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Well, that was fun.

We’ve been offline for a long, long time. I don’t know exactly when the problem started. Last month, St. Louis got rocked by a huge storm and we were without power for five days. When it came back, my web server didn’t.

I restored from the last good backup I had, but unfortunately that was a couple of months old. So the last three months’ worth of entries are gone. That wasn’t a lot, but it’s something.On a more personal level–a more personal level than I’ve been willing to write on my blog in several years–I have to admit I’ve been putting it off. Part of it is that I’ve just been completely slammed at work. But I’ve gone through other times in life when I didn’t really have time for anything but work and sleep, and yet I still found time to write, even if it was just a little.

It’s like in baseball, when you get into a slump, you try lots of other things, and pretty soon you forget the things that made you successful in the past, and it’s almost like you’re not the same person anymore.

And I have to be honest. When I look in the mirror anymore, I’m not sure who that guy looking back at me is. It isn’t the real me.

Blogging is dangerous. I learned that several years ago, when a girl I dated briefly e-mailed me after six months and recounted the time since we had last seen each other in greater detail than one of my best friends would have been able to do. There were details in that message that even I’d forgotten about. It was spooky. So I started being a bit more evasive about certain details.

Fast forward another year or two. I found myself in a troubled relationship and I wrote about it. My then-girlfriend didn’t read my blog, so I figured I was pretty safe, but what I didn’t know was that her mother read it. Oops. I still don’t think anything I said then was out of line, but she saw things differently, and that was the end of that. Now that I’m married–to someone else–that doesn’t matter much anymore.

But today there are legal issues too. Threats of being sued by employers or clients have closed down more than one blog, including one that I enjoyed reading.

I have to figure out how to balance that. I haven’t worked in journalism in years, but I still consider myself a journalist and I still find myself referring to myself as one. When I don’t write, I’m not happy. Period.

So I’m going to try to write more often. I don’t know about what. I can’t really write much about work, partly because detailed accounts of what I do at work are only useful for those nights when you can’t sleep, and partly because of the legal issues. The journalist in me doesn’t like that very much. I tried really hard this weekend to make time for my hobbies, but found I’ve pretty much lost interest in them.

Basically I’m facing a reprise of the first crisis of my professional career, which happened back in 1998. I was overworked, underappreciated, and work was a wrecking ball, crashing down every boundary I’d ever set. With no room for a life outside of work, things got ugly fast.

I’m back there again, only now there’s even more at stake because I have a wife and a house to take care of.

Hopefully writing will help hasten the healing process. Boundaries are an important thing. That sounds like a good topic to tackle.

If the site\’s been slow lately, I apologize

I noticed yesterday that my site was painfully slow, and my server was thrashing like nobody’s business. My access logs suggest that my site has been crawled incessantly by online casinos and other various forms of lowlife, and that it’s been happening for some time.

Hopefully that’s over now.I found that just bouncing Apache helped. The disk thrashing stopped, and when I waited a few seconds before restarting, the thrashing didn’t start back up again. So whatever was hammering me gave up in the interim when the data stopped flowing.

But in the meantime I did some changes to my .htaccess file. The always helpful Dive into Mark gave me a good starting point.

I’m sure that I broke lots of legitimate use of my site in the process, but if that’s the price I have to pay to keep evil people from abusing my computer and DSL line, then so be it. Since I pay the bills, I get to make the rules.

Expect things to be sporadic until 10 PM tomorrow

At around 9 PM last night, Southwestern Bell lost a data line. My DSL connection became sporadic and my telephone became so full of static as to be unusable for voice. Within an hour, I lost all use of my voice line. DSL would drop and come back occasionally.

They are aware of the problem and gave an ETA of 10 PM on Wednesday of clearing it up. The DSL has been reliable for a couple of hours now, but that’s not really an indicator. We’ll see what happens.

Problems the last two days

The site’s been up and down, mostly down, the last two days. The reason is simple: my DSL connection has been mostly down the last two days.

Why, I don’t know.The only thing I can possibly think of is we got some unseasonably warm weather for October, and temperatures in the house topped 80 degrees. The DSL modem doesn’t seem to like heat very much.

I set the DSL modem on an unused piece of Lionel track to raise it up higher in the air and get better air circulation on all four sides.

Powering down, letting it cool off, and then powering back up seems to have helped, especially now that I have the temperature back down to 73 degrees in the house.

We’ll see what happens. Southwestern Bell swore this Speedstream 5360 modem was less finicky than my old Alcatel 1000, but I don’t know. I think both of them can have their moments. Maybe I need to open up the Speedstream and kludge a fan in there, since it seems to have its worst problems when it gets warm.

Selling my soul to Google

I’ve enabled Google ads on my site for all visitors. Previously, for the past three months or so, I had been displaying ads only when the site referrer was something outside of this site.

