Archives » March, 2004

March 31, 2004

The Inevitable Ormsby House

In the waning hours of the month comes another Ormsby House update. Four pictures, nothing worth waking the kids over. The tiniest bit of exterior renovation, and I’m off the hook until April.

I hope they pick up the pace over at the old Ormsby House again. I’d like to see it opened before Sammy hits college.

March 29, 2004

Windows 2003 and the Brooklyn Bridge

Having just subjected myself to the six-month project of upgrading every single workstation in the company to Windows XP, you’d think I’d want to tackle something a little less strenuous next. Nope. That’s why I’m in the process of building a Windows 2003 server that will take over all the responsibilities of our two NT servers, our Snap Server, and our Linux box. And on top of that, it will be a DNS server and run Active Directory. Now, I know nothing about Windows 2003, DNS, or Active Directory. That’s why I’m on page 418 of a 1600-page book on the subject. My head has been swimming with forward lookup zones and UDP broadcasts and scopes. And I haven’t even hit AD yet, where the chapters get to be 200 pages long. So my sysadmin hat has been resting firmly on my head, leaving my web designer hat to collect dust on the hook on the wall. Yes, yet another excuse for why I haven’t been around much lately. I’ve got a million excuses, I know. Really, though, the bug to write hasn’t been biting lately. To pass the time, go read Scott Berkin on Programmers, designers and the Brooklyn Bridge and Doc Searls talking about religious radio slowly taking over the airwaves (and the Raving Atheist giving religion its daily pounding). And of course keep up with the daily updates over on Sammy’s Baby Blog.

March 24, 2004

Outage III: The Return of the Site

After five days offline, everything’s working again. Site, e-mail, MT. Actually, for the last three days the only thing broken was the DNS., the alternate address for this site, worked perfectly. That’s because F2O was able to get its own domain server, the one that handled and all the subdomains, back running on Monday. But they must have two domain servers, and the one for paid accounts was still not working. So was not resolving, because it was listed on the pooched domain server. And no DNS, no site.

But now we’re back online. I know a lot of people with paid domains are pretty pissed at F2O. Me not so much, as long as it doesn’t become a regular occurrence.

March 22, 2004

Outage II

More on the outage: My web host, F2O, is mostly the blood and sweat of one guy, Dan Cody. Dan, of course, is on vacation, so that’s why everything has gone haywire. I know how that can go, and that’s why I check my office mail at least once a day when I’m on vacation. Things seem to go the worst when nobody’s there to fix them. There apparently are “temporary admins” to run things around F2O while Dan’s away, but they haven’t been able to fix things and are mostly playing a game of “Find Dan” to have him get things running.

So, the obvious question: why am I sticking with F2O? Well, for one thing, this sure isn’t the norm. If this was happening all the time, I’d think about bailing. But as a sysadmin myself, I know how things can just cascade out of control at the worst possible moment, so I’m going to let them slide this time. And I believe in what F2O is doing. The main meat of F2O is providing free hosting for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to play with PHP, or ColdFusion, or just flat out wouldn’t have a website. So I see my hosting fee as a donation to keep them running. Instead of just lining somebody’s pockets, my nine bucks is going back into the coffers to support F2O. And if that means I’ve got to put up with three or four days worth of downtime, that’s what I’ve got to do. I’m not making any money or running anything critical off this site, so I can afford to just take a breath and let it work itself out.

Of course, nobody can read this until everything gets fixed. It better be only three or four days.


Had a little bit of downtime this weekend, as my web host, Freedom2Operate, mysteriously dropped off the net. Things are back up now; actually, in a weird turn, the free accounts are working but the paid domains aren’t. So I can get to my site through, the holdover domain from when it was a free account, but, my paid domain, is still offline. For my nine bucks I can put up with a couple of days of downtime, but it’d be nice to see the paid accounts come back first.

And I didn’t really care about being offline this weekend, since I was a little too busy to worry about doing anything on the web. Viola’s cousin got married at a little church in Genoa. Viola was not only a bridesmaid but also the sign language interpreter, since the bride’s father and some of his friends are deaf. It was probably the only wedding I’ve been to where the bridesmaid handed off her flowers and started signing. But it worked out well, the father understood everything that was going on, and Viola once again proved how kickass she is. For my part, I was photographer, videographer, and babysitter. That job mostly boiled down to fending off the hoardes of women who wanted to swoon over Sammy.

So with all that going on, who has time for computers?

March 17, 2004

The RSS Vet

So now I have an RSS feed. There’s really no reason it took so long for me to get one after switching to Movable Type. I just don’t care much about RSS, so it was never a priority. And I wanted to have time to look at the specs and make sure my RSS was as nice as could be. I wanted to have as few namespaces as possible, for example, and in looking at the MT templates that the Feed Validator provides, those are lousy with namespaces. So it took a lot of customization time, but I think I finally got something that’s lean and clean, but still validates.

The toughest part was getting <pubDate> just right. I wanted to use <pubDate> instead of <dc:date> because <dc:date> is part of a namespace. But <pubDate> needs an RFC822 date, and MT can’t create one natively, since it puts a colon in its <$MTBlogTimezone$> tag. The answer was found on Phil Ringnalda’s site: use the MTDaylightOrStandard plugin to automatically insert either PST or PDT, and the date will then validate. All so I could avoid using <dc:date>. See how much I hate namespaces?

