Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

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

January 2013 – still going and some changes

Pleased to say that things have made it to the end of January 2013.

Various little niggling problems and irritations had been making things look as if things might be curtailed on the site, but such things have calmed down.

Wiki

We mysteriously lost the Aerial view section of all our Wiki pages more than a year ago, with no apparent reason. Coincidentally, this appeared to tie in with a code update, so we thought this might fix itself, but no luck, even after a number of updates. We eventually appealed to the coder, a silly mistake was unearthed, and the views have now been restored.

Unfortunately, a number of the optional views have changed coding, and are now broken, so this will have to be looked at.

More serious was the potential loss of the embedded map on our Wiki pages. Google closed down the old V1 and V2 APIs behind this as V3 was adopted, which could have killed the map. Fortunately, Google saw fit to add a conversion layer which allows V2 code to carry on working under V3I. So far, our maps appear to be working fine under this option – actually even better than before thanks to the additional facilities that come with the latest API, but it is a fudge, and we will have to try to get around to reworking this code into proper V3.

Forum

Various problem put the forum at risk – and an amnesty on some problem members ended. They’re banned from returning, so closing an unfortunate and unnecessary chapter.

The Forum has been configured so that most of its content can be read without having to register/join, a step only needed if readers wish to post something.

The increasingly sneaky ways spammers, and spambots aided by humans, are now able to get into forums means that the option to join automatically will no longer be offered. In order to join, a real person will have to send an  email request to the Admin. While we had been having success with an option known as Stop Forum Spam, spammers altered their attack method slightly and were still able to register false memberships, although SFS still blocked the vast majority. While these can never post spam as they are never approved, they still fill the Forum’s member database with false accounts.

We’re about to delete the 1,oooth spam registration, at which point we’ll be turning off automatic registration. Spending only 1 minute (and in reality longer) on each means 1,000 minutes or 16 hours wasted, and it’s just silly to keep on doing this. Each successful spam registration has to manually deleted from the membership database, the registration database, and also entered into the SFS database to prevent its return. SFS prevents hundreds of these entries every weeks, but while we were down to two or three beating the system every few days, the sheer volume of attacks has seen this rise to ten or more a day, and that could mean dealing with up to 4,000 unwanted registrations over a year. It’s too much time wasted for nothing.

Notably, when automated registration was turned off for a few weeks (for a Christmas holiday) I suddenly found I had more time to spare, and was able to tackle things I had not managed to get around to previously.

Blog

The blog will hopefully revert to being the Admin’s prerogative to write about anything, not restricted to the core activity of the site in the same way as the Wiki, or the public side of the Forum. Things went a little awry with the Blog for various reasons about halfway through 2013, and just never recovered.

It would be nice if the odd wander around the east end of Glasgow (or Glasgow city when I can make it) continued to produce sufficient material to photograph and write about, but I worry about recent moves to “tidy” the area and the city, leading to much of the less well-known subjects being razed and shovelled into skips simply because they are not seen as being sufficiently up-market and attractive to tourists – and their wallets.

The trouble with all this tidying in order to make things squeaky clean is that all the old artefacts are considered down-market now, and not good enough to be seen, so the chance of good historic photo-opportunities are becoming less and less, unless you are prepared to point your camera at the rubbish being created as a ‘Lasting Legacy’ in the east end, and that’s something I am not prepared to buy into.

Maybe in 10 0r 20 years I will, when it all lies derelict and abandoned  – then it will be worth the effort, and a few words describing the folly of 2014.

January 31, 2014 Posted by | Site News | , , | 2 Comments

Our Photobucket pics are back – for a while

Big S blog

While I am pleased to confirm that our pics as hosted on Photobucket (for free, as per our available budget run the Secret Scotland web site), it remains to be seen how long they stay for.

As noted in the update about the disappearance of most of our pics, since Photobucket no longer provide individual stats showing which pics are being served, and out own use of the account’s limited bandwidth has always been well within the allowed limit, this means there’s no way to identify which image(s) may be eating the bandwidth, and has clearly been stolen since we’re not using it.

