The Romania malware situation and a brief “halfway” report

February 12th, 2018

In a post about the malware problem in far too many of Indonesia’s open access journals, I included a “PS” noting that Romania had the second largest number of infected journals in the first 4,000, although that number wasn’t very large (9)–and that Romania had the largest number of infected journals last year (11). I said I’d check the remainder of the Romanian gold OA journals and post a similar message with spreadsheets.

I’ve completed that scan (and I’m now not quite halfway through the first scan), and the story is that there are, in all, eleven Romanian OA journals flagged as malware by Malwarebytes Premium. That’s more than any other country except Indonesia, but it’s not a big percentage, and not really worth a spreadsheet. I provide the titles, URLs and publishers at the end of this post, in what is probably a clumsy table. (I believe that these 11 are entirely different than last year’s 11, but it’s possible that some secondary columns didn’t line up right, so I wouldn’t swear to that.[confirmed on 2/13: these are entirely different journals])

Other countries? A total of 14 of the first 5,340 journals–four in Brazil and one each in ten other countries.

Here’s the table, such as it is (if you want to work on these and find the table unusable, send me email at waltcrawford@gmail.com and I’ll send back an Excel spreadsheet):

Title URL Publisher
Romanian Review of Geographical Education http://rrge.reviste.ubbcluj.ro/index.html Universitatea “Babeş-Bolyai” Cluj Napoca
Studia Universitatis Babeş-Bolyai Negotia http://studia.ubbcluj.ro/serii/negotia/index_en.html Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai
Meta: Research in Hermeneutics, Phenomenology and Practical Philosophy http://www.metajournal.org/ Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi
Modelling the New Europe http://neweurope.centre.ubbcluj.ro/?page_id=103 Babes-Bolyai University
PedActa http://padi.psiedu.ubbcluj.ro/pedacta/ Babes-Bolyai University
Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai: Series Informatica http://www.cs.ubbcluj.ro/~studia-i/ Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca
Riscuri şi Catastrofe http://riscurisicatastrofe.reviste.ubbcluj.ro Casa Cartii de Stiinta Cluj-Napoca
Aerul şi Apa: Componente ale Mediului http://aerapa.conference.ubbcluj.ro/ Cluj University Press
Romanian Review of Regional Studies http://rrrs.reviste.ubbcluj.ro Cluj University Press
Studia Universitatis Babeş-Bolyai: Educatio Artis Gymnasticae http://studia.ubbcluj.ro/serii/educatio/ Cluj University Press
Studia Universitatis Babeş-Bolyai: Geographia http://studiageographia.geografie.ubbcluj.ro/ Cluj University Press

Indonesia OA: Can you help with a malware problem?

February 9th, 2018

If you know of someone involved with gold OA within Indonesia (probably working with universities), you might want to let them know about the situation described here. I normally just observe, measure and comment, but this case seems special enough to at least support action.

The Good News

Whether due to DOAJ‘s efforts or otherwise, the number of Indonesian gold OA journals within DOAJ grew rapidly during 2007, with 665 new journals (and a few apparently returned to the directory). I believe Indonesia now has more journals within DOAJ than any other country: 1,154 as of 1/1/2018.

The Bad News

Indonesia seems to have a problem with malware. Malwarebytes Premium, which I always run (alongside Windows Defender) after problems encountered with a few infected OA journals three years ago, finds an astonishing 286 Indonesia journals afflicted with malware–either the journal site itself or a site called by the journal site.

[How astonishing is that number? In the 2016 study, there were a total of 67 infected journal sites; so far, with almost half the journals checked, there are 21 outside of Indonesia.]

I do not ignore Malwarebytes warnings: I close the browser tab immediately. That means I don’t check the journal, and it won’t be included in the 2012-2017 Gold Open Access Journals report this summer–and, frankly, that any cautious user will avoid it.

I do recheck every malware-infected site during my second pass in April or early May (where I also recheck all other problematic sites–those unreachable, suspended, etc.–and the sites where it seems at least possible that late-2017 articles are being posted late). For journals that continue to be infected or problematic, I glean as much information as I can from DOAJ, but while I include these numbers in one or two “big numbers” tables, they’re simply excluded from the bulk of the report.

How to Help

People in contact with the publishers–mostly universities–could suggest that the site code be checked for problems, especially for subcalls. I’d start with Universitas Negeri Semarang, since the domain journal.unnes.ac.id shows as malware on nearly all that university’s OA journals–and also shows up as an infected call in quite a few other journals. Smaller domain problems include ojs.unud.ac.id at Universitas Udayana, ejournal.upi.edu at Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia and possibly others.

