Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Site news July 2017

They say it never rains but it pours, and July 2017 could be a subtle hint that I should give up and walk away.

The Forum has proven/confirmed it is a dead, having no support from the few who were seen wandering around it (and the log showing its regular visitors are people who are very active on other forums, so can only be assumed to be visiting to poach material).

A single email enquiring about it, and its fate, would have been nice after hosting issues knocked it (and the whole domain) offline.

But for the fact that a number of Wiki pages link to threads within it, it would probably be gone this month, or replaced.

The Wiki was almost equally disappointing, taken offline by the same hosting issues, and despite an apparently healthy visitor/activity record, only ONE enquiry asked after its fate.

Probably not really a surprise though – it used to generate a steady drip of enquiries regarding its content, these died off recently.

However, the real issues of June 2017 arose from problems, caused by external services, ruining what had previously been an easily maintained web site that needed little intervention.

July 2017 issues

Two major issues affected the site, both outside our control.

First, hosting issues arose after a simple migration by our provider, not helped by a touch of unfortunate timing which meant that when we checked this was OK, we saw it was OK… only to learn later we had gone offline (thanks to a missing setting).

As we were busy elsewhere and not online for some time, that went on much longer than it should before we returned saw the problem, and corrected it.

Next, the shocking Photobucket debacle when they withdrew free image-hosting, at a stroke removing nearly all images in the Wiki, replacing them with a blackmail advert offering to restore them for a mere $400 per annum.

Although this Rupert Murdoch sales initiative had always been expected (by me at least, as Photobucket changed over the years since his business grabbed it), and we stopped using it for new images some time ago, it still robbed the Wiki of images hosted there in the early years, which will now have to be re-hosted. That job will take “More than 5-minutes”.

And finally, just to round the month of July off…

The Wiki, normally trouble-free and completely reliable (unless I am ‘tampering’), suddenly started generating a recurring error message about a deprecated function, generated a never-ending error log file, filled out web in a few seconds – and kept suspending our web hosting as it exceed our quota.

This ended up taking days to fix, as neither we nor our web host appeared to have changed anything (the usual source of such problems arising).

The cause is still not clear, although a new version of the relevant code was part of the fix.

Last straw but one?

But for the fact that this site is run for reasons not related to ‘Making My First Million’, or for the benefit of others, the problems of the past month or so would probably be sufficient reason to dump it. But that is not why it was created, or exists.

However, I have other reasons, so it’s safe, for the moment at least.

The Blog

Excluded from the above misery is this Blog, currently managing to survive 2017 as my best attempt at a PaD (Post a Day), and probably generating more interest than any other part of the site (other than the Flickr pic group, which even impresses me with its content).

If nothing else, the effort to get this to the end of the year will continue unaffected by events elsewhere.

You can help

With the issues we seem to be suffering at the moment, I can understand why there’s little contact these days, the site being deserted, and why even those who do get in touch seem to disappear.

On the other hand, there are (apparently) quite a few visitors to the site, and many are repeat visitors.

It would be nice to hear the odd word, instead of seeing everyone just look in and then immediately run away.

August 1, 2017 Posted by | Site News | , , | 5 Comments

Site news – outage 28 July 2017

Big SeSco S

Nice start to the morning – a message that I have exceeded the disk space on my web host.

Ridiculous of course, I keep it at around 50% by design and cull anything that might be taking it over that.

I’ve raised an issue with the techs, and see what they come up with.

As far as I can see, I have gained a 400+ MB file that is not of my making, and it’s too big for me to easily handle via my (now) rather slow and archaic broadband connection.

No, I haven’t been doing anything new, so I know it’s not mine, so guess it’s a REAL problem, or something existing has had a slight nervous breakdown.

Uh-oh…

Maybe it’s another quirk of the server migration that put us offline at the start of the month.

Update

Apparently it’s a legit error file that’s not limited in size or entries.

Unfortunately, although it’s full of error reports, well, just five – but the last one has just been repeated thousands of times, all it seem to record is the error, and nothing about the source.

