Category Archives: pain

Oh Mariam Almaleek, we could have had something.

Normally, I ignore the constant stream of spam that comes my way. But I got an email from a scammer, and I wanted to waste the scammer’s time, so I thought I would have some fun. The scammer’s emails are in indented green; my replies are in bold blue.

Please permit me to introduce myself and my reason for contacting you as we have not met before. My name is Mariam Almaleek (Miss) from Ivory Coast in West African Sub-Region.
I am 22years only and a second year accountancy student.I am the only daughter (child) of my late parents who died some years back (Mr .Kamal and Mrs Hanifah Almaleek).

The reason I contacted you is about a business proposal you might be interestest on but before I go into details I would want to know more about you. Please respond me as quickly as possible so I can furnish you with more details.
I am looking up to hearing from you ASAP.
Thanks and God bless

Nice to hear from you.  I am a successful businessman looking for new opportunities.  Let me know what you have in mind.

Dear Mr. David
Thanks a lot for your response to my letter.   Before I go in details, I would like to re-introduce myself once again so as to allow you know more about me. My name is Mariam Almaleek, 22 years old and a second year accountancy student. I am the only surviving child of my late parents (Mr. Kamal and Mrs.Hanifah Almaleek). My mother who died when I was only 4 years was a white South African. My father married her when he based in South Africa but they later came back here in Ivory Coast in West Africa which is my father’s home country and I was born and raised up here.
Before his tragic death, my father was a well known business person here who uses to export Cocoa,Rubber,Coffee and other agricultural produce from here to overseas. Sadly to say, my father was poison by his uncle because of his wealth.
However, the reason I contacted you is about some money ($6.500.000) my father deposited in a bank here. My father told me by his bed side that he planned to use the money set-up a Rubber processing factory so as to enable him meet a demand of the product at that time but his uncle decided to poison him because of greed over his wealth.
When his health deteriorated, he advised me to look for a reliable business person outside my country here who can assist me claim and invest the money into REAL ESTATE BUSINESS overseas. Now, I am soliciting your assistance to claim the money and to invest it into the REAL ESTATE BUSINESS as my father had instructed or any other business in your country.
Please if you are interested and willing to help me, do let me know as quickly as possible so we can discuss how to proceed.
I am hopefully waiting on your soonest and positive response.
Thanks and God bless
Miss Mariam Almaleek

Miss Mariam Almaleek,

Thank you for the background information; I hope your father’s uncle is brought to justice over his horrible act.  What a tragedy!

What are the next steps for me to assist you in claiming your father’s money?  Do you have any other information you can give me about his business?

Dear Mr. David
Thanks for your response and willingness to help me. First of all, I would like to assure you that my late father was a well respected person during his time and he earned the money by honest means.
The reason I contacted you for help is because of my father’s advice to me to look for someone outside here to help me invest the money overseas so I can stay away from his siblings.
Now, I would want you to tell me more about your self and your government’s condition concerning foreigners coming to invest there.
Also, I want you to send me your personal information’s such as ( your Identity Card, your address, telephone and fax number) so I can submit it to the bank here. I will send you the deposit slip of the money and other details as soon as I submit your personal information’s to the bank and you will contact the bank to know how the transfer can be carry out to your account.
While the transfer will be going on, you will send me a letter of invitation so as to allow me get your country’s visa here because I would want to join you there immediately after the transfer is done.
When I come there we will discuss face to face about investments and how you can help me resume my education there
I am hopefully awaiting your soonest response so I can proceed.
Thanks and God bless
Attached is my picture

(That photo looks like it was scanned right out of some fashion catalog)

So it’s the same old “send me your personal information so I can rip you off while you are waiting for a big money transfer” scam. Nice try. Here, let me offer some bait:


I have been working in the software business for about 20 years now and I’ve had several successful investment engagements with foreigners already.  In fact, I find this type of work to be very rewarding.  I once partnered with a languishing software reseller that was struggling until we found some investors from overseas.  Now the company is pulling in $20 million annually.  Our government seldom has problems with overseas money, as long as the investments are not made with illegal means.  To this end, I will be willing to provide my personal information if I can receive a token of good faith, such as a picture showing the letterhead of stationary used by your father’s business, or a picture showing yourself and your father together.

