News for January 2008

Radiation tri-blade 28.January.2008 » You might recall when we were booted off our server .. for using excessive resources (CPU/memory). Banished .. to the bad-boy "stabilization" server. Unfortunately, we're still there. (Lunarpages is my web host.)

Radified Moving to VPS?

Since then, I've been working to lower our resource usage. Upgrading the forum to YaBB v2.2 was part of that effort.

Every once in a while, the support crew at Lunarpages will notify me that our usage has dipped below the allowable levels (each account is allocated a max of 1% CPU/memory), but they always wait to "monitor" the account to see if it stays that way.

So far, it never has. And I'm almost out of tricks.

They keep telling me I need to move to a VPS account, which costs a lot more (~$500/yr vs ~$100/yr for a Shared account), and which allocates more server resources to each account (2.5% vs 1%).

But unlike Shared hosting, you have to administrate your own VPS account .. which involves the Linux operating system, Apache web server, MySQL database, PHP & Perl scripting languages, etc .. which can be daunting for the uninitiated (like me).

So I've been talking to Magoo (whose guides are hosted here, such as his Intro to Linux) .. to see if .. we have to go that route .. he was still available to administer a VPS account for me. (That's what he does as part of his day job. He said, "I ain't scared of no VPS.")

Even tho having your own VPS is very cool, I'd rather stay Shared, primarily for the co$t. But if we have to go that route, I want to understand what's involved. You can eavesdrop on the dialogue here » Magoo: VPS Admin.

Movable Type 4.1Radiation tri-blade 25.January.2008 » Now that the forum-update (to YaBB 2.2) is complete (first things first), my attention turns to Ye Olde Rad Blog .. for which I've used Movable Type (since 2003), and been waiting patiently for the release of v4.1. (Cuz it has the cool features I want.)

Movable Type Open Source!

As fate would have it, MT 4.1 was released yesterday. (Woohoo!) Actually, I really want to use the new Open Source version (MTOS), which was supposed to provide the first stable release (of MTOS) concurrent with the release of MT 4.1.

Oh, wait. Here it is! (Downloading now.) Have to admit, I've been looking forward to this release. (Download complete.)

Been watching the progress of MT4 since it was released last summer. And *this* version (4.1) is the one to get. (I officially recommend it.) It's where I've decided to jump in (at the first stable release of MTOS).

Note that this will be a new/clean install .. NOT an upgrade. Only bad thing is that the documentation for MT 4.1 isn't yet complete, especially for the things I wanna do/use, such as the FCKeditor.

I was looking hard at ExpressionEngine, but they're in the process trying to release EE 2.0, which breaks backward-compatibility (for the first time in their history), which makes the current EE 1.x a dead end. And all X.0 releases always need bug fixes. So that would involve a long wait (for EE 2.0x), while MTOS 4.x is here now. Plus it's FREE!, unlike EE.

I've also been learning lots about XHTML/CSS, so I'm very much looking forward to redesigning the site. Now that I have the skillz to do whatever I want (regarding site design), I'm looking forward to translating my ideas into design. This is what I'm *most* excited about, and where I've been focusing most of my geek-energy (learning).

I also been getting letters from folks, asking about a re-design of the Black Beast, updated for 2008. I love doing that, but it takes more time than you might imagine, so I'm still on the fence there.

Radiation tri-blade 22.January.2008 » Finished upgrading the forums last night. Did not go as smoothly as I'd hoped. Seems we lost about half our members (1100 to start) and ~25K posts (33K to start).

Rad Forums Upgraded to YaBB 2.2 (Sorta)

This sux. Now you know why I dread upgrades. Yeah, I have a back-up. Made just before the "upgrade". Tired right now (midnight). Should probably get some rest. (A tired geek is a dangerous geek.) But too upset to sleep.

I may have to re-up files for posts & members from the back-up. The file transfer *did* complete pretty fast for 35K posts. So I think the server may've choked. I probably should've done the transfer in baby step .. instead of que'ing up all 35K at once. (Live-n-learn.)

Other than that (losing many posts and members), the new forum seems to be working okay.

Update1 » I was able to restore several thousand posts via the back-up, but it is incredibly tedious. You can't imagine how bad this suks. So long to restore only a small percentage. Too many files que'ed up choke the server.

So, there's good news. We didn't lose posts, as it appears we should be able to recover them all .. tho it will take a while.

