Because macdonalds has to find *something* to do with their wifi.

Now this is an interesting take. A Macdonalds in Verginia has opted to allow customers free iPad usage while they eat. And they’re providing the iPads. apparently, the restaurant is leasing the iPads from a French company, who’ll be the ones actually in charge of their maintenance–and, presumedly, their replacement should some shmuck decide to get creative and find ways to walk off with one–they’re secured to the table, so creativity might have to be required to pull it off. I imagine anyone who does any kind of anything while mobile will probably still bring their own gear, if only because I can’t see someone checking their email on the restaurant’s iPad. But, hey, if all you want to do is shlept through the news or something while you eat, why not? The restaurant has apparently blocked Youtube, so shlepping through the news or something might be your only option if you’re borrowing one of their pads. Still, it’s an interesting thing to keep an eye on. In the meantime, it does make me wonder exactly how this conversation would have played out had our local one up here gone and done something similar. Hmm. Now I wanna test things., 5 months later.

So. Here’s a thinggy for long-time readers. Remember the epic server move of August of last year? You know, the one where everything and its asociated user had to be shuffled off a server I no longer had any actual stake in inside of 5 minutes–and where I was met head on by an email blockage issue? Sure you do. But I’ll let you refresh yourself just in case you don’t. In the meantime, I’ll catch things up–because the stats tell me I’m not the only one with the issue.

In August, when I fired up this server, I was slapped with an IP address–well, several IP addresses, actually–that had a poor reputation, according to Here’s the problem with that. Because they decided my reputation–which they don’t really tell you a whole lot about–was poor, several major ISP’s and a few smaller ones were permanently rejecting email sent to them with the ever so helpful message that if I believed this message was rejected in error, to please contact the recipient using alternate means. Helpful, but not really. I fought with it for a few weeks and got pretty much nowhere. Senderbase doesn’t actually have any way to contact them. No support address, or any real contact page, and the information I was able to piece together on a possible contact got me pretty much no response. A back and forth with the guys running the datacenter this server’s sitting in told me they have just as much luck with these folks. So figuring I’d deal with it later, after I finished ironing out the kinks that came with a move of this variety, I was handed a new IP address from a different block entirely. This one, at least, had a neutral reputation when I got it–and it’s supposedly only improved from there, but again, I have no idea according to what metrics.

So I set email to go out using only that IP address and pretty much forgot about it. Because it worked. so I saw no need to continue aiming guns at heads. ISP’s that used to take one look at the server and laugh their asses off now accepted email from that same server as though there was nothing at all wrong in the world. I was a happy geek. Still am, but largely because the damn thing still does what I told it to. So fast forward to this week. I’m doing a check on other things, just to make sure I don’t need to go behind the scenes and do some sort of wicked nifty cool brand of tweeking. Which, okay, is major amounts of fun–but only after generous amounts of caffeine and nearly as generous amounts of vodka. Or a vodrumoke, if one would prefer (all of 3 people might actually catch that reference, including the one what said it). So it’s during this routine scan for breakage that I decide, hey, let’s take the server’s primary IP address and run it by those bastards at Senderbase. Let’s see if they’ve wised up any. Hint: if you thought for even 2 seconds that they might have, I’m going to have to revoke your license to read this blog.

Not only did they decide the primary IP address of this server still has a “poor” reputation, but they escentially also decided to forget that I used that IP address for pretty much anything. Where before, I could get an idea of how much email has been blocked by Senderbase, so far as it’s concerned now, I’ve got nothing. Senderbase lets me ask it about my server’s IP, then sneers at me and says “Look, bud. I don’t actually know the guy, but I hear he’s no bloody good. Hey–that’s just what I hear, alright? Whatcha want?”. It can’t even tell me what the IP’s DNS reverses too, which is–well, odd and quite doable using the good IP, but hey, whatever. I just find it highly interesting that, 5 months on, it’s forgotten pretty much everything about this server except its reputation–which supposedly improves over time, but I’m still waiting. In the meantime, if you run your own mail server and actually rely on Senderbase to handle even part of your antispam policies, you’re an idiot. And if I can find some way of getting email to folks what use you and not actually have to go through you, consider it done. Now. About that vodrumoke.

Beware corporate spying from China! … Or maybe not.

I’m going to blame the fact everything these days seems to be political when coming out of the US, even if it really doesn’t need to be. Because honestly, that’s about the only reason I can think of for a congressional committee, based on not much other than it wanted something to generate headlines, to go into an investigation having decided two Chinese telecom companies were involved in some high level spying–and improvising a report to say as much at its conclusion. The committee, investigating companies Huawei and ZTE, pretty much said the two companies were allowing the chinese government to use their equipment to hide trojan horses (escentially, software and/or hardware backdoors) that would allow the government to gain access to sensitive information, or to use that hardware to launch a cyber attack–basicly, bring down any service or website they so choose. Rather than coming up with some veriety of proof on their own, it was left to Huawei and ZTE to escentially prove they weren’t.

Leaving alone the fact it’s virtually impossible to prove the nonexistence of something–people have been trying to do that with religion for an age, and leaving alone the fact that not long after the release of this report, the whitehouse came out with its own and cleared the company, the question has to be asked. Did anyone on this committee happen to maybe consider that pretty much everything tech these days has spent at least some time in China before making it to wherever it’s now being used? Did no one maybe bring that up to the committee before they got the idea to hey, let’s go ahead with this investigation and see what sticks?

Of course it may be that, you know, being vaguely technical-minded that explanation comes far more natural to me than it would to, say, a career politician in his 50’s. But you would think that, you know, if China was actually on the lookout for ways to accomplish something like that, there’d be ample opportunity for them to do so without needing to expect that of one or two of their own companies who happen to have a market in the US. And you’d think at least one of these politicians, in their 50’s or no, would have somebody vaguely technical-minded on their staff who’d speak up about it. Of course the fact that they might not may very well be why we have things like this in the first damn place. at which point, look for one of those folks to be made aware in the near future that Apple makes pretty much all their iThings in China–well, until some point this year, anyway. I wonder how long it’d take for that investigation to unfold. Oh, wait–US companies with Chinese interests good. Chinese companies with US interests bad. I forgot that’s how these things work these days. Silly me. Oh well. The thought was fun while it lasted.

Tech support license: revoked, sucker.

When I lived at the other apartment in Ottawa, every so often we’d get calls from nonsensical numbers that couldn’t be called back, blocked or even properly traced. They’d call for one of two reasons. Either to try and sell us tech support (me and the former roommate are both more than capable of our own tech support), or to offer us air duct cleaning service (we lived in an apartment and didn’t actually, uh, *have* air ducts). Oddly enough, our number was on the DNCL (Do Not Call List). Come to find out, we weren’t the only ones with the problem–and two of the companies responsible have been slapped. The smackdown went global, with the US and others joining in the festivities earlier this year. Of course, by now that phone number isn’t even in service and the new one hasn’t been slapped in any lists of that variety, as in ever, but it’d be interesting to see if this actually had any kind of affect. I mean beyond being some wicked little poetic justice if one of those guys was the one what rang me. In the meantime, I think we’ll be keeping our current phone numbers the hell off the DNCL, thankya please. I’m not interested in tech support for my very much not infected machines.

