DreamHost-Related Site Weirdness

If you’ve been having difficulty reaching this site over the past few days (I know that I have, for one…), there appears to be two very good reasons: DreamHost (my hosting provider) has been having ARP issues as well as related DNS problems.
It’s at times like this that I really appreciate how DreamHost handles itself. Most other hosts I’ve dealt with will do everything in their power to obscure the source of the problem[s], deny anything is wrong or widespread and basically do everything in their power to point the blame at their customers. DreamHost keeps a blog and updates it to let customers know what’s up.
That’s customer service for you and that’s why I stick with ’em, even if their CPU/network performance isn’t top-of-the-line.

A Very Merry Unbirthday To Me

Work has been a little on the crazy side as of late, so my 5th anniversary of blogging (which was yesterday) passed by unnoticed. Mind you, it’s not the 5th anniversary of Literal Barrage, whose existence traces to sometime after the run-up to the ’03 invasion of Iraq, but rather the anniversary of my first foray into blogging.
Things have changed quite a bit in those 5 years: a new child arrived, one is on the way, etc., and my blogging focus has changed. I don’t write about politics or cultural issues nearly as much as I used to — in fact, there are times that I go back through my archives and think “Who was that, writing those posts?” I also have found that, increasingly, LB has become more of a “tumblog”, a place for random thoughts and posts, moreso than serious discussion.
It’s a matter of priorities, really. I rarely have the time to devote to sitting down and “penning” a long-ish post and, to be frank, it does bother me. I’ve started doing some light, “humorous” blogging over at the Protein Wisdom Pub, a group blog that Jeff Goldstein was gracious enough to grant me access to.
It’s getting to the point where bloggers that want to make a difference almost have to devote themselves to the prospect full-time (or inhabit the hallowed halls of academia, at the very least). I’ll keep chipping in around the edges with silly YouTube posts and family stories, I suppose, at least until my employment situation becomes a bit, well, clearer.

Me? Piggyback? Never!

I’ve been stewing over this for a bit and, on word of Fred! Thompson officially announcing his intentions to run for Prez., I figured I’d make it official: gear.literalbarrage.org, your one-stop-shop for irreverent moichandise designed by Yours Truly. I’m feeling in a campaign-y sort of mood, so while you’re there, take a look at what I have to offer thus far: Admiral Joshua Painter ’08 and a real darkhorse ticket, McClane/Bauer, our two best chances for nukingdefeating the terr’rists. Both are available in t-shirt and bumper sticker form.
Also, dig the snazzy Zazzle store gimmick:

create & buy custom products at Zazzle

Potential Weirdness Inbound

A small programming note for my dedicated readers:
I just moved this blog over to WordPress version 2.2 since the version I was running (2.1.3) was vulnerable to a rather nasty cross-site scripting vulnerability. If you notice that anything is missing (images, pages, etc.) or anything that throws errors, please go ahead and drop me a line ASAP so I can get it taken care of. I think I took care of most of the migration, but it’s easy to miss the little things.
A note to my hosted blogs:
In order to draw you all into the WPMU fold, I’ve restarted the migration path. AndyII’s blog was the first to get hit, but everything should be okay now. If you notice that your site isn’t available any time soon, assume that I’m taking the liberty of moving you onto the MU system.


Work has been in-to-the-sane as of late (read: stuff physically blew up. Wonderful stuff, capacitance…) and I just haven’t had the energy to work up some proper posts.
In the meantime, here’s video footage of a full-grown man whipping the snot out of other full-grown men with a toy lightsaber:

“Mendel Doug” is apparently a bit of a legend on Villanova’s campus. There can be only one…
The best of Statler and Waldorf:

I Post, Therefore I Am

One of my coworker’s wives had their baby on Sunday morning, so we’re down a teammate for the next two weeks, thus my reduced posting output. I’m hoping to get a routine down soon, but blogging will most likely suffer.
Plus, I’m all outta good ideas.


