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Topics - Xepher

Announcements / Creative Commons
July 04, 2006, 03:40:26 AM
I recently changed the "copyright" notice on All code, content, and images are now under a Creative Commons license. You can check out the footer on any of the main pages for the new notice.

This was what I'd always intended with the original copyright notice I had, but now I've got the proper legalese to back it up. For those of you not familar with Creative Commons, you should check it out. Basically, it lets you claim a piece of work as your own, while still giving people the ability to redistribute it, copy it, modify it, etc... so long as they follow your rules about it. CC has several licenses you can choose from, depending on what you want to allow people to do with your work. The license I chose basically says you can do whatever you want with my work so long as you give me credit for it, and in turn release whatever you make with it under the same license.

I encourage everyone who creates content to put it under a CC license. Share, and share alike. That's what makes the internet a better place.
Announcements / Admin Email Info
June 19, 2006, 08:16:05 PM
Okay, my admin account here (adminATxepherDOTnet) gets a LOT of spam. I mean, we're talking 50+ a day. My spam filters are pretty good, only letting through a few each week, but because they're so strict, it is possible that they might accidently catch a legit email. If you worry this may be the case with a message your sending, there are a couple of keyword triggers I've setup to let you bypass the spam filters, and optionally recieve an automated confirmation that your message went through. The keywords are used simply by including them anywhere in the subject line of your email.

The first word is "wombat" which will bypass the spam filters.
QuoteThe wombat lives across the seas,
Among the far Antipodes.
He may exist on nuts and berries,
Or then again, on missionaries;
His distant habitat precludes
Conclusive knowledge of his moods.
But I would not engage the wombat
In any form of mortal combat.

-- "The Wombat" Ogden Nash
The second word is "tyger" which will bypass spam filters and send an automated response to you to confirm this.
QuoteTyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart,
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

--William Blake "Tyger
General Chat / Riot Folk!
June 19, 2006, 02:12:55 AM
Finally found a good term for one of my favorite genres of music. "Riot Folk!" Check out which is a little more "activist" than I usually listen to, but a good example of the genre, with free/legal downloads!

Here's a couple of my favorites so far.

Other bands that I think have a similar sound would include The Mountain Goats, Bright Eyes, Neutral Milk Hotel, Modest Mouse, Idlewild, Iron & Wine, etc.
If it's taking a long time when you try to check mail, check the size of your inbox. I'm notcing that many users have inboxes that are several hundred megabytes. Everytime you login to check mail, it has to parse ALL of that. Delete stuff you don't need, or move older stuff to a different folder and it'll make your inbox run a lot quicker.
Announcements / Xepher's Moving
May 24, 2006, 03:39:15 AM
I'm moving back to College Station Texas. I'm leaving Thursday (5/25) morning and it may be several days before I get back online. That is all.
Announcements / Inactive Forum Accounts Deleted
May 19, 2006, 12:41:24 AM
I went through and deleted nearly a hundred inactive accounts on the forums. Most of them had been registered and never activated... lots of spammers in there. I didn't delete any account that had a post count above 0, but still, if you happen to have just registered and not yet activated your account, it may have been deleted. If that's the case, just reregister and everything should work again.
Announcements / New Ideas...
May 14, 2006, 04:43:23 AM
Now that my job's over, I've been thinking about what to do here with for the past week. I've been torn between two ideas that I've had. On the one hand, I mentioned the idea of dedicated comic hosting. On the other, I've been wanting to write this CMS (content management system) that I've had in mind for a while as well. The CMS would basically be an automated website system, that would be highly customizable. It would be extensible/modular, but the base system would all you to have a comic automation system, complete with archives, automatic updates, rants, etc. a news/blog system, complete with in-browser rich text editor (aka "buttons to make things bold or change colors or add links") an art/image gallery system, everything complete with the ability for users to post comments, a threaded forum system, and other stuff... all of it integrated together, and full searchable. It would use the Smarty template engine ( so that users could completely customize the layout and look of everything.