Hope all I need to do is deal with the item mentioned in the error report, which is a PHP error so not actually down to me, but there’s no obvious reason for to have appeared as I have not altered anything recently. It may be a change in PHP that has become active on the host.

 

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Site News | , , | Leave a comment

Site News June 2017

The news for June 2017 is…

There is no Site News (just kidding).

But there are some unexpected and unplanned changes – probably all but a few might be described as ‘good’.

Main Site (or Wiki)

A planned server migration at out host took place at the end of the first week of June.

A misunderstanding led to our domain disappearing. In fact, I checked the migration before it had actually been fully completed and thought it had gone through with no further action needed by me. I only discovered this a week later (so, I do other things too) when I tried to edit a page, and learned I had some reconfiguration to complete.

Since I hadn’t had any enquiries (which usually come from interested visitors who wonder why the site has disappeared), I thought I’d leave it alone until I was asked.

Since I haven’t had a single enquiry, I guess there is no longer anyone interested, so will be having a look at how the site is operated in future.

While I have no intention of bringing its existence to an end, there’s too much info collected there, often from sources that no longer exist, it if nobody’s interested, then I have to change how I spend my time playing with it.

Forum

Not much to say here.

I thought it was dead, now I know it is.

I will eventually replace it with one that can be left to ‘Run Itself’, soon(ish), but I don’t know when.

Blog

This continues to be where I like to spend my time, now I have more.

For the time being, this will continue to try to be a PaD project, and maintain a Post-a-Day.

Flickr Group

This, at least, continues to be attractive to some.

While I never had any plans for it, other than a place for interested people to share pics of finds or interests, it looks as if it will soon hit 10,000 contributed pics.

I guess I’ll have to mark that milestone, and say ‘Thank You’.

July 2017?

I’ll have to get the Wiki back online within the next few days.

As for anything else (apart from the new project I’ve hinted at)…

Who know?

July 1, 2017 Posted by | Site News | , , , | Leave a comment

Site News May 2017

Big SeSco S

May’s news, probably going to be short and glum (in part).

Wiki

This has become a little less frustrating as I’ve given up trying to constantly find the sort of ‘secret’ info I used to (military, Cold War etc). Various reasons apply, but in no particular order… sharing has dried up, nobody’s talking (or writing) these days, and if you look at some of our older/original pages on this theme – well, most of the links to source material and reference are DEAD! Social media (let’s be blunt, Facecrook) has stolen much source material as it entices people into its creepy world, and often locks it away behind a ‘Please Login to view this page’ type of screen. The material cannot be seen unless you Login, and that is a way of blackmailing more people to join.

Sorry, not happening (ever) with SeSco – we do have SOME standards.

As it is, the Wiki is growing with a few pages every month, whenever we spot something remotely interesting.

Blog

This has become my favourite outlet this year, now I have worked out the ‘secret’ to making at least one PaD (Post a Day) and can waffle away and do a little bit of ‘photoblogging’.

I’m generally managing to stay away from ‘Current Affairs’, although I do seem to get riled with legal and illegal abuse of photographers. By this I mean anyone with a decent camera, who seem to be considered ‘Fair Game’ for various thugs and courts – yet intrusive people taking pics I believe are not legal seem to have some sort of magical immunity since they are using cameras hidden in phones. If I tool the same pics with my dSLR out in view and obvious, I’m reasonably sure if someone tool exception I’d be talking to some nice police officers soon after, and be in court a little later.

Forum

This is just not working.

I’ve dropped hints, but the members simply won’t talk to one another – and that’s what a forum is for.

It wasn’t to bad when they talked to me, but that’s effectively dried up too.

And I’m now no longer amused to see the many who still visit, but do nothing but look and leave without so much as a nod.

It’s down to one participant, who I don’t want to ‘upset’, but even his input has become less, and focussed mainly on one subject.

And that can only be discussed so far.

