Spam Anatomy

I received an email today that I thought would be a good way to illustrate some of the ways that spam works. I took a screen shot of the email.

Hello, We discovered your internet site and so I would privately wish to invite you to test our new program build to help individuals like yourself gain additional earnings online. Keep this top secret, this is developing a MAJOR stur inside the ‘make money’ community… We’re not charging anything, simply follow the link below to look at our online video and begin producing the cash you know you deserve! [LINK] Sincerely, Fred


Here are clues that tell me this is spam:

  1. “We discovered your internet site…” Odd language.
  2.  “Keep this top secret…” This should raise red flags. If they really have a product that can make money, it wouldn’t be secret.
  3. “A MAJOR stur…” Spelling errors make me suspicious.
  4. “The ‘make money’ community…” Oddly ambiguous. More odd language.
  5. “We’re not charging anything…” Then it’s too good to be true. If they really have a product that can make money, it wouldn’t be free.
  6. “Simply follow the link…” This is always to call to action. They want you to click on the link. But the link will take you to a place where either your computer will get a virus, or they can find more information they can use from your computer.

Do not be suckered in. Delete the email immediately. Don’t even look at it!

Don’t Be a Victim of Phishing Scams

Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information by pretending to be a familiar or trustworthy source in an email. Fraudulent emails from popular sites like banks, online payment processors, and IT administrators are commonly used to lure unsuspecting victims.

Essentially, phishing is an information-gathering technique that isn’t necessarily damaging in and of itself. However, when unsuspecting victims provide bits of information, a savvy criminal can piece them together to gain access to areas and information that are private.

Phishing techniques

Spear phishing – Attempts directed at specific individuals or companies have been termed spear phishing. Attackers may gather personal information about their target to increase their probability of success.

Clone phishing – An attack whereby a legitimate and previously delivered email containing an attachment or link has had its content and recipient address(es) taken and used to create an almost identical or cloned email. The attachment or link within the email is replaced with a malicious version and then sent from an email address spoofed to appear to come from the original sender. It may claim to be a resend of the original or an updated version to the original. This technique could be used to pivot (indirectly) from a previously infected machine and gain a foothold on another machine, by exploiting the social trust associated with the inferred connection due to both parties receiving the original email.

Whaling – Several recent phishing attacks have been directed specifically at senior executives and other high profile targets within businesses, and the term whaling has been coined for these kinds of attacks.

What should you look for?

  • Be wary of emails from unknown sources. If you can’t recall having given your email to the company claiming to need more information, there is a good chance it is a phishing scam.

  • If the list of recipients (To: line) is very large or undisclosed, the email is likely a scam.

  • If the email is coming from your own email address (From: line), it’s time to change your password because someone is using your name and email to lure others into providing more information.

  • Links that are misspelled or not quite right are a telltale sign

  • If an email contains an attachment that you weren’t expecting, do not open it. It may contain a virus.

A Smart Consumer of Digital Information does the following:

  • Deletes suspicious emails

  • Does not open unexpected email attachments

  • Does not click on links in suspicious emails. Links can be doctored or spoofed to look legitimate. If you must go to the website, open a new window and type in the URL then navigate to the page with the information you are looking for.

Is it worth it to be so cautious?

Absolutely. What’s at stake is the integrity of your data and your identity. When it comes to keeping your digital data safe, you can never be too cautious.

All About Roundabouts

Mankato, MN is currently adding 2 roundabouts about a half mile from my house. They are on the same road, consecutive blocks (so, boom-boom).

Find out more here….

I’ve been slightly obsessed with roundabouts lately. Not sure why. They seem like such an elegant solution to an often troublesome problem. However, they are not elegant at all if users do not know how to use them properly. I was once a passenger in a car that was being driven by a person who didn’t know how to drive through one. I was scared for my life when she came to a complete stop inside the circle. I guess I’d like for that to never happen again….

