Smokes your problems, coughs fresh air.

Page 49 of 52

Linde learns to fly

Linde is my niece. She was born to my sister in March of this year. I’m a very, very proud uncle. Did I mention how proud I am? I’m proud. Especially now that she is learning how to fly!

Linde is learning to fly

Can NeuStar be trusted to keep networks together?

Trusted to bring networks together, beams NeuStar‘s corporate slogan. After my previous two posts, I’m still hoping that they can be trusted to keep networks together too.

NeuStar slogan
(Get the GIMP working file if you want to play with the slogan a bit. (I didn’t have a 2.3 version available with which I could have adjusted the letter-spacing of the subslogan. (Without the reduced letter-spacing, setting it in 14pt Arial looked ugly.)))

Here’s Andrea’s reply to my latest helpless message:

“.US Nexus” <>
To: Rowan Rodrik van der Molen <>
Cc: “” <>
Date: Jul 23, 2007 9:46 PM
Subject: RE: {Registry#542-209} .US NEXUS COMPLIANCE BIGSMOKE.US


Please note the information below for Nexus category 3.

Nexus Category 3
A foreign entity or organization that has a bona fide presence in the United Stated of America or any of its possessions or territories.
Applicant must state country of citizenship
Applicant must also (1) regularly engage in lawful activities (sales of goods or services or other business, commercial or non-commercial including not-for-profit activities) in the United States; or (2) maintain an office or other property within the United States.

Though you are running a personal website which may have several visitors from the United States, this does not meet the Nexus requirements as stated above. Please provide documents that prove you meet the Nexus under category 3 as listed above.

Kind Regards
.US Customer Support

O.k. So she knows the rules. I’m hoping she understands them too. 😐 It would be especially nice and good (and pleasant too) if she understands them so well that she can explain them to me, because, by now, I still haven’t grown any the wiser about what these requirement entail. I decided to ask her another time:

Dear Andrea,

That’s clear then. Is see I must regularly engage in lawful activities. Apparently, writing articles for Americans is not a lawful non-for-profit activity. I’m not quite sure what, then, besides selling goods or services, are other “lawful, commercial or non-commercial including not-for-profit activities.” Still, I hope my understanding of this phraseology is not completely off as that might mean that, indeed, I wouldn’t have qualified to purchase a .US domain. (Not that I think that this would make it a good idea to break a piece of the web by withdrawing my domain from me after having let me use it to build my American readership over the course of 2 years.)

Anyway, to keep my share of the web intact and to satisfy your rules (which I still don’t know how to interpret correctly), I could consider transferring my domain to one of my American relatives who may be kind enough to let me keep using the same subdomains for my websites so that I won’t have to break any links. Then I could change the category of the domain to C12 again. Is changing the Registrant of the domain acceptable? I’m sure one of my family members wouldn’t mind owning a domain to keep my piece of the web working for everyone.

Thank you once again for your time and patience,

Changed the Nexus agreement for BigSmoke.US

My usage of the BigSmoke.US domain didn’t get approved yet. I was hoping for a little advice to come my way by submitting an Ask Slashdot this morning, but the story didn’t get past the firehose. After realizing that I should have submitted the story to my /. journal as that would allow Slashdotters to comment without the story having to make it, I just added a journal entry. I want all the exposure and feedback that I can get.

In the mean time, I’ve updated the Nexus agreement for my domain:

BigSmoke.US Nexus agreement - C12 to C31

I’m still puzzled why I landed in Category 1. I distinctly remember that in March 2005, when I registered the domain, I knew I was in Category 3. Either I didn’t get a category selection then or they simply didn’t store it correctly. Has anyone else who registered a .US domain at Wild West Domains during that time had a similar experience?

After my failure to get any answers from the Slashdot crowd, I picked up on my exchange with Andrea from NeuStar again. (On an aside: since her last message I had gotten two forwards of said message from Go Daddy. I’m crossing my fingers that they’re not going to bill me for every mail that Andrea carbon copies to them, especially if they’re going to forward each such mail twice!)

