Darker View is Back

You may just have noted that DV was down for a few days. While I poked at the issue a bit I did not find the problem until today, Saturday. I finally had time to really sit down and figure out what was wrong.

Waterlilies in an ornamental pond, iPhone photo processed in Prisma
It turns out the my service provider rearranged some things, the big one being the URL’s for the SQL database hosting machines. Thus, while all of the website files were there, they could not get to the databases that provide all of the actual content.

I probably received some e-mail explaining that there would be a change. I just ignored it in the usual torrent of messages I get every day.

Server names updated in the setup files and a few PHP scripts, it appears everything is back online. Sorry for any confusion!

Site Icons

Loading a site icon to your website will create a unique icon in shortcut lists and on browser tabs. it is a neat touch that identifies your website in a very visual way. The problem is that there is a dizzying array of icons needed to support the various browsers and devices. One format for chrome, another for Internet Explorer, one for iOS devices, etc., etc.

NGC2244, the Rosette Nebula, the current site icon image for Darker View
Fortunately the later versions of WordPress make it easy. A built in function of WordPress creates all of the needed icons from a single image. The function is found in the theme, and is supported by many modern themes. Simply go to Appearance->Themes, then select Customize->Site Identity for your current theme. At the bottom should a place to load your site icon image.

The only issue then is to select your site icon image. This is easier said than done as not all images work. You need an image that will scale well to the smaller icon sizes used by many devices. An image that looks good at a larger size is very likely to look like mush when scaled to a much smaller size.

WordPress suggests an original size of 512×512 pixels. This will be scaled down to the needed sizes for the various site icons. I would suggest testing your image by resizing it back and forth in an image editor. This should show you how the image will look at sizes from 512×512 to 16×16 pixels. It may take some experimentation to get right.

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!

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.

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.

Mucking About in Themes

Yes, I have changed the theme. Sorry.

The theme currently displayed is Blogum. I think this is the way I want to go. The original appearance was back on white. Not really appropriate for a blog called Darker View. I have edited the CSS for a gray on black appearance closer to the original DV. A few things do not work quite right, particularly the tables I had so neatly laid out for the earlier theme. Just more work ahead, bear with me.

Site Appearance

Yeah, I am not happy with the appearance of the site either.

The current theme just has a number of annoying “features” that just bother me. I am experimenting with another theme, one with an even cleaner and more minimalistic layout. So expect the appearance to change some time. In the meantime if you happen to stop by Darker View late some night to see an entirely different look… It is just me working on another layout.