Spam and the legal profession

Once upon a time...back when the Internet was young. And I mean most people still did not have an email address, much less email addresses for their various roles, some legal eagle decided to put a footer on their emails indicating they were privileged information and that if you were not the intended recipient you should destroy it, etc. You may have seen them, and they are still kicking around, depend on who you do business with and what their job is. It has been generally agreed they are not legally binding, much less even enforceable, but if it makes you feel better when you write highly confidential information on a postcard, knock yourself out.

Today, on a very colorful spam message, saying I was awarded a scholarship to a real US University I neither applied to nor that the message has any actual affiliation with, the following legalize was attached:

Disclaimer: The information in this email and any attachments contains proprietary, confidential and legally privileged information and therefore is intended only for the person(s)/recipient(s) named in the message header. Further all such proprietary, confidential and privileged information is owned by Brain4ce Education Solutions Private Limited operating through its brand Edureka. 

If you are not the addressee/recipient of this message, you shall not copy, forward, print, distribute, disclose or use any part of this message. If you have received this message inadvertently, please immediately notify the sender about the same and delete this message and all copies from your system.

Yes, the spammer is fronting for a US University but is really claiming to be Edureka, which based on the Internet reviews is either a full up scam or valuable use of money. Since the document itself is so full of bogus links and contains an Indian call back number (no US Institution would ever do that), I have to say the whole thing is pretty much a giant scam and I will not be sending them my $1250 USD, even though I was awarded a scholarship. I really need a new NAS drive anyway.

Admissions Office: Academic Year 2024

Selected Learner / Candidate

This is to inform you that, you are selected for the special scholarship for Post Graduation Program in DevOps Engineering given by [Respectable US] University, USA and the selection is done based on your profile and various other factors which our joint committee decides for this program by [Respectable US] University at Edureka.

You are required to enroll on or before the 23rd of April 2024 to utilize the special scholarship.

Now, you have the opportunity to study Cloud and advanced DevOps from [Respectable US] University. And upgrade your knowledge through a challenging curriculum.

-- The opening text from the SPAM message

Installing MediaWiki on Ubuntu 18

A buddy sent a request. He was installing MediaWiki on Ubuntu and he was having issues so he asked me to take a look. I reviewed a link on Linux Support and HowtoForge on installing MediaWiki, and found them to be a tad dated. So, I went through the installation myself, and here is how I installed it.

All steps are done as an sudoer or as the root user. I did this on AWS with a Ubuntu 18.04 minimal base image. I assume you know how to log into a console. I used Apache. You can use Nginx, but the server directions are different and I did not have a chance to try them out.

Update the OS

sudo apt-key adv --recv-keys --keyserver hkp:// 0xF1656F24C74CD1D8
sudo add-apt-repository "deb [arch=amd64,arm64,ppc64el] $(lsb_release -cs) main"
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Install basic packages

sudo apt-get install -y apache2 software-properties-common
sudo apt -y install mariadb-server mariadb-client
sudo apt install php libapache2-mod-php
sudo apt-get install imagemagick php7.2-fpm php7.2-intl php7.2-xml php7.2-curl php7.2-gd php7.2-mbstring php7.2-mysql php7.2-mysql php-apcu php7.2-zip

Once PHP is installed you will get a notice similar to:

NOTICE: Not enabling PHP 7.2 FPM by default.
NOTICE: To enable PHP 7.2 FPM in Apache2 do:
NOTICE: a2enmod proxy_fcgi setenvif
NOTICE: a2enconf php7.2-fpm

I enabled it after the fact and it worked. You can do it now or later as you desire.

Modify PHP settings (Optional)

If you are putting your server into production, use the following settings initially. If you are just looking around, the default php.ini settings are fine except for the timezone settings. You should set the timezone appropriately.

For production, edit /etc/php/7.2/apache2/php.ini and make the following changes:

memory_limit = 256M
upload_max_filesize = 100M
max_execution_time = 360
date.timezone = America/New York

Run the secure installation for MariaDB (Optional)

If you are running a production server, you should do a secure installation.

sudo mysql_secure_installation

Create the MediaWiki table space

Login to MariaDB

mariadb -u root -p

And create the MediaWIki user and db as follows

CREATE USER 'media'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'password';
GRANT ALL ON mediadb.* TO 'media'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'password' WITH GRANT OPTION;

Where password is a secure password. This will be put into the MediaWiki configuration later, so do not forget it. The database mediadb and user media can be anything you want them to be.

