Recently in website Category

Zippy New dual-Westmere VPS for Xmas

» Notice anything different? I bet the site is loading snappily for you. More responsively. Zippier. That's cuz we're sitting on a new server. Our VPS has been transferred to a new (and improved) "parent node". Nice way to start the new year. Merry Christmas to us.

Ferrari horse logo - rear grilleRadified is still hosting with the same provider » WiredTree .. since Feb. 2008. (Four years ago, our old server was new.)

A month ago, WiredTree upgraded their servers to the latest version of Virtuozzo, the virtualization software made by a company named Parallels (.. as in » parallel universe).

Virtuozzo makes it appear (virtually speaking) as tho Radified is/were sitting on its own private "dedicated" server [ "Mine! All mine!" ] ..

.. with all the freedom-of-configuration and power that is associated with low-level control (.. the kind that is normally hidden from users of Shared web hosting).

In other words, a VPS provides you with the advantages of a Dedicated server [ "Mine! All mine!" ] without the cost (« ~$150-to-300/month).

More complicated, sure, but after you ascend the learning curve, you wonder how you ever lived without it.

Virtualization is a very cool technology. It represents the 'V' in VPS. And it's what provides the VPS with its 'Privacy' (.. or, at least, makes it appear Private).

Note - tho totally unrelated, you may find it intersting (as do I) that the FILE SIZE of the black-n-crome stallion just above is much larger (35-KB) than all other graphics used on this page. These cars are so beautiful it seems a crime to heavily encode the photos. Arent they gorgeous?

Notice all the small HOLES in the photo above. That is what makes it so difficult to encode as a jpeg. I cropped this from a photo somebody took of the rear-grille of a Ferrari parked on the street. This way I didnt have to scale. Max quality.

The huge size is why I dont use this image on the home page, which I constantly struggle to keep light.

» Frustration after Virtuozzo Upgrade Problems

Anyway, something went awry with the Virtuozzo upgrade and it seems like we had one problem after another .. interspersed with dreadful periods of laggy performance. Perhaps the upgrade itself was problematic.

Realize that I am sensitive to site latency, so I tend to exaggerate any problem.

Not surprising tho. To have problems upgrading something as complex as Virtuozzo. I'm sure it's much easier to load onto a clean, virgin server.

'57 Ferrari 250 Testa Rosa BlackBut once you start loading accounts (containers). An upgrade, especially a major one, seems .. fraught. I applaud them for trying, and having the confidence to pull it off.

I like the techs at WiredTree (some more than others) and have much respect for their skills. Some of them are laser-impressive.

Most of all I like how they dont feed you crap about problems. I never feel like they're trying to blow sunshine up my butt .. like all my other hosting providers used to do.

But after a month, I started to get frustrated. When you pay $10 a month for hosting, you dont expect much. But when you pay $50 .. well, you expect more.

So I finally said, "This has been going on a while. If you cant fix the problem, maybe you should move me to another server."

» Moving Suks (Generally Speaking)

Which they did. "Would now be a good time?"

Black Ferrari F30 on roadAs everybody knows » moving suks.

And moving your site is never a pleasant experience. I put it right up there with a root canal.

There are always problems and unexpected glitches to work thru. Always staying up late. Long past tired.

But when THEY do it for you .. well, that's much nicer .. cuz they have the servers right there (downtown Chicago), and they have access to the server mojo .. cuz they know the mojo.

Sure, we still had some problems (like always), but nothing major. Mostly problems with upgrading cPanel/WHM, but I dont spend much time there.

[ They currently have a ticket open with the cPanel-folks .. to see why the upgrade wont take (even when "forced").

Cpanel update failure during updatenow file sync

cPanel/WHM is a server-configuration utility/program that makes it easy for you to host other web sites yourself (via Web Host Mgr) and administrate the server (via cPanel) without knowing the Shell (« powerful but dangerous low-level text-only command-line interface).

But I only have Radified on this account, so WHM is not a big deal to me. And the server is already configured just how I want.

The single installed version of cPanel/WHM is shared by all Containers on the node. Same goes for Virtuozzo and the Operating system (RedHat-ish CentOS). Unlike Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, etc, you cannot control the version of cPanel. I just learned that today.

