DHI 64-69

Daily Home Improvements: power upgrades, pillow talk, the framers, sticking my battery where it belongs, peace talks, and the inevitable blog tweakage.

DHI 64: I cleaned a bunch of crap out of my car, replaced the batteries in my car flashlight, and fixed the terminal clip for my portable jump-start unit.

DHI 65: I’m gonna count this, because we really did try. We wanted to try a more stable frame for the bed, and bought a really heavy-duty frame at the Salvation Army the other weekend. Tonight we tried to put it together and move the bed to it. Unfortunately, the frame is a king size, and we have a queen mattress. Ah, well…

DHI 66: Carried a bunch of stuff down to the basement, including the heavy-duty bed frame that didn’t fit our bed, above.

DHI 67: Charged the portable jump-start unit, and put velcro strips on it so it can be mounted in my trunk, and mounted it.

DHI 68: Met with two cat behaviorists, who are helping us achieve peace in our own time. Amongst the cats, anyway.

DHI 69: Tweaked my blog a bit more, and fixed a problem with my RSS syndication feed.

Another week of only six DHIs, but this is actually amazing given that I watched nearly 10 basketball games over the week and weekend. What will be really interesting is to see how many I achieve this coming week, since I will be watching basketball nearly continuously from Thursday morning until Sunday night.

DHI 58-63

Daily Home Improvements: changes of addresses, a little patchwork, correcting the bounce, a change of view, a quick un-tag, and some payola for the Feds.

DHI 58: I discovered that in the move to aldoblog.com, I didn’t update the URL in the RSS file that this site provides for syndication use. Fixing that turned out to be a bit more work than I expected, but while I was in editing the site files, I changed the e-mail address to something disposable, so that at the end of the year I can change it, and so hopefully slow down some of the spam.

DHI 59: A security hole in Sendmail was discovered this week. Since I haven’t gotten around to learning and setting up Postfix, I’m using Sendmail for my e-mail server, which means I needed to patch and restart my e-mail server. Done.

DHI 60: Rochelle’s flat panel display came today, and I set it up. That’s more work than it sounds, since her old monitor had to be removed, and it weighs about 70 pounds, and all the cables needed to be swapped, since she was changing from standard VGA to DVI, a digital signal. Anyway, she likes it.

DHI 61: A friend alerted me to the fact that the e-mail address for this weblog was bouncing. In fact, every address at the aldoblog.com domain was bouncing. Fixed.

DHI 62: Spray-painted over some graffiti on the front of our house. If you don’t paint over it quickly, you get a lot more of it, as the taggers realize that (a) you’re offering them a canvas, and (b) some other asshole painted on their canvas, and they need to re-tag to own it back.

DHI 63: One word: Taxes.

And yes, this leaves me short one DHI for the week. Rochelle ate half my day today, and college basketball ate the other half. With the tournament action coming later this week, and March Madness shortly thereafter, it’s likely that my DHIs for March will be woefully inadequate, unless I’m allowed to count “removed some popcorn from the house today” and “removed much beer from the house today” as DHIs…

DHI 44-50

Daily Home Improvements: The water closet is finished, a VCR hookup, debt service ends, this blog officially moves, window washing, and undoing a previous DHI.

DHI 44: I moved a few dozen books from other bookcases to the new shelves in the water closet. We’ve decided on themes for two of our three shelves, but neither theme completely fills its shelf, so there will need to be some rethinking done.

DHI 45: I connected the TiVo and the VCR, so that we can transfer shows off of the TiVo to tape, for long term storage. Strictly for personal use, of course.

DHI 46: I paid $300 to the MasterCard, which sounds like a daily chore, except we just transfered all bill-paying responsibilities to Rochelle, and that $300 will completely pay off our credit card, leaving us with no non-real estate debt for the first time since our wedding/honeymoon/bathroom remodel (which was followed closely by the stock options fiasco/stock market meltdown, which was followed by 3 months of unemployment each). Now that’s a home improvement!

