Techno Geek

Site features removed

My ISP is complaining about database performance issues and threatening to kick me off their hosting service. I’m going to dump them as a result, but I need to spend some time sorting out next steps, so for now, I’ve turned off most of the bells and whistles on this site in the hopes that one of them is causing the issue.

Why a company would sell me a service (fairly straightforward wordpress hosting is all I use them for) that their server infrastructure won’t support I do not know. My site gets like 3 hits a day. It’s ridiculous. Anyway, more later. For now, no more social media streams.

In order to comment, you now have to answer the captcha

I moved my site to a shared hosting provider some months ago. So much comment spam is making its way to my site that I’m exceeding their hosting plan terms due to excessive sql traffic. I had to add a captcha to the site to keep from losing my hosting account. When you comment, you’ll notice that you now need to do a simple match calculation and enter the answer before you can comment. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Why the site was down for a month, or: why I’m abandoning Ubuntu

metamusing was down for a month due to a catastrophic update experience with Ubuntu. I had been running an LTS release for the last year or so. In December a patch came out which somehow broke apache on that release – it was running, but not responding to requests. I gave that a few days to resolve itself via subsequent patches, and when it didn’t, decided to update to a newer release. Turns out moving from that LTS release was a convoluted process which involved updates to specific versions in the right order.

The first update went fine. Everything was back up and running, including the previously broken apache, but having looked over what it took to get to a current version from where I had been, I figured I may as well take the time to get current now because the issue was only going to get worse as time passed. I proceeded to the next update.

The second upgrade also went fine, leaving me only 2 updates away from current, so on I went to the next one, which did not go smoothly. I ended up at the command line on reboot with a broken xwindows and no networking stack running, for reasons I never determined. Xwindows failing on update has happened periodically with linux distros and while I understand the whys of this, it’s still one of the most frustrating aspects of working with the OS for me. Anyway, after screwing around for an hour trying to repair things with no success I gave up and decided to do the last update to the current release, 11.10, using a CD rather than from the network. This turns out to have been my fatal mistake.

Everything appeared to go smoothly – I booted to CD, it correctly recognized the version of ubuntu currently installed on the machine and asked me if I wanted to update it, which I did, so off we went. During the install process there was a single error message which I had not seen before which was worrying, to the effect of ‘some packages cannot be upgraded and will need to be reinstalled.’ It did not enumerate them nor offer me any options, it just reported the problem. Everything else finished and I rebooted…to discover that the update had gone disastrously awry. A random sampling of the oddness:

  • Apache was no longer installed, and there was no longer a /var/www directory where I had gigs of binary data (most of it pictures).
  • Mysql was no longer installed and none of my table data was present any longer (!!!!)
  • A huge swath of my previous software stack was gone, including the data that accompanied it.
  • The usr directories of my wife and I were still present, but her account was not.
  • the stuff I had installed into opt was still there, along with the data.

As you might imagine, I was furious. I still am. On the one hand, no doubt this is somehow my fault. I was rushing through this. I do not keep good backups beyond the wordpress tables that have my blog. I’m hardly the most clever linux user and my job has removed me from daily use and the good practices that helps enforce. On the other hand, I’ve been running linux at home since ~’97. I’ve had head crashes, disastrous red hat upgrades which pushed me to Ubuntu, a cpu cooler retaining clip breakage which caused one of my machines to bake itself to death, including its drive, yet despite all of that, never a loss of a whit of data. I’ve always managed to recover everything. But not this time. I won’t descend into details, but I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure out how to recover data from that drive, and as far as I can tell, short of paying through the nose those mysql tables are gone, and they’re really the critical missing piece. Everything else I can either recover from the drive, or I have partial or complete backups of, but the sql tables with all the structure to 12 years worth of images in my image gallery? They’re gone.

So…to hell with Ubuntu. I get this is my fault, but at the same time, I won’t run that distro again, and I might be done with linux at home. I should have had backups, but it never should have destroyed my data – that upgrade script to 11.10 was somehow disastrously broken.

Where does that leave things? I moved my hosting over to site5 for the time being, and my media server stuff over to a windows machine. I think I’m going to pick up a mac mini and move to that for some of this stuff, but maybe keep the web on a hosting provider and not in my house. I’m evaluating image gallery approaches now. I’m not going back to menalto’s gallery – they’re not keeping up with the times. I’m not sure what it will be, though Piwigo is looking promising so far. I want video support, mobile support, social networking sharing support, and effective, well-maintained wordpress integration. Suggestions welcome. As far as the old linux drive, I may still pay someone to try and get those sql tables off of there – they have the first year of my son’s life in pictures, with all the family comments on them. I have all the pictures, but that structure and the comments are the absolute worst loss out of this, and I want them back if I can get them without breaking the bank.