The reason is because » "They require different versions of certain system libraries, which would cause all sorts of conflicts."

Update 15.Jan - they have cPanel techs working on it now. Copying me on the exchange between/with WiredTree techs (.. cuz it's my ticket). Very cool. Interesting to see how they approach the problem. ]

So! We are now sitting on a new dual-Westmere Xeon beast. Each Westmere comes with 4 processors. Dual Westmere's = 8 CPU's per server. (I am drooling all over my keyboard.)

» Biggest problem I had with moving to the new place came when it was time to send mail. I normally send mail thru Radified's own SMTP mail server (Linux-based .. physically located downtown Chicago).

Can't send email outgoing SMTP port 25But most ISPs want you to use *their* SMTP server .. so they block port 25 (.. the default outgoing mail port). It's an anti-spam thing.

Normally I call my ISP and have them unblock port 25. But this is a DSL line with dynamic IP's, which they unblock on an IP basis.

They told me I'd have to upgrade to a "Business account" if I wanted to "unblock port 25 for unrestricted access." (Uh, can you say, 'reading from a script?)

I can tell when they assign us a new IP, cuz I have to "update session" .. by providing my password at the Rad forums. That's a security feature. Change your IP and you're no longer trustworthy.

Far as I can tell, we get a new IP on a daily basis. Which involves losing our connection for a minute or two.

The Rad VPS has a static IP. Some providers make you pay extra for dedicated IPs. My account comes with 3 extra IPs that I've never used.

After beating my head against a wall for a couple of days .. listening to their litany of pre-recorded menu's (.. I hate those things) .. and going thru a few levels of their tech support .. I finally got hold of a supervisor .. who actually knew something. (Hallelujah, brother!)

Once I learned they *cant* (not wont) unblock port 25, I started plan-B .. which is obviously where I shoulda started.

Enable Port 26 for Alternate SMTP in WebHost ManagerEnabling Port 26 for SMTP in WebHost Mgr

The answer was to go into my site's WebHost Mgr (.. made by cPanel, which is based in Houston) » Main » Service Configuration (.. not to be confused with "Server Configuration").

There I found an icon for "Service Manager" .. and THAT's where I found an option to enable Port-26 (.. or whatever port you might prefer).

But ISPs dont normally block port 26, so that's why it's the default alternate SMTP outgoing mail port.

Did I just say, 'default alternate'?

Notice where it says:

Allow exim to listen on port 26. Useful for providers that block port 25.

» Soon as I converted/upgraded the home page to HTML5, I started getting mail saying things like » "Rad, your new home page looks like krap on my iPhone." [ Doncha love the way my readers feel no need to sugarcoat. =) ]

iPhoneThere've been other glitches I've been trying to resolve, and the iPhone issue wasnt a major problem, since visitors could always use the weblog (where you're reading now) which is based on Movable Type ..

.. which views fine in any phone. But I finally got around to troubleshooting the "looks-like-krap" issue.

Seems the entire center column would instantly plunge all-the-way-down to below the end of the blue-green sidebars .. when the page-width was narrowed sufficiently (.. to ~800 pixels, which is not very narrow).

It didnt do that before .. back when I was using the XHTML 1.0 Strict <!doctype>. CSS, which controls the styling, shouldnt be affected by the HTML5 <!doctype>. So, what gives?

You might recall how there used to be a Google AdSense text-links bar at the very top of the center column (black) .. right below the blue-green horizontal navigation bar (i.e. » Forum, Weblog, Guides, etc), which itself wraps just fine. The text-link bar looked like » this.

I could see the problem occurred soon as the width of the center column became narrower than the width of that ad bar (468-pixels).

I'm not sure why it now behaves like that, but I couldnt fix the problem with CSS mojo, so I just removed the sucker.

» Notice anything different about the Rad home page? (Hopefully not much.) For a cool surprise, scroll down to the bottom (of the home page) and click the link labeled » Validate.

HTML5 logoThat's right, dawg! » 100% valid HTML5! .. employing a handful of new, semantically-rich HTML5 elements ..

