Down Hard!!

I did not know until I got message from a couple friends with my morning e-mail, including one from my Dad… The website is down. I go to look to find that DarkerView is down hard, 403 Error!!

I have changed nothing in the basic website for months, at least nothing on the configuration side. With WordPress installed all I generally do is post using the WP admin tools. Everything was there, I could FTP into the site, all the configurations stuff looked right, there was no response when HTTP protocol was used. I poked about a little at the problem, but could see no reason why the site would be down.

It was not until later, around lunch, that I was able to call GoDaddy tech support and see what they could make of the problem. I expected a quick fix, something that could be done in a couple minutes. This was not to be, they could not figure it out either. The gal I was speaking to kept bringing in even more senior techs to look at the problem. It was nearly 45 minutes on the phone, usually on hold, with nothing resolved. At least I could work on a document at my desk between answering questions about the site.

They finally just gave up. At least they would give up on my hosting account. The solution was to create a new hosting account and copy everything over. A little later that evening, on a friend’s iPad at the Keck public lecture, that I found that DarkerView was back online. Of course I find a slew of automatic emails in my inbox welcoming me to GoDaddy hosting.

GoDaddy has great tech support. I rarely need to use them, the service is very stable, but when you do call you get a human (who speaks English!) and they generally know what they are doing. One way or another they fix the problem.

Thanks for letting me know about the site crash… At least I know that someone reads my blog!

Disabling the Ask Toolbar with Java Update

Why does Oracle insist on bundling the Ask toolbar with Java updates? I can understand making a little money to offset the costs of a freely distributed product. But is the money worth the ire of every internet user in the marketplace? Just type “Ask toolbar” into Google and you see hundreds of articles about user frustration and instructions for removing the useless thing. It truly belongs in the category of malware.

Ask is not even a decent search engine. OK, it works fine if you are looking for Justin Bieber news, but it sucks at technical and scholarly searches. On the other hand, the money paid to Oracle and other software vendors is probably the only thing keeping Ask corporation alive. A truly despicable business model with no redeeming traits.

Yes, there is a checkbox to opt-out of the toolbar. Yes, I have missed this checkbox during one of the many routine updates of Java that occur each month. Then I have to go through the chore of removing the junk from my browsers.

There is a way to avoid the Java installation trap on Windows OS at least, something that deserves to be passed around. It does require a registry change, but that is not that difficult. Just create a textfile with the extension .reg, this is a registry modifiction script. Cut and paste the snippet of code below into this text file, save and double click to execute… Done.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00



Unfortunatly this only works for Java, keep an eye out for other sneaky install options from Ask. At least Java is the only one I usually encounter.

Link in Facebook Issues

I like to cross-post some of my blog postings to Facebook. Yes it serves to publicize and steer traffic to my blog. However, I am selective in the articles I cross-post, and I find that many of my Facebook friends and followers appreciate it. I get a lot of likes and shares with some types of posts.

There is also the issue of Facebook’s intellectual property policies, a bit of a rights grab, quite disturbing to a photographer like myself. Thus I do not generally post any of my better photos directly to Facebook. Snapshots? These are OK. Good photos? These I post to my own blog and then just link them on Facebook.

On occasion I find that Facebook does not cross-post properly, the usual issue is the lack of a thumbnail. For this I have found there is a developer’s tool on the Facebook site for evaluating links.

Facebook Link Debugger

Just paste the URL into the bar and check it out. Interestingly this tool seems tied to the main website servers. Try linking on your Facebook wall, when this fails go to the debugger and paste the link in. The image should appear in the information listed about the link. Then go back to your own page and re-post the link, it will now work and the image will be displayed properly. Surprisingly reliable.

Sending My First Takedown Notice

Occasionally I use the Google image search function to see if any of my photos are being used on other websites. Yes… It is something to do when insomnia strikes.

Earlier this month I found quite a few of my photos being used on an very obnoxious site. The same page also contained numerous images from the West Hawai’i Astronomy Club website. I will forgo including the URL or link here, no need providing them one more incoming referral. Suffice it to say that the entire website was constructed of stolen or scraped material, the sole purpose of which is to serve as search engine bait. Once on the website clicking on anything generated pop-ups, pop-unders, a slew of ads. This was not innocent infringement, this is a business built on theft of intellectual property.

A little sleuthing revealed that the site was located on a hosting service out of the Netherlands, As this site is not within the US a DMCA takedown notice is not legally enforceable. However, European law is pretty good with respect to copyright, the hosting provider should take a notice of infringement seriously. Thus I sent an email off to the listed customer service address…

Continue reading “Sending My First Takedown Notice”

2013 In Review

A year in review article? Really? Yeah, everyone does it, and you get tired of them. I am going to do it anyway… It is a nice excuse to look back over the previous year and see what I spent the last 365 days of my life doing.

As Darker View is intended to be a web diary, in the original sense of the term blog, I can look back through a year of postings to do this. I have to admit a few surprises were to be had, things I had forgotten about!

An active pāhoehoe breakout at Kupapaʻu

Looking back I have to admit it was not a bad year.

Andrew and the Galaxy
Taking astrophotos under the Milky Way Galaxy

The Top Posts of 2013

There were over 75,500 visits to Darker View this year, a substantial increase over last year. This includes two months with about 10,000 visitors, though 5-6k is more normal for a month. Daily traffic is running about 200 visits per day. I am continually amazed that so many people stop by my little molecule of the web to read what I have written.  Perhaps they just come to view the photographs.

