Archives » May, 2004

May 29, 2004

Web Stats

I like web stats. I like seeing how many people visited my site and where they came from. But I’ve always found it so inconvenient to work with server-generated log files. Right now my host gives me a monthly access log, and a yearly log. They also have Webalizer setup, and every night it runs and generates a report. The problem is, I don’t like that Webalizer report. For one thing, it only breaks down your traffic by month. So all your visits for the months are lumped together. It gives you the daily hit count, but when it comes to things like which pages were looked at, which referrers were logged, and which user agents hit your site, those are all lumped in for the whole month. And even worse, it only shows the top 15 UAs, and the top 30 referrers. And of course all of my visits are logged in there, and since I’m my site’s biggest visitor, that skews everything, showing how many times I visited my Movable Type administrative page. Well, that’s useful information!

So the Webalizer reports are dead to me. They’re good for looking at monthly trends, but that’s not usually what I want. What I really want out of a log report is this: it would have to be broken down daily, for one thing. For each day, it would list the number of visits, it would show every single user agent that came in, and how many times, and it would list all the referrers. And it would ignore my own visits, since I don’t care how many times I looked at the site. And it would only list HTML pages, since I don’t care how many times my CSS was downloaded. Simple stuff. Hard to get.

Now, I know Webalizer can supposedly be configured to do anything you want. There’s a config file with enough options to make everyone dizzy. But I have no control over the config file at my host. So what I would have to do is download the logfile, and run it through Webalizer on my own computer. Right now, at the end of May, my monthly logfile is 19MB. The yearly one is 65MB. I’m supposed to download those anew every time I want to check my stats? Not bloody likely. So that’s the other big must-have on my ideal logfile: it has to run at my host, and it has to be up-to-date when I request it. So it has to be regenerated each time I view it, and it has to be one-click simple. Follow a bookmark, and there’s my stats as of this second.

I never did find any stats package that would do all that. So what do you do when you reach the end of the road? Build your own! So that’s what I did. And just to be even more ornery, I don’t use the server-generated logfiles. I built a MySQL database and a script that logs every pageview. It may be the long way around the problem, but it’s the only way to get just what I want.

So now I have my new stats page. I even have a way to separate robots and spiders from browsers, so I can see just how many actual humans are looking at my site, compared to bots. It’s all based on some code I wrote for my old ASP-based host, but I had to convert everything from ASP/MSAccess code to PHP/MySQL. Not that difficult, really, just gruelling. And I’m sure there will still be a few bugs. I’ve been stomping them for two days, and I’m still a little green at PHP, so I know there’s something I overlooked.

Now I can finally keep up on my referrers, and see if anybody new’s been linking to me. Usually not. I can also go back to seeing what Google searches point to me. Like today: what does glutton mean?. Always useful.

May 21, 2004

Outlook 2003

I just today figured out that the latest version of Outlook comes free when you buy Exchange Server. An Outlook 2003 CD was part of the package I got with Exchange 2003, but I figured it would have Product Activation requirements. So I put the CD away, and forgot it even existed. I was sifting through a stack of CDs today when I found where I had stashed it away, and decided to pop it in the box. And what do you know, no Activation required!

So now I have my next project before me. Play around with Outlook 2003, and figure out if it’s worth upgrading everyone in the company. It’s supposed to have a lot of nifty new features that really take advantage of the nifty new features in Exchange 2003. The downside is that we’re still running Office 2000, so Word, Access, and all the rest will get left a few versions behind. But I guess that’s why I need to run it on my computer for a while first, to see if that causes any problems.

I did find my first tip already, though. When you install Outlook 2000, it puts a shortcut on your desktop. This is not only handy to open the program, but you can also right-click it to work with the mail profiles on your system. Outlook 2003 doesn’t put that shortcut on. But I found a registry key that will bring it back. So I’m already learning stuff!

May 20, 2004

Use No Fonts

Okay. So we’re not supposed to use Arial for web design. Nor are we allowed to use Verdana. And now, as of last week, we’re not supposed to use Trebuchet either. So, what are we left with? Times?

Also, while you’re at DesignByFire, check out this week’s Design Eye for the Usability Guy, their cluster redesign of Herr Jakob’s latest Alertbox.

