Anti-Malware and Blackboard Vista

Tier1 support was contacted by a student to report a problem with a quiz. Some sort of anti-malware software complained about code in the quiz. Tier1 support replicated the issue. Their software identified it as belonging to MyWebSearch. Very bad news.

Tier2 support suggested the student remove the MyWebSearch toolbar. Tier1 escalated to Tier3 who claimed that because Tier1 and the student both saw the issue, the malicious code must have been inserted into Vista by the instructor. Tier3 also escalated it to me… Tier4.

From the email conversation, no one looked at the quiz in question despite Tier2 and Tier3 both having the access (and Tier2 being involved in instructional design).


Instead of providing my own equally valueless speculation, I got a copy of the quiz and looked at the HTML. Eventually, I used WinMerge to compare the problematic quiz and a previous quiz side-by-side.

Turns out the difference between the two is the use of WebEQ Java applets. (The problem-free quiz used GIF images instead of applets.) I think the anti-malware software of the student and Tier1 both reacted to the Java applet. Here is one of the items used.

<applet code=”webeq.Main” archive=”/path/to/jar/WebEQ2Applet.jar” width=1899 height=40 align=middle><param name=eq value=”<math> <mrow> <semantics> <mrow> <mi>f</mi> <mo stretchy=’false’>(</mo> <mi>x</mi> <mo stretchy=’false’>)</mo> <mo>=</mo> <mn>2</mn> <msup> <mi>x</mi> <mn>2</mn> </msup> <mo>+</mo> <mn>3</mn> <mi>x</mi> <mo>+</mo> <mn>1</mn> </mrow> <annotation type=’MathType’/> </semantics> </mrow></math>”><param name=color value=”#ffffff”><param name=parser value=”mathml”></applet>

The way WebEQ passes the parameters as XML inside a parameter tag strikes me as very odd. Maybe causes anti-malware to trigger a false positive?

These applets have been a problem in the past, as many were hard coded into the HTML prior to Vista incorporating this into the equation editor. Vista instead, uses a parameter block to pass the values to the applet.

I think our instructional designers are moving away from use of WebEQ as it has been consumed so much of their time, they hate it now.

Tweets for Today

  • 08:45 @minarets Ha… Its not even sticking here. Just a few flakes in the air. #
  • 13:29 Sharom proposed to me… #
  • 14:27 After learning about my last name, Sharon wanted to get married. Yup. It is just… that… good… of a name. #
  • 14:31 @dgcombs Nope, it isn't a serious name at all. It has been described a "Hippy"-ish. #
  • 17:19 @tehomot not more # 2s for you? #
  • 22:55 Coughing and sneezing like I have a cold. Better down some vitamin C ASAP… #
  • 23:57 LOL Nice, Googled "vitamin C" and common cold to find C doesn't really help. Great… Now I probably can't even get a placebo effect. :'( #

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Coolest Last Name

I get some variant of, “You have the coolest last name,” from many strangers. Freelove sounds hippie, care free, and … well… loving. Its nice, you know?

Marriage proposals over how cool it is… That is new.

Sharon: Is “Freelove” really your name?
Ezra: Yes, it is.
Sharon: Can I marry you?

About a year ago, a woman said she would love to marry me just to get the name. This is the first time a woman just asked.

Tweets for Today

  • 08:47 The windows @ work are rattling from the thunder. Good thing one is 5 feet away, right? #
  • 09:44 @sholeh look up Homestarrunner’s what makes a good techno song. “The system is down… the system is down…” #
  • 09:45 @strawpoll Ninjas, pirates smell like bilge water and rotten eggs. #
  • 11:08 E: “You are the shizzle” M: “I don’t know though, I don’t speak P. Diddy” #
  • 11:36 Right now connection is dropped if not in access control list. World accessible could cause confusion. We need “Leave. You are not allowed.” #
  • 13:20 cute… #
  • 17:18 @tehomot at least X just works on OSX. Had to remember I needed to run either Cygwin or Exceed. (Not both at same time) #
  • 21:51 Meeting earlier was on web conf software (think WebEx, Wimba, GoToMeeting). Built on OSS Java MySQL LightTPD OO CherryPy #
  • 22:58 think I need a haircut #

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Open Letter to Users of Email Autoresponders


Some people work in positions requiring high amounts of near constant contact. There is technology for this. One popular is the Blackberry which allows the user to no longer sit in front of the computer all the time.