Rowan Rodrik van der Molen <>
To: “.US Nexus” <>
Date: Jul 21, 2007 11:06 PM
Subject: Re: {Registry#542-209} .US NEXUS COMPLIANCE BIGSMOKE.US

Dear Andrea,

I’ve updated my domain information to reflect the actual category which applies to me (C31). The changes should be visible in WHOIS lookups soon. When I registered the domain I was aware of which category I was in, but at the time (over 2 years ago) there either mustn’t have been an option to select the category or the selection simply wasn’t saved. I would never have consciously stated that “I’m a US citizen,” because it’s simply not true.

Now you apparently need some information from me before NeuStar can approve my use of the BigSmoke.US domain. I’m afraid I’m going to need a little help on this as I’m not very familiar with the legalities of .US domain regulations. I can tell you that my website is a resource for a US demographic and that it’s hosted in the US. I can easily prove that my website is hosted in the US. Would that be sufficient?

I’ve pointed to the statistics which say that most of my visitors are US citizens. Also, various pages on my website are bookmarked by hundreds of people using an American social bookmark manager []. Apparently, the fact that my website is of great use to Americans is of no import? Or is it just that I need to deliver more useful information about this?

Sorry for my ignorance and thank you for you time so far,

Crackdown on my .US infiltration attempt

Wether it has something to do with the current Terror Alert level or with a renewed surge of isolationism I don’t know, but my foreign ass no longer seems to be welcome below the Dot-US TLD. Never mind that almost all of my visitors are American. Or that my dot-US websites are hosted at US-based NearlyFreeSpeech. Or are my ties to the states sufficient that I just need to deliver the proof? - awstats - Visitors by country

So, what happened? Yesterday, I got a mail from .US Nexus, forwarded by GoDaddy. It wasn’t the worst that GoDaddy billed me $9.95 for … forwarding a mail to me. What was bad was the mail that they forwarded:

From: “” <>
Date: Jul 19, 2007 5:16 PM
Subject: [FWD: {Registry#542-209} .US NEXUS COMPLIANCE BIGSMOKE.US]

Dear Rowan Rodrik van der Molen,

Please see the Nexus Compliance Notice below from Neustar.


Domain Services

Subject: {Registry#542-209} .US NEXUS COMPLIANCE BIGSMOKE.US From: “.US Nexus” <>
Date: Wed, July 18, 2007 3:46 pm
To: “” <>

Dear Go Daddy,

Please send the following verbiage to your customer.

Neustar Registries

Dear Rowan,

As you may be aware, in November 2001, the United States Department of Commerce (“DOC”) selected NeuStar, Inc. (“NeuStar”) to be the Administrator of the .US top-level domain (“usTLD”), the official top-level domain for the United States of America. As Administrator of the usTLD, NeuStar has agreed to perform random “spot checks” on registrations in the usTLD to endure that they comply with the usTLD Nexus Requirements which can be found at (“Nexus Requirements”).

Our records indicate that you are the registrant of the domain name BIGSMOKE.US.

On July 18, 2007, this domain name was selected for Nexus revalidation and confirmation. According to the information you provided with your registration of these Domain Names, you indicated that you qualify under:

Category 1 – You are a US citizen or permanent resident

As part of our verification process, we ask that you provide to us by no later than ten (10) days after the date set forth above, a written response describing how you qualify under the above Nexus category.

In addition, please verify that the name-servers that you have selected to use are also physically located within the United States as required by the Nexus Requirements.

In some instances, we may request additional documentary evidence from you to demonstrate that you meet the Nexus requirements.

