A Lovely Day in the Neighbourhood

The Sun poked out through the clouds, and I was up, and I had my camera with me, so I took the “shot of the day.” Here it is, just to prove that we had some awesome weather today. It was nice; for a change. I decided to blog about it, just becuase.

I had an evil thought today. I thought, is it time to shut down this blog, and give it a rest. After all, it is getting on twelve years now, and I notice that my web traffic is a mere fraction of what it was back in the day. I do not know, just thinking about it, for now?

There are two main reasons why I blog now. First, I like writing. Writing is the most difficult thing for me to do. And I know this goes for most people that I know. Writing is a though thing to do, especially in English, which is just a dog’s breakfast when it comes to technical writing, and the spelling and grammar police that comes with it. But I write on, and now I love it, or else I would not be putting these lines of texts here. My second reason is my love with photography. The website is a means to express that love for my art, and post it for all to see on the world wide web. This web site is loaded with images. Since I graduated up to semi-pro gear, so to has my volume of images as well, and this is the place to see that. But still, I have kept a huge number of photos from my point-and-shoot days with hundred dollar camera. But these are it, my reasons for doing it.


Website Issue Resolved

A couple of days ago my host migrated my server account over to another server, and in the process, there was a glitch. When they copied the website over, along the way, file permissions were set wrong and my Word Press directory was given the wrong file permission. As a result, anyone who checked my website got a “Error Establishing a Database Connection.” Because of work and time, this persisted for two days until I have time to email them. The issue was resolved in just a couple of hours.

I double checked everything here, and all seems well. In fact, my admin page seems to work a lot faster now. Yay!

So fear not, all is well, and my website is safe–no lost data, files or photos. Business as usual. 🙂

Oh Yes, Comment Spam – You Suck.

For the last week, on my spare time, I had overhauled my website. Mostly cleaning up the data tables and plug-ins here on the weblog, but also the other projects on my website as well. But for a brief period, around two days, I left my spam filters in their default settings while I deleted and added plug-ins as part of my janitorial efforts. During that time, over 50 spam comments warnings were deposited in my email, and 15 of those made it onto my weblog. Since completing my updates and general cleaning, the comment spam blockers have been reactivated and are now doing their jobs, making my on-line experience a happy one. Life is good, or is it?

Party Girl 2015 B Weblog Image

Something that I always worry about is never knowing that I maybe blocking legitimate comments from my weblog. Although I have always had this rule that if someone wants to post a comment on a blog that looks and acts as a spam comment, then rightful so–it should be blocked. But what if it is from a friend who wants to share with me some really cool websites, and wants to tell me and my readers to go to a really cool web-link, or photo, then that should be a plus, right? Well, as I found out the hard way, what seems really cool and awesome looking, is more than likely not. I mean, that is the bases of advertising, to suck you in, lure you to what ever it is someone wants to sell you. Like the woman in the red dress, the packaging looks awesome, but until you remove the packaging, you have no idea what you are truly getting.

Anyway, I guess the at risk of allowing those doors to open, I will keep them locked, even at the expense of losing just one legitimate comment. Living with the spam is something I just think is repulsive when trying to run a good website–there ought to be law on comment spam, but for now we have plug-ins to keep them out. Thank you to the creators of comment spam blockers–thank you.

A Funny Thing Happened When I Posted Some Photos.

It was a couple of days ago that I released some photos I shot for a friend who needed some portfolio shots. He posted them both on Twitter and on his Face Book. I don’t do FB, so I haven’t seen them there, but I did see them on Twitter. He gave me credit, and somehow one of his followers from Twitter contacted me via Twitter. That’s when I got the strangest Tweet regarding my work. It goes like this, “Nice Pics… You’re the guy who does those clear photos. What do you use on your pics?” I laughed. That’s like me explaining The Theory of General Relativity in 140 letters, or less.

So I tweeted a direct message back to her (I’m assuming it’s a she) which went something like this: “I use a DSLR, and lots of post editing software. My cameras are semi-pro quality.” So a day goes by that I hear nothing from her. Then today, a flurry of 20 DMs shoot across my Twitter-Feed. The first volley were along the lines of, “why can’t my Smart Phone do that…” to “How do you get the back ground so blurry, yet everything else is perfect…” Then they ended off with, “Do you photograph horses too?”

