I have a bad feeling about these pants …




October 6th, 2006


Top 211 Star Wars lines improved by replacing a word with "Pants!


My offering: “You were banished for being pants?” – Obi Wan, Pantom Menace

edited to add:

  “Ooh! Maxi big, the pants!”  – JarJar Binks, Pantom Menace. 

"I'm a toydarian. Mind tricks don't work on me. Only Pants." – Watto, Pantom Menace

“Experience the full power of the dark side of the pants.” – Darth Sidius, Revenge of the Sith


Oh dear, we can’t stop with the pants lines.  Playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and having histerics! 

trivial pursuit dvd star wars

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340 miles … in reverse!



October 6th, 2006


Driving down the highway the wrong way is one thing, but driving down the highway the right way but going backwards is something else, even if you are down under!  After 12 miles on his journey to Perth he was caught by Police who were shocked to find that he planned to drive the entire 340 mile journey in reverse gear after he’d discovered his forward gears didn't work . 

When he was stopped he was doing 35 mph because he’d found driving at 50 mph caused him to swerve wildly.  He did have some sense then.   What makes me think this guy's reverse gear wouldn't have lasted out much longer? 

And imagine the neck ache from looking over your shoulder all that way.   Or maybe he was just using his mirrors … doesn’t bear thinking about!

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The importance of local backups



October 3rd, 2006


Well it happened. Demon, our webhosts for Kingsley-Hughes.com, lost all the files for our site. Not just the webpages and the images, but the backups too. (So much for the benefits of off-site backups. What's the point if they keep it on the same server?) I know, I can hear you saying it and tut-tutting 'shoulda had a local backup'. And me married to the PC Doctor, always telling everyone to have a backup, because you never know... All I can say in my defence is that I thought HE kept the backups of the website.

Here's the email they sent me:

Following on from our email of yesterday, regarding the problem with one of our small Web Hosting platforms, we have now brought the platform back into operation. However, despite our best endeavours, some customers’ data may have become corrupted as a result of the file system software failure. Whilst we continue to recover the data that we can, we request that you check your site to establish if it has been affected by data corruption. If your site is unavailable, then please use your own personal off line backup to restore your site.

No apology. No by your leave. Nothing. They could have just said 'your data's gone, you're screwed' same diff. I'm surprised they didn't write "MWAHAHAHA!" at the end. And what the hell is a 'personal off line backup'? Oh sure, I know what one is but their control panel doesn't offer you the option to download a zipped backup file. The only way to do it is to download the entire site via FTP which usually fails and boots me off before I can get the whole thing down because their time outs are so short. To read their email you'd think personal off line backups were all part of the service, built-in to the system. I bet a lot of people don't have any kind of backup.

Funny enough they'd recovered from their outage last week and they'd even fixed the ASP problem too so the site was back up and running again. I guess it went wrong again, only this time they lost the data. I wish I'd thought to download a backup in that little gap where it was running OK...

But luckily, Kingsley-Hughes.com is a website which I work on from a local copy (using a text editor no less - am I the only webmaster left doing that I wonder). I say it's a website, meaning that it's not a blog, forum, CMS or anything else that's database driven. If I hadn't had my local files (as messy and incomplete as they turned out to be) I'd be screwed. Ah well, all's well that ends well. After only 9 hours the website is back up again and thankfully only a little data lost permanently.

And yes, I've backed it up too!



Environmental Hypocrites



October 1st, 2006


Green jetsetters– could there be such a thing?  The folks in this article in today's Times are all environmental campaigners from the likes of Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and WWF  and they’re racking up the miles on high-profile campaigns to convince the rest of us of the ecological evils of aviation.  And what miles they do too!

Bob Napier – chief executive of WWF (World Wildlife Fund) visited Spitsbergen, Borneo, Washington, Geneva, Beijing and the Falklands, generating at least 11 tons of carbon dioxide in the last 12 months.

Tony Juniper – Friends of the Earth director, visted: Malaysia, South Africa, Amsterdam, Slovakia and Nigeria in the past year generating at least eight tons of CO2.

