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Looks like with the plugins I installed recently on my blog, the spam is completely gone away.

I didn’t want to install captcha, since they are quite annoying. But it looks like they are effective against spam. I found “Conditional CAPTCHA” which works in the correct way: the user insert the comment, if the bayesian filter identify the comment as spam, then a very simple captcha is displayed, so the user can prove that is a human being or a spam bot. If the captcha test fails, the comment is deleted definitively.
Additionally I am using “Bad Behavior” which checks the ip address against an online black list, and prevents suspicious ones to even connect to your site.

So, this is my list of WordPress plugins that have proven to be effective against spam:

  1. Akismet
  2. Bad Behavior
  3. Conditional Captcha

So far, so good.

I still moderate comments manually, approving/trashing them one by one, since I don’t receive many comments, it is feasible. But if this plugin team works so well, I might stop moderating the comments and let it run completely automatic.

OS X Lion

When I first had to use OS X I had hard time with some things that weren’t working as expected. I thought they were usability bugs, but of course don’t try to argue about that with a veteran Apple user, because “you’re ugly and stupid, and that’s the way it should be! And OSX has the best UI/UE evah!”. I used to hate those weird feature, and finally it’s a pleasure to see some of those things going away (so I was right!).

I list here what has been improved and what still sucks. Of course, by my point of view.

The enhancements that I (really) like

  • The full screen button on the top left, is a great thing. Also the fact that the apps get maximized in another screen, is a great idea. In fact, when one app is maximized, switching to other apps is a pain; having it maximized in another screen and the gesture to switch between screen is very practical. Apple guys, congrats for the innovative idea.
  • Also I like the dashboard on the left of the desktop.
  • Launchpad is nice. I like it. I don’t like that I cannot activate it with a shortcut, and I cannot use arrow keys to select which application to launch.

Finally also on OS X…

  • Windows resizing is decent: finally also OSX can resize windows not only from the bottom-right corner, but from all the frame around the window. So that grip only on that corner was lame, wasn’t it?!
  • The Terminal.app is improved, almost ok. I like the full screen mode, so I decided to give it a second chance, abandoning iTerm, at least for now. I had to create my own Settings, remapping some keys and colors, I attach it here: Luigi.terminal for myself as backup and for whoever would find it useful. The home/end key still don’t work in man pages and less, but I learned that pressing capital G and g, do the trick everywhere, included in vim. Still wondering what’s hard about making that work.
  • The selection in list (example: file selection in Finder) with shift-up and shift-down, finally works as it should.
  • The crazy click-and-reclick-to-focus model has been finally replaced a more natural one. OSX is the very last OS to realize how focus has to be implemented.
  • With the App Store, finally apple has a kind of ‘package management’ tool. Very nice looking, as well. I am wondering when they will realize that it should also provide the Uninstall feature. Since application installed from a .pkg file are impossible to uninstall.
  • In Finder.app to jump to a file from another, you just type the letter corresponding to the name of the files, like in Windows Explorer o Linux Thunar/Nautilus. But, when you switch to column view, this functionality was not working anymore… with Lion it finally works. Keys are still faster than any mouse/touchpad; teechies know it.
  • Cut and paste in Finder was not working with Leopard. I managed to fix it with some research on google. I didn’t do anything to fix it on Lion, maybe they fixed it (if the fix I made before is not responsible for it still now).
  • They removed Front Row application. Great! That stuff was garbage. And it was popping out unwanted all the time, activated by some key combination (cmd-esc I think).
  • I was shocked to see that on Leopard you could do a ‘touch /foobar’ without root privileges. What kind of Unix was that? They fixed this in latter version of Leopard and in Lion too.
  • I like the full screen in Safari. If I am not wrong, Safari was the only browser without a full screen before, now it has a nice one. Still Chrome does a better full screen, since it hides also the navigation bar and shows only the actual internet page, with no distractions.

I’m undecided on…

  • The scroll gesture has been inverted. I am getting used to it, but I still think that previous direction was more intuitive.
  • Font smoothing: I was strongly against it at beginning. Now I’m kind of neutral. I still hate it in the Terminal, btw, and I always disable that there.
  • All the animations. I like most of them, I don’t like the elastic bouncing that has been copied from the iPod/iPhones. Although they can be disabled, I can live with it, so I’ll try them for some more time and decide later to keep or remove them.

This still sucks!