Documentation is key. so where the hell is yours?

I’ve been known to get my hands dirty with this or that random project. Occasionally, resulting in the consumption of something a bit stronger than the coke I often keep nearby. Sometimes, I do it pretty much by the seat of my pants–this looks like it goes over here, so let’s see what this does. And sometimes, either by choice or by force, I’ll actually have to go hunting for documentation. Occasionally, the hunt points me to the developer’s website, the developer’s twitter, the developer’s blog–but not, in fact, the developer’s documentation. Or any documentation, for that matter. A user manual? A half-page thing on someone’s personal, but publicly accessible, WIKI? Yeah, no.

admitedly, I occasionally have that very same problem with my twitter app of choice, but in this case there’s documentation, it’s just not in English. So it *could*, if it was absolutely needed, be translated. Awesome. Useful. I should get on that, eventually. But in cases where there’s no documentation, as in whatsoever, for this or that program, script, basic language or other such extra utility, it has to be asked–and Slashdot asks it–what the hell are you thinking?

You want your program, script, language, basic little utility to be used, yeah? And not solely by geeks with little else to do between job searches and family things but to try busting things, yeah? Yeah. thought as much. So, uh, how about manualing the hell out of it? Nothing says “oh crap” more than smacking the help option and being directed to a website that tosses me a 404 error instead of something useful, like a FAQ. And, if I don’t feel like playing a guessing game–usually because I’ve got 80 million other things to do as it is–nothing convinces me to toss your program in the maybe later pile faster. And probably increases the likelyhood of me forgetting I have that program, simply by virtue of its presence in the maybe later pile. I’m not averse to doing a little RTFM every now and again. Hell, maybe I’ll catch something obvious that gives me an excuse to redo something and easily waste away an evening I can’t spend watching hockey. But by all means, couldja maybe pretty please try and WTFM–write the fucking manual? It helps, I promise. Or, at least, it makes you immune to entries like this one. Which is always good.

Useless Sack of Bull, or why USB is of the devil.

I pretty much live on USB. Have for half an age. Kind of a requirement with about 90% of what I do. I have 3 external drives, all of them USB. I have an admitedly not used printer. That’s USB. The keyboard is USB. The mouse, if I’d gotten it back from the former roommate before he started being a tool, is also USB. The new wireless card (more on that below) is USB. Oh and I have an iPhone. that’s USB if anything useful needs to happen. Basicly, USB runs my life. Which is awesome, squared. At least until it decides to stop working. Which brings us to today–well, yesterday now.

I got my hands on a wireless N card a bit over a year ago, since the card this machine came with was trying real hard to head maybe in a that-a-way type direction. When I got the card, the N wireless standard was still fairly new–so new it was still considered experimental. The card did what it was supposed to, for the most part. But recently, especially when doing fairly network intensive things like copying files from one system to the other, I started pushing the card’s limits. And it started pushing back. Dropping connections, sometimes not actually picking the connection back up, and once requiring a restart to actually fix the thing–I’m somewhat blaming windows for that last one. Productivity doesn’t really get to happen if you have to check every so often to make sure your system didn’t drop your productivity on the floor halfway through. So yesterday, since May and I wanted breakfast anyway, we figured we’d bounce off a restaurant and land at Staples. So we did, and I grabbed a USB wireless card. I’m getting a little low on ports, as is she, so we grabbed a couple hubs to go with–nothing fancy, just your basic 4-port jobs. Brought them back home, then figured we’d relax a bit before I started setting things up. It was only gonna take a few minutes, but it didn’t need to get done right away–most of the intensive stuff could wait a couple hours. So I put it off until yesterday afternoon, then decided I’d take the couple minutes I’d need to actually get things set up. It was gonna be quick and easy. Slap the hub in place, slap the card in the hub, install both, go on about my day. Yeah, about that.

The USB hub installed no problem, once I figured out what the hell the extra cable was for. The card? That took a little convincing. Well, and a CD–really, who the hell packs driver software on a CD anymore, D-link? But then the fun popped in and said hi. The instalation of either card or hub, or both, caused one of my external drives to hit the deck. It was recognised, but you couldn’t actually *do* anything with it without getting permission and I/O errors up the wazu. Weirdness squared, since nothing I’d done went anywhere near the drive that gave me the fit. Oh well, you’ll have that. So figuring what was just your typical Windows wonkyness, I hit the restart button. Hey, they aren’t kidding that 90% of problems with Windows can be solved, at least temporarily, by a restart. This one slid itself neatly into the 10% that couldn’t.

I brought the machine back up, went to call up the problem drive. “Windows can’t find l:”. Wait wait what? Oh no you didn’t. “My Computer” tells me nope, that drive ain’t showing up. Different letter, maybe? Windows develops amnesia sometimes. Nope, that doesn’t do it either. Alright, let’s drop into device manager and see what ate itself. Oh, well that’s cool. Where my external drive should be, there’s an “Unknown Device” staring at me instead. Oh and hey look. Uninstalling it and reinstalling it? Still an unknown device. And Windows ever so helpfully informs me that a USB device attached to this computer has malfunctioned and could not be recognised. Where’s my vodka, again?

I fought with that for several hours. Then, when I thought the system might be in the process of unscrewing itself–it was taking longer than usual to restart, which it usually does if it’s attempting to self-correct, I took the opportunity to throw myself into bed for a couple hours and allow my brain to recover from its partially liquified state. Should not have done that, for the system, it done fooled me. It came up just fine. I could, again, sort of see that there was a device there. But it was still an unknown device. Well hey. It’s something, just not what I’d call progress. So, alright, whichever. USB sometimes has its preferences. That’s fine.

I’d shuffled things around in the back of the machine so I’d have room to put the hub without killing me, and that required shuffling the drive over a port. That could have possibly screwed things up. Okay, we can fix that. Yank the hub, stick it in one of the vacant ports in the front of the machine. Move the drive back to where it used to be. Hey look–I have a drive again. We’re in the clear, finally. That only took far too long. So I started to set things up the way I had them before. That meant queuing up the several downloads I have going in the background. So I did that. “This drive has been removed. Please reattach the drive.” Oh really.

turns out, universal plug and play means you must reorganize everything, if you’re going to reorganize anything–clearly, this is what they meant by “play”. That’s what my computer was trying to tell me, when it decided this time I didn’t have a j: drive. I most certainly do have a j: drive, but my fixing of the l: problem made everything go pair shaped. Oh, and Windows decided I didn’t have an SD card reader either–fair enough, since I never used the thing anyway. Like the first drive did before, both of these showed up as unknown devices when looking. Well, hell. I didn’t want sleep anyway. I did want caffeine, though. And vodka. Definitely vodka. So it was do this dance again and see what turns up. Exactly how I invisioned spending my first 24 hours with new hardware.