It’s possible that Malwarebytes is showing false positives, but I’m no malware expert, and since I’ve had malware problems directly traceable to journal sites in the past, I’m not willing to take the chance.

NOTE: These are not all new journals–indeed, most of them were in DOAJ before 2017 (102 appear to be new), but without malware.

You can download an Excel spreadsheet showing the title, URL, publisher and–in some cases–a note (“domain” means the URL up to but not including the first slash) as to the malware encountered. If you prefer, a comma-separated-values version is also available.

I hope someone’s able to clear these up; I look forward to rechecking the sites in late April or early May and finding few if any infected sites!

PS: About Romania

If you’ve read earlier progress reports on this year’s scan, you’ll know that Romania also had a number of malware issues: nine of the remaining 21 from the first 4,000 journals. Romania also had the most infected journals year, with 11. I am checking the remaining Romanian OA journals before going back to the alphabetical-by-publisher scan. Since there are only 137 more journals to check, I’d expect to finish this by next Tuesday (2/13) or so. If somebody out there would like to check on the Romanian journals–the probably-infected ones–send me email (waltcrawford@gmail) to that effect and I’ll provide a similar spreadsheet when it’s ready.

Note added 2/12/2017: I’ve done the Romanian scan, and it turns out there are only 11 infected journals in all. Here’s the discussion and a table.

GOAJ3: Third note

February 4th, 2018

I’m one-third of the way through the first pass.

Following up on the previous notes:

  • The rate of malware occurrences has slowed down (but I can see that a whole bunch of journals from the most problematic nation are coming up soon).
  • Indonesian OAstill seems to have a malware problem. At this point, of 120 Indonesian OA titles checked, 36 are flagged by Malwarebytes Pro as either being malicious or having malware-infected segments. That’s four more infections of 17 more journals.
  • Other malware: 9 of 155 in Romania: 57 more journals, no new infections. 4 of 329 in Brazil: 149 more journals. one more infection. Two of 13 in Ukraine–four more journals, no more infections. Six countries with one malware case each: five more than previously.
  • I’m hoping these will mostly resolve themselves on the second pass (or the third malware-only pass). I will not bypass Malwarebytes or Windows Defender protection. Period. Been there, done that, spent days fixing things.
  • Note that there were only 67 journals flagged as malware in last year’s pass. I now have 57 flagged out of the first 3,600–with more than 7,100 left to go. The rate has gone down dramatically–but it’s far too high.

And a new note, only indirectly about the study. As I’d noted elsewhere, I seem to be having occasional system instability problems (although doing a full shutdown or restart once every day or so seems to be helping and only costs 2-3 minutes of lost time).

I thought I’d try LibreOffice instead of Excel, to see whether that would help with the problem; I’ve long suggested LibreOffice as a substitute for people who want Office functionality but either (a) despise Microsoft or (b) legitimately can’t afford $100 for Office.

After the lengthy process of updating to the latest version, I tried opening both spreadsheets and working with them. Unfortunately, what I found was:

  • LibreOffice, faced with medium-sized spreadsheets (one’s about 400KB and currently has 3,600 rows of about 20 columns, with no formulas; the other has the same columns and lack of formulas but currently about 10,100 rows), was jerky: attempts to move around or adjust the window size were slow and erratic.
  • One or two functions that I use regularly (e.g., column autowidth) just aren’t there.
  • I found the integrated icon-based control bars confusing–but that’s because I’m now very comfortable with Office 2013’s contextual control bars.

After 10-15 minutes, always feeling that I was waiting for LO to catch up, I gave up.

(Notably, when I’d tried a similar experiment as a Word replacement, functions I consider necessary just weren’t there–but then, I create full-fledged books in Word, making more typographic control demands than the average user.)

I still think LibreOffice is a good no-cost alternative, especially for casual use. But, frankly, the price for Office seems like a bargain (no, I don’t use Office360: $100/year still doesn’t seem like a bargain.)