‘New’ Forum

While the existing, old, creaky, obsolete, forum is guaranteed a place – it is linked to a number of Wiki articles – it is a dead-end as a forum since, although it seems safe from hackers, it can’t be defended from content spammers and spam registrations. The latter amounts to thousands per month now. Even if they can’t post, they create a huge member list – I estimate we’d have at least quarter of a million+ members by now if I’d allowed it to continue.

I have new forum software, so may drop out for a while to play with it.

Trouble is, is it worth the effort if nobody is going to register/join nowadays, as Facecrook has taken everyone away?

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Site News | , , | Leave a comment

SeSco went offline 5 May 2017 – back after 3 hours

Big SeSco S

Our provider’s provider appears to have gone belly up…

And with no clues as to when Normal Service will be Resumed:

Our network transit provider had an outage, which started at 11:45.  Connetivity (sic) restored briefly but has gone down again.

We’ll update this once we know more.

Our apologies for any inconvenience in the meanwhile.

Update 13:15: Outage is still being worked on, we don’t have an ETA from our provider at this moment in time, but know it’s being remedied as quickly as possible.

No official notification (until later) but found to be RESTORED at 15:00 check.

Later found it had come back just before 14:00.

Not all bad…

Although clearly not our host’s fault, they have added a week’s credit (free hosting) to our account.

Thanks guys.

I haven’t needed support for ages, but when I was having issues (not my fault or theirs) their support team was actually pretty good, helpful, and patient.

Worth a mention as they are UK, and I see so many BAD reports about so many others…

HostPresto

May 4, 2017 Posted by | Site News | , , | Leave a comment

Site News April 2017

Big S blog

Quiet month as other activities divert attention, and what laughingly passes for warm weather here arrives, and start the weeds growing again.

I had to look twice when I saw an old guy in a sleeveless t-shirt pass me while walking his dog – I’d seen the gritters out late the night before, and when I checked my outdoor thermometer confirmed it was indeed showing 0°C. And I thought I was crazy one for having grabbed an extra jacket that morning!

But, it is getting warmer, so time to play in here is going to be truncated, and activity will lessen.

Flickr

While I’m not really counting (and grateful that anyone takes the time to share), I was intrigued to see that our little group has made it to the heady level of being just 500 pics short of the 10,000 mark.

And there is still the odd gem and surprise to be seen appearing there too, so let’s hope that continues.

I don’t know why some kind folk from overseas add pics to a Scotland specific group, as their material is usually very good, and it does cause me ‘pain’ to hit the delete option on their offering, but it does contravene the rules.

Blog

Surprisingly, given the failures of previous years, I still seem to be making PaDs (Post a Day) and for the moment at least, don’t really see any reason why this should falter as it has before. Perhaps my approach is better this years, and material better chosen. Previous effort had followed advice to be interesting and meaningful, and write lots to keep readers interested.

Largely tossed that, and now tend to go with what I like, and tough if anyone doesn’t (like it). Also trying to be shorter and less waffly (that doesn’t always work though).

Forum

As always, the awkward one.

While I’m letting it run and don’t want to disappoint the few faithful, I can’t ignore the fact that while they ‘talk’ to me, this lacks the one thing a forum can thrive on – having members that ‘speak’ to each other.

While it’s nice to have thoughts shared with me, it actually makes it hard to keep up, as the discussions become very much ‘One on One’ and are either sessions of ‘Patting on the Back’ if we agree, or risk becoming disputes or arguments if we don’t, and in print as opposed to face-to-face, that can quickly deteriorate if a badly chosen reply is made.

I really have to fire up the ‘new’ forum as this will (I hope) allow automated registration to be restored (remember, the old one is so old it has no effective screening or barring) and perhaps the folk who enquire about membership will actually follow-up, as the barrier of manual registration is raised.

Wiki

Still managing to slip in the odd page or two, but also missing out on some subjects that have been highlighted and demand longer and more time-consuming research to check the material, or provide supporting references.

Still, as long it grows, even slowly now that I have no help, I can’t really complain, and just plod on.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Site News | , , , | Leave a comment

Change is a slow process

Big SeSco S

Changes hinted at (or perhaps more accurately, quietly announced) in January have been ambling along slowly.

