Category Archives: Geek stuff

Best laid plans

The actual quote behind “best laid plans” is from Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, in his poem “To a Mouse: On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough“, written in 1785:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!
This comes toward the end of the poem. Of course the phrase has morphed over the years, and by now all one has to say is “Best laid plans…” in order to allow others to understand that something has gone awry.
Coincidentally, and probably not of interest to anyone but me,  but John Steinbeck took the title of his book “Of Mice and Men” from that very same poem.
I wasn’t sure where I was going with this – it’s been several hours since I began this post before getting bogged down in work, but I think it’s going to be a twofer: one, writing progress. Two, dealing with assholes.
The first bit should probably be called lack of progress. I should have known better than to even attempt to believe Tuesday would cut us a break and not be insane, as they normally are. So yesterday, no writing, to bed at about 4AM this morning. Back up at 8:30 as my sister and the Soul Eating Baby came over, and of course, work work work. It’s pretty quiet now, so I’m going to get some writing in after I post this. “Why not do it before you post this?” you may ask.
Eating. Plus, getting warmed up before writing. (Note: this has not worked, as that very sentence was left hanging while dealing with someone’s DNS issue.) Summary: no writing yesterday, no writing today. It’s quite annoying.
Second bit: assholes who don’t pay their bills for five months beginning late LAST year, and who were termed early THIS year, having the audacity to show up a year later whining about their stuff, claiming that they were thisclose, on the cusp, on the edge, almost about to write a no doubt best-selling book and need that one domain for it, and why is that no longer theirs and what have I been paying you for.
You know what that gets you? A timeout. Also a bullshit notice, internally, because look, if you’re serious about your stuff and you have been around for years, and you’ve been billed the same way, at the same time, every month for years, it might occur to you to wonder a bit about how it’s odd that no charges from us have appeared. Or that the site was suspended. Or that the domain wasn’t working. Or, you know, you might show up a lot sooner than a whole YEAR LATER, asking what the issue is. That is, if it was actually important, and not some magically coincidental lie. Because we’ve read THAT book before. And it blows.
So there you have it. Another day in paradise. Until the next day in paradise, peeps: be well.

Maintenance

Way back in the day – and by that, I mean around 1998-2000 – I used to keep a personal page about the weirdo things we would field from people about their technical issues. This was originally set up on a GeoCities page. Remember that? At the time, it was groundbreaking: a place where you could build an online presence in a “city” where other sites similar to yours also lived. Eventually, I moved the content to its own domain.

The point of this history lesson is that at that time, HTML was language, and the page I maintained and updated weekly required me to go right in to the code and modify it to put in the things I needed to put in. It was a great experience: learning some things from the ground up, troubleshooting what didn’t work after you updated a page and finding that you left a termination code out, and deciding just which h code  you wanted to have for the title and headings to make them normal sized or large or gigantic and bold, and so on.

As time passed, of course people developed content management systems in perl and PHP and the world drifted over from doing things in HTML to doing things in other languages, first in raw files and then in applications people developed to make creating and maintaining sites much easier than they had been.

Fast forward to today. We’ve absorbed clients from other hosts over the years, and some of those sites are still anchored in HTML, built by those hosts and then not really updated code-wise, even if they had a maintenance contract with the user. When we inherited those folks, we also inherited the content modification requests. This is forcing me to take a very deep dive back into the brain and go retro on the editing the user wants to have done. I firmly believe that challenges like this keep those brain cells active, and according to “they”, this can only be a good thing.

And now back to that deep pool in the brain, swimming in HTML code.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

This is how it goes

My plan, last night, was set: after a couple of pain in the ass days trying to figure out why one function in an app we use that is designed to make our lives easier just….stopped. One night it was fine, and the next not. So, tickets in to the app dev people and the organization it was supposed to connect to when it started going into the toilet (soon it will be a week of this crap). Neither has any ideas, and I made it quite clear that nothing whatsoever changed in the environment. One, after a bit of back and forth, told us to check with our “service provider” to see if anything changed. Well, dude, we ARE our “service provider” and I just freaking told you nothing changed. The other vendor level one, no idea, level two, asked us to try a couple of things that made no difference, and then, level three, to see if they had any ideas.

After yesterday, my plan today was to write in the morning, then get back to this giant problem, but instead got sucked back into Giant Problem immediately. I have been working on this literally ALL DAY, trying on my own to figure out some way around or through Giant Problem. Nothing has worked. It is supremely annoying and no one seems to have any ideas for a solution to this weirdo thing that’s happening. Grrr.

