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Alden Bates' Weblog

Feigning normality since 1973

April 24, 2009

Moving in

Filed in: Website Management.

After a comment on my entry about the weird redirects I was experiencing, I contacted my web host to get them to check out the server. The end result was that and its associated sites were all moved to another server. So hopefully that should deal with the redirect problem, but I'm keeping an eye on it just in case.

The only major difference between the two servers is that the newer one is running a newer version of PHP. The only thing that'll have any chance of affecting is Zeus Blog - none of the rest of the site uses PHP.

I'd like to give a big thanks to the support team at Host for Web for their help!

Posted at 6:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2009

How not to update a server

Filed in: Website Management.

A little over a month ago, Transformers Animated started its third season on Cartoon Network over in the States. Also around this time, the Transformers Wiki was experiencing some downtime problems, apparently due to the amount of traffic it was getting. So the fellow hosting the site decided to upgrade the aging copy of MediaWiki powering the Wiki.

Unfortunately the attempt to do so corrupted the database. No problem! Just restore the database from the last nightly backup! Except the nightly backups, it appears, had never actually worked, so the Wiki ended up with a copy of the database from some eight months prior, shortly before it split from Wikia.

Wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued. Eight months of work lost!

However a month later and I think the Wiki is well on the road to recovery. Hundreds, if not thousands of person-hours on the part of the community, spent saving over eight thousand articles out of Google's cache and tidying the results of the conversion script, restoring templates and reloading images. Time spent due to a moment's carelessness and a lack of proper backups.

So, if you've been wondering why this blog has lain quiet for the last month or so, that's partly why.

Posted at 7:02 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2009

The Next Doctor/Planet of the Dead

Filed in: Doctor Who.

Gee, blink and half the month goes by!

Good Monday was good because it brought me The Next Doctor on Prime (which I'd already seen) and Planet of the Dead, which I hadn't. The problem with Doctor Who doing a year with just 4 specials in is that there's not as much lee-way when you get a duff story. Planet of the Dead, the Easter special, is a bit duff, and it's all we're getting until some vague date in November.

Spoilers follow...

Continue reading "The Next Doctor/Planet of the Dead"

Posted at 10:16 PM | Comments (1)

March 26, 2009

Mystery - spyware or hack?

Filed in: Computers, Internet.

After getting home from work today, I checked the blogs I follow using Bloglines. All was well until I got to the last blog, which happened to be Zeusblog. When I clicked on the title of the entry to visit the blog, I was instead taken to the following URL:

I shouldn't have to warn you not to go there.

So, why did I go there instead of Zeusblog? My initial thought was maybe Zeusblog got hacked. I downloaded the server logs, but according to them, no request reached the server in order to be redirected. I even downloaded all of the files on the site and checked them, just in case, but found nothing.

I turned to my second assumption - that my PC had picked up some spyware. Scans with AVG, Ad Aware, Spybot and Windows Defender all came up blank.

So... what the hell? What caused this redirect? Some new spyware which the scanning programs don't know about yet?

I experienced the same redirect a few weeks back. I couldn't find the cause then, I can't now, and whatever it is is obviously still affecting my PC.

Googling found two relevant articles, but neither of them provide any good suggestions as to what caused the redirect in the first place:

  • The Norton AntiVirus guys seem more interested in telling the guy that their product blocked the redirect than why clicking on a google result took him to a different place than he expected

  • Geeks to Go couldn't find anything on this victim's system, though he was happy enough when the problem didn't repeat.

This is very odd and disturbing.

Posted at 9:33 PM | Comments (11)

March 13, 2009

New Transformers Animated!

Filed in: Transformers.

Battlestar Galactica may be coming to an end, but season 3 of Transformers Animated is just starting in the US this weekend with a three-parter titled TransWarped! (URL may contain spoilers!) It's rumoured that this season will be the last, but Hasbro refused to confirm or deny it in the recent Q&A. I'm hoping this means they haven't decided yet and are going to see how season 3 does....