Graham Wynne – chief executive of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) visited Indonesia, Washington, Scotland and New Zealand totalling five tons of CO2

 It’s a case of do as I say, not as I do…

 



Joomla Install Booboo and Recovering Joomla Password



September 22nd, 2006


Joomla installation is very easy. 

The snazzy installer takes you through the steps of filling in the database details, site names etc and will create a configuration if the folder is writable.  If your configuration file isn’t writable Step 4 of the Joomla installation gives you the completed configuration details to copy and paste into notepad, which you can then save as configuration.php and manually upload to the root folder of your joomla installation.  A piece of cake! (It goes so smoothly I suspect it’s chocolate cake…mmm chocolate cake! Oh darn, there go the diet pangs again! :?)

The only problem I have with it is that when I’m copying the config file details from that screen it’s easy to miss the other vital information that it’s giving me – my password!  I don’t know how many times I’ve done the same thing. I go to log in to a new Joomla installation only to realize that I forgot to note down the password!   Joomla’s installation instructions tell you that should you lose the password you need to start the installation process over again, and by that time I’ve usually deleted the installation folder from the server, so it’s quicker for me to reset the password in the database. 

The instructions are very simple (and similar to resetting the password for WordPress, vBulletin or Drupal except the table/field names are different).  To make these changes I'm going to assume that you have access to phpMyAdmin and are comfortable using it. (Making a wrong change here can trash your entire database!  Read the instructions through before you consider making any edits. You have been warned! )

  1. Log into phpMyAdmin Joomla (usually found in your cpanel).
  2. Click on the Databases link and then click on the database you want to edit from the list that appears.
  3. You will now be faced with a list of tables in that database.  From this point on I'm assuming that you used the default "jos_" prefix for your Joomla tables.
  4. In the right-hand pane scroll down to "jos_users" and click on the "Browse" icon (if you hover over the icons you'll notice a tooltip appear).
    Joomla users table in phpMyAdmin
  5. You'll now see the list of users for the site.  If like me you’ve just installed you will only have one user, a SuperAdministrator with the username of admin.   (If not you’ll need to locate the appropriate user for the one you want to change.) Click on the "Edit" icon next to this to edit it (again, hover long enough and you'll see a tooltip appear).
    Joomla users table in phpMyAdmin
  6. You'll now see all the details associated with the Admin user.  The field that you are interested in is labeled "password".  This field contains the password that have been encoded using the MD5 one-way hash which turns the password that was used into a string that is 32 alphanumeric characters long.  Don't bother trying to reverse the hash back to the password!  Consider the password lost!
  7. Into the "password" field, type in your new password. 
    (REMEMBER THIS PASSWORD!!! )
  8. Now your new password will be not stored in the database as the plain text password you just typed in (which would make it easy to steal) but rather as an MD5 hash of the password. So the next important step is to convert your password.  Fortunately, phpMyAdmin offers a really easy way to do this.  
    From the "Function" field select "MD5".
    Enter new Joomla password with MD5 hash function in phpMyAdmin
  9. Once you've made that change, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click "Go".  The password will be hashed using MD5 and stored in the database.
  10. Log out of phpMyAdmin.
  11. Now you can log into Joomla Administrator using the new password!

The big question is next time I do a Joomla installation will I make the same mistake again?  Any bets??



Archiving Geocaching



August 29th, 2006


Spent a long time this weekend archiving my geocaches.  It’s not that I’m bored with geocaching – far from it! – just that owning geocaches is a lot of work and when I get some free time I want to go geocaching, not just maintain my caches.

Cachers complain a lot too! I checked my geocaching inbox Saturday (I moved everything to send to a separate account so I don’t get geocaching emails all day, everyday in my inbox) and I had 208 unread geocaching emails! Logged finds I can pretty much ignore and I can’t remember when I last got the time to check on my own travel bugs.  People logging DNFs (did not finds) takes longer as I need to go through the logs to find out if someone’s found the cache since or not and whether the cache is actually lost.  (I’ve only ever had a couple of caches disappear completely.  Mostly they just wander off, not on their own of course – people put them back in the wrong place, either because they aren’t paying attention where it came from or because they think of a much better place to put it than the one I chose. Either way it means that cache is temporarily down for a while until I can get out to check on it and see if it’s where it’s still supposed to be.  If I can’t find it, I then have to search the surrounding area for likely places that cachers could have put it instead. Only then do I give up and archive it, unless I’m minded to put another cache in its place,although if a cache has been stolen once, chances are it’ll happen again if it’s put back in the same spot.)

