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August 5, 2009

Vanity edits

Because the Transformer Wiki has a lot of articles on real people, not all of them complimentary, so occasionally the people turn up and try to edit their articles, as Frank Milkovich apparently did today.

Hilarity ensued!

I wonder how often that happens on Wikipedia.

Posted at 7:05 PM | Comments (3)

April 24, 2009

Moving in

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

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)

October 6, 2008

Mailbag: Alden gets weirded out Edition!

It's time for another edition of search engine mailbag!

simple instructions on how to build a working dalek
First take one Kaled mutant...
is andy lane a good guy to work with?
He seems like a nice enough chap...
are you sure this planet's meant to be here?
what next? suns?
Sure, why not?
is it safe to masturbate at 15?
... there's always the danger of blisters, I suppose.
i want to fuck nicola bryant

Um... Yeah, good luck with that.

Note to self: stop looking at search engine stats!

Posted at 9:23 PM | Comments (7)

August 6, 2008

July Mailbox: Doctor Who edition

More questions from the search engine queries: this time they read like a Doctor Who pub quiz.

Who shot off Davros's hand?
Lee Harvey Oswald
How did the Master escape from the eye of harmony?
A really big stepladder.
Which story featured a transparent or glass Dalek?
Modern Art of the Daleks
Which superweapon was used to stop the Sontaran invasion of gallifrey?
The Collapsible Plastic Chair of Rassilon.
When is Jason Donovan taking the part of dr who?
Well, he- WHAT?!

Or the actual answers: Bostock in Revelation of the Daleks; the Time Lords resurrected him; Revelation and Resurrection of the Daleks (and the novelisation of The Daleks); the Demat Gun; and I'm not even going to ask where you heard that rumour.

Posted at 10:24 PM | Comments (2)

August 4, 2008

Someone needs a hug

At least judging by's top search term in Google Webmaster Tools:

[search terms]

Posted at 7:35 PM | Comments (0)

August 2, 2008

IE: Print versus Screen Rendering

Internet Explorer, why do you suck so much?

I'm working on a new site scheme for the NZDWFC web page and recently had a brainwave that I could make a special style sheet to render the pages in a format more suitable for printing. You can specify the media type of a style sheet so that the browser selects the appropriate one to use given the situation. I can therefore provide a style sheet which includes all the menus for display on the computer screen, and another one which hides those for printing.

Unfortunately I hadn't counted on Internet Explorer being a dick. Here's a review of the NZDWFC novelisation of Shada, rendered in IE using my print style sheet:

[In-browser render]

Here's the print preview of the same document, using the same style sheet:

[print render]

So IE uses a different rendering process for displaying on the screen versus printing. It doesn't treat floats correctly (the text should flow around the image, as it does in the in-browser render) and it's ignoring the column widths I set, causing the content to be shifted to the right, and losing the right-hand side of the text.

And I thought it was bad when I had to deal with IE's in-browser differences. Grrrrr.

Edit: It wasn't that the column widths that was the problem - apparently setting page margins seems to upset the print renderer. Once I removed the margin definition, it laid out fine. The text still isn't flowing around the image though.

Posted at 1:40 PM | Comments (0)

June 3, 2008

May Mailbag

In the interests of improving the internet, some questions from the postbagsearch engine queries:

Can hard drive crash be caused by microwave oven?
Probably! Print out your recipes, people! Don't just stick your laptop next to the microwave!
Is Martha's boyfriend really the Master?
It's probably to early to say at this point, but I'm going with "no". I'm not willing to rule out the idea that he's the Meddling Monk though.
What does "mille anni passe sunt" mean?
With the aid of Google and Wikipedia, it appears to be Latin for "A thousand years will pass". (No one seems to have the lyrics for the rest of Corvus Corax's song though)
Why doesn't Tom Baker appear with the other doctors at conventions?
The Blinovitch Limitation Effect.
Who are the mars refugees on earth?
The chances of anything coming from Mars is a million to one.
before and after pictures of results of energy drinks
Before = Tired face
After = Manic face

Looks like I really was tempting fate (or the spammers) by commenting a month ago on how I hadn't had any spam comments for a while. They're back (and pinging harmlessly off my spam protection).

Posted at 10:49 PM | Comments (1)

May 8, 2008

Error 403 graphic

I'm finding that the new error 403 graphic (it appears when people try to leech my bandwidth by remote-linking to my graphics) for this site is proving to be quite effective at discouraging bandwidth leeching. I think it's the middle bit.

error 403 graphic

If only there were some way to apply this technique to email spam...

Previously: Even better hotlink protection, More on "Even better hotlink protection"

Posted at 9:33 PM | Comments (2)

April 30, 2008


Back in Y2K or so, Jim Mortimore wrote a Doctor Who novel called Campaign. At the time, BBC books were publishing Doctor Who books from a wider range of people, so he submitted it to them. It was rejected. Campaign, you see, didn't so much push the limits of the genre as kick the limits over and then run away giggling. It's a veritable mind-bender of a story.

At the time, the author chose to self-publish the novel, and the other day, it went up on the NZDWFC site as an eBook. It's available primarily as a PDF file (although there's also the option to email the author regarding a hard copy) and not in HTML format like the other eBooks, mainly because it would be really difficult to do.