DHI 47: I finished moving this weblog to aldoblog.com, moving the appropriate files from one location to another, and setting up some redirects in Apache to make links to the old site continue to work. In the process I discovered I had not completed the DNS configuration for the aldoblog.com domain, so I finished doing that, too.

DHI 48: I collected more books to move into the water closet, this time all of our travel books. I found a couple more SF and food books to move, too.

DHI 49: I stripped off an old photo that had fused to our front window, cleaned with Windex, and then scrapped off the glue residue and the accumulated grime of 11 years on Haight Street with a razor blade. The front windows are now about 90% more clear — I can’t wait until tomorrow afternoon when the sun is shining through them, and I can see the improvements the best!

DHI 50: After much research (scanning log files), and even more dithering, I turned off my server-side spam filtering software, because it is apparently occasionally dropping random messages. This basically undoes one of my prior DHIs, where I implemented the anti-spam measures. Which kinda sucks, but then, how often do you get every home improvement right the first time?

DHI 41-43

Daily Home Improvements: Loan applications, some domain twiddling, a little cash, but otherwise a week where I came up short.

DHI 41: I filled out my portion of the mortgage loan application we’re working on to refinance the house. The amount of money we get from lowering our interest rate is staggering (mortgage math is crazy!), but we regrettably have to plow it right back into the house.

You see, our house is more than 100 years old, and the foundation is original, and brick-and-mortar. A new foundation is going to be $75,000, a very scary number…but not as scary as having our house slide out into the street!

DHI 42: I finally got around to configuring aldoblog.com, so that this blog can move to a shorter domain name and URL. DNS now resolves (primary and secondary name servers), Apache recognizes it as a virtual host, and some initial redirects are in place to make the transition seamless. I still have some work to do, moving directories around, and setting up the real redirects, to move y’all over to the new location. That’ll have to come this weekend, though, when I can focus for a couple hours straight.

DHI 43: I coughed up $100 for our contractor when Rochelle was short of cash to pay him one evening.

The rest of my DHIs didn’t happen this week. I was too tired, or too lazy, or both. I plan to get back on track this coming week, but I haven’t yet decided what to do about the shortfall…

DHI 27-33

Magazine reorganization, another basement disposal trip, long efforts on the computer, sanding, and more.

DHI 27: I pawed through my stack of unread technical magazines, unwrapped all of them from their plastic, threw out all the ad inserts and CDs, and grouped and sorted them. They’re back in the same bin that held them previously, but there’s less stuff there, and it’s at least organized. Culling out the junk will have to wait another day.

DHI 28: Rochelle and I took a large sheet of particle board down to the basement (we had been using it to firm up our bed a bit, to see if that would help my back problems; wasn’t helping, don’t want it in the house).

DHI 29: More magazine sorting and purging, this time from the pile under my nightstand.

DHI 30-31: Long, long efforts spent on troubleshooting my MySQL database installation. I finally resorted to downloading the binary installation from the mysql.com web site, and replacing my existing installation with the pre-compiled version.

DHI 32: Migrated the database for this weblog from my desktop Mac to the server, so that I can actually shut down my Mac without disabling my weblog.

DHI 33: I spent 45 minutes doing the “polish” sanding on the wainscot in the water closet, as my (very minor) contribution to Rochelle’s efforts to finish that project.

The Power of Google?

The DHI I spent the last few days working on was moving the data for this weblog from my desktop Mac to the main server. I was able to move the data easily enough, but when I tried to actually connect to the new server, I was getting an error message that the connection was lost during the query. Searching Google for the error string usually leads quickly to a solution; it was a little trickier this time.

The DHI I spent the last few days working on was moving the data for this weblog from my desktop Mac to the main server. I was able to move the data easily enough, but when I tried to actually connect to the new server, I was getting an error message that the connection was lost during the query. When I looked on the server, I could see that for some reason MySQL (the data server for this weblog) was barfing and restarting every time I tried to connect.