(For way too much info on RSS dates, read Mark Pilgrim.)

Why do I feel that my headaches with RSS aren’t over yet?

Update: Asked and answered. After posting this and working all night building my own namespace-free template, I found one by Brad Choate. And you know what, it’s almost identical to mine. Except he uses <$MTBlogTimezone no_colon="1"$> which, surprise surprise, gets rid of the colon. Frickin’… frackin’… sunuva…

March 16, 2004

Renovation Jones

I had to pull an all-nighter, literally working from sundown to sunup, but I finally got the living room done. Months of renovation and living on plywood have paid off with the new floors, and a new entertainment center thrown in to boot. I’m amazed—we finally have one room in the house we don’t have to be ashamed of. We can finally have company over; we’d have to blindfold them as they walked through the rest of the house, but still. We have one room that actually feels like a home, plus the baby’s room and one bathroom. Only five more rooms left! At the rate we’re going, we should be done by the time Longhorn ships.

Installing laminate floors is not hard. Join the boards at an angle, press together, and rotate until it clicks. Use a tapping block to close up any gaps. What really takes time is all the prep work. Our living room had about 50 square feet of rotten floorboards, so those had to come up and be replaced. Then I had to walk the room and fix any squeaky boards. Then I had to work in waves, moving all the furniture first to one side of the room, and then back as I made my way across. Most of the junk actually got moved to the dining room, creating a zone of collateral damage that stretched into the kitchen. I had to measure and cut all the boards, especially around the fireplace hearth. Our hearth is made of brick and describes a 90 degree arc in the corner of the room. I had to assemble enough boards (9 all together) to completely cover it, and then draw on the underside of each one where the edge of the brick was. I then took the jigsaw to each piece individually and made the cuts, reassembling it all like a jigsaw puzzle back in the room. I then had to measure what length to cut the boards at the opposite wall so the gap at each end would be exactly 1/8 of an inch. I can’t say I always hit that goal, but that’s what trim pieces are for!

After the pain of measuring boards and making the cuts and moving furniture is done, installing the floors is a breeze. This is the fun part of the whole job, but it’s also the part that’s finished the fastest. You start by putting down a foam underlayment, then you just snap the pieces together, one row at a time. Left to right. Keep your tapping block handy. Snap pound, snap pound, snap pound. In under five minutes you’ve got one row done. You can get about six rows down before you need another piece of foam. In all it took 19 rows to finish the room, at about 5 pieces per row (4 by the fireplace). Ten boxes at $40 per box, makes $400 for this 200+ square foot room. That’s dirt cheap. That’s cheaper than carpet. It helps to do the labor yourself, of course, but the point remains. Laminate floors are super yummy, and one of the least expensive renovations you can do to a house.

The kitchen and entryway, on the other hand, are going to be done in ceramic tile. We don’t want to talk about ceramic tile right now. Ceramic tile is goopy and grouty and takes dozens of steps to finish. Bad ceramic tile, no cookie!

March 11, 2004


Work on the hardwood floor is progressing, occasionally. It’s probably the slowest installation in history, but it’s getting there.

Today was a cause for dancing; I finally finished the most difficult part of the whole house, the curved fireplace hearth. With the help of a jigsaw and a lot of luck, things came out looking fairly good. Considering who was doing the work.

I’m in deadline mode now. The living room has got to be done by Sunday, when my parents (the landlords) get here. They didn’t buy thousands of dollars worth of wood so that it could sit in the garage. I’ve gotta prove that I’m at least making an attempt to install it all before the decade’s out. That’s why I’m still awake at 3am, hammering boards and posting pictures.

March 6, 2004


Ed Foster in his GripeLog relates the story of Man’s Best Friend Software, whose fine print on their website reads, in part, “By using the Site, you agree, for a period of one year from the date and time you last use the Site, not to publish any private or public derogatory comment about MBFS…you agree to pay MBFS the sum of US$10,000 per publication…” So if you say anything bad about the website, even in private, you owe them $10,000. This has got to be one of the worst things I have ever seen in any of these user agreements. Oh, drat! I just published a derogatory comment! I guess I better get my checkbook out.

Oh, but wait! I’m off the hook, because the uproar amongst Ed’s readers was so great that the owner of the company had that passage removed from the agreement. He was even nice enough to say, in Ed’s comment section, “We will not enforce this anymore.”

Anymore? Anymore? Does that mean there are people out there that have actually been pursued by this company, to the tune of 10 grand, for saying nasty things? Have they actually collected any cash? Is this actually the same Earth I live on?

By the way, the user agreement also says you can’t write a review of any of their software without prior consent, you can only link to them if the link doesn’t portray the company in an offensive manner, and that it is prohibited to use “any robot [or] spider…to monitor or copy portions of the Site” Ooops. I guess somebody forgot to tell the Google cache and the Internet Archive. Now they need to start writing checks too.

These people do realize how laughable agreements like this are, and that just because they’ve sat down and written them doesn’t make them in any way enforcable, right?

Eolas patent not dead, but starting to smell funny

Credit to Chris Kaminski, on the WD List, for the title of this post.

The US Patent Office got one right by handing down a preliminary judgement that invalidates the Eolas patent. There was so much prior art in this case that the patent should have never been granted in the first place, but at least the USPTO is now trying to undo their mistakes.