Archive for August, 2006

Postcards from Maine

Since Sean is always harassing me to put some pictures on my site (he’s a professional photographer), I decided it was time to do so. Here are a few shots from my summer vacation in Maine.

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Getting Unnoticed

While I was working on the conversion, I setup a sub-domain at testbed.jclark.org. Unfortunately, I forgot to disable pings, and my testbed site ended up pinging something (pingomatic, I think). Google indexed the test site, and Technorati climbed all over it. Technorati found a special hacked version of my old blosxom site that contained links to the real site (jclark.org), so now my technorati inbound links page is full of posts from the test site that linked to me. Since this is now a dead site, I didn’t want it indexed by any search engine.

As soon as I figured out what happened, I killed testbed.jclark.org with a .htaccess mod_rewrite rule that makes every URI on the site return 410 Gone. After a few days, nothing had changed. A little research revealed how to get removed from Google. In short, I added a robots.txt file disallowing all User Agents (I could have disallowed only Googlebot). To hasten the process, I used the url removal system to request an expedited check of my robots.txt file. I also had to modify my mod_rewrite rules to serve robots.txt, since I was sending 410 for every request. Within a day, the test site was gone from Google.

Getting delisted from Technorati has proven more difficult. I’ve been unable to find any instructions on the website. I tried using the ping form to have some posts re-spidered, knowing they would return a 410, but no change so far. I sent an email to support about a week ago, to which I’ve received no reply. A day later, all of the posts had dissapeared, only to return hours later. If anyone knows how to get delisted, please leave me a comment.

Every Old Problem is New Again

My recent redesign and switch to WordPress was started about 6 months ago, and was allowed to languish until a couple weeks ago, when I found the time to finish the project. As a result, I keep running into little bugs/issues that I should have caught before I launched- stuff I thought about 6 months ago, and forgot about until now.

One example is tweaking for search engines. A couple of years ago, I made some tweaks to my Blosxom templates to help search engines better index my site. I added post titles to permalink (single post) pages, to make sure Google, et al, show more than just “jclark.org” above every hit on my site. I also added <meta name='robots' ... /> entries to ensure that category and date archive pages weren’t indexed, only permalinks (and the main index page). Of course, I forgot to add these changes to my WordPress templates, and Google has recently reindexed me, so I’m back to square one.

I updated my header template (header.php) last night to get the post title back onto permalink pages. This was surprisingly easy, as WP offers a function aimed squarely at this purpose:

<title>jclark.org<?php single_post_title(' - ');?></title>

The function single_post_title will only output a value if the current page is a permalink page, optionally inserting a prefix (I use ' - '). This allowed me to update the header template used all across the site, without building my own switching logic. Because the entire html <head> section is in my header template, adding the robot meta directives will require a bit of switching logic; maybe I’ll check to see how single_post_title() is implemented and steal be inspired by that code.

WRT54G Warning

Before you buy the popular Linksys WRT54G Wireless Router, read this first.

I bought my first wireless router, a v1.0 Linksys WRT54G, around 3 1/2 years ago. At least I think that’s about right… the fact that it’s a v1.0, the original with the 20 LEDs on the front panel, means I’ve had it for a while. In early ’04, I switched to a Sveasoft firmware – this was before they began selling subscriptions for GPL’d software (but that’s another rant). It was a great little router on the Linksys firmware, and only improved when I put the custom firmware on it.

Unfortunately, when I returned from Vacation in early July, I found it had died. Brick City. Shrug… after 3+ years (and with boosted power output), it happens. I wasted no time riding down to the local Circuit City (closest retail outlet for such things) and buying a new WRT54G. What I didn’t know at the time was that in late 2005, Linksys released V5 of the router, which eliminated the Linux operating system in favor of a proprietary VxWorks firmware. This in turn allowed them to halve the Flash RAM and RAM to 2MB and 8MB, respectively. Until very recently, this router couldn’t run third party firmware. This problem has been solved, but the reduced memory limits the firmware to “micro” versions of the various 3rd party offerings.

When I got it home, I configured the Linksys firmware, and decided to give it a go for a little while before flashing a 3rd party firmware. At this point I still didn’t know I had a crippled router. Everything seemed fine at first, but after a couple of weeks, the wireless stopped working one day. I power cycled it, and everything returned to normal. I made a mental note to put OpenWRT on it, but didn’t have the time, and let it slide. A week later, the wired network stopped working, and then the web interface would disappear. Each time a power cycle would resume normal operation, but I was getting tired of the problems.

Of course, by the time I got around to trying to upgrade it, and learned what having a V5 really means, the 30 day return period had lapsed. I also learned that Linksys now offers the WRT54GL, and the L stands for Linux. It is essentially the WRT54G V4, running the Linksys Linux firmware, and with the original memory amounts. It’s targeted at people who want to hack the box, run 3rd party firmware, etc. Very Cool… except that I’m stuck with a craptacular V5.

As far as I can tell, the GL isn’t sold at retail, only online. I did see a report of someone who got one at Fry’s, but I’m on the East Coast, and Fry’s is a West Coast outfit. I found a handy serial number reference which lets you tell which version of the 54G is in the box without cracking the shrinkwrap, but these things are very popular, and I’m guessing my chances of finding a V4 or older in a local store are slim to none. I’ll try a couple places this weekend; it I can’t find one, I’ll be ordering the GL from Amazon.

I used to recommend the WRT54G to everyone; I gave my Dad one for Christmas 3 years ago. Even with the standard Firmware, they were reliable and affordable. Now, whether you think you’d ever load a custom firmware or not, I recommend getting a WRT54GL. I’ve read alot of reports online, and spoken to three co-workers with V5s, and my reliablity issues aren’t unique. The GL is currently $15 more (after rebates, at Amazon) than the $49 WRT54G at Amazon (either a V5, V5.1, or V6), but to me, the extra reliability, and extra flexability, are worth the price.

Once I have a V4 or a GL on hand and running OpenWRT, I may try running a mini-distro on the V5, and run it as an open access point, segregated from the rest of my network. I’ve been running everything open for years, but I think someone’s started hitching a ride. I don’t especially mind as long as the bandwidth doesn’t get excessive, but I don’t want to let the general public inside my firewall, so to speak. I’d like to get a GL running with MAC address filtering and no SSID (secure enough, for now, in the burbs), and run the V5 wide open, on a separate sub net, perhaps with bandwith throttling, and with some logging… just to see what passes through it. If/when I make that happen, I’ll post the details.

IE Display Glitch

If you’re viewing the site here in Internet Explorer, it’s pretty screwed up right now. In a nutshell:

  1. Get a new browser.
  2. Looks like the overflow rules I’m using for code samples (to add scrollbars) aren’t working in IE. I have some dim recollection of knowing there’s an IE bug around this; I’ll try to fix it tonight.
  3. No, really. Get a new browser.

Update: Got it cleaned up in IE, by adding width to the <pre> tag’s css. Improved the scrollbar bug issue using a tip from Browservulsel, but now my css doesn’t validate. sigh

Looking at the site in IE, I realized that I never went back and added box model hacks where needed. I’m tempted to leave it, but I did put alot of effort into the new layout, so I’ll probably try and clean it up this weekend, along with the css validation bug I introduced tonight.