Although a new hosting deal means I can now host and serve all our images from our own web space, this is not a lot of help as Photobucket already has thousands of our pics online, so moving them to our own host – and changing all the image urls – is a major job. And not one I can undertake in a hurry, if ever.

While all new imagery uploaded this year is on our servers, and should not disappear, I’m afraid any hiccups with Photobucket will just have to be endured.

While I gripe at Photobucket for removing the stats service, it’s not their fault that out bandwidth is exceeded and the account gets suspended. Assuming it is not actually down to a surge in our popularity, then it is down to some dirty little thieving scumbag who is using our images from out account, and not re-hosting them – which is allowed, given our general site licence.

Guess we’ll find out in 3-4 weeks, if the pics get cut off again.

July 12, 2013 Posted by | Site News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Flickr anguish matched by Photobucket apathy – and our pics are offline for now

While I don’t use Flickr myself, I do provide a pool for images of Scotland to be shared, so the recent pain that regular users suffered when Flickr’s masters decided it was going to change, and that they weren’t going to listen to the views of its members, did not escape me.

I happen to agree with the users who were up in arms at the changes enforced on them, and that the new Flickr is rubbish compared to that which went before. In fact, when discussing management now, I use Flickr as an example of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” I’m sad to see a number of former users have actually left, justifiably aggrieved at being snubbed when they tried to contact Flickr

I mention this because I use Photobucket, and have thousands of images there, used to support the pages in Secret Scotland. I chose Photobucket as it is built to share images on web pages, unlike Flickr, which is/was a different product.

Photobucket has worked well over the years, and even when it was bought over and began to change, and changed, the changes made no real difference to the basic free hosting I use, so I didn’t bother too much. Notably, I don’t recall any mass hysteria, or even mild moaning, when these changes took place.

However… It seems there was one I missed.

While I’m not generally interested how many views a pic gets,old Photobucket did offer statistics which showed pic views, and I did use this to find stolen or hotlinked pics taken from my account. This is bandwidth theft, since it uses my limited bandwidth on a free account. Using the stats, I could break the thieves’ links.

But Photobucket quietly lost its statistics – so I can’t identify stolen hotlinked pics. Statistics are not even mentioned in Photobucket’s Help system.

So, since I can no longer identify which pics have been stolen, I can’t deal with this, which is all you see until the next accounting period starts:

Photobucket suspended

Photobucket suspended

I’d hate think this is not genuine, and was not some sort of ploy to make free account holders upgrade to a paid Plus account, but with not stats to refer to, I have no way of telling.

I know my own web site’s stats in terms of numbers of visitors and page views, so  I know these have not increased to the extent that the pic views would have hit the Photobucket bandwidth limit. I’ve uploaded few new pics to Photobucket over the past year or so. That means I haven’t increased my demands and bandwidth significantly in the past year or two. So, it must be theft by hotlinking… or something else.

In fact, thank to changes at my own host regarding web space and bandwidth, I have not been uploading new site images to Photobucket at all, and am hosting them in my own space.

This means I have been able to make the images impossible to hotlink, and also difficult to download, steal, or do other things.

I hadn’t planned to move away from Photobucket, it work(ed) fine, but the lack of stats and inability to deal with bandwidth suspension means this will have to be added to my growing “ToDo” list.

Pics should return on or after the 12th of the month.

July 8, 2013 Posted by | Site News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Site News June 2013

bigsblog01.pngThere’s not really much to add to what I noted in May, so this will be short.

