Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Strange Happenings Afoot, but Typewriter Sightings Abound

It's been an interesting - and not in a good way - week over here at RTG headquarters. As you may have noticed, I have had my own domain, retrotechgeneva.com, for more than a year now. Not for any commercial purpose, really; it just seemed easier to type and remember, hosting remained free with Blogger, and, heck, I just liked having my own little .com address. Call me vain. Plus it is really quite inexpensive, if anyone else is interested. (Credit goes to Rob Bowker of Typewriter Heaven for encouraging me to go ahead.)

It's been fun, for the most part - barely perceptible, in fact, which is just how I like it. For a retro tech enthusiast, I like to keep my knowledge of high tech as superficial as possible - solely on a need-to-know basis. I could probably figure out more if I tried, but I have a pile of sewing so high I can barely see my desk. That said, it has been nice to have this little thing chugging along without too much intervention, posting when I am able and having Google index the pages on its search engine so new visitors can land here when they look up one typewriter or the other.

So it went until just about a week ago, when J pulled up my blog and saw that it had disappeared. Vanished! And in its place, was a page from a strange web hosting company that I would later learn was Vietnamese. I had been hacked. At first, I thought this was something to do with not having updated my credit card details in time to pay the yearly renewal fee - it was due in June and I had been rather preoccupied with personal matters around that time, so I had ignored it. I promptly logged in and changed my billing details to current ones, but the problem persisted. I changed my log-in details everywhere I could think of, and as I was not able to figure out how to get the site back, I quickly snapped up the domain retrotechgeneva.net, in case .com was lost to me forever. At least I had the presence of mind to realize that the contents of the site were still intact, hosted as they have always been on Blogger.

After some more calm research on the subject, I realized that my DNS settings had been changed by the hacker and figured out how to get in and reset them. I was triumphant the first time I figured this out - until the hacker attacked again. This was followed by a few days of back and forth between the hackers and myself - I would log in to change the DNS, they would get in and switch it back. Sometimes the page displayed the Vietnamese logo, other times something from DreamHost, even a welcome message from Wordpress once. It was infuriating. I spent time on the phone with Google Apps support, and then with GoDaddy, searching for one solution and then another. I changed passwords, only to have the hackers return. I allowed Customer Service to lock my account to all log-ins, including myself, which meant that only a call to their offices from me personally would allow a settings change. The hackers scoffed at this - they still found a way in, changing my page to some gibberish from Dreamhost, a company I had never heard of.

In the meantime, I wanted to have my blog online anyway and so removed the redirect every time I figured that a new hack had taken place. Doing this 2-3 times a day quickly wore off, so I plunked the blog on the .net domain, where it remains now, and placed a holding page on the .com. After my web hosts assured me they were "monitoring the situation" and "looking for solutions", I reached the end of my tether when, after almost 20 hours without a hack and a false sense of security settling in, the hackers came again. Near midnight, on the phone with Customer Service, I accepted their suggestion to sever ties with Google Apps and register the domain entirely on GoDaddy. Doesn't make much of a practical difference to me or to you; I've never been one to tinker anyway. So that was done, my holding page is back up, and I am slowly counting to see if we can reach 72 hours of uninterrupted DNS settings. Fingers crossed.

Ultimately, even if the .com proves stable, I might decide to keep the typewriter blog here (I'm sure the search engines will catch on eventually) and use the other domain for something else. I have been thinking it's high time I blogged properly about my sewing adventures and this could be an opportune moment. I hadn't really wanted to call my sewing blog RTG as well, but I guess I do sew on machines that are just a tad outmoded... ok, enough of boring techy stuff. Back to the retro tech sightings:

How's this apple-green beauty to start off the show? I had never seen this color in person - only online - before stumbling across this in the flea market a couple of weeks ago. Still, at that price, and with a boring pica typeface, it was easy to keep walking. Pretty, though!

The same seller was offering this glossy black Hermes Media...

A deathly dull Brother Deluxe something-or-the-other...

And a cool colorblocked black and white Olivetti Dora (just don't look too closely at the paper supports... yikes.