I look forward to doing business.

Dear Mr David
Thanks for telling me about you. See in the attachment a picture I took with my late father and his French business partner when they inaugurated a joint Rubber processing company here few months before my father’s death but its regrettable the way my father’s share in the company and other assets was sold off by his uncle after my father’s death.
Also you will see in the attachment a picture of my father’s coffin during his burial ceremony. As I said before, I will send you the contact of the bank and other details concerning the fund as soon as I received your information’s and submits it to the bank. Then you will negotiate with the bank on how to get the fund transfer to your account.
I am looking forward to hearing from you
Thanks and God bless

That second picture has some EXIF information in the photo data:

Software|Adobe Photoshop CS2 Windows

Uh huh. Yeah. Look at her head in that second picture. Click to see the bigger version, and look at how her head stands out from the rest of the picture.
Now, “she” tries to sweeten the deal by sexing it up a little bit:

Dear Mr. David
See in the attachment three more of my pics.


Uh huh. What I want to know is what the poor woman who posed for these photos thinks of being used in an international scam like this.


Thank for the information and photos.  As I prepare my personal information, I would like to get some more information about the Rubber processing company so I have all my records straight before we conduct our transaction. Can you tell me the name of the company, as well as the full names of your father and uncle?


But she’s starting to sniff me out:

Dear Mr David
I have given you the necessary information’s about me as well as my late father’s picture as you requested but I am wondering now if you really want to help me?. Please, this is a transaction that involves large sum of money my late father toiled in years to earned here, therefore I need to know more about you so as to reassure my trust in you.
I will send you further information’s as requested but let me get your details and conclude discussion with the bank here.
Thanks and God bless

Mariam, thank for this opportunity.  I understand your concern.  But from time to time I receive information about people that are not honest about their business transactions online.  I really do want to help you.  But I need some more evidence that you are truly who you say you are and that your father did indeed leave you the money.  All I need is some more information about the names of your father and uncle, and the name of the Rubber plant.  Also, tell me which details you need from me to initiate this transaction.  What kind of bank account will work best for you?

Dear mr david
Thank you for your response, but I would say that your interest to assist me was rather unspecific following the sentences contained in your reply. You seem to doubt the authenticity of my proposal which I dont find strange because of the means by which I have contacted you, Please accept my apologies for this, it was due to prompt accessment of your recent email.
I am quite skeptical in believing that you really want to help me,if not, why were you reluctant in sending me your personal data so as to allow me know whom I am dealing with.
Considering the money involved, it is rather uncompromised for me to release more information about my family unless i see your reliable information and be sure of the person I am entrusting my father’s hard earned money to his hand, my trust is not given out lightly on this. I need to be convinced that you are a honest person with some integrity.
You should also have trust in me as I will have in you otherwise what will be the point going further if we cannot establish some trust for each other. It is true that I contacted you for assistance due to my present situation as orphan but your decision to help me will only be at your free will as I cannot impose it on you, it is your choice to disagree or accept with the principles as a whole.
I would indeed be overwhelmed seen you in person here if that is possible, perhaps I would lead you to the bank so you will stand as my guidian to do a face to face negotiation with them concerning this transaction.
Well if I may remind you again, you are required to send a copy of your Driver’s Licence or your International Passport, your address and phone numbers. My curiousity can be justified considering the money in question, besides, it is this copy of your Driver’s Licence or International Passport that will be be used by the bank to have all the necesary documentations perfected.
If you really intend to help me it would be necessary to have these scanned and sent to me immediately via email attachment.

OK; fine. Mariam, you win. A scan of my license, eh? I can do that. Oops, something must have gone “wrong” with my “scanner”:


Sorry for the long delay in replying – I was away on travel for business.  It has been a very stressful time for me and unfortunately my emails have piled up; it’s been hard to keep up with everything.  I’m sure you can relate to this.  Do you have days like this when you think you simply cannot keep up with everything that’s happening?  Sometimes I wonder if I am in the right profession.  Have you ever thought this?  What would your dream job be?  I am very curious, since you are from another country; I believe our American work culture is very different from other countries.  I’d be very interested to know what it’s like to work in your country.

Anyway, I had some problems with my old scanner.  I went out and bought a new one, but the Windows drivers were flaky – the scanning program crashed a few times.  But I did manage to get a good scan of my license in between crashes.  It is attached.

