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An Epic Fail In Webmastering

Published on June 10, 2011 at midnight by XC

This post is going to be riddled with fail, most of it mine. The short version is, my site has been down for over two weeks and it took me a week and a half to even notice it. That, of course describes fail number one and fail number two, but there’s plenty more fail where that came from!

It all began when I started shifting around some of my own accounts in order to free up some IP addresses. Some of the domains had expired, some did not need their own IP and then there was this site, echoreply.us that had its own IP and I could not figure out why. So, I moved it to the main system IP, went to bed and forgot all about it.

What I completely forgot was that I had a 4 1/2 year old trial SSL certificate installed, and the stupid dolt that lives on my server (we’ll just say its name rhymes with zeb ghost scavenger) happily let me move the site to the main shared IP, despite the server name vhost also using it. That’s right, anyone who visited ‘/’ on this site for nearly two weeks got redirected to the Apache success page.

To fix it, I just removed the account and was ready to restore from a day old backup, when I realized .. oh crap, backups are corrupt. I think we’re somewhere near fail number 11 at this point, I completely lost count.

Thankfully, I store most parts of the site under version control. I was able to retrieve it from my build bot installation and restore the database from a week old copy that I received via e-mail.

Category: Humor
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Overhaul In Progress

Published on April 20, 2011 at midnight by XC

The latest WordPress / Plugin update was a bit more than my old, extremely hacked Performancing theme (from 2006) could handle. The resulting mess was so unbearable that I felt compelled to switch to the new stock theme.

I’ve been putting off a complete overhaul of this site for far too long. As it happens, this is also the week that my company is releasing new offerings. Hopefully, I manage to get some time to work on my personal stuff by the end of the month.

Category: Blogeting

Dispelling Common Cloud Myths

Published on Dec. 30, 2010 at midnight by XC

Is there someone in your office that complains constantly yet offers no useful suggestions on how to fix the problem at hand? Do you wonder if some people just thrive on complaining and tickling the skeptic bone in others? Are you sick of the abundance of conflicting and often confusing information? When it comes to the cloud hosting industry, so am I. In this article, I’m going to present some very common arguments designed to lead you away from a modern hosting platform and tell you why those arguments are bogus.

In any hosting related banter, one must conceive that there are innovative companies and companies who just lease the same software that everyone else is using and put up a fancy site. That is hardly news. The term “buyer beware” applies to any industry.

Argument #1: “There is no definition for ‘Cloud Computing’, it is all marketing hype!” This is not true. A great deal of time and money has been put into the design of hosting systems that let you upload your site or application with confidence that whatever resources are needed to meet the subsequent demand will be there. The same people who fell in love with single system image clusters years ago are quite often the people who realized that virtualization brings a whole new breed of pepper into the chili.

Paravirtualization made amazing things possible, if not trivial to implement.

Category: Computing
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The Difference Between Temperament And Wisdom

Published on Dec. 13, 2010 at midnight by XC

This is a quickie
Temperament: Knowing that you lack experience to come up with a solution to a given problem.

Wisdom: Asking others for help.

Knowing that you don’t know is not wisdom. Thinking that you couldn’t possibly know is stupidity.

I said it would be quick

Category: Better Living

We Need More Scary Movies

Published on Dec. 12, 2010 at midnight by XC

Do you like scary, I mean really really scary movies? I do, and Hollywood is seriously letting me down. Compare anything that you saw in the last five years with The Shining and you’ll see what I’m talking about. If Hollywood wants nerds and geeks to flock to the theater, they’ll have to do better than Harry Potter. We want stuff to watch that offers us little choice but the reward of our undivided attention for a brief time.

I realize that it is entirely conceivable that we’re soon to run out of thriller plots. Believe it or not, the ways that someone could meet with demise that they might object to are quite limited, given the fact that lightning strikes and other phenomenon are quite rare. This brings me to Final Destination (and sequels). The creativity rocked, but it just wasn’t plausible enough to be scary.

Hollywood and Indie producers, I’m begging you .. come up with a plot that could be applied to the person at the end of your finger once you have stood on an average street, closed your eyes and spun around while pointing a dozen or so times. I know the creativity is there, and I’m sick of marveling at special effects while forgiving a shallow plot. Could I do better? Probably not, but I’m not paid to write plots, I just pay to watch them unfold on a big screen.

This is an open challenge. Come up with the next best thriller that will unseat everything that any popular director has ever done. Gore, social taboo and shocking gratuitous scenes are up to you. Just ensure that I walk away inspired by the plot.

If the actors aren’t incidental, you’re doing it wrong.

Category: Rants

Strange G-Mail Delays

Published on Dec. 11, 2010 at midnight by XC

This morning, I began noticing that e-mail was being delivered up to several days late via G-Mail. I haven’t seen anything on Google’s blogs or updates regarding it, so I’m guessing that I’m the beneficiary of a very minor and localized bug. How fortunate for me.

If you have been sending e-mail to my G-Mail address and I have not replied, it probably means that your mail has yet to be delivered. I have updated my contact form to deliver mail to an alternate address.

