Georgetown Hospital blocks MT.Net, gives Facebook a pass

I’m connected to Georgetown University Hospital’s MedStarGuest network and trying to keep from being bored between tests. I was about to do some blogging this morning when I was greeted with a WebSense notification that my blog has been blocked:

No MT.Net for you!

No MT.Net for you!

What makes this particularly amusing is that Facebook is not blocked by the hospital’s WebSense nanny filter. It seems that MarkTurner.Net is considered “Social Networking” but Facebook, the granddaddy of all social networking sites, is not blocked for being “Social Networking.” What’s even more amusing is that other sites I host on the very same site using the very same software (like LigonPTA.com) are not blocked. Somehow I’ve earned inclusion onto WebSense’s no-no list.

This is yet another example of how idiotic these Internet nanny filters can be. Attention fellow IT people: there is no substitution for monitoring your own network. Don’t delegate your network monitoring to stupid products like WebSense.

And aren’t “guest” networks supposed to be safe for guests? Protect your important infrastructure with a secure network but your visitors shouldn’t need nanny filters.

Fortunately my VPN has not been blocked so that I could bring you this important message.

How I almost invented Wikipedia

Wikipedia Logo

Wikipedia Logo

I sold one of my domain names this month, reliablesources.com. I had that domain longer than I’ve had kids, registering it on 17 January 2000. Two months ago the domain became old enough to drive.

I remember just where I was when I decided to register the domain. I was in my entrepreneurial phase at the time, working with some extremely talented friends at NeTraverse and while I was on a business trip to Austin I dreamed up what I thought would be an innovative website.

I was a regular reader of the Slashdot (which was recently sold) nerd news website back then and was intrigued by its “karma” system of ranking posts. I wanted to apply this karma ranking to the people in the news, giving users the ability to rank what someone in the news says based on that person’s known credibility.

It was inspired by President Bill Clinton’s time in office. The Office of the President carries a lot of built-in credibility, for instance, so right away you’re going to listen to what the President says. But what if the President is caught lying (i.e., “I did not have sexual relations…”)? That should make one skeptical of whatever that President says, knocking down his or her karma score.
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Script kiddie fail

Watch out, we've got a badass over here.

Watch out, we’ve got a badass over here.


Some bored kid out there has taken to brute force attacking my webserver in the early morning. I just noticed this referrer entry on the URL:

[Redacted IP] – – [19/Jan/2016:03:33:28 -0500] “POST /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1” 200 3416 “-” “–user-agent=Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Ubuntu; Linux x86_64; rv:39.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/39.0”

Catch that? Whatever script Dr. Evil is trying to run here sets the referrer value by using –user-agent= as an argument. Instead, our boy genius is passing…

–user-agent=”–user-agent …”

Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

Google Search Console fail

Google gets it wrong

Google gets it wrong


I got a helpful email from Google today (and, yes, I checked the headers. It is indeed from Google), alerting me that my blog is apparently running a version of WordPress which is five years old. This is news to me since I regularly update WordPress (currently on version 4.4). I’m not sure how the all-knowing Goog got fooled into thinking I haven’t updated my blog platform for five years. It’s a rare miss for this ubiquitous search company.

Adaptive firewall rules with the react module

I’ve been fighting off hackers to MT.Net for several years now. My traditional way of doing this has been to manually flag the IP address of the attacker and add it to a block list. This used to be very effective, but then attackers began enlisting bot networks with dozens of IPs per attack. It because impossible to block them all without making it a full-time job.

About three years ago I implemented adaptive firewall rules which will track URL requests and only allow a certain number of those requests before blocking further ones. I blogged about their success and then … promptly stopped using it for some reason!

Today I noticed I was no longer using these amazing rules and promptly put them back into place. Like magic, the huge load I had seen on my webserver promptly disappeared. Now it doesn’t matter how many IPs an attack originates from, it will be blocked! That IP will not be able to launch any further attacks for 5 more minutes.

I love using smart approaches to problems. Just wish I remembered to keep them around next time!

From Gateway theme to Dellow

I got tired of the Gateway WordPress Theme because it teased me with features only available in the pro version. I don’t mind starting out with the basic, free version of the software if I know going in what I get for free and what I need the premium version for. I also wanted to add Infinite Scroll to make my blog perform the way all other social media sites now perform. I don’t know if even the premium version of the Gateway Theme does this.

With a little more poking around the Internets, I found the Dellow Theme. Dellow offers a cool Parallax effect with the header image. For the unaware, the Parallax effect scrolls an image or frame at a fraction of the rest of the page, offering a cool depth-of-field effect. Dellow also offers Infinite Scroll so that webpage visitors never reach the end of my blog.

Now, I’ve read that search engines sometimes have trouble finding content on an infinite scroll page. This remains to be seen. If it cuts into my search traffic then I may have to rethink my strategy. All told, I am impressed with what the free version of Dellow offers, so much that I immediately paid for the Dellow Plus version to show the author thanks.

Please help me kick the tires and let me know what you think of it. Thanks!

Happy New Year

Today is the first day of 2016 and it finds the Turners doing very well. Twenty-fifteen was a very good year for us with plenty of notable events, some sad but most happy. I will be posting my usual highlights over the next few days in an effort to capture the moment.

Astute readers might also notice that I am testing out new WordPress themes for MarkTurner dot Net. Your reader experience might change a bit here and there but the content and links will remain the same. If you like or don’t like a particular theme choice, please let me know in a comment.

At the time of this writing I am using the Gateway theme.

MT.Net goes Creative Commons

I’ve been mulling this over for a while now and have decided to put my blog and photographs under a Creative Commons – Attribution license. That means you can use my material here without asking, so long as you attribute my work to Mark Turner (and include a link to my site where possible).

I look forward to seeing where my blog material winds up.

Paying the freight

It was a difficult decision to add advertisements back to MT.Net after flirting with them last year. I don’t want to tart up my blog too much but yet if there were a way I could make money by blogging I figured it was worth a try.

I’m not making bank by any stretch but I was delighted to discover that for the month of November this blog paid for itself for the very first time. My advertising revenue exceeded my hosting costs.

Don’t count on me quitting my day job anytime soon but at least I’m cash-flow positive!

Update 12 Dec: Math is hard. I got the monthly and overall balances mixed up. Turns out I made $15 last month from web ads, not $35. It’s a start, though, right?