Now I'm thinking how to integrate this with itself. The goal here has always been Free Hosting for Free Thinkers... or as I tried to explain that from time to time... Recurring, original, creative content. Thing is, I've always been trying to build this place into a community. Phase 2 I tried to drag more people together with the newsbox and featured sites and such. It hasn't worked out so well. For the most part, everyone's doing their own thing here... there's no centralization, no real community, save the few of us that actually hang around the forums here. So I looked around at what actually make popular community driven sites. Sadly, what I came across was DeviantArt, KeenSpace (Comic Genesis now), Yerf and that sort. Look at Yerf for an example. It's VERY simple. You can upload an image, give it a description, and people can see it. The centralization stuff is nice though, like the "Recent Uploads" page, which shows the most recent art from everyone. See something you like? Click that artist to go to their own gallery. DA's got stuff like "favorites" where an artist can actually point to someone else's work on her on page. Likewise, you can "watch" certain artists that you like to know when they update. The comment system is rather useful to, IMHO. It lets artists get feedback on their stuff, without having to jump through the hoops of a seperate forum. Keenspace/CG... If you've got a comic, it's simple, it's easy, it does archives, and you don't have to worry about keeping so much stuff organized.

Now, comics/art/writing... that covers about 95% of the content on I think. So why can't I integrate all those things into one system? Thing is, I think I can. Basically picture the Artica stuff I described, especially the modernation/karma/whuffie system, but combined with modules for comics, writing, news, etc. Add on the ability for each user to truely customize the layout of their own site, but still have things integrated, so that if they upload art to their own gallery, it'll show up site-wide in "new art" or in "watched artists" and all that other stuff. Same for stories/fiction, or new comics.

Bottom line is that I think I could write a really good CMS that would allow for both full customization/uniquness, while at the same time, keeping everything integrated. While over the past few years, I've intentionally shied away from such things, prefering to keep up the "traditional" hosting model, with no provisions at all for content management or anything, I come to realize that it's just not working that well. What's taking off are things that make life easier online. Most people would rather have a gallery they could update in a few seconds via their browser than having the full freedom to code and layout every single detail themselves. At least, that's how it seems to me.

So the question becomes, how would this work (or not work) for you guys... the users here? Would it ruin things or make them better?

P.S. I realize I may not be extremely clear here on how things would work. Feel free to ask questions or tell me where I confused you.
Announcements / PHP/MySQL Temporarily Offline
May 13, 2006, 12:30:14 AM
There's a possible exploit in MySQL. I had to take down the mysql service and rebuild it today. After it was rebuilt though, PHP stopped working since  it was using the old version of the MySQL libraries for it's mysql access. I rebuilt PHP against the new version, and everything should work again. Total downtime was about 2 hours, and only PHP and MySQL were affected (email and such continued to run.) Of course, there's always the chance of new bugs with new software, so let me know if you find any.

EDIT: Retract that... mysql is still borked. Working on it.
General Chat / Spore = Best Game Ever?
May 06, 2006, 11:11:01 PM

If it looks boring at first, keep watching for at least a few minutes, it gets so incredbly much cooler. I can't believe any game could be this large. Start as a single-cell lifeform, evolve creatures, control cities, make buildings, create vehicles, go to space, and end up terraforming planets. I'm just blown away.

Reminds me of one of my favorite games from way back when... E.V.O. I always wanted a modern version of that. Wishes do come true! :-)
General Chat / Cool Science
May 05, 2006, 05:29:58 PM
I figure I see all sorts of cool sciencey stuff online each day, and there should be a thread to share it.

First, start with some really internesting magnetic fluid demos. This is what I think nano-tech will look like. (Except the "fluid" will be doing it on it's own.)

Some fun stuff from Titan.

Finally, a picture to replace the famous "Blue Marble" from Apollo 17. Check out the rest of the image galleries there at visible earth as well. The city lights at night is fun too.
General Chat / XGL: +50 to Shiny!
April 30, 2006, 04:01:19 AM
XGL is an OpenGL (3d accelerated) desktop server for linux. Simply put, it lets you have a lot of really shiny visual effects in your desktop using the power of your graphics card. Check out the demo video.

A lot of the things in the video I've seen in Mac OSX before... My roomate just got a brand new 19" iMac, and I liked a lot of what I saw. I'm compiling XGL now though, and hopefully this should cure my Mac envy. :-)
General Chat / TGIF!
April 28, 2006, 11:47:32 PM
Thank GOD it's Friday!