Derrick Wyatt made a teaser post last week and supplied the Transformers Wiki with an image of one of the background characters, Mainframe. Continuing Animated's run of borrowing characters from all places in TF history, as well as the aforementioned Action Master, there's new versions of Strika (originally from Beast Machines) and Blackout (from the recent movie).

I'm holding out for an Animated version of Sky-Byte. What's more awesome than a Transformer who turns into a flying shark and writes haikus?

Posted at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 9, 2009

Friday Night Movie: Watchmen

Filed in: TV & Movies.

I want to see a movie for the first time since September on Friday night, and that movie was the long-awaited Watchmen. Having read the original book, I was keen to look out and see how much they'd changed it for the big screen. The answer was "quite a lot but not as much as I expected". The rest of the production was so perfect that I could accept the rest of the changes. The casting was particularly good, with the actors being, for the most part, a perfect match for their characters. Also, unexpected Garry Chalk. Cool!

Spoilers follow.

Continue reading "Friday Night Movie: Watchmen"

Posted at 9:02 PM | Comments (1)

March 5, 2009

Cars of the Future!

Filed in: Transformers.

Between seasons 2 and 3 of the original Transformers cartoon, the show lept some 20 years ahead and therefore took place in the futuristic year of 2006. Since 2006 was The Future, humans had spaceships and space stations. Most of the stories tended to be set on planets other than Earth, only a few depicted Future Earth, and fewer still showed vehicles.

Only two episodes, "Only Human" and "The Burden Hardest to Bear", made an attempt to depict what the makers thought cars might look like in 2006. Naturally their guesses were a bit far off...

In "The Burden Hardest to Bear", Marissa Faireborn drives this car, which more resembles some kind of dodgem.

This single-seater features gull-wing doors, a roof-mounted laser turret (presumably it's an Earth Defense Command staff car), what appears to be jet engine sized exhausts, and an indeterminate number of wheels. Mind your head getting out.

Continue reading "Cars of the Future!"

Posted at 8:07 PM | Comments (2)

February 24, 2009

Interfering with the artistic vision

Filed in: Music.

I've recently been format shifting my music collection, because it's easier to carry a USB drive full of ogg vorbis files to work to listen to than it is to carry a CD-wallet full of discs. I've been wondering how other people deal with albums where the artist's been a bit unorthodox in the way they've presented the music.

For instance, with albums where there are "hidden tracks" with a few minutes of silence before the music starts, such as Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, I've been trimming off the dead air. Mike Oldfield's 1989 album Earth Moving inexplicibly has the last two songs as one track, so I carefully split them into two ogg files.

Should I feel guilty about interfering with the artistic vision of the composer? This is the sort of question which haunts me late at night.

Posted at 7:43 AM | Comments (2)

February 7, 2009

Internet Explorer is broken

Filed in: Computers, Internet.

Before you all say "We know", I'll clarify that it's broken on my PC. Although it will happy load web pages off my hard drive, give it a URL and it sits there forever saying "Connecting".

Running up "Diagnose Connection Problems" from IE's tools menu merely reports that "Windows didn't detect any problems with your internet connection". Turning off Windows firewall doesn't make any difference, and I even tried adding IE to the list of exceptions. The other firewall which might affect it is on the router, but other PCs on the network have no trouble with IE. It could be AVG, which has several components which sit between browser and internet such as LinkScanner, though disabling everything I can in that doesn't seem to have made a difference...

However rebooting fixes the problem, so apparently some program I'm starting in the normal course of things is causing problems with IE. A mystery!

Meanwhile FireFox is working perfectly.

Posted at 1:32 PM | Comments (2)

February 2, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen trailer

Filed in: Transformers.

Yep, finally a trailer for Revenge of the Fallen!

You can see a higher-resolution version at Trailer Addict. It looks like it's going to be a lot of fun. What kind of a plot it'll have is still pretty much a mystery, of course, but people are going to be going along to see giant robots hitting each other anyway. One might hope that this time they keep the cameras a bit steadier, and perhaps not have any references to masturbation, thanks very much.

There's also a G.I. Joe trailer, which is notable for having Christopher Eccleston being quite prominent. I was never into G.I. Joe myself, but I might go and see that one anyway...

Posted at 10:02 PM | Comments (2)


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