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Topics - Xepher

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121
Announcements / New Server Coming Soon
« on: February 23, 2007, 01:57:29 am »
So I think I've got the parts for the new server picked out. I haven't ordered yet, as I'm just being a little extra cautious to make sure everything on the motherboard I picked out will work with linux properly.

What I'm looking at:

Athena Power RM-2U2015SV40 case $130 (Yay a real server case!)
Intel MB BOXDG965WHMKR Motherboard $72
2GB DDR2 800mhz Ram $175
E6400 Core 2 Duo CPU $222
And 4 of these: 320GB Hard Drives $90x4

Total: $959 + Shipping

I'll also probably get a 2GB compact flash card and an IDE to flash adapter, giving me a solid state recovery "disk" for emergency use. It's about $30 for both. The 4 drives will be in a raid5 array, so total usable storage will be 960GB. The lost space goes to redundancy, so if any one drive fails, no data is lost.

The real question this brings up is how to go about the transfer. It'll take me several weeks to configure at test the new server once I get the parts, but when it comes time to actually replace the old one, I have to figure out the plan. See, it'll take about 3 days to ship the new one up there, and I won't have access to it during that time. That means that any data I have on it from users will be 3 days old by the time it gets there, and everyone will lose any updates they've done in those 3 days once the old server is powered down.

So I have a few options:

#1 I can lock the old server into read-only access when I sync the new one. This would happen right before I ship it to the datacenter. That would leave things sorta running while the new one is in transit, but no updates would be possible, no forum posts, no email, etc. But on the plus side, there would be nothing tricky to do once it got there. They'd just swap it for the old one, and everything would start running normally as soon as that was done.

#2 I can just warn everyone that as of a certain time/date, updates after that will be lost. People can still use forums and such for the intervening days, but everything will just "revert" back about 3 days once the new server comes online. Double trick with this is email. I don't think many people would be willing to lose 3 days of incoming email.

#3 Basically the opposite of #1. Leave the old server running normally, but new server would be read-only until I get the old machine back in my own hands and can get the data off it and send it to the new machine.

#4 Host the new machine somewhere else, and have some overlap time before I cancel the hosting on the old one. This would let me do a live sync, and would be nearly seamless. The downside is that I can't find the sort of bandwidth we need at anywhere near as good of a price. We basically need 3-5mbps connection, or around 1.5 terabyte a month, and space for a 2U box. Right now we've got 10mbps for $109/month I can't seem to beat that with a stick.


Anyway, I'm posting this here both as a heads up on what'll be happening in the next couple months, and also to ask for opinions and/or ideas. I think the server components are pretty much the right choice, but if someone's got a better idea, feel free to suggest things. As for how to do the transfer... I really do need some opinions on that. Also, if anyone can find me a good deal on server colocation that's even close to the price I pay now, I'd definitely like to know.

122
General Chat / Happy Lupercalia!
« on: February 14, 2007, 08:24:22 pm »
What? Not the holiday you were expecting? Missing the cheesy romantic messages and overpriced chocolates? Heh, none of that here, no sir. See, today we call it Valentine's Day, and most think of it as a girly holiday, but that's not the case at all. The real story is much more interesting.

----
Saint Valentine was apprehended and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, about the year 270. At that time it was the custom in Rome, a very ancient custom, indeed, to celebrate in the month of February the Lupercalia, feasts in honor of a heathen god.

The focal point of this festival was a site on the Palatine hill: the Lupercal, the cave in which, according to legend, the wolf suckled Romulus and Remus. In general, the ancients viewed the Lupercalia as a purification and fertility rite. The ritual involved the sacrifice of goats and a dog in the Lupercal by priests called Luperci, who smeared the foreheads of two noble young men with the blood of the sacrificed animals and then wiped it off. At this point, the youths were required to laugh. Then the luperci, clothed in loincloths, ran about the area, lashing everyone they met with strips of skin from the sacrificed goats. Young girls were particularly eager to receive these blows, because it was believed that the ritual promoted fertility and easy childbirth. These ceremonies were accompanied by much revelry and drinking.
----

As you can see, the real holiday here is about running around half naked, completely wasted, laughing like a maniac, and whipping girls with goat flesh. All to honor a bitch who raised the founders of one of the bloodiest empires ever known. The Romans, as you may recall, later became great innovators in the field of pain and suffering. Without them it's likely the world would never have seen people nailed to crosses and left to die for three days, forced gladatorial combat for sport, and peasants being tossed to ravenous lions as a means of popular entertainment.

No, Valentine's Day is not a girly holiday. It is a holiday that any man should be proud to celebrate with heavy drinking, partial nudity, and whipping his girl with freshly cut goat skin. What? That's a bit too harsh you think? Well guess what, that's how it goes. You think chocolates and flowers are a better way to honor a man being beaten to death and decapitated? Me? I think we should just give up the whole thing, and find our own holidays to celebrate, rather than covering up the truth about the ones we have.



