Shangri-La, Jakarta, Indonesia

Another very nice hotel, this time in Jakarta.

This is the second time I’ve stayed at the Shangri-La, and I even think I got the same room as last time!

The hotel itself is quite nice, and the rooms are a good size. They do take security quite seriously. You will have to go through a metal detector as you enter the hotel, and your bags may also be searched. Better to be safe than sorry.

Unfortunately, due to work commitments, I didn’t get the opportunity to do any sightseeing nor use many of the amenities of the hotel but the breakfast buffet in SATOO is excellent and allows you to fill up your tank for your day of work. SATOO also has a sandwich / cake shop that makes excellent food, which was good for me as I needed to provide my own lunch over the weekend and the recent public holiday.

Last year I did eat at Rosso, the food was very good but also quite expensive. Once I converted the bill back to aussie dollars I almost fell off my chair. But you have to splurge every so often.

If I had to travel back to Jakarta I would stay again at the Shangri-La.

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Swissotel The Stamford, Singapore

I’ve stayed at at this hotel many times over the years, and its a very nice home away from home. This time for only one night on my way home.

Located across the road from Raffles and just a stones throw away from Suntec City its a very convenient place to stay while in Singapore. Its also far away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy Orchard Road, yet only a 10 or 15 minute walk if you do want to shop.

The rooms are always nicely appointed and you get great views from most of the rooms.

Room service food is good and not overly overpriced like many hotels.

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InterContinental Burswood, Perth

All round, not a bad hotel though it is showing it’s age somewhat when you look carefully.

InterContinental Burswood is right next to the Burswood Casino in Perth, just across the Swan River from the Perth CBD.

The room was spacious and well appointed like all the InterContinental Hotels I’ve stayed at.

I had a river view room, so had a nice view of the Swan River and the Perth CBD.

As I was somewhat buggered after the flight and time difference, I decided to avail myself to the room service menu and had a rather decent chargrilled bread with dips, and beef rendang.

The bad

  1. A very crappy, old TV. I guess I’m used to large flat screen TVs now, so the TV that is smaller than that one I have at home was a disappointment
  2. The alarm on the super duper phone didn’t go off, luckily I had a backup or I would have missed my meeting!

Would I stay here again? Yes, on someone elses dime, it was a little bit on the pricey side.

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Using mod_security to stop Cyveillance

Let me start off by saying that I don’t condone making copyrighted material available to other users on the Internet. If you do that, you deserve all you get.

BUT there are some things that are worse than copyright infringement, and one of them is when someone attempts to break into your web server by creating random URLs in the effort to access parts of your website that you don’t publish or even trying to break into the underlying disks that hosts your website.

Cyveillance is a company that tries to exploit random URLs and possible web server misconfigurations to monitor your site.

Its all pretty dodgy and they will start spouting that they are only trying to protect their client’s intellectual property, but ironically they are breaking the law by trying to hack into your web server at the same time.

So, how can we take the initiative?

There is this really good Apache module called mod_security2, and it allows you to control who can do what against your server. Sounds pretty good, but how can we use mod_security to control Cyveillance? Well, read on.

Its very easy to configure mod_security2. We will show one configuration that works, there are probably others, but feel free to use this config or post your own below.

If I’ve missed IP addresses that these people use please also let me know.

<IfModule mod_security2.c>
SecRuleEngine On

# Cyveillance – start
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^63.148.99. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^65.118.41. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^38.118.25. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^38.118.42. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^216.32.64. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^38.112.21. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^207.87.178. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^65.222.185. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^65.222.176. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^63.100.163. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^151.173.221. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^68.48.24. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^4.35.201. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
SecRule REMOTE_ADDR ^38.100.41. log,redirect:http://www.google.com
# Cyveillance – stop

SecRequestBodyAccess On
SecResponseBodyAccess On

SecDebugLog /logs/security_debug_log
SecDebugLogLevel 0

SecAuditEngine RelevantOnly
SecAuditLogRelevantStatus ^[45]
SecAuditLogParts ABIFHZ
SecAuditLogType serial
SecAuditLog /logs/security_audit_log

SecRequestBodyLimit 131072
SecRequestBodyInMemoryLimit 131072
SecResponseBodyLimit 524288

</IfModule>

Essentially, what this config snippet tells mod_security2 to do is that each time a request comes from a Cyveillance IP address, REMOTE_ADDR, we will just shunt them off to good old Google. Ironically, Google is probably where they got your website from in the first place.

By monitoring your /logs/security_debug_log & /logs/security_audit_log logfiles you can get information about how often they try to break into your website. It’ll be an interesting read.

This is just one use of mod_security2. If you use CMSs like Mambo or Joomla! you will most certainly see many cross site scripting exploits hitting your web server. A simple set of mod_security rules will kill off the exploits once and for all.

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Logitech Harmony One universal remote

Now this is one sexy product. Once you’ve played with the remote and worked out how to program it it becomes clear why these remotes was awarded Best of Innovations: Home Theater Accessories at CES 2008.

Logitech Harmony One Remote

Its about the same size as standard TV and DVD remote but has a color touch sensitive LCD screen that displays the options that you’ve programmed into the unit.

The remote is billed by Logitech as being able to replace the majority of remote controls that you’d use to control your home entertainment equipment. Over 225,000 devices from 5000 manufacturers are currently supported in the Logitech database. If, by slim chance, your device isn’t currently supported then you can teach your Harmony device the IR code and these codes are then sent to Logitech so the next person to use the same device can use your uploaded IR codes rather than have to go through the learning scenario.

The remote is programmed though a software application installed on your Windows machine. This application communicates with the database of IR commands that Logitech hosts on the Internet. This software also communicates with your remote via USB to program your configuration into your remote.The configuration for you remote is also hosted on the Logitech servers.

Once you have identified your devices, e.g. TV, A/V receivers, DVD players/recorders etc, you then identify the “Activities” that these devices need to perform. An activity is essentially a script that your remote executes to get your A/V equipment into the correct state to view a DVD, listen to a CD or watch telly. You have full control over these activities.

For example, say you want to want Foxtel pay TV. The script could be

  1. turn on your TV
  2. turn on your A/V receiver
  3. turn on your Foxtel set top box
  4. all other devices like DVD or CD players don’t need to be powered on
  5. the TV needs to be set to its AV1 input
  6. the A/V receiver need to be switched to its TV/SAT input

Your harmony one remote will send the IR commands to each of your devices in turn to get them into the correct state.

As can be seen here, you can replace 4 or 5 remote controls with one Harmony remote control… a very good space saving on your living room table.

Each activity has “Favorite Channels” attached to it. Think of it as a context menu for your activity.

For example, if I am watching Foxtel I can assign buttons on the LCD screen that allow me to jump straight to my favorite channels. You can also save icons to these buttons so you can quicky identify the button to press to get you to the channel you want to watch. You can find icons to use on your remote here or you can use your own.

The provided software allows you to tweak how the Harmony remote interacts with your devices. You have control of the

  • the device inputs
  • power settings
  • remote control delays (power on delay, inter key delay and inter device delay)
  • IR commands for the various buttons

All round this is a very well thought out device. It has a bit of a learning curve but once you get it straight in your head how it works and how it needs to control your A/V devices its pretty simple to program and extremely simple to use.

Logitech is on a winner here.

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