  • Enter to rename, instead of activating/opening.
  • You installed Lion, but what if you wanted to burn the DVD? You can, but it’s not so easy. This is quite unfair from Apple. On the tips below for a short guide.
  • The maximize round button on the top left corner of the windows, doesn’t maximize. That’s just stupid. Hope one day they will give the possibility to configure that behavior.
  • I never liked the menu bar shared between application. There’s nobody that will ever convince me that is a good idea. I know Ubuntu is copying stupid things like this, still doesn’t mean that is a good thing.
  • The windows close/minimize/maximize round buttons on the top left, and having no possibility to change that. I liked them on the right, but that’s ok, I am getting used to it.
  • The Finder still hides most of the files. I still haven’t understood what’s the criteria of the file hidden, and if there is a way to show all the files.
  • Java has always been late on OSX, and trickier to install with the documentation and sources… Lion doesn’t come with JRE, but you have to install it later. It’s not difficult, so it’s ok. What I don’t like is the directory layout they made up. I have to verify if the documentation and the sources can be installed and accessed easily. It was tricky for Leopard, hope they improved it. (but I don’t think so)

New OS, new problems…

  • The gestures for showing the desktop was perfect before, now I get that wrong frequently, since it’s a gesture that the OS confuses with others. That’s a pity because I use the desktop a lot to store files I am working on, and having an easy way to access the desktop is quite important.
  • When you close an application with cmd-q, when you reopen it, it will show all the last opened documents. Even if you open a document on your desktop, it will also open it, plus the last opened documents… that’s not a good idea. Fortunately it can be disabled in the Preferences.
  • One friend of mine reported that the fullscreen doesn’t work great when you use multiple monitors. I didn’t tried it yet.
  • The scrollbars disappearing. That’s bad specially in the browser (iframes, and scrollable divs). In the applications it is sort of cool, btw.
  • Launchpad: you click on the icon and it will show the applications; you click again and you return to the desktop. Fine. Now try with Mission Control icon: click once and it shows active applications; click again and it makes a mess. Not so good. I removed Launchpad and Mission Control from the dock and learned to activate them with the gestures, so this doesn’t bother me anymore.
  • When my laptop goes out of battery, it shut down completely instead of freezing. Potentially corrupting data. I don’t know if this is a new “feature” of Lion. It really sucks, anyway.

Some handy tips

With time, I got accustomed to some craziness of OS X, and I found the way to live with them. Or work-around them.

Screen Lock shortcut

I was complaining of the missing key combination to lock the screen on a mac. Actually I think that there is no real ‘lock’ shortcut. But pressing ctrl+shift+eject send the screen to standby, and if your setting are appropriate when the screen is resumed the login screen can be displayed.

Shortcuts

OS X is full of mysteriously assigned shortcuts, like the lock screen above. And the boot ones…
I found this link which is good to keep handy: Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts.

How to redownload OSX Lion and Burn it on a DVD

Once you have installed Lion, the installer app deletes itself. Like in “Mission: Impossible” movies. And from the App Store you cannot download it again.
Here is how to do:

Launch the App Store
While holding down the OPTION key, click on the “Purchases” section
You should see “OS X Lion” and “Install” should now be gray and you can click that to re-download Lion (you may have to re-authenticate within the App Store with your Apple ID).

To burn Lion on a DVD, here is how to do it:

Getting Lion from the App Store is convenient, but if you want a physical copy of the installation, you can easily make your own Lion install DVD or USB drive with Disk Utility.
If you want to do a clean installation of Lion (or you want to install it on a Hackintosh), you’ll need to install it on some sort of physical media. Apple will be releasing a flash drive installer for a whopping $70 in August, but you don’t need to wait (or pay twice the OS’s price) to get it. It’s very easy to burn Apple’s installer to a single layer DVD or flash drive of 5GB or larger.

Important: Note that the Lion installer deletes itself if you upgrade, so if you want to do this, you have to do it before you update your computer to Lion. You can always re-download Lion after the fact, but geez, who wants to do that? Once you’ve got it on your system, here’s what you do:

  1. Download Lion from the Mac App Store. The installer should show up in your Applications folder.
  2. Right-click on the installer and hit “Show Package Contents”. Navigate to Contents > SharedSupport and look for a file called “InstallESD.dmg”.
  3. Open up Disk Utility and drag the DMG file into the left-hand sidebar. If you’re burning it to a DVD, insert your DVD, select the disk image in the sidebar, and hit the “Burn” button. Skip down to the last step to use it.
  4. If you want to burn Lion to a USB flash drive, plug it in and click on it in the left-hand sidebar in Disk Utility. Go to the Partition tab and select “1 Partition” from the dropdown menu. Choose “Mac OS Extended (Journaled) on the left.
  5. Hit the Options button under the partition table and choose “GUID Partition Table”. You’ll need this to make the drive bootable on a Mac. Hit the Apply button when you’re done to format your drive (note: it will erase everything on the drive).
  6. Click on the “Restore” tab, choose the InstallESD.dmg file as the source and your flash drive as the destination. Hit the Apply button and it will create your bootable USB drive.
  7. Reboot into OS X and hold the option key when you hear the startup chime. You can boot into your DVD or flash drive from there.

