More storms

I’ve just checked the BBC weather and there are more storms forcast for our area today and tomorrow. Deep joy.

It seems that small person weathered the storm last night in the tent with her friend, and they are still all having a great time. This great time has been improved since a rather nice 15year old lad appeared at the camp ;) The girls are ensuring they are looking nice before seeing him! Aww bless.

Today is sorting techie stuff out like email etc so that we are up and running again properly. My weblog won’t be back online until the weekend I suspect but there you go; I can just clog other half’s up with my thoughts instead :) (he can always delete them later ;) )

Hope you have all survived the storm in tact and it was as spectacular as ours.

Major technological problems

We had a thunderstorm this evening. A real corker. The lights flickered and (well you just know what’s coming don’t you?) and the computers blipped for a few seconds.

But in that few seconds, my server went down. It rebooted, but lost one of the three HDDs in there. And it just happened to be the one that was home to all the websites we host, the email for those websites, the MySQL databases…… You’re getting the picture aren’t you?

Other half is busy trying desperately to rescue the situation but as I write now (and I am sure he will update later), my weblog and the Gallery are lost, I have no email and it all seems pretty hopeless.

As a result of this evening’s debacle, we agreed that we would host everything somewhere else commercially rather than our living room from now on. Other half is sorting this out too (he’s a busy little bee right now). I don’t want a repeat episode again, whether it be an act of God or man.

DNS woes


DNS is a pain in the neck. My ISP’s primary nameserver went down yesterday (which may not be your yesterday – it depends how quickly the DNS issues get resolved as to when you will see this) which wouldn’t ordinarily cause a problem. What did cause a problem was that I’d got the address of the seocondary nameserver wrong in the DNS registry, so as soon as the primary went down (and computers should have started using the secondary) the domain disappeared, leaving only a pair of smoking boots behind.
Of course, I never noticed the duff configuration on the domain since the primary DNS server has been very reliable over the last few years. That’ll teach me, I guess.
Anyway, yesterday, I corrected the registry’s nameserver data, and this morning (I’ve checked) the internet has caught up with that change, but unfortunately things are still broken as I wait for the DNS caching servers to all consider the data they hold to be too old and re-query for it. Until that point, I can’t be emailed, nor can the website be resolved.
When you can read this, the problems are over.

Stupid TV licensing.

Firstly, we have a TV license.

Secondly, there is a gaping hole in the TV licensing laws that I’ve just found out about.
Tip #1: Buy your TV from Tescos.
Tip #2: When the assistant goes to ring it through, ask them if you could apply for your clubcard, as you don’t have one. With any luck, the assistant will swipe the “temporary” clubcard at the till (as they are trained to do), thereby registering with the till that you have a clubcard, bypassing the till printing out the name and address form for you with your visa receipt.
Tip 3#: Don’t fill in the clubcard application form. TV licensing have no idea that you just bought a new TV. They know *someone* did, but not who. What a shame, eh?

Of course, now it’s on the internet, the TV licensing people will be all over Tescos like a rash and close the loophole PDQ. Except it’s on my  blog, so no-one knows, except you and me…

Bloody Logitech

Logitech Wireless desktop MX3100 keyboard and mouse.

Very nice bits of kit, all things considered, but hopeless drivers from an out-of-the-box install. Firefox’s Back and Forward functions aren’t triggered by the back and forward buttons on the mouse (which is their flagship MX1000 product). This, I thought is just wrong. It turns out that it is. There’s a new version of the SetPoint software – version 2.31 – which fixes this issue, but it’s been a painful process to find this out. The Logitech website says that Firefox doesn’t work with the SetPoint software, which is utter garbage.
Maybe they’ll get their lives sorted out at some point and update their website, but somehow I doubt it…

I hope this info is useful for somebody who’s just installed the boxed CD software and found it’s not working.

