Rob's blog
Network Gateway Debugging Notes

Way too often after working out a tough problem, I'm just too confused or tired to blog about it. Tonight is like that but I'm writing anyway. I just got my gateway machine routing again and it was disgustingly simple (considering the amount of time it was offline). I'm not going to explain all the details today but basically I have a machine that serves as a gateway between the LAN here in the supersecret headquarters of Late Night PC and the rest of the Internet at large.

Learning Perl the Hard Way

Learning Perl the Hard Way was a good read. Only took me a few hours and I feel like I have a good introduction to the language. As usual, I worked through the first few examples but rushed at the end. Allen Downey does some really fun stuff: Huffman coding and Markov Chains in short programs that show off the power of Perl. My favourite thing about the text though was that I got to skip all the redundant crap like explaining what a variable is. Learning Perl the Hard Way is aimed squarely at people who are already familiar with other programming languages. If you code in C then you'll be comfortable with this book.

Tags on Photos Suck

I have a dilemma kind of like what Jason blogged about a while back. He was looking for some software that would do tagging of photos that met a few specific needs. I have similar needs and I decided to go with digiKam partly as a result of the research he did. So I've been tagging some of my photos in digiKam and I can do some helpful searches thanks to this effort. Now I'm running in to a limit of tags though.

Drupal in Waterloo

Waterloo has a Drupal developer group and they're getting together tomorrow night. James Walker (of Bryght/Rain City Studios/Lullabot fame) is going to be there talking about module development. It'd be a 3 hour drive for me to get to a 2 hour meet up but I seriously considered it. I've been learning module development off and on for a couple years now. I've actually done a couple for personal use. Sharing experience in a group like this is a lot of fun and you get a lot more insight in person than you can by just reading. I'd encourage anyone nearby to head on over and check it out.

Does Windsor have enough Drupal developers for a Drupal group? Do we have enough LAMP developers to support a group? I like the Windsor Blogger meetup we've been doing (more bloggers welcome, btw). The blogger meetup seems to have been going long enough now that it's a regular thing. I'm a little jealous of Waterloo, they have about the same population as Windsor. I think we should have enough developers to get together and share some ideas once in a while.

Easing the Grind

There's a thread on Slashdot now about the MMOGlider case. I've never really looked at the software but I've heard of it. A lot of the discussion is leaning toward why people would want to use a program to play WoW for them and what that says about the game.

Someone suggested that Blizzard should look for a way to just completely remove the incentive for players to use it. If this program removes a hassle for the player then just remove the hassle from the game and the perceived need for glider goes away, therefore the program goes away. So the hassles here that people see in the game are time wasted running and the huge time investment in getting up to maximum level (70 now, 80 next month).

What follows comes mostly from my replies.

Lightning Gets a New Look

I just got an update to Lightning on my Windows machine. The main calender view looks a little sharper, I like it. Lightning isn't the perfect calendar application but it's the closest thing I've found. The multi-week view always did seem kind of week to me before. It was hard to tell what months you were looking at. They've tidied that up nicely now. The new style also seems to have less wasted space.

Sharing calendars through iCal is mandatory for me, Lightning isn't the only client that has to use my calendars. It has always dealt with that very nicely. Now I also got an error message about difficulty writing to a calendar file, I think this is new since I used to have occasional silent (and irritating) failures. Error messages aren't fun but they're an improvement on silent failure.

Replacing the Wordpress Blog Archives with Views in Drupal 6

The Views module in Drupal is both useful and confusing. The basic idea is that Views will allow you to provide a styled list of some content. This content can be pages, stories, blog posts, comments, users, RSS feeds items, nodes and even some other kinds of data. You can think of it kind of like those generic examples of PHP and MySQL that pull out a bunch of records from a table and just give you a list. Except that it doesn't rely on just MySQL. And it doesn't just give you a list. And it does validation. And you don't really have to write any code.

The Views interface in Drupal 6 (under Administer >> Site Building >> Views) is pretty complicated. I don't understand all of it yet, so I decided to work through an example of something that I needed here on Late Night PC. There's a view included called "archive" which shows up at This is pretty close to the way I was doing my archives under Wordpress. My archives page URLs had the form So I basically wanted the archive view with these changes:

  1. Move the URL from archive to blog/archives
  2. Change the parameter from yyyymm to yyyy/mm
  3. Filter the view to show only blog posts instead of all content
How to Remove Pages from Google - but keep your site private

I have a website that I use for stuff but not stuff on the public web. I use it for serving my calendars and private web applications. I use Apache's built in authentication to keep it from being crawled and to keep casual visitors from wandering in. I have a domain name assigned to it from for convenience. The ddclient script runs on one of my boxes and updates the ip address over there whenever mine changes. The system works very well. Most of the time. Somehow one weekend the domain name was left pointing at my old ip address for a while when I was out of town. Who ever had that IP address sure was serving up a lot of nasty stuff. Now Google thinks all that nasty stuff is on my private domain.

I'm going to fix it. I use Google Webmaster Tools for other stuff and I see there's a URL removal tool in there. To use the tool you have to verify that you own the domain - a reasonable request. The thing is the URLs I want to remove are on a domain that I don't want Google to crawl and the way Google verifies that you own the domain is by retrieving a specific URL from the domain. What a dilemma.

Planning for a new Drupal 6 Theme

Drupal's a nice piece of code, no doubt about that, but the core Drupal install isn't about to win any beauty contests if you follow me. If I have any regular readers then I'm sure you've noticed that I converted my blog from Wordpress to Drupal this month. And I'm sure a lot of one-time readers are noticing that some of my formatting looks messed up. I'm working through fixing that over time - I need to replace a couple of my custom Wordpress plugins still. Overall I feel like I have a lot of room to grow into Drupal and customizing my theme is part of making the code my own.

The Great Honor Reset (and the impending Small Egg Reset)

Blizzard has announced that the day Wrath of the Lich King comes out they'll be resetting Honour Points for all characters to 0. Preventing an unfair advantage is the rationale behind the move but I really think they might renig on this one. Here's a little background for people who don't play World of Warcraft battlegrounds: Honor Points and Marks are earned by playing games against other players in battlegrounds (hence the term Player vs Player or PvP). Honor Points are used in combination with Marks of Honor to buy Epic gear (some of the best weapons, armour and other stuff in the game). The Marks are different from each battleground but aren't considered very hard to get - losing a game in a battleground gets you one mark and winning gets you three. So buying all this gear can cost a hundred thousand honor points and a few hundred marks. This is a pretty significant time investment. Once the expansion (Wrath of the Lich King) comes out on November 13 players will be able to go up to level 80 instead of the current maximum of level 70. Everyone realizes that once they get a few levels past 70 then even the best gear from current battlegrounds won't look so great next to gear that's easy to get at level 73 or 74.

So... what's a player to do? Hold on to those honor points until they hit 80 then spend them on the new best gear that Honor Points can buy. And while we're at it why not stockpile Honor Points to make it that much easier?

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