“Schuelerbotendienst” auf Abzocktour in Hamburg

Gerade komm’ ich mit nem Kumpel aus der Innenstadt. Dort wurden wir von zwei jungen Menschen, die vielleicht gerade 20 waren, angesprochen, ob wir den “Schuelerbotendienst” kennen wuerden. Wir verneinten und es wurde uns erklaert, dass es sich um ein soziales Projekt handele, bei dem Hartz IV Kinder sich etwas dazu verdienen koennten, indem sie Zeitung austragen. Dazu muessten sie aber erst auf Zuverlassigkeit geprueft werden. Und dafuer braeuchten sie Freiwillige, die sich ein kostenloses Abo zuschicken lassen und die korrekte Lieferung bestaetigen wollen. Nach zwei Wochen (oder so) wuerde das Abo dann aufhoeren aber wenn man wollte, koenne man es verlaengern.

Es wirkte nicht direkt abwaegig. Und in der Tat war ich fast gewillt, mich darauf einzulassen. Aber auf der Strasse etwas unterschreiben wollte ich nicht. Ich wollte die zurueckrufen, sobald ich mich informiert habe. Aber der junge Mann konnte mir gar keine Nummer seines Schuelerbotendienstes geben. Sehr fishy. Also ging ich mit einem blanko Zettel nach Hause und studierte die Information. Die zu unterschreibende Botschaft hat weder den “Schuelerbotendienst” noch eine Kostenfreiheit erwaehnt. Im Gegenteil. Zwei Wochen lang solle man das Abo bekommen, aber ohne seine Bankdaten angeben zu muessen, lediglich auf Rechnung. Danach wuerde sich das Abo eben um ein Jahr (oder so) verlaengern.

Die Skepsis war also angebracht und die Masche mit dem sog. “Schuelerbotendienst” scheint auch nicht neu zu sein.

Die Abos, die die Betrueger an die Menschen bringen wollen, sind von dem VSR Verlag, der wohl schon laenger mit dubiosen Vertriebler zu kaempfen hat.

Also Augen auf und Sinne geschaerft bei einem komischen Verkaufsgespraech auf der Strasse. Sollte doch etwas unterschrieben worden sein, gleich die 14 Tage Widerspruchsfrist in Anspruch nehmen und etwaige Vertraege kuendigen.

BAföG, PDF and Evince – Decrypted PDF documents

In Germany, students may apply for BAföG which basically makes them receive money for their studies. In order to apply, you have to fill out lots of forms. They provide PDFs with forms that you can –at least in theory– fill out. Well, filling out with Evince works quite well, but saving doesn’t. It complains, that the document is encrypted. WTF?

It’s a form provided by the government. You wouldn’t think that there is anything subject to DRM and that they stop you actually saving a filled document. Producing the document in first place was paid by us citizens so I’d fully expect to be at least allowed save the filled form. I don’t request the sources of that document (well, I like the idea but I probably couldn’t do anything with it anyway) but only that my government helps me filling out all those forms and that it doesn’t unnecessarily restrict me.

So I wrote those folks at the office, stating that they’ve accidentally restricted me saving the form. I received an answer quite quickly:

leider handelt es sich hier nicht um ein Versehen. Die Speicherbarkeit der Formulare unterliegt einem Rechtekonzept des Programm-Herstellers, nach welchem ab einer gewissen Abrufzahl das Abspeichern der Formulare nicht kostenfrei möglich ist.

Unterschiedliche Freewares bieten jedoch die Möglichkeit, die vorhandenen Formblätter auf dem eigenen PC abzuspeichern. Beispielhaft wird Ihnen auf dem Internet-Auftritt hierzu ein entsprechendes Softwarepaket zum kostenfreien Download genannt

Sorry for the German. The translation is roughly: It’s not an accident. The “program vendor’s right management” is responsible for that. And if many people actually download the PDF file, that Digital Restrictions Management requires that office to not allow the people to save the forms. Erm. Yes. I haven’t verified this but I fully expect the authoring software “Adobe LiveCycle Designer ES 8.2” to have a very weird license that makes us citizens suffer from those stupid restrictions. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need Free Software. And we need governments to stop using proprietary software with such retarded licenses.

Apparently, there are a few DRM technologies within PDF. One of them are stupid flags inside the document, that tell you whether you are allowed to, say, print or fill forms in the document. And it was heavily discussed what to do about those, because they can be silently ignored.

Anyway, I came across Ubuntu bug 477644 which mentions QPDF, a tool to manipulate PDFs while preserving its content. So if you go and download all those PDFs with forms, and do a “qpdf –decrypt input.pdf output.pdf” on them, you can save your filled form.

pushd /tmp/
for f in 1 1_anlage_1 1_anlage_2 2 3 4 5 6 7 8; do
wget --continue "http://www.das-neue-bafoeg.de/intern/upload/formblaetter/nbb_fbl_${f}.pdf"
qpdf --decrypt "/tmp/nbb_fbl_${f}.pdf" "/tmp/nbb_fbl_${f}_decrypted.pdf"

I’ve prepared that and you can download the fillable and savable decrypted BAfoeG Forms from here:

Hope you can use it.

