Was it something we said?

Our ranting has become notably less authoritative recently. (Odd, as I feel at least as authoritative as I have ever been. i.e. not at all.) And consistently less visible.

Maybe somebody has an explanation. The whole blogternet can’t have (slightly) broken, can it?

  • A week or so ago, I tried to post a comment on a student post on Pharyngula – to be told repeatedly, in the face of the evidence – that I needed to have a name and an email address. Checked. Yes they were definitely there. I copied and pasted. I rewrote them several times.

    The helpful message (I paraphrase here, and use leaden sarcasm while I’m doing it) said I was probably being blocked as spam, but that I could try enabling javascript or cookies or allowing/ deleting the science-blog cookies. Tried them all. My comment stayed unposted. It wasn’t a great loss to twenty-first century thought, to be honest. Still…

  • This blog has been leaking Technorati “authority” like an authority-leaking sieve. Over the past month, we’ve been dropping a few links a day, according to Technorati.

    One day, it was something like 40 down today from the previous day. I’m pretty certain I would have noticed three months ago, if the blog had suddenly accumulated 40 links in one day, . So how could we lose them all in one day?

    Oddly, firestats and feedburner show that blog hits are much higher than they were when we had twice the “authority”, three months ago.

  • We’ve been intermittently vanishing from the Atheist blogroll over the past few weeks. This now seems to have become a permanent affliction. I hovered over the blog’s name on an Atheist blogroll site that has a static list. It said the the last post was on Friday at 12:38. Well, no. There have been a good few posts since then.
  • When the blog has appeared on the blog roll, over the past few weeks, it has taken at least an hour to appear. If the posts are queued somewhere for an hour, where is that please? Because it doesn’t seem apply to other posts that just appear after they are posted.

    When we’ve looked at the time stamps of blogs that appear long before ours, we find they’ve been written later. And magically appeared without falling into some warp dimension on the way. Maybe it’s crossing the Atlantic then? No, that doesn’t work either. There are UK-based blogs that pop up seemingly almost as soon as they are posted.

    We were even testing an ongoing hypothesis that the blogroll would only display this blog name when there were another more recent three blogs to put ahead of it. We never managed to falsify this.

    However, being ungrateful at being consistently fourth started to seem a bit churlish when we vanished completely.

  • TW has tried pinging the blogroll, in various ways, without any effect. Pinging Technorati seems to have an effect, in that Technorati will usually list a post within a few minutes of a ping. Or even respond to the auto-ping function and find the blog posts, all by itself.

As a side-effect, an increasing proportion of visitors are coming directly from search engines. There is a fair amount of entertainment value in working out how some of these searches would have led to here, unless every other blog in the known world had already been taken straight to heaven in the Rapture.

Anyone with any ideas about what’s going on?

Firefox Memory Hog

Now, for almost as long as I can remember (yes, I have a short memory), I have been a big fan of Firefox. I work on web applications so I have quite a few browsers installed, but generally I stick to Firefox for most browsing, with IE as a “backup” for those odd little sites which are cabbaged in other browsers. Opera is installed, but it doesn’t get used as often as the “big two” and the Seamonkey / Mozila etc browsers are hardly touched (anyone use Amaya for browsing?).

Recently, Firefox informed me that it had been updated and needed a restart. I dutifully complied and everything seemed to run fine.

As the hours and days passed, I noticed that my system was becoming slower and slower – web pages were taking an eternity to open and when I was running Photoshop or other system intensive applications everything really was starting to slow down. For reference, my system is an Athlon 64 x2 3800+ (Dual processor) with 1gb of ram. You would hope, that it would be fast at web browsing and basic office applications. It was, until recently…

Some initial research revealed that crap-shop-crap-ISP Pipex was providing me with a fraction of the broadband service they claimed, which explains the slow web pages (somewhat), but the problem remains in locally hosted pages. Despite my disgust with Pipex, they can’t really be blamed for everything else slowing down either.

Eventually, I cracked and bothered myself to look into this. Opening task manager reveals a possible cause of the problems. Firefox is a massive memory hog. I mean massive.

An example I had Firefox open with nothing other than this blog displayed. IE was running with this blog, Flickr, eBay and gmail tabs open.

Firefox was using 164mb of RAM vs IE which was using 98mb. IE had more tabs open and the tabs had more data-heavy pages.

What on Earth has the world come to. I tried opera with the blog page and flickr open and it hardly registered a byte. Blimey.

It seems that firefox, at least with this current “Upgrade” has become a worse memory hog than IE. Opera is like lightning in comparison to Firefox, but it always has been – seeing IE more responsive and less memory intensive is pretty shocking. I am going to look into this a bit more, but I would be interesting in hearing any other experiences on this subject.

[tags]Firefox, Mozilla,Internet Explorer, Opera, IE, Technology, Web Browsers, RAM, Memory, System Resources, Computers, Computing, Software, Problems, IT, Upgrade, Pipex, ISP, Amaya, Internet[/tags]

CAPTCHA – Work of the Devil

Every one knows that allowing bots to post things on people’s behalf is a bad thing. I mean it contributes to spam comments on blogs – which no one likes. Obviously anything which works against this evil is a GoodThing®?

