Forcing Weblogic’s Config.xml

Let’s nevermind why I am working on this in the first place. Namely…

  1. the Blackboard Learning Environment Connector introduced using the hostname and port for applet URLs in Vista 8 Blackboard,
  2. Blackboard dropped WebCT’s support for using a different port for an application when behind a load balancer.
So we found out we could use port 443 as the SSL listen port because we terminate SSL on the load balancer, Weblogic would not bind to port 443, but the Vista application would be tricked into displaying to the end user what we wish.
In the past week, we have put the correct config.xml in place multiple times and found it reverts back to an older version with the port we don’t want. The first time, I was lazy and did not shut down the Weblogic admin server because… well… that was the lazy practice I had used in Weblogic 8.1 and had not had a problem. My shell record shows it was correct then. Within hours it wasn’t correct anymore.
So, we found a few things…
  1. a copy of the config.xml is stored WEBCTDOMAIN/servers/domain_bak/config_prev/,
  2. all files in WEBCTDOMAIN/config/ are pushed to the nodes,
  3. to change this value in the Weblogic console requires turning on a feature to bind to the SSL listen port.
Additionally, we think research into this would show Weblogic stores this information in memory. It will then write changes it makes to the file back to disk on the admin node (destroying our change). Managed nodes will then pick up the change.
The latest shot at this is to purge the #1 and #2 on both the admin server and managed nodes, put the right file in place on the admin nodes, and see if it reverts again.
So now I’ve got to write a script to periodically check if the nodes have the wrong listen port and email us should it change.

Gravatars in Blue Zinfindel Theme

For a while I have meant to do this. Here I am with insomnia, so here goes… I have implemented Gravatars for the this Blue Zinfindel theme.

Here is coding I used to implement it to this theme’s comments.php (WP Design > Theme Editor > Comments). Normal text is for context. Bold is what I added.

<li class=”<?php echo $oddcomment; ?>” id=”comment-<?php comment_ID() ?>”>
<?php echo get_avatar(get_comment_author_email(), ’32’); ?>
<?php comment_author_link() ?>

The first place I saw to provide a function rather than a variable is the weblog tools collection post on gravatars. The above is their recommendation with size 32 image. I picked this size because it is the size of the icon inside the WP admin (tested 64, 48, and 30 with 30 seeming about right).

Once I decided to do it, it took me about an hour to find an example using get_comment_author_email() instead of $comments or $id_or_email. It’s easy to implement.

CE / Vista Undocumented Workspaces

On the WebCT Users email list (hosted by Blackboard) there is a discussion about a mysterious directory called unmarshall which suddenly appeared. We found it under similar circumstances as others by investigating why a node consumed so much disk space. Failed command-line restores end up in this unmarshall directory.

Unmarshalling in Java jargon means:

converting the byte-stream back to its original data or object 1

This suspiciously sounds like what a decryption process would use to convert a .bak file into a .zip so something can open the file.

This is fourth undocumented work space where failed files site for a while and cause problems and no forewarning from the vendor.

Previous ones are:

  1. Failed UI backups end up in the weblogic81 (Vista 3, does this still happen in Vista 8?) directory.
  2. Failed tracking data files end up in WEBCTDOMAIN/tracking (Vista 3, apparently no longer stored this way in Vista 4/8 according to CSU-Chico and Notre Dame)
  3. Web Services content ends up in /var/tmp/ and are named Axis####axis. These are caused by a bug in DIME (like MIME) for Apache Axis. No one is complaining about the content failing to arrive, so we presume the files just end up on the system.

#3 were the hardest to diagnose because of a lack of an ability to tie the data back to user activity.

Is this all there are? I need to do testing to see which of these I can cross off my list goring forward in Vista 8. Failed restores are on it indefinitely for now.



What does a CIO do?

I guess it depends on who you ask.

Well, the CIO’s thought they were most effective as classic IT-support providers. That’s basically putting PC’s on desktops. But their managers thought that CIO’s were most effective in explaining and determining the college’s technology course into the future. Managers really want their CIO’s to be “informaticists.” Wayne A. Brown, Johnson County Community College Are College CIOs Thinking What Their Bosses Are Thinking?

Self-reporting is a notoriously bad means of measuring behavior. So I take these sorts of things with a grain of salt.

I have read many times the view CIOs need to educate higher education administrators about technology to help shape the vision of where higher education is headed. When Joe Newton at Valdosta State took over as CIO, he found Ronald Zaccari, expected more than just “putting PCs on desks”. Ron also expected seamless services, a data warehouse, IT to work with every facet of the university, and even to help the cabinet shape its direction by providing how technology can help. The previous president didn’t even check his own email. So to have one who better understood technology meant having to step up to a higher standard.

Another aspect I found interesting was about degrees. Wayne suggested a positive direction was CIOs having degrees in technology management. A commenter preferred CIOs having a Ph.D. in an academic discipline and secondarily “technology qualifications” so they would understand teaching and learning. I find this hilarious because all too often I hear complaints Ph.D. programs teach people how to do research and present… not teach.

