How to use ssh as a proxy server

Using ssh as a proxy or encrypted tunnel to browse the web can sometimes be necessary:

  1. When you’re at a conference but need to login securely to your blog.
  2. When local access restrictions make life really difficult.
  3. If you have a server in another country and want to see what Google Adsense adverts people see in that country.

I use ssh for the third reason. I want to see what adverts people in the USA see when they look at my blog so I can filter out the low paying and MFA ads (see for more). Unfortunately I have a head like a sieve so unless it’s in the bash history I need to go look this up every few months:

ssh -D 8080 -Nf

Replace with your own hostname. That short command will create a socks5 proxy at Just configure your browser to talk to that and you’re surfing again!

Here’s a few external links you might find useful.

(I bet that when I most need to look up this post I’ll be behind a tight firewall that won’t let me at my blog ..)

How to umount when the device is busy

It happens all the time doesn’t it? You need to unmount a CD or you want to pack away the external drive but when you try to umount it you get the dreaded “device is busy” message. Wouldn’t it be great if Linux actually told you what was keeping the drive busy? Here we are in 2008, I’m using Ubuntu Gutsy, and that message hasn’t changed in all the years I’ve used Linux.

# umount /media/disk/
umount: /media/disk: device is busy
umount: /media/disk: device is busy

First thing you’ll do will probably be to close down all your terminals and xterms but here’s a better way. You can use the fuser command to find out which process was keeping the device busy:

# fuser -m /dev/sdc1
/dev/sdc1: 538
# ps auxw|grep 538
donncha 538 0.4 2.7 219212 56792 ? SLl Feb11 11:25 rhythmbox

Rhythmbox is the culprit! Close that down and umount the drive. Problem solved!

Ubuntu WiFi problems on the Dell D630 laptop

Wireless networking was always a bit patchy for me on my Dell Latitude D630 while running Ubuntu Gutsy version of Linux. It would work fine for ages and then freeze up suddenly, requiring a hard reboot to get things working (Apache would become unkillable, I guess because it was attached to the broken Wireless networking driver.) Problems always showed up when I transferred large amounts of data between Linux and my Macbook. Files copied fine for a few minutes and then the whole house of cards would collapse. Crash! Boom!

The first time I looked for a solution nothing turned up, but eventually I went searching again, and after digging into all sorts of forums and websites I found the simpe solution on the Dell Linux Wiki:

Create a file called /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-ipw3945 and add:

blacklist ipw3945

Add to /etc/modules:


Reboot after doing that and all will be fine in the world again! I haven’t had any networking issues since replacing the ipw3945 driver with the iwl3945 one!

A pint of Guinness flavoured spam

It seems that someone signed me up for “Guinness Poker Nights” and Guinness, God bless their black hearts, saw that as an invitation to spam me in the future.

I don’t know how to play poker, I have no interest in it, I don’t like the taste of Guinness. Why didn’t Guinness ask me to confirm the invite? That would seem like the most polite thing to do. Who the hell is Conor Wiley? I bet he knows the other Donncha who told all his friends and colleagues that my gmail address was his address. I was CCed on a few very personal emails for a day or two going back a bit ..

Since that time I’ve received a couple of spam emails from Diageo, the owners of Guinness. The first one gave me a start. I wondered if Guinness had started spamming people, but then I had things to do and never investigated. Here’s the latest email from Guinness:

There is a “Privacy Policy” link but that brings you to this page where I’m asked for my location and date of birth. The form has to be filled out before reading the policy. *sigh*

The “unsubscribe” link goes to which the redirects to Finally, I thought I was getting somewhere, but no. To stop them sending me more spam I must fill out my name, address and email, despite the fact that I clicked on an identifying URL in the email.

Thankfully, entering, Mr. Blah Blah of 131215 and my email address into the unsubscribe form worked. I hope.

Diageo – please learn from your mistake. You should confirm invitations and registrations by email, especially when you send out marketing material.
Here’s what the Data Protection Commission says about spam. I certainly didn’t opt-in anywhere to be spammed. What do I do next?

How China Digital Times moved from MT to WordPress

Can you improve performance when moving from a statically generated site to a dynamic environment? You can if the conditions are right. In the case of CDT, publishing times were a nightmare with Movable Type. Search performance was horrible, and the comment spam problem caused such a drag on the server that we’d had to disable commenting altogether. Now, with the site fully tag-enabled, searchable and comment-able, loads are down dramatically and publishing times have dropped from 15 minutes to a few seconds.

Notes on a massive WordPress migration. Scot moved the China Digital Times site with 16,000 posts and 6,000 tags from Movable Type to WordPress and saw a huge performance increase. Nice.

Anatomy of an AIB Phishing Email

I’m well used to getting phishing emails for American or internationally known banks but this morning an email supposedly from AIB made it past Gmail’s spam filters.

AIB phishing email

AIB posted an alert a few days ago to watch out for fraudulent emails, but this one appears to be different. I’m forwarding it on to

The content of the email is a Jpeg image, and it links to a php file on

As the rest of this post has a number of large screenshots click the link below to read the rest. You can probably ignore this if you’re not living in Ireland. :)

Continue reading Anatomy of an AIB Phishing Email