Monday, March 27, 2006

Solution for (Some) Gmail Outages

A couple days ago CNET did an article on users having problems accessing Gmail for long periods. Gmail has become so important to many of us that is not acceptable. I have had some trouble occasionally but usually hitting reload a few times very quickly and/or Ctrl+Reload (override cache) will fix it. I just got another one and this time the usual fix didn't solve the problem.

My problem doesn't appear to be a problem on Google's end. I think it is a problem with the browser's cache (in my case Firefox). If the browser keeps attempting to load corrupted versions of the Gmail pages it will never get in. Using IE or Opera on the same computer and I can login and read email fine. It also works in Firefox on my laptop fine (on the same network). Once I cleared the cache I can get into Gmail fine again.

I have seen similar with Yahoo Mail a while back. A friend just could not log on from her computer, but on mine she had no problem. Yahoo just kept asking for her password again and again as if it was confirming it after a time of inactivity. It wasn't saying the password was wrong, it just kept wanting confirmation. I cleared the cache and the problem went away. But it took a long time to realize that was the problem. She was using IE so this is not a browser specific problem. And it is not a Gmail specific problem either.

So the solution (for at least some cases) if you can't get into Gmail is to clear your browser's cache. For help on clearing your browser's cache, see this page at The PC Doctor.

Update: Looks like the reason Ctrl+Reload didn't work is because the override cache button combination is Shift+Reload instead. You can also use Ctrl+Shift+R if you don't want to use the mouse. That might solve the problem, but since I don't have the problem anymore I can't test it.

Update 2: I knew my solution was too simple to fix everyone's problem. It had been a couple days since I carefully read the article. Clearly there are much bigger issues going with Gmail. But the cache problem is surely the cause of some user's complaints. Whatever else is going on, Google needs to fix it very soon.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Uselessness of Nofollow

I ran across yet another post on the uselessness of rel="nofollow". It is clear spammers are too stupid and lazy to care if your site uses nofollow. And some forms of link spam aren't targeting search engines anyway. But does that mean nofollow is not doing any good? Not at all. I still think in the long run, nofollow will have some effect on comment spam. But I finally realized what nofollow is doing for us now.

Exactly what it was intended to do, tell the search engines which links not to give weight to. So while your blog might not be seeing any direct impact from using nofollow (as in less comment spams), you are seeing the results when you use search engines. Just think of all those spam links that the search engines are able to throw out when ranking search results. There are other webspam methods to increase links to spammers' sites (like splogs), but just think how bad search relevancy would be if engines were still counting splogs and comment spam.

I kind of wonder if nofollow was ever intended to do anything more? The inventors should have known enough about spammers to know they are to stupid and lazy to look for nofollow tags (or any kind of antispam measure). Was it just marketed as a solution to comment spam so it would be quickly adopted? If so, it was a huge mistake since clearly it has not had much impact on preventing comment spam. It is just more ammunition for the anti-nofollow people.

You have to see the bigger picture. An individual site by itself is insignificant compared to the web as a whole. Nofollow may not help your site directly by stopping spam, but by making search engines work better, it helps everyone (except the spammers who try their best to fill search engines with junk). Users are better be able to find what they want (which could include your site) instead of having to dig through piles of spammer garbage.

Nofollow is working!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Whitelist Spam

This was a rather sneaky spam, it attempts to make you believe you have been added to the sender's email whitelist. It really doesn't look like spam at all. Since I have been rather lazy lately on the chongqing front, it was suspicious that I got added to anyone's whitelist though. I haven't sent any emails recently.

Received: (qmail 14080 invoked by uid 60000); 17 Mar 2006 00:09:57 -0000
Received: (qmail 14078 invoked from network); 17 Mar 2006 00:09:56 -0000
Received: from (HELO LocalHost) (
by with SMTP; 17 Mar 2006 00:09:56 -0000
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 16:18:08 -0700

I, the sender of this message, have explicit activated the option in All-in-One SECRETMAKER to inform you with this @WL notification email about the following:

My emails are managed by the Spam Fighter from All-in-One SECRETMAKER. Your email address has been added to my Spam Fighter White List. Adding your address to the White List ensures that I will always receive email you send to me.

All-in-One SECRETMAKER is a powerful and smart freeware which includes Spam Fighter, Pop-Up Blocker, Banner Blocker, Privacy Protector, Cookie Eraser, Worm Hunter, History Cleaner, Intruder Blocker protect from SPYWARE, TRACKWARE and other harmful programs and more. WWW.SECRETMAKER.COM

A bit of Googling for quickly told me my suspicions were right.

Activity Update

I discovered that my blacklist mirror has been not working for a while. Not sure what happened, the subdomain just wasn't in the site config anymore, but it is back now.

Lately additions to the list have really slowed as has our wiki and my blog. Most of the other spam fighters I hang out with seem to be less active too. I brought this up among some of them and one suggested something like no news is good news. Could it be that web spammers aren't being as aggressive/stupid anymore? Or maybe Google's antispam measures have finally caught up with them. The only alternative I can think of is we have all been extra busy/lazy at the same time.

Even the idiots who keep spamming this blog have slowed again. I haven't actually compared over the long term but in the last 13 days I have only got 16 comment spams. But the first three days of March had 20 spams themselves. So I am pretty thankful for only 16 since then.

I know web spammers are still out there, while the rest of us have been less active on webspam, SplogFighter has been hammering away at splogs.

I have also been running a few experiments. The most interesting and only one that actually has been working was to see what would happen if I stopped cleaning spam from my honeypot wiki. I am still analyzing the data, but it is interesting so far. As it happens though, just before I decided to end the experiment and clean the spam it totally stopped. That makes me think it was all the work of one spammer, he must have refreshed his victim list. I guess it was a good time to stop the experiment since my only participant quit. I will try to get a post up on this soon.

More on Free iPods

Almost exactly a year ago I made a short post linking to a Free iPod article at SFGate. Today I read on Wired News that the New York Attorney General has a victory against an e-mail marketing giant that bought one of these shady lists collected by offering free iPods and other stuff in exchange for lots of personal info. The company has "agreed to a $1.1 million fine for knowingly buying marketing lists from companies with privacy policies that promised not to sell or transfer the lists to a third party."