Well, no. I don’t agree. First off, there are better ways to prevent things like automated signups, automated submissions and spam bots. More importantly, they are such an annoying thing I can’t for one second think they do not drive visitors/subscribers and commenters away. Now, I would love to see the business model of a website (especially a “Web 2.0” one) which is happy to drive a percentage (however small) of it’s customers away.

Now, I am healthy, have good eyesight and fully functional manual control – and I have a hard enough time getting round some of the CAPTCHAs out there. I dread to think what it is like for people who have even slight visual impairments or motor co-ordination issues. Over the last few weeks, I have suffered numerous, infuriating, problems with CAPTCHAs on sites which really should know better. Continue reading

Planet Atheism

Over on the Planet Atheism Blog, Dehumanizer has written a post letting people know the “State of Planet Atheism” and it certainly makes interesting reading. If you haven’t already visited the Planet Atheism site, you really should check it out. Basically it aggregates feeds from atheist-related blogs and combines them into a single, easy to read, source.

According to this post, PA is only 4 months old and it is already getting over 200 hits a day, with another 100 feed hits. This is very good going and shows it is not just a niche blog. If you are already a reader, why not spread the word? Add a few links to PA on your own blog.

If you have your own blog, and you think it would be good to have your posts collected on PA, have a look at the Way of the Mind pages for details on how to join. It really is easy. If you have an atheist blog you really should get on Planet Atheism and the Atheist Blogroll. You wont regret doing either 🙂 . Apart from anything else, these two sites (services?) go a long way towards creating an international “Atheist Community” which certainly is a good thing.

Speaking on behalf of this blog, I would like to say a big thanks to PA, it certainly drives a lot of traffic this way (at the moment around 50 hits a day come from PA which is good going) and it provides an excellent resource. It is free so anything people can do to help keep it this way would be great.

[tags]Planet Atheism, Blog, Software, Aggregator, blog-aggregator, atheism, atheist, atheist-blogroll, society[/tags]

DIY & Linux

Painting my hallway – to match the rest of the EC gift house upgrade – I was thinking about a comment, by someone called Tel, on a post here. He basically said, in response to a plaintive whine that Linux should have simpler forms if it is ever to become really popular with non-techies “Hint. Pay someone to do it.”

I would rather mess about with Linux for weeks than paint my house. All the same, the cursory paintjob took a couple of hours at a total cost of £18.99 for a huge bucket of uninterestingly coloured paint and a set of rollers.

There are so many calluses on my hands, it would probably justify more spending on some sort of medicinal cream. I suppose the cost of hot water and soap to turn me back into a human being rather than a mobile device for carrying paint round should also be factored in. I refuse to cost in the old brush pole or the rags I was wearing, as these were already landfill waiting to happen. All the same, this barely adds up to much over £20.

How much would it have cost to get someone to paint my hall and stairs and landing? A good few hundred GBP more. It would certainly be a better job. Would I care? Clearly not or it would have been decorated before. It’s not as if I lounge around on the landing admiring the finish of the walls.

To spell it out, if I couldn’t do it myself for very little cash, it wouldn’t have been done.

I’m going to turn this into a parable, in a truly Christ-like fashion. (The more devout among you may already know the Parable of the Linux Installation,as a part of the Apocrypha.)

When the place where I work gets painted, they hire professionals. When they want networked IT systems or new software, they pay (comically) large sums of money – for things which even their best friends could hardly call “fit for purpose” – i.e they pay professionals.

When I want something to eat, I cook my own food. I know that I’d get a better meal if I hired a gourmet chef, but, yet again, I’m going with the DIY ethos…

LInux is more or less free. That is, it’s even LEGITIMATELY free – unlike so much else in the PC. geek’s world …. If you try to use it, you know you have to put some effort in in exchange for spending money. I’d be prepared to do this – in the event I ever get off my butt and re-install a Linux distro on one of the half -disassembled PCs which usually surround me.

I can’t see this is doing a techy out of a job. If I have to pay someone to install *nix – instead of relying on my well nigh 15 years’ experience of building and messing about with PCs, plus help and advice from friends, family and forum users – then what hope is there for someone who’s just bought their first PC?

It’s as if I couldn’t paint the hall without first learning how to make emulsion paint through attentive googling. Plus knitting my own paint roller, devising a mechanism for spinning it and whittling my own brush pole. Too much of a challenge? “Pay a decorator, you tight git.”

(Nice one TW in getting a PCLinuxOS distro working. It sounds ideal for you. Not having a wireless network, I’d not have the same problems – I hope – but I still think it might be worth me giving it a try. Soon. Really.

Pity it shows the new layout doesn’t work in *nix but, I suppose you can only solve one torturous IT problem at a time. It looks pretty good in my antique IE6.)

Linux Annoyances

Not much online time today, sorry. I am fighting a (losing) battle with my technology.

I have spent most of today trying to set up my main PC as a dual boot Linux/windows box using openSUSE 10.2 (64 bit) and Windows XPSP2.

Sadly, I have been far from successful.