Good job I don’t have a boss looking over my shoulder.

Forum

Some interesting items sprang up, and I’ve found myself drawn in a little more than I’d like to be at the moment, and spent more time than intended. On the other hand, quite a lot of that was down to new info regarding the Measured Miles found on the Clyde, so I can’t really complain, or beat myself up for lack of discipline.

Poking around the code for the ‘new’ up to date forum showed that someone has written some integration for it, which links it with the same code used for our Wiki. While I have yet to look at the detail, this might prove useful, but I can’t tell until I’ve installed and run it, to see how it works, as the documentation is sparse to say the least. Maybe next month.

Wiki

laptop work

Quite a few new pages/subjects have been added (no, I didn’t count, deliberately), and let me clear out a lot of ‘pending’ tabs I have had open in Firefox for ages. Firefox’s ability to handle ridiculous numbers of tabs without hysterics unfortunately leads to bad habit, but I’ve managed to go from a daily total varying between 300 and 400 tabs, to a maximum of around 50. Maybe the headaches will stop as well, since I don’t have to remember up to 400 tab contents!

As per last month, I looked at some of the links that are automatically formed in the Wiki, based on the location of subjects and dependent on processing their lat/lon, or Grid Reference. Some still work, but others are broken, as the sites they point to have change the format of their search urls. It’s not a huge problem, but it can get a little bit complicated, and I need to brush up my dormant

skills.

More serious is the change to Google Maps and their API. The good news is that they kindly detect and convert out old API coding and serve a ‘new’ version which still places the map on out page. The bad news is that there’s no guarantee this will always be on offer. And since we have some really old version 1 code on a page, we know that is dead. The good news is that there is ‘new’ map option available to add to the Wiki, but so far I have not been able to look closely enough at it to see if installing it will kill the existing maps – a problem, since each page’s map is unique, and the point/lines are written for each page.

This Blog

So far, I’ve been able to maintain my own discipline and keep the Blog fresh with at least one new daily post.

I’m not short of material, but sometimes finding the time to write the post is not easy.

I’ve also come across some issues (in the news) that I’d like to raise, but past experience shows these turn into so-called ‘Long Reads’ and I don’t think I can afford the time to do the research needed to do them justice. Maybe later.

And I have one other blog idea I’m trying to get underway, not suited for including here, which I still haven’t finalised.

Suggestions?

Still interested in anything anyone who is reading or referring to any part of the site has to say or suggest.

The ‘Comments area’ below is not going away.

March 1, 2017 Posted by | Site News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Time for a few changes

Big SeSco S

January has been interesting, as I deliberately avoided getting drawn into anything that developed in the Forum, and the temptation of adding to any existing subjects as I came across anything relevant.

Forum

While the idea is  not to abandon this, I need to divert my time and use it better – I’d also hoped my lack of continued input might stimulate one or two others into activity, rather than just have most input raised by me

One of the sad things seen in the logs is that while many members keep visiting and reading Forum material, they seem unwilling  to either contribute to the content, or start any new discussions or threads. Why?

Some years have passed since the writer of the Forum code gave up and abandoned the project. While I should have replaced it long ago it works, and I liked the apparent immunity it had to being hacked. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about its resistance to spam bot registrations. Things got so bad (over 1,000 bot registrations every week) registration had to be closed and made available only by email request.

Not a good idea, and the few who took up the option never become active.

So…

A new Forum package has been trialled, and would have been installed earlier but for the lack of a reliable import routine for the old Forum. After wasting time looking into this option, it’s simply not an option, so now it’s just a case of actually installing and setting it up, then waiting to see if any interest is shown. Bearing in mind that while people will be able to register with little fuss… it will be empty!

Wiki

Unfortunately, messing  around with the old Forum has diverted time from the Wiki, leading to much material being accumulated but not incorporated, so the plan is to start adding new material whenever possible. This has already started, as noted recently when the content finally managed to pass the 1,000 page milestone.