.. such as » <header>, <footer>, <article>, <section>, <nav>, <aside>, <hgroup> & <time> (.. including the datetime & pubdate attributes) ..

.. most of which are designed to replace the semantically-vague » div tag .. used so prevalently in HTML4 & especially in XHTML layouts.

[ The HTML5 spec contains 28 new semantic elements. ]

I'm not talking about a div-laden page which merely contains an HTML5 <!doctype>. No, sir. We're talking about honest-to-God HTML5 mark-up. I also implmented significant WAI-ARIA features (via the role attribute) which are invalid in HTML 4.

[ The term semantics simply means that the new elements used to mark-up the web page have more MEANING. In other words, they're more descriptive, and browsers will therefore be able do more things with them (.. when they become HTML5-aware in the coming months). ]

Call me Mr. Early-Adopter. More to come on how I accomplished this (.. much hair-pulling, my first jQuery script, headaches, burning eyeballs, etc.). But right now I need to re-screw my head on straight. (Might take me a while.)

There are still a few minor glitches I need to iron out, but nothing I'd consider a deal-breaker.

[ Special thanks to the Excavator (Alaska) for helping with the jQuery script. (Yeah, that's something I need to learn.) ]

Modifying the mark-up itself was actually the easy part (.. after reading the excellent book by Remy & Bruce). Fun stuff. On the other hand .. converting my previous CSS-styles to target the new HTML5 elements .. that turned out to be the tricky part.

With CSS, if you omit even a single comma, your whole page-style falls apart in grand fashion. And it can be difficult to find something like a missing comma.

Valid HTML5 Mark-up» Headaches of Being an HTML5 Early-Adopter

But my BIGGEST headache (by far, surprisingly enough) .. was getting the dang column lengths equal. What a pain that was!

I searched long-n-hard for answers .. googling queries such as » html5 equal height columns script.

Was surprised to find nothing helpful. If you really wanna torque your brain nicely, take a gander at THIS page (.. titled » Equal Height Columns with Cross Browser CSS). I mean, you start to get the feeling » Just shoot me now. (And note that I understand CSS pretty well.)

Regulars may recall that getting equal column heights/lengths was the first problem I ran into .. way back (in 2007) when I was trying to convert the home page from a table-based layout to pure CSS.

Seems it's STILL a royal pain .. cuz my old matching_columns script wouldnt work in HTML5 (.. despite tweaking the 'div' to 'section' .. and pleading desperately).

The Story Behind HTML 5

The Opera web browser is made in Norway (.. with headquarters in Oslo, the nation's capital). Before reading today's entry you should download & install a copy (currently at v11.x) .. as a way of thanking them. For what? Keep reading.

HTML5 logoHTML 5 is coming. Sooner than many had expected. That's good news. (The Standards-creation process » aqui.)

The W3C, which is headed by Tim Berners-Lee -- the guy who invented the Web and was subsequently knighted -- operates on a consensus basis.

This might be why changes to Web standards (called Recommendations) such as HTML & CSS are made at such a frustratingly glacial pace.

Getting people from Microsoft & Apple (and others who make browsers) to agree on anything is no mean feat.

In '98, the W3C decreed that HTML was done (toast) and that XML represented the way forward.

The current spec/standard (that I use) is called » XHTML 1.0, which is simply an XML version of HTML. It uses HTML elements wrapped in (stricter) XML syntax. This is the standard used by most web pages being written today.

» <!doctype html>

HTML5 was not always called HTML5. Rather it started out as something called » Web Applications 1.0, which began in 2004 when folks from Mozilla & Apple joined forces with a group from Opera, who was not convinced that XML represented the best way for the Web to proceed.

They called themselves the » WHATWG .. the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group. (You must admit, WHATWG is a funny name .. especially for a group of über-geeks.)

» The Philosophical Battle Line » Backwards-Compatibility

Battle lineBut let's back up a bit. What's known today as HTML5 actually began as a philosophical battle. (Everybody loves a good philosophical battle, and a good story.)

The battle was over » backwards-compatibility. Sorta. It was definitely a prime consideraton in the battle that ensued.

