I've been using instant messaging for as long as I've had Internet access. The very first instant messaging program I used was Windows Live Messenger, back when it was called MSN Messenger. Over the last few years, I've watched their official Messenger client get progressively worse and more bloated, and more and more people moving away from it to other IM platforms such as Google Talk (which uses Jabber/XMPP, an open protocol). Now an era is coming to an end. Tomorrow is the day that Microsoft finally retires Windows Live Messenger and begins forcing all users to use Skype. This does make sense from a business perspective - They're getting rid of the old network that they make barely any money from, and moving everything to the one they acquired for $8.5 billion in 2011 and has 55 million users online concurrently.

However, from a technology perspective, this is definitely a huge step backwards. They're referring to the WLM to Skype migration as an "upgrade", I guess in the same way that moving from a mansion to a one-bedroom unit is also an "upgrade". The truth is that Skype really feels like a voice/video chat app with basic instant messaging capabilities added as an afterthought, probably because that's exactly what it is. Don't get me wrong, Skype is great for voice and video chats, but for instant messaging it's nowhere near as good as Windows Live Messenger. Skype is lacking a lot of features that are present in Windows Live Messenger, some of which include:

  • Custom emoticons
  • Easy extensibility. Windows Live Messenger has a large community and large number of addins available, such as Messenger Plus
  • Groups via Windows Live Groups. These are persistent groups similar to Facebook groups. Similar to a chat room except whenever someone comes online, they automatically appear in the group
  • Interoperability and third-party clients. Windows Live Messenger supports the XMPP protocol which makes writing third-party clients easy. Skype uses a closed-source protocol and has no third-party clients (this is why Pidgin doesn't support Skype). This is a huge one for me - I don't want to use separate programs for every single instant messaging network I use!
  • No web-based messenger, official or otherwise (like eBuddy). This ties in to the point above about third-party clients
  • Custom display names
  • Skype lets you sign in at multiple locations at once (like Windows Live Messenger) but there's no way to sign out from all locations at once (like if someone guesses your password and logs in as you)
  • File transfers and games that actually work
  • Voice clips (sending small sound bytes without having to start a full two-way conversation)
  • Remote assistance (as far as I know, Skype lets you show the other person your screen, but they can't take control)
  • Email notifications for Hotmail / Windows Live / Outlook accounts
  • Ironically, I used to find that the video quality in Windows Live Messenger was much better than Skype

And I'm sure there's many others that I've missed. Microsoft has had months to improve Skype so that it can even compete with Windows Live Messenger, but they have not done anything at all.

It's the end of an era. I'm rarely on Windows Live Messenger these days, but if you do have me as a contact, feel free to add me on Google Talk.

Until next time,
— Daniel

So, I was reading the news today, and came across this story. It states:

THE NSW Federal Court has not ruled out the possibility that an ISP could be in direct breach of copyright laws if it provides internet service to individuals that illegally share files on peer-to-peer networks.
A group of copyright holders represented by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) put the claim to the court as a part of its copyright case against Perth-headquartered ISP iiNet.

Most of AFACT’s original claims against iiNet lodged with the court last year were based on allegations that the ISP indirectly breached their members’ copyright. They alleged that iiNet effectively encouraged customers to engage in copyright breaches by failing to take steps to block illegal file sharing activity on its network.

However, on February 19, AFACT lodged an amended statement of claim to the court containing new allegations that iiNet engaged in primary acts of copyright infringement alongside illegal file sharers simply by carrying the data through its network and systems.

(bold by me)

This is totally stupid! Why should an ISP be responsible for the data it's carrying? Why is the electricity company not responsible? They're supplying the power to the systems mentioned, so they also provide services to people that illegally share files. What about the building company that built the houses/offices? They're responsible for housing the systems.

The thing is, ISPs don't know what the data being transferred on their network actually is. Much like the postal service... When you send a letter to someone, they don't open your letter and read it, they just send it. If I send you a terrible analogy that makes you think "oh my God, this guy needs to take lessons on writing", that's not Australia Post's issue. The postal service, and the ISP, are just transport agents. They send mesages from one location to another, but are not responsible for the contents of the messages. Saying that the ISP is responsible for illegal file sharers because their network is being used is like saying that VicRoads is responsible for criminals, because they're driving their cars on the roads. Clearly, this makes absolutely no sense. If you go to VicRoads and tell them to put tollbooths on the roads to identify every person driving to make sure they're not a criminal, they'd laugh at you. The ISPs should be doing the same thing — This is exactly what's being asked of them.