Once again, into device manager. Once again, play the uninstall reinstall game. For the sake of the card reader, it was also hit up Dell’s website for drivers, just in case a simple reinstall fixes its wagon–it didn’t. Well bloody hell. And the drive in question didn’t move once during the entire arangement of getting everything else to work. Windows just decided it wasn’t gonna play. Oh, and it was *that* drive’s turn to have malfunctioned and not be recognised. this is getting hella old, Microsoft.

Again, do the poking around, figure out where it’s brokoen. Again, curse when the thing that’s broken won’t fix when you shove it into place. So, I did the next best thing. I pulled *that* drive out of the port it had been sitting in since that drive existed, and slapped it into the USB hub alongside the wireless card. And didn’t the damn thing spin up, be recognised and do anything I damn well please like it’d spent its entire life exactly like that. “Show you what’s in your downloads directory? Sure. Here you go.” “Hold very still while your torrent client re-checks every single goddamn file I have because my disappearance threw it for a loop? Whatever you say, boss.” Yeah, screw you, ya something something something.

So now I have 3 working USB drives again. Plus the working USB hub and wireless card I wanted to have in the first damn place. Still don’t have a working SD card reader, but I’ll worry about that if and when I need to. I’ll probably do a system restore at some point if only to see if that puts it in a position to maybe self-correct and undo the mass confusion, but as for right now? The damn thing works, I’m braindead, and I think there’s a sub or two calling my name. Oh, and the next time somebody tells me USB is extremely easy to work with, I won’t be held responsible for any pain caused to any USB stick regions.

In which WordPress 3.5 fixes menu accessibility. Sort of.

If you’ve jumped on the wordPress bandwagon recently, you know they’ve unleashed version 3.5 on the masses. You probably also know the huge thing they’re jumping all over is the improvements they’ve made to their media library. That is not, however, the huge thing I’m jumping all over. Since about version 3.3, users who have visual impairments and who use a variety of screenreading technologies have had a bit of difficulty, without the use of additional plugins, with accessing the various submenus WordPress has to offer. This is because, in 3.3, they’ve moved to a form of javascript flyout menus that are designed only to appear when the top level menu is hovered over with the mouse. Useful, until you run into someone who can’t use the mouse. Enter yours truely, and a few folks he’s hosting. And enter this little used dialogue on the WordPress bugtracker.

I’ve kept an eye on it since 3.3, and it goes through phases where people will poke and prod at it, then leave it alone for a few months. Apparently, somebody poked and prodded at something else, or just didn’t nail the ticket with that prod, and now, things do what they’re supposed to. Well, mostly. On a clean install of WordPress, which I just so happened to bust out before upgrading this site, completely unmodified from the core platform, the menu links that gave me and others trouble in this ticket behave as expected. And hey look, the menus don’t play hide and seak until you do some fancy dancing with your screenreader of choice’s advanced features–a big plus, in my world. Bonus points for that, guys. So now, we switch to this site. Because if I’m gonna break a bunch of folks I’m hosting, I might as well break me first, yeah? Yeah. So I do. And guess what? Not quite perfect.

The dashboard menus still do what they’re supposed to–that is, be damn well good and visible when they damn well need to be good and visible, without the afore mentioned dancing. But the top level links still don’t read like they’re supposed to without help. A tiny bit annoying, but can still be worked around–with the same workaround I’m already using because of what they broke in version 3.3. If you weren’t aboard the WordPress wagon when I was playing with this, let me introduce you to my new favourite plugin.

OZH Admin Drop Down Menus is a plugin that forces your dashboard menus to stay visible, permanently. It has the side benefit, which is the only reason I’m still using it now, of giving the top level menu links a readable label. Since they improved that area of accessibility in 3.5, I wouldn’t suggest installing it on a new install–unless I just got lucky and it’s actually still largely broken. For on already running installs? Definitely continue to use this plugin. And if you need assistance making it more useable from an accessibility perspective, let me know and maybe we can work a little something out.

In which Bell Canada and a crappy modem team up to break my brain. Twice.

I have caffeine. And I have a bit of free time. That means geek entry. If technical things make your brain do melty things, there’s other stuff coming. Or, you can flip through some of what’s already posted. On the other hand, if brain damage is your thing, keep reading (Warning: long post is long). I don’t disappoint.


Folks who’ve been reading me for a while know this already. But for the new ones, or the ones who haven’t yet found the time to go wandering back through really wicked old entries, a background. I used to work for Dell, back when Dell used to be cool and actually wanna pay me. Naturally, that meant insane amounts of exposure to large doses of the kind of stupid that would be lethal without the proper equipment. Or an international border. whichever was more convenient. The kinds of breakage I had a front row seat to, and the wicked nifty cool shapes my brain had to fold itself into just to figure out 1: how in the 7 levels of hell $person actually ended up breaking their thinggy what I’m being paid to fix, and 2: how in the 7 levels of hell I was going to fix it without a small miracle, copious amounts of caffeine and an IV drip of vodka–only one of which was actually practical while sitting in a call center in the middle of freaking Kanata, made origami look like something your 2-year-old pulled off in his sleep last night–appologies to anyone who’s 2-year-old may or may not have just been mildly offended. I’ve even seen software–and some hardware–who’s manufacturers make an honest attempt to break things by default (see: standards, Microsoft’s lack of). Usually, that kind of is an out-of-the-box flop, though. And usually, I’m the shmuck that gets to appologise to the customer because there really is no way to fix that broken, short of replacing the defective–not something you want to tell someone after they’ve just plunked down $400 for that self same defective. Now, I’m that customer. And Bell Canada gets to play the part of Microsoft.

I do all manner of geeky–and sometimes freaky–things from behind this network. Including helping May with setting up and administering an FTP server. Sometimes, it involves extreme amounts of stress testing. And sometimes, it just involves a simple hey, can someone from outside this network access $service on $port, or do I need to smack me a modem? Up until a few days ago, that was a simple process if you were me. Or, hell, if you were May, who’d tell you herself she’s not quite as technical-minded as I am but she’s kind of busy catching up on posting to her site at the moment. All either May or Myself had to do was pull up a chair and connect. Well, more or less. From behind the network, we could still pull up the external hostname, bounce to it from inside the network, and have it route the connection back to the network on the appropriate port. So basicly, it’s like picking up the landline and dialing your own phone number rather than *98 (or whatever your US equivalent is), and seeing if your voicemail picks up. At some point last week, though, Bell decided to turn off that ability.

I have no idea what the hell they changed, but they apparently pushed an update to the modem we’re using–we’re using Bell’s “Connection Hub”, if you’re curious–that pretty much broke standard networking. Now, if I’m sitting at the machine I’m using right now, behind an otherwise fully functional network, and I try to pull up a service I know is working as expected, I get nowhere. Or, rather, I get somewhere–it still tries to connect to the external hostname. It just times out, as opposed to connecting. Going back to the comparison from earlier, it’s like calling your own phone number, knowing you should be hearing your voicemail, and instead the phone just keeps ringing.