Here are some rules of thumb about driving through a roundabout:

  • Slow down before you enter.
  • Pick your lane. Generally speaking, if you want to leave the circle to the right, chose the right lane. If you want to leave the circle to the left, chose the left lane.
  • You may have to stop before you enter the traffic circle.
  • Find a gap in the traffic to enter the circle. The traffic in the circle has the right-of-way, yield to it.
  • Never switch lanes inside the circle and never overcome another vehicle.
  • If you chose your lane properly, you should be able to exit the circle heading in the right direction without having to cross over a lane or another vehicle.
  • Use your signal to exit the circle.


The US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration has published an entire technical summary of roundabouts that I thought was very interesting and fun to read.

Here are some good tidbits about roundabouts that you may not have considered:

  • The geometry of the circle and the roads leading to into it are designed to be taken at slow speeds. It’s difficult to speed through without taking it on 2 wheels….
  • Roundabouts are safer than traditional lighted and signed intersections. In fact, roundabouts have been shown to reduce total crashes by 35% and injury crashes by 76%. And think about this: since there are no T-bone crashes, “severe, incapacitating injuries and fatalities are rare, with one study reporting 89-percent reduction in these types of crashes and another reporting 100-percent reduction in fatalities.”
  • Roundabouts are cheap! Since there is no hardware or electricity, the only costs are for landscaping maintenance.
  • And the best thing is, most of the time you don’t have to stop! No idling makes it better for the environment.

And finally, for your viewing pleasure:


My company (Socket Mobile) wanted to do a 360° feature of some of its products but we were going to have to purchase some sort of software to be able to do it. We decided to do the project in-house.

The project involved three parts: 1) We needed to take professional grade product photographs, then 2) do post production work in Photoshop. And finally, 3) use Adobe Flash to animate the scanner and create a playback control (a slider bar).

Taking Pictures

My partner, Mike Gifford, and I had basic tools:

• A digital SLR camera
• A decent lens
• 3 external lights
• A tripod

In addition, we had:

• One of those white tent-like things you use to take commercial pictures of products
• A turntable with markings every 10 degrees
• A vise that would be used to hold the product precisely in the middle, precisely upright

The “studio” was set up like this, with a camera and a tripod, focused on the scanner.

Inside the tent, the vise gripped a small bit that stuck straight up. The scanner has a small screw hole in the very bottom that accommodates a screw-in stylus tip. Here we used it to “accommodate” the bit.

I stood just outside the tent, just past the flash unit, so that I could reach in and turn the turntable. We had a mark on the surface underneath the turntable to use as the reference point. Starting at 0 degrees, we took a picture every 15 degrees. (Inevitably, as we began to turn the turntable, the scanner didn’t seem to be straight up and down at certain points. We fixed it later in Photoshop.) We took 24 pictures in all.

Post Production

In Photoshop, using Bridge, I did a few easy batch jobs. I cropped first because there were a few pictures with my hand still in them on the edge. Then I color balanced, then resized and optimized for the web.

Once all the pics were cropped and color balanced, one-by-one I removed the background.

The last post production step was to remove the bit from the images and align them all as precisely as possible.

The result was very clean professional images of our scanner:

Simple Interactive Animation

I used Flash to create a simple interactive animation. Just like a flip book, the images, when stacked and flipped through, give the impression that the object is spinning.

In Flash, I put each image in its own key frame, making sure they were all aligned in the same spot on each frame. I used the first one at the beginning and the end, to make one full revolution, 25 frames in all.

Next, I made two rollover buttons, a square and a circle, with only two states, Up and Over. In the Up state it is gray. In the Over state it is Socket orange.

I made 25 unique instances of the buttons, one for each frame.

To create the slider bar, I used a circle at each end, and squares in-between. When they are side by each, they look like a slider bar with rounded ends.

Each button is linked to a frame (in the Actionscript). When the cursor hovers over a button, it turns Socket orange and displays the corresponding frame. The result is when you slide your cursor over the bar, the scanner spins.

Click here if you’d like to see the SWF

[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”rotateCHS.swf” width=”311″ height=”570″ targetclass=”flashmovie”]

Get Adobe Flash player


Leave a comment if you’d like the Actionscript 3.0.