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Doug McLean

 
 

Mistaken Identity in the TidBITS Commenting System

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Mea culpa! Some time ago, we found and fixed a cosmetic bug in the TidBITS Commenting System that caused a small number of people to be associated with another user’s name when they attempted to post a comment. The problem arose when our code set an incorrect cookie in an unusual set of circumstances.

Although we fixed the bug as soon as we realized what was going on, we don’t know exactly how many people might have been affected. Unfortunately, because the incorrect identity is stored in a cookie with a far-in-the-future expiration date, the problem continues to crop up even now. Worse, we have no good way of identifying or fixing these munged cookies from our side.

The solution is simple: delete the “tbcomm” cookie associated with tidbits.com, but since we have no idea who might be affected, and thus can’t contact them, our only option is to write this article and hope that the affected users read it. Our sincere apologies both for this bug and for having to explain it here, but to make this article more broadly useful, here are instructions for deleting cookies in each of the three most popular Web browsers, should you ever want to do that for other reasons.

Safari

  1. Choose Safari > Preferences to open Safari’s Preferences window.

  2. Click the Privacy button.

  3. Next to Cookies And Other Website Data, click the Details button.

  4. In the search field, type tidbits.com

  5. Select the tidbits.com entry that appears, and click the Remove button. (There’s no way to delete just a single cookie in Safari.)


  6. Click Done and close the Preferences window.

Chrome

  1. Choose Chrome > Preferences to open Chrome’s Settings page.

  2. At the bottom, click Show Advanced Settings.

  3. Under the Privacy heading (which is the first one to appear when you reveal advanced settings), click the Content Settings button.

  4. In the Content Settings dialog, under the Cookies heading, click the All Cookies and Site Data button.

  5. In the Cookies and Site Data dialog, enter tidbits.com in the search field.

  6. Select the tidbits.com entry, click the “tbcomm” button associated with the cookie we use for the TidBITS Commenting System, and click the Remove button. (You could also click the X button to delete all the tidbits.com associated cookies, and if you have cookies from other tidbits.com domains, you could remove all of them. The downside to doing that is, if you’re logged out, the site will forget whether you prefer to hide or show article summaries.)


  7. Close the Settings page.

Firefox

  1. Choose Firefox > Preferences to open Firefox’s Preferences window.

  2. Click the Privacy button.

  3. Under the History heading, click the Remove Individual Cookies link.

  4. In the Cookies window, type tidbits.com in the Search field.

  5. If necessary, scroll down until you see the tidbits.com cookies, and specifically the item with “tbcomm” in the Cookie Name column. Select it, and click the Remove Cookie button.


  6. Close the Cookies and Preferences windows.

 

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Comments about Mistaken Identity in the TidBITS Commenting System

Steve Nicholson  2013-04-30 15:29
I was wondering why my comments were being attributed to this Steve Nicholson guy instead of to Batman like they should have been.

I'm Batman.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-05-01 06:21
Bond. James Bond.
George Stamas  2013-05-01 10:42
You've both been outed now.
Tommy Friedmann  2013-05-06 17:15
Is there any way of knowing if I have been affected? My name appears correctly here.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-05-06 18:24
Ach, I had that thought at some point while editing and forgot to put it in. If your name appears correctly, there's nothing to do at all - you don't have a bad cookie. This should be true for the vast majority of users.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-05-06 19:54
Hard to tell, but I would run from crop dusters just in case. :-)
Mike van Lammeren  2013-05-06 18:22
You could fix this with a minor change on the server. Change the name of the cookie from "tbcomm" to something else. Or add some characters to the value, then ignore the shorter cookies. There are probably a dozen other easy fixes.
Dennis B. Swaney  2013-05-06 19:43
My name... Jose Jimenez
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-05-07 06:17
For those, like me, who are just a touch too young to get the reference right off...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_Jiminez