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Topics - Xepher

General Chat / Helpful Reviews...
April 27, 2009, 09:50:04 PM
So I came across a link to this most ridiculously overpriced ethernet cable I'd ever seen... $500 for a 5 foot cable. But then I started reading the reviews for it... HILARIOUS!

Make sure to click on "read all reviews" and read some of the additional ones. There's some pretty good comedy buried in there.
Announcements / Welcome to the Dog Star
April 07, 2009, 10:30:17 PM
The new server, Sirius, is now online, and is what's serving this page right now. The migration involved about 10 minutes of downtime total, and everything should be up and running normally again. Things should be identical to the old server from a user perspective, save that we've got more cpu and ram. However, I'm sure I probably missed some detail or other in the move, so as always, let me know if you encounter any glitches or problems.
Announcements / New Server(s) Coming Soon
April 05, 2009, 04:33:10 PM
UPDATE: DNS changes are happening now... I'm going to do the actual move in an hour or two, so there's more chance of people yelling at me about problems while I'm around to actually fix them tonight, rather than move it tonight and then going to bed. This should be nearly seamless, but as always, there's a chance for glitches. Feel free to bug me with any problems on AIM (SN: Xepher42)

So this is a bit of short notice, but the company I work for offers discounted virtual servers to employees. They recently reopened the offering, and I think I'd be foolish not to take advantage of it... especially in light of the recent experiences I've had with the current hosting company. The good news is that this will be virtual machines, and as such, I can do a nearly-live migration to them, so there should only be an hour or two of downtime while I do the final data sync. Depending on the bandwidth usage, I may need to purchase two of them to handle the load here. If that ends up being the case, it'll mean having a live backup server ready to go in the event of problems. It also means that any/all hardware failures will fall to the host, and won't be an issue that I have to handle by remote. The final advantage is that the virtual machines will actually have more ram and cpu power than the current physical machine. Disk storage will be a bit more limited... still more than twice the current usage, but if grows a lot more, I may need to curtail the usage on a few of the more excessive accounts, but that shouldn't affect more than a handful of people.

Anyway, I've already got the new server, codenamed "Sirius", is already set up. I may make the switchover sometime in the next day or two, probably late at night. Most of you shouldn't even notice the change. I'm not canceling the old service just yet, as I want to try things out and see how the Sirius handles the load compared to Arclight (the current server) before committing to the full move. So far is seems quite a bit faster though, so my hopes are high, and the quality of service/bandwidth should be lightyears better.
Announcements / Unscheduled Downtime Earlier Today
March 24, 2009, 05:21:29 PM
The power supply in the server failed about 5 hours ago (a couple hours before I woke up) and had to be diagnosed and replaced once I woke and saw the server was down. Upon replacement, they'd managed to unplug one of the drive cables, so the machine still wasn't booting. The cabled was replugged, and things are now back online. It may be slightly slow for the next couple of hour while the raid resyncs to repair damage done from the unplugged disk, but otherwise, all should be back to normal.
General Chat / Awesome One-Off Comic
February 07, 2009, 04:01:53 PM
I was looking through the server logs, and there was a HUGE spike in traffic for a particular folder for one user. It's this new seemingly one-off comic by Jinxville. I just read it, and it's really quite enjoyable, with great art. All the comic is on one page though, which is several megabytes worth of images for each page view. Currently it's responsible for 55% of the used bandwidth in the past 7 days. That's nearly half a terabyte! :-P

Congratulations Jinx... looks like I'm not the only one who thinks it's pretty awesome!
UPDATE: Maintenance is complete. There is a new traffic stats system in place now as well. Links can be found after you log in to user-services.