May 19, 2004


Let’s say you have an old server, server1. You replace it with a shiny new Windows 2003 server, server2. You move all the files and services to the new server, and shut the old server off. And then you have to visit each workstation, individually, and change all their references to look to server2, because server1 is now dead, right? Not necessarily.

If you have a DNS server, you can simply create an entry for server1 and point it to server2’s IP address. This will work for many services, such as if server2 is an e-mail and web server. But what if server2 is a file server? You can try to connect to \\server1\c, and you’d think it would redirect you to server2, but it doesn’t. Instead you get some obscure error about multiple names on the network. What is going on?

That’s when you have to find out about the OptionalNames registry entry. If you navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\lanmanserver\parameters, then create the OptionalNames value, you can enter a list of names. Restart the computer, and the server will then respond to any of the names you listed. So your computer can be named server2, but with DNS and OptionalNames set up properly, your users can access it through \\server1\c. Or \\files\c. Or \\pookydoo\c. Or whatever you want, without affecting the actual name of the server. Because changing the name of a server, especially if it’s a domain controller, and especially especially if it’s an Exchange server, is a huge pain. As I found out last weekend. So using OptionalNames can save you that grief, as well as the massive trip to all the workstations.

Of course, if you’re using DFS, that’s all obsolete. But we won’t we getting into that today.

May 17, 2004

Ormsby Again

My plan is to put up a new update to the Ormsby House Renovation Gallery at the beginning of each month. But usually the procrastinator in me takes over, and I don’t get around to finishing it until the middle of the month. This month is no different.

The April Update is now online. Three pages (123), 20 pictures. A lot of construction going on this time around. It looks like they’ve finally finished all the demolition, torn apart everything they need to, and now they’re ready to start putting it all back together. We’ve turned a corner here, and this summer should be exciting.

Anyway. Check it out if you’re into that kind of thing.

May 15, 2004

The Happiest Celebration on Earth

On July 17th, 1955, Walt Disney opened his Disneyland park in Anaheim California. It was a huge risk at the time, not only because it was so far away from Los Angeles but also because it was such a big departure away from the film industry that Disney had done so well in. What did a cartoon company know about running a carnival anyway? Well, not much, but in a good way. That is to say, Disney knew what was wrong with the carnivals of the day, and set out to remedy the problems. So Disneyland was no carnival. It was a new type of experience, taking old carnival concepts that had been around since the days of Coney Island, but melding them with the fresh new perspective of the film industry. The rides at Disneyland were not only intended to thrill, but to tell a story, to take visitors to a different world. It was the right idea at the right time and place, and it proved a success in the end, setting a new standard for immersive entertainment and founding an industry that still continues to grow every year. Disney has since gone on to build nineten other parks across the street and around the world, but the original park in Anaheim is coming up on its 50th birthday party, a milestone that many critics in 1955 didn’t think the park would ever reach.

For a long time now speculation has been flying about what Disneyland is going to do for their fiftieth. They usually have some kind of big extravaganza for the milestone dates. For their 30th in 1985, they had a huge cash and prizes giveaway. For their 40th in 1995, they unveiled Indiana Jones, one of the largest and most complex rides ever built. So what could they possibly have up their sleeve for the 50th? Rumors have been flying back and forth for years about what the Imagineers were working on. Ideas for dozens of new rides have leaked out. Budgets have fluctuated, priorities have changed, and pretty much every rumor has changed or been proven wrong over the last couple of years. And now that the anniversary is drawing close, it was time for some official announcements.

On May 5th, the official announcements came. And they turned out to be a little underwhelming. Out of all the the rumors that were flying around, here’s the breakdown of what’s actually going on:

  • Castle redo

    The castle is getting a facelift. Supposedly it’s all temporary, and it will come down at the end of the celebration.
  • New parade
    Meh. Who cares.
  • New fireworks
    Meh. Who cares.
  • History exhibit
    For a while they kicked around the idea of gutting part of Innoventions, that constantly-outdated corporate showcase that went inside the old Carousel theater in Tomorrowland, for this. They would have filled the bottom floor with exhibits about Disneyland’s history, looking back on rides and shows that are now long gone. Instead of bumping out Innoventions, though, this display is going to bump Honest Abe out of the Opera House. So the history exhibit has been scaled down, and will now be one of the first things folks walk by when they enter the park, and also one of the first things they ignore.
  • Space Mountain
    This one has been going on for a year, so it’s really only part of the 50th by default. It won’t even open until late summer 2005, so it will miss most of the celebration. But what they’ve done is gutted Space Mountain, right down to the dirt, and they’re rebuilding it from scratch with all new materials. The track layout is supposed to be exactly the same as before, but the vehicles and the scenery and the queue and the technology that it all runs on will be completely new.
  • Buzz Lightyear
    Out of all the dozens of ideas that were kicked around for new rides, this is the one they went with. The old Circle Vision theater has been sitting empty ever since the Rocket Rods went belly up, and there’s a bit of space inside that building, so they decided to build a clone of the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster ride from DisneyWorld. It’s basically an OmniMover ride, like the Haunted Mansion. Each car has a laser gun mounted on it, and as you go through the ride you shoot at targets on the scenery. You rack up points for every target you hit. At the end of the ride you’re given your total score, and you can ride again to try to beat it. Fun for video game phreaks maybe, but probably not a lot of re-ride value for the rest of us.

That’s it. That’s the big announcement for Disneyland’s 50th birthday party. Kind of disappointing, but not a surprise given how small budgets have been lately. Hopefully everyone will realize the value of the parks in time for the 60th anniversary, and get some new rides in to replace everything that’s been closed over the last decade.

May 13, 2004

Graphic Blues

And speaking of all these new redesigns, where can I go to buy some serious graphic design skillz? Seriously. I’m sick of not being able to make purdy pictures on the computer. See the Ormsby House page? That’s about the best I’ve got. That’s my limit. And that’s just cropping existing photographs. What happens when I try to create something out of nothing? Well, let’s just say the results are tragic, and usually end in euthanasia.

And then you’ve got someone like Douglas Bowman, who has this to say about working on the new Blogger redesign:

Some of the icons were sketched on pen an paper (ahem, numerous times). After finalizing an approximate look, the icons were drawn in Illustrator using a pressure-sensitive Wacom tablet and pen to create the base artwork, then cleaned up by manipulating paths and Bézier curves within Illustrator.

So few words. “approximate look”. “base artwork”. “cleaned up”. Sounds so simple. And what’s the final result? This:

I hate him. Or, actually, I hate myself for not being like him. Why do I have to bust my ass just to create a site that looks like crap, when there are so many people that can just sneeze out beautiful graphic design? What am I doing wrong? Why don’t I know what a Bézier curve is?

Like I said, I gotta get me some mad skillz.

Blue Over Tan

It’s spring, and apparently this year that means it’s redesign season. This week we’ve got Digital Web Magazine unveiling a whopper of a redo, casting aside the black for a fresh, blue-over-tan color scheme with rounded corners. Then we’ve got the new Blogger homepage, which has a nice, crisp blue-over-tan color scheme with rounded corners. And there’s a new group blog in town, Doc Searls’ IT Garage, which is sporting a hip blue-over-tan color sch—

…wait a second…

Blue-over-tan color scheme with rounded corners. It’s the new black!

May 12, 2004

Jack’s Bar

The Appeal had a story Tuesday about Jack’s Bar in Carson City. Not much new, except to say that it’s made Preserve Nevada’s list of 11 Most Endangered Places for 2004. Jack’s Bar is a 100+ year old structure in the heart of Carson, in the shadow of the Ormsby House. It’s owned by the same folks that own the Ormsby, and in the article one of the owners is quoted as saying they’re not going to do anything with Jack’s until the Ormsby House reopens.

The structure’s old, the walls lean a little bit, and it just might go down if we ever had an earthquake. But it’s still a part of Carson, and I think it should be left, fixed up if possible. It’s one of those places that just belongs, that makes the town. Right now it’s being used to store one of the cool Guns ’N’ Roses emblems that came off the side of the Ormsby House.

May 10, 2004


It looks like Blogger finally caught up with everyone else. The new design is a nice one, but that’s just the surface. New interface, new ways of working with your blogs, and of course all the new features in the blogs themselves. Individual archive pages, comments, new templates by rock star designers. Blogger’s got it all now.

Still sticking with Movable Type, though.