So I tried what I usually try in cases like this: I searched for the error message in Google, and read through the postings and solutions on message boards and archived mailing lists until I found something that worked for me. Unfortunately, this not uncommon error message was reported via a web page on my server — as it would be by any web server using PHP to access MySQL which had a problem. Can you see where this is going?

Yes, indeed, there are thousands of web sites with fucked up configurations spewing the same damn error message. All being spidered by Google. And being returned in my results. Out of 500 or so search hits I reviewed for the error message (out of 7310 hits total), only two were actually not an error page, and of those, one was in Russian.

Grrr.

The fact that you can read this means that I solved the issue, but it took me the better part of two days to solve, and in the end, the only way to fix things I could figure out was to re-install MySQL from an official binary distribution, not my preferred way to install software on my FreeBSD server.

DHI 13-19

BeBoxes, software updates, configuration fixes, more clearing of shelves, meta tags, meetings with designers, more fun with gas, clearing a flat surface, and over a dozen t-shirts bite the dust.

DHI 13: I worked on the BeBoxes, installing permanent RAM in the dual 133 that I plan to keep. Installed a network card too, but the Kingston card I tried isn’t working, not sure why. Might be tomorrow’s DHI — with my BeBox deadline fast approaching, that’s all I really have time for.

DHI 14: I updated my Mac to OS X 10.2.3, and ran the Repair Privileges tool on it, which corrected a few errors.

(Mac OS X tip: It’s always a good idea to do this after installing an OS update, or really, any installer that asked for the administrator password. You can run this without rebooting, or booting from a CD. Just run /Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility, and do a Repair Permissions on your boot disk. Works fine, and catches errors.)

I also found and fixed an error in our MIMEDefang configuration file, which may have been causing us to lose mail since the 5th (yikes!). So if you wrote to us and didn’t get a reply, try again!

DHI 15: I worked on the bookshelves again, selecting more books to be pass on to another household. I pulled out enough books, both paperback and hardback, to get all the other books that I didn’t have room for onto the shelves proper, instead of sitting casually on the edges.

I also installed MovableType, a different weblogging package, for Rochelle to try out on her weblog…if I can get her to start one!

DHI 16: This one’s kind of geeky (even more so than usual). I added my ICBM Address (latitude and longitude) to my blog page and registered with GeoURL. Now you can see what other web sites are near me physically.

DHI 17: Rochelle and I met with an interior designer for about two hours, to start the process of getting help to finish the water closet project we began almost two years ago.

Rochelle also got someone to come over and hook up the gas heater we’d worked on so hard previously. But that’s a whole other story.

DHI 18: I got rid of almost 20 old t-shirts from my dresser. I kept most of the Be t-shirts, though; I still can’t bear to part with them…

DHI 19: I cleared off my nightstand, throwing some stuff out, and getting rid of a pile of crap I was pretending I would eventually read. With a clear nightstand, I can now hook up my alarm clock and actually use it, a big improvement from Rochelle and I passing back and forth a little travel alarm (the person getting up earliest got the alarm).

I should add that Rochelle blew me out of the water this week, with less than two hours of work on the back deck. It looks fabulous, and it’s now worthy of having people over and hanging out on the deck. Woo hoo!

DHI #5: Razor and More Anti-Spam

DHI #5 consisted of poking a hole in the firewall for Razor to access its central servers, and disabling most of the RBL blocking in sendmail, while enabling RBL checking in SpamAssassin. I also kept Rochelle from blowing up the house.

DHI #5 consisted of poking a hole in the firewall for Razor to access its central servers, and disabling most of the RBL blocking in sendmail, while enabling RBL checking in SpamAssassin.

I also kept Rochelle from blowing up the house. But that’s a longer story, for tonight.

DHI #4: Old Machine Stripped

I removed the CD-ROM drive, hard disk, and network card from the old server, which used to be Rochelle’s old PC. What remains still starts up and runs; it’s next to the front door, ready for putting out on the street.

I removed the CD-ROM drive, hard disk, and network card from the old server, which used to be Rochelle’s old PC. It’s probably seven years old at this point. What remains still starts up and runs, but needs something to boot an operating system from.

