Category

Internet

This category is for anything network / internet related. I use it mostly to describe website updates though.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dark Mercury 4.0

Welcome to the 4th edition of my website.  This version is based on my twitter page and powered by Expression Engine.  EE is the successor to PMachine, which powered my old site.  I know I just did an update to my site in August so you’re probably thinking, why another major update so soon?  Well, the short answer is that I have plenty of time these days.  I’ve been running the same old pmachine website for over 5 years and had the color scheme for a year before that.  So sometimes you just feel like a refresh is in order.  While the August update was an evolution, this update is a revolution.  It is hopefully the answer to many problems I have come across in the last 5 years with the old site.  Rick was talking about drupal limitations when I offered up Expression Engine as an alternative CMS to both Drupal and Wordpress.  I think at one point EE cost money for all but a demo, but these days you can download the core version of the site for free as long as you don’t use it for commercial use.  I had a default installation on my site but hadn’t touched it in months.  Well about a week ago I went back and reinstalled with the latest version and set out to see what the successor to pmachine could do for me.

Importing my posts from Pmachine was the most important and also the easiest thing to do.  While I’m sure tools exist to import wordpress, moveable type, ets blogs, the pmachine convert utility was built right in and easy.  From there I had to modify a template for a good design and usability. Thanks go out to Jo, Rick, and Alison for design feedback, ideas, and tips. 

A severe limitation of my pmachine site was that each post could only be put in one category.  EE allows me to put posts in multiple categories and is one of the biggest reasons I stuck with the upgrade.  EE seems a lot more flexible than pmachine too.  On the old site the menu on the left kept getting shorter and shorter.  I liked the collapsible sections on the side, but to keep them across all the other pages I had to use a function that prevented me from showing posts by months and other tasty features, so the new install gives me that capability. 

Another huge improvement is the URLs.  While some people may not care, I like the new readable URLs way more than the old way.  An old link to a post I made might show up as:
http://www.darkmercury.net/comments.php?id=23_0_1_0_C 

WTF is that link about?  Now The same post is represented by:
http://www.darkmercury.net/site/Six_Flags_Worlds_of_Pain/

Likewise http://www.darkmercury.net/index.php?id=C0_5_1
can be shown as
http://www.darkmercury.net/site/category/rants/

I’m pleased with how well my friends and news pages integrated with the new site as well.  I stopped using colors for consistency.  Each entry on the friends page looks very similar to a post if I made it, except it will have your RSS image in place of my categories, the title is clickable, and a link to your site is at the bottom.  Once again if you don’t set your RSS icon, it will default to one I pick for you.  If you want help changing it ask me, its quite easy.  Last time I’m talking about that. 

My pages that load in an iframe, such as my calendar and gallery are a little quirky but usable.  There was some sort of permission error with my old gallery so I reinstalled from scratch.  Pics will go up as I have time.

If you want, the old site is available at http://www.darkmercury.net/3.0/
I’m looking at getting even older backups of my site archived with the help of Jo sometime.  Guess that’s all for now

Posted by eclipse on 11/29/2008 at 04:47 AM
InternetTech • (1) CommentLink to this entry

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

D-Link DSL-2320B How I loathe you.

The subject of today's rant is my old D-Link DSL-2320B modem/router. It's hard to hate something that you bought for only $10 off craigslist, but this thing drove me crazy for months. It wasn't broken equipment, DLink just made sure to cripple it for who knows why. Oh sure, on the outside it looks like a very standard piece of equipment. It's got a port for the phone line, an ethernet port, usb, reset switch etc... But to be honest this piece of junk would have worked better if it was an empty box.

I run a very standard internet setup in my apartment. There is no cable internet service, so we have DSL through Grande Communications in Texas. Despite charging us for premium service and only providing basic internet bandwith since January (now resolved), I've been pretty satisfied with their service. So I need a DSL modem which plugs into my apple airport extreme router (I know, apple what a surprise, right? Well it has a USB port I can plug our printer into so I dont need a print server). My desktop plugs into the router via cat5, all other computers/ps3 are wireless N. Giggity. What I look for in a DSL modem is simplicity. Like UNIX, do one thing and do it well. Seems like DLink's strategy is to attempt to do many things, but utterly fail at everything. Come on D-Link! It's not a complex mission I bought you for:
1:) Connect router to Grande network
2:) ???
3:) Profit!

Because I'm a hacker like yash, I decompiled the source code to the modem which is ironically written in basic:
10 Assign 192.168.1.1 to self
20 Connect to grande
30 Assign WAN IP to everything
40 COMPLETELY FUCK UP DHCP
50 Disconnect from Grande
60 Goto 10

This modem refuses to play nice with the most standard router setups. My old modem before it broke had a DHCP server - that's fine with me, I put the router in bridge mode and the dsl modem gives my computers IP addresses and interwebs. Not my preferred way, but it works. It croaked, hence me getting DLINK SPAWN OF SATAN off craigslist. DLINK also assigns itself 192.168.1.1 but won't give connected computers internal LAN IPs. It tries to give every computer connected the WAN IP and it fucks up. The only way I got it to work was basically double NAT, the router assigning DHCP fighting with DLINK on another subnet. Ugh squared.