The problem was » XHTML 2.0. It was a revolutionary design-concept .. that broke backward compatibility with HTML. Something that had never happened before. Moreover XHTML 2.0 came with draconian error-handling, which would cause browsers to stop rendering a page if errors were detected.

This draconian path of XHTML 2.0 that broke backward-compatibility with HTML, and where errors would not be tolerated, was the course the W3C had chosen for the Web's future.

In 2004, the W3C's futuristic purity-of-design philosophy (embodied by XML-based » XHTML 2.0) was challenged by a small group from Opera, who claimed that a pragmatic approach (that didnt break backward compatibility) would be a better solution. A better idea.

Opera's Web Forms 2.0 vs W3C» Pragmatism vs Purity of Design

Pragmatism vs purity of design .. that's a good match up for any geek. Normally (without knowing the details) I would side with P-o-D.

But, we're talking about the Web .. which we want to be EASY for people to use.

I mean, ease-of-use is one of the main things that makes the Web so cool. Right? Anybody and their grandma can use it.

But I can feel it becoming more difficult. Of course, the more power you bring to any software or technology .. the greater the learning curve to wield that power.

Before I learned CSS, webmaster-life was tough sledding. Before I learned my way around the Linux shell, web admin-life was also tough. When you learn how to use it (.. becoming a student) .. technology can be pretty cool.

Anyway, the gang at Opera developed a proof-of-concept spec called » Web Forms 2.0 - that extended the functionality of HTML forms withOUT breaking backward-compatibilty. "See!" they exclaimed. "It can be done. In your face, Timmy-boy. I mean, Sir Tim."

Nevertheless, the W3C rejected their proposal, claiming it conflicted with the course they had already laid out and had already committed to.

When it comes time to build your dream home (.. up in Malibu, perhaps) you'll sit down with an architect, who will use your ideas to generate a set of blueprints. Builders will then use these blueprints as a guide to assemble your home. Cool.

Here in the Information age, the term » information architecture (IA) is the name given to this "blueprinting" (if you will) that we use as a 'schematic' ..

.. to build things where information is the thing being structured. And we build these informational structures in such a way as to make their access easy as possible (.. more logical & intuitive).

Instead of specifying the precise relationships between things such as brick, wood & wiring, IA specifies the hierarchical relationships of .. you guessed it! » chunks of information. (Think » library)

Patton'Hierarchical,' ooh. Big word. Let's take a quick look at what it means.

Simply » an ordered grouping of things. In other words » a group of things put in order.

For example, the labels » General, Colonel & Major are each part of a hierarchical grouping .. of military officers.

I'm no military buff, but these guys are definitely part of a well-ordered group (called the Army, which is itself part of an even bigger group-ing) that have a well-defined relationship with one another.

Likewise, a website contains INFORMATION that should be similarly well-structured and well-ordered .. in the relationships its various sections have with one another.

Information Architecture isnt nearly as complex as this mouthful-of-a-term might imply. In fact, it's actually rather commonsensical. Logical. Pleasing, in a left-brain sort of way. Its goal is to bring order to informaton that might otherwise appear chaotic.

The problem is .. that » most websites (ahem) relegate IA to an afterthought.

I know this was true for me. Sure, I can provide good excuses for this. But the bottom line » no IA leads to » poor site organization, which in turn leads to » poor navigation.

I mean, my navigation is (literally) all over the place. (Look around the home page.) If I could start over, I'd do a better job. And I may do another redesign in the future (.. perhaps based on a 960-grid using Sass & Compass, which would be cool).

Website Theme & Visual Metaphor

Radified is different from most other websites .. in that I didnt know where we were headed back when I launched it. Heck, it took a while just to figure out how to post a second page, and how to link to that page from the first. (No longer seem to have that problem.)

Cherenkov Radiation Spent Fuel PoolThis is because Radified began as a learning experience .. to learn-by-doing. (Which is the best way to learn.) So learning new, cool geeky things has been a main THEME here.

Choosing a domain name, signing up for a web hosting server, and finding a good FTP client .. that all seems so elementary now. But back then (in the summer of Y2K) it was exciting new territory that required lots of research.