If you object to online advertising, you can easily log in to the site, go to your preferences, scroll to the bottom, and check all the boxes you want, leaving the Google Ads block unchecked. So long as you don’t sign out before your next visit, the site will hold that preference the same way it holds your theme of choice. You can turn off other blocks as well, to make the page load faster or whatever.I don’t object to advertising as long as it’s somewhat relevant. I used to buy Computer Shopper magazine primarily for the ads, back in the days when it was the size of a Sears catalog. Seems hard to believe, looking at it now, but in the days before the ‘net, it was the way people in the know bought their gear.

I do believe that the ad and editorial departments should be completely separate. I deliberately choose not to subscribe to one particular hobby publication specifically because its editorial content seems to cater too much to its advertisers.

Outsourcing the advertising to a third party like Google is a good way to do that. I have no way of controlling what ads Google places and where. So I write what I would normally write, and Google tries to come up with some ads that are relevant. I carry on just as I normally would, and if all goes well, I make a little money.

Two new things are working

I still haven’t fixed the calendar (I’m a slacker) but I’ve got two other important things working. For those of you who use RDF/RSS, my feed is working (the link’s in the lower right), and for those of you who use blo.gs to track your favorite blogs, I’ve got my blo.gs update working now too.

Registrations aren’t working for everyone

It’s come to my attention that registrations aren’t working for everyone. It appears that some mail servers don’t like mail from my system. A peek at the mail headers explains why–I have to admit, it does look a bit suspicious. So if you’ve registered and never received confirmation e-mail, that’s why.

I’m going to try to fix it this week. In the meantime, I need to go through and find the people who’ve registered but never logged in and contact them. I may be able to do this as soon as tonight. So please, bear with me and hang in there.

And we\’re live

I’m pleased to unveil The Silicon Underground, Version 5.0. I’d still like to do some design work and a little more tweaking here and there, but now that we’ve reached the point where what we have now is better than anything we’ve had before, it’s time to throw the switch.

Design. The default layout is CSS-based. Some people don’t like CSS, because Internet Explorer won’t resize text on pages that use CSS. You can pick “clean,” a layout that doesn’t use CSS, from the menu at the top left. It’s about double the size of the CSS-based layout but will render well in browsers that have issues with CSS.

Click one link, and the site stores your preference.

Over time, I will probably introduce new templates. The two I have now are pretty generic; I literally dropped my old logo into existing templates and made just one or two other changes.

Filtering. Maybe you just come here for the computer-related entries and couldn’t care less about what I write about toy trains. Or vice-versa. You can selectively indicate which story categories you want to ignore, and the site will remember your preference.

Search. The search functions on the previous software I was using (b2) were nice at first, but once I had several hundred entries in the site, it started getting less and less useful. This search engine allows you to limit your searches within a topic and to perform three types of search: exact phrase, all words, and any words.

Speed. While the uplink speed of my DSL line is still a limiting factor, now it’s the biggest limiting factor. The database search now accounts for about 10% of the time you spend waiting for the page. Previously it was more than half.

I hope you enjoy it.

Status update

I’d like to say I haven’t been posting because I’ve been busy migrating the website to new spamproof software. Actually I’ve been busy at work, and I’ve been holding back so Steve DeLassus won’t have ever-changing content to migrate.
Here’s what I can say: The new software is good. Very good. It’s faster than b2. When you post comments, you can title them. The search engine blows everything else I’ve seen out of the water. Not only is it fast, it also searches posts and comments separately, so when a thread veers off topic, it’ll still find it (and point you to the right place). You can limit your search to certain categories, and you can specify whether you want an exact phrase, all words, or any of the words. If you vaguely remember me saying something four years ago about optimizing config.sys in DOS, you’ll be able to find it pretty fast with this new stuff. A lot of blogs out there have tons of great information in them, but finding it can be difficult. I may not have quite as much great information, but what I do have will be easy to find, and I’m hoping that once you find something you like, finding more stuff like it will be easy as well.

Popularity is based solely and entirely on page reads. I think this is more scientific than the karma scores, and it may cause some old, forgotten stuff to be unearthed thanks to search engine traffic. We’ll see.

I’ll be able to close certain threads off to comments. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m sick to death of the Mormon thread. My sanity needs that feature.

And finally, registration will be required to post comments. You create a user ID, you tell the system your e-mail address, and it e-mails you a password. I know this won’t be a universally popular decision. I see it as a necessary evil, to keep spambots away. It’ll also tend to discourage people who come here and snipe. The upside to that is the system doesn’t make e-mail addresses public. You can e-mail other users, but my system sends the mail, so you never see the person’s address. This may or may not be easy to disable, and I’m torn on whether it should or shouldn’t be.

Overall, I think it’s going to be a huge improvement over the status quo. The speed will be good, and the lack of spam will be good. And if I’m not having to deal with spam and abusive people, I’ll have more time to generate content–both from not having to go delete the stuff and chase people away and from a lower level of frustration. I think that’s a good thing.

It’s not quite ready yet. But I’m hoping to make the cutover sometime this weekend.