I seem to have managed to maintain the effort to meet the WordPress PaD (post a day) challenge, although it can be surprisingly difficult to maintain. Not, strangely, because of a lack of material, but a surfeit. While I’ve been surprised at the number of items I’ve found to post the odd pic and story about, the reality is that this has just about exhausted most of my local content. Most of the material actually came from only a couple of long walk I took during February, when the weather and material seen were both better than I have seen in recent weeks. The weather has been rotten, wet and windy, and the incidence of fresh material has been nil to none (and I meant to say that). Even looking for obscure pics hasn’t worked recently, and my camera has remained almost unused. As for the media and local stories… while this is fine for events or historically related items of interest, the current situation of campaigning as regards Independence makes most items unusable, as almost everything is twisted by political activists to become an outlet for their spite. Many good stories are ruined of they have an open comments section, and those with a pro or anti point to make take over the subject for their own ends. So I often start on posts that may have some sort of council or government factor (eg funding or backing) only to drop it after realising I am raising points that others will interpret as political rather than personal, and I’ll have to start watching comments closely, and delete nonsense. Something I don’t have much occasion to do, and can’t be bothered with either.

Forum

No changes in the Forum, but activity continues to fall with the same few faithful seen wandering its deserted boards.

I have to say the obvious: A Forum is a place for discussion. If everyone merely comes to read it then it’s a Blog. If members don’t create discussions and exchange comments, then it will not survive.

Wiki

The Wiki (or Main Site) is coming back into order, and most of the outstanding items that led to a big heap of ToDo actions have been dealt with, leaving only a handful of more involved or longer pages to be tidied up. At the same time, new material has been added to some existing pages, and even new pages/articles added. We have started hosting our own images thanks to a change in our hosting terms, which means we can prevent any attempts at hot-linking – which was happening with our publicly hosted images and could not be stopped.

As usual, the biggest problem with the Wiki is that once we start adding pages, the related research for content on the original subject nearly always generates an exponentially growing number of new pages, as we find further items we had never heard of before!

Wiki bug that won’t die

Introduced some time ago, after an upgrade, a small but irritating bug refuses to die and go away.

Almost every page includes an Aerial views heading, which provides a set of links offering a number of alternative views to the map shown at the bottom of the page, centred on the site being described.

This has been noted to be blank on a number of pages, yet appears normally on others.

Since this ‘paragraph’ is included automatically by the same piece of code in every page, there’s no obvious difference between pages where it does and does not appear.

That makes it hard to work out why it fails to appear in some cases. We’ve tried rewriting the code so the content is delivered in a different way, but this seems to have made no difference.

We seem to be stuck with this for the moment, as even reloading the page, or flushing the browser cache, has no effect either.

New outlet

I hinted at a new outlet in the last Site News, and this should be properly announced around the middle of June – assuming all goes well.

It’s not any sort of secret, rather I have been made wary by the Flickr fiasco as they changed their software and appearance, and it did not go well.

Since the software and operation of our new outlet was already known to be changing, I have merely decided to play safe and delay mentioning it or handing out the url until this happens. I see little point in saying “Look at this folks”, and then having its operation and appearance change almost immediately.

Then again, there’s my natural apathy, as I haven’t really played with it properly myself, although that’s also due in part to the coming changes – no point in learning something new, only to have to dump it and start over as soon as you come to terms with its nuances.

June 1, 2013 Posted by | Site News | , , , | Leave a comment

Site News May 2013

Big S blog

I was considering running off a summary of what was going on around the SeSco site after the first quarter of 2013, but as with my former company reports, I reckoned that was one to avoid, since that drops the publication date on April 1, and every comedian and his dog jumps on that coincidence with so many cheap shots that anything relevant gets trashed. So this note deferred to a ‘third’ instead of a ‘quarter’. Not that it mattered, since I was too busy through the start of April anyway.

Blog

The Blog (what you are reading now) is the easiest, since it has managed to amble along reasonably well since the start of 2013, and still does what is expected of it. This year, I decided to take up one of the suggestions from WordPress (which hosts the Blog) and try running 2013 as a PaD year, which mean a Post a Day. It’s a bit of discipline, and means that even if you don’t have something core to write about, then you go find something.