Windows Mobile 2003 (WinCE)

Wince I certainly did. After Other Half’s purchase of a new phone/PDA combo unit, we’ve been trying all afternoon to get the builtin wi-fi going on the wireless network we have here at home. For reasons best known to myself, I’ve been typing in a 128bit WEP key all afternoon trying to get this bloody thing on the network, and it’s been sitting there smugly saying “Nope. I’ll connect, but you can’t use it.” Or error messages to that effect, anyway :)

So, after much pratting about, and talk (from Orange, who are providing the phone) of returning the thing as faulty, I have a brainwave, after Other Half read a page on the internet about connecting this specific device the net. The page she was reading had nothing to do with the MAC filtering on the Wifi Access Point, but it kicked off a train of thought in my tiny little mind that maybe, as the WAP was doing MAC filtering, I *really* ought to add this device’s MAC address to the WAP.

Easy, you’d think. Just go to the WAP, login and type in the 16 digits between me and Wireless freedom. Not so, with WinCE – there’s no apparent way to get hold of a MAC address on Windows Pocket PC Edition 2003. The internet comes to our rescue, though, some smart cookie has written a WinCE program to show the status of the Wifi adapter in gory detail. One of the things it tells you isthe MAC address, fortunately.

So, for all you lucky, lucky people with Windows Mobile 2003, I’ll point you to the following website so you can find out this sort of thing: vxIPConfig.

Sorted :)

New Dr. Who actor to leave series.

After only one week visible on our screens, Christopher Ecclestone has resigned the job of playing the Doctor. Apparently he didn’t want to become typecast; after the success of beating Ant & Dec in the ratings war, who can blame him for being worried about having the same fate as Tom ‘Dr Who’ Baker?

Another series of Dr. Who has already been commissioned for next year, Russell T Davies to direct again.

Full story here

Spam control

Hopefully after yesterday we should be seeing less spam on the site in comments and trackbacks. I upgraded to WordPress 1.5 2 days ago which has some anti-spam measures itself, plus I’ve installed a couple of plugins (yay, proper plugins in 1.5) one of which is called Spam Karma. It’s the business. Normally, I get up in the morning, and there’s usually 30 or 40 spams, 5 or so make it through moderation into the live comment system. Not today; every single one has been binned (correctly) and my email hasn’t gone loopy with moderation requests. I really am impressed with this plugin, and recommend it to anyone running WP 1.5 :) Actually, I’d recommend anybody not running WP 1.5 to upgrade and install the plugin, it’s that impressive.

Spam Karma is available from Dr Dave’s blog or is available as a one click install in WP-Plugin Manager (an excellent plugin manager tool) available from Dr Dave’s blog again, listed in the Plugin management section. Highly recommended :)

Have a nice spam-free blog :)

Bike related disaster narrowly averted…

Bike related disaster :(

2 days ago, I noticed that the bike was leaking oil (and a fairly substantial amount, too) all over the back yard. When I got to work, it did it on the car park as well. So I ring up the dealers, and get it booked in for yesterday. Yesterday morning, then, I ride up to the dealers with a sinking feeling thinking this was going to be expensive; that they would try to wheedle out of the warranty for some reason or another. Turns out I needn’t have worried, because an hour after I got there, the receptionist came out to the cafe and told me it was ready. So I finish my cup of tea, and wanders into reception. She hands me the key, and the mechanic tells me what was wrong. By this point, I’m in the workshop, well away from the nearest till; they didn’t argue at all, they just did it :) Woohoo!!!

For those of you with an engineering bent, an O ring on the bottom of the oil cooler had split – due to muck introduced at manufacturing time – and the rest is history. I now have a leak-free bike.

