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Topics - reinder

Xepher, my site shows up again, but it shows the state of the website as of December, 2006. Will the newer stuff be transferred to the new machine, or is it lost?

Update: what it's showing is the Movable Type-based, static version of the site, which was last updated in December. The dynamic, PHP-driven version appears to be completely gone.
Technical Support / Internal server errors
July 16, 2007, 08:34:08 PM
Is anyone else getting lots of 500 (Internal Server Error) responses lately? I am, and it's affecting both my Perl-based Movable Type installation as my PHP/MySQL-based CMS for the comic.

At first, we (Mithandir who wrote the CMS and I) blamed a persistent spam attack on the comic, but that seems to have died down.
General Chat / A guest comic I did
June 08, 2007, 09:12:40 PM

I've got a guest comic on Jelena Saiso's Weekly this week. Jelena and I are on the same wavelength about a lot of things, so writing this one was a breeze. I did cheat a little with the drawings, though - that Vortex was the easiest background I've made in a looooong time.
Web Design / OScommerce
June 04, 2007, 03:26:05 PM
I've been thinking of selling more original art through my website - there seems to be a bit of interest. I want to automate things a little more than I have, and do that within my own website, because of the two art selling services that I know about, one (Webcomicsnation Swapmeet) sucks, and the other (Comicspace Market) is a subscription-only service and the idea of paying just to test it puts me off a bit.

So I've been looking at OS Commerce. Does anyone on Xepher have any experience working with that? Is it easy to integrate with CMSes?
Art / My first ebook: Headsmen
March 12, 2007, 05:59:21 PM
Modern Tales is now making hi-res versions of comics available in Comic Book Reader format, and one of the first batch of releases is one of my short Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan stories, Headsmen.
You can find it at my downloadables page, which also links to pages where you can get Comic Book Reader software - I was responsible for the Qcomicbook recommendation for Linux/KDE, because I'd already been using it for a little while and liked it.
There are several other downloadable comics on the site. I still find it ironic that Modern Tales is doing this - their original business model was based on subscriptions to webcomics, and now they're giving huge downloadables away for free. But I'm not complaining. I'm really happy with how Headsmen turned out.

So give Headsmen, or any other of the available collections, a try. There's some really good stuff there. Download it now, read it at leisure. Just like reading a real book except without the dust and the stink and the curry stains.
Hosting Q&A / Referrer spam
March 12, 2007, 05:26:40 PM
Although I don't publish the web stats from my CMS, it's been getting rather badly hit by referrer spammers, to the point where the statistics are no longer reliable. I want these, these, these...  creatures out of my statistics. I've been looking around and found one good article suggesting some ways to deal with this scourge. I could implement the apache directives-based one (I think - those can go into .htaccess, right?) but I thought I might as well ask around.

What else can be done to eliminate this problem, how much is already being done without me knowing it (obviously, these referrer spams I'm getting could be the tip of an iceberg of referrer spam that's already being filtered out server-wide), and what would people recommend? Do other Xepherites even have this problem at all?
I've been looking into upgrading my Movable Type installation. If you were around two years ago, you'll know why this idea fills me with dread: the new installation didn't stay up long enough under the onslaught of comment spam for me to have time to figure out what I'd been doing wrong that made the spam filters not work. It brought the entire server down with it.

Still, we're two years further now; a lot of work has been done at Movable Type to improve spam filter performance and integrate the anti-spam material with the core of the software, so it should now come with good spam prevention out of the box. Also, it now works with FastCGI, which should reduce the overhead - and it was the overhead during the spam attack that made the server crash, not the spam itself.

What I'd get out of an upgrade would be:
1) A more generous license. Actually, I have that now, because I downloaded a new version of MT to my home machine and accepted the new license. Since then, I've been adding new users to the blog.
2) Comments. I do believe that not having comments enabled is bad for a weblog, and it's especially bad now that I want to get into some more serious, substantial debate about a number of issues, from the political to the artistic and back, again. Comments can only work with functional anti-spam measures
3) Hopefully, faster performance.
4) A number of nifty features that may or may not turn out to be useful. I'd like to be able to tag blog posts for easier findability of the many, many old posts, for example.

There are other blog platforms I can use, including the CMS used for the comics, but I want to stick with Movable Type because I know it well enough to help other users of the blog, and because when I don't know the answer, there's a community of people who do. This is very different from my comics CMS where if I don't know what to do, only one other person does.