Thinking the modem just developed amnesia–they do that sometimes, I go in and have a look. Sure enough, it ate the settings I’d whipped up to actually allow the public to access things from outside this network. I’d seen this once or twice so was actually kind of expecting a whole other set of issues–amnesia of that variety is usually asign you’ll be soon replacing your modem. So while reimplementing the settings that let things be visible to the greater internet, I was internally preparing to have that conversation with both my ISP and my girlfriend. And only really not looking forward to one of those conversations. so I reminded the modem that yes, in fact, this is a friendly thing, and please to be letting John Q User play with it thanks much. And then I hoped like hell the damn thing wouldn’t forget me 10 minutes after I left the room. I tried connecting externally again, same result. Then we lost internet briefly. Well hell. Here comes 2008 all over again, it looked like. Still, when we came up, I smacked the reboot option–just to cover my ass. And because, hey, if it was 2008 all over again, we’d already lost our settings so what was I hurting? Another reconnection later, and I figure okay, let’s play find the server. Again, dialing my own phone number, expecting to hear my own voicemail, and instead hearing ring ring. Not cool, network. And not the standard performance, either.

Still suspecting the modem might be on its way out, I check again. Nope, all of our settings are there. The modem’s just being a Microsoft product (*). What the blue? So fine. I have access to a server that’s well beyond this network–hint: WTN’s sitting on it. So let’s go see if the service is even visible. Connect to the server, fire up two different FTP clients. Connect from the server, back to the network, to May’s FTP server–the thing I couldn’t reach by the external hostname from the local machine. Doesn’t it work like there’s nothing wrong in the slightest. I can connect, do what I do, then bail. No problem. Alright, next test. C’mere, CanYouSeeMe. Do we exist, at this IP address, and on this port? We do? And you say that more than once? Awesome. So John Q User can play with the thing after all. We just can’t bounce off the hostname anymore. Cute. So why the hell not, and can we fix it?

As it turns out, I don’t actually have an answer for that first question–I’m guessing Bell pushed out an update, but as locked down as that modem is (hint: Google doesn’t turn up any super nifty administrative access levels, a la the modem we had at the old apartment through Rogers), that’s just a guess over here–though that would be the only reason for the modem’s temporary bout of amnesia, assuming it’s not trying to warn us it’s going to fail tomorrow. As to the second question? After about 15 minutes poking around in the thing, it looks as though that has potentially no written all over it. Actually, poking around inside this modem tells me you can’t actually fix, or turn off, much over here–enter breakage the second.

The modem they gave us when we signed up for internets is one of those router combos. Because of the speeds we’re getting and the fact it’s fiber, this is kind of the only modem we can get from Bell–and I’ve not found an equivalent outside of Bell that I can be reasonably confident won’t crap itself in 6 months just on account of the connection expecting too much from the hardware. But so far as router combos go, even the ones provided by the ISP, the thing’s crippled. Problem the first: no bridge mode. As in, at all. At least, not in the sense that you can tell the modem to just be a dumb modem and hook up your own damn router. You can turn off DHCP and wireless access, but that’s about as far as it goes. Why? Part of it’s because, stupidly in my honest, Bell uses this exact same modem for its TV service–not much use to us at the moment, but a trivia type thing I found while poking. So, truely bridge mode would break that in several interesting and not so fun ways. That also means I can’t bypass Bell’s breakage and go buy me a new router–too bad, too, as there are several that’d do the trick quite nicely. But the modem would still be handling the trafick from the router, and playing cop where necessary–or rather, where Bell thinks it necessary, thus defeating the entire purpose of a second, better, more stable router. And problem the second: What access Bell gives you to this modem is, well, basic at best. You can configure wireless network settings, open whatever ports you need (see above for situations wherein that might not be practical), and set up management for dynamic DNS in the event you don’t want to have to fight with a client for doing exactly that (I don’t, personally). And that, right there, is about the extent of your access. Add an exception to the firewall so the router doesn’t block your mystery packet transfer? Not happening. Set it up so specific services aren’t available during certain times of day, or days of week? Not happening.

Rather than having the option of becoming a dumb modem, Bell handed us a dumb router. Then they broke it with an update. Awesome, yeah? And between the two of them, my brain suffered two very significant meltdowns. And I still don’t get to just say screw it and run my own damn router.

(*): The comparison may or may not have had a small something to do with the fact I just got done fighting with Outlook. Maybe. Or was that this morning? Oh well.


I’m not crazy! This caught someone else too, or at least one other someone else, pushing me just a little bit further towards the theory an update broke it. Awesome job, Microbell. Now when do ya get to fix me?

If you use Network Solutions to host your domain names, here’s a very good reason to stop.

Network Solutions hasn’t been in my top 20 places to send people for geek things for a few years–largely because every so often, they break something so significantly that it tries very hard to take out good portions of the internet. But now, the company’s got themselves in my top 10 places to talk people out of running with. And it’s all because somebody over there decided to fail business 101.

In the website hosting business, there’s two things you need to look after. Paying for your hosting, and unless it’s included (which is more common now than it used to be), paying for your domain name–so people can actually get to where you’ve hosted your site. domain names are usually payd for from anywhere from 1 to as many as 10 years at a time, whereas your hosting package is usually monthly. Here’s the thing, though. Let’s say you’ve got yourself 3 or 4 domain names you’ve registered for this or that project you’re working on. Or, if you’re like me, you’ve got people running their websites off your space and don’t want to be bothered maintaining their own domain names–enter the geek with nothing better to do. So you set up the site, you pick out your domain name, you plop down the usually $10-$20 per year depending on the company and type of domain name, and you pretty much forget it exists until the bill for the next 1, 2, 5 or whatever years comes due. But let’s say, just for the sake of keeping with our hypothetical situation here, you’ve finished your project, or you’ve simply decided to move your personal website to a domain that’s, well, more personal. Either way, you no longer have a use for the domain name, even if you can’t really officially lose it until the registration expires. So it sits there, and you go on about your business–it’ll expire and be done with when it’s done with, right? Wrong. Well, if you’re with Network Solutions, anyway.

Most domain name registrars–the people who actually keep a record of your domain name, who it belongs to, and where you’ve told it to point to–will warn you when your domain’s coming due–the registrar I use (find a nifty little plug for them later in the post) starts poking me about 3 months before the domain expires with a little “Hey bud? You’ve got this thing over here.”. In fact, that reminds me–I need to pay for this domain here shortly, but anyway. Even the ones who let you tell them yes, it’s perfectly okay to automatically renew the registration of those domains (my previous web host let me do that) will still shove warnings under your nose, just in case you’re not using the thing anymore, and/or it completely slipped your mind you’ve registered the domain. Network Solutions? They’ll just bill you. There’s no notification of any kind, no warning, and apparently no off switch for automatic renewal. You just wake up one morning, go scroll your creditcard statement to make sure your monthly subscription to Dropbox went through–you *are* on Dropbox, right?–and wham. Oh, hi, Network Solutions. Fancy meeting you here. It’s more than a little dodgey, and sadly they’re not the only company who does things exactly like that–they’re just the first registrar I’ve heard of doing it. And I’m reminded why automatic access to bank accounts, creditcards, what have you for the most part sends me in the other direction–but that’s another entry for another topic on another day.