You should be aware that if you either (i) do not respond within the ten (10) days, or (ii) are unable to adequately explain or demonstrate through documentary evidence that you meet any of the Nexus Requirements, NeuStar may issue a finding that your entity or organization has failed to meet the Nexus Requirements. Upon such a finding, you will then be given a total of ten (10) days to cure the US Nexus deficiency. If you are able to demonstrate within ten (10) days that your entity or organization has remedied such deficiency, you will be allowed to keep the domain name. If, however, you either (i) do not respond within the ten (10) days of such a finding of noncompliance, or (ii) are unable to proffer evidence demonstration compliance with the Nexus Requirements, the domain name registration will be deleted from the registry database without refund, and the domain name will be placed into the list of available domain names.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Kind Regards
.US Customer Support

.US America’s Internet Address

Address: Loudoun Tech Center
46000 Center Oak Plaza
Sterling, VA 20166 USA
Web Site:

This transmission (the e-mail and all attachments) is confidential and intended solely for the use of the addressee(s). If you have received this transmission in error, please notify the sender by reply and delete this transmission immediately. Any unauthorized distribution, or copying of this transmission, or misuse or wrongful disclosure of information contained in it, is strictly prohibited. The information contained in this document is provided on an as-is basis and does not constitute a binding legal contract or receipt for services. While this information is believed to be substantially correct, it is not intended to be substituted for appropriate legal counsel.

If you have any questions related to intellectual property rights, copyrights, service marks, whether in common use or legally registered, please contact your legal counsel. No statement made, printed, or otherwise disseminated by NeuStar or any of its employees, contractors, sub-contractors, web site, or interactive voice response system should be considered in any way legal or other advice.

I was left a little confused and hoped that, maybe, Andrea could shed some light on my ignorance.

From: Rowan Rodrik van der Molen <>
Date: Jul 19, 2007 6:40 PM
Subject: Re: [FWD: {Registry#542-209} .US NEXUS COMPLIANCE BIGSMOKE.US]

Dear Andrea,

When registering my domain, I actually did so because I qualify according to Category 3, not Category 1. I qualify because my .US websites are hosted at a US hosting provider (NearlyFreeSpeech) and donations to my website are processed by a US company (Paypal). Also, advertisements are served by Google inc.

Most of my visitors are US residents because my websites are targeted at an American audience. (Detailed statistics about this can be obtained from I’d like to note that my website is a valuable resource to many American web developers, database developers and system administrators. Because most of my visitors are American, it would be Americans which would be harmed most if I where to loose my dot-us domain.

As can be inferred from the Whois info, the nameservers for my domain are located at the same US hosting company as where my .us websites are hosted.

If you require any additional information, I’d be more than willing to send it to you. I wouldn’t have registered this domain if I hadn’t been convinced of the legality of such an action.

Thank you for your time,

Today, I got a friendly reply from Andrea:

From: “.US Nexus” <>
To: Rowan Rodrik van der Molen <>
Cc: “” <>
Date: Jul 20, 2007 6:31 AM
Subject: RE: {Registry#542-209} .US NEXUS COMPLIANCE BIGSMOKE.US


Your domain information in WHOIS shows you are a Category 1. That would indicate that you are a United States citizen. You will need to provide your current US drivers license to prove how you meet the .US Nexus guideline.

If you are doing legitimate business within the United States you will need to correct your domain information to reflect the .US WHOIS.

Below are two categories of which you may fall into.

C31: A foreign entity or organization that has a bona fide presence in the United States of America or any of its insular areas who regularly engages in lawful activities (e.g., sales of goods or services or other business, commercial or non-commercial, including not-for-profit relations in the United States).

C32: Entity has an office or other facility in the United States

If you claim C31, you will need to provide to us documentation in the form of a certificate of corporation or the ability to provide not only the sales of goods but to prove those sales are with United States residents/companies.

If you claim C32, you will need to provide documentation that proves you have and office or facility in the United States.

The information that you have provided in your e-mail is not sufficient enough to prove you meet the Nexus requirements.

