Alfredo's blog

How to spot Spam in Blog Comments and How to Get Rid of It

There are several programs out there used by spammers to automatically enter comments in blogs, so you need to be able to prevent them from polluting your comments. This blog doesn't generate enough traffic to get many comments, yet I was getting about one piece of spam per day. After implementing a spam filter and Recaptcha a few months ago, only one piece of spam made it through.

A spam filter will recognize common spam comments, but it's not perfect. Recaptcha asks the commenter to type two words before they can submit their comment. This ensures it's a human entering the comment and not an automated blog spammer.

Spammers want to post a comment in your blog to advertise their website and products hoping that one of your readers will click on their website. Also, having their links in many blogs helps them with SEO, by making the search engines think their websites are popular because they are all over the place.

To recognize spam without tools, you need to pay attention to the comment and the link. Here are some ways to recognize spam:

  1. the comment is vague and could be applied to any blog posting. For example, "very good information you write it very clean. I’m very lucky to get this info from you."
  2. the comment sounds like it was originally written in a foreign language and then filtered through Google translate. Same example again, "Very good information you write it very clean. I'm very lucky to get this info from you."
  3. the comment has a link back to a dubious website. Common ones are gambling, file sharing, porn, online stocks, and online pharmacies.
  4. the email address of the commenter is something weird that no human would have as their email address. For example, shrldx@yahoo.com

If your blog doesn't generate much traffic, like mine, a spam filter and recaptcha will get rid of automated spam. Now I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the sound of crickets. Nice.

1005PE-PU17 "decent Hulu and YouTube performance (believe it or not"

I'm considering purchasing an netbook, the Asus Eee PC 1005PE-PU17, and want to know how good it is displaying Hulu videos because I watch quite of lot of Hulu. So, I searched for 1005PE-PU17 hulu and the same review was in almost every result.

If you do a search for 1005PE-PU17 "decent Hulu and YouTube performance (believe it or not" you will see exactly that same review in about 110 websites. The original review is from Amazon and the rest of those websites copied it. I think those websites are trying to get content on the cheap quickly and look popular right off the bat by using reviews from Amazon.

One problem with this behavior is that it pollutes search results. I'm trying to look for all websites that have reviews of the 1005PE-PU17 netbook and also mention Hulu, but instead I get the same review over and over. The interesting thing is that by writing about it, this blog post will eventually also be in the result list when searching for 1005PE-PU17 "decent Hulu and YouTube performance (believe it or not". Doh!

How to create a video. How to convert avi to mp4 and wmv. How to play video from a website.

Recently, I had to create a video tutorial showing how to use a program running on my desktop. The video had to play on a website and allow visitors to download it in xvid, mp4, and wmv format. If you are faced with a similar task, this is what you have to do.

First, I needed the necessary video codecs, so I downloaded and instaled ffdshow tryouts. It has the codecs for decoding/encoding many video and audio formats and comes with many postprocessing filters. It had the xvid, wmv, and h264 codecs required for the job.

I didn't want to use my voice in the tutorial, so I created a script of what was to be said in the tutorial and had someone else read it. The reader was to read slowly and pause after each sentence. A headset microphone and Audacity were used to record a series of mp3s of the tutorial, where each mp3 corresponded to a logical section of the video (e.g. introduction, action 1, action 2, ending). Audacity doesn't come with the mp3 codec, so read their instructions for downloading and installing the LAME MP3 encoder in Audacity. Turn off the volume in your desktop or you may hear an echo in the recording.

CamStudio was used to capture video motion happening on the desktop. I set it to record only video and not audio. Then I performed the actions while the audio played in the background. This allowed me to easily create video that was synchronized with the audio.

At this point, I had a series of videos in avi format and their corresponding audio in mp3 format. I combined each video with its corresponding audio using VirtualDub, a simple video capture/editing program for avi files. Then I used VirtualDub again to append each avi together into one avi video file. This gave me an avi version of the video I needed.

Because the video is to be watched from a website, it needed to be converted into progressive video, so viewers could start watching after part of the video had downloaded into their computers. I used Handbrake to resize and convert the video to xvid, h264 and wmv. To convert the avi to wmv I used Windows Media Encoder 9 Series. These utilities made the computer CPU overheat. I had to place an ice pack on the CPU's heatsink to prevent it from overheating during the process. Sometimes we have to get creative and do whatever it takes to complete a job. [UPDATE 2010/08/12: My desktop is an AMD dual core, so it has two CPUs. I just discovered today, that if I make Handbrake or Windows Media Encoder 9 Series run on only one of the CPUs my desktop doesn't overheat. To make it run on only one CPU, I used Process Explorer. It a more powerful version of Window's task manager. Run Process Explorer and right click on the program you want to run on one CPU and select the option "Set Affinity..." and just leave one CPU checked.]

I don't recommend using Windows Movie Maker to convert avi to wmv. When I tried it the resulting video was too blurry and there were no options to resize the video. Use Windows Media Encode 9 Series to convert avi to wmv.

To have the video play from a website, I used JW Player. I purchased their one website comercial license, but you can use it for free on non-comercial websites. Another solution is to upload your video to YouTube and embed the link in your website.

If you plan on having a lot of video hosted on your server, you may want to pay attention to bandwidth. If you start getting close to your host's bandwidth limit, you could have YouTube take care of the hosting, or store the videos in Amazon S3 storage. Amazon S3 is not a free solution, but it costs pennies per GB. Setting it up is topic for another blog post.

To burn your video to a DVD, use DVDStyler. You can also create menus with that program. I didn't need it for this job, but I used it to burn an avi family video to DVD.

Here you have all the free tools you need to capture video and audio from your desktop, edit video and audio, convert avi to mp4 and wmv, and display video on your website.

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