Website Hosting Issues

So for the last few days things were a little rough on Darker View. Very slow load times, and for part of Sunday the site was not available at all. I do mean slow, well over a minute to get a 50k image file?

I have had a trouble ticket active with GoDaddy Support since Saturday, no proper response to the ticket yet, or at least no acknowledgement that they have fixed the issue. I have bounced a few answers back and forth. On the other hand everything seems to be running just fine as of Monday morning. Load times are snappy! Let us hope that is the end of it.

Darker View’s Top Posts of 2012

Looking through the site statistics is an interesting exercise. I get a chance to see what people are reading. The vast majority of readers do not write comments, the stats are the best tool for feedback I have. Perusing the stats is also an realization of one’s own vanity, a necessary motivation for all writers, not just bloggers.

Site traffic has taken a large hit with the transfer to the WordPress platform. I expected this, there would inevitably be loss of links and search engine traffic with the changeover. This has begun to recover, but very slowly. There have been 55 thousand views of the Darker View blog in 2012. Overall there were 66 thousand views of the entire site for the year, not just the WordPress material. This compares to 91 thousand visitors in 2011, about two-thirds of pre-changeover traffic. Total traffic to Darker View since inception in 2007 is now over 288 thousand visitors.

Continue reading “Darker View’s Top Posts of 2012”

Comment Spam

Comment spam is always a problem when maintaining a blog, a constant battle. Generally one my readers do not see, as I have to manually approve any comment from a new commenter. As I have it setup now, once I approve a comment from a particular reader, any further comments they make get posted immediately. I do try to make it easy for my loyal readers.

But this does leave a list of messages in the approval que each day, until recently this was anywhere from a few to a dozen. In the last week the number has soared, to 30-50 spam comments each day. It becomes a real chore to delete them all.

Time to take the next step in the armaments race. I had two choices, disallow anything using an address as verification, or install a more sophisticated filtering software.

Just about every spam comment in the que is using a Gmail address for verification. So are a few of my loyal readers, folks I really do not want to cut off from commenting. These mail accounts are really convenient, for regular folks and the spammers.

Take the other choice? I will attempt to use a spam detection plugin for WordPress called Askimet. As of today it is installed and active, a test.

I do worry that legitimate comments will be lost. Please look to see your comment posts properly, if it does not, drop me a line and I will see if I can add you to the whitelist.

Database Work

I have spent quite a few hours lately revamping my observation database. The whole thing had been quite neglected as of late, never being properly updated since I changed over to WordPress on the main blog. The appearance had been left in a halfway state that didn’t match anything, never mind some serious bugs.

Overlayed DSS image of HCG88. These overlays are generated on-the-fly using the object data.
In addition to adding all of my recent observations at the telescope, I have redone the style sheets. You can now select white-on-black, black-on-white, or night vision red, just look for the pull-down menu on the object page.

The printable version is still there, a clean black-on-white layout including inverted DSS images for printing. I took a cue from that printed version and kept the other new layouts very clean and uncluttered in appearance.

There is a nearby object section that picks up any close by objects for quick reference. Some attention has been paid to the search routines for better usability.

Those are just the visible changes, much of the work has gone into the back end to improve the quality of the underlying data. The whole thing uses Python and Tk on my local machine, this gets converted to SQL and PHP for the webserver. Most of the tools are automated at this point, and getting less buggy as I hunt down the little issues that I find with use.

I put the whole thing together for my own use, a place to organize my observing notes. But as it is online, anyone can use it. Let me know if you ever find it useful.

Back from Alaska

Sunrise over Georgia Strait
Sunrise over Georgia Strait
The Nordic Quest is now moored in Anacortes for the winter. We had a great time bringing her down the inside passage. Leaving Juneau on September 1st and arriving Anacortes on September 18th, plenty of time for a little exploring here and there. We got in a little fishing along the way as well, arriving with all the freezers full of salmon, halibut and crab.

You want to hear about the trip? All the fun details? You will have to head over to! The hours and days of cruising provide ample opportunity to pull out the iPad and write. There are descriptions of the fishing, the adventures and useful notes on each harbor and anchorage we used for the trip.

I shot 1,843 photographs during the voyage, about 43Gb of photos. This does not count the thousands of timelapse photos and dozens of video clips. The best of these photos are now posted as photos of the week, scheduled from this week through next summer.

In the meantime I have neglected Darker View. Time to return to the islands in both body and imagination. I have more explorations planned for the fall, time to put those plans into motion.

Form Test Post

Just testing how some HTML works within a WordPress post…

Format/(Circle of Confusion)

Lens Focal Length (in mm)

Lens Focus Setting (subject distance) in meters


Depth of field:          



Total depth of field:


Hyperfocal Distance:

NOTE: Hyperfocal Distance is determined solely by the focal length and f-stop selected.

It is not affected by the focus distance setting.

If you set your lens to focus at the Hyperfocal Distance, depth of field will be from
to infinity.

Yeah, this may look ugly!

Dealing With the Old Darker View

How do I fold all of the legacy parts of Darker View into the new format?

Not easily.

Slowly, I hope to move all of the legacy information in the old darker view site onto the WordPress platform. The first goal is to deal with the old static HTML pages that existed beside the blog. These pages have an ancient heritage, at least by web standards. They are fragments of the website I began almost twenty years ago, the old Much of this was ported into the blog when the website was converted in 2007. At one point the whole thing was seamless, the blog integrated with static HTML pages, integrated with a batch of PHP scripts to dynamically create the observing database.

Right now the thing is just a mess.

The goal is to achieve the same seamless appearance. First to import all of the old static pages into WordPress as either posts or pages within the WordPress database. This requires some method of redirecting the old pages to the new locations when a 404 error occurs. To this end I have borrowed and modified a custom PHP script to automate the 404 page. With this I can map any deleted pages to the new location.

I hope.

Actually, it seems to work reasonably well. With this I can begin the process of deleting the old material as it is imported into the new format, without abandoning all of the old links to my site that exist across the net.

Expect problems. Expect dead links that will eventually get corrected as the material posts to the new site. Expect to see old articles posted as new on the new site, that material I deem worth preserving. This will be a long process as I slowly, page by page, move the material across and get the links re-mapped.

Bear with me. Thanks!

Keck in Motion Hits the Web

I expected the video to be popular, maybe not this popular. So far several major websites have picked up the video. First is was and Universe Today, then Phil at Bad Astronomy was nice enough to post the vid. Now it is Wired Magazine that has posted the video along with an article. I expect the video will pass 10k views sometime in the next hour.

For those readers that might be stopping by Darker View for the first time… Welcome!

A video like this takes a surprising amount of work to assemble. It is rewarding to see that the results of that effort are not in vain. Sharing my experience on the mountain, celebrating the efforts of the great guys of our summit daycrew, it is very satisfying to see that so many folks are interested in what we do.

If you like what you see, why not stick around, we have more to share!