The crux is, the book is now available to an audience I suspect is wider than that which it would have had had it actually have been published back in 2000. :)

Read Campaign here.

Posted at 1:55 AM | Comments (0)

April 4, 2008

Random Sunrise Photo!

Clouds at sunrise

Good morning, April (I meant to post this yesterday, when it would have been 25% closer to the start of the month, but oh well...)

Continue reading "Random Sunrise Photo!"

Posted at 7:23 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2008

An Open Mind

I help out in a technical capacity with a Doctor Who fanfiction archive where recently the moderators made a number of changes to the site policies. Some of the authors didn't like the changes, thus proving you can't please everyone all of the time, but I honestly think that the changes (I had little to do with them myself) have had a positive impact on the site.

Then there are the authors who tried to flagrantly break the rules, got abusive to moderators, and set up LiveJournals named "fighting_spoon" in order to complain about how unfair it was that they got banned. You can read about them in this fandom_wank post.

Which is why I try to avoid running anything.

Posted at 7:54 PM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2007

Alden defends Microsoft shocker

I noticed some odd things about the hits supposedly coming from Microsoft's Live Search recently. First there's a hit from msnbot for page X. This is followed by another hit on page X, from a Microsoft IP address with the referrer set to a results page and with an IE7 user agent, however the second agent only loads CSS and javascript, no images.

Despite the referrer, my web page doesn't appear in the results for the search term given. One hit, for instance, was for TSV 48 for the search term pertwee, yet TSV 48 isn't listed on that search results page (it's on about page 11).

The only clue was a parameter on the referring URL: FORM=LIVSOP. Googling revealed the truth:

msndude says:
The traffic you are seeing is part of a quality check we run on selected pages. While we work on addressing your conerns, we would request that you do not actively block the IP addreses used by this quality check; blocking these IP addresses could prevent your site from being included in the Live Search index.

While there are a lot of complaints in that thread, what Microsoft appear to be doing is testing for spammy pages set up to redirect non-bot visitors to other, less desirable pages. It seems to me that there's a lot of blaming of Microsoft, when people should be blaming the spammers. I fully approve of MS keeping their results free of spam.

Edit: Oh, and Google seem to be doing it too.

Posted at 11:14 PM | Comments (2)

August 2, 2007

July Roundup

Lots of short items which I can't be bothered writing full posts for:

Prime TV is going to start screening Series 3 of Doctor Who on August 19th. You can read more about it here (I know the page layout sucks - I'm going to tidy it up on the weekend).

Blogger: Please add a bulk submittal version of your spam reporting tool, so I when I get spammed with 200 blogspot URLs, I can report all of them at once.

I believe the hacker who's been trying to hack into my site to be a Brazilian who goes by the handle Nicksom2d. One of the scripts used to try to hack in was located on a hacked site, with a main page title "Owned by Nicksom2d from Brazil". Nicksom2d also wrote there "I never really hated the stupids admins but I hate the admin that make a website and ignore all the possibilities of invasion, sometimes I would be a hacker... just it..." Word.

Stone Age, one of my favourite groups, has a new album out, Totems d'Armorique! And it's, like, almost totally different to their other albums.

The NZDWFC site had 7720 unique visitors last month, beating its previous best of 7624 set in May.

Apparently there are approximately four times more people searching for Transformers Robot Heroes than there are for Transformers slash. This proves Robot Heroes are better than sex.

The Bill Gates eyes program I made years ago on a whim got downloaded over a thousand times last month. No, I don't know why.

Three search queries of note used to find my site in July:

Posted at 11:25 PM | Comments (4)

June 25, 2007

PHP and Security Holes

Watch out - I'm about to make myself sound like a snob. :)

What is it about PHP that spawns applications with security holes? My site gets hit a lot by people/bots probing for security holes, and said hack attempts exclusively include "php" somewhere in the URL. Witness a smattering of hack attempts that have occurred recently:

  • /index.php?plugin=
  • ///plugin/HP_DEV/cms2.php?s_dir=
  • /plugins/spamx/MTBlackList.Examine.class.php?_CONF[path]=
  • /get_session_vars.php?path_to_smf=
  • /archives/2005/bridges/SMF/logout.php?path_to_smf=
  • /index.php3?p=
  • /index.php3?i=
  • /plugins/%3Cwbr%20/%3Epagedarchives.html/index.php?page=

As an aside, even an idiot could see that last URL wouldn't work. Evidently the tool used to probe it was written by a chimp. But I digress.

What's with all the security holes in PHP apps? Is it just that PHP is so popular for web development that it has the same problem as Windows (the majority use it, so hacks are more common)? Of course, all of the URLs there have something in common - they obviously count on the application in question using input from the end user without validating it first. Is there something in PHP which tends to encourage this sort of thing, or just that it's so widely used that it attracts more lazy programming?

Of course, both Wordpress and Movable Type (both applications which I use on this site) have had security holes - one uses PHP, the other uses Perl, and both are written to a very high standard. Both are also widely used, which suggests to me that PHP is a victim of its own success. Like Windows, they're so common that any security holes are highly sought after by hackers.

That said, I'd be extremely hesitant about installing any other PHP applications here...

Posted at 8:34 PM | Comments (2)

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