If you’re using Network Solutions for anything web or other such geek stuff related, give serious thought to maybe not. And if you’re still not entirely sure, rethink it. Then, pack up what you have, and send your domain names in this direction. I separated my domain’s registration from its hosting a bit over a year ago–which worked out, since the hosting I was using fell through, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been with my current registrar pretty much problem free since. And yes, I’m pretty sure tomorrow, I’ll be staring at another warning from them that a domain I’m holding onto will expire in 2 weeks–and they won’t sneak it on my creditcard bill. But regardless who you have your domain registered through, it might not aughta be Network Solutions. At least not if you don’t like surprises.

Thanks goes to May for pointing me at this. And much thanks goes to Network Solutions, who once again shows any aspiring business person what exactly not to do. Keep that up and I’ll have to make you your very own category, guys.

Rumour has it Network Solutions offeres hosting as well. If you know anyone hosted through them, feel free to have them get in touch. I’ll help them shuffle domain names around–and, hey, maybe even provide them with a little hosting space. It’s not like I don’t have the room.

Geek stats. Because trivial geek is trivial.

I recently did some tweeking to the server on which this and a couple other sites run. Specificly, I tossed a second hard drive in for the sole purpose of–hey, I likes me some extra space, kay? It had the side benefit of being able to pretend I’m an actual, honest to goodness, proper system administrator. Or maybe it just gave me the extra room to exercise common sense–you be the judge. In so doing, I learned two things about me and my users.

Thing 1: my users don’t actually use much. I’ve probably got the most space going, and that’s at well under a hundred gigs. All told, user data, OS data and miscellanious crap I haven’t gotten rid of data comes to about 5% of the actual primary drive’s available space. Hot damn, I said. Then I looked at where I put my backups.

Thing 2: Holy Christ–backups much? Both drives on the server are 2 TB. So basicly, they’re both smaller than the external HD I’ll be glomming on to when funds come in shortly. I mentioned how much of that space the actual userspace takes up. The backups of said userspace? 55% of the second drive. Yes, nearly 1 TB of the second drive’s 2 TB is backups. As opposed to about 86 GB of the primary’s 2 TB actually being used. Paranoid sysadmin is paranoid, perhaps? I mean, drive failures aren’t entirely common, but hell, should one mysteriously decide to show up and say hi, I’d likely be offline for all of an hour–not counting how long it takes folks to get around to replacing drives. Not bad for a mostly improvized server job, yeah?

Short version: I likes backups. Apparently, way too much. Also tiny users. I have that much diskspace why, again? Oh, right–I have uses. Just uses. Stop asking.

So. Anyone want hosting? I’ve got the room.

The basics of what Twitter ate, and how to work around it.

I still live on Twitter, even if they occasionally go and break their API without warning. Which is kind of what happened yesterday. Users of a few different clients ran into an issue where they could receive tweets, mentions and DM’s all the day long. Posting? Different story. Twitter threw back a 411 error–which, just for the record, does not mean what Twitter would like to think it means. I’ll let you know what that is when Twitter lets me know. No one has any idea just yet how to fix it. But like that’s stopped me. So late-ish last night, I put together a vaguely quick attempt at fixing the issue. It involves an entirely different–and yes, supremely simple to use–program and, for those who need it, support files for the screenreader I use. You can download the zip archive of both the program and the scripts for JAWS for Windows from over here. Instructions on how to use the program from the perspective of a visually impaired person are right this way. If there’s a question that isn’t answered here, feel free to come find me, and I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime, happy breaky day!

Hey Apple? Stop shrinking the SIM already.

Apple has this thing about not playing well with others. It started with the software, then slowly graduated to the hardware. Now, they’ve gone and shrunk the SIM. Again. They invented the micro-SIM. that thing made aranging to make use of phone service, you know, outside of my carrier, a little fun. and now with the iPhone 5–yet another reason not to upgrade to the iPhone 5 just yet, they’ve gone nano-SIM. which means, you guessed it, if you want to even keep the SIM from your old iPhone, you’ll need to do some trimming. And grabbing a SIM from another carrier if you’re, oh we’ll say, hiding out in the states for a few weeks? Yeah, no. Some carriers may not even get the nano-SIM for a few months–especially if they don’t actually sell the iPhone. I get it, Apple–you don’t like to play nice. But really. Enough with the SIM shrinkage. Damn thing’s hard enough not to lose when half awake at half past dark.

So long, Feedburner. I barely used ye.

Feedburner hasn’t officially been shut down just yet. It’ll probably be a while before it actually is. But Google’s definitely firing warning shots. The developer API for the service was killed off, limiting what people could actually do with the stats Feedburner hands you. Not long after, AdSense for feeds–which I used to use–was taken out back. It’s not a very far leap to say Feedburner itself is heading for an early grave soonishly. If you use Feedburner for your RSS feeds, now might be a good time to consider switching away. And, hey, if you need a pointer or 6, get in touch. I’ll help where I can.

Why I’ll be holding off on the iPhone 5. For possibly ever.

For half an age, I held out against the trend of switching to the nearest iThing. And I didn’t suck at it, either. The thing to do as soon as the iPhone 3GS came out was get ye out and buy one. but for me, Nokia worked. Until it didn’t. I switched to an iPhone in April of 2010. And, with a few issues–some of which I’m working on extinguishing, it does, well, what I want it to do. With the appropriate amount of coaxing. I’ve even thought occasionally about trading it in on a 4S. But that’s about where my aspirations to keep up to date with club Apple go their own way.

Because we had a few things to get done anyway, May and I popped in to have a look at the 5 a couple weeks ago. Design-wise, it sort of tries to work. It doesn’t really do much of a good job about it, but it tries. That’s something, at least. But just the act of holding it felt, to both of us anyway, a little bit awkward. Yeah, it’s thinner than the 4 or 4S. But it’s wider, which leaves it less easily actually fitting in your hand. Or, at least, mine. Kind of a requirement, since my phone–whether Apple makes it or not–goes everywhere with me and kind of is my communication, when I either can’t or don’t take the laptop. Because of how they make the case for the 5 now, it’s also a little lighter than the 4 or 4S. And that’s the up side. The down side? Because of how they make the case now, it also scratches a lot easier than the 4 or 4S. Again, not cool when the phone pretty much does what I do with me. It gets some use. I’d rather not have it look like I’ve had the thing for 3 years when it’s been 3 weeks–which has been a quite common complaint. So common, in fact, that some are suggesting mayhaps Apple might aughta think about recalling the device.