The server has currently been online for over 300 days in a row, and as that's a bit too long between filesystem checks for my comfort, I'm going to be doing some on my days off here. I'll try and keep it to the morning/late-night hours as much as possible, but things will be up and down a bit while I work on it. Mostly I need to reboot the thing, do some filesystem checks, and possibly defrag some parts of the filesystem. Just wanted to warn everyone in advance that if you have trouble connecting Monday morning or Monday night (into early Tuesday) it's probably this, and it should be back online a bit later. I may try to get a new stats system in place while I'm at it, depending on how long the other stuff takes.
Announcements / Finally Caught Up On Applications
January 01, 2009, 01:23:08 AM
That's right... I finally got around to reviewing all the pending applications. If you're waiting on a response, check yours now. If I accidentally locked/closed your thread without actually giving you a final answer, let me know. I know at least one old application that I nearly locked, even when I'd said it was going to be approved. I may have overlooked others. Also, this is a good time to put in new applications as well, since I'll be more likely to respond quickly when there's not a backlog. :-)
Announcements / My Fault!
November 15, 2008, 04:10:18 PM
Sorry about the outage last night. I forgot to rotate the log files because of the whole trip to Ireland thing, and /var/log/ ran out of space, causing apache to bork. I've moved everything, and it's working now. Additionally, I finally scripted this to be automatic from here on out. That's something I meant to do over two years ago, but never found the 10 minutes to actually do until now. :-)
Announcements / Home Sweet Home!
November 12, 2008, 07:19:01 PM
I'm back from Ireland/UK now, but gotta go to work in a few hours. It was a good trip overall, and while it was rushed, I did get to see a fair amount of stuff. I'll get some pictures together eventually, at least of the cooler things. It's still gonna take me a week or so to catch up with things though.
Announcements / Xepher Is In Ireland
November 02, 2008, 02:40:49 PM
Hey all... I'm going for a trip to Ireland and the UK starting in a few hours. I'll be gone about a week and a half. I'll have some limited access while there, but won't be able to really do much except emergency stuff (I'll be using my new phone for a web browser.) To those of you with outstanding applications, I apologize I didn't get to them before I left. I'll take a look when I get back, I promise.
General Chat / Google Phone!
October 24, 2008, 05:47:09 PM
I'm in a parking lot... on a phone... on the INTERNET!!!
So I decided to get into beer brewing as a hobby. I went to purchase my first round of equipment and supplies, and the vendor's website presented me with the paypal option! I totally forgot about having a paypal account, as it pretty much only gets used to accept donations here. Turns out, over the past few years, I've collected just enough to buy everything I had on my order! So that's pretty much like free beer... just some assembly required.

In all seriousness though, thanks to those of you that have donated over the years... you now know that funding is gonna get your friendly neighborhood sysadmin a little bit drunker. :-P
Announcements / I Am An Idiot
September 30, 2008, 06:56:17 AM
I wrote a new script to help me manage DNS on the server. Apparently I didn't test it enough, and it borked DNS a few hours ago, making the server unreachable for a good chunk of people. I've fixed it, but the TTL is 3600 seconds, so most of you aren't gonna see this for at least another hour or so. I'm just posting this to let you know why the outage occurred. Totally my fault. Sorry!
Art / Logo Contest (Win $10 iTunes Credit)
August 18, 2008, 02:28:21 PM
I recently got an iTunes gift card for $10. Problem is, you have to use windows or mac to even use iTunes, and I use linux, and rather than sell it, I figured I'd give it away with a small contest here instead. Plus, I'm bored with the single logo on the front page.

Current Logo:

The contest is to design the best-looking new logo. Entries should be the same size as the current image, 450px by 120px, and PNG format. Note that the image must look good IN PLACE on the pages. Keep in mind the colors used on the page, and make sure it doesn't clash. The current image makes heavy use of transparency to blend in with the page background (notice how the blue and the shadows are transparent when viewed at directly), and I suggest entries do the same. Entries should prominently feature the the site name "" The "Net" part can optionally be capitalized as well, or you can make use of all-caps. Optionally, the logo can include the motto "Free Hosting For Free Thinkers" capitalized/punctuated as you think looks best. Graphically, you can include whatever you wish, and use any style of artwork. You can include characters/objects/etc. in it if you wish, so long as they look appropriate. (Avoid in-jokes that would require knowledge of said characters and/or any comics they appear in.) The logo should be a stand-alone piece of artwork. I'll be looking for something that's friendly, yet professional feeling.