That is all.
General Chat / Seed Magazine
April 14, 2006, 02:54:13 AM
I'd never heard of "Seed" before, but found a link to an article there today. Great stuff. Like popular science, but with less "popular" and more "science." Been reading for the past few hours, and came across this excellant article. See, Richard Feynman has always been one of my personal heroes, but the stuff in this article really makes it complete.
Due to the stupid-high amount of spam coming from, I've banned all forum registrations using that domain for email. If you want a legitimate account, and you happen to use that for your mail, then let me now. My email can be found without looking too hard.
General Chat / Ice Age 2
April 01, 2006, 06:36:13 AM
Hi-freakin-larious! Just got back from the theater... totally awesome movie. Go see it!

In other news, am I the only one that's noticed the recent trend in computer-animated, talking animal movies?

Here's the list I've got so far.
Ice Age
Finding Nemo
Ice Age 2
Madagascar 2
The Wild
Over the Hedge
Open Season
Happy Feet
Father of the Pride (TV)

With the exception of Dinosaur and the first Ice Age, all of them are within the past year, or currently in the works. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but I just found it strange to go to see a computer-animated movie about talking animals, and seeing trailers for two more such movies while I'm there. It's like it needs it's own genre or something. :-)

Now what I'd like to see, after seeing how good of a job they did on Narnia, is a GOOD werewolf movie. If they can make aslan that realistic, then they should finally be able to make a decent looking werewolf movie! Who's with me?

EDIT: Oh, I forgot "Garfield" and "Garfield 2" (which was the third, computer-animated talking animal trailer I saw tonight.) Garfield gives a bad name to the "genre" though, so we'll ignore these two.

EDIT EDIT: Forgot "The Ant Bully"... which means I also forgot "Antz" and "A Bug's Life"
General Chat / Intellectual Property Run Amok
March 31, 2006, 12:29:40 AM
A good outline of the stupidity that is intellectual property law in the U.S.

The one I think they should've mentioned is that you can be sued for singing "Happy Birthday" as the song is still under copyright. This is why when you have a birthday at someplace like Friday's or Olive Garden, they have their own made-up song to sing. If they didn't, they'd have to pay fees.
General Chat / Ow! Very ow!
March 27, 2006, 01:11:29 AM
Went skiing today. Had a decent time, despite the blizzard-like conditions. Was on my last run down, got on just as they were closing that lift... Starting picking my way deep into the trees and off the trail. Saw a pine log that'd been setup for a rail slide. Went to try it... worked great the first few feet. Then gravity. Then ow. Then lots of ow.

Couldn't jump well enough off the rail as I slipped. Left tip went into the snow and stuck hard there. My body still had sideways momentum from the slide. Twisted my whole body about 270 degrees around that stationary ankle. Heard a nice "pop" in my foot, and then the next ten minutes are just a blur of me trying to catch my breath and praying I didn't break anything.

Realizing I was in the middle of nowhere, and it was the end of the day, I was gonna have to ski out on it. Thankfully nature's provided us this nifty thing called "shock" which gives you about 10-20 minutes of super-powers after a major injury. Made it to the highest road on the mountain, and had Will-san come pick me up. Shock started wearing off on the car ride. I'm still discovering entirely new realms of pain. I'm at the point now where the kitchen seems impossibly far away with how much it hurts to limp. I can't believe I actually skiied on this injury. I don't think it's broken, considering it could support my weight down the hill, but it's definitely pulled or (I hope not) torn something fierce.

I'm sure somewhere in my subconcious, I'm posting this for sympathy... but more so, it's because I figure, what good are injuries if you don't get to turn them into stories? :-)
Announcements / Vacation!
March 02, 2006, 10:08:18 PM
I'm going on a trip for about two weeks, starting tomorrow. I should be back on the 21st of March. I'm going to Texas to visit my family and friends there. I'll be online intermittently while I'm gone, so it shouldn't really impact anything other than my response time.
General Chat / Ooooh! Me WANTY!
February 13, 2006, 11:16:05 PM

Really, this is how computers should work. It's the 21st century for cryin' out loud!
Announcements / Status, Plans, and Questions...
February 12, 2006, 02:24:05 AM
As you've hopefully seen in other announcements, was hacked again last night. After much investigation, it looks quite likely that there was a backdoor left in place after the last hack, and they just used that to get back in again, despite any security enhancements I made in the interim. The problem here is that, while I think I've found and removed all backdoors and such, there's no way to be positive without a complete system wipe and reinstall. Now, if the machine was sitting here in my room, no problem. I'd take it offline for maybe 8 hours and do it. But it's in Chicago, and I'm in Steamboat. Between shipping both ways and the time to sort and test things, it'd probably mean a week of being completely offline. Also, it would cost me a couple hundred dollars in shipping, and I'd really hate my life because it would eat all my free time when I'm not at work.