A few posts on Darker View attract far more attention than the rest, by a wide margin. There are certain subjects I post about that seem to be of continual interest, garnering a large number of search engine hits. It is always interesting to see what these posts are. Why are folks coming to read Darker View?

Article Views
1 Astrophotography with the EOS-M 3979
2 Snow on the Mountain 3387
3 Mauna Kea Claims Another… 3028
4 A Backyard Telescope Pier 2173
5 Soldering Small 1932
6 The iOptron ZEQ25 1596
7 Degrees, Arc-Minutes and Arc-Seconds 1236
8 SBIG ST-i Autoguider 1146
9 Repairing a Wii Balance Board 833
10 Autoguiding the iOptron ZEQ25 with an SBIG STi 767


A couple posts are on the list because they were linked by sites with a good deal more traffic than DV, Snow on the Mountain and Soldering Small are examples of this. A couple astro-equipment related posts continue to draw steady traffic, months after being posted. Most of the astro-basics posts are well read, appearing in the top 50.

The backyard pier post is a very old post, one that was originally written for my first website over a decade ago. The latest version was edited and somewhat updated when I transferred it to the WordPress version of DV where it continues to get a few hits every day.

There are 1158 posts on Darker View, not counting all of the old stuff still on the older version of the site. Looking through the posts and seeing what people are reading is fascinating.  Will the results change the way I write and what I write about? Probably not.  The purpose of DV is not to generate traffic.  Still, is is gratifying to see that folks stop by.

Worpress 3.6 Running Slow?

So for the past few days Darker View has been really slow, ever since I updated to WordPress 3.6. Even the admin pages were slow, not just the public side. It could take 30-60 seconds to load a page, simply unacceptable. I knew it was WordPress as the part of the site that are static HTML had no issues, it was not the server… This time.

I have been poking about, trying to understand what was holding up the site, without much success. Today I turned off all the plugins, everything. Then brought them back one at a time. I expected the issue to be Jetpack, one of the more involved plugins that works on both the public and admin sides of the site.

One by one, with plugins restored, I tested page load times. Now I am at a loss to understand what was wrong… When I finished turning all of the plugins back on the site is working fine, with quick load times. Did I just need to reinitialize stuff? Turning Jetpack back on requires you to re-login to the WordPress servers.

All seems well… For now. I will have to keep an eye on things. Maybe next time just deactivate and reactivate Jetpack.

Backing up the WordPress Database

DarkerView is a substantial part of who I am. Recorded here are my writings, photos and experiences spanning years. A personal diary recording so much of my life. While my blogging effort goes back to 2005, it is only the last few years that are hosted on the newer WordPress based DarkerView. Still, I worry about losing it all, this would be a stunning blow, not something I wish to contemplate. Thus I make an effort to back everything up.

Hawaiian Double Hulled Canoe
A Hawaiian double hulled canoe awaiting a crew below Pu’ukohala Heiau
I use a plugin called, simply enough, WordPress Database Backup. The plugin is easy enough, just a few settings to make.

The settings are fairly stright forward to figure out… You can choose to exclude storing post revisions and any spam comments you may have not yet deleted. Any optional tables, not part of the basic WordPress setup, can be included. You can choose to set up an automatic backup at several different time intervals.

The plugin also gives you a few choices in what to do with the backup file. The backup can be stored on the same server as the site, emailed to the specified address, or simply downloaded to your local computer. I generally trigger my backups manually and download them to my local machine for storage at home.

The result is a compressed file containing the necessary SQL code needed to recreate the entire WordPress database. For DarkerView, a three year old blog with almost one thousand posts, the resultant backup file is just over a gigabyte.

Unpacking and perusing the resultant backup file is interesting. Laid before you is the entire structure and contents of the site in SQL query statements. In the case of DarkerView this currently results in over sixteen thousand lines of SQL. Not having really looked at the back-end database before it is quite interesting to examine.

The backup file does not include the uploaded files, the images and thumbnails. It is necessary to copy this section of the blog manually. This is easily accomplished with an FTP session opened to the hosting computer and a single copy command.

Deleting Revisions in WordPress

I tend to revise my posts… A lot.

This is particularly true for my essays. I will stew on the text for several days, often saving very minor revisions. As a result there may be 20-30 revisions in the database. I also tend to find a few errors during proofreading that require another save or three. All this editing does add a bit of a clutter.

I do like the WordPress revision feature, it has saved the day more than once. The ability to recover the text from previous versions is simply invaluable.

Waialea Bay
Looking out from the beach at Waialea Bay
On the other hand, I have wondered just how much this extra cruft adds to the WordPress database? How much does it slow the blog down in generating pages and editing?

WordPress does have some tools for dealing with the revisions. Even if you have to know about some of the behind-the-scenes stuff to make changes to revision handling.

Finding how to do this is done through the usual learning materials… A Google search for something like “WordPress limit revisions” provides all you need to know. The information was out there, but I will repeat it here. If nothing more this post can serve as notes for when I next need to purge the database.

Continue reading “Deleting Revisions in WordPress”

Blogging for Effect

Can a “mere” blogger have a positive effect on their community? Many figures in authority or traditional media often denigrate the effort of bloggers and the new media. To be certain, in the constant noise of network traffic there is a great deal of trash and misinformation. But quality still rises above the chaff, a good effort can have an effect.

My case in point is Kauai blogger Joan Conrow and her blog KauaiEclectic. I have had Eclectic on my personal reading list for years, her Musings article series are great commentary of life and current issues, both local and global. She tells of morning walks in the rain, swimming with sea turtles, GMO’s and pesticide use, dying bees, the abuses of immigrant labor, and killing endangered species.

Continue reading “Blogging for Effect”