My blog and forums are open for business in their new premises!

On 28 March 2017 I completed the migration of my blog and forums to a new server. You will not have to do anything different to access the new server, as it is all managed transparently by my router.

The new environment is protected by an uninterruptible power supply, and has an increase in its available disk space. I’m hoping that the chance of future interruptions has been dramatically reduced.

Alongside the blog are 2 forums where you can ask questions:

(1) The SAS Skills Discussion Forum is included when you register for the Free membership, and is where you can ask questions about SAS skills, but not SAS coding problems.

(2) The SAS Programming Forum, which has a very small subscription cost, is where you can ask SAS coding questions, including those from homework and interviews. This forum also includes a growing SAS course in the form of small topics. There are currently 3 main sections to the SAS course: Data Steps, PROC SQL and macros, but more are being developed.

Preventing Spam and SAS Blog Server Downtime – and how you can help!

On 13 March 2017 my blog site started getting user registrations from spam bots all with first name equal to last name. I was leaving to travel to the SAS Global Forum in Orlando the following day, so I quickly set the default membership level to “Pending” to prevent too much damage, as “Pending” members only have the same blog site access as unregistered visitors. Recently new members may have noticed a delay in getting full access to the site, and this is because your membership is initially “Pending” until I manually change it to “Active”. The following day more spam registrations occurred, but then on the day after that my blog server decided to go into stand-by mode, shutting down the web site, for reasons I still don’t understand. Under normal circumstances I would have been upset by this, but, given the likely influx of many more spam registrations, it was actually a relief, as I would have limited access to WiFi while travelling, and so I was able to relax a little.On 1 April 2017, when I’d arrived at the conference, I asked my daughter to restart the blog server, so it would be available for new registrations again, and I was then able to track the unwelcome new members more easily using the hotel and conference WiFi.

Where were the IP addresses for spam registrations located?

  • Former Soviet Union – 53.5%
  • EU and UK – 22.0%
  • North America – 11.5%
  • Rest of the World – 8.5%
  • Unknown – 4.5%

The IP addresses of the spam registrations suggest they are mostly from countries in the former Soviet Union, although otherwise spread around the world.

Email domains in spam registrations:

  • mail.ru – 31.5%
  • yandex.com – 6.0%
  • yandex.ru – 5.0%
  • other *.ru, *.ua, *.ee – 3.0%
  • other *.top – 16.5%
  • other email domains – 39.0%

At first sight you would assume that the former Soviet email addresses matched the former Soviet locations, but that was definitely not the case, as *.ru and yandex.com email addresses were associated with locations in countries spread right across the rest of the globe. It appears that these IP addresses are being used remotely for spam registration, possibly without even the knowledge of their owners. Wordfence, a security company for WordPress sites, has published an article about how some home routers could be compromised, how to check for this vulnerability, and how to protect yourself. I strongly recommend that you read this article and protect yourself along with WordPress users like myself! This is how you can help.

So what have I done to resolve all of these problems? First of all I have ordered a new server and uninterruptible power supply, so that going into stand-by mode and power cuts should not interrupt your connection to the server in the future, other than in exceptional circumstances. The site should be moved over to the new server in the next few weeks. Secondly I installed a new WordPress plug-in called “WP Spam-Shield” on 14 April 2017, which has miraculously stopped all of the spam registrations! As a consequence I have now reset the default setting for new membership from “Pending” to “Active”, so new members won’t have to wait for me to activate their accounts.

What happened in Orlando?

As usual I ran a prize draw this year at SAS Global Forum in Orlando for a copy of my latest book, which was won by Matthew Hoolsema from Carnegie Mellon University from 49 draw entries.

Matthew Hoolsema won a copy of my book in Orlando

The sad part was that my well-thumbed sample copy, which allowed everyone to see what was in the book, was taken during the conference, so I will have to replace it with another brand new copy before my next free draw, instead of using that new copy as a prize. I must admit that I find it extremely annoying when a company can pay $100s to $1,000s for the conference registration, travel and accommodation, but nothing for a $40 book!

The conference’s Kick-Back party was held at Disney Hollywood Studios at the end of the 2nd full day of the conference after the public had left. I’d last visited this park in 1999, when it was called MGM Studios. Some of the “exciting” rides, which I have never enjoyed, were open, and my favourite show from 1999, “Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular”, was still there, but disappointingly closed for the evening! Fortunately, unlike previous Kick-Back parties, the noise levels were low enough to permit normal conversations, so my voice was still OK the following morning for my presentation. You may remember that in March I said that I was presenting “Making Validation of Graphs Easier: The Benefits of ODS Graphics” at the conference on 5 April 2017. The video recording of my presentation can now be viewed on the SAS web site, along with several of the other presentations, and my paper, slides and sample code can be downloaded from this blog site.

Next year SAS Global Forum will be in Denver, Colorado. I’ve never been there before, so I’m looking for some suitable topics for new presentations. Any suggestions?