Here's my current line of thinking. I think the hacker(s) weren't out to destroy the system, but just spread their viruses and such for other purposes. As such, I believe the damage they've actually done is rather limited, as evidence by everything still running and me still having control of the machine. Now, as I said, I can't "trust" the system, but if it's doing what it need to do... that is, serving your websites up properly, well, I think that's good enough... for now. I'm not going to pull and wipe the system just yet. I'll leave it running for a few more months until I have the time and money to redo it properly. What I ask though, is that since it's possible there's still a hacker with access to things, is that everyone make sure to keep backups of your own data as often as you feel is needed. I do keep system-wide backups, but I'm hesitent to run one of those because all I'd be doing is backing up possibly infected files. If the system is totally taken down, then I will possibly be restoring that backup as an emergency measure. But since it will be a couple months old, many of ya'll could lose newer data if you don't have your own backups. Please realize, I'm talking from paranoia here. This is a worst case scenario. I really don't think the hackers are trying to destroy things, just sneakly spread their worm. As such, I don't anticipate any major disaster, but I'd rather everyone was prepared, just in case.

Now, for future plans... I'm moving back to Texas in a few months. My current plan has me taking over some investment (rental) property, and if that goes well, I'll be getting enough income that I won't have to have a full time job just to get by. That will leave me more time to get sorted out properly. What I want to do is build a new server. The current one (Orca) is now several years in service... the drives have 30,000 hours of power-on time. That's 3.5 years at 24/7 and is definitely "mature" and not at all bad lifetime for something built from spare parts in a college dorm. For a new server, I want to actually drop some real cash on it, build with all new parts. I want a much faster server, with MUCH more storage in a raid array this time 'round. Currently, I'm aiming for about an athlon 64 3200+ with something close to a terabyte of storage. If I do that, I plan to seriously redesign the software side of things as well. The current server setup is pretty much as secure as I can make it while still giving everyone the amount of resources/freedom that I do. I thought it was going to be enough, and it was for several years while we were still small enough to be below the radar. It fended off thousands of "drive by" hacking attempts. The one that finally got through looks to be a concerted effort over many days (possibly weeks or months) by a very determined hacker or group. The new server... I plan to run virtual machines this time around. I'm going to have a master/host that's the actual operating system, but below/inside that I will run virtual machines with a completely seperate OS and everything, and those will run all the actual services. What this gives me is the option to actually wipe and rebuild those virtual machines by remote (using the host system.) So if/when another hacker does get though, I can build a second virtual machine, and switch services over to that one, then go back and wipe the infected machine out completely and rebuild it. I hate having to think this paranoid, but it seems to have become neccessary. The truth is that, no matter how good I design a system to be secure, I'm still at the mercy of the software I use. That means that, even if my design is perfect, a bug in something like the mail server could get the whole machine compromised, which is exactly what happend this last time.

While I'm rebuilding things, I'm going to revamp the hosting side of stuff as well. I'm going to try and implement "Phase 3" as I originally called it. For those wondering, that was the idea that was basically limited (non-machine) accounts specifically for comic hosting. It'd be a lot like keenspace... no applications, everyone gets in, but you can't really do much with it OTHER than host a comic. I also plan to add in some of the things I've been meaning to for a while. Mostly convinence things, like a web-based file manager, and some sort of statistics gathering that's a lot more detailed (and interactive) than the current stats system.

Now, I'd like to hear from ya'll on this, what you think. First off, just any general opinions on what I've mentioned. I have a couple of more specific questions though.

1. Do you think waiting to rebuild the system is a good enough option? Does it worry you undully that the server might be compromised in the meantime?