You’ll not only be able to install Lion from this drive, but you’ll also be able to use Disk Utiltiy, recover from a Time Machine backup, and do everything else you could do with the old installation DVDs. Note that when you install Lion, it’ll create a recovery partition with all these features anyway, so you don’t need the DVD unless you’re doing a clean install. Though it’s always nice to have around in case something happens, like you erase your entire drive. Not that that’s ever happened to me 3 times in one week or anything.

Conclusions

Overall, I like the changes introduced by Lion. Still many things can be improved.
That’s pretty much all I have to say about Lion.

If there is any new feature you don’t like and you would like to remove, have a look at this article How to De-iOs-ify Mac OS X Lion; you may be lucky and find the way to restore some Leopard behavior.

St. Paul's Cathedral, Liège

Last week I visited Liège. It was rainy, and we found refuge in the Saint Paul Cathedral. The picture above shows how beautiful this church is. And photographic friendly. I was in Aachen Cathedral the week before and it wasn’t half much as beautiful as the Liège Cathedral, use of tripod is forbidden and interesting area are accessible only for pay. Liège Cathedral was a wonderful surprise that day; protected us from the rain and offered very majestic and suggestive views.
I’d like to visit again Liège, hopefully with a better weather. The city is very beautiful.

Being a Unix user (Linux/OSX) I need sometime to run some Windows utility in a Virtual Machine. But I don’t want to break the virtual machine, installing and uninstalling things, or accidentally, or by the wast hordes of viruses and malwares that infestate Windows.

So, here I found how to do it: How to discard changes in VMWare player?

Q: Running a virtual machine, how can I ensure that the changes gets discarded after I close it?

A: Shutdown the VM cleanly. Edit the vmx and add this line if the VM uses a scsi-disk

scsi0:0.mode = "independent-nonpersistent"

or this if the VM uses an IDE-disk

ide0:0.mode = "independent-nonpersistent"

Alternatively, use this two lines:

snapshot.action = "autoRevert"
snapshot.disabled = "TRUE" 

Several ways lead to Rome. Both ways should work, but don’t mix them.

SSH Bash Completion

Today I was having a look on how the git-completition is implemented. If you have not enabled the completition for git, I think you should really read my article on how to do it.

So I found this two links, that explain the basics on how to implement bash completion for simple commands:

And I implemented my completion for ssh, which takes the hostnames from the file ~/.ssh/known_hosts

# Add bash completion for ssh: it tries to complete the host to which you 
# want to connect from the list of the ones contained in ~/.ssh/known_hosts

__ssh_known_hosts() {
    if [[ -f ~/.ssh/known_hosts ]]; then
        cut -d " " -f1 ~/.ssh/known_hosts | cut -d "," -f1
    fi
}

_ssh() {
    local cur known_hosts
    COMPREPLY=()
    cur="${COMP_WORDS[COMP_CWORD]}"
    known_hosts="$(__ssh_known_hosts)"
    
    if [[ ! ${cur} == -* ]] ; then
    	COMPREPLY=( $(compgen -W "${known_hosts}" -- ${cur}) )
        return 0
    fi
}

complete -o bashdefault -o default -o nospace -F _ssh ssh 2>/dev/null \
	|| complete -o default -o nospace -F _ssh ssh

To load it, save the above script into a file called ‘ssh-completion’ then add “source ssh-completion” in your ~/.profile or ~/.bashrc. Some Linux distributions offer a directory where you can deploy your completion scripts, for example debian should have them like /etc/bash-completion.d/foobar.bash.

Then go on the command line and type:

$ ssh [tab]

If everything went fine, you should see a list of servers to which you recently connected.

I don’t go in detail to explain the above script, since there are good tutorials around for this purpose, including the links I included before.
I only want to say that the ‘compgen’ is an internal bash command, used in the above script: what it does is taking a list of words (-W ${known_hosts} option) from which to try to complete a given partial word (in the above example the ${cur} variable, which is the word at the cursor).