I’ve got it next to the front door, ready for putting out on the street, but I’ve decided to let Rochelle have that pleasure. When she reads this posting, she can toss it on the sidewalk. (Hopefully gently, it’s still a usable machine for someone.)

DHI #3: New Server in Permanent Home

Today’s Daily Home Improvement (DHI from now on) was to sew up the new server, and move it from the operating table to the computer rack, its “permanent” place. This was actually more work than it sounds like.

Today’s Daily Home Improvement (DHI from now on) was to sew up the new server, and move it from the operating table to the computer rack, its “permanent” place.

The computer rack is a bunch of shelves where the server, the DSL box, a printer, the phone and some other electronic odds and ends share space with a couple hundred floppies and CDs, and about 40 pounds of unfiled papers. It is a mess. The rack will surely be the subject of many, many DHIs this year.

While I was at it, I removed the old server (a 150MHz Pentium with 80 megs of RAM), replaced the old power cable with a heavy duty cable, moved the CD-ROM drive to a different ATA bus than the hard disk, so the hard disk could run in UDMA100 mode, and tweaked the MIMEDefang startup script to not spew messages in a different format than the rest of the system startup scripts.

The part Rochelle will like the best is that I got a machine out of the living room. Except all I really did was move the new machine out, and the old machine in. But tomorrow the old machine is going to get cannibalized, and I’ll probably put the remains out on the street. Things like that usually disappear in about 35 seconds…

New Year’s Resolution #1

One of my many New Year’s resolutions for 2003 is to do something for the house, every day. It can be a small thing, like changing a light bulb, but it can’t be an ordinary thing, like washing the dishes. And every day, I’m going to list it here in my blog, where you can hold me to it. Gulp!

One of my many New Year’s resolutions for 2003 is to do something for the house, every day. It can be a small thing, like changing a light bulb, but it can’t be an ordinary thing, like washing the dishes. (Washing the dishes when it’s Rochelle’s turn might count, though. ;-)

And every day, I’m going to list it here in my blog, where you can hold me to it. Gulp!

Many days my little thing will have to do with the systems infrastructure for our web sites, mail servers, etc. Indeed, my first two days are exactly that:

  • 1-Jan: Add MIMEDefang and SpamAssassin to our mail server.
  • 2-Jan: Tweak MIMEDefang configuration to only check incoming messages, and not add SpamAssassin reports as attachments.

Still, I hope that no more than 200 of my 365 improvements will be electronic. God knows there’s enough things to put away or throw out, just in my office, that will qualify as a home improvement!

New Server Up and Running

Over the course of Saturday I finished installing and configuring the minimum required software to be able to switch over to the new server for running my sites. On Sunday I swapped the IP addresses of the new and old systems, and got to work fixing the things that broke when I took the new machine live.

If you’re reading this, it’s being served up by my new server.

Over the course of Saturday I finished installing and configuring the minimum required software to be able to switch over to the new server for running my sites. On Sunday I swapped the IP addresses of the new and old systems, and got to work fixing the things that broke when I took the new machine live. I finished up all the obvious stuff around 2am Monday morning, and while there have been some glitches with my DSL connection that I believe are coincidental, it has been mostly smooth sailing since then.

The one area where there seem to be problems is in e-mail. I have configured my mail server to be substantially more aggressive in rejecting spam e-mail, because I’m really tired of being bombarded by 100s of offers per day for medical, sexual, and financial “breakthroughs.”

The aggressiveness seems to be causing mail from legitimate senders to be bounced. So, if you’ve e-mailed me since Sunday and I haven’t replied, it’s probably because I haven’t received your message. Try contacting me at my work e-mail address, [alderete] at sign [persistence] period [com], and let me know you tried my home address first.

I’m working over the next couple of days to change the outright rejections into recommendations, so my usual correspondence should be preserved again, while still blocking the spam. Hopefully that will be in place by the end of this weekend.