Preventatives and preliminary plans

Sunday October 29, 2006

One of the things that truly irritates me on the world wide web is the way people casually steal bandwidth by direct linking to photographs and graphics on other folks’ websites so they may display them on their own web pages without acknowledgement or permission. Bandwidth has to be paid for one way or another and unauthorized ‘direct linking’ or ‘hot linking’ as it is sometimes known is theft, plain and simple.

Now, I have no objection at all to anyone borrowing my pictures for non-commercial use. I state as much, formally, by adopting a ‘creative commons’ licence in my side bar. When the graphic is used on someone’s website it’s nice to have an acknowledgement and even nicer to have a link back but there’s no way of enforcing it so I don’t sweat over it. Let’s face it, it’s flattering that someone likes your work enough to copy it.

That’s the key phrase—’copy it’. I expect the copyist to download a copy and store it in his or her own webspace for display. That doesn’t cost anything worth mentioning and, once done, costs me nothing at all. By using an <img href=…> direct link to my website however it costs bandwidth each time the page is viewed, eating into the allowance that comes with the webspace. Not so long ago I had over 10,000 such hits in one day from one source; that’s real money in anyone’s language.

That was exceptional. There’s a steady and increasing trickle of such illicit hits every day, however, and they do mount up. Every time I post a new photograph of any general interest, it is ‘hot linked’ within days, appearing on other websites, sometimes in a context that bothers me. I was horrified a few weeks back to find my memorial photo of Harry Cat displayed in a web collection of ‘cute cat pics’. I’ll be honest, all this has been discouraging me from sharing my pictures in the journal.

So, today, I delved into the mysteries of the ‘.htaccess’ feature and included code that bars all hot linking to my pictures, from whatever source. Doesn’t stop anyone from taking a copy for their own use and, as I say, I really don’t mind that.

It does stop this casual theft of bandwidth, though, so I’m much more content than I was.

If the perpetrators keep trying there’s a way of intercepting the link and substituting some other photograph. I doubt I’ll do that. It’s awfully tempting, though, to go off and find a truly horrid and grossly offensive pornographic shot for that purpose—let’s face it, they’re not difficult to locate—and let the thieves explain it away to their hosting service when the complaints start rolling in. I’ll not do it, but it is awfully tempting.

While I’m on the subject of Internet abuse I ought to explain something else. When you carve out a little niche for yourself on the Internet, and invite people to come visit, you’re making a small world of your very own. It can be as nice or as nasty as you choose; I prefer nice, and I know that my friends around the world feel the same way. They come visiting for a bit of peace and quiet, tinged with a little silliness now and then.

Sadly, not everyone thinks the same. Now and then, very rarely, someone will stumble in, leave an offensive comment or two, and, thankfully, go on their way. It’s the work of a moment to remove the comment, ban the author, and the matter is forgotten quick as quick. Folks who know me and my Internet history will however remember that there’s one particular person out there who has been stalking me for years. He raised his head again a couple of days back. I’m much better prepared now than I was originally, so I’ve done the ‘.htaccess’ and comment barring thing to prevent him from coming into my world until he changes location again. It’s my world, and I grant him no place in it.

Unfortunately, this mechanism is crude and bars not only the offender but also everyone else using the University of Arizona Internet service in Tucson. That’s an awful lot of good people and I’m really sorry about that. The UoA management fails to respond to my complaints however, or to grant me the courtesy of a reply of any kind, so there’s nothing much I can do about it.

On the Internet, as in real life, it’s up to the good apples in a barrel to seek out and eject the bad ones, I’m afraid.

Hey ho. That’s quite enough on that subject, for a good long while, I hope.

Today was the day of the great homecoming. I finished my laundry, and my cleaning, and Dolly and I sat quietly through the afternoon, not making a mess, waiting for the call. It was a few minutes after five when the phone rang. “I’m finished. Come and get me.”

And so we’re all of us back on normal routine once more. Graham’s had a beastly long, hard week, and will need a day or two to recuperate before picking up his jobs here in the house. Even so, we had a pleasant evening, sipping a rather nice Aussie plonk and then enjoying a dinner of the minorly celebrative kind.

Graham goes on to a three-day week from now until the end of November, opening the bar and diner at the weekends for those intrepid souls who come to stay in their caravans. The pace will pick up a bit as Christmas approaches, with a disjointed series of Christmas lunches. There’s a grand last effort for New Year, and then, blessings be, we’ll have until the end of March completely free.

We’ve a lot to do, in both house and garden, but Graham hasn’t announced the sequence of it all yet. I work on the principle that the bloke who carries the bucket gets to say what goes in it, in what order, and in what time. So I stand by, teapot at the ready, waiting to do what I’m told. Well, almost. I shall do my best.



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