Kind Regards,
.US Customer Support

.US America’s Internet Address

Address: Loudoun Tech Center
46000 Center Oak Plaza
Sterling, VA 20166 USA
Web Site:

[The same interesting legalese as in the previous mail from .US Nexus …]

All good and well, but all I can extract from this communication is that I need to change the category at GoDaddy. I still don’t understand if I’m eligible to have an dot-US domain (which I recently extended (with US dollars), by the way). Based on the usTLD Nexus Requirements I’d assume that I qualify for a dot-US domain under Category 3, A foreign entity or organization that has a bona fide presence in the United States of America or any of its possessions or territories. In full, the requirements for Category 3 are as follows:

Nexus Category 3

A foreign entity or organization that has a bona fide presence in the United States of America or any of its possessions or territories.

  • Applicant must state country of citizenship.
  • Applicant must also (1) regularly engage in lawful activities (sales of goods or services or other business, commercial or non-commercial including not-for-profit activities) in the United States; or (2) maintain an office or other property within the United States.

Category 3 Nexus Certification

Prospective Registrants will certify compliance with Category 3 Nexus based upon substantial lawful contacts with, or lawful activities in, the United States.

Factors that should be considered in determining whether an entity or organization has a bona fide presence in the United States shall include, without limitation, whether such prospective usTLD domain name Registrant:

  • Regularly performs lawful activities within the United States related to the purposes for which the entity or organization is constituted (e.g., selling goods or providing services to customers, conducting regular training activities, attending conferences), provided such activities are not conducted solely or primarily to permit it to register for a usTLD domain name and are lawful under the laws and regulations of the United States and satisfy policies for the usTLD, including policies approved and/or mandated by the DoC;
  • Maintains an office or other facility in the United States for a lawful business, noncommercial, educational or governmental purpose, and not solely or primarily to permit it to register for a usTLD domain name.

Apart from the fact that these days The Netherlands can be considered American territory, you’d think I neatly fit the requirements for C31, since I perform the following lawful activities in the United States:

  • I regularly pay my US hosting provider, NearlyFreeSpeech.Net, US dollars to host my US website.
  • I pay my US domain registar (Wild West Hosting / Go Daddy) in US dollars for my domain.
  • These and other services are paid for using Paypal, which, last time I checked, was still a US company.
  • Advertisements on my regular website are served by Google, which, also, is a US company. This also means I get income from … a US company.
  • Almost all my visitors are American as I write for an English speaking audience.

I’m not sure if any of this is lawful. Perhaps, being active in America in any other way than singing the national anthem and waving a flag is illegal these days. But, I’d say that an English resource which is heavily linked to and visited by thousands (mostly Americans) should somehow be able to fit these requirements. After all, how are the interests of the American people served if a .US website is taken off-line because it’s run by a foreigner from overseas? Are my American visitors supposed to be happy if their links stop working and the top search results for some of their searches suddenly disappear?

I guess that’s not the point and I’m hoping that one of my visitors can help me figure out what I should send to Andrea to make her happy to let me keep the domain for which I’ve paid good USD.

Native PostgreSQL authentication in Rails with rails-psql-auth

A while ago, I wrote a PostgreSQL auth plugin for Rails. The plugin basically defers all authentication and authorization worries to the database layer where they are supposed to be taken care of anyway.

Using this plugin, the user is asked for his or her credentials using a HTTP Basic authentication challenge. (The code for this is adapted from Coda Hale‘s Basic HTTP authentication plugin.) It’s possible to specify a guest_username in the database.yml which will be used as a fall-back if no credentials are supplied. After successful login or if a guest user is found, the plugin will make sure that all database operations run as that user. If any operation fails due to insufficient user rights, the user will be prompted for a username/password pair again.

Detailed and up-to-date documentation for the plugin can always be found at the plugin’s homepage. Go to the plugin’s project page for getting help or for reporting issues with the plugin.