Yay, group photo! A nice morning of sightings but no absolutely-must-haves.

This mikro Consul had me wondering just what was so mikro about it... it looks regular size to me.

This lovely Olympia SM-9 - which I would have snapped up a couple of years ago but have since lost interest in - had keys that might as well have been super-glued, so fast were they frozen. Old grease, ugh.

This Silver Reed did not inspire much of a reaction besides: "Pretty orange!... uh, AZERTY?"

This sweet little Olympia Splendid 33 begged to be taken home, but didn't give me any compelling reasons. Sorry, kid.

Another group photo - yes, it appears the apple-green Hermes Baby changed owners after this photo was taken. Not much else of note in the group... Hermes 3000s of different generations, one Hermes Standard 8, and this:

A Smith Corona Clipper. I used to have one, and they are lovely machines. This one must have traveled back with someone and not sold here: note the QWERTY keyboard.

What else? Ah, this was sighted in Zurich. Not all that many typewriters to be seen in that town, but just enough to make it worth my while touring the shops, I think.

This was a rather bizarre half sighting: case - check, manual - check, typewriter - ???

Just two days before I came across my prized italic Lettera 22, this one - in pica - turned up at the flea market with a stern warning not to touch. It's also a QWERTY.

Not sure what this is - telefax? - but it was vaguely typewriter-like enough to merit a picture.

I couldn't be bothered to take a closer look at this - Brothers have never been very tempting for me.

The Brockito where I snapped up my italic Lettera also had this gem in stock - a '50s Underwood Universal midsize portable with the charming logo that many typospherians love.

And then there was this Olivetti M80, a Lexikon by some other name, I suppose.

This uninteresting Triumph Junior 12 paled in comparison next to it. Although it now occurs to me - talk about belated - that I should have taken a peek at all their typefaces just in case. Hmm.

23 comments:

  1. Sorry you had to deal with hackers -- and honestly, we're pretty low-profile targets, aren't we? -- but I've updated the links on the Typosphere site to the new domain. Here's hoping you have better luck with this one!

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    1. Thanks, Michael! Everything seems to be calm now, I hope, but it was pretty upsetting for a while. Especially given our low profile, as you pointed out, I started getting paranoid and wondering whether the hacker was someone who knew me personally! Pretty low chance of that after I found out they were Vietnamese, but still... ugh.

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  2. Sounds like a major, major headache, Adwoa. I hope I never have to deal with it. That Smith-Corona Clipper looks pretty slick, too.

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    1. I think you're pretty safe from this specific problem as long as you stay with blogspot, teeritz! The only thing I would do differently today would be buying my own domain directly instead of going through Google Apps - it costs the same and seems to have more security. I agree, that Clipper was very tempting!

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  3. I hope the hackers don't come back! I like the Underwood. They are pretty common though over here in North America. Some were even made here in Canada.

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    1. I hope they've given up too! The Underwood is a nice sighting especially for Switzerland, where they are not quite as common as they must be in your part of the world.

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  4. Adwoa, I visited your blog a few days ago and I did get into that Vietnamese hacker site. I presumed you had changed address. I guess my hacker alarm was too slow, otherwise, I would have sent you an email. Funny, I have my own little blogger horror story to tell on my next post.

    As always, I enjoyed your sightings. Aside from the Olivettis, that glossy Hermes Media caught my eye. Yep, I love that Underwood Universal logo!

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    1. I'm mortified that you saw it, Ton! Well, now at least you know what I was dealing with - so invasive and awful! Glad it seems to be over now. If you see something that looks out of place again, do let me know :) Sometimes when I'm on hiatus I don't look at the site myself for long stretches at a time.

      Glad the sightings are compelling as usual - summer is a bit of a slow time, but there is always something!

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  5. Sorry to hear of your hacker troubles. Another reason I like Linux. Hackers are the good guys. Anyway, the OS will not help with web hosted anything. I thought about putting my blogs and site on my own server, but that is too much like work.
    I've been on your blog several times recently and I never say anything Vietnamese.