I originally posted this a few years ago on the older forums. It was supposed to be amusing, but in hindsight it sounds a little like I was angry. I'm not. Yeah, I still don't have a valentine, but I never have either, so no biggy. Anyway, hope you find the actual story amusing, whether you like the current incarnation of the holiday or not. :-)

123
General Chat / Brain Sex
« on: January 03, 2007, 11:52:52 pm »
Was reading up on my science news, and came across a link I had seen a while back, but forgotten about. It was an online survey/test run by the BBC that claims to measure "Brain Sex ID" that is, if your mental abilities and thoughts are more aligned with typical male or female modes. It takes a bit to run through, but some of the tests are kind of interesting.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sex/add_user.shtml?users=1

I ended up with a score of 50% female... which is the average score for females taking the test. Only problem is, I'm male. :-)

EDIT: Actually, went back and looked at results, was closer to 30% female


I actually had to do some research in college on the subject of gender difference for a class. My team ended up studying mental difference, and there's a great book called "Brain Sex" that talks about a lot of the ideas used in that test. I've also looked at a lot of other material on the subject, and found a lot of things in that test to be either ridiculous, or not very scientific. Some of the things -- like the "fact" that women use significantly more words during an average day than men -- is almost laughed at in most scientific circles. The individual components do a good job of at least telling you if you're good at that specific task, even though I might take issue with the assumption that being good or bad at such a thing is really gender related. Anyway, my point is don't take it personally if comes out different than what you expect.


Another related thing I found was the "Gender Genie" which uses statistics to determine if the author of a given chunk of text is male or female.

http://www.bookblog.net/gender/genie.html

I tossed a lot of my stories and other writing at it, and found it pretty much said what I expected. Stories that I wrote which were focused on emotional issues and character growth ended up being guessed as a female author. On the other hand, hard sci-fi stories where I'm writing more action and such ended up male. Likewise, the journal entries I wrote are slightly on the male side, being written in my "normal" voice. Stories where I have a female narrator or strong-view protagonist tended to the female side. As a writer, it's nice to know that I can apparently switch modes without really even thinking about it. On the other hand, I always tend to be right down the middle on various tests like these, with either a balanced score, or flip-flopping between opposites regularly. It makes me question the validity of such measurements. That is to say, am I just unusually well balanced (aka "in touch with my feminine side") or are most modern people like me, and these tests just poorly structured and looking for throwbacks to previous eras where women were extremely sensitive and men were extremely thick headed?

The best example of what I consider poor scientific methods is the "Systemizing vs. Empathizing" test on the BBC thing... I got 19 of 20 on both, scoring higher than most women on empathy AND higher than most men on systemizing. Yet it gives me a female score for that test, simply because men usually get 16 of 20 on system, but women only get 14 of 20 on empathy. As such, I'm 5 points higher than the average woman, and only 3 points higher than the average man, despite being equally good at both. There are several other tests that also only seem accurate if both men and women score equally far apart, yet when you see the average results at the end of the test, the women don't score nearly as female as the test claims they should, and likewise, the male average is a lot better at the "female" tasks than the test designers think it should be.


Anyway, sorry if this is getting long winded. It's just an interesting area of science to me, and I tend to get carried away talking about those.

124
Announcements / Traffic Statistics
« on: January 02, 2007, 11:26:47 pm »
Statistics just finished compiling the web traffic in 2006. This doesn't include any other services such as email or FTP.

Highlights:
324 million "hits" (requests) up from 163 million last year.
54 million actual pages served, up from 31 million.
5.7 million unique IP addresses/hosts, up from 3.5 million.
Over 8 terabytes of data transfered, up from 4.5 TB.

That means every minute of this year resulted in at least:
618 hits
102 pageviews
11 new visitors
16 MB transfered

About 1/4 of data, and around 1/2 the pageviews went to http://www.missmab.com run by Amber. Her visitors also donated enough to run this whole place for half of the year. (And that's only counting the 25% that goes to Xepher.net!) Overall donations were good as well, a few hundred dollars more coming in than needed to pay hosting costs. (Which are going up $10/month starting this month.) Both this year and last year were a slight surplus, and I've been saving the money. I plan to buy/build a new server within the next few months which should result in a LOT more storage (nearly a terabyte) as well as being about 10-15x faster in terms of processing power.

Between a full time email server, spam filtering, PHP scripts on nearly every page, and various automated processes, we're about at the limit of what the current machine can handle without bogging down during peak times. I pay for the hosting out of pocket, and pretty much save everything in the paypal account for "rainy days" as it were. I've had to cover hosting expenses a few times over the past few years with that money, bust most of it has been saved. And since DC Buller made a last minute donation at the end of the year, that actually pushed the savings above the budget for the machine I have specced out. Now I'm mainly just waiting on real life to settle down a bit so I have the time to properly setup a new machine and test it before putting it into operation. As I said, hopefully in the next couple of months here, and then we should have a much better machine.

While I'm setting up a new machine though, I plan to do quite a few things differently in terms of backend. Most of it won't be really visible to you or your visitors, but will hopefully improve security, reliability, and administration ease. To that end, I'd like to ask ya'll: what (if anything) is bugging you currently? Anything that's running slower than you think it should, or otherwise might warrant my attention while I design things for the new system? I personally notice that the forum pages (as well as some other scripts) sometimes take a little longer to load than I'd like, and that the IMAP server is a bit slow to load new messages at times. Anything else I should look at, or maybe specific scripts that seem REALLY slow?