Most of the time there isn’t a problem, and if there’s nothing local, or of more general interest, then the news often has something to offer. Although there’s not much of photographic interest around my area (seriously dull unless you want pics of houses), most interesting historic stuff has been demolished and built on as it was old industry which is long gone, and it takes some digging to find something. So, the fact that the Blog (unlike the Wiki) is free to wander, means odd stuff might appear. Over the past few months I’ve come to find the local news can be good source, but also a distraction, as the danger of becoming locked into themes or crusades can creep up on you, and you suddenly find all your posts are drifting towards one subject. You can see this in sites that get hung up on things like wind power, local transport, or anything political – and lose their way from their original concept. Once you start on any of those, you can find that almost every post relates to that subject, and you don’t realise it until it has taken over. I have avoided such things deliberately, but even so have found that I accumulates over 600 news stories that I noted for reference, and might have used as post subjects.

So far, I have managed to keep up the Post a Day rate (and a little more), and hope the better weather, should it arrive, might provide a chance for a bit more photography – while we are still free to use cameras without a licence, overseer, and bodyguard.

Wiki

The Wiki has been subject to some extensive tidying during this period, with much redundant material cleaned out, and a substantial number of updates made to existing material. A Wiki page is never “finished”, and can expect to be revised or updated at any time, but a number of pages were started and never even made it to first draft. These have been brought up to date, and only a handful are left that need outstanding content inserted.

Most of the page errors and broken content have been found and fixed, although some of the maps may need to be checked. Changes to the operation of the map API mean that assumptions made in some settings result in no map appearing unless the map is zoomed out. These will be tracked down and corrected over time.

Somewhere between 200 and 300 pages were revised (no, I didn’t think it was worth the effort of counting) which means we no longer generate any errors on our server, which can only be a good thing. Once the last few pages have been fettled, a different method of watching for pages that merit a change will be used, and this should mean that we won’t see the same sort of backlog appear regarding changes, checks, or revisions.

Depending on what we find, or are pointed at, it’s likely that the Wiki will pass through the 1,000 page (or should that be article?) count soon, but there’s no hurry.

I also have a small clutch of modifications to be installed, as time permits, aimed at closing the door to spam commenters. The open nature of a wiki means they can abuse the privilege of being able to edit pages and make comments easily, and since the Captcha barrier was broken recently, the SeSco Wiki has had a public password added since it was deluged with such rubbish shortly after the Captcha breaking services went live. This, unfortunately, happened just days after a commenting option was added to the Wiki, and had just started to attract input from readers, but had to be shut down within days of the Captcha breakers becoming active, and the comments became repetitive nonsense.

Funny, one minute you think there isn’t much that needs doing. The next, feeling of overload seem to be looming.

Forum

Not much to say.

This is more of a problem than it is worth, and may be ditched – in part at least, since it forms part of the Wiki, and provides the Discussion Page element, which would be kept.

Activity is so low, I spend more time dealing with spambots or comment spammers  than  I do communing with any of the remaining members.

While everyone still seems to be visiting and reading, no-one is posting anything of note.

The idea of a Forum is discussion, and that is sadly lacking.

I’m advised by those who move in “social networking” circles that these have replaced Forums, some even say it has killed them.

If that really is the case, then things are not going to improve, ever, since I simply don’t do “social networking”, and won’t be.

New outlet

There’s also a new venture which promises to provide additional visibility for the site within the Scottish community, and see the Forum and its various hassles burn.

I’m not ready to publicise it at the moment, simply because it arrived unexpectedly. Without going into detail, I acquired a site that had been plagiarising my material – kind of stupid really, since it is all offered for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK: Scotland licence. But if you don’t acknowledge or credit the source, then you break the terms of that licences and I will hassle your host and ISP until you are taken off line.

I don’t know when I will get around to looking at this properly, as the updates and revisions to the Wiki are taking up most of my time, but I will be prodding it and customising it a little, just to see how it works, and post a link when I’m at least reasonably happy with it.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Site News | , , | Leave a comment

Murphy’s Law – it never fails, even for servers

Grumpy MurphyExactly a week ago, I was fearing the worst…

Our host had announced a planned outage while our servers were upgraded, and expected normal service to be resumed after something like 6 hours.