The problems began with Partition Magic. The PC I have came with WinXP installed on its 180gb HDD. As I had around 100gb free space, I thought putting 20 gig aside for Linux would be next to no problems. I ran diskeeper and checkdisk to make sure everything was fine (it was) then I rank Partition Magic to resize the disk – I planned to make a 1gig swap file and about 14 gig for the linux install.

Sadly, each and every time Partition Magic rebooted (claiming it was going to resize the partitions) it came up with “Error 1513 Bad Attribute Position in File Record” and suggested I looked at the help files. I honestly spent over an hour doing this (reboot, choose partition sizes, restart, get error message, check help files, find nothing, reboot, choose partition sizes…. etc). Nothing I could find in the help files was any use.

Eventually I cracked and went to a web search engine (why didn’t I do this the first time!) and found out my Partition Magic 8 needed an upgrade to 8.01 and then a patch applied. Isn’t software great?

This done, everything went fine. The install interface for openSUSE is easy to use and easy to understand. I did spend about an hour choosing which packages I wanted but that was just because I’d become a kid in a sweet shop at that point. In the end I settled for Gnome and about 4gb of software. Linux is fantastic.

The install went smoothly…right up to the point at which it needed to connect to the Internet. It found my Belkin USB WLAN adaptor and identified it perfectly. It even found the SSID of the network. When trying to connect it (as it should) asked for the WEP key, so I entered it. After what felt like a week, it came up asking for the key again, so I entered it again. This happened five times before the computer gave up and I had to restart the network connection.

After two hours of trying different things (converting the key from HEX to ASCII etc), I had pretty much exhausted everything I could think off. I have been back to windows to check the settings (they are fine) and I have tried the USB device on other linux machines (although it was an Ubuntu machine) and it works fine. Nothing I seem to be able to do will make my openSUSE installation connect to the wireless router. I have hit a complete brick wall now and I am fed up of entering 26 hex characters every ten minutes so I have given up and come back to windows (yes, sad, I know).

I will try a brief google search to see if I can find the answer, but to be honest I dont know if I can be bothered any more. There is more to life than spending almost an entire working day trying to make software do what I want it to do. The idea is that computers (etc) make our lives easier and less stressfull. If people are writing such bad code that I have to give up all my spare time to get their software to work, I am not really interested. The same applies to Symantec and their fundamentally broken Partition Magic.

I love linux. I have two linux machines running fine here (one openSUSE 10.1 [32bit] and one Ubuntu). I used to love openSUSE and hate Ubuntu. Times may be changing.

If any one has had similar problems, or knows and answer, please let me know!

[tags]Technology, Linux, Windows, Software, Operating System, Wireless, Networking, Rants, openSUSE, Ubuntu, Belkin, Netgear, Partition Magic, Error Messages, Symantec[/tags]


It looks like the Einstein@Home servers are down again. This seems to happen once or twice a month and can last for anything up to a few days.

Looking over the BOINC message log, it appears that the servers may have been kaput since around 0430Z today. Over the last few days there have been occasional problems when my client has tried to connect and download new work units, but this looks like a big one.

At the time of writing, the Server Status page is non-existant and the main project page isn’t coming up (It may have made sense for the Einstein@Home team to have put these on different servers…). The forums, which I thought were on different servers, also seem to be off line at this time.

Oh well. Might as well turn it off then.

Stats cant lie

Five days ago I talked about the odd statistics which were showing up in my BOINC client for Einstein@Home. Sadly in the intervening five days, nothing has become any clearer.

BOINC Client - User Total 19 Feb BOINC Client - User Average 19 Feb

Now, the BOINC client has been running constantly (with the exception of one 9 hour period) for the last five days, yet the increase seems minimal and the average is plummeting like a stone. Looking at the client stats page there are still 82 work units “pending” credit (at around 53.4 credits per unit) so eventually this should change.

Even so, I am still not sure how the two sets of numbers compare to each other. I cant work out how the averages are calculated at all. Any comments welcome.

New Code Required

It strikes me more and more that is not really “cutting the mustard” with regards to how it aggregates blog posts and how it tries to represent the blogosphere. This is not a bad thing as such – it is more a case that Technorati seem to have bitten off a lot more than they can chew and it certainly is (as previously mentioned) time for a new site to take over.

Once upon a time Yahoo was the dominant search engine on the Internet, then after a while it bogged itself down and people migrated to the sleek newcomer of Google. Can Google do the same with blogs? Personally I hope not, but then I feel that Google is starting to fall behind in the search engine stakes (poor quality search results for example), so they may be better off concentrating on that more than anything else.

As an example of Technorati’s oddness, while I was trying to see if it was ever going to realise new posts had been made here, I was refreshing the page about this blog and I noticed the “posts per day” in the corner. The really odd thing was, each refresh made it alternate between two graphs that bore almost no relation to reality (as well as the most recent posts changing to be either days or hours old). Below you can see the first and second vesions. Do they look the same? (I am aware the scales are different).

Version 1 of the Posts Per DayVersion 2 of the Posts Per Day

For example, how many posts were made on 14 Jan? (hint 2) How many were made on 17 Jan (hint – not 19 yet!)

Will some one PLEASE come up with a site which does it better than Technorati.