Also, the article said that the ISP would be responsible if "it provides internet service to individuals that illegally share files on peer-to-peer networks". How are they meant to know that individuals illegally share files? Note that ISPs already disconnect users they get copyright complaints about (how users are caught is a different issue altogether... Fake torrents and similar things. Might blog about this eventually). There's really no other way for them to know who illegally shares files. This sentence makes it sound like they want ISPs to add a "Do you illegally share files" tickbox on the registration form. :P

And also, as Aaron mentioned on his blog, "copyright theft" makes no sense. The term they're actually looking for is "copyright infringement". But, they seem to barely know what they're doing, so I guess the use of a nonsensical term makes sense in whatever magical land they're living in. A land where there's no Peer-to-Peer networks, and everyone pays for the latest crappy music albums and TV shows and whatever else exists. For now, the rest of us live in reality, where none of this filtering is possible.

— Daniel

Recently, I was working on some DNS tools, including DNS lookup and WHOIS tools. Needing to test the WHOIS tool, I used google.com as a test domain (as I usually do). The WHOIS lookup returned some rather interesting results:
Hostnames like "GOOGLE.COM.IS.HOSTED.ON.PROFITHOSTING.NET", "GOOGLE.COM.PLZ.GIVE.A.PR8.TO.AUDIOTRACKER.NET", GOOGLE.COM.ZOMBIED.AND.HACKED.BY.WWW.WEB-HACK.CO and " GOOGLE.COM.SUCKS.FIND.CRACKZ.WITH.SEARCH.GULLI.COM" are listed.

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Update 2010-03-28: MySpaceTools.ws is no longer available, due to MySpace blocking my server from accessing it.


Edit: This has been moved to MySpaceTools.ws. Please email errors [-at-] myspacetools.ws for support, do not comment here.

Based on a blog entry I read about backing up your profile, I decided to try and write a script that would grab your entire friend list so you can have a local copy of it. It was kinda hard to do, but I've managed to write a relatively simple script that will grab your entire friends list, and display it on the one page. It does so by grabbing each page in the "View All Friends" section, and essentially merges them all together. What you end up with is one page that contains your entire friends list.

Take a look at [broken link removed] for the script so far. Note that it will currently not work on private profiles (although I'm working on a fix for that). For now, if you have a private profile, you must temporarily set your profile to public in order to export the friends list.

You can easily save the page it generates (via File ? Save As...) and keep it as a local copy of your friends list. Yes, I know how it displays its output is kinda ugly at the moment, but I'm a coder, not a designer :P

Hope it's useful for someone. :)
I originally posted this to the MySpace Forums, but thought I should also post it here

I checked my email inbox this morning, and guess what I found? The firewall (ConfigServer Security and Firewall) on a server I help run blocked a brute-force attack from Nokia:

Time: Tue May 1 02:28:18 2007
IP: 63.97.248.34 (machine34.nokia.com)
Failures: 5 (sshd)
Interval: 135 seconds
Blocked: Yes

Log entries:

May 1 02:28:08 blue sshd[9363]: Failed password for root from ::ffff:63.97.248.34 port 56057 ssh2
May 1 07:28:08 blue sshd[9364]: Failed password for root from ::ffff:63.97.248.34 port 56057 ssh2
May 1 02:28:11 blue sshd[9368]: Failed password for root from ::ffff:63.97.248.34 port 56436 ssh2
May 1 07:28:11 blue sshd[9369]: Failed password for root from ::ffff:63.97.248.34 port 56436 ssh2
May 1 02:28:13 blue sshd[9370]: Failed password for root from ::ffff:63.97.248.34 port 56591 ssh2

Just thought it was funny :P
(oh yeah, and I will report it to them!)

Sure, there's been some stupid eBay auctions in the past, but this has got to be the stupidest eBay auction ever! Someone was trying to sell contact information of a person who has a PlayStation 3... Here's the description that was posted:

You are bidding on the contact information for my friend who acquired a PS3 by waiting in line outside Best Buy for two days in advance. I was there with him the entire time, but already sold mine. He has in his posession a PS3, extra controller, extra charger, three games (Resistance, Madden, and Ridge Racer), and a 2 year product replacement plan. Keep in mind that you are not bidding on an actual system, but only the information where you might obtain one. You will be able to contact him and he is very willing to sell if the price is right. The unit is in the Atlanta, GA area and he would be willing to deliver in person if close by. PayPal is the only payment form accepted.

As soon as I saw this, I couldn't believe that someone would be trying to sell contact information on eBay, and certainly didn't think that anyone would bid on it...

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