So my big question is, do we have FastCGI enabled so I can get those alleged performance benefits? And the bigger question is, do you reckon it's safe to carry out the upgrade:)
Knowhow Trading Post / Getting audio off my DVDs.
January 27, 2007, 08:51:54 PM
So... I got my PC fixed up, and treated myself to an external DVD writer. Should be useful for archiving, plus I can watch DVDs on it. Except of course that my PC is a linux system, and DVD playback isn't always straightforward on one of those. With a bit of snagging packages from unofficial SuSE sites, a bit of googling and a bit of compiling from source, I managed to get things to the point where Kaffeine could play Region 2 DVDs. Good, pats on the back for me.
But then, of course, I had to look at my concert DVDs, and think "wouldn't it be nifty if I could get the audio from that and convert it to MP3 or Ogg or something that I could play along with my regular music collection?" And that turned out to be an even bigger can of worms. I was again thrown into Dependency Hell, with just about any of the most-used tools refusing to run or compile on my system, despite me being sure, at least in some cases, that the libraries they needed were in fact present on my system. But if you get one package from Packman, one from the official SuSE discs, and another from source code, things get a bit messy.
Another problem was that programs that did run, such as Mencode, come with some seriously involved command line options (and one program that might serve as a front end came with some nasty disclaimers about its code quality and introduced two fresh dependencies). Mencode requires about five command line options just to extract a single file, and the documentation is less than helpful. It wouldn't be a problem if among the examples there'd be at least some based on someone wanting to extract just the audio. As it is, I have no idea how to do that.

In short, is there an easy way to 1) extract audio from DVDs without also filling my hard drive with video files; 2) on a SuSE linux system; 3) without going nuts from learning hundreds of cryptic command line options, and 4) without spending days in Dependency Hell?

I am aware that if you want to work with multimedia on linux, a good way to start is not to do it on a SuSE system, but it's the one I've got installed, it's the one that I understand slightly better than other distributions, and while I'm willing to put in some effort for this (and have, oh, boy, I have), switching just for this is more trouble than it's worth.

But you Xepherites have been so helpful with my PC troubles (thanks again for that!), maybe you know the answer to this one as well!
Knowhow Trading Post / Hard drive troubles at home
December 01, 2006, 12:31:30 PM
Here's one for the computer techs around here: I'm having problems with my hard drives; my primary drive has up and died, and my secondary drive is following suit.  Here's a history of what happened.
As I say in the article, I'm not that good with hardware, but I'm prepared to try and fix it myself if I must. Yet before I either take the machine to the shop or rummage in its innards myself, I'd like to have some idea of what to look for. Power supply connections not attached well? Some other problem with connecting it right? Somebody screwed up the Slave/Master settings? Post your hypotheses here, please, and earn my gratitude.
Hosting Q&A / Project Wonderful advertising
November 08, 2006, 04:10:35 PM
I'm interested in running ads served by Project Wonderful, a potentially nifty ad service run by Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics and Oh No Robot. It seems to be doing well, though so far I've only seen ads for other webcomics served through the network. Its approach appears to be the polar opposite to Speechbubble's, working in a way that favours smaller advertisers.
Could PW be added to the provisional approved ad networks list?

BTW the Talk About Comics Blog is devoting quite a bit of space lately to new players in the online advertising industry, and it looks more and more like the practices that made the last generation of online advertisers so distasteful are going the way of the dinosaur. Except that no kids will ever think popup ads are awesome death machines.
General Chat / Lazy Grind Mark 2.0!
September 10, 2006, 09:10:16 PM
The artist and cast of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan are proud to be part of the Lazy Grind Mk. 2, a competition to maintain a three-times-weekly update schedule for as long as possible. gets a namecheck in the sidebar, by the way.

Three updates a week may seem like a step back from the five I've been posting weekly since May, 2005, but from Monday and into the indefinite future, I'll be posting all-new, work-intensive ROCR comics, and trust me, three a week will be difficult enough.

I hope you'll enjoy following along and do drop by at the contest's hub site, Daily Grind Mk. 2 to check out the other comics and trash-talk on my and's behalf in the tag board!
Technical Support / MySQL server
August 16, 2006, 12:49:51 PM
There seems to be something badly wrong with the MySQL server today. I get error messages like this one:
QuoteWarning: mysql_connect() [function.mysql-connect]: Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock' (111) in /home/rocr/public_html/willow-db.php on line 2
Could not connect
and similar ones occur all over's home page as well.