The contest will run through September 15th, unless there are fewer than 10 entries by then, in which case it will be extended another 2 weeks. (There won't be any additional extensions.) Anyone can enter, no need to be a member/regular on, so please invite any friends/artists you know. The winner will be given a gift-card code (via email) good for $10 at the U.S. iTunes store. (Sorry to those of you in other countries, but the card already has the U.S. restriction on it. You could, however, win it and give it to a friend if you can't use it.) I'll also be using the winning logo (and possibly a couple of the runner-ups) on Alt-text attribution to the artist (if desired.)
Announcements / I Can Haz Job!
August 18, 2008, 10:41:33 AM
Sorry, couldn't resist the lolcats-speak. But yes, I've recently been hired to a new job. I'll be a level 2 linux system administrator for a company called Rackspace. I'll be working the night shift, 10pm to 9am (CST), 4 days a week. I actually prefer the night shift, and the 4-day work week is a major bonus to me as well. The job starts next Monday, August 25th. This shouldn't really impact in any big way, save that I'll be unavailable for that 11 hour chunk of time while at work. The upside is that I'll be getting a real paycheck again, and the expense of running out of my own pocket won't be as painful anymore.

I'm really pretty excited about the job. I'll be doing almost exactly the sort of stuff I do for, but getting paid for it. The company looks to be pretty awesome as well, having been ranked as one of the best places to work in IT by several magazines (like ComputerWorld, Fortune, etc.) Touring their offices, I saw people with giant pirate flags over their work areas, arcade machines mixed among the desks, break areas with 360s and PS3s hooked up to plasma TVs, ice cream vending machines... all sorts of really cool stuff. I get a pretty good benefits package as well, and it'll be nice working with other nerds again. Heck, during my last interview, one of the guys actually asked me if I preferred Dilbert or XKCD. XKCD! I like to think that's the thing that got me the job, but really, it's just a really promising sign about personality types... especially compared to my last place of work, where no one in the entire office had even HEARD of Zelda, much less read XKCD.

The spectral wolf fears only fire! :-P
Announcements / Downtime and Routing Issues
July 16, 2008, 09:48:15 PM
So I'll start this off by saying "It's not my fault, please don't hit me!" :-) The datacenter hosting had a backbone link go down around 2 or 3am CDT this morning, which cut off access to for about 1/3 of the internet. That is, most people could still get through, but many couldn't, and it just depended on where you were, and what route your connection came in through. The DC issued an announcement about it, and say they should have it under control now, with only some minor slowdown remaining. I'm not exactly thrilled with their service on this, as they'd been having interrmitent problems of this type for nearly a month now, and each time they claimed to fix it, it came back up. I may be considering a new datacenter if they have many more issues like this, as my patience is wearing thing (and I'm sure that's true for the rest of you too.) Hopefully this one was major enough that they really did fix it and not just tweak something. Anyway, if you (or one of your readers/visitors) is still having trouble connecting, all we can do is wait. Sorry!
Also known as the "AwesomeBar", but more like dead PossumBar! amirite? :-) Firefox 3 includes a completely reworked autocomplete/search system for the URL/address bar. The upside is you get pretty results with a bit more info in the pop up, and it makes for a great way to search through recent history or pages where you know the title but not the URL. The downside is that it's about as dumb as a brick when it comes to prioritizing things.

It's got a complex algorithm that ranks URLs based on how frequently you vist them, if they're book marked, how long since your last vist, if you went via a link or typed it directly, etc. As you type, it searches both the URL, page title, and any tags/comments you've assigned your bookmarks. The problem comes in that it searchs ANYWHERE in those, including in the middle of words.

A quick example:

If you frequently vist a site called, say, then that site gets a high priority. You might also frequent a site called, and maybe as well. Now, you want to go visit that last site, and you don't load it quite as often as the other two, but you still know it by name. So you start typing something logical, like say, the url. You get the "mi" done, and you'd expect it to be listing "" as the autocompletion option. But no, it's not. comes first, as it matches that "mi" four times, two in the url, and two more in the page title. Next is ozyandMIillie, for the same reasons, then finally "" since it's only got one hit. Now, if you go back a lot of times, and keeping typing the same "mi" letters then picking the correct address, it will eventually learn to asscociate "mi" with Yet if you then go and type "mis" later, you're gonna see "" at the top again, until you train that new, three letter sequence. For a place where you're supposed to type urls, that seems pretty stupid to me.

Don't get me wrong, I still want it to do fancy searching when I type in crazy stuff, but I want it to prioritze results where the URL starts with exactly what I started typing. At first, I thought I could do it via a firefox add-on... there's several out there of the "old location bar" type. Problem is, they all just use a couple visual tricks to make it look like the old firefox 2 behavior, without really fixing the underlying search algorithm. So I started hunting through code myself. It took me about 10 hours, as I had NO idea how firefox even works at that level, and I've never coded in any of the languages it uses. But I finally narrowed down it's search to a very small section of code that's actually using an SQL query to rank things. Now SQL, THAT I understand!

