Archive for April, 2008

Blog Problems, Part 327

My blog, she is broken. Again. Apparently comments don’t work for external users – although Bryan and I can comment all day long, as logged-in users.

I love troubleshooting blog stuff. Love it! I’ll let you know when either 1) it’s fixed, or 2) I’ve deleted the whole thing and taken up needlepoint.

Update: It’s fixed now, and the performance is dramatically improved. I’m going to need to restore the customization a step at a time, and test. It’s nice to be up and running again. Lessons learned:

  • I’m so glad I backed up everything before embarking upon this adventure!
  • Don’t start a major application upgrade or fix at 10am on a workday.
  • Read the fine print. I was able to export my database for backup – but it was too big to import, and my hosting provider doesn’t allow SSH connections to shared hosting accounts.
  • Manually upgrading is more complex and risky than the hosting provider’s push-button automated upgrade.
  • Did I mention that I’m so glad I backed up both the entire site & the database?

I’ll try 2.5.1 and SQL 5.0 again when I have lots of time to spend on it.

Posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: technology | 4 Comments »

Censorship: Justifiable?

Is censorship ever justifiable?

I suppose the answer to that question depends on your perspective, whether you’re the censorer or the censoree.

My son is writing a paper on censorship – Merriam Webster defines it: to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable ; also : to suppress or delete as objectionable . We also talked about what it is not – media bias, religious freedom, children’s rights, copyright or criminal law issues. Janiece had a good post on the subject today, too.

Tonight, at the dinner table we talked about some fairly major examples of controversial, often-criticized censorship.

  • The banning of books from our curriculum, school & public libraries.
  • China’s harsh censorship and prohibition of external information, including the Internet, print, video and audio media.
  • The Islamic world’s prohibition of media, styles, and cultural influences that are considered to be Western.
  • The MPAA, PMRC and ESR ratings and restrictions on movie, record and game content.
  • The FCC’s restrictions and penalties on tv and radio content deemed obscene or objectionable.
  • Private or public funding tied to restrictions on public information, for example, sex education in the schools.

We also discussed whether there were any instances where censorship was perhaps appropriate and justifiable in western culture. The only examples I could think of were:

  • The revelation of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity by White House staffer Lewis Libby.
  • Restrictions and penalties for volatile or harassing speech in the workplace.
  • Restrictions, controls and removal of speech in a privately-owned forum. See my blog comment terms and conditions for an example.

Can you think of examples of justifiable or acceptable censorship in today’s society? No extra points for actually requiring me to apply censorship according to above terms and conditions. ;)

Posted on Sunday, April 27th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: creativity, education, Politics | 4 Comments »

Geek Stuff: Blog & Database Issues

This post is a very technical discussion of blogging and database management – so if that’s not your interest area, well… “There’s nothing to see here. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along.”

I’ve spent the day working on this website, primarily battling what seem to be ongoing performance issues. In addition to very slow page loads, I’m seeing periodic internal server error message on the site, where nothing will display at all. (I also did a little php & css work, adding a custom header and a few format changes.) The various site fix tactics I’ve tried include:

  • Upgraded WordPress to v. 2.5
  • Repaired & optimized my SQL tables
  • Disabled all plugins and removed all sidebar widgets, and re-added them one at a time, testing for speed impact. Based on results, left Google sitemaps plugin disabled.
  • Installed wp-cache to cache requested pages for 60 min
  • Ran a fairly useful website analysis tool on my site
  • Reduced the posts-per-page from 10 to 5
  • Changed images displayed on the main page from full sized to thumbnail
  • Turned on error logging to track my site behind the scenes

I did some searching on hosting providers and complaints about shared hosting site performance. All major providers had many complaints; all had many praises. I’m on GoDaddy’s hosting platform. I can call support (again!) about the performance issues but I’d like to prevent them with empirical rather than anecdotal evidence of site issues.

The only additional fix I haven’t tried because of its drastic nature is to export the DB offsite, and then nuke the entire site & database and rebuild from scratch and re-import the posts – either on space provided by my current hosting provider, or new space. This seems unnecessarily difficult.

Alpha geek Bill sent me a link to this article on WordPress performance and configuration problems – it helped me understand why I might be having some of these site issues.

Below are what seem to be the most egregious errors from my database’s status page. If anyone is aware of any quick WP code or database tweaks to help address some of these issues, it would be super helpful.

4,155.38 M
The number of requests to read a row based on a fixed position. This is high if you are doing a lot of queries that require sorting of the result. You probably have a lot of queries that require MySQL to scan whole tables or you have joins that don’t use keys properly.

610.95 G
The number of requests to read the next row in the data file. This is high if you are doing a lot of table scans. Generally this suggests that your tables are not properly indexed or that your queries are not written to take advantage of the indexes you have.

414 M
The number of queries that have been removed from the cache to free up memory for caching new queries. This information can help you tune the query cache size. The query cache uses a least recently used (LRU) strategy to decide which queries to remove from the cache.

247 M
The number of physical reads of a key block from disk. If Key_reads is big, then your key_buffer_size value is probably too small. The cache miss rate can be calculated as Key_reads/Key_read_requests.

The number of joins without keys that check for key usage after each row. (If this is not 0, you should carefully check the indexes of your tables.)

72 M
The number of tables that have been opened. If opened tables is big, your table cache value is probably too small.

Posted on Sunday, April 27th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: technology | 2 Comments »

Mini Road Trip: Shelton

We joined some great people from the Puget Sound MINI club today for our first-ever MINI event. The group drove to Shelton, for a casino buffet breakfast, then hit the back roads of the south Sound area.

Many Minis Small

Ron mapped out a twisty, windy, beautiful drive. We stopped at two state parks – the below pictures were at Kopachuk & Twanoh State Parks, respectively.

Five Minis Maggie at Twanoh

After the cruise, Bryan and I drove by my sister’s home to visit Maggie-the-MINI’s cousin, Pumpkin the vintage VW convertible. The old-and-new picture is great – Pumpkin is a fun little car.

Maggie & Pumpkin

It was a top-down, beautiful spring day. In spite of my hat and SPF-30 sunscreen, I now have a slight sunglasses sunburn. I look forward to many more events with this group!

Posted on Saturday, April 26th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: cars, MINI | 3 Comments »

Heart Scan

CT ScannerToday I visited my awesome sister Cheri at work; she’s a radiologic technician. On Fridays, she works as part of a heart study, performing heart scans via computer tomography to look for arterial calcification and any other issues.

The technology they use, and the imaging capabilities, are super fascinating.

Since she works for a study program, she was able to scan mine. (I hadn’t come in for a scan, but she offered.) It’s amazing to watch your own heart beating on screen in video image. I’m happy to report that I have no arterial calcification whatsoever, although there was perhaps a tiny speck of calcium in my aortic valve.

The study correlates the scan results with a medical history questionnaire: elevated cholesterol, high triglycerides, history of hypertension, diabetes, stroke. (Thank goodness I have none of those.) It will be interesting to see their findings when they publish results.

What she did find, though, was a big ol’ anterior bone spur on one of my mid-thoracic vertebrae. Rather than affecting my spinal column in any way, it juts into my chest cavity. I’ve had an intermittently painful spot there most of my adult life, and I figured it was a body mechanics issue. The radiologist didn’t think it was serious enough to follow up with a doctor or avoid yoga – just something to be aware of.

I’m thankful my heart is healthy and the other stuff minor – and grateful to my sister for doing the scan.

Posted on Friday, April 25th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: health | 4 Comments »