June 15th – Nature Photography Day

For Nature Photography Day 2008, I made an NPD Flickr group and invited a bunch of people. The only rules were to a) post pictures taken on June 15th (thank you Flickr / EXIF) and b) about nature or destruction of nature. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to the group as I should have. So a bunch of nature picture spammers (they post the same picture to dozens of groups) posted hundreds of rule violating photos to the group pool. A month later I closed posting to the group because the spammers wouldn’t likely stop of their own accord.

Anyway, I forgot about NPD until the day of. No one posted to the group of their own accord. Who remembers after a year? I cleaned out the photos not following the rules. Set calendar reminders a couple weeks in advance to publicize the group. Hoping NPD 2010 will go better.

I’m also considering bending the rules. Maybe close to June 15th is close enough. Something like anywhere in the range June 10th to 20th is close enough? What do you think?

Anyway, here are the pictures from the group:

Facebook Usernames

If you cannot find me, then you are not looking. If you search on Facebook for Ezra Freelove, then I am the only result at the moment. Maybe all you knew was Ezra and the city where I lived? Facebook search is not so great you could find me through my first name plus something else you knew about me (other than email or city). Probably this is for the best. We don’t want to make it too easy to stalk people, right?

Allowing users to make a username is a promotion. The blogosphere making a fuss over all this is a Chicken Littleesque. Sure Myspace, Twitter, and a number of other sites have addresses with usernames in them. No one is forcing people opposed to having one to make one. Only in the past month could one choose a username for one’s Google profile. Prior to that it was a hefty large number of numbers.

I think the reason some people prefer usernames comes down to elaborative encoding. To retain something in memory, we associate that something with existing items in memory. Short-term memory has only about 7 slots and digits are each a single item. Assuming a single incrementation per account created and over 200 million users, using a numbers means there ought to be 9 digits worth of numbers to memorize. Words occupy a single slot in short term memory, by far simplifying remembering. Which would you rather try to remember 46202460 or ezrasf?

An argument against usernames comes down to using the memory of the Facebook database or other computer memory. Computer memory is better than human memory for stuff like this.

All of these work and go to the same place:

  1. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=46202460
  2. http://www.facebook.com/ezrasf
  3. http://www.ezrasf.com/fb

Pick your poison. Enjoy.

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.

MH Operations

We have been getting these messages for months. Some good folks at Blackboard have caused them to stop for a while, but they just resume. Probably it is multiple cases of the same issue.

LDAP Issues: Dear Valued Customer, The MH Operations team has determined that your MH application server(s) are not able to communicate with your local LDAP server infrastructure. Please notify your TSM when LDAP service is available so that we can confirm that there are no other issues with your hosted Blackboard environment.

The last time, alerts for Valdosta State’s Transaction System (a different product than we run) were being sent to us. A DBA for Vista was listed as a technical contact for TS which she doesn’t run or even know she was considered a technical contact. No one working with TS at Valdosta State had been getting these alerts. So they were excited at the prospect of knowing when there was a problem! I put Blackboard in touch with the people at Valdosta.

In a way, I understand my organization is involved in purchasing the licensing. However, Blackboard needs to do a better job of making sure their customers are informed.

  1. Put the name of the affected product in the notice.
  2. Put the name of the affected URL or IP in the notice.
  3. Put the name of the customer’s organization in the notice.

Protocol Change?

I have a habit of not typing the protocol (http:// or https://) when typing an URL. Except, when I enter a port in the address line. I hit the Home key and add the protocol then. I am pretty sure I picked up this habit to work around a problem.

I just tried not supplying the protocol for a URL using a port and did not encounter a problem. Maybe I was neurotic and just imagine I needed to do it. Still, I feel relieved to drop a habit.

Misunderstanding Links?

