Kid Amnesiac, Jessica’s blog about Simon, has always been cursed with lots of comment spam, which I had never really bothered to investigate. It was easier to simply mark the offending comments as spam every time I logged in and move on, especially since the spam comments always required moderation and never actually made it out to the viewable part of the blog.

When I had originally built Kid Amnesiac, I had required all comments to come from registered users and forced moderation on every registered users’ first posts. This seemed the most flexible balance between making it easy for users to post comments and not being overrun with spam. Since all of the comment spam was ending up in Moderation I assumed that the spam bots were actually registering as users before they posted, but a quick review of the Users page made it obvious that that was not the case. A few days ago it occurred to me that the spam must be Trackbacks, so I went into the Discussion Options configuration page and disabled them.

But the spam kept coming. In fact, in just the last three days it had dramatically increased. So this morning I decided to check how trackbackability was enabled in the database. “DESCRIBE wp_posts;” showed that there was a column named ping_status, described as “enum(‘open’,’closed’)”. Armed with that information it was easy to see what was going on.

mysql> SELECT post_title, post_date
-> FROM wp_posts
-> WHERE ping_status = 'closed'
-> ORDER BY post_date ASCENDING;
| post_title                        | post_date           |
| Fifteen Months and a Growth Spurt | 2008-01-18 12:19:38 |
| These Shoes Were Made for Walking | 2008-01-19 21:43:23 |
2 rows in set (0.00 sec)

The configuration change I had made had only affected the posts that were published after the modification, so now it was up to me to change the ping_status for all of the previous posts in the database.

mysql> UPDATE wp_posts
-> SET ping_status = 'closed'
-> WHERE ping_status = 'open';
Query OK, 299 rows affected (0.01 sec)
Rows matched: 299  Changed: 299  Warnings: 0

mysql> SELECT post_title, post_date
-> FROM wp_posts
-> WHERE ping_status = 'open';
Empty set (0.00 sec)

Perfecto! Remember, kids, always back up your WordPress database before monkeying around in it. If you screw it up, your wife may stab you.

I decided to use some of my rolled-over vacation days this week and give myself a four-day weekend. It’s been nice, and I’ve crossed a few items off my tasklist: rebuilt the CA, put new tires on the car, installed DD-WRT on my Linksys WRT54G wireless router.

Things were humming along until about two hours ago, when my laptop started doing that annoying thing where Network Manager just out of the blue asks for your wireless key. This has happened in the past, and sometimes I’ve been able to just give my wireless key and move on, other times I’ve had to log out and log back in before it would work again. It hadn’t happened in quite a while (maybe since the Gutsy upgrade), and I hadn’t thought about it in a while.

Well, tonight it hit me out of nowhere and I’m down hard. Nothing I do seems to fix it. I’ve deleted the login keyring, logged out and back in, but when I provide Network Manager with the key on login it never gets saved to the new keyring.

The logs seem to indicate that when I submit the key Network Manager sends out DHCP requests, but never gets a response. This would make sense if the key isn’t working and the DHCP requests aren’t encrypted correctly. But why wouldn’t the key work? Why did the key stop working in the first place?

Is my wireless card just crapping out? Maybe. It’s over three years old, but I still seem to be getting a decent signal.

Could it have something to do with my installing DD-WRT on the router earlier this evening? I doubt it — I used the router successfully for several hours before the problem started, and two other laptops work just fine — but I feel like I can’t rule out such an obvious potential connection.

I’ve got a few more ideas for debugging this, but I’m going to bed now and I’ve got a full day scheduled for tomorrow. I’ll post an update tomorrow night.

UPDATE (Sun Jan 20 09:24):

Well, it’s working now, but I’m not exactly sure why. I power-cycled the router last night before bed and then booted the laptop this morning after breakfast. As expected, I immediately got the “Wireless Network Key Required” dialog box. So I stopped the gnome-keyring-daemon, deleted ~/.gnome2/keyrings/login.keyring and then rebooted for good measure. This time when I logged in and got the “Key Required” dialog box, I gave it the key, tailed the logs and watched the DHCP process complete successfully. Sure enough, I’m online.

The only differences between this morning and last night are the power-cycled router and my proximity. I’m about three feet away from the router now. Last night I was downstairs in the living room, but I’ve routinely used the laptop there in the past and I was using another wireless laptop from there last night. I’ll just take what I can get now, and then do some distance testing later today when I have more time.

UPDATE (Mon Jan 21 12:09):

Everything has worked fine for the past 27 hours. Honestly, I’ve got no idea what happened or why I was able to fix it on Sunday with techniques that didn’t work on Saturday. The only variable that I can’t account for is the router that I power-cycled. Maybe something was monkeyed up with the leases in the DHCP server….

So ever since I pushed the new site into production Jessica has been bugging me about whether or not it was getting any hits. Although I kept telling her that I was giving it time and didn’t expect anything for quite a while, I was actually checking the web server logs much more frequently than I care to admit.