I love the stink of my PC in the morning

I’m following up on my last post, which admired the creative thinking behind a fake product, with one about a real product that seems best delivered as a gag gift to an unwitting recipient: a USB PC addon which adds smellovision. I kid you not. The device bills itself as ‘The Web Connected Smelly Robot’ and you can buy your very own by adding your name to their mailing list over here, or you can head to the MIT Foundry site where there are instructions on building your own.

Ain’t life wonderfully absurd? I’ll pile on by observing that this isn’t actually the first time someone’s tried to market a fragrance emitter for computers (!!!) Perhaps the fear of prankster nephews stank bombing their relatives has kept wary consumers away…that’s just speculation by me though.



Football, halfway through


Since I last commented, the Giants have rattled off four wins and 1 loss. The loss was an awful game against Seattle, and one of the wins was an almost loss against Miami, but in the same timeframe they beat the Pats and the Bills, both of which are having decent seasons, and both of which I assumed the Giants would lose to.

Overall I’ll upgrade my perception of this year’s squad a bit. They’ve demonstrated that they’re capable, they’ve managed to succeed despite some critical injuries, and several young players are showing promise, particularly Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre Paul. They’ve also shown luck (that win against Buffalo was more down to luck than execution) and grit, with that scoring drive against the Pats at the end of the game.

So, that’s the good news, along with the fact that they’re still first in their division, with both the Skins and Eagles seemingly in collapse and Dallas looking like a mediocre team. On the downside, my read is they don’t match up well against the other NFC leaders – Green Bay and New Orleans both seem likely to crush the Giants, and we’ll see about San Francisco this weekend. Things look much better when compared to AFC teams, but none of that matters come playoff time. Here’s hoping Aaron Rodgers decides to retire 😉

My updated picks, halfway through the season: Green Bay looks unstoppable, and barring injuries or an ‘any given sunday’ moment, they should take the NFC. The AFC is much more interesting, with the AFC North looking like the crucible that should forge a tough, battle tested AFC champ, with my money on Pittsburgh, but the Pats, Jets and Texans all with the potential to take it.

Three other remarks:

1) Do you think the league has finally figured out what the fans have known for at least 5 years? No one should start Rex Grossman.

2) What is going on with Phillip Rivers?

3) This season I’m discovering a grudging respect for Tom Coughlin. I’ve been hot and cold on him over the years, but he deserves credit for fielding a competitive squad year after year, and this year especially he’s managing to overcome a lot of injury problems. I reserve the right to blow cold on him again if the Giants have yet another mid-season collapse under his leadership.

Example of why Games for Windows Live sucks

This is not even close to the best example of why it sucks, or the worst experience I’ve had with it (I’m thinking of you, Bioshock 2), but it’s fresh in my mind so I’m going to share it.

I wanted to try the new free-to-play RTS Age of Empires Online. I had been following a ‘No more games that use Games for Windows Live’ policy ever since a set of really awful experiences with Bioshock 2 a year or so ago, but a free game from a studio whose games I’ve really enjoyed in the past convinced me to give GFWL another chance.

I downloaded and installed the game, but when I tried to login to GFWL, which I have to do in order to play, it wouldn’t let me. Tried on the GFWL website and was informed someone has been trying to login to my account with the wrong password so many times my password is invalid.

I reset password, a reasonably straightforward process, hurrah! I am pleasantly surprised.

Try again to login. I’m informed I must provide product key and am unable to login. wth? It’s a free game, and anyway, why should that block me from logging in? Confusion.

Examine email looking for product key. Find none

Examine spam folder looking for email with product key. Find none. Grossed out by contents of spam folder.

Examine Age of Empire Online FAQ and message boards looking for someone with the same problem. Find nothing.

Google this problem. Find nothing.

GFWL lets you specify a backup email address. Look there and in that account’s spam folder for an email with a product key. Find nothing. More hot spam folder grossout action.

Ponder. Wth? With these things you can always find someone with a similar problem via google, and eventually arrive at a solution. I can’t so…what does that mean? It’s unique to me? Seems inconceivable? What out of all the parameters in play would be unique to me? My password. I check. I’ve made a typo. Try to login using the correct password. Eureka! I’m in.

Why the FUCK did GFWL send me off on a 30 minute goose chase looking for a product key when its issue was I had an invalid password?

Because it’s Game For Windows Live, a product seemingly designed to put anyone who tries it off of gaming on windows.

Age of Empires Online is ok – it’s definitely worth a look if you’re into RTS. Pluses include fantastic art direction and a ton of content. Cons are incredibly bad unit pathing issues and a brain dead AI. Message me if you’re playing and want to connect. Meantime, I’m back on my ‘will not buy products which require the use of GFWL’ policy. Developers and publishers, please: spare your customers the agony of this entirely shitty product. There’s no money hat large enough to make this worth the bad mouthing your product will get. Look into steamworks or anything, anything at all*, besides GFWL. It’s shit.

*(Except the stuff Ubisoft is doing, and, err, EA’s Origin stuff…jesus. Software publishing is going to the dogs! Just fucking use Steamworks, they appear to be the only company that recognizes customer experience should be primary).