But it’s quiet right now, even though I’m also trying to figure out a few user-related headscratchers that likewise are not working when before they have been fine. This is how tech infects every minute in your life. There is a solution to that last issue: leave it, for now. Go make art for awhile. It may or may not be possible, depending on whether you can get that stuff pushed aside in your head for a bit to make room for the creative stuff to come out. Finished? Return to the trenches, with maybe something having sparked while doing that to try on the problems that you’ve not tried today.

So I guess that’s what I’ll do: try to lose myself in the world of my own creation for a little while at least. Some progress is better than none, and I need to make a lot of progress, so “some” is laying the path to “a lot”.

One of the issues is thinking the created art sucks, another that no one will like it. I’ve decided my new motto for that stupid little voice saying all that nonsense is: fuck it. Gonna do it anyway. I’ve read, either in part or in full, quite a lot of bad books. The difference is that they finished and put their art out there. That’s what I need to do and what I am going to do.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Touching yourself

That should bring the pr0n spammers around.

More accurately, the title of this post should be “NOT Touching Yourself”. Or “Wear gloves when working with chiles”. As in, don’t touch your face (or any other area) when you’re working with chiles and not wearing gloves, no matter where they fall on the Scoville scale.

In other news, we had almost an inch of ranch at the ranch this afternoon, with some giant cells moving over us. Huge thunderous roars came from the sky as it opened up on us and provided a light show.

I used Movavi* to do a couple of repeat clips at the end to show it in slow motion and then again in super slow motion. Very lucky to catch it, and it is awesome.

*No, Movavi does not pay me, and that is not an affiliate link. I have access to Adobe’s Premiere Pro, and that is a fine product, to be sure. But I don’t really have the time to spend figuring out everything in it when I can just slam some clips into Movavi, do a rough edit, and be done. I also have to redo all our tutorials on the “real” business side, as those are woefully out of date with the design they contain, even though the various functions operate mostly as they used to. Just another item on the todo list, which never goes away.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

 

Plans, we got ’em

This weekend: probably more on this server thing, but thankfully that is coming to a close, at least as far as our involvement goes.

Other plans: pepper picking time! The cayennes and paprikas are nice and red  – I noticed while getting some mowing time in. That means harvesting, washing, splitting, and drying. It also means a house full of the smell of drying peppers, which is usually not that bad, although there are times when the smell – of that or any other food – is nauseating to me.

I’ll also be making broccoli cheese soup, because I am getting kind of tired of shakes and formula. If things (like my back) hold up, I might even make some cheesy potato soup (with crispy ham!) as well.

And another trip to the NOC, to set up a machine for someone who is upgrading his existing server to a big dog machine, so that is one ray of sunshine in an otherwise shitty and even more sleep deprived than usual week.

On a completely other note, meteorology really is one of the few jobs that you can be consistently wrong and still have a job. Today’s forecast: no rain, at all. Literally, a 0% forecast. Then a nice cell rolled right over us and brought about .2 inches of rain. Not a lot, and better than none.

Also on the menu for this weekend: taking stock of my sad, sad tomatoes, seeing what can be recovered, going through my seeds and finding some short maturity varieties to start another flat, and, of course, weeding. The weeds are not as bad in the frames where we’ve gotten the plastic or the weedblock down, but the edges are a nightmare because of the bowing of the frame edges (to be fixed in the fall, because that’s a heavy duty job). It’s also time to feed the bees again: the other day, I added additional brood boxes to two of them, so they are making progress.

Right now: more database wrangling, and then a brief stop for a nap before getting back up and doing more.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

But seriously, folks

Day five of server cleanup. At least we’re now to the point where I’m porting over massive amounts of data, now that all the database have been repaired. I should get hazard pay.

Some days, you just want a do over. Today is that day. A horribly bad night of sleep and bathroom runs (haha, runs, get it?) and a late night still working on aforementioned server equals feeling in the morning like laying in bed all day. Alas, a followup with my primary care doc thanks to my brief stint in the hospital called, so off I went.