Update 2 (3PM) » ALL posts/threads have been restored (from back-up) .. far as I can tell, anyway. See HERE for details. Next » restore member accounts. ~500 missing. Small potatoes compared to 25K missing posts. They're already unarchived .. from the back-up tarball (1.2 gigs).

Update 3 (5PM) » All member accounts have been restored. We're back! (That suk'ed. Glad its over.)

  • Lesson #1 » Don't do risky stuff at night. (No matter *how* lucky you might feel.)
  • Lesson #2 » Always have a back-up. (Or just shoot yourself before you start. Less painful that way.)
  • Lesson #3 » It is easier to install a new/clean forum, than upgrade an existing one.
  • Lesson #4 » More posts & more members = more risk & difficulty upgrading
  • Lesson #5 » Upgrades suk. (On a *good* day.)

I was up 'til 4:30 .. making sure I could restore posts. Couldn't sleep until I knew that. Now I need a sauna.

My web hosting provider (Lunarpages) says our CPU usage has decreased, but we are still using too much *memory* to be moved off "the stabilization server" .. (where all badboy-sites are banished).

I am also now forwarding the old YaBB 1.4 forum, which we were using as an archive, and cuz search engines knew it better than the new forum (this one). So that should kill a good chunk of our CPU usage .. by no longer having to service those (archived) posts. Now that new forum has been up-n-running since March (upgraded last night), we no longer need the archive forum.

Actually, the term "upgarde" is something of a misnomer here. It would be more accurate to say to we installed a new/clean copy of YaBB 2.2 .. and imported all our old posts/members (from YaBB 2.1).

Oh .. and before I forget .. on TV tonight, a Frontline special, titled » Growing Up Online. A look into the question of how radically the Internet is transforming the experience of childhood. If you miss it tonight, you can always catch it online. Souds interesting.

Radiation tri-blade 15.January.2008 » Have a special treat for you today. Took my digital camera along for a walk at the Back Bay (Newport Beach) .. shortly before sunset.

Newport Back Bay Photos

Newport Back Bay, Newport Beach, CaliforniaThis is where I took the Bug for his birthday last week (where we threw rocks into the water) .. so you know it's a special place for me.

Nine pictures. See here » Newport Back Bay, January 2008. Hope you enjoy.

Winter is the best time to visit the Back Bay, cuz that's when birds arrive .. from all over the world, including Alaska and South America. Estimates put the number at 60,000.

Today I got within 5 meters of a giant blue heron, who obviously wasn't going to move. So I turned around.

Radiation tri-blade 14.January.2008 » I'm preparing to upgrade the Rad Community Forums to YaBB 2.2, which was released November 8th (allowing time for them to correct any glitches discovered since the new release).

We currently use YaBB 2.1, which was released more than 2 years ago. So this should be a major upgrade.

Upgrading Rad Community Forum

I'm using the "safe" method of installing a new/clean copy of YaBB 2.2, leaving the current 2.1 forum up & running while I set-up the new 2.2 version (which takes a while).

After everything is hunky-dory (re-configured), I'll rename the currently-used directories to some other name, and rename the new 2.2 directories to those currently used by v2.1.

After editing one file (Paths.pl) to reflect these changes, we should be golden with a brand-spanking-new (upgraded) forum.

The forums contain more than 30,000 posts. People smarter than me frequent there. They deserve the new stuff.

I've already downloaded the new files and uploaded them to my server (physically located downtown Los Angeles), and chmod'ed everything (very tedious). Ready to "install" the new forum (by running "setup").

I also deleted many member-accounts (stayed up late last night). Anybody with 2 posts or less, and who hadn't visited the forums for 60 days was ax'ed. (They can always re-register.) You can glean more of the gory details » here. Upgrades suk. So many things can go wrong. Wish me luck.

Update - the new forum installed without a hitch. (Woohoo!) See » HERE. It still needs major tweaking, but we're over the biggest hurdle. Time to check out what cool mods are available.

Radiation tri-blade 11.January.2008 » The Bug is 3. The highlight of his b-day came at the Back Bay, where we thru rocks off a bluff .. into a canal below .. on a gorgeous winter afternoon in sunny SoCal.

The Bug's 3rd Birthday: Throwing Rocks in the Water

At first, he couldn't reach the water. His throws fell short, hitting the thick, black mud, exposed by the low-tide. But some coaching from dad showed him how to put his hips into the toss, giving him the extra distance to reach the water » Ker-plunk!