So you could say Radified has taken a more organic path than that of most traditional web sites, which typically know where they want to go (conceptually) .. before the first bit of HTML is ever coded. This organic path-of-development applies also to » styling.

In reading about Web Design, one of the first concepts they hammer into your head is that of » identifying the THEME of your site. Once identified, you set out to develop a VISUAL METAPHOR to help support and promote that theme.

For example, a web site for a coffee shop (whose THEME is obviously » coffee) might use colors like mocha, the color of a cup of coffee, or cream, or even an image of some coffee beans .. as part of their VISUAL METAPHOR.

[ Where websites are concerned, THEME is closely related to » PURPOSE. Purpose determines content, and content determines THEME. ]

You can take the concept of VISUAL METAPHOR far as you like, going totally ape, or you can keep it subtle. I've always preferred subtle, understated styles. But that's just personal preference.

Even tho I've never studied the principles of VISUAL METAPHOR, or even heard of the term before reading this book, you can still see hints of it in my design on the home page (.. with its stated THEME of » Nuclear Grade Technolust).

For example, beginning each entry you'll find a yellow tri-blade radiation symbol .. making it easier to identify where each entry begins (notice how design is subordinate to » function) .. especially since it's the only thing yellow on the page, and yellow stands out so eye-catchingly on a black background.

[ Using a car-metaphor, I prefer the function-follows-style philosophy of Porsche to the style-leading flair of the Corvette. Again, this is merely personal preference. ]

Cherenkov Radiation from Nuclear Spent Fuel» Cherenkov Radiation & the Blue-Green Sidebars

The color of the sidebars on the home page was inspired by Cherenkov radiation. You can actually SEE this radiation .. coming off the (super highly radioactive) spent fuel cells that are stored in water-filled pits (made of stainless steel, some 50-feet deep) at most commercial nuclear power plants ..

[ .. at least, until the government comes up with a plan to dispose of them. But nobody wants highly radioactive material buried in their back yard .. that will remain highly radioactive for thousands of years. Who knows what life and the climate will be like a thousand years from now? ]

This visible light (known as the Cherenkov effect) comes from charged particles (beta particles, better known as electrons) accelerating faster than the speed-of-light in water (.. where these fuel cells are stored). Light travels slower in water than it does in outer space, which is mostly a vacuum.

TED | Ideas Worth Spreading

 Here's a site worth bookmarking », Ideas worth spreading. TED stands for » Technology, Entertainment, Design. Topics covered however, are not limited to those 3 subjects. Learn more » here.

The site contains over 700 high-quality videos .. in the form of lectures .. on a variety of topics, such as this one, given by Sir Ken Robinson, who says "Schools kill creativity." Similar topic posted here.

This one on world poverty, for example, is a real eye-opener. His animated graphing charts are remarkable.

Interesting how he considers 'culture' the single most important goal for development (getting out of poverty .. at t=16:40) because it brings joy to life .. and represents the value of living.

I started with the TED-page labeled » 'Most favorited of all time.' (Link located in menu.)

Many of the TED lectures I found intellctually stimulating. Love ideas that make me THINK & challenge my preconceived notions .. such as this one on the 'paradox of choice.' The secret-to-happiness is revealed at t=15:00. He drops a bomb at t=18:00 to t=18:30.

The only presentation I found disappointing was the one given by Malcolm Gladwell. Maybe my expectations were too high. Only video I watched twice was the one by Vicktor Frankl (only 4 mins). Richard Sears delivered the most timely lecture (.. if you can call it "a lecture"). This one on motivation was particularly interesting. Downright fascinating. (Funny, too.)