I look forward to speaking with you about the next steps.  I hope I can be of assistance in your time of need!

Dear Mr. David
Thanks for your email I had received. Anyway, I will be waiting till you put your scanner in order, then you can send me a clear picture of your identity card with your separate picture to my curiosity. Also you will send me your address, and phone numbers.  

I will tell you when I get your clear scanned identity card and other information’s. What you sent can not be considered identity card as no immage appeares in it.


I think I have resolved the problem with my scanner. Probably something to do with gamma rays and sunspots. Anyway, my license is attached. I look forward to the next steps of our business arrangement!

Yes. That’s right. I *am* McLovin’.

I didn’t hear from her again. Well, duh.

Scammer ephemera

The white noise of the internet comes and goes. Here is a recent example:

Round One:

On Jan 19, 2008, at 1:59 PM, wrote:

I want to propose you a deal, if you let me use your ebay account i
will give you 5000$ a month.
You will only have to let me post some auctions on it and you will
get this money.
eBay will believe that someone broke into your account, they don’t
have to know that you gave it to me.
They will think i stoled it. Please reply if you are interested. I
repeat, nobody will ever know you gave it to me.
Thank you.

At this point I’m thinking maybe I can waste this scammer’s time with some bait.

Round Two:

Thanks! This sounds interesting. Where does the $5000 come from?
How do you make that much money to give me?

Thanks; I’m very excited about this.

Round Three:

my name is James Kastoria, i am in london, UK.
I will list laptops, cameras, sewing machines…
ebay will charge you for this listings.
but they will cancel them and refund your money immediatly.
they will suspend your account then, and you need to make it work again.
that is simple just change your passowrd, and give it to me so i can list again…
you need to work like 10 mintues a day and you get $5000 a month.

Round Four:

Very interesting; is there somebody who has worked with you before that can tell me how well it worked for them? if so, i will consider giving you my login.

Round Five:

Date: January 28, 2008 2:34:01 PM EST
Subject: Mail System Error – Returned Mail

Reason: 5.1.1 No such user

Damn! It was just starting to get interesting. And I was just about to give him some bogus eBay account info.

Semi-related note: Chris reports an actual spam email he received that had the following subject: Lesbians and their lovely sheeps.

Count the Start buttons

Another evil incarnation of “turduckenology” arose yesterday at work. From my virtual Windows XP instance running inside Parallels Desktop on my Mac, I needed to make a remote desktop connection to my Windows XP desktop, which is running a Virtual PC 2007 instance of a virtual machine that itself had a remote desktop connection over a VPN to a client machine on their network:

That’s me diving through the rabbit hole of *four* instances of Windows via my Mac, so I can install our software on a client’s machine. The horror!

What really bends my noodle during this is figuring out how to copy and paste all the way up and down the chain of Windows instances. And it’s really easy to lose track of which Windows XP you are in when you are clicking around – it’s easy to run the wrong program in the wrong place!

These are the kinds of memories that will preoccupy my demented dreams when I am an old man in a nursing home.

There are always reasons to hate computers.

So, why post another?

Well, this error I recently experienced in Eclipse was amusing:

“An internal error occurred while showing an internal error.” Eclipse’s way of saying, “Senator, I do not recollect those events.”

Real life analogy: Barb at BKA once told us about a former coworker of hers who accidentally cut off his finger on some industrial equipment at the WestVaco paper mill in Covington, Virginia. A manager wanted to know what happened, so the coworker went to the machine and demonstrated the chain of events. And lost another finger.

No math, no gain

More research is leading me to more funny moments while reading papers. In a paper that seeks to explain an optimization technique called the Conjugate Gradient Method, there is a page that is blank except for a brief listing of keywords associated with the paper’s topics:

Keywords: conjugate gradient method, preconditioning, convergence analysis, agonizing pain

Here is the paper, should you desire to torture yourself.

Some subjects go well together

I like the fact that, in their product recommendations, offered me books on these two subjects right next to each other:


Yes, computers and anger are a natural fit. knows this. The technology wins every time, and we are left to fume at its dominance over us, as this classic clip perfectly captures:

(link to video)


A software development war story follows. It will bore you to tears if you are not interested in software development. On second thought, it will probably bore you to tears if you ARE interested in software development. Because it truly IS boring. But it was painful, so I purge here now.

