Reverse Progress

Posted by Derek
Oct 20 2006

Long entry incoming. Flee now, before it’s too late.

So. Software updates.

Bad stuff.

Of course, I should know this by now. Any time I try to update a piece of software on this poor little debian installation, it blows up in my face. I thought that the whole reason for debian’s packaging system was to prevent this sort of thing. First discovered problem: the apache webserver. Somehow, the upgrade script determined the stock configuration was the ideal upgrade to my haunted house of config files. It proceeded to wipe out my customizations to the apache.conf file, in addition to disabling all the virtual-host sites and every apache module I’d loaded.

Did I have a backup? Of course not. That’d be silly.

Obviously, as you are seeing this text, this problem has been rectified. Remembering the combination of modules to install was a trick. Did you know that the ScriptAlias directive doesn’t do a damn thing if you don’t also enable mod_cgi? Go figure.

With the Apache voodoo aside, a new problem reared its ugly head. I couldn’t connect to mysql with any script or user account. Even root, my super-secure root mysql account (no password ftw) denied me access.

Eventually, I was able to track down a method by which I could gain access to the privilege tables. It would seem that during the upgrade to mysql 5.0, the packager had determined that ‘root’ and ‘localhost’, as well as every other username and hostname in the table, posessed too few letters. It proceeded to add space paddings to the end of each occurance to rectify this oversight. ‘root’ became ‘root ’ and localhost became ‘localhost ‘. As in, it’d never match, so I’d never be able to log in. And how can I break things when I can’t access them?

Smart software, this.

In other news, the webserver has been moved to a new location to facilitate my foot’s need to connect with the side of the case. Several months back I determined a cause of my site woes to be my dsl modem. after running for several days, the device would simply stop bridging packets. A powercycle fixed the problem temporarily. In my infinite wisdom, I procured a light timer (you know, the widgets that flick your lamps on and off to give the illusion someone is at home). The dsl modem was connected and all was good.

Then, recently, we had four days where the box was inaccessable. I pawned a few organs to purchase gasoline and journed to the location of the box, some hundred miles away, only to discover the light timer (a digital one, mind you) had ceased to function. The display would no longer come on and it was stuck on the ‘on’ mode (since the modem had power). It was no longer cycling the modem, therefore, the old trouble reared up.

So. Now the server is with me on a new DSL connection, a PPPoE link that is neither static nor dynamic; my ISP dibs this wonder ‘persistent addressing.’ Yet, it performs exactly like a static IP in that I always have the same address. The downlink sucks (768kbit versus the previous 2000kbit+) but the upstream, how these electrons reach you, is decent (768kbit versus the previous 384kbit or thereabouts). Speed tests actually read my upload as higher than my download speed by about 10KB/sec.

Couple of the case fans are noisy, need replacing. This presents a problem since when I’m trying to sleep, the server is about four feet from my head.

Lake news… Oh, yes, perhaps I’ve forgotten to mention in these sporadic updates. I’m presently living in a small cabin on a nice little lake in northern North Dakota. Winter is starting to remind us that it is taking up residence. There’s ice forming nightly along the shore and occasional flakes in the air.

Two years ago, my mother lived here through the winter with basically zero heat; you couldn’t light a match in the place without it being blown out if it was windy outside. Electric heat ran her $700 for one month; all the heaters immediately went outside into the snow.

Last year, I stayed here; we used propane heat. Still the same problem, wind blows right through the place. We’d purchased a wood stove but didn’t get it installed before the snow landed. A month or so ago, we finally managed to scrape together the funds (thanks to my grandmother <3 ) to finish off the porch where the stove was to sit. There’s no sheetrock or anything up yet, but it’s a far cry from the drafty front wall that was there before. The stove is temporarily installed and is heating the place quite reasonably. Still lots to do. Pictures eventually.

We’ve gotten all our docks and lifts out of the water now. By ‘our’ I mean our customers’ units. The barge, such that it is, is still tied to our own dock, which itself is still in the water and shall remain there. It’s solid steel. It’s not going anywhere.

For those of you not privy to the wonders of winter and lakes, allow me to explain. As most children can tell you from school science lessons, ice expands when it freezes. Most docks and lifts we handle have hollow tubes in their frame. These hollow pipes become filled with water when they are placed into the lake. Winter arrives, breaks these tubes. Solution: remove the lifts/docks from the lake and put them on shore.

Aluminum docks and lifts aren’t too bad - aluminum’s fairly light and easy to move around. Steel units, while heavier by a fair margin, are also not too bad when we’ve got the barge crane hooked to their frame. Then, we come to a new class - the lovingly crafted home-made pieces of crap. Cobbled together from whatever steel their makers could find, these monstrocities are absolutely horrible to work with. Either they fall apart when we pick them up, or they’re so akward that they take multiple hours to safely move. We can normally do a commercial pontoon lift (big honkers, those) and the associated dock in a little under twenty minutes, if everyone’s got their heads on straight.

Wind’s coming up outside, fog and mist in the air… And it’s just below the freezing point. I can see ice forming on the walkway outside. Must remember not to slip and kill myself in the morning.

I’m going to make an attempt to put something here at least once a week, if not more often. Be it random garbage, what’s been going on, some of my photography, a blurb of something I’ve been trying to write (so little time as of late), or whatever. I’ve got some incredible pictures of the area. Lots of sunsets. I’ve grown accustomed to them, but I forget that not everyone gets to see a skyline not dotted with high-rise buildings and pollution.


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