The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Monday, November 22, 2004

nervous dizzy sleepless

Nervous. Dizzy. Sleepless.

Those were the words I read on the bottle of generic Tussin cough syrup. Under a heading of “Stop taking and consult a doctor if …”

Sleepless … check. I had taken a doze of cough syrup the night before, having a cough. Followed the recommended dosage, then attempted to go to sleep. Usually one is warned not to operate heavy machinery (such as a screw driver or ball-point pen) since the typical side affect is sleepiness. But try as I might, I could not get to sleep last night. My mind was racing, faster than a five year old on a sugar rush, but even less of an attention span. “Oooh! Shin—oooh! Shin—Whoah! Shi—Wow!” I could keep my eyes closed, but I wasn't sleeping.

Nervous … well, not emotionally, but physically? My legs had this nervous energy and they wouldn't stop moving. Now, it wasn't like they were uncontrollable twitchings and yes, I could keep them from moving, but they felt as if they wanted to scale Mount Everrest. And then K2 as a light dessert. They had this excess energy that I had to burn off somehow, seeing how Mounts Everrest and K2 were half a world away.

Dizziness … not sure. I didn't get out of bed (despite the protesting thrashings of my legs) since I didn't feel like getting out of bed so it's hard to say if I would have been dizzy or not. Although I might have been dizzy giving the tossing and turning I was doing for oh, five or six hours easy.

So I'm looking at the bottle this morning, going “check, not sure, check” and realizing that I may want to avoid the cough syrup in the future. But in doing some research for this entry, I come across this bit:

Limit caffeine (for example, tea, coffee, cola) and chocolate intake. Use with this medicine may cause nervousness, shakiness, rapid heartbeats, and anxiety

Well, that explains it.

Sucks that I'll have to give up on caffeine … um … wait a second …

Sucks that I'll have to live with this cough …


“Yes, you are the only one who understands this stuff … ”

“There is … broken image,” she said. Granted, English is not her first language.

“I'm not seeing any broken images,” I said. Not only did we move her site to a new server, but it has a new domain name. Lots of breakage because of this insipid control panel software we're using to administer the servers and you have to do things its way. Yes, you can kind-of work around it at the command line (as I have) but admitting that (shhh) breaks the warentee on using the control panel and of course things like database names are based off the domain name. Lot's of breakage today, but the database issue was resolved earlier, and that's not the current problem. The current problem is a still broken image. The previous broken images were due to permissions problems (which is odd, given that rsync preserves permissions, at least in my experience it has, but hey, something could have gone wrong in moving the site from the old server to the new one) but that was fixed.

“But … see there … to the right the [mumble]?”

“I don't see any missing images,” I said.

“To the left right … I mean upper right corner, the [mumble]?”

“The what?”

“Bride.”

Ah, the bride. In the upper right corner. “I'm seeing that image.”

“Yes … below that … broken image.”

Oh wait … the page is just a tad wider than my window. I scroll right, and yes indeed, there is an image. “Oh,” I said. “There it is.”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” I say, now more talking to myself, “properties … ”

“Properties?”

This is now our fifth or sixth conversation today. And it has come painfully clear to me that this person does not understand websites, which I might be able to live with.

But she's not a realtor trying to understand this web … thingy … stuff … a-ma-bob; she's a resellor of websites. Who barely understands how this stuff works.

“Oh, I'm must mumbling to myself,” I said, dreading that I might have to explain my web browser will display the properties of an image from a webpage. I continue probing. Okay, the broken image is top-new.jpg. I then start looking through the server, cursing under my breath because of cut-n-paste, which works differently between Windows and X-Windows. To make matter worse, putty, the terminal program I use under Windows, handles cut-n-paste not as Windows, but as X-Windows. Makes me wish I was hiking Mount Everest; at least then my only concern would be hypothermia.

Eventually, I'm able to track down the problem. “The webpage is referencing top dash new dot jay peg,” I said. “The file on the server is actually called top dash menu dash new dot jay peg.”

“So the file didn't copy?”

“No, it did. It's just that the name of the file doesn't match in the webpage.”

“Thought you said you copied files?”

“I did,” I said. “It's there—”

“But it's not showing up.”

Am I the only one that understands this stuff? “It's a typo—”

“So I'll have my people look into it,” she says.

“Okay,” I said, not convinced she even knows what I said.

I'm dreading the next phone call …


Control panels

I am not a fan of control panels.

Oh, I can understand why C is using them; there's no mucking around with configuration files, and it's easier to train someone to use administrate a system using this click-n-drool interface than it is to use the command line (“What's that?”). But—and it may be the control panel software we're using—it's restrictive. Way restrictive.

How restrictive?

Here's the configuration of one of our webservers, as given by the control panel:

ServerName server.example.net
Port 80
SSL Port 443
ServerAdmin root@server.example.net
StartServers 8
MaxClients 150
HostnameLookups on

That's it.

Simple, huh?

You might not realize we're using Apache 2.0 given the simplicity of the configuration file. Oh, and if you want to edit the configuration? Those fields above? They're the only ones you can change through the control panel.

And what does the website administrator see as the configuration?

ServerName www.example.com
ServerAdmin admin@example.com
DocumentRoot /website/html

Good thing Apache supports user level configuration files.

Granted, most sites won't have a configuration beyond this basic setup. But heaven help you if you want something a bit more complex. Or (for whatever reason) don't (or can't) do what you want through the user level configuration files.

And that's just the configuration of the webserver using the control panel.

For instance, a simple operation of renaming a domain. Under the command line, you may need to rename a directory (for instance, this site is stored under a directory called boston.conman.org, change a few lines in the Apache configuration file and update DNS. Under this control panel we have? Looks like you have to create a whole new account, then have the user (who will have a new userid because … well … that's the way it's done) upload the site (and unless he has a copy of it himself, he'll have to download a copy from the old site). Then, once everything is changed over (oh, he has a database too—he'll need to recreate that as well) then we can go in a remove the old site.

Yup, that's certainly better.

Or you could muck around the server on the command line and copy the files that way, but I've been there, done that, still having support issues because of the way the control panel works (and my trying not to break things too badly by using the command line).

Okay, I'll stop griping now.

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