WordPress Error: This file cannot be used on its own.

In posting a comment to a friend’s WordPress blog, it came up with the error:

Error: This file cannot be used on its own.

I was responding to a comment, so I doubted that he broke his blog between making a comment and my response. So I went looking though my own install. Essentially, at a shell I used

find . -exec grep -l "This file cannot be used on its own." {} \;

to locate the file involved is wp-comments-popup.php. This file contains code which checks for the HTTP_REFERER variable has specific values equal to the path and file name for the comments page. If this is not the case, then it should throw this error. The file mentioned in the error is wp-comments.php.

Its seems that I had configured my web browser not to pass the HTTP referrer to web servers, so the check failed and threw this error.

Maybe the WordPress developer who designed this has no idea about the ability of web browsers not to send a referrer. Searching for the error on the WP site yielded nothing. From the tons of comments about people hitting this error, lots of people turn off sending referrers.

Solution for those leaving comments: If you attempt to leave a comment and see this error, then enable referrers. WordPress actually has a decent article on enabling HTTP referrers for a number of different pieces of software.

More friendly error for WP blog owners: Edit wp-comments-popup.php. Change

die (‘Error: This file cannot be used on its own.’);

to

die (‘Learn how to <a href=”http://codex.wordpress.org/Enable_Sending_Referrers”>enable HTTP referrers</a> to fix this. ‘);

Section Archive Easter Egg

Blackboard support wants a backup of a section to replicate the instructor claimed behavior. Fine. I started making the backup, but I ended up closing the browser to go home.

This morning, when I checked, the backup was not in the Vista file manager at the course level where I created it. So, I created another backup. That one was created at the course level as the first should have been.

Independently, I checked the web server logs and discovered the first had completed. So, it should have been put in the Vista file manager. The next place I looked was the institution level. Sure enough, the section archive was there.

So, I guess this means there is an operation that takes place in a subsequent web page to move the section archive from the institution learning context to the course learning context. Because the web browser was no longer managing the backup, the later operation was not conducted.

Too bad its a feature and not a bug…

Naked on the Net

The typical response to a “OMG Users Don’t Have the Privacy They Think They Do” article is to never post anything online or just never visit web sites where you would post something.

These seem…. Paranoid. People have an expectation of privacy. People also inherently trust web sites unless they have been burned enough in the past. I know a few people who have lost their trust. However, its less than a dozen out of a few 300 people.

My mother in particular, read an article about bad web browser cookies years ago, so she set Netscape 4.5 to tell her about every attempt to set a cookie and was appalled at how many web sites tried to set them. Eventually, she realized not every cookie is malicious. Similarly, not every web site or company is out to screw their users. By contrast, a friend of hers installed Zone Alarm at home and discovered a ton of blocked connections which made him paranoid about the dangers online.

The place to be online is, I think, somewhere between paranoid privacy and complete openness. We should be open enough to generate conversations. However, we should not be giving away the kitchen sink.

Computer v Human Diagnosis

I just finished How Doctors Think yesterday.

First impression was doctors don’t spend very much time thinking and gathering information to make a diagnosis. That impress struck a very negative chord with me as it sounds like in my profession of database and computer administration we spend hours picking apart the data we have to diagnose even minor sounding issues.

The better impression ought to be doctors spend very little time with a seemingly routine diagnosis. When confounded they spend more time doing analysis. They also have to deal with the patient’s lack of patience.

In tier 3 support, we spend even less time with routine issues. “Try another web browser and call me in the morning.” anyone? When we don’t know this gives the “patient” something to do while we go investigate the real cause (looking at logs or stats). Unfortunately, our computer “patients” want resolutions in minutes or maybe hours. Few find taking a few years to heal a computer problem acceptable.
🙁

tags: , , ,

Netscape to Die… Finally!

Just posted an internal email about what we ought to do about the End-of-Service announcement for Netscape. Usage of Netscape browsers has plummet even as Firefox as increased. Its finally hit the floor such that even AOL has given up on it. Why did they make NN 9? A snapshot of its use relative to total hits for the past ~30.5 days at two of the sites we run:

                   CVIEW             OVIEW
  Browser       Hits     %        Hits    %
  Netscape 7  108,739  0.18%    186,105  0.22%
   -- Mac       6,319  0.01%     33,249  0.04%
  Netscape 8   56,655  0.09%     85,817  0.10%
  Netscape 9        0  0.00%          0  0.00%

My first web browser was Netscape 1. Every version up to Netscape 7.0 was at one time my primary web browser until I switched finally to Mozilla Firefox in 2004. Browser crashes are not unknown in testing, so to loose my place with other stuff (wikis, notes, documentation) frustrates even myself, so I still use NN7.2 for testing.

There hasn’t been an update to NN 7.2 in 3 years, so EOS doesn’t really mean anything to those using it still. So, I don’t expect anyone to do anything. I haven’t heard demands that we provide support for NN8, so I doubt NN7 will be much different.

Too bad, it came in with a whimper and will go out with a whimper.

Coradiant TrueSight

Several of us saw a demo of Coradiant Truesight yesterday (first mentioned in the BbWorld Monitoring post). Most of the demo, I spent trying to figure out the name Jeff Goldblum as one of team giving the demo had the voice and mannerisms of the actor’s characters. Had he mentioned a butterfly, then I definitely would have clapped. The other reminded me of John Hodgman.

