The Barack Obama Call Center

I’m an Obama supporter, but I’m also that guy who wants to put a knife in someone’s eye when he receives an unsolicited political call. Especially, ESPECIALLY, when it is an unsolicited unprofessional political call. So, now…. … I’m really not sure what to say about this. Introducing, the Barack Obama call center! They are inviting me and you and any other would-be supporter to go ahead and start calling to voice our support. Who would you be calling? Your friends? Oh no, they will supply you with scripts to read to the complete strangers whose names and numbers are being provided! … Great …

ZK, AJAX without JavaScript?

ZK Demo

ZK is a slick-looking presentation layer toolkit that seems to at least be growing in popularity on SourceForge. I do not know of any real sites using it. It looked very interesting at first glance, especially in conjunction with something like Hibernate. After some further digging, my second impression is that it suffers from roughly the same major flaw that afflicted the first iteration of exhibition. Namely, it presented some simple ways to do complex things, but when it really came down to it, the complexity was merely being moved elsewhere. Not just that, but the complexity was now being exposed using a technology few people know or understand. Am I missing something here, or is ZK just refactoring the complexities of developing an application for the web?


Does anyone else remember when actual articles graced the pages of Tomshardware, rather than advertisement after blatant advertisement? I know, it was years ago…

OpenBSD’s financial situation

In typical form, Theo is once again ranting about for-profit corporations not living up to his personal ethical standards. Wait, wait, wait.. WHAT? Right, exactly, let me spell it out for those of you that missed it. For-profit corporations typically do not, nor should they in general operate under the guidance of some high and mighty code of ethics. That’s just not what they do! If you expect them to, you are a lunatic, profit margins are everything. Granted, there are some that do and kudos to them.

Theo, your pet OpenBSD is in some ways pushing the envelope to the extreme when compared to other open source operating systems. OpenSSH/SSL, bgpd, pf to name a few. You’re a bright guy Theo, I know you are, get with your guys and figure out how to monetize those good bits. Selling CD’s and DVD’s isn’t the way. Selling support services is a step in the right direction, but isn’t going to get you too far. Offer custom development services, for customization, etc? Ok, ok, sure, not bad. But you can do better than that, it all depends on how far you want to take it. Oh wait, there’s a thought. $10,000/year subscription service that gets your corporation fed security patches 72 hours before everyone else? How about a $30/year subscription service for individuals that gets you a login to download new releases 2 weeks before everyone else? Oh, right, but then one guy would grab it and setup a torrent or something. Think about it this way, though. At least then you’ll have something legitimate to rant about.

PHP: Protecting your code (Zend Encoder/IonCube/SourceCop)

SourceCop Decoder

Personally, I have never found need to encode/encrypt/obfuscate any PHP. I do however know that there is a large audience of developers and/or organizations out there that do rely on such obfuscation to protect their works. Not being sure if it has hit the news or not, as I have been too busy of late to even open up my RSS aggregator to skim the headlines, know that there is at least one service in the wild that can successfully decode Zend Encoder and IonCube encoded files. It’s not perfect by any means, as it is reconstructing the code based on the opcodes, but it does return it in a format that is true to the original as far as execution and reasonably easy for a human to parse.

I wrote this little number the other day after running across a script I was wanting to use, in which one component was obviously dependant upon register_globals. My gosh, if I only had the code I could fix that! Fortunately it was obfuscated with an application called SourceCop, which provides very little in the way of protection. Come on guys, you could at least obfuscate the code itself first, munging whitespace, variable and function names. As it was, it took a mere 20 minutes to write a script that would replace an encoded file with a pristine copy of the original. At any rate, here is the script, do note that it was a quick hack and as such it may or may not work for you. It will also simply overwrite any SourceCop encoded files fed to it, so you will want to create a backup first, you have been warned.
Update: 2/23/2006, revised script

MySQL 5.0 standardized join syntax

I am sure the revised / SQL:2003 standardized join syntax in MySQL 5.0 is old news to many out there. My guess is they are in the minority, and most haven’t heard a thing about it. Some may have even upgraded only to be frustrated that their queries weren’t working as they should any longer. Here’s the skinny, taken directly from the MySQL manual.

Beginning with MySQL 5.0.12, natural joins and joins with USING, including outer join variants, are processed according to the SQL:2003 standard. These changes make MySQL more compliant with standard SQL. However, they can result in different output columns for some joins. Also, some queries that appeared to work correctly in older versions must be rewritten to comply with the standard.

I would like to applaud MySQL AB on their latest release. Throughout its history, MySQL has been vastly out-gunned in terms of useful features by many other commercial and free databases. It has also taken a great deal of heat on many occasions due to its poor standards conformance in comparison to the other options on the market. With this release, even if they have not completely closed that gap, they have narrowed it by an impressive margin.

I do have a major gripe, however. Whilst the previously mentioned changes improves standards conformance and portability, it breaks a large enough percentage of MySQL-bound applications to warrant serious scrutiny. Apparently MySQL AB has forgotten that not the entire world is open source, and that many of us must every day maintain databases accessed by scripts and applications controlled by a third party or to which the source code is simply not available. This makes it rather impossible for any of us in such a situation to move those databases to servers running 5.0.

In my particular case, I was looking forward to leveraging triggers, stored procedures and views to reduce my administrative burden and deprecate a number of external scripts (hacks) that we use to transform data for use by other applications. The primary application sitting on this database is commercial and Zend encoded, so “fixing” the broken queries is simply not an option. Yes, we have talked to the vendor. I find it hard to believe that I am the only one in this situation.

Seriously now, how hard would it have been to add an option to enable the legacy behavior?

Update: 2/19/2006, offending commit