Category Archives: geek

new browser

being a web developer, i try to keep up with what’s going on in the browser realm of the interwebs. today saw the release of the new Google browser: Chrome.  a new browser release is nothing new, but the fact that Google has, for quite some time, been the main ‘internet’ company, providing everything from search engine and page cache, to email, web documents, and calendar, all online, makes this browser release something to look at.

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site backups

Since my wife and I started using a blog again, I was thinking it would be cool to go back in my archives and grab the old posts I had on here years ago, and try to find a way to import them back into the blog.

So I started looking in my backups folder for a database dump that would have the blog posts in it, and I searched and searched, but could not find the most recent version of it.  I have a coupe older ones, and some really old ones, but not any that were from right before I deleted the blogs.

I don’t know why I didn’t make a backup of them, or if I did, I don’t know why I didn’t keep it in a safe place, but I didn’t.

So I jumped on the wayback machine, and found one more post that I didn’t have in my backup.  I imported the backup into my database at home, installed the version of WordPress I had when the posts were made (also via the wayback machine), and posted that last one that was missing.  Then I installed the latest version of WordPress, made an export file, and imported them into this incarnation.

So now I have posts that go back about 5 years (albeit very sporadically), with the possibility of a few missing that are probably gone for good, unless I happen to find an old dump somewhere that I didn’t know about, but I doubt it…   oh well.

I’m off to make a backup of my site right now, and I’ll label it ‘Keep’, because obviously, the method I have now doesn’t work.

Maybe I should start putting my site backups in Subversion…

Anywho… enjoy the old posts.

webhost issues

my site went down about a week and a bit ago, so i tried to contact my hosting company and find out what was going on.
I went to the website, no notices there, went to the forum which has been removed, tried to submit a service ticket which i couldn’t do due to lack of a password for the system, and finally tried to call the 800 number which was blocked from my area code. all this took about 2-3 days, all of which saw no return of my website.

i finally found a regular number that i called and got in touch with an actual person and found out that 16 of the servers that this company owned got hacked and had all the data erased. no backups, no data, no nothing.

they finally got in touch with us (4 days later) and let us know what had happened.

i finally got a password for the support ticket system and submitted a support ticket for my website to be reinstated.
i must admit it was a very prompt reply, but the information they had given me was completely wrong, it was for another user and another site. I let them know they had messed up and they never replied. i told them again…   nothing. i finally wrote them a nasty little note and they promptly responded in kind.

i finally got my corrected information and got my site uploaded, but whenever i tried ta access it it would redirect to another website totally unrelated to my own.

it is still having issues, but my site is back up (thanks to backups i had made a week before the attack), my mail is finally working, but there are still some small issues with the site.

so…  long story short…   don’t host your site through webhostplus. their service sucks.

damn my a.d.d.

so i’m trying to make a php game (commanders) from scratch and it’s not going quite as fast or as easy as i’d hoped. there are a lot of little things that you have to plan for when coding an application from scratch, no matter what it is, that will bite you in the ass.

when i first got the idea for this game, i thought “i’ll get the game part of the script working and the rest will be easy”.  nope. first off, i have to get the game part working…  it’s not. not quite. secondly, i get distracted by other things WAY too easily. and thirdly, i really have no idea where i’m trying to take this.

i started off with an overly simplistic plan. not on purpose, but because i have no experience coding anything from scratch, after writing a preliminary few hundred lines of code, and trying to test that code, i began to realize that my storage methods (both within the database, and during code execution) were grossly underestimated. it took an almost complete rewrite of the existing methods and all the code that goes with it to get to a point where the game will actually progress the way that i want it to.

but now that i’ve got the game almost working, there are other issues that are creeping in that i wasn’t ready for. for instance, the game that i am creating is actually a port from a real life board game (Power).  the trouble with this is that issues that are trivially easy for a person to deal with are intricately difficult for a computer to deal with. i’ll spare you the details, sufice to say that my code is becoming much longer than i had planned. porting form a real board game also has the added benefit of having the rules already written, or at least most of them, but the ones that aren’t written are the ones giving me the troubles. what should i do if this situation happens?  what about this other situation?

