« Archives in March, 2006

PHP through TOR and Privoxy

TOR and Privoxy can be used through PHP to enhance the privacy of your connection. First you need to setup and run both TOR (check /etc/torrc) and Privoxy (/etc/privoxy/config, then start it as a service). If something does not work, use wget or see the error log. The PHP code below get a page through TOR network.

Overture keyword suggestions

This class extracts the suggestion keywords from Overture (Yahoo! Search Marketing) together with their popularity counts.

Sample Output:

  'dalat' => 1894
  'dalat resort' => 426
  'dalat nam viet' => 359
  'dalat palace sofitel' => 97
  'dalat hotel' => 91
  'dalat school' => 63
  'dalat flower' => 62
  'bi dalat vo' => 60
  'city dalat' => 59

10 tips to prevent domain scam/fraud

You get so excited because a potential buyer just contacted you for a domain with great interest, don’t go on a shopping spree or raise your expectation just yet, it might be a scam and you won’t receive any money or worse, lose your own money. There are con artists working hard days and night for your money (meaning they take time to prepare individual/personal responses, cater for each of their victim). This article could apply to any online transaction and not just domain-related ones.

These are 10 steps/tips to protect your investment and yourself:

  1. Always research the other party
    Who are you dealing with? Is it a legitimate business registered somewhere? Use the Internet to your advantage. The fraudsters did research on you, your contact information; why not do the same to them? Checking for validity is very simple, a WHOIS on their domain name, or a simple search on the Internet (Google, Yahoo search) for their business name. Include the word “scam”, “fraud” into the query to specifically ask for negative results and if you could not find any relevant results then it could be they are really legitimate or they have changed their names, use another email address, use another company name or you are being worked by a new (not necessary inexperienced) scammer.
  2. Think of the worst-case scenarios
    Imagine these scenarios and figure how you should deal with it. When receiving money, ask yourself the questions: can they charge back or reverse the charge? If they can dispute the charge, do you have documents to back up your claim? When sending money, ask yourself if anything could go wrong during the transactions (paid and nothing change hands, shipped but never get to the destination, dead on arrival)
  3. Do not believe anything you see and hear in the reply
    Even if the fraudster refers you to another company that looks legitimate, these companies might be in the same scheme or the other company is also a victim and does not know their credibility is on the line. If in doubt, contact the other company to verify if this person is actually registered, licensed to do business with them.
  4. Don’t send money because you are going to receive more money later
    This is a classic and yet general scheme that could apply to any field. Someone sends you a check for $6,500 USD and asks to get $500 back because they mistakenly added $500 extra. Someone asks you to pay for a domain appraisal certificate, a trademark search at a specific company before agreeing to buy your domain name for 5 grands.
  5. Use visual cues, pay attention to details
    The first thing, the payment form has to be in a secure page (SSL-encrypted, showing a lock or yellow address bar). When you receive a link to the payment site, try to visit some other parts of the site, see if there is any content or just the form to set you up. Check out for irregularities, unprofessional details (broken links, misspelled words). These little things could trigger a potential larger problem and raise your awareness/alert for the whole situation
  6. Be a little paranoid, never let your guard down
    Face-to-face (or on-the-phone) frauds and scams require a more professional breed. Online scams are much easier to pull off and therefore you’re more likely to be tricked online than offline.
  7. If it is too good to be true, it probably is
    You think you’re in for an amazing deal, it could be either these two cases. You’re a talented investor, deal-hunter with proven track record in the past OR you have no clue and someone is playing tricks to get your money.
  8. When in doubt, check it out
    If there is any sign of problem, step back, stop the transactions if it’s not too late and verify/confirm your doubts/assumptions (call someone for verification, call your bank, ask for additional support documents). If you think these steps are time-consuming, think about how much time, money, effort it would take to recover from a charge-back, dispute and emotional distress once you become the victim.
  9. Choose the right payment method
    There are many ways you can send and receive money online. Use the ones you’re most comfortable and have previously experienced/dealt with. Checks could be fake and returned with charge back to your account later. PayPal payments by unverified, non-insured sender or by credit card, can also be charged back later (many cases up to 90 days). Even though you might think for PayPal to accept the payment, the transaction should have passed a rigorous fraud check, it might not be the case. Using an escrow service sounds safe but it depends on the service credibility. If they are licensed or accredited by a trusted source or they are just a random shop just opened a couple month ago.
  10. Have some detective fun
    In the first contact, it could be hard to tell/confirm their validity. Go ahead and ask for more information, confirm your doubt, get them talking, pretend to follow their scheme but do not send them what they want (money or merchandise). Stop and let them know when it get to the point it is such an obvious scam. You can then share the experience with other online users to help people from falling into the same scam or use the evidence to help the police during the investigation.

For those who could not believe why people are doing bad things on the Internet and do not think it is an serious issue. Remember, there are good and bad people, anywhere, online, offline. Scamming, ripping people off is their business and that’s what they do full-time for a living. I hope as more and more people are aware and educated about these fraud schemes, these guys might have to work part-time or better yet become unemployed. I hope this article has been useful for those who are smart enough to smell a stinky con operation and go search the Internet for confirmation.