GOAJ2: January update

January 31st, 2018

Here’s how things are going for GOAJ2: Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2016 and The Countries of OAWorld 2011-2016 and related stuff (all linked to from the project home page), through January 31, 2018 [noting that most of the last day of each month is missing because of how statistics are done]:

  • The dataset: 325 views, 58 downloads.
  • GOAJ2: 1,362 PDF ebooks (and two paperbacks), plus 655 copies of chapters 1-7 (C&I 17.4)
  • Countries: 479 PDF ebooks (no paperbacks)
  • Subject supplement (C&I 17.5): 1,175 copies

Looking at the rest of gold OA (beyond DOAJ), Gray OA 2012-2016 has now been downloaded 2,180 times, while Gray OA 2014-2017: A Partial Followup, released in October 2017, has 700 downloads.

 

GOAJ3: Second note

January 24th, 2018

I’m about 20% of the way through the first pass.

The only noteworthy observation at this point is a more emphatic version of one worrisome note from the earlier post:

  • Indonesian OA seems to have a malware problem. At this point, of 103 Indonesian OA titles checked, 32 are flagged by Malwarebytes Pro as either being malicious or having malware-infected segments. (Others: 9 of 98 in Romania, 3 of 180 in Brazil, two of nine in Ukraine, and one of 287 in Poland.) I’m hoping these will mostly resolve themselves on the second pass (or the third malware-only pass). I will not bypass Malwarebytes or Windows Defender protection. Period. Been there, done that, spent days fixing things.
  • Note that there were only 67 journals flagged as malware in last year’s pass. I now have 47 flagged out of the first 2,260–with more than 8400 left to go. I hope the rate goes down dramatically.

The requiem that isn’t

January 21st, 2018

A week and a half ago, I started having problems with my computer while doing the marathon GOAJ3 scan of 10,800-odd OA journals. Once a day or so, usually late afternoon, first the external Sony display (where I had the “to do” spreadsheet) would go black, then the notebook display (usually showing Edge, although the “done” spreadsheet was also there but hidden, as was a Firefox session if I wanted a break from the scan) would go black, then one or both might come briefly back to life…and I’d eventually have to force a power-down and reboot. Sometimes I’d lose no work; sometimes 5-10 minutes (but after the second time, I started saving fairly often).

At first, I thought it might be the notebook itself, but after discussing it with the sensible person in the household–my wife–we concluded that it was most likely the external display, or possibly–unlikely–the cable.

Since replacing the cable (male VGA to male VGA) was really cheap, and since it was true that the old cable wasn’t a very secure fit on the notebook size (for some reason, Toshiba produced a notebook with only a VGA display connector–but didn’t seem to feel there was any reason to make it possible to secure the cable screws: there are no screwholes), I obtained a new cable. Still, we both assumed it was most likely the 12.5-year-old Sony SDM-HS95P display. After all, it was 12.5 years old (built in May 2005, and purchased shortly thereafter), and for the last 10.5 years it’s probably been on around 60-65 hours a week (that is, since OCLC decided I was of no further use: for the first two years, it probably got 30 hours a week or so. Add it up, and the display–expensive at the time (close to $1,000 as we remember it) and with spectacular quality for the time (look up the model number: it’s still one of the physically classiest displays around)–has probably been running for around 35,000 hours. I wouldn’t even assume a CFL backlight would last that long…

But…

I made one other change: instead of running the to-do spreadsheet full-screen, I ran it 22 rows tall (I normally do ten journals per pass, and move completed journal rows to the Done spreadsheet in 20-journal chunks), or about half-screen.

And when the blackout happened again, I realized that it was neither the cable nor the display: only the spreadsheet went black, while the Windows background picture stayed active. So, even after 12.5 years, the Sony continues to work (and to be a great display). I don’t see any rush to replace it whileit’s working: the 19″ (4×3 ratio) display fits the working space nicely and offers 1280×1024 resolution; to get the same vertical space and the same-size text on a newer (and certainly much cheaper!) 19×6 display, I’d probably have to go for at least a 24″ display, which would be awkwardly wide.

So the requiem or elegy for this long-surviving display will be put off for a while.

What’s the actual problem?

As far as I can tell. it’s either Excel 2013 or some interaction between Excel and Edge. (I’m using Edge for this pass because it seems faster than Chrome, has close-enough-to-equivalent autotranslate, and handles Ctrl-F, which I use a LOT, in a manner that makes it faster/easier for groups of journals with similar characteristics. I won’t make it my “standard” browser because it still won’t let me set a preferred typeface, so I’m dealing with the deluge of Arial/Helvetica/other dreary sans text on journal homepages.)

[Yes, I’ve done an Excel repair–but not a reinstall, because it’s not bad enough yet.]