It may be me, or the way search engines are tuned these days, but the pool of interesting (‘secret’?) material seems to be diminishing.  One sad sign of this is the number of links given as references in many of our Wiki pages – revisiting these returns a depressing number of ‘Dead Links’ when they are clicked, showing that the source is gone, or has moved.

On the other hand, the media has become so desperate to attract ‘clicks’, many sources now seem to have employed staff to provide articles of lesser known local historic interest (with absolutely nothing at all to do with ‘news’), which has become a handy source of material.

One demotivating aspect has been the loss of a number of ‘official’ links, by which I mean National/Government/Council online resources that provide historic records and data. While these were expected to remain reliable, many have changed url formats and ‘permalinks’, rendering such links useless, and defeating coding written into the wiki that was able to form these links automatically.

While this is not actually unexpected or uncommon, one would expect reference sites to be more considerate.

Like many others, I find this sort of rework irritating, and the motivation is low, as there is no guarantee that having revised the code, the source will not change again, and trash it.

Flickr

Not a lot to say about this, other than offer thanks to those who take the time to share some of their pics with SeSco.

The range of material is intriguing, and continues to inspire.

Twitter

Twitter is the only aspect of so-called ‘social media’ we touch (don’t expect any of the other creepy options to appear), largely because we joined up when it was new and unheard of, and because the posts are largely automated.

That will just carry on as before since it takes minimal effort.

This Blog

Seeing a lot of irrelevant material online made me worry about this Blog, intended to allow non-core material to be raised, and I worried about similar mindless ‘belly-rumbling’ drivel appearing here, and stopped blogging.

I’d also begun to produce so-called ‘Long Reads’, which simply take too long to produce, especially as I like to (at least try) to do decent research and be accurate. Another reason I stopped, to try to win back some time for better things.

I tried to run under PaD (Post a Day) rules a few years back, and enjoyed it until circumstances forced me to abandon the attempt. The benefit of this is the discipline it takes, forcing the writer into shorter and more concise posts, and manage time better.

I hope to get back to this.

I also hope/intend to take more pics and use them for posts. I’ve spent some time working on low light photography now that a decent dSLR can allow this to be carried out handheld, minus the need for a tripod (or flash). Even with a slow zoom lens I can now get pics that would simply have been impossible in the days of film, and thanks to large sensor tech have no noise (worth speaking of) in all but the most extreme (darkest) situations, unlike the grain that plagued such pics with film, not to mention the colour failure of that medium too. And, unlike film (with days of processing), I get to do all my own, minutes after the pic is taken.

My one regret is knowing I will never be able to afford genuinely ‘fast’ glass – I made the mistake of looking, and found it would cost at least FOUR times the cost of my dSLR body alone.

Suggestions?

Anything reasonable to suggest for adding to or changing SeSco?

There is a ‘Comment area’ waiting below…

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Site News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wiki passes 1,000 pages!

Gold trophyWhile there are some technical issues regarding the way pages in the Wiki are counted, I noticed that it has finally passed through the 1,000 page ‘barrier’.

I had really expected this milestone to be passed years ago, but as always, Life, The Universe, and Everything seemed to decide they were going to get together and conspire to make sure I wasn’t going to reach it any time soon, despite having loads of material to add.

For those who have been ‘naughty’ and not looked at the Wiki, here it is:

Secret Scotland (SeSco) Wiki

Because of the aforementioned issue regarding how pages are counted, it’s hard to be accurate or definitive about the total, and I’m not really even sure if I should refer to ‘pages’ or ‘articles’. This is because pages can be cross-referenced to be served under different names (handy if a subject has more than one common name by which it is referred to), and because some pages contain pages, or page content, injected from other pages, if this is felt necessary to make them more complete. However, I have tended to avoid this tool as it may help the page, but make life and maintenance unnecessarily complex. These days, I tend to go with the rule of making one page belong to one subject, and deal only with it, making reference to other pages/articles only as needed.

So…

Will the count ever reach 2,000?

January 22, 2017 Posted by | Site News | | Leave a comment

Forum problem randomly takes site down – no fix imminent

Confused Guy

It’s been an irritating week (or two, to be more accurate).