I know throwing rocks is not Disneyland, but he couldn't have been happier. We thru countless rocks into the water.

I always try to pay attention, but on his b-day I made a conscious effort to really get down on his level and look him in the eye (and make contact). He seemed to respond accordingly. He seemed happy. (Maybe the happiest I've ever seen.)

The day before he never woke from his nap .. slept the whole afternoon/night thru. (Only done that once before.) So I wasn't sure if he wasn't feeling okay.

At one point during our hike at the Back Bay, I called out for him to "Come on, Bug," cuz he was lagging back, drawing something on the dirt-trail with a stick .. and he called back, "Whadju say, daddy?" Something about that touched me.

He talks well, especially for a 3-year old. I mean, you can have a decent conversation with him. I also like that he knows what he wants.

For most parents, birthday #3 is a special milestone. But for me (given what I've been thru), you can be sure it was *extra* special.

MovableType 4.1 vs Expression Engine

On a more technical note, I've been looking into installing the latest version of MovableType (blogging software) .. which happens to be v4.1 .. which is currently in beta3, which was released 2 days ago.

The main reason I'm waiting for v4.1 is cuz (copy-n-paste from the "What's New in MT 4.1" page):

Valid, Well-formed XHTML Post Content

Movable Type's Rich Text Editor is now completely modular allowing a developer to create a plugin to swap in the rich text editor of their choice. A plugin for the popular FCK editor which outputs semantically valid XHTML has been created by Six Apart and is available in our plugin directory.

The biggest trouble I have with MT 3.35 (which I currently use) is with the editor. (I use TinyMCE.) It strips out code I want to use for Lightbox (among other things), causing much grief.

So the option to use a variety of editors, especially the FCK editor, which outputs well-formed XHTML (which I've been studying), will be very cool. (Wonder how they came up with that almost-profane name.)

MT4 now comes in three different versions:

  1. Commercial
  2. Open Source
  3. Personal.

People are grumbling (see comments) cuz *only* the Commercial version (which costs $235) will come with a feature called Custom Fields, a feature which moves MT in the direction of Content Management (like Drupal, for example), and away from pure blogging software.

I'm also interested in Expression Engine, (which supports Custom Fields natively). But EE is not free for personal use (like MT4). If they would comp me a license, I'd go that route (especially if they release a version with a WYSIWYG editor). Maybe I'll ask. Can't hurt, right?

Radiation tri-blade 06.January.2008 » The first three years (they say) are "most important" .. developmentally. The Bug will be 3 this week. (Can you believe it?)

Lightning McQueenThe Bug Turns 3

I feel good about his development, especially considering the challenges we've faced. So I won't say it's been easy. But he's pretty cool. (Big fan of Lightning McQueen.)

While picking him up last week, he said (while sitting in his mom's lap, as she tied his shoes), "I'm so glad I got you, dada." That stuff makes me melt.

He's entered the "Why?" phase. Everything is, "Why?" Of course, not all answers are easy to explain. But I try my best.

Along these lines, a friend recently told me, "'Because I said so,' .. is *never* an acceptable response." (Advice *my* parents obviously never heard.)

Sometimes I tell him, "I don't know." To which he asks, "Why don't you know?" =)

Sometimes I even say, "You're still small, and you probably won't understand .. but this is how it works..." Then I proceed to explain things .. in terms he can understand, cuz kids understand more than we give them credit for. And I finish with, "You'll understand better when you get bigger."

My biggest regret is that he'll never be able to spend more than a short time with *both* his mom & dad .. the two people who made him. But (as Tom said), "It's better than seeing those two people fighting all the time."

Obama Wins Iowa Caucus

In other news .. I read Obama won the Iowa caucus .. by a surprising margin. Can't help but recall the dream I had.

ObamaKinda weird .. if you consider *when* I had that dream (more than a year ago) .. and what was going on, politically, at the time. I mean, Obama was barely in the picture. He hadn't even announced his candidacy (which was still months away). And now I read he's favored (9-to-1) to win the New Hampshire primary (this Tuesday).

Obviously, the more viable he becomes (and he just became very viable), the more likely someone would be to "intercept" that viability. On this subject I read (end of 7th paragraph):

Reflecting Obama's new-found eminence, security around him has been stepped up.

Obama has Secret Service protection, but whenever you push for change, especially when that change affects the powers-that-be .. it's not unreasonable for those in power to .. uh, resist. Especially when much is at $take. And being black, it would be easy to pawn off as the work of a racist.