OK, photography is something that I have being doing for a long time. It has only been in the last few years that I’ve taken it to a semi-pro level, mainly due to finally having enough money to buy those big ticket items I’ve always wanted. But, I guess, you either love it enough that you absorb all the knowledge that comes with it, or you sit down a study it until you master it completely, either way, you get it, or you don’t. I see photography as an art form. I draw, paint, and sculpt, but photography is just an extension of that art form, like the next logical step in my quest of beauty and perfection.

The weird thing about photography for me has been the ability to make some money with it. I didn’t throw up a sign and set out to create a business with it, it (or they) found me after I started posting photos on my Blog and website. I like flowers, so I have thousands of images of just flowers and plants, but that landed me a small contract to do a floral shop’s website. I don’t push my talent, I get emails, tweets, or phone calls out of the blue, asking me to do some work for various people from all walks of life. It started with some simple architectural/landscape jobs, selling houses on a website, to doing modelling shoots with real models in a real studio, then a few weddings. Now I turn down jobs simply becuase I have day job (actually a night job), and I have so many other things going on in my life now. I’m time-crunched. But I do sneak in a few odd job now and then if it really perks my interest.

So, I guess I’m going to photograph some horses in and around Langley City sometime in the near future. This should be interesting. But we’ll see what sort of job it is before I start packing up my camera bag. Business through Twitter–how’s that for networking.

Success – My PC/Workstation is Back Up and Running!

Here was my situation about six weeks ago: my main PC/Workstation was in the middle of an upgrade, while I was downloading a huge back-up file from my server. It was going well, until my upgrade software needed to restart the machine. As soon as it shut-off, that was when the whole system crashed, leaving numerous unfinished files either deleted, or unconfigured. When I started the system back up, a total loss form the boot-loader had occurred, leaving the system as a brick. No matter what I tried, I could not get it to start up again. Nothing worked – period!

My next phase was to try and recover all the information on my hard drives. I like my data secured, and kept safe, so naturally everything on my systems are encrypted–heavily. The glorious task of prying open my data turned quickly into a nightmare. Just when I thought it was going to a snap to recover my data, the ugly truth reared its head when my recovery software flashed the text in the header that it would take “62” to “85” hours to copy and recover my data, then another untold amount of time to decrypt it all. When you are dealing with 2 x 4TB drives, that is a lot of data to copy over.

I was mortified. Me being the Linux guy and everything, with my vast knowledge of computers, and software, I was now sitting on the other side of the fence, helpless and frustrated at the task before me. My research yielded little, as the on-line community was just as much in the dark as I was on this matter, especially with the Ubuntu pass phrase and hard drive encryption precess for recovery topic. I thought, type in your pass words, and the rest took care of itself. WRONG! Not so simple.

Even with my pass words, and pass-phrase alphanumeric code, I could not get the software recovery to work. It stumped me. I started asking myself questions like, did I record my pass phrase wrong, or was there something else I missed when I originally installed the OS? To this day I do not know.

I got thinking–what happened when my system crashed? The boot-loader was still intact, and I could see that the check-sum for my drives was an exact match. So this lead me down a different path, one that made me believe that maybe this was not a “corruption” of data issue, but of missing files that got wiped during the upgrade.  My first clue was not being able to see any graphics right after the initial boot-up. But I went ahead and started copying my data first–just in case I screwed everything up.

In the mean time, I set-up an older PC Tower, with a bare-bones OS, Ubuntu 14.04, just to get me by while I finished recovering my data on my main PC. Starting from scratch was horrendous: no email address, loss of work files, no contact names, and using webmail–it all sucked.

My first test, confirming my hunch about a broken graphics’s driver file. I confirmed that I did indeed had an issue with my graphics card’s driver file; it was completely missing. This meant that I had to purchase a new card and see if my OS would kick in and recognise it, thinking that this was an upgrade. The risk, further damage to my data.

My second test was buying a graphics card that would work. I originally had an ATI card in it during the crash, so I thought that buying another ATI card would do the trick. Nope. I realized that it had to be another make and model. So I bought an Nvidia card. IT WORKED!