    That unidentified monstrosity is a Teletype terminal. It is where the teletype messages originate. I used to play with those things with ham radio. All the radio stations where I worked had at least one that was just the printer part. Very noisy things. Much worse than any typewriter.

    Nice to see you are still finding typewriters plentiful. I'd be broke since I would probably take them all home.

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    1. I know what you mean about too much like work! I have enjoyed staying out of the inner workings of the blog for the most part and hope I can get back to that :)

      Ah, a teletype terminal! It looked like it would be loud; thanks for the heads up!

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    2. Well, ehm, you already wrote everything I wanted to write. So... ehm... *outofwords*

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  6. $@&*#!! those hackers!

    Why would they even bother repeatedly hacking a relatively low-traffic site?

    Maybe there is no "they" and the whole process was carried out by a swarm of 'bots doing the same thing on a million sites. You never know anymore.

    Anyway, thanks for the safari photos. In some other life, it would be fun to have a teletype and see if I could set it up to send old fashioned e-mail to other enthusiasts.

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    1. Thanks for your sympathy, Richard! There was a lot of impolite language around these parts last week, I can tell you that. I too wonder if it is a specific person(s) or a swarm of bots... it is all such a violation and makes one feel very small indeed.

      Teletype email sounds like quite a task! Yes, you would need a whole other life to devote to that, I think.

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  7. The green Hermes Baby was absolutely great value - I would have grabbed it immediately. As with the Hermes Media, I would be interested in knowing the serial number. The Underwood is cute as well. Time to come to Geneva!

    I noticed your site being, well, not down, but empty. Glad it is restored. But which again reminds us of the transitory character of all things digital. Better to have it printed out.

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    1. I'll see if we come across the green Hermes Baby again, Georg, but I disagree that it was great value (at least for Geneva)... although I can see your point, since they don't turn up everyday.

      Not sure what I would do with a printout of my site, especially all these images of typewriters in the wild! It would be all quite unwieldy. I think essentially I am fine with the transitory nature of it - this is not print-worthy prose - but I am more concerned with controlling it in whatever shape it is, and that was what was alarming about the hack.

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  8. I admire your restraint when faced with so much temptation. If only I could channel a wee bit of that.

    I greatly enjoy reading your blog, and have linked it from mine. Hopefully the spooks will stay away from you in the future.

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  9. Good grief, that's a serious green! For some reason I find myself strangely attracted to it...

    MUST....NOT...BUY...ANOTHER...HERMES....BABY.... MUST... NOT...MUST.... MUST..... MUST.... MUST>>BUY....BUY!!

    Anyway, I feel for you and your torture over your blog. That's a pretty sh**y thing to happen. Hope you're alright/

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  10. Do you see just cases often in Europe? I have a Voss that is in dire need of a new case. I bought it hoping that it would come with a case like yours but it came with the wrong case.

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    1. Sadly, no, I never come across just cases - in fact I think most sellers wouldn't even think to offer them if found, just because they wouldn't know what it was for or imagine anyone else would want them! I have definitely never seen a Voss case just chilling in the wild :)

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  11. Sorry to hear about the hackers, but to say you're a low-profile target isn't entirely correct. Your blog has very good search ranking for its topic and good enough traffic that it's actually a very juicy target.

    Regarding the Brother 440T you passed up - too bad. I have two of these and they're both very handy. You may have ended up liking it if it was cheap enough.

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    1. You are kind to say that, Ted! I try to live up to the hype, but I think my best days are behind me - not so many typewriters passing through these days that I can subject to lengthy photoshoots! I probably would have liked the Brother well enough, but I'm trying to stay away from typers that are just ok - I have quite a few of those, I think.

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  12. Ah, the Royal Standard. Have you been to Citroën-Garage?

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    1. Hi, Florian! How nice to see you on here. Indeed, we went to the Citroën Garage, which is where we spotted the giant teletype machine. I found it a bit overwhelming, though, there was so much stuff and not all the sellers had come to work the day we went. In general, for such a large place, there really weren't so many typewriters (both Royal Standards were spotted there) and certainly nothing I would have been interested to get. But it was good to find it at last, following your map!

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