index   |  website history | domain name | contents | referrer spam
|  site statistics | web technique | page borders | terms of use
|  external links | linking to this site | use of contents

Website history

Apr. 2001  We bought our computer, an iMac DV, and set up with Virgin as ISP.
May 2001  First creation of this site on free ISP web space.
Nov. 2001  Web hosting transferred to Square Internet. (Reason: the appearance of popups on the ISP space.)
Nov. 2002  Web hosting transferred to Joshua Internet. (Reason: poor reliability. Square went bust soon after.)
Nov. 2003  We
needed to renew the domain name. This was difficult owing to the bankrupcy of Square. We had to do it ourselves through Total Registrations. The next renewal is due in October 2008. My customer number and password are stored on our private page. DNS servers and whois info are changed by logging onto their site.
Sept. 2005   Web
hosting transferred to Newnet for no compelling reason.
Feb. 2006  Moved from Virgin to Demon as isp. (Reason: persistent dropped connections in violation of published terms and conditions. Cancellation of service without notice through administrative error in violation of published terms and conditions.)
July 2007  We bought a new, more up-to-date, iMac and got broadband access at the same time.

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Domain name

Somewhere in Spencer Walpole’s History of England (covering the period 1815–1855) he mentions a minister – it may be Palmerston – who justifies his rather passive policy towards a foreign crisis of the time by characterising it as one of ‘masterly inactivity’. But it wasn’t he who originated the phrase. It was coined by Sir James Mackintosh, who did much of the research for Macaulay’s History, and who used it to describe parliament’s traditional stance. It seems to have become a catchphrase of the day, rather like ‘economical with the truth’ more recently.

Needless to say this site, which is named on the same principle as the Holy Roman Empire, has no commercial affiliations.

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The holiday narratives are mostly things Tracey wrote for her club comic, and the cycling cartoons were drawn by her for the same purpose. The account of the 6 days was written by Colin for the WCRA newsletter. The majority of the route notes were written specially by Colin for the web site, though Spiti was mostly written by Tracey.

The photographs were taken by both of us. Initially all photos were scanned in from prints. Maybe our scanner isn’t very good: at any rate, some were very blurry. Starting with our Zanskar trek in 2001 we had photos processed onto CDs as they were developed. In early 2006 I went over old photos, having the negatives professionally digitised. Nearly every photo on the site is now a crisp reduction of a high-res digital image.

Tracey still lugs around a Pentax SLR – formerly a K-1000 but now an MZ-30. She uses print film: Fujicolor ‘Superia’ 100 ASA when she can be bothered to find it. Colin went digital in 2006, but isn’t yet certain of the results. We have the processing done by Peak Imaging.

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Site statistics

The number of visitors per day has increased as follows:

Oct ’02 68
Sept ’03 144
Oct ’05 237
July ’07 493

The average number of (html) pages viewed per visit has declined slightly from 2.5 initially to about 2. The picture is occasionally obscured by referrer spam, which accounts for the spike in the graph below but is currently under control.

The most frequent pages and search keywords for 2006 are as follows:
 page keyword
1Morocco (Tafraoute) andes
2Cycle equipment for expedition touring tiznit
3Morocco (Ouarzazate) skoura
4links "photos of bikes"
5Corsica quillabamba
6Spiti tafraoute

Google dominates the referrer statistics to the point of making them useless.

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Web technique

Most of the site was developed using the freeware cobweb, but with our move to OS X this has given way to Taco.

I’ve gone round in circles trying to handle images in a way I’m happy with. I used to scan in prints, but the results were never sharp. Now I send the negs off to Peak Processing for digitising onto CD and use Photoshop to shrink them and save them at jpg quality level 5.

2003 I moved the entire site over to CSS. The result is often ugly under old versions of Netscape, which make things ugly enough anyway.

In Jan 2004 I revamped the index page; and it was revised again in April 2007. Also in 2004 I started moving over to a new style sheet – /includes/styles.css instead of /styles.css –; a process which was completed in 2005.

At the beginning of 2006 I introduced some Javascript for links. This gives an economical way of encoding links which have an iconised option to open in a new window, and I use it to put today’s date in the url for the Tribune of India.

Some useful symbols:

~ = ~    =    … = …   † = †  

‡ = ‡   ‹ = ‹   › = ›   × = ×

Any comments, suggestions, libel suits etc may be sent to the webmaster.

W3C Definitive (but intolerably vague) specifications of html and css.
404 research lab how to write 404 pages.

However 404 lab haven’t got to the bottom of things. Creating a .htaccess file will cause all access to your site to crash unless the site is listed in Apache’s .conf file as permitted to have its own .htaccess. I had to request this from Joshua, who were happy to do it; Newnet do it automatically.

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Page borders
Andalucia Alhambra mosaic: borrowed, I’m afraid.
Tunisia Detail of a photo of a door, I think at Sidi Bou Said (you may notice that we have a bit of a door fetish).
Mexico A bracelet, whereon hangs a story.
Chile Part of a carpet bought in Puerto Montt.
Corsica Rather contrived (explanation).
Thailand This is a detail of a silk shirt Tracey bought in Chiang Mai.
SicilyMosaic at Piazza Armerina: another copyright loan.
Morocco I Detail of a carpet photographed in Agadir in 2004.
Morocco II Detail of an old door seen in the Hôtel de Kerdous in 2004.
Guatemala A partial scan of a place mat (individual) bought in Antigua.
French Alps The marmotte image from Tracey’s diploma.
Peru (Cusco) From a photograph taken specially of an Inca wall.
Umbria & Marches From a photograph of an arch in Perugia.
Lahaul, Spiti, Kinnaur Door panel from a temple at Kalpa.
Mersey 24 Motto of the 24-hour fellowship, scanned in from their handbook.
Australia Reproduced from an illustration of aboriginal art in the Rough Guide.
Andes A Chilean carpet scanned in from the Insight Guide.
Garhwal An ornamental carpet photographed in the Ganga Kinare hotel, Rishikesh.
Maritime Alps A door panel from old Roquebillière.
Peru (Cord. Blanca) A detail from a placemat bought in Huaraz.
Misc notes I Window of the Hotel Universo, Lucca.
Misc notes II Motto of the Casa Atostarra restaurant, Ibero.