Edit Apache’s site configuration

You will need to add MediaWiki to the site configuration. Create a new file called mediawiki.conf

sudo vi /etc/apache2/sites-available/mediawiki.conf

And add the following:

<VirtualHost *:80>
DocumentRoot /var/www/html/mediawiki/
<Directory /var/www/html/mediawiki/>
Options +FollowSymLinks
AllowOverride All
ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/media-error_log
CustomLog /var/log/apache2/media-access_log common

Where the ServerAdmin variable should be real email address and the ServerName should be the domain name of the server. Also, ensure that the DocumentRoot is correct. If you only want to use MediaWiki, you can set the DocumentRoot to /var/www/html, but you have to modify a step below as well.

Restart everything

Do not restart the server yet! Instead, restart the key services.

sudo a2ensite mediawiki.conf
sudo a2enmod rewrite
sudo systemctl start apache2
sudo systemctl enable apache2
sudo systemctl start mariadb
sudo systemctl enable mariadb

Download the current MediaWiki source

From the MediaWiki site, make sure you have the correct version. As of this writing, it is: mediawiki-1.33.1

Change to a temporary directory, download, untar, and move the file to the web server:

tar zxvf mediawiki-1.33.1.tar.gz 
sudo mkdir -p /var/www/html/mediawiki
sudo mv mediawiki*/* /var/www/html/mediawiki

If you modified the DocumentRoot in the Apache configuration to /var/www/html, you will need to modify the command above. You will only need to move the contents of the base mediawiki folder:

sudo mv mediawiki*/* /var/www/html

Point your browser at the web site

Depending on your confirmation you can either use localhost or the hostname of your server. If you use the mediawiki folder option, you have to put the folder on the end.


Good luck!

Web Links

That is a big hole

Scientists have discovered deepest point on land | WTOP

The trough is about 3.5 km (about 2 miles) below sea level but there is no ocean water there. Instead, it is filled with ice flowing from the interior of the ice sheet towards the coast. The trough measures about 100 km in length and is 20 km wide, according to the study.

Think about how long 100 km is. The District of Columbia is 16 km on a side. According to Wikipedia, 100 km is 9/10 as long as the English Channel and not quite as wide as the narrowest point. And it is on land! Think about that with your morning coffee.

I Hope We Got A Good Price For It

Twitter erupts over Trump claim that the moon 'is a part' of Mars

While it is clear 45 mis-spoke, it is not the first time he has said something that is so bizarre as to make many Bushisms (Bush II) seem like logical, well thought out arguments, the truth of the matter is that 45 just is not articulate. And that is being polite about it.

Put aside for the moment that the United States does not have the scientific will to return to the Moon, much less stage a mission to Mars, it does not have the political will to do so. With so many tangible problems on this planet, I can appreciate not funding a lunar mission. However, if funding a lunar mission kickstarts scientific funding for other, viable projects on Earth, then let’s go back to the Moon!

Otherwise, I hope Marvin gave us a good price.

When Security is Not Secure

There are wide variations in the quality and security of identification used to gain access to secure facilities where there is potential for terrorist attacks. In order to eliminate these variations, U.S. policy is to enhance security, increase Government efficiency, reduce identity fraud, and protect personal privacy by establishing a mandatory, Government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification issued by the Federal Government to its employees and contractors (including contractor employees). HSPD-12

The Commonwealth of Virginia is the latest state to move to RealID. And again, I ask, why?

For those who have not followed the issue, following the attacks on September 11, 2001, a number of these Homeland Security Presidential Directives were issued. Number 12 forms the basis for the RealID standard. Other documents in this bucket include the CAC/PIV card used by the Federal Government, Passport, Global Entry, and yes, driver’s licenses. And if you have blindly, or even grudgingly handed over your personal information to these agencies, you probably did not think about the actual directive. But since this new ID allows you to board an aircraft, you probably did not blink. But perhaps you should. After all, unless you are issued a CAC/PIV card, what sort of security is this new ID providing?