Within seconds after the boot-up, my machine’s OS was hunting down the latest drivers for the new graphics card! As it spewed out glorious graphics of my log-in page across my monitor, in the background, it was digging up the files it needed to completed the job of the upgrade. I was ecstatic; I gave out a yell of gratitude that must of reverberated across the forest outside. Everything was now back to normal; my precious data, my machine, and my sanity, all recovered and put back to where it was once before.

Going Into October, Where Did the Time Go?

Okay, I got sidetracked…, a lot these last couple of weeks. So much on the go with the new employer, new contracts, and catching up on I.O.U.s, bills and projects that needed that stuff they call money that I never had enough of when I went through my period of unemployment. The new job is slowly filling those money voids. As I was fearing a loss of hours with the new job as we move into the slow season for them, my hours never got cut, and I am pretty sure that I should be steady up until November, so I can relax for the next four weeks. But anyway, yes, it has been busy.

List of Accomplishments for the Last Week of September

Mobile Equipment courses are completed and I will be fully licensed by the end of the week, going into the next. Since I had so much experience with these types of equipment, I went through the “fast-track” program, and was issues passes in the same day on the four basic types of equipment used in my location: Order Picker, Reach-Truck, Electric Pallet-Jack and Counter-Balance Fort-lift. The instructor was pleased that all that was required was just to demonstrate to him that I was proficient , and he gave a week to practice until the final “road tests” on each machine. I will not get any more pay, but this will bolster my hours during the slow season.

I took my First Aid (Level-One) and will move onto my Level Two in about four weeks. This was not done through my current employer, but on my own dime as I will need this for some contract jobs that will be coming up. The First Aid ticket is a nice skill to put on a C.V.

I received my final mark for the programming course I took over the summer. I walk away with an grade of A. Very happy with that. The course was programming in Python. My goal is to code on servers for high-end websites which use security and other types of work-flows that sit on networks.  This course was prefect for the type of work I want to do. I am actually running my own Python scripts here on this weblog, on top of WordPress, so this course really helped me out putting it all together.

Anyway, October is here. Wow…, where did the time go?

Post Number 2000: and On We Go

That is right, this is post number 2000! What better way to mark 2000 blog entries, than with a animated GIF logo that I cooked up using Blender to mark this occasion. I knew way back since 2007 that I would hit 2000 weblog posts by the tenth anniversary, around 2014, here at Thomasso.com, I just was not sure exactly what date this milestone would take place. The count down to post number 2000 came rather quickly too when last winter when I was going into a period of hyper-post madness due to how slow work was going, I had all this spare time on my hands as work was spotty. But, it is fitting that I marked it on this day, July 25. It is a Friday, and the sunny weather just started up again after three days of drizzle, plus this is summer, so yay! 2000 Post!

2000 Posts Animated LOGO July 25 2014

About the animation:

I created the scene in Blender 2.71. I also used imagemagick by using a shell scrip to take the images and transfiguring them into an animated GIF image that you see here now. Here is a website that shows you how apply the command line for Linux users: Creating an Animated GIF Image. Primarily, the main feature, in Blender, is the physics function that I used. I am taking the text, converting it into a mesh, then applying the physics function to all of the objects in the scene to make them react to falling on the hard surface.

I am not even going to guess when I will hit the next thousand posts (Number 3000), or how long this website will stay up. All that I can tell you at this time is that I will continue to blog as much I can. Who knows, I may even get serious and start turning this website into a full fledge venture with my photography, or other interests I have?

A Little Upgrade Here, and a Little There, There is So Much Going On!

From finally getting to my P.C., the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Upgrade, and fixing a couple of issues with my personal network at home, and the upgrade from WordPress to 3.9, I think I will have a completely new computing environment by the end of this weekend! The WordPress upgrade just happened a few minutes ago, so that just added to stretch of labour that I put in already today on my machines. The OS upgrade was really only from the Ubuntu 12.04, up to the 14.04 because I am sticking to the long term releases for my home equipment. So this was the first upgrade in two years on my PC. I am tired of the bleeding edge OS, and SVN headaches, when I come home from a long day spent at someone else’s broken system. So far everything here seems to be working find.