Since completion is usually implemented with bash scripts, it’s good to keep handy a bash reference manual.

Scared of bash scripts?

I am. I continuously forget the syntax of loops and conditional expressions: I think that the bash language is quite obscure and counter-intuitive. So I guess that is also possible to implement completion as part of your program using your language of choice (Java in my case). You can implement a feature in your program that reads and analyzes the COMP_WORDS and COMP_CWORD environment variables, and generate the list of completion words, as the ‘compgen’ bash built-in command does. And, if your language allows it, set those words into the COMPREPLY environment variable; in Java I think it’s not possible to alter environment variables, but you can just output the words on the standard output and use a brief script to set that output to the COMPREPLY variable.
I’d suggest to bind this functionality to a ‘–completion’ option that can be specified in the command line, as we usually do for the –help option.

See git-completion.bash if you want an example of a complex completion script… bash can be hard.

Update

I just typed ‘complete’ on my mac, and I discovered I have 408 commands binded to some completion script. Including a more advanced ssh script which implements the hostname suggestions.

Hyatt Hotel, Medienhafen
Those two skyscrapers are located in Medienhafen area in Düsseldorf. This picture is hdr processed from three shots, -2, 0, +2 exposure. The metal bulb at the bottom is the Pebble’s Bar, which by my understanding is managed by the hotel. What I like in this picture is the Blade Runner-like atmosphere and the sun reflections on behind, which also makes lens flare in the center of the picture. High contrast, light and shadows, and richness of details, this was a lucky shot.

Adler Model 7 Typewriter

Sunday afternoon I made an excursion in the Unterbacher See and I made some nature photos. I found a restaurant where this typewriting machine, an Adler Model 7 of 1900, was lying on a table. So I took a picture and I tried to apply the texture photo retouching technique that I learned recently. The final result is the picture above.

Bookmarks about texture photo retouching:

Another noticeable link is Second Picture, Tutorials of Digital Art & Design, this is not just about textures, but all about photography and image processing. Awesome.

Et Kabüffke

Killepitsch liqueur can be tasted in the small bar “Et Kabüffke” near the brewery Uerige. I use to go in this place for a Killepitsch to complete the dinners with friends in the Düsseldorf altstadt (the old city).
I’ve heard that Killepitsch is only available in Düsseldorf; I don’t know if this is true, but I never saw it abroad. For the taste it remembers me the Italian Amaro Lucano, which might be easier to find in shops outside Italy.

Are you habit to have some configuration files packaged inside the jar of your application?

If so, you can still have a look at those configuration files in the running environment using the unzip Unix utility.

$ unzip -p /opt/myapp/lib/my-app.jar log4j.properties
log4j.rootLogger=INFO,stdout

log4j.appender.stdout=org.apache.log4j.ConsoleAppender
log4j.appender.stdout.Threshold=INFO
log4j.appender.stdout.layout=org.apache.log4j.PatternLayout
log4j.appender.stdout.layout.ConversionPattern=%d{dd-MMM hh:mm} [%-5p] %m%n

The -p option uncompress and prints the file content to standard output.

I like to include resource files in the deployable artifact, unless I want those files to be modifiable without repackaging. Hiding most of configuration helps to keep things simpler for the end user, but still those files can be accessed for the technical support.

By the way, the above log4j configuration is the one I used to replace some System.out/System.err in a simple command line based application. I was thinking to remove the date part ‘%d{dd-MMM hh:mm}’ and make it look like the output of ant/maven, but then I thought that -after all- the date is quite useful since the application in question is ran by cron redirecting the standard out into a file, so we keep that as a log of the last run, to have some clue in case of errors.

Galleria Subalpina Torino
The Subalpine Gallery is one of the commercial malls of the city of Turin.

Designed by Pietro Carrera in 1873 opened 30th September 1874. It owes its name to the Industrial Bank Subalpina who assumed the burden of the building. The gallery, located between Piazza Castello and Piazza Carlo Alberto, is fifty meters long, fourteen meters wide and about eighteen meters high. It features decorative elements in both Baroque and Renaissance style and it’s sourrounded throughout the whole perimeter by a balcony.

The gallery space was occupied by the Ministry of Finance until the capital of the Kingdom of Italy was moved to Florence.

Today there are several business premises including the historic cafe Baratti & Milano, an art gallery, an antiquarian bookstore and a cinema.




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