I wasn’t going to hold my breath waiting, since they’d done the same few months earlier, and we had nearly a month of repeated outages, with two being extensive.

The final analysis indicated a disk mirroring bug had taken them out the first time – and the second time was down to human error, after the service company forgot to apply the required patch when the  servers were restarted. So after the same period of operation… down they went again.

This time, I posted an alert about the upgrade and the expected duration of the outage – and all went as expected. The upgrade was not even followed by any short outages  while small bugs were fixed.

After a week, I removed the alert – and tempted fate.

The next morning…

Yep… offline went the site the next morning, and had still not returned by the evening.

We now have a server info page provided by our host (previously, we were just like mushrooms, and always in the dark), and it looks as if the host is innocent.

The problem appears to have followed a sustained DDOS attack against two servers in their system, and specifically targeted at their mail services.

Updates reveal that one server has been able to back online – but it’s not ours.

Ours remained under attack, with the host attempting block the offending IPs, but they said it was proving difficult, as these ran into many thousands.

So, it will be back. It just depends on how long it takes to drive the scum back into hiding.

Update

Of course, Murphy was still going strong when I came in this evening and made this post…

According to the logs, the servers came back up a whole 25 minutes after I published it – but the site remained inaccessible. Then went offline again, 9 minutes later.

After that, it was up and down like a yo-yo, but remained inaccessible.

Update II – Wednesday, November 28

The host appears to have mitigated the attack overnight, with a further report of activity levels falling to normal by late morning today.

Unfortunately, while our domain is now accessible, together with the Wiki, current attempts to access the Forum result only in an internal server error message.

The problem with access to the Forum was cleared up during the course of Wednesday afternoon, and so far, operation seems to have settled down fairly quickly.

November 27, 2012 Posted by | Site News | , | Leave a comment

Promising news on Wiki spam

Bear trapI deliberately missed out any sort of  ‘site news’ last weekend, simply because I am one of those sad folk who can find themselves locked in a habit after doing something regularly – it must be some sort of OCD, so although things had been quiet anyway (too busy in garden etc), I took the opportunity to break any possible addiction to this particular regular post.

As it was, I had some pending info that was yet to be confirmed, but did reach fruition during the past week, and it looks like good news.

As regulars will already know, it is my intention to keep the Wiki as open as possible, so that items can be added easily, without the need for registration and other little hurdles for anyone who want to help. Unfortunately, at the moment, we have become the target of some particularly virulent comment spammers/spambots, and these can deface dozens of our pages in a day, if not spotted quickly. While we had apparently beaten most of them of with a simple captcha, the arrival of human spammers who are paid to read obscured captcha and defeat it a few months ago meant that it became completely ineffective, almost overnight, and the spam started to flood in.

They are least easily baulked by the addition of a password to the Wiki, freely given to anyone, but it still adds an undesirable barrier to entry to good people.

I’m pleased to say that an enquiry to the maintainer of the Wiki code brought some very helpful remarks and advice, together with the supply of some new and innovative modifications to the data input process for the Wiki, which appear to have proven to be quite effective at keeping the scum out. The beauty of them is that they are largely automatic and transparent to the user, meaning that once I have written them into out Wiki, I should be able to remove the current password.

The new options work by…

Sorry – I don’t subscribe to the opinion that says a defence is no good if it might be defeated by letting the enemy know what it is.

While I do agree that they enemy should know you have booby-traps set to kill them, I think it enhances the traps if the attacker has no idea what has to be overcome, as they will then waste their time in lots of pointless attempts to defeat something that is not even there – and that can only be a good thing.

I’ll try to get the changes made in the next week or so – or whenever I stop managing to find holes that need to be dug, or barrow loads of muck to get out of the garden when the season declares itself over!

 

October 21, 2012 Posted by | Site News | | Leave a comment

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