another issue i have to deal with is myself. when i get in one of those moods, as i’m sure most of you have, where the juices just aren’t flowing, we’ll call it “coders block”, i turn to other items that may not be necessary to the project. i’ve also started another (albeit much smaller, simpler) game (battleship) from scratch which is progressing much faster and therefore holds my interest better. this is bad. even though the new project is nearing completion, i know that i am the type of person who will never think of anything as “completed”.

and on top of all this i am still working on webchess 2.0 (which finally had a beta release not too long ago).

so i now have three projects i’m actively working on, my job, and a freaking network+ test to take on monday.

and i have to spend more time with my wife, who is probably feeling pretty left out at the moment.

so here’s my time division:

  • my job (30%)
  • my projects (30%)
  • eating and sleeping (30%)
  • studying (10%)
  • my wife (110%)

if it weren’t for my a.d.d., i’d think i have a real problem.

(note: i’m not officially diagnosed with a.d.d., but most everybody i know would love some ritalin)

PHP scripts and games

So I’ve been adding a few RPGs and other games to the site and have had to edit those scripts quite a lot more than I should have to to get them to work on my site. Don’t get me wrong (especially if you happen to be a creator of one of those scripts), I love the games, and they have MANY good features in them, but it amazes me how much people code to their own setup. One example (and the most annoying because it breaks the script immediately), is the use of PHP short tags ( <? ). These little things are the bane of my existance.

There are four ways that you can let the server know that you are about to use PHP.

  • PHP Long tags ( <?php ...code... ?> )
  • PHP Short tags ( <? ...code... ?> )
  • ASP style tags ( <% ...code... %> )
  • Script tags ( <script language="text/php"> ...code... </script> )

Lucky for me, I’ve never seen the ASP tags, and have only rarely seen the Script tag, but the short tags are almost as popular as the long tags. Especially when using the shorthand notation for the echo command ( <?= ).

My server at home is set up to be very strict in it’s handling of tags, it only allows the PHP long tags, and for good reason. When using a PHP script with XML, the XML tag ( <?xml ) confuses the PHP parser into thinking it’s a PHP short tag with the unknown entity ‘xml’ following it.

Another thing I see people use often, is Registered Globals. These are extremely handy at saving yourself some keystrokes, but that’s about the only thing they are good for. Registered Globals take variables from a SuperGlobal and place it in the normal variable scope. An example would be an HTML form with a field called ‘name’.  When you send this form, a variable in PHP called either _POST or _GET is created based on which method is used to send the data. To get at the data the user sent, one must call $_POST['name'].  If Registered Globals is turned on, all one needs to do is call the variable $name and there ya go. This practice is not very safe and causes more headaches then they save in keystrokes.

All of these issues, plus some more obscure ones, are why people should not code to their own particular setup, but should code with certain standards that are applicable everywhere.

  • PHP Long tags are ALWAYS accepted by the server.
  • The _POST and _GET variables are ALWAYS available to the script.
  • The HTTP_XXXXX_VARS are NOT always available, as of PHP5 they can be disabled.
  • Even the _ENV and _SERVER vars are not always enabled.

So when you go out to write your first bit of code, or even continue work on a project you’ve been working on for years, think of the other people who may be using your script who may not have the same setup as you, and they may not have access to their php.ini file to change those settings. And don’t try to skirt your way around it by running the ini_set function either. That’s almost like putting a virus on someone else’s computer. Just don’t do it.

broken site

so my webhosting company was recently bought out and decided in all thier wisdom to follow the old adage of “if it’s not broke, break it, then don’t fix it”.  ok, maybe it’s not an old adage, but it sure does fit the situation.

the new company decided to move all the websites to new servers and in the process broke just about every one of the thousands of sites hosted on those servers, mine included.  and it doesn’t stop there.  in the past couple of weeks, my site has been off and on more than a newbie dj mixing with cassette tapes.

it seems like every couple of hours the site goes down, only to be back up again (but with limited functionality) the next time i see it.  it’s getting really annoying.  and the support people are not really helping, but it’s not entirely thier fault, because it seems that the errors are not happening everywhere in the country.
anywho…  the whole point of the post is to let everybody know why the site has been being stupid lately.