Yesterday, another oddity arose, but this one turns out to be a blessing in disguise, sort of: Excel stopped converting cells containing URLs into hyperlinks by double-clicking. And here’s the thing: turns out that the Excel-activation-of-browser process, along with occasionally blanking out for a bit, was slower than what I’m doing now: copy the cell, open another Edge tab, paste the text, Enter. Four keystrokes and a touchpad move–just one keystroke more than the method I was using, and now I can inspect URLs without having them activate accidentally.

The blackout? Hasn’t happened again, yet, and perhaps the lack of Excel-to-Edge interaction has something to do with that. I still save early and often, and eventually I’ll try to figure out what’s going on and fix it.

But for now…back to the spreadsheets.

I’m leaving this one open for comments. Someone might be saying “I know what the problem is,” and if so you’re invited to comment. (Comments along the lines of “the problem is you’re still using Windows” will be cheerfully ignored.) And, yeah, maybe I’ll fire up LibreOffice and see how it does with the spreadsheet… [Added a bit later: Tried LibreOffice. At least with LibreOffice 5.4, there’s no such double-click-to-make-hyperlink functionality, so never mind.]


Update 2/8/18: It’s too early to say for sure, but I might have found the problem: Edge. Now running Chrome with Excel. On one hand, Find/ctrl-f across multiple tabs is much slower than with Edge; on the other, it’s nice not to have to look at all that bloody sans serif (since Chrome, like Firefox and unlike Edge, lets the user select a typeface. Most significantly (but it’s early yet), after the problem kept recurring every day or two, it now seems to be gone–and there are some suggestions online that Edge has or had stability problems. Sigh

Further update 2/13/18: Given the non-recurrence of stability problems, I’m now fairly sure that this is the problem–either some MS software doesn’t play nicely with other MS software or Edge just gets tired/cranky after lots of tab opening and closing and shows its edginess.

GOAJ3: First piece of the marathon

January 13th, 2018

I’ve started in on GOAJ3, Gold Open Access Journals 2012-2017, which meansL:

  1. I’ve downloaded the DOAJ metadata (at 12:30 a.m. UMT on January 1, which was easy to do the afternoon of December 31).
  2. I’ve matched rows with the previous report where possible, since I don’t plan to recount 2012-2016 or revisit simplified subject assignments more often than necessary. (Matching is a multistage process.)
  3. I’ve tried to match remaining DOAJ rows with the “gray OA” spreadsheet to show cases where journals were either restored or have gained DOAJ status.
  4. I’ve started the actual data sweep, which will continue for somewhere between 10 more weeks and 88 more days (or more), after which comes revisiting cases needing revisits. [More plausible estimates, all assuming no significant personal or household crises: very optimistic: 10 weeks; mildly optimistic: 95 days; mildly pessimistic: 19 weeks.]
  5. In the process of starting tat, I’ve decided what’s worth trying to add to the analysis beyond the past two reports–which turns out to be mostly a crude measure of the transparency of APC status and amount. (As in, was the information reasonably readily available on the journal site or did I give up and rely on DOAJ?)

I’m a tenth of the way through–and that far only because of BioMed Central (I’m doing the data sweep alphabetically by publisher), with more than 200 journals that were exceedingly easy to get data for.

A couple of observations on that first tenth–actually a bit more:

  • Thanks to the group of hikers/walkers I go with on most Wednesday morning, I have eliminated the single “XT/couldn’t translate” omission from previous years. (The de facto leader of the Amblers, one of the three subgroups within the hiking group, is from India and I know the journal’s Indian. He agreed to take a look. It turns out to be in Hindi, not a language he reads–but a friend his *does* read Hindi and gave me the article coults.)
  • So far, it appears that Indonesia has a malware problem. 10 of 74 Indonesian journals checked so far are flagged by Malwarebytes as malware, The only other cases are five of 63 Romanian (I think one of those is actually an invalid security certificate) and two of 89 from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Naturally, those numbers will change–and I recheck all cases of malware (but I do not ever ignore Malwarebytes: problematic journals are one reason I use Malwarebytes Pro along with Windows Defender).

No real significance here; just a note along the (extended) way.