I will wait.

Still confused? Let me help you. The process likely goes like this. You handed over your old driver’s license, your passport or immigration status card, your social security number, and some proof of residency to a clerk at the DMV (mine had a passing familiarity with English) and boom, you have a RealID card that will get you access to airplanes, military bases, and other government buildings. You may not get past the front door, but you will get inside. And how does this enhance security? There is no background check run. There are no fingerprints, no FBI file. If, like me, you have had your driver’s license more than a week, all they do is check your eyesight and charge a processing fee. Virginia gives you the option to not get one. For a lower fee.

CAC/PIV cards are completely different. They do a background check. With fingerprints, and an FBI file. But not with most of the other documents.

Feel more secure now? Oh, and China called. They are willing to sell you your file back. For less than the processing fee you just paid.

Electric Cars, and the Distance Problem

What automakers aren’t telling you about electric vehicles | WTOP

There are two critical issues in play that are hampering the wide spread adoption of electric cars in the United States. First:

Cold weather can cut range significantly – by even one third…Lithium ion batteries are subject to temperature sensitivity. In California this is not an issue. In polar vortex conditions, these vehicles wouldn’t get far.


It takes nearly 13 hours for the high-voltage battery to get a full-charge when starting at zero percent …We are used to 5 minutes at the pump and going.

The United States is not a small country. When you consider the road network of North America, it is even bigger. Sure, not everyone drives through the hinterland of Pennsylvania every year, but a large number of people do drive more than 200 miles regularly. When you discount the need for temperature issues, you still have the problem of filling the tank. Several cities are starting to install electric charging stations, but they are one or two per jurisdiction, compared to hundreds of gas pumps. Worse, when you consider that the majority of vehicles are driven to and from work, you would expect that some companies would find it in their best interest to install charging stations. Sadly, most companies rent their space, which means that building management needs to install the chargers. And so far, there has not been a hue and cry requesting them, so they are not installed, which means that commuter has to be aware of their distance, their stop and go, and other features, like air conditioning usage, radio, lights, phone charges, etc. All take a toll on the life of the batteries, which means needing more charging.

Electric cars have some advantages, but so far, the negatives outweigh the positives for most people.

Most Are Looking

Shutdown ‘unnerving, frustrating’ for federal contractors | WTOP

Offering advice to impacted contract workers, Chvotkin said they should stay in close communication with supervisors because their status could change quickly. He also advised to be ready to return to work as soon as possible, if needed.

The reality is that if you are not reporting to work, your resume is already on the street. Fifteen to twenty percent of the contractors working for companies that are unfunded will not be returning to their current assignments. Which will make restarting after the shutdown even harder.

Using A New Tool

Every now and then, I find a new tool to make my life easier, at least that is the theory. My first new tool was to ditch Microsoft Windows for the MacOS. At least as my primary day-to-day OS. Yes, I spend a large portion of my work day in Linux. At the moment the distribution is Ubuntu, but I spend most of my day staring at a terminal emulator. When I am not doing that, the OS should be something I do not have to think about, and Windows, especially Windows 8, was causing me too much thought. Then with the release of Windows 10 and all the things that are talking back to Microsoft, I decided it was time to try something else. So Mac won, despite the costs.

As many of you know, I have a certain loathing for the Mac. My primary arguement has (and still is) cost. It is just too bloody expensive. It has the advantage of being Unix like under the covers though, and it has a couple of other advantages in terms of photo work that Windows, even with all the RAM I could throw at it, just could not measure up to. So, I bit the bullet and went Mac.

With the conversion, came a couple of new tools, of which this is one - it is a piece of blogging software call Byword, and is a combination text editor, markdown support. It seamlessly connects with my blogging platform (which is good) and supports markdown which is good because more and more of my documents are being written in markdown than they are in anything else. It is more portable and just a better way of doing things. This is the first post with the Byword, and I am doing it more to test out the software than anything else. So here we go.

Hello world!