Also, the comments make a distinction between presidents and provosts versus deans and department heads. The latter are the “academic administrators”.

All that said, I just want a CIO to figure out what management wants done, prevent them from having too high expectations, and provide the resources for me to do it.

RSS Is Relatively New?

The email was an innocuous “Ooh, shiney!” message. RSS feeds are now available for a status site. However, one thing concerned me….

RSS is a relatively new and easy way to distribute content and information via the Internet.

I personally have been aware of RSS since 2002. However, as I am a relatively late adopter of technology, I was not surprised to learn RSS has been around since July 1999. This technology has been available for nine years. 1999 is the same year IE5 became available. That is a few months before Windows 2000 became available. This is before the technology bust which weeded out much of the Internet craps. (Are we due for another one of those?) Next year we can celebrate the 10th anniversary of RSS. Can we really call it new when we celebrate it being around for a decade?

The point of “relatively” was to soften the word new. I was supposed to be mollified by it isn’t really new but it isn’t really old and is closer to new than old. It just sounded to me like whoever wrote it only heard about RSS within the past two years or so. So maybe the message was more “Ooh, shiney!” for them than for me.

Lost in Communication

Would you believe United States employees cost their employers $650 billion in productivity costs in the seconds it takes for them to return attention back to the task at hand? The time spans lost are the same amount of time required to interpret a CAPTCHA. E-mail, instant messaging, Twitter, etc. are all distractions from getting the work done. Those who choose to disconnect or limit the distractions improve their productivity. At least that is what the technology corporations studying the problem have decided. I have my doubts. This sounds like a restating of “all employees with access to the Internet just surf all day and get nothing done.”

What I like about instant messengers is they are more efficient than email but cheaper than a long distance phone call. By marking availability status, employees alert others not to contact them. Employees also may ignore messages until they have are done concentrating on the task at hand. Another article, also from the New York Times, supports this view employees using instant messengers effectively are not distracting.

Looking at an alert just to decide whether to respond would “waste time.” Then again, so would talking about a cool movie, the family, or any of the standard means of bonding which establish trust between individuals (without which far more time would be wasted in mistrust).

Guess there will be more research to debate what is really the problem.

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Probably I missed or didn’t understand the announcement.

For the past month or so, I’ve noticed all these comments with the poster’s picture next to it on various blogs. I knew them to be WordPress blogs. I noticed my own WP had some default icon in the admin user interface. Today I finally put it all together.

A recent WordPress version incorporated Globally Recognized Avatars into the main code. (They are also known as GRAvatars) Using a hash on the email address, it locates a WordPress commenter’s 96×96 picture for including in the comment. Naturally, you need to register your email account with the gravatar service.

So, now many of you get to see my ugly mug!

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A student wants Blackboard Vista to not reveal his or her last name. The student has already gone to the Registrar and gotten a confidentiality flag placed on the record. As I understand it, this flag in Banner is a FERPA protection to prevent the record from being provided to parties external to the university. It does not provide anonymity within the university. That electronic systems are being scrubbed of the student’s last name means something more than just confidentiality.

We only create new and not update from our student information system (SIS). So in general, the last name should not revert.

The instructor must know who the student is in order to correctly assign grades. If grades were automatically sent back to the SIS, then it would match the IMS id to the what is in the SIS. The user name or any other name is immaterial and not a confounder to the process. Unfortunately, our faculty has to manually transfer the grades. Some rely on the WebCT id / username. Others rely on the first and last name. I guess without names, this latter group is going to have to deal with relying on the WebCT id.

Only username, first and last name, and role are populated into the grade book. So moving the last name to another name field (like other, prefix, or suffix) would not help.

The last name appears to be part of their scheme for creating usernames, so they will likely need to change the username if the point is to not let anyone know what it is. The school in question does not appear to populate their Vista user records with a school email address. So I don’t know if the same would need to be done with it as well.

Blackboard Vista 3.0.7 does have issues with renaming the last name. While many things are immediately updated (good), some things are not. This is not a comprehensive list.

  1. The last name in the grade book was not updated. Removing the user from the section and restoring it to the section changed the name to the correct one.
  2. The last name in discussions was not updated.

So while renaming the account is easy to do, not everything takes place as quicklly as we would like.

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Information is only valuable when found. It is great someone took notes during the conference call, but four months later, when I do not recall the date of the meeting or who sent the notes, I’ll rely on my computer searching for it.

Thunderbird returns pretty quickly when it searches subjects only. So I will start there. I will try a few terms. Probably it will yield a few results without what I seek or too many results to browse through because people rarely use descriptive subjects.

Next, I will turn to searching the bodies of emails. As long as the notes were taken by someone technical, they will be text in the body of the email. So I will find them easily. Non-technical folks send the notes inside Word or Excel documents. So I won’t find the notes.

Not finding information because notes are inside attachments has burned me lately, so I have taken to copying out the text and sending it to myself as regular text.