First, I found that my browser was ignoring clicks made anywhere near the left side of the screen.

Then, hampered by that limited access to navigating around the screen environment, I noticed that something was taking my web hosting down.

It took a week to find and resolve the cause of the browser problem, and that meant the best part of two weeks passed before any headway was made with our apparent hosting problem, and while we haven’t been able to fix it, we can at least keep the site up, and maintain the Wiki, which is really our main resource.

The Forum has run substantially without problems since 2008, although it started some years before that, I mention that date since that was the last time its code was updated, and development came to an end. Problems usually arise from changes and bugs introduced with them, so with no changes… we don’t expect problems to appear.

A couple of weeks ago, our whole domain went down, checks showed the cause appeared to be a fault with the Forum, which was starting processes that should have terminated moments later… but didn’t, meaning they consumed all our processing resources and brought everything to a halt until they were cleared.

Our host as helped as far as they can (with a problem that is not of their making) and while it was previously necessary for us to wait until they cleared this problem, they provided us with the tools to do this ourselves. This means we can put the Forum back online, and risk having it kill our processes (and take our whole domain down), since we can clear the problem ourselves, instead of waiting to have the host do it in response to a service request.

Shameless plug for these guys (they really are patient and helpful): Dream Hosting

(Incidentally, this is a UK host, NOT to be confused with US hosts having similar names. I feel I have to make the distinction since the American hosts seem to get poor reviews in the support area for my forum code.)

Forum Status

It’s not possible to determine the future of the Forum at this point.

If no reason for the stuck processes can be found and corrected, then the Forum cannot remain in use, since its failure takes down the whole SeSco domain and any sites hosted in the same web space.

However, with no queries from the membership regarding its disappearance along with the rest of the domain, there seems to be insufficient interest or concern to make it worth the effort of its maintenance, given the time spent not on its content, but of keeping it clear of spambots.

I will be working on the Forum, since it links to matching articles in the Wiki, and we have a fairly comprehensive section on Rudolf Hess’s flight to Scotland in May 1941, which has even been noticed by authors writing on the subject.

But I won’t be in any particular rush, as this problem has already put me the best part of two weeks behind with more important tasks, so they have to be tended to as well.

As always, comments can be left below.

May 16, 2014 Posted by | Site News | , | Leave a comment

Insanity ends as automated Forum registration is turned off (forever)

Big S blog 02

One of my more irritating colleagues was prone to repeatedly spouting the same few euphemisms over and over again, but that didn’t necessarily reduce their relevance – although it increased his irritation rating.

He loved to bend over people’s work if they were having problems and say “You know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result!”

I reached a self-imposed limit for one such function today, as I reviewed the 1,000th automated spam registration in our Forum.

Thanks to Stop Forum Spam (SFS) this problem was reduced to one of manageable proportion a year or two back, leaving us with only 4 or 5 such registration to deal with in the course of a whole week.

Now, having noted that we were only about 40 spam registrations away from out 1,000th on Sunday night, we have already blown through that number, and are only at Tuesday lunchtime.

Since each successful spam registration really needs to be shared with SFS by entering the details into their database, each takes a few minutes to deal with.

While I don’t mind taking the time to do this if it is effective, and helps others, the spammers have just reached a steady attack level where the law of diminishing returns takes over, and there’s no benefit. I spend all my time checking notification and deleting data – on top of updating SFS. This is supposed to SAVE time being wasted, not add to it.

While they can’t post spam, they are still registering in the Forum until identified and logged as spammers, and they seem to have a near infinite pool of invented or hijacked identities and IP to fall back on, no matter how many are barred – and SFS reports 66,112,977 in its database. A big number, but tiny in terms of spammer numbers.

Manual registration by request only

So, sad to say that as of today, 3rd February 2014, Forum registration is only going to be possible by emailing the Admin, rather than filling in the registration form and merely waiting for approval (if you are a Good Guy, at least.)

February 4, 2014 Posted by | Site News | , , | Leave a comment

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