N95 Report: Why I had to give up

NOTE: I posted the article below about 10 minutes too soon. After completing the Nokia firmware upgrade as instructed, using their software on a Windows laptop, my lovely N95 morphed into an expensive brick. It won’t start.

It’s surprising how upset I am about this. I’ve held off for years on getting a serious cell phone because I don’t really want or need a phone, I need a moblogging tool. I hate talking on the phone, it’s a low priority for me.

Last Sunday, when I decided to take the plunge and get the N95, I was so excited. And believe me, right now I really needed something positive to be excited about. I’ve been vastly overworked and very stressed.

I really WANT to be moblogging. I’m so ready for it. I’ve been wanting to do it for ages. But the tools weren’t where I needed them to be. They still aren’t. I can’t be bothered with carrying 3 or 4 different pieces of gear and lugging a laptop about. I was willing to pay top dollar for a serious integrated moblogging tool.

Yeah, I know the iPhone 3G *might* be coming out soon. But no word whether it would have a Bluetooth keyboard option, and I really really really really hate iPhone’s touchscreen keyboard.

And, yeah, I know the Nokia N96 *might* be coming out soon too — but after this experience I’d only want to go with a Nokia again if I could get it from a local retail store where I could exchange it fast if it bricks out again. Right now, their only store are in NYC and Chicago.

I’m not ashamed to tell you this experienced has reduced me to tears on this lovely spring day…

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links for 2008-03-29

Sneaky Spammers and “Clickthrough Cloaking”

As I mentioned earlier, it appears a spammer has hacked this blog again. This time they were especially sneaky about it. You won’t see the spam when you visit my blog, or when you get my feed or e-mail alerts. But search engines see it, and display it in my search engine results. Which can do serious damage to my search ranking, and eventually get me banned from Google and other search engines if I don’t put a stop to it.

Judging from how this spam hack is exhibiting, the most likely explanation seems to be something Tom Vilot turned up with a bit of research. (Thanks, Tom!)

It appears that this hack is using a technique known as cloaking, which serves one page to search engines crawling the site, and another to visitors’ web browsers. This means the search engines are not actually indexing the same content that people see when they visit your site. Nice for the spammers, bad for the site owners.

Microsoft published a 2006 technical paper detailing this technique and what to do about it. From the intro:

“Search spam is an attack on search engines’ ranking algorithms to promote spam links into top search ranking that they do not deserve. Cloaking is a well-known search spam technique in which spammers serve one page to search-engine crawlers to optimize ranking, but serve a different page to browser users to maximize potential profit. In this experience report, we investigate a different and relatively new type of cloaking, called Click-Through Cloaking, in which spammers serve non-spam content to browsers who visit the URL directly without clicking through search results, in an attempt to evade spam detection by human spam investigators and anti-spam scanners.”

…Coincidentally, I just updated all my WordPress plugins yesterday. Also, Google just re-indexed me a few hours ago. The spam is no longer showing up for my site in Google’s results, which indicates that by updating my plugins I may have closed this vulnerability, for now. We’ll see.

Dammit, this blog has been hacked again!

Despite what MSN’s search engine thinks, I am NOT hawking drugs on this site…

(UPDATE: Since initially posting this, I’ve learned a bit more. The plot thickens…)

My friend the SEO maven Brett Borders just alerted me to some disturbing news. Apparently, Microsoft’s search engine thinks this blog, which I’ve run since 1998, is drug spam.

Brett got tipped to this by a Mar. 25 Search Engine Journal story, Hackers Forcing Sites to Cloak Search Engines with Link Spam. The screen grab illustrating that story showed Contentious.com near the top of a list results from a “linkfromdomain search on MSN so I can prove that, indeed, there are over 2,000 links FROM Twitter pointing TO pages about Viagra.” I just repeated that search, and sure enough my domain is on that list — showing spam content that somehow has been hacked into my site.

I also just searched Google for references to Viagra from my domain, and saw that Google is caching that same spam content for my home page as well.

As far as I can tell, this spam content has been inserted my home page as well as at least three recent posts. Obviously, this WordPress blog has been hacked again. Like I didn’t have enough troubles with this last fall.

This is annoying, and could be potentially damaging to me. I’m on a deadline and don’t have time to delve into why this is happening, but would appreciate tips for Contentious readers about why this might be happening and what, if anything, I can do to stop it. I’m getting really tired of this, and hate that I only find out about it via third parties.

Got any suggestions before I can dive into this myself? Please comment below.


links for 2008-03-25

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I’m getting my Nokia N95, but not from Nokia

The Nokia N95-3, which will be in my hands tomorrow, no thanks to NokiaUSA or LetsTalk.com.

On Sunday, I finally took the plunge and ordered a serious moblogging tool: the Nokia N95-3, finally available in the US. (It’s been out in Europe for a couple of years.) It’s got everything I want: a good camera (still and video), pretty good audio recording quality, real gps, wifi, a decent web browser, an OS that allows third-party apps, works easily with a folding bluetooth keyboard — and it also happens to be a cell phone, too. (So I can finally ditch my landline, a needless expense these days.)

I ordered it directly from NokiaUSA.com, with 2-day shipping. Or so I thought. Actually, Nokia funnels its online US sales through a company called LetsTalk.com.

This morning — the day I was expecting to receive my N95 — I get an e-mail from LetsTalk.com saying that they need “more information” from me to complete this transaction. So I call them and give them my order number.

This is the really annoying part: LetsTalk.com did not need any more information from ME — they really needed to hear from my credit card company, American Express. Mind you, they already had my AmEx account information. But for some bizarre unknown reason they stalled this sizeable purchase by requiring ME to call THEM — for nothing at all!

Here’s how LetsTalk.com wanted to proceed: They said they would allegedly contact AmEx today to have AmEx call me to verify this transaction by phone. Then AmEx was supposed to call LetsTalk.com back with the OK. And then, finally, allegedly, LetTalk.com would ship this phone to me.

I had a better idea: I canceled that purchase and went to Amazon.com. There I found the exact same phone, keyboard, and carrying case. And I bought it from Amazon. I even splurged $15 for overnight shipping, so it’ll arrive tomorrow. (Well, the carrying case may take a day extra. Big deal.)

And here’s the beauty of it: NokiaUSA (via LetsTalk.com) was going to charge me about $860 total.

Grand total, with shipping, via Amazon: $675.47.

Yep, I saved about $185 by choosing better service. Suits me.

links for 2008-03-24

links for 2008-03-23