So the result is I've made a small patch that applies against the FF3 code, changing that query so that it gives 500 bonus points in the ranking to places where the start of the URL (minus the http://, www.) matches what you've typed. So far, it's working how I expected, but anyone else out there who feels daring, I could use more testers. This means you have to be comfortable compiling firefox from source code, which probably means very few of you. Hopefully I can still figure out a way to get it into add-on format, which can then be easily installed by anyone. For now though, here's the patch.

--- a/toolkit/components/places/src/nsNavHistoryAutoComplete.cpp  2008-05-26 21:28:47.000000000 -0500
+++ b/toolkit/components/places/src/nsNavHistoryAutoComplete.cpp  2008-07-03 03:07:40.054630131 -0500
@@ -276,12 +276,13 @@

     "SELECT h.url, h.title, f.url") + BOOK_TAG_SQL + NS_LITERAL_CSTRING(", "
-      "ROUND(MAX(((i.input = ?2) + (SUBSTR(i.input, 1, LENGTH(?2)) = ?2)) * "
-                "i.use_count), 1) rank "
-    "FROM moz_inputhistory i "
-    "JOIN moz_places h ON = i.place_id "
+    "((SUBSTR(REPLACE(REPLACE(h.url, 'http://', ''), 'www.', ''), 1, LENGTH(?2)) = ?2) * 500) + "
+       "ifnull(ROUND(MAX(((i.input = ?2) + (SUBSTR(i.input, 1, LENGTH(?2)) = ?2)) "
+               " * i.use_count), 1),0) rank "
+    "FROM moz_places h "
+    "LEFT JOIN moz_inputhistory i ON i.place_id = "
     "LEFT OUTER JOIN moz_favicons f ON = h.favicon_id "
-    "GROUP BY i.place_id HAVING rank > 0 "
+    "GROUP BY HAVING rank > 0 "
     "ORDER BY rank DESC, h.frecency DESC");
   rv = mDBConn->CreateStatement(sql, getter_AddRefs(mDBAdaptiveQuery));

Oh, quick note... this bit of code is hiding inside XULRunner... so if you normally building firefox against XUL runner, (rather than directly) you'll actually need to patch/rebuild XULRunner instead.

EDIT: Updated the patch to use "REPLACE" instead of "TRIM" as it was breaking sites that started with h, t, p, or w (aka, the http and www trims.)

EDIT2: No luck making an add-on. This code is deep in the basic functionality of the browser. The only way to do it as an add-on would be to completely implement a completely seperate/new address bar widget from scratch to completely replace the existing one. Darn!
Announcements / Happy Canada Day!
July 02, 2008, 01:05:33 AM
Oh, and happy Independance Day for those of us in the US. continues to chug along pretty reliably as of late, so no major problems to report. A small hiccup the other day with /tmp/ filling up, but it was only affecting things for a couple hours. Just a reminder to anyone submitting a problem/outage report... most of the time these end up being local/semi-local/ISP problems on the reporter's end, ocasionally a problem with the datacenter/backbone routing at this end, and rarely an actual problem with itself. Still, I like to take all problem reports seriously, so if you do see a problem or can't connect, feel free to let me know. It's very helpful though if you give me an exact time when you noticed a problem, preferably in UTC, but at the very least, specify what timezone/offset you're in. Also, any network information you know how to get (like traceroutes) is always useful. Send me whatever you got, and I'll look into things. Likewise, if you get error messages or other such things, give me all the info you can.

I'm currently tracking (aka, I think I fixed it, but I'm not sure) a transient problem involving an SSL "Change Cipher Spec". This only really applies when you're visiting the secure sections (user-services, webmail, or phpMyAdmin) of the site (no user sites are affected.) But if you run into this (your browser will give an error about "change cipher spec" and not load a secure page), please let me know. Note: this is seperate from the issue with the self-signed certificate which is mentioned on the help page.
General Chat / In other news...
June 28, 2008, 10:52:25 AM

...that is all.
General Chat / RIP George Carlin (NSFW)
June 28, 2008, 10:45:47 AM
The original.

And this sums it up for the modern era.