Archive for May, 2004

DN(Clueles)S

I’ve been fooling around a bit with my network, just trying to understand how some things work (this is an area I’m pretty clueless in). I have a Linksys WRT54G router, and I’m running the Sveasoft Firmware (2.00.8sv). This firmware apparently enables DNSMasq by default, and I’ve checked that it’s marked enabled in the web interface.

DNSMasq is a combination DHCP server and lightweight DNS server, designed to handle DNS for local machines on your network. It’s supposed to handle name resolution for the DHCP clients on your network that supply machine names. By viewing the DHCP clients table via the web interface, I can see that all my machines are reporting names to the DHCP server.

In spite of this, I (mostly) cannot get name resolution on my local network. The two Windows machines on the network (both wired, incidently) can ping each other by name, but can’t ping other machines. Other machines on the network can’t ping any local machines. I suspect the windows machines are cheating (via WINS?). Running NSLookup shows that each machine is using my ISP’s DNS server directly, not the router. I’m not sure if that’s how it should work or not. Directing NSLookup to talk to the router directly yield no results for any local machine name.

So I’m stuck. I’ve googled a bit, and looked around Sveasoft’s forums. I kinda have the impression it should Just Work. If anyone has any knowledge to share, I’d be greatful.

Fixing the Comment System, Part 1

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I don’t like my comment system. I even had a warning on the comment form about how bad my comment system was. No line breaks. No linking. No HTML of any sort… well, except that <p> and <br /> seemed to work, but no one used them. It’s basically the raw writeback plugin for Blosxom. The only enhancements I made were to capture timestamps and IP addresses, and to send myself email notification of new comments. Hardly noticable when trying to read the comments.

I’ve been meaning to do something about it forever. Tonight I finally got started. My main requirements for the new system were:

  • Easy to use
  • Typical feature set: links, bold & italic, code would be nice
  • Maintain valid XHTML, but don’t require the users to understand XHTML.

It was the last feature that really dictated terms to the rest of the crowd. Fortunately, there’s already a fantastic tool for generating valid XHTML easily, with many common features – Markdown. I’ve been using it for a couple of months to author all of my posts, and I love it. Using it for comments seemed like a logical next step.

Markdown only generates valid XHTML, but it passes through any XHTML in the original text unchanged. This would allow any comment to invalidate my XHTML. (It should be noted in the interest of fairness that comment form itsself is not valid XHTML at the moment. It’s on my list.) My solution was to change Markdown to encode all XHTML (and other uses of < and >) entered by the user. In addition, I had to hack a few templates as well as the writeback plugin. So far it’s working pretty well. All comments are now rendered via Markdown. If you see any that look strange, shoot me an email.

One of the best features of Markdown in my mind is that its useful even if you don’t know it, since it borrows from email idioms. Blank lines start new paragraphs. *Emphasis* and **strong emphasis** are easy to do. URLS wrapped in <> become hyperlinks. Code can be wrapped in \backticks`to format it and escape any nasties. Blockquotes work like email, just prepend>` to each line.

Of course, there’s lots of other features that it helps to know something about ahead of time, such as code blocks and referntial URLs. Plus, occasional surprises can occur; writing about the interpolate_fancy plugin requires a backslash before the underscore if you don’t use backticks, or you invoke <em> mode. For this reason, I’m going to add a mandatory preview prior to posting. I’ll also add some Markdown tips to the comment form. Preview isn’t ready yet, but Markdown-enabled comments are.

Etc.

It’s only been two days since my last blog entry, but it feels like its been much longer. I’ve had a number of posts kicking around in my head, but I’ve been too busy to write them. I still have a few full-length items I intend to post, but for now, I’m going to do a bit of a brain dump.

  • Spanish studies are progressing. I’m still really enjoying it. I’ve completed 22 of 30 lessons from Pimsleur’s Spanish I course. I should be further, but I ended up repeating around 15 lessons when I switched from the “bait” edition, Pimsleur Instant Conversation Spanish, to the full edition. I’ll post more on that later. Meanwhile, I’m about ready to start searching eBay for Pimsleur’s Spanish II.

  • I’ve been using Firefox and its antecedents for over eight months. Only in the past few days have I figured out that CTRL+TAB lets you toggle through tabs in the current window. Boy, have I been looking for that shortcut.

  • While typing the prior bullet, I decided to check the spelling of antecedent. I automatically went to dictionary.com– it’s where I always go. What’s your favorite online dictionary? Drop a note in the comments.

  • Speaking of comments, the comment system on this site still sucks. I think I’ve finally figured out how I’m going to handle it, I just need to spend a little time on implementation. No hints. Well, maybe one.

  • Speaking of the ‘Fox, I’m continuing to use version 0.8 on my Mac after shunning it for two months. It’s mostly working well, but there are a few issues. I haven’t taken the time yet to figure out if these are problems with the browser or the Tabbrowser Extensions, but I can no longer drag-and-drop to re-order tabs within an window. Dragging tabs from one window to another continues to work.

  • After giving my last spare monitor (20″ trinitron) to my brother a couple of months ago, I’ve been itching to play with some of my old PC hardware that was laying around my basement. Having a clean garage complete with a big workbench and tons of shelf space hasn’t helped. I finally broke down this weekend and bought an el-cheapo monitor, so now I’m playing with out-of-date hardware.

  • It’s amazing how the price of technology continues to drop. The monitor I bought today, after rebates, cost me about USD 80.00 at Circuit City. It’s a 17″ flat CRT, with resolution up to 1280×1024. It looks great. It was only a couple of years ago this would have been an expensive monitor. You can’t even buy a CRT smaller than 17″ at most retailers these days… it’s just not worth it for the retailers to carry them, they are so inexpensive. Flat panels have really taken over the market.

  • To help me figure out what kind of hardware I have, I went looking for a Linux live CD (a la Knoppix) that featured hardware reporting of some kind. Live CDs already know how to scan your system, but I don’t know how to get a report of what was found. I didn’t exactly find what I was looking for, but I found a list of Linux Live CDs, containing dozens of the things. What I did find that met my needs was the Ultimate Boot CD, a bootable CD containing images of dozens of mostly DOS-based boot floppies, each containg a different utility. You boot the CD, select the image you want to use, and it boots from it. I was able to inventory my hardware with Navr├ítil Software System Information, or NSSI.

  • I pieced together a AMD K6-2 300 MHz system with a 9G hard drive and 384M RAM. Time remaining on my Fedora Core 2 Test 3 installation: 15 minutes. I’ll be blogging more on this later.

  • Sean is contemplating dial-up internet over VoIP. Seems vaguely Oedipal to me (dial-up over VoIP… not Sean).