Oh, almost forgot, link to the stats! http://xepher.net/stats/xepher-net-2006/ (Change the year for previous years if you wish.)

125
Announcements / Temporary Spam Filter Failure
« on: January 02, 2007, 09:35:02 pm »
The spam filter (spam assassin) on the server died horribly sometime last night. (Jan. 2nd, 2007) I personally got over a hundred junk emails during the few hours while it was down. It's up and running again just fine, but I just wanted to let everyone know why they might have a lot more junk mail than usual.

126
Announcements / Disk Usage, Rules Violations, and Lack of Updates
« on: December 11, 2006, 03:12:10 am »
...are the reasons you may find your account temporarily disabled. About 2 dozen accounts haven't updated since February or earlier. Also, several accounts are excessively large for the amount of content they actually contain. Most often this is the result of someone storing/sharing music, software, or other unallowed stuff in their account. I've locked all such accounts as of today, so anyone finding a message on their site saying the account is disabled should contact me to resolve it. Nothing has been deleted, and it can be unlocked at anytime.

The reason I'm checking disk usage is that the drive storing user data is about 80% full right now. It's taken nearly three years to get there, so even at current rates of expansion, it's still good for a while yet, but it look that about a dozen users are responsible for about half the total usage, so I'm trying to curb that. On that note, anyone that has a lot of junk laying around their account is encouraged to delete what they can. I don't care about small things, like a few megabytes or so, but if you've got a hundred megs or more of stuff that's not part of your site, or can otherwise be deleted, please do so.

Thanks Everyone!

127
Announcements / Anti-Spam
« on: November 20, 2006, 10:21:57 pm »
In the continuing arms race between spammers and anti-spam technology, I've upped the ante once more. I've enabled Razor and Pyzor distributed hash-checking on the email filters. It's some really cool ideas behind it, but in the end it should just mean better spam detection (assuming you're using the spam filtering here.) As always, lemme know of problems.

128
General Chat / Science!
« on: November 09, 2006, 09:49:26 am »
So I often read science fiction, and I think about the problems (both physical and metaphysical) in the not-too-distant future. I saw this post today though that really made me think, and realize just how much human perceptions and ideals are going to have to play catch up in the coming decades. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/11/o_brave_new_world_please_come.php

129
General Chat / Xepher.net Chat
« on: October 28, 2006, 09:48:30 am »
Just a reminder, Xepher.net Chat at http://xepher.net/chat/ For all those bored and alone :-)

130
General Chat / Google Abuse
« on: October 24, 2006, 10:25:41 am »
Google is too useful for it's own good some times. I mean, you can actually get valid data with a query like this:
http://www.google.com/search?q=c+in+smoots+per+fortnight

For extra fun, look up Smoot (both the unit of measurement, and the person.) The irony of his story is amazing.

131
Announcements / New Forum Registration Rules
« on: September 30, 2006, 09:37:48 pm »
Spammers keep coming, so some new rules to help me weed them out easier.

1. You MUST post at least once within 24 hours of registering. Just say hello or something, so I can tell you're not a spammer.

2. Please try to register names that at least LOOK pronounceable. Most spammers end up with "tram937onlineFREE" and such. Don't look like them.

3. If you have problems, can't register, or your account is mistakingly deleted, let me know via email.

132
General Chat / Mythologies
« on: September 27, 2006, 04:04:44 am »
I read an interesting article recently, about children in Miami homeless shelters developing their own religion/mythology. It's a long article, but very interesting. I got chills thinking about children coming up with such a dark mythos all at the same time, but it is a really clever solution to the Problem of Evil.

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/Issues/1997-06-05/news/feature_print.html

I guess what got me, is it's one thing for someone like Nietzsche to ponder philosophical points for years, and finally declare "God is dead." But for 8 year old children to come to the conclusion that God went insane from grief after Mary killed Jesus... that's just dark.

133
General Chat / Surreal Moment Of The Week
« on: September 24, 2006, 11:03:09 am »
Hearing Leonard Nimoy (Spock) sing "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" followed by Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line." (Weird Al doing "Canadian Idiot was a close second.)

134
General Chat / Dresdan Codak
« on: September 22, 2006, 01:13:37 am »
Weird, but incredibly amusing comic. http://www.dresdencodak.com/ Highly intellectual and surreal, reminds me a lot of Bunny http://www.frozenreality.co.uk/comic/bunny/

A couple good picks.

http://www.dresdencodak.com/cartoons/dc_027.htm
http://www.dresdencodak.com/cartoons/dc_022.htm
http://www.dresdencodak.com/cartoons/dc_019.htm


Maybe some of ya'll will enjoy it.

135
Announcements / Brief Outage
« on: September 13, 2006, 10:30:57 pm »
Brief outage yesterday. Billing problems with the datacenter. They tried to bill an expired credit card, yadayadayada... anyway, it's fixed now, sorry for the troubles.

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