If more than one person is capable of doing the job you do, then set up an email alias. Such aliases can direct a message to multiple recipients. This means should you be out of the office, then your coworker can pick up the slack. No need to set up an autoresponder.

Do you really trust the world to know you are out of town for a week? That screams Come find my house and take all my stuff while I am away. Thanks!

Finally, if I email a discussion email list and not you specifically, then do you really need to tell me that you are out of the office?


Tweets for Today

  • 09:16 @lgekeler LOL Nope. They don't. Win the legal battle to lose the public opinion war. #
  • 09:56 Another coworker was asked for the most active month and day of the year. This is harder now we have 4 sources. So, now they want for each? #
  • 10:35 The busiest month had 399,284,725 hits (Sep 2007). The busiest day had 21,163,157 hits (Jan 14, 2008). Busiest day not in same month. Odd? #
  • 11:47 Am I on the wrong Bb email lists? No gnashing or signs of support over the Blackboard v. D2L patent case. Strangely quiet. #
  • 12:34 Ah! we had to wait for British Columbia to wake up. There is the first post about Bb v D2L. #
  • 14:26 Blargh. Unequal sizes all around for being in sync… Partition size, amount used, amount available… #
  • 14:32 I can't wait until we get the request to host a Second Life world. Higher education loves the toys. #
  • 15:15 @dgcombs Adobe AIR is mostly harmless. I've heard it can cause performance issues, but I have not seen it? #
  • 17:13 No X Forwarding testing for me… Can't find xdaliclock, xclock, or xcalc…. #
  • 20:34 Made up word of the day… anaferology #
  • 23:01 Didn't like the WP Now Reading widget. Like LibraryThing but not widget. So… I created a page… …Easy / complete #

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Tweets for Today

  • 10:00 Monica is the latest woman to think I have the best last name ever. #
  • 11:41 @sherryneal LOL Nice! I used to speed read, but got out of the habit in college.That probably explains why I have a huge to-read stack. :'( #
  • 15:54 Found a graveyard in the 'hood. These must be family plots. Had not noticed as a fallen tree obscured seeing it from the road. #
  • 16:25 @galindafied person probably has a long nose… or stiff joints #
  • 16:44 @galindafied check under the seat? #
  • 16:45 @sherryneal yum… BBQ, burgers, & dogs #
  • 16:51 @galindafied the feet? #
  • 18:11 Jon Favreau thinks girls are dumb? #
  • 19:57 @dgcombs Yesterday, didn't you ask me to call you? Did you mean next weekend? #
  • 20:48 @sherryneal Sorry for upsetting you so. 🙁 #
  • 21:09 Mmmm… yet another reason for AIR apps or Prism. Insanse memory leaks in Mozilla products or plugins. Routinely hit 270MB RAM usage. #
  • 23:01 hahaha This is awesome… get the phone number of all your friends. Am I the last to hear? #
  • 23:33 @galindafied It ought to be whatever the user posted in the profile. Yours is not there. So you are safe. #
  • 23:39 @galindafied Rivals? The flotsam of broken hearts you leave in your wake? #
  • 00:08 yay #

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Mozilla Prism Self-Signed SSL Issue

I have been looking to use Prism. A gotcha I hit was it balked at any site using a self-signed SSL certificate. A recommendation was to copy the cert8.db file from a Firefox  profile to a Prism profile. This actually worked.

Locating it is a bit of a pain in the ass on Windows. It is in what would be a hidden folder, so some layers have to be opened up just to get to it. Copy from <user>/Application Data/Mozilla/profiles/default  to <user>/Application Data/Prism/default.

Excellent. Now it is a fair evaluation.