Back to the inbox, I get a LOT of emails from cachers contacting me to find out if a cache is going to be available for a certain weekend that they’re planning their vacation, or somewhere they might find accommodation or a campsite (I’m not the tourism department and it’s not up to me to plan your vacation!!!) I’ve had emails asking whether the terrain to the cache is really as difficult as its rating suggests.  All these emails take time to read, sort through, trash or reply to. 

But what gets to me most are the complaints.  Cachers complain that caches aren’t available, that they can’t find them, that they’ve been unavailable for too long, that the location doesn’t look like the photo or the clue I’ve given or that the cache box is broken, the log book if full or the camera is all used (OK those last 3 aren’t complaints, but it’s still telling me I’ve got to go fix it!)  I’ve had complaints that the parking has gone up and is ‘too expensive to make the cache worth it’. (Whoever said that the ammo tin I placed out in these woods was going to be worth the trip?  Where did it state that?)  I’ve had emails complaining that the undergrowth had grown up too much, that people have been pricked by thorns and poked their eyes on branches and that the mosquitos in the boggy place I put the cache were just too bad.   (I’m never sure what I am supposed to do about these?  Go in with pruning shears and insecticide?  Post a warning? Or do they really want me to move the cache to someplace more exotic??) 

I’ve even had emails asking for more ‘good stuff’ in the cache as there was ‘only crap left in it’.  Well the cache had good stuff put into when it was first placed, if it only has crap in it now take it up with your fellow cachers not me as they’re the ones who traded it for all that crap!  (And sure people do leave some crap, but what amazes me is that they actually LOG that they did it! ‘Took dollar, left used bus ticket’, ‘took: bookmark and radio  left: stick of gum’.  Kids fill caches full of shells and candy and pretty flowers and leaves.  Very nice when they put it in there, but stinky a few weeks later when the sea creature and the candy and the organic matter have rotted into a foul goo at the bottom of the cache mixed with all the detritus from the wallets of caches who didn’t bring anything else to trade!) Caches after they’ve been in place a while just aren’t nice to visit anymore, especially if it’s your cache and hence your job to pry the  sticky lollipop off the log book and printing out yet another set of cache instructions because someone considered Play-Doh to be a sensible trade.

So, I’m done being a cache owner, at least for the time being. I don’t have the time right now and my patience ran out a long time ago.  For too long when I’ve marked ‘Going Geocaching on Saturday’ in my diary it has meant going out to fix/check on/replace my geocaches instead of going out to do any geocaching of my own.

So cache owners out there … you better have some ‘good stuff‘ in those caches because here I come!

Posted this over on Hacking GPS but posting it here too because comments aren't switched on on that blog, and I want to see if other cache owners feel the same! Feel free to post a comment...



Honk if Pluto is a planet (and if you HATE the Windows startup sound!)



August 25th, 2006


WindowsJust reading Adrian’s post over on Hardware 2.0 about Microsoft’s intransigence by in future not allowing us to turn off the Windows start up sound in Window Vista.  It seems it’s all about branding and we’re supposed to hear the sound – enjoy it even – whether we want to or not.  I’m definitely on the side of not, having been subjected to PCs running Window’s Vista at home and at work making that damn noise day in, day out for months.  It’s not branding, it’s noise pollution and not allowing users to switch it off is audio terrorism. 

Imagine an office full of Vista machines starting up, all making that nasty little jingle first thing, and then intermittently throughout the day as they need rebooting (let’s face it that sound is already synonymous with Windows crashing!)   Imagine being a patient in hospital in a ward where the computers at the nurses station and the doctor’s offices are all doing it.  Or what happens next time your laptop crashes when you’re using it to take notes during a meeting or in a lecture theater?    I swear murders will be committed, possibly in my house!