 

[Slowed down a bit because of a glitch in my two-display setup: after a $6 cable purchase, I’m now trying to determine whether it’s the cable or, more likely, a 12.5-year-old display. We shall see… ]

GOAJ2: December 2017 update

December 31st, 2017

Here’s how things are going for GOAJ2: Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2016 and The Countries of OAWorld 2011-2016 and related stuff (all linked to from the project home page), through December 31, 2017 [noting that most of the last day of each month is missing because of how statistics are done]:

  • The dataset: 283 views, 53 downloads.
  • GOAJ2: 1,292 PDF ebooks (no paperbacks), plus 494 copies of chapters 1-7 (C&I 17.4)
  • Countries: 420 PDF ebooks (no paperbacks)
  • Subject supplement (C&I 17.5): 1,037 copies

December also saw 146 downloads of Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2015, 56 downloads of the earlier Countries version and 46 downloads of the Subjects version.

Looking at the rest of gold OA (beyond DOAJ), Gray OA 2012-2016 has now been downloaded 2,051 times, while Gray OA 2014-2017: A Partial Followup, released in October, has 541 downloads.

 

Cites & Insights 18:1 (January 2018) available

December 19th, 2017

The January 2018 Cites & Insights (18:1) is now available for downloading at https://citesandinsights.info/civ18i1.pdf

The 48-page (6″ x 9″) issue includes:

The Front  pp. 1-2

Announcing the C&I Annual for 2017, the most booklike annual to date; why you should buy a copy and support C&I; and brief “plans” for the 2018 volume. (Note: there’s also a 20% sale on that annual and all other Lulu print books, good through December 25, 2017: use coupon code LULU20.)

Intersections: Open Access Issues  pp. 2-42

Issues other than economics and ethics (and “predatory” stuff), that is.

The Back: Audiophile System Prices, 2017  pp. 42-48

This annual feature–this time based on the October 2017 Stereophile–appears as a standalone The Back this time around. Did you know that you can assemble an audiophile-approved CD-only (and probably bass-shy) system for $624, a similar vinyl-only system for $874, or a more typical system with both CD and vinyl for $2,861–or, if you’re rolling in it, spend $853,688 (yes, that’s for a stereo system).

 

Saying goodbye: another OFP

December 7th, 2017

I like good magazines. Good magazines are carefully curated* collections of content delivered on a regular basis, and if done well the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. (If done really well, the ads in a magazine actually enhance the package instead of getting in the way.) *I’m not wild about overusing “curated,” but I think it’s the right term for thoughtfully-edited magazines.

Saying goodbye to a magazine I’ve subscribed to for years is always difficult–made less so lately because I suffer from CTCT (Cover-To-Cover Tendency, the tendency to read all of a magazine) and can’t keep up. (This is also why I’ve never subscribed to The New Yorker and don’t subscribe to any weeklies: I couldn’t keep up.)

I said goodbye to one old friend of a magazine last year, but that was because Conde Nast Traveler‘s new editor had changed it from a content-heavy travel magazine full of good information into an oversized art portfolio with lots of photos, little text and never any prices for anything actually travel-related. It became one of those “if you have to ask” magazines. I still miss it. (Fortunately, Travel + Leisure seems to have stepped up its game, although I worry about the Meredith takeover of Time Inc. We shall see.)

This month marks two more goodbyes, for different reasons.

Porthole–one of two cruise-related bimonthlies we subscribed to for many years–always was an “if you have to ask” magazine and almost entirely fluff. We both finally just lost interest. (It wasn’t hard to jeep up with: I could usually read a whole issue over breakfast. And then note that I hadn’t gained anything from the experience other than a meal.)

Analog is a much tougher case. It’s the oldest of the surviving science fiction/fantasy print magazines (originally with a more vivid name), and published many first-rate stories in the “golden age” and beyond. I don’t know how long I’ve subscribed to it, but probably more than 40 years (based on my awareness that I’ve always read Asimov’s, and it’s celebrating its 40th anniversary). I’ve subscribed to all three remaining SFF magazines for many years, even as they’ve gone from monthly to bimonthly (but with the same fiction page count: each issue of each magazine is now, I’m guessing, well over 100,000 words long).

I’ve been falling behind, and decided something had to give. That something is Analog–and not just because I’m falling behind (thanks to more bookreading, other demands on my time, and just plain slowing down). The other factor is that recent issues seem to be short on good story-telling, as though the new editor doesn’t think that science fiction must first be fiction. Increasingly, I either give up on a story partway through or get to the last page and wonder why I didn’t find it satisfying or intriguing or humorous or informative or much of anything.

That “what did I just read, and why is it considered a story?” feeling almost never happens with Asimov’s or The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, but it’s happening most too much of the time with Analog. So it’s time to say goodbye. It was great knowing you for some decades; too bad things have soured.