If you were paying close attention, you would have noticed that the “Elbee Elgee Development” section of my footer was messed up for the past few days, and with good reason. That little bit of content is generated by parsing the RSS feed for the timeline on my Elbee Elgee Trac installation. Sometime earlier this week, the SQLite database that provides the backend for that install freaked out and locked itself up good n’ tight which necessitated me spending several hours debugging and de-wedging the DB.
The problem can be summed up thusly: it seems that Trac sites running on FastCGI have a tendency to try to access the default SQLite database fairly quickly and, if the DB files happen to be stored on an incorrectly-tuned NFS share, a race condition can ensue and incorrect file locking can occur, leaving the DB in a locked state.
It was initially a very long and frustrating process, as I scoured teh Googols for information on how to unlock a SQLite database. I found that a second file was created in the db/ subdir of my Trac site – trac.db-journal, which apparently indicates that a transaction is in progress or was incorrectly aborted. Search result after search result implied that one could unlock the database by

  1. Killing all process accessing the file
  2. Moving the -journal file
  3. Moving the .db file itself
  4. Restarting Apache
  5. Rebooting the machine

Since I’m on a shared hosting account at Dreamhost, options 4 and 5 were obviously Right Out. No amount of lsof or fuser tweakage, combined with judicious use of `kill -9` managed to unwedge the DB, so #1 was a bust. Options 2 and 3 allowed me to use the sqlite command line tool to connect to the database and run SELECT statements, but any INSERTs were met with “Database locked”-style error messages and thus Trac stayed broken.
Then it hit me – since I could SELECT, I could (conceivably) dump the contents and then reimport them into another DB. I cd’d into my Trac site’s db/ folder and executed the following:

echo '.dump' | sqlite3 trac.db > trac.dump; cat trac.dump | sqlite3 trac2.db

Using the sqlite3 command line tool, I verified that everything was copacetic and breathed a sigh of relief. Stupid SQLite.
I guess this seals it: when I finally move from Trac 0.9.6 to 0.10.3, I’m going to move to a real RDBMS like MySQL so this sort of stupid file locking crap doesn’t happen again.
NOTE: Apologies for the 3rd Grade-level insult inherent in this post’s title (it’s pronounced “Suck-well Lite”). Pretty much sums up my feelings, though.

Palette Swap!

I’ve had various and sundry people comment that the old default look/color scheme for my site was “too dark” so, in the interest of catering to the masses, I’ve done a bit of a turn-around, colorwise. Let me know what you think – the scheme still has some rough edges that I’m working on, but it’s pretty well tracking the development version of Elbee Elgee (the theme that Literal Barrage is currently running on).
So please, let me know what you think of the colors – what needs tweaking, what you like, what you don’t like, etc.
On the Elbee front, I’m quickly nearing a point where I feel like I could release it to the public. Beta 2 is approaching (yes, I know it says “4 months late” – that’s just about right…) and I think I’ll release it when I hit that landmark.

‘Scuse The Mess

I took the plunge and upgraded Literal Barrage to WordPress 2.1 on Thursday/Friday. I’ve been slowly picking away at the transition, re-enabling plugins, moving old artwork, etc. over. I know there are a bunch of things that still don’t work correctly: contact form, archives and a lot of my old images among them. If you notice any issues, please drop a comment on this story.
Thus far, 2.1 seems to be all-around faster and better put-together than previous versions of WordPress. For those of you following along with my theme development, I’ve moved Elbee to “beta 2” status. Things are progressing nicely (you can follow along with development without even leaving this page – the RSS feed down at the bottom shows the last few Subversion commits that I’ve made on the project).
Note to my hosted sites (Brad, AndyOne and Andy II, I’m looking in your direction particularly): Now’s the time to speak up as to whether you’d like to move from your existing 2.0.x installs to 2.1. (There’s another alternative as well – best email me so we can talk it out…).