…and don’t host your site with WebHostPlus.

new job and web standards

so i got a new job working for a local independent graphic designer / printer and its pretty nice. i get to work when i want, at my own pace, from home, doing what i love, and get paid for it. the only thing about it that really sucks is that i’m doing web design and as any semi-serious web designer that works for clients will tell you, coding for cross-browser compatibility SUCKS !!

i mean, why can’t all the browsers stop the damn browser wars and come to an agreement on what will and will not be supported? it seems that the w3c has been doing a good job with stating what should be standard and what should not be standard, and most browsers do a pretty god job following those standards.

except one. microsoft’s internet explorer, the number one used browser on the planet. it works the way it wants to work, and getting your site to look the way you want it to in internet explorer is like trying to teach a four year old how to fly a plane. they may get some things right, but most of the time, they budge things up so bad, you have no idea what they are trying to do. and then all of a sudden, they don’t want to do anything anymore. it is the most annoying thing on the planet, because fixing one thing breaks another and when you get it all looking good in internet explorer and then go back and open up the same page in firefox (my personal favorite and most likely the favorite browser of any self-respecting web designer / aficionado) it looks totally whacked and nothing is where it is supposed to be.

and that’s not even considering the dinosaurs out there, who just absolutely have to have thier netscape communicator 4.75, which has almost no current standards support and what it does support (obsolete and completely annoying things like ‘blink’) it supports badly or is no longer a web standard.

but that’s okay, i figure anybody using web browsers older than the wheel are probably used to things looking all messed up, or they are too computer illiterate to care.

i eagerly await the release of internet explorer 7 (which has taken several years, because microsoft, in all thier wisdom, thought, “we have the monopoly on web browsers, why fuck with it?”. that is, until firefox started taking thier precious users and microsoft just HAS to have the monopoly) because that will mean (hopefully) that interent explorer will finally have decent web standards and png support and i won’t have to keep writing several versions of the same page just to get it to look right everywhere. (but hopefully it will still be subject to the same css hacks, so in case it does mess something up, i wont have to rewrite everything to fix it.)

now all we need is to kill off the dinosaurs and we’ll be all set.

rss feeds update

since writing ‘rss feeds in your inbox‘, the post letting people know how to get my blog in their inbox, i have upgraded the blogging software.
this has changed the rss feed url.  the new rss feed url is:

http://www.iohelix.com/wordpress/?feed=rss2
http:/iohelix.net/blog/feed

so there ya go, all fixed.

anonymity is hard to keep

so i’m sitting here, at work, playing on the interent, and come across a page that has really cool stuff to download for “free”. and because there is no such thing as “free”, they make you register for their site (for what reason, i have no idea) and give out your precious information, just to download this “free” app that they are offering.

well, i say poo to that. and apparently, others have, too.

that’s when i stumbled upon a couple of sites that help people keep thier anonymity while browsing sites that require a login or registration.

the first is bugmenot.com. this site is awesome. when you come accross a site that requires you to log in, go to bugmenot.com and enter the base url into the field and click ‘Show Logins’ and it will give you a list of logins for the site. that way, you never have to register for another site again.

but if you really must register for a site and it’s one of the sites that will be sending you a confirmation e-mail so that they know it’s really you, just use mintemail.com.
what this site does is pretty cool as well. when you go to sign up for that annoying site that is forcing you to register, just go to mintemail.com, it will automatically store a fresh email address in your clipboard, then enter that email address into the site you are visiting. the mail will be automatically updated and kept for 24 hours, then deleted. you never have to give out your address again, but you still get those important first few emails to the site you’re trying to access.

and for the sites where you may want to come back and be recognized as yourself, but don’t want to use that same password you’ve been using forever, check out the Secure Password Generator. just set your specs and hit the button and a crytographically strong password is generated at random for you.

so there ya go, no more worries.

computers… blegh

i have been so frustrated by my computer at work lately that i about threw it out the window. i came into work a couple of weeks ago and my computer would not boot, it just kept restarting. so i booted into safe mode, but it never finished, just booted up to one point and stopped. i asked my it boss what was going on and she gave me some pointers which i tried with no success, and finally reinstalled windows, but now the computer won’t recognize the hard drives.

there were two rather large drives in a raid span and only one of them can be recognized at a time. sucky.

so i’m running this data recovery software and hoping that not all is lost, but i fear that it is, and if it is, then i’ll have to rebuild the computer and all my lost data from scratch and that will take me at least a week of solid working. not to mention all the little things that you always use but never think about…  i’ll have to find those, too.

stupid computers, but at least my computer at home is being wierd, too