Now it’s time to report a recent scam. Take an example, this person contacted me (and many other domain owners as reported here and here) to show great interests in one of my domains. He offered to pay a great price but required an appraisal certificate from allfordomains.com that I believe is in the same fraud team

From: Opera Engineering 

What is your price for the domain mentioned in the subject line?

I'm very interested in this name.

Did you get offers from other people already?

I run a software company. We develop client-server systems and databases 
in MS SQL and Delphi. Buying and selling domain names is  not my main 
business. Just another way to invest money and make additional income.

Looking forward to do business with you.

Best regards,
Robert Johansen Ph.D.
Opera Engineering

Companies/Sites involving in this scam operation:

  • Scammer: http://www.operaen.com/
  • Beneficiary: SoftForces – http://www.allfordomains.com/
  • Payment: http://www.emetrix.com/

Digg this!

Gmail not receiving message

Symptoms: messages are not coming to your account regularly
Problem: when tried manually to talk to the gmail mail server, we got this error “The Gmail user you are trying to contact is receiving mail at a rate that prevents additional messages from being delivered. Please resend your message at a later time; if the user is able to receive mail at that time, your message will be delivered.”
Solution: reduce the number of incoming messages

ImageCreateFromGIF & true color

If you use a GIF background and try to draw a text, even with GD2 and Freetype fonts, the text will has jigsaw and not antialiased. To correct, change the background image to a true color PNG.

Google Search API with PHP5 or NuSOAP

If you want to search Google through their API. This class detects if you have the PHP5 SOAP lib to use or it should use the NuSOAP lib.

With the search results in a PHP object, you should be able to manipulated the information easily.

Convert Vietnamese from UTF8 to ASCII

If you need to convert from UTF8/Unicode Vietnamese with intonation/ascent signs like acute, grave, circumflex, tilde, dot below, hook above, and more to just plain old ASCII without any extras, or to VIRQ format. Here is a PHP class that performs the conversion. Some examples:

an toàn => an toan
áo giáp => ao giap
xúc phạm => xuc pham

Source Code:

Sample Usage:


To remove duplicated rows in a table, use ALTER IGNORE.

IGNORE is a MySQL extension to standard SQL. It controls how ALTER TABLE works if there are duplicates on unique keys in the new table or if warnings occur when strict mode is enabled. If IGNORE is not specified, the copy is aborted and rolled back if duplicate-key errors occur. If IGNORE is specified, only the first row is used of rows with duplicates on a unique key, The other conflicting rows are deleted. Incorrect values are truncated to the closest matching acceptable value.

Business Joke

Father : I want you to marry a girl of my choice Son : “I will choose my own bride!” Father: “But the girl is Bill Gates’s daughter.” Son : “Well, in that case…ok” Next Father approaches Bill Gates. Father: “I have a husband for your daughter.” Bill Gates: “But my daughter is too young to marry!” Father: “But this young man is a vice-president of the World Bank.” Bill Gates: “Ah, in that case…ok” Finally Father goes to see the president of the World Bank. Father: “I have a young man to be recommended as a vice-president.” President: “But I already have more vice- presidents than I need!” Father: “But this young man is Bill Gates’s son-in-law.” President: “Ah, in that case…ok” This is how business is done!! good story

International Entrepreneurship


Staying closer to the customers is important to the success of any business. If the product is not designed or targeted to the local market, the company needs to look for other countries or locations that have demand for that product. Additionally, any local market has a certain limit in size and going global can expand the combined market. Dan Harkabi at SanDisk Corp. illustrated with an excellent example. Israel population is only about seven millions and they do
not have a substantial consumer market. To find business opportunities, Dan and his partners traveled to the U.S. to study the clients, the end-consumers extensively before implementing the idea.

Taking advantage of local labor skills is another benefit of going global. The workforce at each country has certain strengths and weaknesses that smart entrepreneurs should take into account when deciding where and how to start going global. In the presentation, Ram Ofir showed Zoran has R&D, Product Development personnel in Israel while the management team, sales and marketing department reside in the US. Each place has a unique strength that successful companies use to defend their weaknesses.


All start-ups have limited resources and effective resource allocation is important for the company survival and growth. David Welsh warned about the breaking point when a company tries to open offices abroad for the sake of going global and does not carefully evaluate the associated costs and benefits.

Understanding of the local business environment is not an easy task. Each country has a different culture that the entrepreneurs need to be flexible to recognize and adapt the business plan accordingly. A widely successful product in a country might have no or few sales in another country. Selling software in Vietnam at the same price as in the U.S. would not able to gather much demand because it is expensive for the majority of consumers and they will more likely to use a pirated version. Sufficient and accurate research about the culture, local market, employees and government regulations is important for any decision makers of a global venture.

Additionally, I also learn that passionate and experimental attitude can lead to great ideas. As a V.C., David said he would prefer someone with a great passion, who tries to solve the “impossible” problems to someone who surrenders quickly and moves to the next project as soon as some issues arise.