But that's not even the worst part! The absolutely useless web interface gave me no info other than WAN IP and the fact that itself was 1.1. After installing the modem for the first time Alison and I found we couldn't reach certain websites like yahoo and my work website. A little google digging revealed that the MTU, or Max Transmission Unit was to blame. Basically when you transfer info over the internet the info is broken into little pieces called packets and the MTU is the largest size in bytes each packet can be. For ethernet/cable internet the MTU is 1500 bytes, which computers use standard. For DSL connections, depending on your provider, it is 1492 bytes. Normally your DSL modem will tell your computer you're connected with an MTU of 1492, but not DLINK, no way... That's way too helpful. You would think a DSL Modem would connect at a DSL MTU. There's no setting, nowhere on the unit where you can connect at an MTU of 1492. DLINK thinks it's easier and more obvious to dig through the registry to change it on your computer itself. Windows is nicer about it, and stores the registry key, but on OSX (3 out of 4 computers in my apt.) you have to change the MTU manually, via the console, every single time you reboot. Good riddance...goodbye DLINK I won't miss you.

Jo gave me his old Motorola Netopia 2210 DSL modem when I was last in OH and yesterday I replaced Satanlink with it. It's more of a dumb modem where I can have the router store the connection info and just use the box to dial out over PPPoE. Exactly what I was looking for. Easy, fast, stable. Do one thing and do it well. Thank you Jo.
Posted by eclipse on 11/05/2008 at 07:21 PM
InternetTechRants • (0) CommentsLink to this entry

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Website updates for november

I've got enough website news to warrant its own post I think. I'll talk about this stuff first so the post will sink to the bottom.

Well the big news is aphelionsites.net, my former webdomain expired, as planned. Not too big of a deal since I don't use it much. What this means is some hotlinked images might not show up. I tried to look through my history and correct these errors, but some may still exist. The DGS site was the only website still using the domain, so that's been moved to http://www.darkmercury.net/dgs. If you can't or don't want to remember that you can find the link in my featured section. While I was messing with that I also embedded the quakecon video into the related DGS and DarkMercury pages, so it can be watched without downloading the whole thing.

Next up is the "Categories" selection at the top left of the site. You can click there or on the category image to a page showing all my website categories. From there, click on any you want to read about.. say Flying posts.. and voila! You're now seeing only Flying related website entries. That's pretty neat. A simple feature but long missing.

And the Friends page update...Every time I post I say it's the last time I'm gonna change it. It's kind of ended up full circle. The old versions showed only one post, but you got to see what was going on in all my friend's lives at a glance. If someone posted multiple times quickly, I wouldn't see any but the latest post. I was overjoyed to prove the concept of creating a Livejournal emulation from just RSS links, but that led to a lot of posts from one or two people at the top and everyone else lost at the bottom. I changed it to unlimited posts for 24 hours (so I wont miss any) and after that it just shows your latest entry. All sorted by date of post and I think I like it this way. It's kinda come back to where it was before. I also chopped the time off the post, leaving just the date. It looks cleaner. Anyways I'll see how I like it this way. I still have my LJ style proof of concept at http://www.darkmercury.net/friendsunlimited.php.

News Page opens links in a new window by default now...I removed the comment word bubbles that I was experimenting with this morning. I think that's it.
Posted by eclipse on 11/05/2008 at 07:01 PM
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

It’s been a long road

getting from there to here…

Friends 2.0


I promise this will be the end since there isn't much else I can do to the friends page. But I finally achieved what I set out to do in 2005 when I created the friends page. Starting from a set of rss links, the friends page achieves what Livejournal does by listing posts made by your friends in the order in which they were posted. LJ accomplishes this by storing posts on its server which it can read in order, but it's a bit of a feat to do it from nothing but a few rss links. I give you unlimited entries up until a week. If you haven't posted in more than a week, your last entry is truncated at the bottom in purple. It's all displayed in order by post date and it's awesome.