We didn’t do much actual playing with the device, mostly because as said, we kind of had things to do, but on top of it being easily scratchable, the iPhone 5–and apparently only the iPhone 5–has an issue with static lines on the keyboard when entering your password into the app store. And, also curiously, only the app store. No idea if it’s a usability problem, but apparently it’s at the very least irritating if you can see it. There’s also an issue, of sorts, with the camera giving photos a purple halo when even close to some light sources, whether or not the light source causing the problem is actually in the frame–surprisingly, and also curiously, Apple says that’s perfectly normal behaviour.

combine that with the, uh, shall we say, issues with wi-fi, again just with the iPhone 5, and you start to see a rather fun picture. So I won’t bother mentioning the light leaking issue as well.

All told, while *probably* not significant enough to cause the iPhone 5 to, uh, rather, cease to be an iPhone 5, they’re significant enough eyebrow raisers to maybe make me wanna somewhat reconsider plunking $150 down on the latest and gratest. So I’ll just be holding off on purchasing that brand spanking new iPhone 5. In the meantime, here’s hoping half the issues are fixed in the 5S. Or the 6, if they decide to fire the letter S. In the meantime, if anyone needs me, my iPhone 4 will be in my pocket and I’ll be around somewhere.

In which many a college network crumbles before me. Or maybe just Algonquin’s.

So I made vague mutterings about maybe going back to school. In a sense, I did. I went with May over to Algonquin College a couple weeks ago so she could get a couple things done. Since I’d have some time to kill, I took the laptop with me. Largely because she made the mistake of telling me she could receive email, but the network wouldn’t let her send. Come to find out, at least I believe, all the common mail ports are, shall we say, firewalled. Somewhat successfully, I might add. But, and this is where anyone who knows me should be paying close attention, I had a little over an hour and a half to myself. An hour and a half, with an unfamiliar network, wireless access, and one hell of a powerful portable unit with which to play chicken. This can only end not so well.

So I took that portable unit, that wireless network access, that little over an hour and a half, and I did something useful. I prodded my own server looking for open ports. Not open ports on the server, per say, just the network. Ended up getting the college slapped on the block list in the process, but hey, that was fixable when I got home–note to self: try and find the damned IP first, whitelist the thing, then port scan your server to death. Kay? Kay. But I found me an open port. Two of them, actually. And I was already using one. So when I got back to the apartment, I–uh, first, um, unblocked the college (oopsies), then fired the mail server up on the open port I wasn’t using. Odds are, now, if one does it right, mail sends while one is at the college. I’ll need to get back there at some point and play.

Firewalls are awesome. But here’s the thing about them. There’s ports they don’t necessarily block, simply because doing so would pretty much break students’ access to potential external, uh, educational materials. One of those ports is HTTP port 8080. Now, here’s the thing about this server. This server doesn’t run anything on port 8080. As in, nothing. As in, no thank you please. Or rather, it didn’t until a few minutes after I got home. Now, in complete violation of probably a couple standards and definitely in complete violation of one college firewall, the mail server listens on port 8080 as well as the usual mail ports. And a couple others, but I’ll keep those to myself and the people who actually need ’em, lest some Algonquin IT type person with a Google adiction accidentally finds this thing.

Sending mail from on campus, for those times wherein somebody with access to the server, or me, needs to send email while on campus, can now, legally, happen. Perhaps not Algonquin’s definition of legally, but hey–I’m looking at getting into one of their geek courses. Of course I’m going to flex my geek on their network beforehand. Why not? Besides. I didn’t need that port anyway.

Review: Postie for WordPress

So I mentioned I started experimenting with posting by email, for not the first time, on this blog. The plugin I tested for that purpose, the only one that before didn’t really overly irritate me, was Postie. For the most part, it does what it’s supposed to. General usage takes some getting used to, but that can be lived with.

What It Does

Let’s say you get wicked uber popular and your site gets recognised enough that certain overactive filtering systems–I’m looking at you, most corporate firewalls–decide you’re just way too evil for people to read at work. Or in your case, your site’s way too evil for you to post to from work. But you still have mockery material. You could write the whole damn batch in MS Word or somesuch, or, you could play with this plugin. If you create an email address (can be Gmail, if you don’t want or don’t have access to create one on your own domain), then hand the login details to that address to the Postie plugin, anything you send to that address will, if the email address you use is authorised, become website material. the plugin lets you specify things like categories and whatnot in the actual email itself, or in the subject in some cases–part of what takes some getting used to. But if you’re used to how LiveJournal and maybe Blogger do email posting (Does Blogger even do email posting anymore?), it shouldn’t take too much getting used to.

What’s Changed In the Update

The plugin was last updated in August of this year. Before that, it hadn’t seen an update since mid-2011. there was at one point a security concern or two about the plugin, but that seems to have been addressed–more on that below. The biggest change with this update, that I’ve noticed, is it’s become a lot more sensitive to HTML emails. I sent a test email to the site using Outlook, and didn’t switch it to text format. Mostly because I want to see what happens. The plugin saw the email, scanned it, determined it was a possible XSS attack, and promptly deleted the email. Oops. Not exactly the intended result, but hey, easy fix. Switch to text format, send the same test email. It works, almost, as advertised–again, see below. I can probably fix that with one of their other built-in commands. The edited result of the test that actually succeeded is here. Again, easily worked around–took out the extra blank lines at the end, added my update.

What It Won’t Do

I had to test this on my own, though I can probably make it do what I want easily enough. Out of the box, the plugin doesn’t respect post scheduling settings. For instance, I run another modification that pretty much guarantees this post won’t show up 30 seconds after the last one I wrote. It also makes for easy editing if I decide, say, 6 hours later to delete that incriminating paragraph about my caffeine habbit–oh, uh, that’s half the blog. Nevermind. Postie, however, wants to publish things immediately, regardless to when it’s supposed to be published. Works for most people, doesn’t work for me. Or anyone who runs anything remotely like me. But hey, nothing’s perfect.

Security Concerns

In the early days of the plugin, and quite possibly as recent as the 2011 update, there were concerns that the plugin made liberal use of bypassing WordPress’s publishing routines and manipulating the database directly to insert posts. I didn’t get a look at the 2011 code, but in the latest update, the plugin appears to have fallen back to using WordPress’s publishing routines. At least, my 30 second look at the code says maybe. somebody with more time on their hands can feel free to provide me with a free education though.


For what most people will use it for, the plugin does what it should. I didn’t test things like images, or videos, but I also very rarely post videos, and even more rarely post images. But it does what I expected it to do, with the exception of respecting automatic scheduling modifications. Use this plugin if you want to be able to post from behind a corporate firewall. Don’t use this plugin if you expect to be able to do so in accordince with some other posting structure. At least, not without some slight modifications. Then, feel free to share those mods with yours truely.

Smacked by

I love breaking in a new server. It’s kind of nifty cool. What’s not so nifty cool about it is breaking in a new server when you kind of need to move some of your production stuff over to it, like, 5 minutes ago. That’s where I spent the last week or so. Everything I maintain directly, for my own benefit–or, now, for May’s as well–has a new address. Unfortunately for everything I maintain, that new address apparently used to be owned by someone with a less than stellar performance record. So when it got handed to me, I got to find out just what *not* to do as a sysadmin. I mean I knew most of it already from dealing with previous sysadmins, but that’s a rant for when I’m less than sober.

