Spam Spam Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam Spam, Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam

This morning I got an unsolicited SMS spam “Home owners ? do u need money? R100,000 @ R752 pm! Reply YES and we?ll phone you”. I know that everybody gets things like this and they just shrug them off, but I have a rabid hatred of spammers.

With e-mail spam, there’s normally nothing you can do. The spammers are on the other side of the world, and they’ve used a botnet. But when I get something from South Africans, I act. We have the ECT act protecting us against spam. It’s not the most effective anti-spam legislation, but it’s better than nothing. I’ll send the IOZ Spam Message to the spammers, their ISP, the domain registrants etc etc. Usually I get a response. Usually they remove me from their lists. (If they don’t, their VP of marketing is going to have me harassing him over the phone in short order.) But of course they rarely mend their ways. Sometimes we end up in long e-mail arguments backwards and forwards, them saying “but I’m justified in spamming, because of foo”, me saying “no bloody way, because of bar” etc. It’s ineffectual and depressing, but at least I’m doing something to deter spammers and keep South Africa relatively clean.

But enough about e-mail. It’s time for some tips on dealing with SMS-spam. The SMS Spamming industry (euphemisms: direct marketing, wireless application service provider) is attempting to regulate itself rather than be regulated by government. They’ve formed WASPA and signed the sms code of practice. WASPA lets you file complaints against its members and fines them (although the fines are rather paltry).

I heard about them via Jeremy Thurgood’s recent spam-scapades. His spammers were charging R1 to opt-out. While the WASPA code of conduct allows a <=R1 fee, I agree with him that this is intolerable extortion.

In my case, my spammers had broken a few WASPA code of conduct rules:

  • 5.1.1.: They didn’t identify themselves in the SMS
  • 5.1.2.: There is no opt-out facility that I know of.
  • 5.1.4.: There is no advertised opt-out procedure.
  • 5.2.1.: I’m very careful about not allowing people to spam me, so I’m pretty sure they failed all the options. I’d like them to prove otherwise.

I looked up the originating number on the SMS Code website. It belongs to Celerity Systems. They are currently under a suspended sentence at WASPA, so my WASPA complaint should force them to fork out a fine. Lets hope for the best.

I’m against capital punishment, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few spammers being hanged, drawn and quartered :-)

Ubuntu Releases

Is it just me, or is the Ubuntu development tree more stable than the releases?

I don’t know if I’ve just had bad luck, but the few Ubuntu releases have seen me abandon the stable release, almost straight away in search of some stability in the development tree. I remember Breezy being a stable release. Dapper was quite good, too - well polished. However, edgy was (as people said at the time), a little edgy, and for me it went down from there…

My first foray into Ubuntu development was from edgy to feisty. My laptop (Acer Ferrari 4005) was horribly unstable - a new, young chipset. Also, the tifm SD card reader wasn’t supported. I found feisty development to be quite stable and I pushed The Shuttleworth Lab into running it too, as a work-around for a nasty NFS bug which wasn’t going to ever be fixed.

Feisty development was fun. There was one update when mkinitrd broke, and the systems was completely unbootable (I still have a “rescue” monolithic kernel hanging around from that incident). But otherwise, it was pretty much like life on Debian testing: stable enough.

With the feisty release, prism54 broke, so my Ferrari headed for gutsy, straight away. (My secondary WiFi card is a prism54, the Ferrari wifi is broadcom)

Then I bought a new laptop, a mid-2007 Macbook - a carefully considered machine that should mostly contain well-supported hardware (Intel everywhere and Atheros wifi). Feisty was totally unstable on it, and I had to dive into Gutsy development again. Even gutsy didn’t support my wireless, which is only supported in the bleeding-edge madwifi trunk. No effort has been made to bring this driver into Ubuntu, as far as I know.

Now, I find myself wanting to get away from gutsy as fast as possible, because of a string of bugs. When a distribution is still in development, bugs get fixed, but as soon as it released there is too much red tape involved, and more to the point, the developers aren’t personally impacted by the bugs. Gutsy development has been a treat - pretty stable and reliable, and things worked.

Now almost simultaneously with the release, a pair string of bugs appeared that break my Suspend/Resume:

Am I destined to always run the development version?

People ask me if Ubuntu works. I say yes, it works almost perfectly on most machines. But in the back of my mind, I’m thinking well - it does during the development cycle, but as it approaches releases, bugs creep in.

Of course this rant could be explained away in a couple of ways. I came to Ubuntu from Debian (which I still use), so I’m a CLI user, who started with the expectation that any laptop-ish support is better than nothing. My expectations have since risen to the point where everything should just work out of the box on a 6-month old machine. And a brand-new machine, should at least mostly work.

The Ubuntu release cycle coincides very badly with my academic schedule. Releases occur during term time, during the peak project hand-ins and tests month. So while I’m quite active in launchpad-crawling during development, as releases approach and the updates reach a fever-pitch, I’ve got less and less time to test them. This doesn’t lead to particularly merry releases for me.

Maybe I should follow Adrian Frith’s (rather ephemeral) lead, and switch to running Debian on my laptop. It might make a grumpy geek happier :-)

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