Monocle

AccessCrawler

This is the new home of AccessCrawler: a free tool to index mdb files so you that you can search the content via the excellent tool that is Google Desktop Search.

AccessCrawler is easy to use: just download, run the setup and that’s it! Google Desktop and AccessCrawler work together to index all the mdb files that you configure Google Desktop to index.

A couple of notes: indexing databases is very resource intensive so AccessCrawler only indexes the first 1,000 records of each database. And no, AccessCrawler has no spyware/adware/viruses. I provide it free simply because I believe it is a useful tool that fills in a needed feature for what is otherwise an excellent desktop search tool.

Apple really should buy Nintendo

Apple is going head to head with Sony and Microsoft. Sony has had crap execution in the last few years, Microsoft has mediocre design and Apple has not yet released the iPhone. It may skip having a dedicated digital camera (Nokia is the biggest camera maker in the world) but I don’t think Apple can do without a console leveraging the iPod.

Image spam

Image spam is a big problem. It is a problem for our clients who rightly complain about the amount of image spam, mostly pump and dump scams, making it through.

And its a big problem for GFI, specifically, me. Catching such spam is damn hard. We have MailEssentials installed, obviously, and the Bayesian filter catches a significant amount of this kind of spam.

The problem with image spam is that its very hard to check for. We can just block all spam containing gif files. But clients would complain because of the false-positives and spammers can always use jpgs of which I am seeing increasing numbers. As most people email photos in jpg format blocking this format too is unthinkable.

OCR’ing the image is out of the question; CPU intensive and trivial to bypass.

Hashing the image is trivial to evade. Even fuzzy hashing algorithms can be evaded without too much trouble.

Etc, etc…

Due to the difficulties we couldn’t just release some half-baked solution to clients. It would be a pain to rev MailEssentials each time spammers change something in image spam.

For the record we are testing internally a couple of ideas; they are promising and keep false-positives low. We’ll try to have something public next week.

The last few months things were getting boring in the spam field (which is how we like it) but this pump ‘n dump epidemic is making things, er… interesting again.

CSAW2006

I attended the two day Computer Science Annual Workshop organized by Dr. John Abela from the University of Malta. Programme here. Bunch of interesting papers.

Great people (thanks David & Angelica!) helped fix up a slot for me to give a presentation. Which I duly did. The presentation was about the various technologies GFI uses to help filter spam, with a couple of slides on what its like to do research in a SMB environment. It was the first time I used Keynote and the Mac to make a presentation. These and the Apple remote worked beautifully ;)

I follow the Steve Jobs “philosophy” of keeping slides to the bare minimum, putting the key points on the slides complementating and emphasing the talk rather than being the talk.

office 2007

Office 2007 is nice. I appreciate the effort MS put into designing the new ribbon interface and like it.

I’ve only used Outlook so far, just explored the others. Groove is the roughest round the edges and not as in keeping with the rest of the Office. Having said that, the idea behind Groove is good even if the execution is lacking.

Outlook: junk email detection is very good, much better than Entourage which is what I use on the Mac (I know, I should Mail). Nice clean interface. RSS support is passable; won’t be changing from Google Reader anytime soon.

What instantly and immediately bugged me: a yellow bar urging me to install Instant Search aka Windows Desktop Search. I know Microsoft would really love it if people installed Windows Desktop Search but I have no intention switching away from Google Desktop.

To switch off that annoying prompt: Tools -> Options. Click on the “Other” tab, then click the “Advanced Options” button and unmark the “Annoy user into installing Windows Desktop” er… actually its the “Show prompts to enable Instant Search”.

crisp - a language for a concurrent age

One of the things I have been working on is the design and implementation of a new programming language. Current code name is crisp. What are its aims? My primary goal has been elegance in syntax and concepts for a concurrent age. The language will be dynamic, typeless with C-like syntax (oh, how I wrestled whether to go with a lisp syntax or C) and … The implementation is still at a very early stage. The design and my ideas of how I want the language to “feel” are more advanced. Right now its a question of painstakingly building the compiler to generate the bytecode.

I have been inspired by the mathematical elegance of Lisp/Scheme, Perl and Occam. Crisp is intended to compete with Perl, Python and Ruby. I find the feel for all 3 inelegant and rather messy. Having said that, Python is very readable, Perl’s regexs are perfect and Ruby, well, with Ruby I don’t have much experience.

I hope Crisp, while not ground-breaking academically, will be an innovative language.

three weeks in japan

ticket to japan

In seven days time, I’ll be in Japan for a 3 weeks and a half taking with a friend. I had been meaning to go to Asia for a while. This trip was a spur of the moment decision a few weeks ago over a coffee. We haven’t planned much ahead; prefer to explore. Having said that, we will definetly be going to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan for its rich cultural as well as Akihabara the electronics shopping district.

We’re going to be taking our cameras and laptops and we will be blogging the trip at here .

If you have any tips about restaurants / shops / sites we’ll appreciate it.

Now, to find something that will keep me occupied for the long trip to Narita…

Lisp viewer

Reading Lisp/scheme code posted on web pages is not easy - especially for noobs (like me :) ). Often I’d end up copying and pasting the code to my code editor. A cumbersome procedure at best.

A better solution would be for the web page displaying the Lisp/Scheme code to automatically highlight the matching parenthesis. Which is what a few lines of Javascript I wrote do - here

If you, kind reader, post code online, do not hesitate to make use of the script. I encourage you to use the script hosted on unixpoet.com so that you will get updates automatically.

The script has been confirmed to work on Firefox 1.5, IE6 and Camino on the Mac. Safari support coming soon.

Suggestions welcome.

More details here.

The writely on the wall

I do not think that Google has an Office in mind. At all.

First off, Writely, even a souped up version full of Google steriods, will still remain the Wordpad to the Visual Studio that is Office. Google is not dumb enough to do a full frontal on Microsoft Office - the way to beat Office is to make it irrelevant. And Writely does not really even to begin to do that.

What Google above all is an advertising company selling targeted ads. It needs to know its users in detail - the more it knows the better. And what better way to learn about someone then looking at their email, the IM, the news they are interested, the blogs they read, and the documents they write?

Google will offer Writely and GDrive so that it has more info to analyse about the users; the aim is to not to kill Office - that’s just a nice bonus. Google does not care if you use Office Word - but it does care that you keep it on GDrive.

Indeed, in the grander scheme of things, the more important announcement from Google is not Writely but GDrive.

Is it a wonder that the latest Google Desktop (which is great btw) saves documents on Google servers? Indeed it fits in nicely with my hypothesis ;)