I’ve been used to the standard problems with email, especially with email coming from a new–or in some cases, previously used–IP. Hotmail doesn’t like recently asigned IP addresses, AOL tends to throw a bit of a hissy, and most smaller services tend to temporarily fail mail coming to them from new servers on the first pass–they call that greylisting. And then there’s the odd duck who decides “Oh, you’ve never had this IP before. I’m just going to pretend I don’t know you.”.

I can deal with that. It’s called just keep queueing up the mail, and eventually, they’ll like you enough that a metric shit ton of it will hit them in the box. But this one’s new, at least for me. Apparently, is not actually a strict blacklisting service, a la SpamCop. It’s an IP reputation tracking service, whatever the hell that means. Which, again, is awesome. Until you start to factor in, uh, companies will permanently (as in, 5xx error) reject mail from your server if senderbase doesn’t like you. Which is all well and good and amazing, if you’re the lazy type. And here’s a fantastic little kick in the teeth to go along with the kick in the geek nads. They don’t actually give you a whole lot of info on how, exactly, you’re supposed to *improve* your server’s reputation, so companies who use them don’t permanently reject your face off–especially when the only way I know they track such things is when companies receive email and report such things to them. So you’re sitting there, trying to figure out exactly what in the 7 levels of hell you broke when you set up your server, and all you have to go on is, well, this.

2012-08-14 11:41:59 1T1JFP-0006mG-18 ** R=lookuphost T=remote_smtp: SMTP error from remote mail server after initial connection: host []: Your access to this mail system has been rejected due to the sending MTA’s poor reputation. If you believe that this failure is in error, please contact the intended recipient via alternate means.

Helpful. Really. Extremely Now, uh, kindly tell me how I’m supposed to get in touch with the moron who says so so I can point out to ’em that, hey senderbase guy? Yeah. IP’s a week old from where I’m sitting. Little help? Nah, I didn’t think so. And that’s where it sits. About 20 minutes on Google tells me, uh, not much. Apparently your IP reputation’s supposed to improve over time, but since everyone I know tracks that kind of thing has apparently blocked my face, I’m still curious how that happens. Unless senderbase just occasionally develops amnesia. Which, I suppose, is possible–they don’t say. So I’ve been smacked by, and the only counter is, uh, an unknown variable. God I’d love to be that lazy with this server. But I’m not paying to do it.

In which cPanel and CentOS actually, uh, kind of do what they should?

I’m still trying to figure out if it’s just because somebody decided to smack me in the head a little too hard, or I woke up in an alternate reality at some point, or what. But an interestingly weird thing happened over the course of the last couple days. I asked cPanel and CentOS very nicely to do something for little innocent old me, and the server didn’t actually catch fire.

A little background, for those of you who may be almost as sadistic as me. Installing Icecast on a CPanel server, any version, any time, used to be a right royal bitch. Compile the thing from source, curse as it spits out 80 million missing dependencies, compile those dependencies from source, curse as it still can’t find them–by the way, /usr/local/lib64 being in root’s environment path apparently does not help when the configure script is freaking braindead, then spend the next 5-10 minutes tracking down all those dependencies, finding the exact shared object the configure script wants to reference, then symlink the whole damn batch to a directory wherein the damn script wouldn’t bitch. If I didn’t occasionally *use* Icecast, just setting up the dependency structure for the compile process would warrant hourly billing for the poor bastard who asked for it. But since I do, and hey, it was an excuse to flex muscles I haven’t needed to flex since the last time I smashed Gentoo, I figured oh what the hell. So Icecast existed, compiled from source, dependencies and all. and I kept 80 million notes for the next time, just in case. And then the wickedest weirdest awesomest thing happened.

I’m not sure if it’s a CentOS 6 thing, or the version of CPanel I’m running, or hell, maybe the OS devs just finally decided let’s update a bunch of packages that we haven’t actually updated in at least a year and a half (Did I mention I hate binary OS’s for that?). But on a random thinggy, I thought hey, let’s run a theory. They’ve had time to fix their shit, and they’re not Debian, so maybe. So I skip the tracking down of my usual source dependency packages, and go straight to the configure process. It falls on the floor. Apparently, the server has ogg-vorbis support (hey, that’s an improvement right there), but it’s 0.6.x. Awesome. Wicked. Nifty. Cool. But Icecast wants 1.x. Well fuck me running. So I’m all ready to go tarball hunting. I’ve got links, I’ve got references to other links, I’ve got ice cold (no, literally ice cold) caffeine, bring it, bitch. I do the usual dance. make sure my links haven’t broken in a year and a half, make sure nothing was unexpectedly updated and I need to do something slightly different this time around, and I find something so new it still has that new geek smell. Where before, the CentOS package manager absolutely hated to do anything remotely involving Icecast and its dependencies, this time, I was fed exactly the command I needed, in exactly the format I expected, that I’m pretty sure I tried a year and a half ago that made just about everything fall down around my ears. But, hey. Maybe. I didn’t find this in Google last time I looked, so maybe. It would certainly make me less dependent on vodka, if nothing else. So I do the do, and suddenly, I’ve got updated libraries the configure script likes, and a couple packages I’m pretty sure the box I set this all up from via source last year is still missing. And because CentOS did whatever CentOS does with it, the configure script *should*, God willing, find the damn things without me needing to perform minor surgery. So I run it, kick back, and hope the booze store’s still open just in case this thing blows up–it wasn’t, by the way. And the thing not only compiles, but compiles like a dream. Thing threw less warnings on this box than it did last year.

I nearly fainted. CPanel doing what I say is a rare occurance when it comes to actual, significant admin things. CentOS doing what I say is even more rare, for anything, administrative or not. Both of them cooperating on the same task, at the same time, and neither’s arm needing to be twisted? That alternate universe theory sounds better and better all the time. And then I go and install something like Logwatch (believe it or not, the server was not handed to me with that installed), and I run smack into CPanel’s damned yum.conf exclude line. Okay, right universe. CPanel just wanted to mess with my head. Did I mention I hate it when CPanel wants to mess with my head?

I vacate Ottawa. Which means: welcome back, TekSavvy.

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I gave Bell Canada (at the time called Sympatico) the middle finger. Their service sucked royally, every second or third month was a new conversation with the folks what lost my payments, and they just couldn’t seem to convince me not to drink. I still won’t touch Bell, but that’s largely now because the service I can get here–which I’d *love* to get here, by the way–is in fact not available where I’m running to. So it’s off to TekSavvy for a second go round, and the same service I can get through Bell–minus the supremely ridiculous bandwidth caps. TekSavvy said the magic word–for those keeping score, it’s “unlimited”, and Bell still can’t quite figure out where exactly Pembroke/Petawawa is on the map. So when I get myself settled, somebody goes back to DSL. Hey, it’s a downgrade, but it’s interwebs. And it’s unlimited. Even Rogers could learn a thing or three about that.