Something I had not noticed at the time, but a reoccurring point of having Truesight is to tell our users, “Here is evidence the problem is on your end and not ours.” This assumes the users are rational or will even believe the evidence. They wish the problem never occurred (preference) and a resolution (secondarily). Preventing every problem, especially issues outside our domain, probably is outside the scope of the budget we receive. So, we are left with resolving the issues. Especially scary are the users who take evidence the problem is on their end or their ISP’s end to mean, “This is all your fault.”

Resolutions we can we offer are:

  1. Hardware change – We can replace or alter the configuration of the hardware components of the network, storage, database, or application.
  2. Software change – We can alter the configuration of the software components of the network, storage, database, or application.
  3. Request a code change from a vendor – We can work with our vendors to get a code change. These take forever to implement.
  4. Suggest a user resolve the issue
    1. We can provide a work around (grudgingly accepted, remember the preferred wish is the problem never occurred).
    2. We suggest configuration changes the user can make to resolve the problem.

Truesight provides us information to help us try to resolve issues. Describing the information provided as “facts” was a nice touch. At Valdosta State, I gave up on users reporting the browsers accurately and captured the information from the User-Agent header. Similarly, at the USG, I’ve found users disagree ~30% of the time about the version of the browser according to the User-Agent string. Heck, they have errors in the name of the class ~40% of the time. My favorite is something took 15 minutes, but all I could find was it took four minutes. Ugh. Because Truesight is capturing the header info, it ought to be much easier to confirm what users were doing and where problems occurred more accurately than the users can describe.

After receiving all the “facts”, we still have to determine the cause. Truesight helps us understand the scope of the problem by how many users, how many web servers, and how many pages are affected by slowness to what degree. As a DBA and administrator, my job identifying cause ought to be easier, though quantifying how much easier probably is difficult to say.

Part of why: (Mostly speculation.) Problems identified as a spike in anything other than “Host” are external causes. These are causes in front of the device. Causes behind the device are “Host”. If these were more narrowly broken down, the maybe we could better determine cause. That would require knowledge web browsers typically would not know like the server processing time, query processing time, or even the health of the servers.

tag: Blackboard Inc, Coradiant, , user agent,

Joke: Security Via JavaScript

So, you are a teaching an online class. Students cheating naturally is a concern. How does one prevent them from stealing answers?

  • Code in the online class system? Unfortunately, the makers of the learning management systems lag behind the creativity of cheaters. Plus, they can only control their systems. How do they enforce security in the web browser, desktop / laptop, cell phone, classroom, or any other environment?
  • JavaScript? This is the most laughable solution. I’ve known how to disable JavaScript in browsers I use since 1999. I’ve never met a JS security solution I could not beat by simply turning off JavaScript. With Firefox and the Web Developer toolbar it literally takes two clicks. People like it because its cheap. I guess you get what you pay for in this case.
  • Code in the operating system? Dozens of software applications are designed to prevent cheating by controlling what can be done with the desktop or laptop. Certainly this appears to be the most comprehensive solution. However, it often means students go to a proctored environment. What’s the point of taking a class online if I have to go to a classroom?
  • Cameras? The only solution that deals with the possibility of face-to-face or cell phone type collusions. These operate by the students exhibiting suspicious behavior. Students will have to figure out how to act naturally.

The better the solution, the more expensive and less likely to be purchased. Instead, we’ll use cheesy JavaScripts because students are dumb. They’ll never figure it out. Unless by never you mean with a simple Google search.

WebRunner

Linux.com :: Mozilla begets WebRunner, a site-specific browser:

Nowadays, people are turning to Web-based applications as replacements for desktop applications. Web-based office suites, mail clients, multimedia apps, and general productivity tools are all extremely useful now, but standard Web browsers aren’t always the best option for running applications. To provide a more suitable tool for Web-based apps, Mozilla Platform Evangelist Mark Finkle has been working on WebRunner, a site-specific browser (SSB) that’s designed to work exclusively with one application at a time. It’s not finished yet, but it’s already showing promise.

Blackboard, Inc. Are you reading? 😀 This could be the magic bullet you need for a fully functional section archive outside of the true Vista application!

Always Check Out Your Backside Before Hitting the Carraba’s

I’m working from home (yes, 11PM on a Friday night – that’s why I get paid the big bucks).

So, I often put on comfortable clothes for working. While jean shorts are pretty comfortable, the sweat shorts are so much better for spending all night typing at the command line and checking things in a web browser.

Well, I wore the jean shorts to Carrabba’s earlier. I just noticed there was a sticker on them indicating that they are 3XL. Actually, that is not true, the sticker is from one of the tee shirts I bought back in July.

Sheesh.

Netscape.com 3.0

Poor Netscape…. They work and work at achieving again the glories of their past. Through their browser (eventually outsourced), web server (eventually sold of to become iPlanet, SunOne, and now something else), and web site, this brand just has not seemed to flourish since their IPO back in the mid 1990s. Will this latest try at rebirth as a blog site change the tide?

Netscape, which started life as a Web browser company and then evolved into a media destination site, is being reinvented once again to merge news reporting and blogs with the latest Internet trends.

On Thursday, the revised Netscape.com will begin a public test of what its new general manager, dot-com news entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, said aims to reinvent the modern news service.

As a blogger and dabbler I will probably play with it. Doesn’t mean I will like it.