The Dark Doodad

Dark Doodad

It's been a while since I did a blog, so after twiddling the way the front page of the site displays, it's time to post a new one.

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The Dark Doodad

Open Source Mac 2009.08

After the relative popularity and success of the OpenSourceMac 2008.08 disc I made for Software Freedom Day last year, I now have an updated 2009.08 version.

Most applications have had bug fix releases, so I've included them. The disc includes the latest Firefox and I've added Aqua instead of NeoOffice. It also no longer includes some apps that have been re-licensed as payware.

Download it, burn it and give it to friends and family and ask them to do the same :-)

More MythTV Meddling

For a long time everyone has suffered shocking TV reception at the units where I live. Sometimes it's crystal clear, then channels randomly disappear for a week or so. We've put it down to being in a black spot, the antenna being crap, the wiring being crap, trams and various other causes (maybe the piano interferes...!?)

Cook, you're it! - New blog meme

Josh Hesketh (you may know him from such conferences as lca2009) suggested I start a blog meme based on food. The idea is that I post a recipe. The first person to try it and take a photo of the result can then post a recipe of their own, which can be cooked by others, a photo taken, and so on.

The reason for this suggestion was  that I made a second attempt at cooking an interpretation of a dish I saw on an episode of River Cottage years ago. The original is a moroccan inspired pigeon pie, which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall cooks after taking out some of his new landlords pigeons with a rifle.

My (rather loose) interpretation of this dish takes the form of large sausage rolls - or sausage logs if you will - and involves no firearms. So, here is the first post in the geek food blog meme :-)

playing with nginx

Virtually all of my Drupals are hosted on a single server, running Apache with mod_php5. Apache is by no means light-weight, so the server is starting to creak a bit under the combined load of all these sites.

I've been meaning to have a go at configuring nginx with php5 in fastcgi mode, to check the difference this would make on system load.

Simple Drupal Document Management System

Many moons ago I needed a way of storing documents online, so they could be shared between users and easily accessed from many locations.  Thus, Simple Document Management System was born. SDMS is a PHP based front-end to a MySQL database that allows users to upload and download files into and from virtual directories using only a web browser.

Generic Document IconsIt was my second ever PHP project and I wrote it in (bad) php3, with only some informal C coding as experience. Needless to say the code was not great, it used globals and had SQL injection problems. Though I did fix these two particular issues, the code is still old and tired and I've not really maintained it for years.  Bringing it up to date would probably involve more effort than just scrapping it and rewriting it from scratch.

I've been doing a lot of work with Drupal over the past year and I had been vaguely considering reimplementing SDMS as a Drupal module, thus removing the need for me to also maintain code to handle users, passwords, commenting and permissions.

As I got more familiar with some 3rd party Drupal modules, it struck me that it should be completely possible to implement a document management system similar to SDMS in Drupal. Without doing any coding whatsoever. Thus, SDDMS was born.

False assumptions with MySQL

I spent far too much time this past week trying to find out why a Drupal was not  assigning authenticated user permissions to users who clicked on the validation link they were emailed. Instead, it would simply remove the temporary unverified user permission.

It's supposed to do the latter, but then also follow it up with the former. It turns out the problem was a Drupal bug that was triggered by my MySQL setup.

BackUPS with Nagios

In order to rule out a crap power infrastructure as the cause for some naughty server behaviour on a client site, it was suggested I should stick a UPS on said server, to make sure that at least the input power would be clean.

In a confusion of Andys I found a recommendation for the APC BackUPS CS 500, so that is what I got and installed.

With apcupsd installed on Debian Etch, the UPS is immediately detected and it "just works".

Drupal and transient MySQL errors

A while ago Arjen Lentz blogged about transient MySQL errors that can occur when using a transactional storage engine, like say InnoDB.

Error: No error occurred.Since I'm a fan of the reliability and automated recovery that InnoDB provides, I use it for all the Drupals that I host.  However, on a very busy site, this may lead to deadlocks. These in turn lead to users seeing errors, which is something I'd like to avoid. Especially if the error could be prevented.