It's possible that this crash was cause, at least directly, by me reading full site usage logs in WillowCMS, in which case I apologise. On the other hand, I've done that before and while it's pretty hard on the server, it hasn't caused it to keel over before. So there may be other factors involved.
Hosting Q&A / Speech Bubble Media ads
August 10, 2006, 10:30:13 AM
Speech Bubble Media is a new advertising network for webcomics.'s Webmonkey Ash is involved in it, and I heard about it via TWCL. I signed up with them to find out more, and I've been impressed with the speed at which my application was approved. I also like the sound of what they're saying in their first newsletter:
QuoteWe’re now talking to advertisers about targeted exposure on webcomics. We have existing relationships with companies such as Apple, Sony, adidas, Warner Bros and Microsoft all of whom have recently bought digital advertising on animation sites.

We'd like to stress that we believe in the high value of your audience and we’re not looking to undersell your inventory.

We will be securing premium advertising from companies keen to target webcomic readers at CPM rates approaching $1+ net to Publishers.

That means Speechbubble won't be supplying ads for 'smileys' or seeking low cost bulk deals, but neither do we ask that you stop dealing with existing suppliers if you want to monetize every page impression in the short term.
If they can make this happen, then they'll be putting classy, if somewhat corporate, advertising that pays well (I'd only have to multiply my pageviews tenfold to make a living) targeted to webcomics on my site.

They haven't started publishing ads yet, but because of the above, I'd like to ask Xepher permission to run their ads on Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan.
Have any of you got any experience with using Bad Behaviour on your websites? It's a system, primarily developed as a Wordpress plugin but also adaptable to other content management systems, that examines Http requests to see if they're malicious, and from the software's own blog, it appears to be very effective.

Currently, very little spam makes it past my filters, but about 20% of all hits to the content management system that runs Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan are in some way malicious - attempted comment spam, referral spam, various script kiddie tricks. I'd like to conserve the wasted bandwidth and computer cycles, and keep those requests out of my statistics. Also, the vast majority of all searches on my blog are from blog spammers inserting their links into any web form they can find. It's a big problem that could risk bringing down my website again.

If you run Wordpress, you may need this or already have it; but I'm most interested in hearing from people who got it to work with software other than Wordpress, which it may not do out of the box.
I'm no PHP programmer, but I've got access to a good one.
Technical Support / 500 Internal server errors
July 06, 2006, 05:12:05 AM is 500-ing out! Seems to be only the dynamic pages are affected.  I'll be checking with my programmer, Mithandir, but in the mean time: have there been any changes to the MySQL/PHP setup? Or the CGI configuration?

Also, I can't get into my email (username/password is not recognised) or SSH, so my ability to do my own part in fixing the problem is severely compromised.
General Chat / New featured site?
April 06, 2006, 07:39:49 PM
Much as I like having Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan as a featured site, it's time we got another one. Who'd you recommend?
Woo hoo!
I've got a new webdesign over at Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan! And I'm working on a minicomic!

The full story on the minicomic is now on the ROCR front page, and I don't want to cut and paste the whole thing here. If you're reading this after Monday, April 3, the press release will be archived on the Headsmen Mini page.

The two things are of course related - I did the redesign to coincide with the minicomic's pre-launch. It was a job and a half but I do think the new look is an improvement, and I hope the mini will be a hit (defined as selling about a hundred copies, really).
Art / Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan: Headsmen
January 09, 2006, 01:24:55 PM
I haven't used the Xepher forums to promote and as they don't seem to offer an obvious place to do that, I don't think I'll make a habit of it. But I'm very proud of the new storyline that just started on the website today, so just this once, I want to give you all the song and dance in the hope that you'll take a look at it:

The Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story The Green Knight's Belt has ended and, as promised, the follow-up is a new story that I've been working on since the end of November. Headsmen has started today. I hope people like it - it's very unlike a typical webcomic in that I've really worked hard to give it some production value. For the first time in a year, I'm publishing a freshly-drawn webcomic in colour!

Headsmen is set just days after the events in The Green Knight's Belt, with Kel taking a different role from the one we've seen so far. In the stories from the 1990s, we saw Kel as a surly, put-upon character, but considering what we learned about her background in stories like The Rite of Serfdom, she must have initially considered being with the Gang as a step up from working for the Green Knight. Also, she can't have had much of a notion how the human world worked in those initial weeks in the forests near Dungil Fens. This story, then, is intended as a bridging chapter between The Green Knight's Belt and the stories that follow it. I'm having a ball making it; I hope you'll enjoy reading it.