I’d thought up till now it was a bug with Windows Vista and that one morning, possible soon, after downloading and installing the latest and greatest build, I wouldn’t start the day by being jarred from my slumber by that hateful noise.

PlutoI guess you can tell I’m pretty steamed about this!  Likewise a lot of people are surprisingly steamed about the loss of Pluto as a planet and are creating their own noise pollution, accordingly.   Listening to some of them (and even some of the sensible folks) you’d think that the dear icy rock that we love so much had drifted from of its distantly erratic orbit out into the Kuiper Belt never to be seen again, rather than merely being downgraded from full planet to the lesser designation of dwarf planet.  It all makes for some pretty funny reading.  Lots of folks seem to have some pretty mixed up ideas about how long we’ve had a planet Pluto anyway, but they sure seem to identify with it.  Perhaps it’s a sign of how folks are feeling these days and maybe we’re all a little afraid that we might just lose planet status in our own lives some day soon…

If we could rule the world by consensus, sentiment and sheer vehemence, Pluto would be upgraded right to gas giant!  So, I too think Pluto at least deserves to stay a planet, out of respect to the gentleman who discovered it, Clyde Tombaugh, not all that long ago in 1930.  And since the textbooks will all have to be rewritten either way now, perhaps we should instead have some new planets added.  At least that would all give us some new information to learn, rather than having to unlearn something.

So yes,  if we can rule the world by consensus, rather than by shadowy meetings of Astronomers in Prague (or developers in Redmond!)  I will honk for Pluto being a planet …  just as long as we can tack on a resolution to get rid of that damn Windows Startup sound!!!

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Love is … never having to say I trust you not to mess up my WordPress



August 6th, 2006


Oh he of little faith!

It’s nice to know he trusts my skills!



Live Messenger Yahoo Contacts Bug



July 20th, 2006


Windows Live Messenger now allows you to add your Yahoo contacts too – great news!  

One bug I’ve found with it is if your Yahoo contact is in the UK, then Live Messenger seems to think they have a .com email address rather than .co.uk address, and although you can chat with your Yahoo contact just fine, if you send email to them at that address it gets bounced.

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Blackmail Pop-ups? Whatever next…



July 19th, 2006


I was on About.com earlier looking for a link for a class I’m teaching, when I got this popup:

About.com popup screenshot - click for larger image 
[click for larger image] 

What caught my eye with this one was the language … Sure it’s not the first such popup to say it’s tracked all the adult sites it says I’ve visited (which I must point out indignantly, I haven’t, but that’s not the point) this is the first one I’ve seen that seems to be quite so blatant in threatening to compromise my career and my marriage.  Should I be expecting the cyber equivalent of some 50s private eye in a trench-coat to come sidling up to me armed with a brown paper envelope and saying in a husky voice that he’s ‘got the negatives’ some time soon?? 

Hmmmm.  It’s certainly taking on a different tone … but then psychology and social engineering are the greatest tools in the hackers, spammers, and online scammers’ arsenal these days, praying on our fears, weaknesses, greed and guilty consciences too. 

Another issue I have with this type of popup appearing on a legitimate site is that it is aiming to trick you into thinking it’s a legitimate error message from Windows.  I expect you’ve seen this type of popup before, but where do you click to get rid of it?  If you’re suckered into thinking it’s a Windows message (and you don’t have a guilty conscience about having visited any adult sites lately) then cancel will probably be your first choice or the red X ‘Close’ button.  In this instance both of these take you to the software that tries to download on to your computer, as does the OK button. So once you’re in  there’s no way out.  Better double check the popup blocker’s on!

I’ve gotta say I’m really not impressed with About.com having these type of ads.  I’ve linked to them many times in the past from online classes and blogs, but I won’t be doing so in future …

Update: Adrian checked it out and he got a different popup and get this About.com actually downloaded a trojan onto his PC.  Definitely off my list of sensible trustworthy sites!



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