The quince space filler on the photos of foodstuffs page was gathered from the masterlyinactivity quince tree, Oct 2006.

Story of the Mexican bracelet

While cycling one of the Mexican roads on a hot day, we paused for a rest and a drink on a grass verge. A couple of local Maya peasant girls, giggling, watched us, keeping a little distance. We tried talking to them in our broken Spanish, and they came a little closer, asking us in equally broken Spanish where we were going, which country we were from, and whether we’d travelled to Mexico by bus. After a while one of them ran off to fetch the bracelets which she and her friend offered for sale. We bought them for what they seemed to think a fortune, though it was next to nothing. One of them found its first ever use being scanned in for this page. I suppose they’re married now with growing families.

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The following pages have external links which need to be checked from time to time:
Tracey’s home page Manaslu
Morocco notes Kangchenjunga
Chile notes Zanskar
Peru gen Links
Back in the Sacred Valley Site Info
French Alps Index
Umbria General
mersey 24
Tafraoute intro Tafraoute gorges
Australia Andes links
Garhwal gen
Ivan’s index Iceland

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You may link to any html page on this site. There is no need to tell me. I do not move pages around gratuitously.

With the exceptions mentioned below I have no objection to people linking to jpegs or gifs, but do not recommend it and may move or rename them as the mood takes me.

You are likewise free to include my images (by <img src="...">) so long as you credit them appropriately.

What is not acceptable is to embody my images in your own pages without acknowledgement, either by reference or – heaven forbid – by copying. This is known as hotlinking and happens quite a lot, and is usually followed by my renaming the file in question. For this reason you should not hotlink my images from pages I cannot easily check, eg bulletin boards, pages in Japanese script, etc.

Moreover you should not link to the large images in my maps directory. Any link to these images will fail.

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You may use the information in this web site in any way you please. You may print pages out for your own use. You may distribute prints free of charge provided that their provenance is indicated. (The url as included in a print by browsers is sufficient.)

Commercial use is by permission only. We have high resolution digital copies of almost all images on this site. Token acknowledgement is all we ask for.

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Referrer spam

I have suffered a lot of referrer spam over the past 18 months. The reason is that newnet sets sites up so that web stats pages are indexed by search engines (this is rather careless). I now direct search engines away from the stats pages using the robots.txt file. However the masterlyinactivity domain is still on lists of vulnerable targets, and it may be that some spammers attack sites indiscriminately.

Referrer spammers flood a site with requests with a bogus url in the referrer field so that this url gets mentioned in the ‘top referrers’ list in the site’s web statistics. Since the top referrers are listed as links, search engine robots treat the link as an unsolicited testimonial and boost the page rank of the url provided.

Web hosts don’t seem all that switched on to the problem, but the biggest culprits are the search engines who almost encourage the practice by their passivity towards it.

Many spammers work from fixed ip addresses, so that their requests can be rejected by simple directives in the .htaccess file (assuming that your site is hosted using Apache web software). Eg.
<Limit GET POST>
order allow,deny
allow from all
deny from
deny from

More recently my referrer spam has come from a wide range of ip addresses. I think some webmasters suspect that ‘search engine optimisation’ companies have been exploiting trojanised computers. This seems to me unlikely. More probably they’ve used software which falsifies the ip addresses in its requests (if this is possible). Since the spammers aren’t interested in receiving the pages back, they won’t mind that they get directed to random locations where presumably they get lost.

A suitable countermeasure can be incorporated in the .htaccess file. If you want to deny any request whose referrer field contains the string cat or the string dog, include the following directives
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} (cat) [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} (dog)
RewriteRule ^(.*) [F]

I confess to not fully understanding this notation. The Apache documentation refers to ‘Perl regular expressions’ without further explanation. The ‘[F]’ allegedly specifies a 403 response, but 404 is what I have been seeing in my logs. I will try ‘[G]’ another time – it purports to respond 410 – in the hope of being able to distinguish rejected requests from 404s in my site statistics.

Note that the measures described above avoid loss of outgoing bandwidth to the spammers, but that the spam requests are nonetheless logged and taken into account by log analysers. This has the advantage that you can see how the requests are being handled, but the drawback that the spam requests displace more interesting information from your stats pages.

Another class of web spam is repeated robot requests for pages for no apparent reason. nicebot is a spam robot which downloads pages for no visible purpose. I’ve recently had repeated visits from a robot whose behaviour is that of a referrer spammer except that the referrer field is blank (or possibly ‘-’). I sent it away by crude means which may perhaps have obstructed some benign requests. If the problem recurs and I have time I will experiment with some other Apache options. Perhaps it’s simply a buggy referrer spammer.

The following spam hosts have been banned at various times.

The following strings in referrer fields have been used to reject requests.

hipdiary lcdtvget globalartforum freehostgroup goldbuyhere megajobssearch

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Terms of use

Human visitors may use the site as described above. Well behaved and benign robots are welcome. Furtive, unidentifiable or misbehaving robots are not permitted to use this site. They may be banned and other action taken.

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