Hopefully, this gets sorted out soon
Update: It looks as if some mail I sent found its way into the same black hole.

Category: Computing

How Assertions Became “Evil”

Published on Dec. 10, 2010 at midnight by XC

I’ve spent the better part of two days tracking down what turned out to be a very stupid and avoidable bug in a library (that shall remain nameless).

Examine the following piece of seemingly innocent code:

str = realloc(str, len);
assert(str != NULL);

Some of you are probably howling at your monitor by now. Guess what, there’s more, ‘len’ turned out to be a signed integer.
When you build a production release of something, you usually do it with NDEBUG defined, which also turns off assertions completely. So, you guessed it .. passing a signed integer to realloc() resulted in failure, which wasn’t handled because nothing was asserted. Additionally, various incarnations of realloc() just return the original pointer if they weren’t able to allocate a new one and copy the contents of the old.

When you language has facilities to check for failures, you should probably be checking. If, in my example ‘str’ was checked for being NULL and a meaningful error was reported if that was the case, I would not have needed to dig through a mountain of someone else’s library code. A lot of programmers use preprocessor directives to be much more verbose if NDEBUG is not set, that is why we have NDEBUG.

This is why assertions got a bad reputation. People use them as a quick and easy way to handle errors that are actually likely to happen, rather than to assert something they feel is impossible to happen. This is what Google was talking about when they refused to include assertions in “Go”.

Category: Rants
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What I Think Of Assange

Published on Dec. 9, 2010 at midnight by XC

At this point, my thoughts most likely dwindle on becoming obsolete, but I’ll post them anyway.

When a sensational glob of information is posted, I’m thrown back to the Nixon era. George Wiley is technically my uncle, though, unfortunately he met his demise long before our familial relationship began. When I hear the word “scandal”, I expect that a hard working journalist has devoted a significant amount of their life, despite personal loss, to uncovering something that has value beyond sensation and shock. This sort of devotion demands a level and understanding of ethics that is far superior to the person(s) named in the report, no? Nixon had a ‘hit list’ and my uncle did meet his death under rather curious circumstances. I’m not beyond the scope of conspiracy, but it was a boating accident.

I then look at the leaked cables that are reported in the news, it is quite difficult to avoid them. Aside from a very few that make me (as a US citizen) wonder if we’re doing fair business around the world, I see nothing short of an episode of Jerry Springer coming to light while delighting media outlets that profit from sensationalism and the subsequent page views. I also see a man who was, until recently in hiding to avoid charges pressed against him, determined at all costs to embarrass as many people as possible while under “journalistic” oversight.

Category: Rants
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The Engineering Panic Room

Published on Nov. 3, 2010 at midnight by XC

Have you ever been in a situation where you were forced to act knowing that the margin for error was zero? I think that most of us have, perhaps just avoiding an animal on the road without swerving into oncoming traffic while driving. In a crisis, the most appropriate response usually comes not from thinking, but simply allowing reflexes to take over.

If you are a software engineer, you will enter what I call the panic room whenever your reflexes say run like hell and doing so is not a possibility. You have three months to rescue something that has been languishing for three years and you know that there is zero room for mistakes. Every line of code you commit must be your friend next month, going back to the drawing board is not going to be an option. It is a recording with one take, every single thing you ship gets carved into stone.

What exactly is the panic room? It is a place where smart people go to observe everything and play with possibilities to try to determine what course of action is going to be the correct course to take. It is the process of removing yourself from the problem in order to more effectively solve it, while everyone else sees you wasting time and not committing anything. It is not your happy place, it is your safe place and you need to be prepared to go there and seal the door. You might wait in the panic room for a while, so you better make sure it is stocked.

Category: Programming
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All Saint’S Day

Published on Nov. 1, 2010 at midnight by XC

So here I am, enjoying my sixth rendition of All Saint’s Day here in The Philippines. The last five years found me travelling to the family grave plot to keep those who have passed company on this day, the day where spirits can purportedly walk in daylight. This year found me home, alone with my wife and daughter enjoying the festivities at hand without me while I get over the last leg of a nasty case of conjunctivitis.

Filipinos are a very spiritual and quite often superstitious people, which is one of the many traits that they enjoy with almost every other living (or dead) inhabitant of planet Earth except in most situations the US. While the idea of a large, united family unit was lost to many Americans around the time that LSD was mass produced, the atomic family is still very much a part of the culture of the rest of the world. I can’t help but digress from work and study today in order to ponder the world’s tenacity to cherish and sometimes worship those who have passed.

Death, when you look at it closely, is a very complex process. In fact, I can’t conceive a reasonable exponent to illustrate the sheer number of ways that someone could die, I suspect that the possibilities are infinite. No matter the catalyst (a piano falling on you, a train wreck that severs you in half, a blast of some kind , etc) our bodies always shut down in some kind of order. If one thing stops working, another soon follows and an orderly chain of predictable events ensues.

Category: Better Living
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