Related: Are DSL routers still insanely cheap? Just in case the one I retired a year ago did, in fact, retire…

So I mentioned we moved servers.

Here’s where I get geeky again. Sorry. Okay maybe not *sorry*, but uh… I’m something, anyway. So what did I go and break this month? Nothing that can’t be fixed with a tiny bit of vodka and a whole lot of miracle. I spent some time over at Iweb, with one of their smart servers. Good for the buck, but a tiny bit too much buck.

It took some negotiating to get it to where we thought we’d do something useful with it. On that server, we somehow got away with 12 GB of RAM, 2 500 GB hard drives originally configured as RAID1 (yeah, that lasted not even 12 hours), and a halfway decent processor. That was good for about a year or so. But I started wondering. We host things for other people. Us, not the datacenter. the datacenter just charges us for the privelege. Something goes sideways, uh, hey genius? The folks what sometimes pay you can’t actually tell you something’s gone smash if your crap’s on the server that went smash. Now, okay, admitedly depending on what exactly went smash we’d already know, what with us being on the same server, but that still made not a whole lot of sense.

So I grabbed WTN, all nearly 50 GB of WTN, and threw it at a server I picked up at end of last month through Interserver. Not as much bang in the processor or RAM department, but it makes up for it with diskspace. We get 2 GB of RAM with this one, a slightly better processor than Iweb, and 1.8 TB of disk for a fair bit less in the dollars department. I wouldn’t throw the entire drive full of hosted other people’s data over here–that’d probably kill the server on a busy day, but it works for the sites I’ve tossed over here. And the move gave me a bit of room to go bug squishing. Which, uh, reminds me–you might not have been quite so easily able to actually reach the site for a couple days last week. Oops. Upgrading software kind of broke a bit of PHP. Those bugs have been squished. I uh, think.

so now, we have us what we call a sandbox. Where I can get moderately breaky smashy with and not have to much more than nuke a couple sites that don’t make money. Mind you, this may or may not be somewhat countered by backup, duplicate and recover skillz of madness. But quite potentially maybe. And this means at the very least, I’ll have more flexibility to write about how I very nearly broke, then fixed, then accidentally demolished the server. And see? No innocent customers were nuked in this experiment. We kind of save those for next time.

Knighthood ain’t what it used to be.

Apparently all it takes to become a knight these days is being partly responsible for Apple’s mamoth crushing of just about anything that competes with it–whether it’s deserved or not. The guy who was behind the original design of the original iPhone, iPod and iPad has officially been knighted. For uh, being responsible for Apple’s mamoth crushing of pretty much everything that competes with it. Is now a bad time to say I’m contemplating what will be the eventual replaceement for the iPhone I didn’t really want?

This has “In Death” series written all over it.

Everything’s cool in science fiction. Cars can drive themselves, a phone without video is considered what the Nokia 6682 is in today’s cell phone market, everything electronic is also voice activated, and if you read the “In Death” series by J.D. Rob, handguns are banned except in cases where they’re collectors’ items. Whether we want to admit it or not, more and more of science fiction’s staples are showing up in today’s world–so much for us not having an informed culture. This idea looks like it came straight out of the “In Death” series.

Tobacco kills people. Everyone knows this. So to try and combat that, a company has come up with an electronic cigarette idea (disclosure: I support this article’s political position, even though I 1: don’t smoke and 2: didn’t link it for its political viewpoints). In the series in question, tobacco is either banned or very hard to come by–the author doesn’t actually specify which one it is, but unless you’re among the rich crowds, you probably don’t have access to it in any case. Instead, people are doing, well, exactly what this article describes.

To the uninitiated, walking into this suburban Toronto bar must look like a throwback to the 1980s. A cloud of what appears to be smoke can be seen hovering over a group at the far end of the establishment. But a quick check of the sense confirms that looks can be deceiving.

The air is fresh, lacking the pungent aroma of burning tobacco; the eyes aren’t watering with the sting of fresh smoke seeping into the sockets; and instead of ash trays and cigarette packs, the tables are full of small bottles of liquid and other pieces of equipment. On this night, a group of Toronto-area electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, enthusiasts are getting together for their monthly meet-up.

Wouldn’t you know, science fiction does serve a purpose. How many more steps now before smokers get to freely comply with another of my political viewpoints–smoke all you want, but keep it to yourself. Oh well, the idea’s still interesting. And that it looks like it came right out of the only actual series I’ve managed to read through and not completely lose my mind makes it both interesting and amusing. Hell, why not? Let’s see where this thing goes.

In which WordPress changes their API, busts a couple features. Oopsies.

This site has comments by email. This site also has posts by email, should you be sadistic enough to subscribe to it–hey, a couple of you have, so it’s relevant. Or it did, until approximately 2 hours ago. You see, WordPress released a slightly newish version of their software last month, and one or two of the things that get some fairly regular use over here I don’t think were expecting that just yet. So they’ve kind of gone, um, squishy. I get to go digging through code later, but here’s a thing to keep a hold of–all your info has stayed put. If you subscribed to get comments to an entry by email, you’ll get comments to an entry by email–just not immediately right now, and unfortunately not retroactively either. Although, now that I think of it, your mailboxes might just thank you for that. Same goes for posts by email–although those, at least, you’ll get retroactively (don’t worry, I have sane limits on the amount of email this thing sends). The features still exist, they’re just somewhat temporarily broken. stick around, though–I’m not done twisting things into knots just yet. One of those knots might just fix themselves.


As anyone who’s anyone on Twitter knows, just about any and every link you throw on the site now, including links to posts on this site, gets automatically wrapped in their shortener–yes, even if the link’s already been shortened. They announced the rollout in June, and as of yesterday or the day before, have made it pretty much automatic and global. While some clients have developed workarounds, most of them get to put up with automatic URL shortening. Which, yes, is wonderful and great and convenient in theory. Except for one very minor little catch. Links, particularly links posted from this site and others like it, are already shortened through Bitly–we used TinyURL before that. In 99.999% of cases, they’re already small enough to fit inside their 140-character limit. Shortening them again just seems kind of like a waste of resources, really. And yet, there’s no real way to turn off the service on your account–meaning, unless you’re using a client or service who’s already coded a way around, which most apparently haven’t yet, your shortened link is shortened yet again–often to no real benefit (19 character URLs versus 20? Really?). is awesome, in theory. In practice? T.CNo. Just sayin’.

Shaw pulls a Rogers, doesn’t get nearly the same attention.

Remember when rogers first started screwing around with bandwidth restrictions, then proceeded to launch their own online on-demand video service and, escentially, flipping customers off with it by not exempting it from existing bandwidth caps? Yeah, I figured you would. If not, refresh thyself. Then, read this. Clearly, it’s monkey see, monkey do in the Canadian telecom industry–and, clearly, Shaw has very good eyesight. Again, reread that first link. Except, replace Rogers with Shaw. Where’s the CRTC on this, again? Oh, that’s right–they’re just now getting around to calling bullshit on Bell, 3 years later. Well, I tried. Now, back to pirating CSI.