Ubuntu 14 04 Screenshot from 2014-04-18 16:58:55 Weblog Image

I did a complete reinstall of my PC, as opposed to a initial upgrade. I wiped out my internal hard drive with a program called Gparted, and made sure that drive was completely clean before I installed back on to it. I had a couple of irritating bugs that were driving me up the wall, one of them was with FireFox, and Flash. For the last couple of weeks I could not run TweetDeck from off of that browser, due to flash and URL cache issues. The step up to 14.04 fixed all of that in one sweep. I am a much happier camper now. 🙂

There are still several programs and pieces of software that I still need to install, but I did the main ones to get me though for now. The installation was super fast this time around: in under 45 minutes–start to finish. I used a USB flash drive instead of installing from the web, or from a optical drive, and having a 6-core Pentium did not hurt either. Added all up, this was a huge time saver in performance, and caused far less headaches overall for a clean install.

Has Your Server Been Fixed Yet?

Twelve hours sitting in knee-deep chaos, watching twenty progress bars slowly move across a tiny 38cm monitor, as patches are installed to correct the OpenSSL hole, a.k.a. as the HeartBleed Bug, I just want to go to sleep now. In general, most of the servers that I deal with are not affected by this bug, but the handful that are, replacing the software was not as easy as I hoped it would be. Taking the servers off-line, running the configuration routines, and then running security scans, it all adds up to a lot of time spent in one tiny room with stale air.

heartbleed bug graphic April 15 2014

How serious is this bug?

Well, I ran a bunch of hacks on my own server just to see if gaining access was as easy as the media said it was. After my results, I was left sitting with my jaw on the floor. If you know what to look for, snooping around emails, data file, logs, back-up files, it was all there, albeit I really had to dig around, but I did it. I was stunned! It did not matter what you were running, if you are running OpenSSL, then you have the hole.

As a favour to the online world, I am not going to go into any details. I know it will be months before all of the servers are updated around the world.

If you think that your server is affected by this, then there are couple of websites that can help you detected whether or not you are vulnerable to HeartBleed.  You can run the HearBleed test here: http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/ and http://heartbleed.com/ for more information about HeartBleed.

According to Hearbleed.com, they say this about the fixes:

As long as the vulnerable version of OpenSSL is in use it can be abused. Fixed OpenSSL has been released and now it has to be deployed. Operating system vendors and distribution, appliance vendors, independent software vendors have to adopt the fix and notify their users. Service providers and users have to install the fix as it becomes available for the operating systems, networked appliances and software they use.

As for the open source community, help was rapid and support was fast. I had the patches in less than a day of receiving the news. Most of the updates were up on the repositories when I first checked, so everyone should have this fixed within days–so do your regular updates!

Damn bugs.

Finding Lost Stuff While Cleaning the Hard Drive Out

I started doing a transfer of all of my data taken from my main P.C. and backing it up onto storage drives yesterday. I came across a whole pile of images that I had forgotten about, and thought I had lost them. It turns out that I had backed them up, but forgotten to include a proper index of that back-up file when I created the archive file, so when I went to look at the contents, there they were, about 16 gigs of image files that I took from around the first half of 2011, and some from the summer of 2012. I was searching for this set of images to use with my Valentine’s Day graphics, and ended up creating some vector graphics ones instead.

Flower Hearts 2012 - Fort Langley BC Weblog Image

Hard to believe that I took this image with my old trusty Sony Alpha 33 SLT camera.

The heart shaped flowers were growing in the Lombardy Trailer Court, behind the Fort Laundromat, during the summer of 2012. I had asked permission from the park owners if I could shoot a bunch photos of their garden. I was mostly interested in these flowers because they looked so amazing. There are 35 shots from that session that I took, using a 16 to 55mm zoom lens, and my newly purchased 30mm Macro lens. There are about 5 shots that I think are publishable. I only posted one shot from this bunch back in 2012, and then stored the files, so there are more to come.

The back-up took me about 15 hours, transferring about 1.5 TBs of back-up data files. I rigorously go through a process of encrypting the hard drive, and then archiving my data to store in the encrypted drive, then I index the contents to a separate hard drive to finish the archiving process. The archived data is also given recovery back-up files to aid in the event if the hard drive has been damage during storage: I can then reconstruct any broken parts afterwords. In Linux, I created a BASH file to automate the process, and cut down on time during the whole process.

I may post another article here on the work-flow that I do during my system wide back-up routine. But for now, I am happy that I found my heart shaped flowers. 🙂