Efficient scanning and storing of documents

I don’t like having an administration in dead-tree format, but there are those who insist on sending you all kinds of things in this format. To make this data easier to access and back up, I scan it to a digital format. I used to do this manually, with the GIMP, but I decided it was time for some automation. Therefore I wrote a script, which scans whatever you put under the lid of the scanner in lineart mode, and stores it very efficiently in a DjVu DjVuBitonal document. And here it is:

#! /bin/bash
# Author: halfgaar
# Prevent attacker from placing unholy replacements of system commands in your
# working path.
# User settings
[ ! -n "$OUTPUT_FILE_BASENAME" ] && "No filename given" && 1
 [ -e "$TEMP_FILE" ];
  "Temp file $TEMP_FILE already exists. We don't want to create a symlink vulnerability here..."
 [ -e "$OUTPUT_FILE" ];
  "$OUTPUT_FILE already exists."
# page dimensions are in mm
scanimage -d $SCANNER_DEVICE -x 210 -y 297 --mode lineart --resolution $RESOLUTION > $TEMP_FILE

Simple, but effective. I may extend it in the future to also be able to scan into a DjVuDocument file (a file containing both DjVuBitonal and DjVuPhoto segments), but for now, this serves.

Microsoft batch file meets bash shellscript

Luca City, who already shared a nice readline keyboard shortcut with me, wrote me again on May 14 to share another unrelated, but very interesting trick:

Hi Rowan,
as you are interested in tricks and curiosities, I send you a thing.
I wanted a script to be runnable from both windows and linux and I found out a way to do it. Generally you can have two different files, one for each OS, but I started with this goal in mind and then it became a challenge. After trying a bit, playing with the strangest tricks of the two batch languages (bat and bash), I ended up with this solution. Actually it is not so useful 🙂 but anyway…

Well Luca, regardless of the usefulness of your script, I happen to think that it’s pure genius, so I’m going to share it here:

off ; +v # > NUL
; GOTO { true; } # > NUL
# bash part, replace it to suit your needs
REM win part, replace it to suit your needs

Give the script a .bat extension for Windows and set the executable bit(s) for Unix.

Thanks, Luca, for sharing another nice trick with us.

Allowing dots in WordPress post slugs

I was once again annoyed by the fact that WordPress doesn’t allow dots in post slugs. Luckily, this time I hadn’t published the post with a botched URL yet. (I don’t like changing permalinks because they’re meant to be permanent; cool URLs don’t change.) A quick googling pointed me to a post in the WordPress support forum with a reference to the Periods in Titles WordPress plugin.

The plugin works great and allowed me to post http:///2007/05/30/ with dots and without problems.

Jeroen Dekker (photography) on-line

Jeroen Dekker, a friend and photographer, has recently, on May the 5th, put his website on concert photography on-line. (Go check it out! He has some great pictures there.)

I was very flattered when I was asked by Jeroen to give some SEO advice in the test stage of his website. I was even happier when I saw how well he had implemented my suggestions. In his concert photography section, he now has links consisting of the event name and the band name and the number of the photo. An example URL: Also his page titles follow the same structure. As is often the case with SEO, the best results are acquired by remembering that good URLs are URLs which are cool enough that you won’t want to change the in the future and that good titles are titles which look good anywhere, be it in a bookmark or a search result.

Jeroen Dekker concert photography Jeroen Dekker news

I also noticed that, following some evangelizing on semantics and CSS from me, he had greatly cleaned up the HTML markup. Some pages could still profit from some bettermore pedantic markup though. An example from the news section (cleaned up for readability):

<p> The following bands played:<br>
 - <a href="">Eluveitie</a><br>
 - <a href="">Thy  Majestie</a><br>
 - <a href="">Drottnar</a><br>
 - <a href="">Whispering Gallery</a><br>

In my opinion, the above is a very awkward way to define what is really an unordered list:

<p>The following bands played:</p>
  <li><a href="">Eluveitie</a></li>
  <li><a href="">Thy  Majestie</a></li>
  <li><a href="">Drottnar</a></li>
  <li><a href="">Whispering Gallery</a></li>

Finally, a nice touch that I noticed on his site is that he doesn’t have explicit pagination. By this I mean that clicking on the page 2 link simply takes you to the first photo on that page, so that he needs only an URL for each photo and not an URL for each page or even photoset.

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