In running an online class system, we encounter situations where we have to gather data and present to the best of our ability past events. We thoroughly comb through the evidence and carefully present our findings with an admission as to how certain we can be about the evidence. Often the stories about events as told to us sound implausible. Every theory is debunked as best we can, leaving only the what could have happened. No decision of fact is sent along without us being as sure as we can. In many cases, our recommendation is not enough evidence exists to determine the events.

Based on what I have read, I have to wonder if the Gulf Middle School school officials and the Attorney General’s Office made the same careful deliberations for a police officer in Florida to be in trouble over the links on his friends’ page? He even had approval to create the profile on MySpace though run it on his own time. This story just smells. I bet there is more to the story. The story as it has been told doesn’t sound very plausible.

That said, I remember a case where helping a professor in 2005 (who had been teaching online for at least 5 years) asked me, “What is the URL Tool? While you are at it: What is a link?” So, just because people use technology does not mean they understand it.

Made Stumbleupon.com?

Traffic to this web site “spiked” yesterday. It only tripled to about 300 page views in a day. Nothing compared to what we get at work.
🙂

I was curious why the sudden burst almost exclusively to the Quotes to Make You Think page. The referrer for 108 of the 168 visitors that day was stumbleupon.com. Good visitors found other pages as they looked around a bit. Best I can figure, MochiMochii bookmarked my site and five others have indicated they like it.

Wow, if a single review and just a bookmark drives this much traffic, then maybe I am fortunate this page has not hit a top ranking? That could means thousands of hits daily.

UPDATE 2007-JAN-27: Today, the traffic from these… uh… Stumblers… is over 600 page views and we have over 6 hours left in the day. I am impressed people are coming. This quotes page has always been the most popular since I created it back in 2000 or 2001. Will it hit 1,200 Monday, 20,000 Friday? Where is the ceiling? I should have remembered the principles from work…

UPDATE 2007-JAN-27 b: Ha… Topped out at 4,892. That’ll teach me to think maybe it will slow.

On the Fourth through Sixth Loops of Ready 2 Wear

I really have to stop listening to the same song played over and over. It may affect my thinking….

We had another node crash due to the Sun JVM issue. Our start script failed to make a file in /var so the node did not become fully operational as expected. While waiting for those with permission to delete some stuff to free up space, I went looking for what I could delete myself. Naturally /var/tmp seemed a likely place. I found 1,171 files named Axis#####axis. (Replace the #s with well… numbers.) They used up only 42MB. Most were small. Looking across all our machines there are thousands of these dating back to February of this year.

I love the Unix file command. It will tell you what kind of files are there. So I used file | sort -k 2 to sort by the type. Almost all of the files were either plain text or JPEG or GIFs. One file, called a “c program file” turned out to be a JavaScript (based on the C syntax). I downloaded a JPEG file locally, renamed it to have the .jpg extension, and opened it in an image viewer. It opened correctly. Seems its a graphic of a table.

It would seem our Blackboard Vista 3 has been collecting these files for months. They do not take up very much space. There are not nearly enough files to represent a download of content by all users. Our /var would fill up hourly in that case.

Axis is an Apache SOAP project. Vista’s exposed APIs use Axis, I believe. So, the running hypothesis is several of our campuses are using a product which is contacting the APIs to upload content. Its spread out enough that all four clusters are affected. Its something that started about February.

Suspect #1 Respondus – Chosen because we know it hits the APIs to upload content. Discounted because the content is lecture materials. Respondus works with assessments (aka quizzes, tests, exams).

Suspect #2 Impatica – Chosen because the JavaScript file references PPT. Impatica compacts PowerPoint (aka PPT) files and allows them to play without needing a PPT player. Their support pages teach users how to use the Campus Edition 4 user interface to upload content into a course. O-kay….

Suspects #n Softchalk, Diploma, Microsoft .Learn, etc. – I haven’t really investigated any of these. They are just names to me at the moment.


UPDATE: So… There is a bug in Axis which dumps these files into the file system. The files can be deleted as long as they are not current.