And as I drove, I promptly had: spasms in my left side that came and went and came and went (plus they came and went there waiting for him, seeing him, and driving back), a coughing fit that turned into a sneezing fit, which made me forever grateful that I always have kleenex in my car now, and the realization that my left hip is absolutely killing me at the back of my pelvic bone. That feels almost bruised, although I have not looked at my ass in the mirror today to see if it is actually so. That might be an item for later, and I can check what I think was that bite on my ass at the same time. One check, one butt view, since those are both on the left. How efficient.

(Day six)

Ah, the pleasures of manually rebuilding a compromised server for someone and having them ask if the accounts have been recreated with random passwords. This is one of the joys of my life, really.

Blood work results are back: my cholesterol is well within normal range – remarkable, since not too long ago the doc put me on statins, each variety of which made me feel like crap and which I stopped taking. I suppose eating formula through a tube for most of your meals has that effect. On the downside, eating formula through a tube, balanced though it may be, can also lead to slightly oddball numbers in other areas, because when you think about it, it’s a slightly malnourished state of being. Fortunately, in my case, the blood work shows nothing so far out of range that’s something to worry about, so I’m not going to. I’m just going to keep pumping shakes and formula down the hatch (whichever one it may be), try to get my weight back up, and then get this stupid tube removed as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, I’ve written nothing this week, thanks to the server issue above. I’m hoping today will be the end of that, though, so I can return to my plans, delayed by a mere week.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

It builds character

Stressful/rough times. Isn’t that what “they” say, whoever “they” are?

Day four of server recovery. Every single tool we generally use, whether main or fallback (and I’m talking about actual scripted code for processing) is hosed.  So, once again: no writing. Instead I will be manually creating a server’s worth of accounts on a new server, then manually creating archives of user content, database, mail, mailing lists, forwarders, and every single other thing that an account requires, porting those over to the new server, and manually unpacking everything.

Fortunately, a little bash know-how allows me to set off a series of commands to, say, crunch all the /home directories of the users without me having to babysit that or having to do them one by one myself. Ditto for databases. The most tedious part is going to be to recreate the database users to add them back to each user’s databases based on the config scripts I’ll have to manually track down within their site files.

It’s going to be a long day. And a day when I could be outside working, too – mowing, pulling weeds. We got about .3 inches of rain late yesterday afternoon, so that was good, but naturally it starting coming down when I’d already decided to water the gardens. Today through Saturday, it’s supposed to be clear, or at least partly cloudy. Guess I’ll try to get some outside time tomorrow and Friday, mainly for mowing. The chicken yard and the west yard desperately need a trim, as it’s now been three weeks. And then by the time I get those done, it will be time to start all over again in the front, which I mowed last Friday. The grass down here doesn’t need a ton of TLC to use any bit of rain plus the dew every morning to shoot up like a teenager going through puberty.

But I’m hoping to get some writing on those mornings while waiting for the grass to dry so it can be mowed. Cutting wet grass is really a no-no and shouldn’t be done unless there’s some urgent need to do it. Back to the point: this morning on my third natural wakeup call from my insomnia, I hauled myself out of bed. That was at 6:30 AM, within my target/plan of getting up anywhere from 4:30 to 6/6:30 or somewhere in there. That new habit forming routine is underway well, I think.

More later, peeps. Be well.

Good morning campers

Our recovery of nameless guy’s server continues today, but I did implement part one of my overall plan to get some writing time.

See, the thing about owning a small business in the field I’m in is that not only is it very unpredictable, but sometimes it takes more than one day. It can take dayS, plural. We are in day three of this specific issue, and still going.

Fortunately, right now does not involve a ton of hands on for me while we wait, so I’ve been able to knock out a few other things that also need to be attended – payroll, for instance, since my employees don’t work for free, the bastards, and payroll taxes, because neither does the IRS or the country. Other “real” work things has filled the nooks and crannies, and I believe I am caught up in the routine, day to day things. Yay!

So maybe it’s time to type a few sentences into Scrivener and move that few footsteps closer to (one) goal. Progress is progress, after all.

More later, peeps. Be well.

The plan was

To write. Because it’s time to, as Neil Gaiman says, make good art.

I’d been moving sites around as we retire older servers, and finally got to bed this morning somewhere between 4 and 4:30. A few hours later, I get a notice to my phone about a customer server. Nothing is responding. I try to log in, get a login incorrect error. Huh, that’s weird, the client is unlikely to have changed the password without telling us. I try it again, same deal. Well, hell.

So by 7:30, I’m up and around and chatting to the client, and something very bad has happened – I won’t go into details except to say it is something so bad it makes your heart stop. The plans to write this morning and perhaps a second, smaller session this afternoon? Gone.