Astronomical Observations

First cloud-free (well, relatively – there was some clouds hanging around along the horizon) night with the telescope tonight, despite Metcheck‘s protestations to the contrary. Off I troddle into the back yard with the trusty telescope with the optics all in order (or so I thought) for a swift bit of observing. An hour later, I’d got the mount aligned with polaris, and finally managed to get the finderscope approaching something like aligned. I thought I’d done a pretty good job aligning both the mirrors the other day; they are certainly better aligned than when I bought the thing, but they are obviously not quite right still.
Continue reading Astronomical Observations

Nifty application

For mobile phones. Yes, such a beast does exist. Not only is this actually useful, it’s really quite impressive. It’s called MicroSky, and is available for free at: MicroSky homepage. If you don’t have GPRS on the phone, though, forget it as it chats to a server somewhere to get the sky details.
Basically the app runs on the mobile phone, and displays starmaps for your set locations. We’ll see how it fares in the field when the clouds have gone, but right now, I’m impressed :)

New toy

Some of you may already know this through other means, but I thought I’d better put something up here anyway :)
After many months of umm-ing and arr-ing (me hearties!) I’ve finally upped and bought myself a telescope. Primarily, I want to be doing astrophotography with the SLR I’ve got, but some of it is bound to be just looking around the heavens for the hell of it, really. I’ve not yet fetched the camera mount for the scope, that’s on its way, hopefully it’ll be in the shop this weekend, so a quick trip to West Bridgeford on Saturday may well be in order.
Continue reading New toy

Off on a rant, now.

Just to add insult to injury, Firefox has just caused me to waste the last hour of my life. Thankyou firefox. Is it really ready for the primetime?
If I typed in the address bar (with or without the trailing slash) it would try to download the PHP source to the index.php page, saying it was of type application/x-httpd-php and with a blank filename.
So I spend an hour looking at why the hell it was doing that (thinking it was the server, as that’s what I’ve been playing with all day, and quite a lot of last night. But no ; it’s sodding firefox. I got the packet logger out on the server, and watched all traffic to the server on port 80. Nothing from my machine at all. Firefox’s cache had gone completely mental and decided that (somehow) it was going to cache the php source code to the site.
Anyhow, I cleared the cache and it all worked. But it does beg the question why it had cached

  1. The php source code
  2. a “page” that had the no-cache attribute set.

It goes without saying that Internet Explorer (god bless it’s little cotton socks) worked properly. Time to make a switch back to that, I reckon…

Rant over. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Virtual Hosting part one.

There’s a master plan afoot. I’m now running a completely  dynamic virtual hosting system on this server. Web services, name services and email are all dynamically worked out from SQL queries. “Why is this newsworthy?” you ask? Well, it’s to do with me showing off, basically. This is (as you can see from the title) only part one (part zero which I achieved about 18 months ago was web and mail services run dynamically, but the web was a cheat, which required a filesystem hack). Now, though, it’s all done “properly” from SQL databases. Which of course means that I’m going to need some management software to add/remove/administer domains properly   rather than hacking rows into databases like I have to do now. Maybe part one-and-a-half should be rationalisation of the databases into one single database, just to make it a little easier on myself. But maybe that gets done after the management interface is finished. Just maybe. I’ll let you know.


What a spanner, eh?
How to knock out your website and replace it with a site that should really only be there on a testing domain. There’ll be an error in the webserver’s config file not defining a default virtual host so that when another one got added (the test domain) it all went pear-shaped and displayed the testing domain’s content. I bet a few of you now know more about that subject now than you wanted to :)

Anyway, situation normal now, so we’ll see if I can foul something else up in a bit…

Oh, and happy christmas and a prosperous new year to you all, sorry this isn’t more timely, but it is, well, Christmas…

XChat for Windows

There has been a spate, recently, of IRC clients for windows becoming pay-for, shareware applications. Whilst this is not a bad thing, afterall software engineers need to eat too, it means that the previously free IRC clients are now no longer available. However, and there is some good news here, XChat which is completely free-as-in-speech is still available in source form under the GPL. So, instead of you having to pay for the Windows compiled version of the program, I’ve compiled it for you (you lucky people) and made it available to download.
It’s only downside is that you also need to download and install GTK for Windows, although to make things easier, a nice installer is available here. I’ve tested the XChat executable I compiled against GTK 2.4.13-rc1 and rc2, so these or any later versions should do. XChat is downloadable from here. Install and chat to your heart’s content. The source code for XChat (as I’m distributing a binary, I have to put a link to it) is on sourceforge.