pretty senti too. The last full-maggi with half-fry there, and a hug later.

Other tata-bye-bye posts can be found at [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6] ,[7]
From Ol' friends and new...

Quantification of sentimental feelings on a graph. Bad. Abhishek. Bad.

This post should have been written about a month ago. But, I’d so many things on my mind then and writing a post was not one of them.

MSpaint rwocks...

Right now I’m feeling bored…. Totally BORED.