We finally went live with our web-based legal case management system for Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy and, as is typical of any software deployment, we encountered problems. A nasty search performance issue cropped up. Searching for trial cases in the app took over two minutes on average. Which is really terrible when you consider how little time it takes for Google to search the entire fracking internet !

So, while troubleshooting for many hours, we extracted the SQL and ran it by hand. Was there an issue with the database itself, or the indexing, or the query SQL?

Nope. The results returned from the database instantaneously.

Weird. We thought, “OK, is there maybe some weird connection pooling problem?”

Nope. Pools were working fine.

“Funky garbage collection janitor thread in the Tapestry web components?”

Nope. The thread was well-behaved.

“Slight differences in the syntax of the SQL generated by different JDBC query modes?”

Nope. Trying different modes resulted in the same fast queries.

We spent about three long days poking at this really obnoxious problem. Finally, through obsessive Googling, I found some obscure forum post explaining a peculiarity of SQL Server’s Unicode-based parameterization of SQL. Turns out that under certain situations, Microsoft SQL Server 2000 is really inefficient when sending Unicode-encoded parameters to queries. So inefficient that it turned our blistering fast search queries into depressing mush.

So, we’d have a database query like this: select [blah] from [table] where [column] = @P

where @P is a Unicode-compatible parameter (in SQL Server, it is of type nvarchar). Then, I added a setting to turn that Unicode stuff off. The result is that in the SQL, the parameter type of nvarchar is replaced with varchar, and the searches went from taking 2 minutes to taking a second or two.

nvarchar vs varchar.

One character. THREE DAYS of lost time. The needle in the haystack almost kicked our asses.

It’s like comparing apples to apples.

Galen, our technical manager, experienced a daily WTF moment of his own today. Here are the Java errors he quoted to us in our IRC channel:

15:35:28,248 ERROR [BasicPropertyAccessor] IllegalArgumentException in class: com.legaledge.harmony.summary.MinimalPerson, setter method of property: modelObjectType

15:35:28,248 ERROR [BasicPropertyAccessor] expected type: com.legaledge.harmony.model.objects.EntityType, actual value: com.legaledge.harmony.model.objects.EntityType

“classloaders. love ’em.”

“Hey, I was expecting an APPLE. Instead, you brought me an APPLE. Why in the world did you bring me an APPLE?”

The ever-tiny blockade

We’re on our insane crunch period trying to push out the latest release of our case management software for the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. We finally got a build together after many long hours, late nights, and weekend toil. A very frustrating and work-intensive time. So, today we finally start deploying our software to the client’s SQL Server environment, and all is going very well. The software is prepped, the environment is set up, files are transfered, and the databases are installed. We are moments away from showing the customer the software they’ve been patiently waiting on for many months.

Then, as is typical in software development, the last minute blockade appears. In this case, it was TCP port 1433. The SQL Server instance, despite being rigged to listen to TCP port 1433, would not listen to TCP port 1433. Was it the firewall? No. Some kind of network configuration error? No. SQL Server’s error logs show nothing. I keep looking, and looking, and still nothing. Valuable time drips away. The customer’s still waiting. I conference in with their network administrators, who are as baffled as me about what could possibly be causing this problem. I read several troubleshooting guides. Nothing. Then, I decide to look in the Event Viewer, and I find this gem:

You are running a version of Microsoft SQL Server 2000 or Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine (also called MSDE) that has known security vulnerabilities when used in conjunction with the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 family. To reduce your computer’s vulnerability to certain virus attacks, the TCP/IP and UDP network ports of Microsoft SQL Server 2000, MSDE, or both have been disabled. To enable these ports, you must install a patch, or the most recent service pack for Microsoft SQL Server 2000 or MSDE from

Our little software development army was pressed up against tiny, insignificant port 1433, simply because Microsoft had enough foresight to realize that maybe they shouldn’t allow their own virus-vulnerable product to sit naked on port 1433 inviting malware to feast on the server. Which, of course, made it useless to our app, since we need to connect to that port.

We lick our wounds and carry on, waiting for the next inevitable encounters with Murphy’s Law and Hofstadter’s Law.