Oh srsly? 300MBs for a scanner driver (/.-)

My granny asked me to bring her a driver for her all-in-one scanner thingy, because it would take her too long to download it. Well, I wasn’t too sure whether it’s HP’s fault by not supporting the generic classes or Windows 7‘s fault by not implementing the USB Printer or Scanner class driver (But they should). However, I didn’t think a driver can be that huge. However, HP supposes you to download 290 whopping MB! For making their product work!

But they are serious. You cannot download anything smaller than that. ๏̯͡๏ I thought they were kidding me. Must be a very complicated device… Well, I’m copying their BLOBs onto a pendrive now…

Trying to download from MSDN-AA: Annoying Secure Digital Container

I thought I’d give Windows technology a try (actually, I just need something to break) and tried to download Microsoft Operating Systems via e-academy.com (MSDN-AA). But instead of an ISO, you get a Portable Executable *facepalm*. Turns out that this binary downloads “Secure Digital Containers” from, i.e. here or here. These SDCs contain the ISO and are, according to this site, encrypted. The key is supposed to be in that downloader binary. However, no tool exists to decrypt those SDC files 🙁

I burnt half a day on that. Now going to look for Torrents of the ISOs… Are there official SHA1sums of the ISOs?

Or, dear lazyweb, do you know anybody that reverse engineered the downloader and is able to provide a free tool that unpacks the ISO from the SDC? 🙂

Klingon Language Support

From Documentation/unicode.txt:

Klingon language support

In 1996, Linux was the first operating system in the world to add support for the artificial language Klingon, created by Marc Okrand for the “Star Trek” television series.  This encoding was later adopted by the ConScript Unicode Registry and proposed (but ultimately rejected) for inclusion in Unicode Plane 1.  Thus, it remains as a Linux/CSUR private assignment in the Linux Zone.

This encoding has been endorsed by the Klingon Language Institute. For more information, contact them at:


Maybe Linux isn’t ready to take over the world yet, but at least it’s ready to take over the universe…

WTFOTM: ISO 3103 or Howto make tea

Another sequel in the series WTF of the month: It’s a standard, namely ISO 3103 that clarifies …*drumroll*… how to make tea…

I somehow came across ISO 3103 and my initial thought was: WTF?!

The method consists in extracting of soluble substances in dried tea leaf, containing in a porcelain or earthenware pot, by means of freshly boiling water, pouring of the liquor into a white porcelain or earthenware bowl, examination of the organoleptic properties of the infused leaf, and of the liquor with or without milk or both.

Admittedly, the: (from Wikipedia)

[…] standard is not meant to define the proper method for brewing tea, but rather how to document tea brewing procedure so sensory comparisons can be made. An example of such test is a taste-test to establish which blend of teas to choose for a particular brand in order to maintain a consistent tasting brewed drink from harvest to harvest.

So now go and fix your tea making process to be standard compliant…

WTFOTM: Hotels warming your bed

My favourite service, in the series WTFOTM, of this month is *drumroll* a Hotel that sends its employees, wearing an electric blanket, to your bed to warm it up for you.

A hotel chain is employing human bed warmers to help guests get a good night’s sleep.

There’s nothing wrong with having a warm bed, but having hotel employees warming that up for you?! That just feels a bit weird and thus: WTF?!

WTFOTM: Email validating RegExp

I think I’ll start a new series: My wtf of the month. This time, it’s a regular expression I found.

How much does it take to validate an email address, you might ask. Well, can’t be that hard, right? If you read the corresponding RFC 5322, you’ll notice that the local part of an email address (that is the part in front of the “@”) contains “dot-atoms”. Section 3.4.1 writes:

local-part      =   dot-atom / quoted-string / obs-local-part

At the end of the day, a “dot-atom” is a “dot-atom-text” which is a “atext” which is according to section 3.2.3:

atext           =   ALPHA / DIGIT /    ; Printable US-ASCII
“!” / “#” /        ;  characters not including
“$” / “%” /        ;  specials.  Used for atoms.
“&” / “‘” /
“*” / “+” /
“-” / “/” /
“=” / “?” /
“^” / “_” /
“`” / “{” /
“|” / “}” /

That effectively allows you to have email addresses like !foo$bar/baz=qux@example.com, "#~foo@bar^^"@example.com, `echo${LFS}ssh-rsa${LFS}AAA...|tee${LFS}~/.ssh/authorized_keys`@example.com. I am more than curious to see how servers and MUAs (especially on mobile devices) handle these cases.

I came around to bother because some poor guy wanted to implement email address validation in Evolution. I found the yet untested but obviously correct way in a Perl module:

$RFC822PAT = <<'EOF';

This is a handy 6.5kB regular expression that validates an email address. I wonder how long it takes to compile and to actually match an email address against… (Arr, stupid wordpress escapes all those fancy characters everytime I have the edit widget open 🙁 )

So, now go and fix your email address validating script.

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This work by Muelli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.