2. When I rebuild, I'm going to try and resecure things even more than now, but I don't want limit the useability too much. How many non-essential services here do you actually use? To clarify, here's the list of things people can or do use here. Please let me know which ones you actually use, which ones you'd like to use (or might in the future,) or ones I forgot or that you'd like to see

Webserver (essential)
SSH (essential... at least for me, shell/command line access)
SCP (secure file upload, used instead of FTP)
FTP (unsecure file upload... I may be getting rid of this anyway)
Email (
IMAP (email access protocol)
IMAPS (secure version of above)
POP3 (email access protocol)
POP3S (secure version of above)
SMTP (Outgoing mail server)
Email forwarding
Spam filtering
Wildcard email ( goes to your account here.)
Wildcard filtering (possible future addon... would let mail for get sorted into a different folder than Would require use of email access that supports folders, either IMAP or Webmail.)
MySQL (Used for a lot of forums and similar software)
SQLite (similar to MySQL, but much lighter weight and more secure... used by this forum)
PHPMyAdmin (Web-based interface to for MySQL access/editing.)
HTTPS (Secure webserver)
Cron (process scheduling... run programs at certain time)
Virtual Domains (using a domain you purchased, EX: rather than
PHP (scripting... used by lots of webscripts/forums/etc, including the XN newsbox)
Other CGI (Perl, python, and other CGI scripts)
Statistics ( and in the future, more advanced stuff)
Web-based file manger/upload (possible addon in the future)

3. Do you think I should prioritze security, or ease of use / convience, and to what degree? For example, would losing FTP and having only SCP be worth the added security? (WinSCP is just as easy as FTP for direct access, but a lot of editors (like dreamweaver) only support FTP for their builtin file upload.) On the other end, would having to do everything via web-interfaces be too restrictive? That is, having to upload and manage everything in a web-app, with no access to shell, FTP, or other such things. (This is the extreme option, but I believe it would've been secure enough to prevent the most recent hacking attempts, as they all relied on shell access.)

4. What other features or services would you like to see added?

5. How do you feel about the quality of service? By this, I mean how fast the server responds, how well it runs scripts, general performance stuff. This is not to rate MY service as an admin... which has been seriously neglectful when it comes to things like reviewing applications. I apologize for that, but what I'm considering is trying to find a new hosting service for the new server. I notice a decent amount of packet loss and wildly varying ping times with the current one. (On the other hand, it's REALLY affordable, and you get what you pay for.)

6. I want ideas here. I have a couple problems I'm trying to solve. First off, I want to grow, and I want to do so with quality, not just by becoming another geocities. Secondly, I'd like to find a way to get some small income for this thing. I'm looking at investing about a thousand bucks in a new server, and hosting is still costing another hundred a month. If I move to a better host, it could be even more. Right now, the only real income is from donations, and 90% of that is from DMFA ( ) Still, it's been just over three years since I put the server in chicago and I've spent about 3800 bucks out of pocket for this, not counting hardware costs. I don't intend to forgo the free hosting, but I'm thinking options along the lines of maybe running a seperate "commercial" hosting area, perhaps with dedicated comic services like, which wouldn't have to have a newsbox, or share revenue with donations like the free sites do. Another idea is to maybe offer dedicated game servers for things like counter-strike and such. Other options are maybe stick with the shared donation/ad revenue, but just work hard to get some good, quality content here. I mean, a couple more sites like DMFA is all that's needed. Question is, how to attract such sites? I mean, obviously I need to get one top of my game with applications and whatnot... Speaking of..

7. How can I redo the application system? I want some sort of quality "filter" on new members, but at the same time, I feel bad because the current "wait for Xepher the bevelant dictator to nod" method is leaving lots of worthy applications sitting in limbo because I don't have the time I need to take care of them. I was hoping that with them on the forum, there would be lot of peer review. Don't get me wrong, there are a few members that have been doing a lot of work looking at applications and giving good opinions and advice, and I thank them... but I need more than two or three opinions to let me feel comfortable rubber-stamping something. When I rebuild, should I make a system that requires current members to show up and vote on new people from time to time, or is that trying to force a community where there's not one? How else could I redo it? Do I deputize some trusted people to review and approve/deny applications?

I think that's about it for now, and I apologize for the length of this post, but it's stuff I need to sort out (and apologize for.)