Speaking of the New Hampshire primary, let me interject an observation. I lived in Maine .. ~ an hour from the NH border .. for 4 months (summer), and got to know the people there (many from New Hampshire).

The most prominent thing I remember about these people .. is how hard they work. I mean, they have the strongest work ethic you'll find anywhere.

Having lived & worked in many different states over the years (such as Hawaii, Maine, Florida, New York, Illinois, Idaho, Connecticut, Washington, Pennsylvania, and now Kalifornia), has given me an idea of the differences that exist around our country.

For example, the nicest ppl? » Oregon. Sweetest girls? » South Carolina & Tennessee. Funniest sense of humor » Massachusetts. Hardest working » Maine & New Hampshire. Biggest jerks? » (I should write a book.)

CSS Mastery

CSS Mastery, by Andy BuddSpeaking of books, I'm still reading CSS Mastery. (Finished another chapter today.) Easy to see why everybody raves about it, and why it still sells so well, despite being 2 years old (an eternity in the tech world).

Andy Budd takes you straight to the cool stuff. The concepts he presents are straightforward. Yet the execution is far from intuitive. But Budd excels at presenting examples, which teach as much as (if not more than) the narrative.

So you have this synergistic thing going on between the narrative and example-code he provides .. techniques you'd never think of on your own. And he provides multiple solutions to accomplish each effect (such as rounded corners). So I'm learning lotsa cool stuff.

It's going slower however, than I expected. Cuz I keep breaking to research the graphics techniques he references (but doesn't explain), which involve learning how to use Photoshop. So I'm learning image editing at the same time. But CSS is even cooler than Photoshop. (So I'm always eager to return.)

And as you might've noticed, I've been lagging on site updates .. while focusing on learning CSS. Along these lines (of learning more about technology), I leave you today with a link to an article I found particularly interesting, which discusses The Paradox of Expertise vs Creativity.

Radiation tri-blade 01.January.2008 » Happy New Year. Mine was low-key. (No hangover today.) Spent the evening at Tom's. His wife whipped up a yummy batch of organic veggies (with dijon mustard & lemon) for dinner. Healthy stuff.

New Years Eve, Times Square Happy New Year! 2008

I like hanging out there cuz both he & his wife are very understanding (of my limitations). I was feeling blue last night (still am, actually), and that did not bother them. They've both been down this road, so they understand the challenges associated with my situation.

My engineering background has programmed me to try and understand problems (in order to engineer an effective solution). But I really don't understand *why* I'm feeling so blue.

I mean, I miss the bug, but that doesn't explain how far down in the dumps I feel. I was able to spend 3 solid days with him last week (after he returned from visiting relatives back-East).

I was excited driving over (Friday morn) to pick him up. Could actually feel myself getting happy. Then, after he left » bummer city. Haven't been able to shake it.

Didn't want to be a drag on my friend's New Years eve, but they assured me they understood.

The Bug left Sunday eve. Here it is Tuesday and I'm still trying to shake these blues. Ugh! Feel unsettled.

Seems the more time I spend with him, the more I miss him. Weird, huh? Opposite what you'd expect. After 3 great days with the Bug, I should be feelin' happy as pie, no?

Anyway, I don't understand the dynamics of why I'm feeling so blue, and why I can't seem to shake it. I'm just grateful for friends who understand and don't expect me to be upbeat all the time.

I've had other friends who were not able to deal the sadness that come when I have to give him back. Can't blame them, cuz I don't like it myself. But I haven't been able to shake it. Which is why I'm trying to figure out what's going on (and why).

Newport Back BayAnyway, I'm going to go for a walk .. around around the Back Bay. This tends to induce a meditative mindset which sometimes yields insight .. cuz this can't go on much longer.

Speaking of meditative, after dinner last night, Tom & his wife served Kung Fu Cha .. which means » The Art of Tea. If you've ever experienced this "mindful" ceremony, you know how special it is. They learned about it from a Buddhist monk. Maybe I'll elaborate more on this ancient ritual, but right now I need to go for a walk.

I'm not worried; I always recover. Just wish I could figure out how to expedite the process. Didn't feel this sad when he flew back East. So why do I feel so blue after spending 3 great days with him? (We sang Xmas songs in church Sunday morning. The previous night, he was enchanted by the fake snow spewing from the roof of the Zim house on Balboa Island.)