Techies should not miss this one on UI. Makes me wanna watch Minority Report again. Here's another about Pakistani kids who become suicide bombers for the Taliban. Need a strong stomach to watch that one.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

I had problems installing MODx Revolution (« a cool, new PHP-based Content Management System). I tracked the source of these problems to 'permission' settings applied to certain files & folders within the /modx installation directory.

suPHPEvery file and folder on a Linux server has an assigned permission setting. These settings control WHO can do WHAT (.. to/with a particular file or folder). The 'WHAT' aspect addressees the authorization to:

  • read (4)
  • write (2)
  • execute (1)

.. or some combination thereof. For example » 6=4+2 = read + white, while 5=4+1 = read + execute, and 4 = read-only. The 'WHO' part is divided into the following categories:

  • OWNER .. of the file/directory (me) Represented by the number listed FIRST.
  • GROUP-member .. assigned permission to access the file/directory (set by me)
  • THE WORLD (.. represented by number listed LAST)

The most-permissive of these settings is » 777 (4+2+1) which lets any-BODY do any-THING (.. known as 'world-writable'). In other words, it would let anybody (including a hacker) » read, write & execute my file(s). This is why most admins cringe at the idea of setting a permission to 777.

The first 7 is cool, cuz that lets ME (the file's 'owner') do whatever I want. The second 7 is also cool, cuz it lets the members of a GROUP (that I select) do certain things (such as read, write & execute files). It's that last 7 where the trouble lies. It lets anybody else do whatever they like. Not good for security.

MODx 2.0 RevolutionWhile installing MODx, I discovered (thru trial-n-tribulation) that I needed to set certain directories (deemed 'writable') to 777 .. in order for the program to install. And I wasn't the only one experiencing this problem.

For me, sadly, this was a deal-breaker. I was excited about the new MODx Revolution (currently at beta5). It has some really cool features. But I was unwilling to operate with any files or folders set (permanently) to 777.

Before abandoning my quest however, (to explore MODx Revolution), I decided to see if I could find a solution.

While searching, I noticed some files & folders within the /modx directory that had an 'owner' listed as » 'nobody' .. something I'd never seen before. [ The 'owner' of all other files on my server is normally listed as 'rad.' ]

This mysterious Mr. 'nobody' (I learned) is the default Apache user. (Tho I hear it can sometimes be listed as 'apache'.)

In a practical sense, when your system is configured to run PHP as an Apache user (which is common .. also called the 'web server user') .. any files or folders CREATED by the PHP program/script will be assigned an owner of 'nobody'.

First Post with Movable Type 5.0

| 1 Comment

Movable Type 5.0 was released yesterday (on the 5th). I installed it today. See here » Ye Olde Rad Blog 4.

Movable TypeI decided against upgrading MT v4.33, which is currently installed at this subdomain » It contains ~200 entries, such as the one you're reading now.

Rather I installed a clean/fresh version of MT5 .. with a brand-spankin' new database (UTF-8, of course). Didn't want to chance losing those 200 entries.

Beautiful piece of software. I've been using Movable Type since 2003, when I installed v2.63 .. to the subdomain » (« which contains 343 entries).

I also have v3.35 installed » HERE (103 entries). You can see I have ~7 years of experience with this software. So I've seen how it has progressed. Impressive development.

Notice I was 'blogging' for 3 years before I knew there existed a word for it. This is why I named it » 'Ye Olde Rad Blog.' I liked the play between old(e) & new terms.

People would write and ask, "What blog are you using?" I didn't know what they meant. They used the term 'blog' as a noun, but references I saw used it as a verb. So their questions confused me.

"Blog? I use Dreamweaver." [ They really meant to say 'blogging software.' But I didn't know such a thing existed. ]

Movable Type merely helps automate the process I was using. These days they're calling it a full-blown CMS (Content Management System) .. rather than just a blog. Whatever. "Ye Olde Rad CMS"? I don't think so.

You know what Joel says » "Good software takes 10 years. Get used to it." MT was first released back in 2001. So it's nearly 10 years old. Very polished, feature-rich and rock-solid stable. Even for a whole-number, point-oh release.

But I don't use Movable Type to create content. I find its web-based interface too clunky. Rather I use Dreamweaver to generate everything. It's way faster. The same entry in MT's text editor would take twice as long. (Maybe more.)

When generating content, you want it to flow out of you .. like a river of ideas & insights. There are delays associated with any web-based interface. When generating content, those delays stifle creativity.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the website category.

web design is the previous category.

biopsies and cancer is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.