APA Wetpak

TCB Wetpak

Fermenting: 29/05/2006 Bottled: 17/07/2006

I finally got around to putting on another batch of beer, and it is my favourite. The American Pale Ale wetpak from The Country Brewer has turned out fantastic both times I’ve made it. I finished the last bottle of this back in February, which feels like a while ago. I’ve actually had the can sitting there since early April and just struggled to find the energy and time to make it.

A wetpak is a kit of ingredients that you put together at home to create your beer. Country Brewer has just added another variety, Classic Oak Ale, so there are now 7 flavours available.

You get a 3kg can containing light malt extract and hops, 150g of crystal malt, 20g of cascade hops and 10g of Safale s-04 yeast. You then simmer it for about an hour, dilute it with water and add the yeast. This makes a beer containing very fresh ingredients with stacks of flavour, particularly the American Pale Ale.

We’ll probably be able to drink it around the fire sometime in July.

Writing Email

I get frustrated by badly written email. Whether the person doesn’t care enough to be clear, or is just being rude, or is unintentionally vague, it makes it hard to respond appropriately.

If you think I’m talking about you (and I may be), you should read Email: an author’s guide to get some ideas on how to improve.

Business names

I set myself up as a business this week – ABN and all that. I’m hoping to get all the things I currently do to pay me via the business.

I plan to have 4 income streams:

  • Technical writing (blogs or similar) supported by advertising
  • Web design and hosting (for local businesses)
  • Linux server build and support
  • Windows desktop support

I’m currently looking for a cool business name. If you have any suggestions, look them up and post them in comments.

If all else fails I might have to go with Andrew Wooldridge’s Web 2.0 Company Name Generator.

Stop spam with Blue Frog

Blue Frog Logo

In a newsletter I read this week I heard about a spam solution that actually works. It works so well that spammers have gone nuts, threatening to take down the internet unless people stop using it.

Spam, in this context at least, refers to unsolicited bulk email.

  • Unsolicited – you did not sign up for it
  • Bulk – it was sent to thousands of people at once
  • Email – electronic mail, wizzing around the internet

But I don’t need to explain what spam is, you all get it everyday. I personally have about 4 systems to analyse my mail for spam before I see it, but still some gets through. But there is now a solution.

Blue Security is an Israeli software company that has come up with a solution that ‘spams the spammers’. Blue Security has created a “do not intrude” registry – a list of email addresses that prefer not to receive spam.

It’s more elegant to read how the process works on Blue Frog’s website: Blue Frog Solution Overview.

The client sits in your taskbar, and also installs plugins for Firefox and IE. If you use an online email service such as Hotmail, GMail or Yahoo!Mail, the browser plugin activates when you log in, scans your spam/bulk mail directory and reports everything in it automatically.

To use with a desktop client (I use Thunderbird, but there are instructions online for Outlook, OE6, Eudora, Incredimail) is also really easy. Right click on the Blue Frog taskbar icon and select “Report Spam”. It opens up a new compose mail window, addressed to the blue security team, which you just drag the offending spam into as an attachment and click send. Easy as!

The registry has been operational since May 2005 and 6 of the top 10 spammers have agreed to not spam blue security members. One of the other 4, PharmaMaster, is so anguished about possibly losing business that he has been going all out to take down Blue Security. On Tuesday last week he took offline a major blog hosting provider, Six Apart, where LiveJournal and TypePad are based, as collateral when Blue Security redirected their main DNS records to their company blog. This has angered a lot of net users against the company, which is unfortunate.

I guess time will tell if this is a successful battle in the war against spam. Even if this solution isn’t perfect (two wrongs don’t make a right, an extra unneccessary program running in taskbar) any chance to fight back at spam is worth taking.

Download Blue Frog

Update 18/05/2006: According to the BBC, Blue Security has ceased it’s Blue Frog service, in effect conceding defeat to the bullying tactics of the spammers. What a shame. Hopefully there will be a more robust solution soon.


Windows Update for Firefox

WindizUpdate is a pretty cool site. A NZ company called 62NDS Solutions has created a site that allows people who are running Microsoft Windows software that is no longer supported by the official Microsoft update website.

So if you hate IE and run Firefox, or Mozilla or Netscape or Opera, you can still get your system scanned for updates, and easily install them. If you run an older, officially unsupported version of Windows like 95, or soon 98, ME, or even windows 2000, you might not be able to use the Microsoft site. Another reason to use this site might be if your software doesn’t stand up to WGA checks.

Another cool alternative to redownloading everything from microsoft every time you install or reinstall windows on a PC is autopatcher.

From the autopatcher website:

AutoPatcher is a comprehensive collection of patches, addons and registry tweaks that give you peace of mind in the knowledge that your Windows system is up to date, even before you connect it to the Internet. It’s designed to quickly patch a system with the most current updates and tweaks available, and requires no user interaction once you have selected what to install.

The full April 2006 version for Windows XP is 226MB – but there is also 150MB lite version, and monthly updates are minimal (for broadband users at least). I can see a relatively smooth reinstall process – a slipstreamed WinXP SP2 disk and a CD-R (or USB stick) with the Full version of Autopatcher on it.

A similar GPL option is Daisy, but I haven’t tried it yet.

March of the Penguins

March of the penguins trailer View the trailer by clicking the photo above.

Last week Priscilla and I went to see March of the Penguins at the movies. It is a documentry about the life cycle of the emperor penguin, paying particular focus to their mating habits.

It is a beautifully shot movie – the pictures of Antarctica with it’s blue-white ice are amazing, and the occasional shot of the penguins in the water are very impressive. Would you like to jump into freezing/frozen water and film penguins underwater in the middle of the polar winter? Me either.

A fair bit of controversy has surrounded this film. It won the 2006 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and was more successful at the box office than any of the films that were nominated for the Best Picture award.

Conservatives in the USA have praised the film for promoting family values, which is not really backed up by the facts – the penguins are monogamous on an annual basis, then they all swap partners for the next years breeding. Also the footage of the penguins has brought up the arguments for and against intelligent design.

We found the movie engrossing – Priscilla couldn’t bear to watch at times – and thoroughly entertaining. It’s only 85 minutes long, so if you don’t catch it at the movies, make sure you spend the couple of dollars when it comes out on DVD.

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