The page works through with the basic logic:

Define friends array with rss links, names, homepage
For each friend in the array, find all the posts in the last week -> each post is added to separate "posts" array
Sort that array of posts by date
Print the sorted array of posts

Sorting the array was the big problem solved today. Starting with the initial friends array in version 1.5 really did make this possible after all. It's easy to add/remove friends and the script handles everything! Of course there is a lot of error handling there too since RSS feeds are very flexible. Since you've probably already read about everything already I'll stop posting about it now. If anyone cares to to see the different versions of the site as it evolved:

0.9 - 1st edition, loading of first RSS post from each user
1.0 - Error handling if RSS feed not found, page went live, cosmetic changes
1.1 - Added History feature
1.2 - First Color support = red table if rss error, title moved to blue area of table
1.3 - Support for ['Content']['Encoded'] in place of description
1.4.2 - Script detects post age, homepage link changed to username, script assigns table color based on age, hides 2 week old entries, removed table border, changed default charset to UTF-8 to fix '?' issue, added leftmenu
1.5 - Friends Array added, rss image support w/failsafe
2.0 - Friends Sort by post date
2.1 - Multiple posts by one author, 4 posts by friends up to two weeks
Posted by eclipse on 10/11/2008 at 12:15 AM
Internet • (1) CommentLink to this entry

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

LAN Weekend and Days Off

These days it's getting hard to tell the days that I work from the days I don't. I'm enjoying being on reserve, or "On Call" for an airplane Eagle doesn't fly anymore. I've gotten called into the airport once out of 6 or 7 days and it doesn't look probable for many more days. The way to tell my days off from my days on are that I can travel on my days off. I did just that on Saturday, traveling back to Cleveland for a LAN Party hosted by one of Jo's coworkers, Caleb (Not sure exactly what his handle is, ma shtie or something).

It was a fun time, a great minilan. Caleb provided bawls, hamburgers, and good amish sweet bread or something. It was pretty much pure sugar. The network had some small hiccups, but I got to play some good Quake 3, and UT2k4. I have to say I am not a UT fan when playing with all those mods. I think it was an RTS mod where you get experience points which can be traded in for powerups. The whole reason I play FPS instead of RTS is to avoid that. It's no fun to jump in a game and be pummeled by someone with a ton of points. Most FPS set everyone pretty much the same so it's a game of skill. The highlight of the day though was definitely ET:Quakewars. Finally! This game has been out for a while but no one wanted to play it with me, due to WoW and xboxes. It really doesn't take too much to run, I was playing decently on my macbook pro. Being the only person who really knew the maps and gameplay, I took the role of the leader as a medic. I didn't think it would be fun for everyone else if I just ran through the levels completing the objectives myself. I shouted out what needed to be done, what classes were needed and where, revived teammates, and showed how all the different classes worked. I think everyone enjoyed that. We ended up playing pretty late into the night. I want to keep it up, but no one else has actually bought the game, so we can't play online. It was good to see Jo and Tim, and wish Dan would have stopped by. The party broke up about 1am eastern.

Crashed for about 4 hours on Jo's couch, before waking back up to jumpseat back to Dallas. Big thanks to Jo for picking me up, dropping me off, and letting me stay at his place even with work in the morning. The flight out of CLE was delayed by a flap issue or something. The captain boarded and we sat on the plane for 90 minutes before finally departing. I don't think there's been a cloud in the sky since Ike rolled through, but it was raining monday. I had planned to go to the "Big Tex" Texas State Fair with Alison, but it was looking like we couldn't go. By the time I got home though, the rain was clearing up, and although there were some short showers, we did go to the fair and had a pretty good time. The fair was pretty much a game of "how much $ can we take from you before you start to notice". After paying $14 for admission and $10 for parking, you had to buy a bunch of tickets to do anything. We walked around the free stuff, shops, and the auto show was pretty nice (one of few free things there). The food is always really popular there, even though it's not good for you at all! I got a turkey leg and a fried snickers bar. We walked everywhere to find that one place with the fried snickers bar, and it was something else, that's for sure! Very hard to describe, and it was good..but not really $4 good.. Alison and I both agreed just a normal snickers would have been better and cheaper. But by all means you should try one if you get the chance. It's not bad. We didn't want to ride a lot of the spinny fair rides since that's where you hear about people getting killed on in the news, but we rode on the big ferris wheel and the carousel. The wheel was $6 each and the carousel was $3, and most of the rides were 2-4 bucks. I didn't really like that approach, although I guess we saved money compared to an amusement park. I don't want it so seem like I didn't have fun either because I had a lot of fun and it's great to hang out with Alison. We have our routines and stuff we do together a lot, but this was special :D

Tuesday I spent working on my website again on the friends page. From 1.4.2 to 1.5, this is a very big change, although it doesn't look like anything changed from the initial look. It's largely a backend change where instead of copying the code several times and editing it for each person, I created a multidimensional array of friends and their website data, and I run a loop of the same code until it runs out of people. This means one day I should be able to sort by post date instead of person if I choose, and it's far easier to edit overall. Also, and this is a big one: You can now control the image on the friends page yourself! RSS feeds can contain a link to an image if you set one, and my page will use whatever you select. If none is set in the feed, it defaults to an image saved on my site. LJ uses your default pic I believe.. Anyways if you're not sure if the image is yours or mine, click "History" and see if it displays a pic in the title. If it does, that's the pic I'm also using on the friends page. So now if you don't like the pic there you have nothing to complain about. The last thing is that "Tweets for Today" doesn't light up, you actually have to write something constructive.
Posted by eclipse on 10/08/2008 at 05:10 PM
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