A few days ago I had done the old “google yourself” trick and was shocked at how much my sabbatical had caused me to drop off the Internet radar. I haven’t posted to Usenet or the Debian mailing lists for years.  My old web page had been down for months during the crash, and the content had been dormant for over a year. Really, what did I expect?

Anyway, about 10 minutes after Jessica checked in last night, I went to give my email one last perusal before bed (I wasn’t watching the logs — I promise) and sure enough, there was the first mail from my new Contact page, from old middle/high school associate Jay V. So that was cool — I hadn’t heard from him in almost 20 years. And since he was the first person to get in touch with me via the new site, he won an MP3 of “Barbed Wire”, a song by my first band, Sacrilegious Toejam. More on that later….

I got bold and decided to push into production today, and the bugs are already starting to shake out. The big problems seem to be in the theme I chose to use, miniBits. I liked it because of its clean layout and minimal graphics, but its small size also gave me the suspicion that some edge cases might not handle so well.

It turns out it’s more than the edge cases. About 15 minutes after pushing the site into DNS I noticed that the simple “view post” action produces invalid xhtml and displays the sidebar all wonky down at the bottom of the page.

So why didn’t I (or maybe the author) notice this earlier? Well, it’s only broken when you’re not logged in! I’ve been doing most of my development so far while logged in, either as myself or as admin, so the bug just wasn’t occurring. It’s also possible that he sidebar was off the bottom of my browser window and consequently I wasn’t seeing how broken it was when I was viewing the first couple of posts. Who knows? But now it’s gonna be out in the open for a while until I can fix it.

(Interestingly, the bug also doesn’t manifest itself at the demo site. The author freely admits that the theme has only been tested with WordPress 2.1 and hasn’t been maintained for a while. Could version compatability be the culprit?)

I also need to do a bit of Internationalization and Localization. The original author appears to be Italian, and the strings in the program are a mixture of Italian and English. That will actually give me a good “learn how to do something” project (as opposed to the more annoying “bug fix” project) .

So I’m pulling the theme code into bzr right now and getting ready to tweak. Hopefully, I’ll knock out the sidebar display bug tonight and get the site linked over to so it can really go live.

UPDATE: I found and fixed the bug, and it’s a PHP classic: mixing your layout code inside conditionals. Down in the comments.php file I found two </div> tags were inside an if clause when they shouldn’t have been. A quick cut & paste moved them below the endif, and things are suddenly looking much better.

Jessica and I went to see The Tempest at Actors Theater of Louisville today, and I think Jessica spoke for both of us when afterwards she asked, “What was Shakespeare smoking when he wrote this one?”

I’m not gonna bother with a plot synopsis (it’s Shakespeare, for Pete’s sake — buy the Cliff’s Notes), but the production of it was very interesting. First, it was performed in the round and with no real set. In fact, the stage props really consisted of just two sheets, occasionally rearranged on the floor to simulate a seat or a hiding place.

Next, and most interesting to me, was that the music was all performed live by three musicians tucked away in a little viewing area (that just happened to be very visible from my seat). There was a lot of violin and percussion, occasional acoustic and electric guitar, and plenty of other stuff that I couldn’t quite see. Afterwards I discovered that the musicians were all from the band Rachel’s, one of many Louisville post-rock bands that Tony B is always trying to get me interested in.

Third, and most interesting to Jessica, was that Ariel performed almost the entire play flying around on a harness. I was pretty impressed by the fluidity of movement that was required. (I could just imagine myself up there, hanging limp as a fish and generally making an ass of myself.) I think Jessica was just impressed with Ariel’s pecs. Ariel also delivered some of his lines as song. I’m not sure if the lyrics were straight from the script or adapted for this production, but it was a very cool addition.

Hi and welcome to my brand spankin’ new homepage at my brand spankin’ new web site, I’ve been on a roll for the last two weeks, building a new Ubuntu Linux server, rebuilding the Kid Amnesiac blog and totally rebuilding and migrating, so I figured it was finally time to get this place off the ground.

My homepages have certainly evolved over the years — from static HTML back in 1995, incorporating bits and pieces of Perl hackery as I learned that language and the art of CGI, and finally culminating in a Blosxom-based semi-blog that died a slow death shortly after I moved back to Louisville.

After setting up the original Kid Amnesiac, I became interested in using WordPress more as a CMS than a blog*. As usual, I dawdled on that idea for quite some time, but I finally sat down and learned how to do it during last week’s set-up. After that there was just no excuse, so today, in between bouts of baby-wrangling, I built the database, installed a fresh copy of WordPress 2.3.2, edited some custom page templates and banged out the first bits of content.

So here it is. I hope you like it. I hope I can make this interesting and/or useful.

* Not that I’ve got anything against blogs — I’m just remarkably bad at maintaining one.

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