Off to the NOC to do some recovery on this client’s server. Spend a large number of hours reviewing the damage. Build a new machine because all his sites have to be transferred off the existing one. Deal with other client stuff throughout.

Finally, I’m shot at about 2-3 AM or somewhere in there. Crash out, wake up again at 7:30 (I am now typing this on Monday, the next day here), realize I have to go get blood drawn to check various things, drive out to the hospital (again) where I was in the ER back in February to get my records for that visit, as two previous requests to relay those records to Mayo resulted in the records not being sent because they didn’t have my fax although the transmission was good, then the records not being sent because the form I hand delivered to them, in person, wasn’t done (and a bonus: they lost my form and couldn’t find it when we called asking them where the records were), and then to Publix to pick up my meds.

Off I go right out the door, because the bloodwork has to be fasting. Do all of these things today, and I am back, in my chair, at my desk, at 10:50. That is not bad at all, and shows that focused work can be truly productive – and those tasks involved other people, as well. I wonder how much writing I could get done in three hours without people (real people, anyway) being involved in things I need to get done.

Sine we’re still dealing with this server, and some defacements of pages, and because I had to mow beeyard #1 as it hasn’t been mowed in three weeks, and because I needed to feed the bees and add a second brood box to one hive, and because work has been a steady drip, drip drip of things going wrong for people, no writing today. In fact, right now I am very sleepy, and if I didn’t have to transfer this guy’s sites off his server to the new box, I’d probably go hit the sack for a bit. I actually may not do that immediately, but run something that I won’t go into detail about, and then transfer the sites after that.

Now, I wait for something else to finish on that server, and I have titles popping in to my head, so I’m writing those down. Something productive in the writing arena after all! And the day has been productive otherwise, even if it seems like treading water.

Treading is better than sinking, though.

More later, peeps. Be well.

Moving day

No, not me. Late Saturday evenings are for the heavy lifting of maintenance, including server moves, which is what I’ve been doing for hours now. People who don’t work in tech don’t realize that probably a third of your time is spent waiting for something: waiting for a copy to finish, waiting for a compile to complete, waiting for a server to reboot after a new kernel is built, waiting for someone to reply to the question you’ve asked them.

A funny: a “webmaster of x years” (x = more than two decades) spent “two hours” trying to configure FTP, couldn’t connect after figuring out what to use like on ALL other systems he uses, which of course were MUCH easier to use, finally managed to get connected to find NO files listed when he KNEW there were files under the account, and WTF don’t we have the configuration information on the page for the FTP accounts, huh? I got to point out that clicking on the handily named “FTP configuration” link RIGHT NEXT TO the FTP account he created had the configuration information listed, that he had been unable to connect because he was using “user@domain.com@domain.com” according to the logs, and that he configured the FTP user incorrectly, assigning it to its own, restricted, directory, and not the directory with all the files in it. I didn’t bother to ask WTF he spent “two hours” trying to figure it out when he could have just opened a ticket and had a reply literally within minutes, as he did with his whiny list of trial and tribulations he was going through. As of right now, almost two days later, he has not responded to our last reply, nor has he corrected the incorrectly configured FTP user as per the instructions I laid out. And what’s absurdly remarkable about all this: he has the actual user’s master username and password. I wanted to ask him WTF he was bothering screwing around with a secondary FTP user when he could just log right in with the master username and password. Problem solved, in two minutes, not two hours of dumbassery.

This is why we use lots of quotes when someone claims to be a “webmaster” of x years, or a “developer”, or an “IT person”, or a “network engineer” – the latter are amusing when they insist there’s an issue with the network (because of course, they are a network engineer, far more skilled then we are even though they know nothing about us) because look at this trace and this ping from my computer and my cell phone can’t even pull up my site, so your whole network must be down, you suck! It’s fun to tell them they triggered the firewall because they tried to access the control panel on the wrong port, having transposed the last two numbers, and perhaps untethering their phone from their home wifi network would yield a different result if they in fact triggered the firewall in the future at some point, because then they would be able to check their site from a network unrelated to their home system.

Thus ends my mini rant about clueless people who proclaim themselves to be experts on something. I find that the louder those people speak about how many years they’ve been in x, or how they hold a high position of y in some random company, the less likely it is that they know what they’re talking about, and they will probably be among the rudest people we have to deal with in any given day.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.