Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Spot the difference

Okay, you probably noticed that one tivket is for the week after the other. No points for this, its too obvious. Look more closely...

Spot it yet? Yes, just look at the price. One week, £156.10. The next, £188.00.

Spot any more differences? No, that's right, there aren't any. For exactly the same ticket, I pay £156.10 one week, then £188 the next.

To save you reaching for your calculator, that's an increase of £31.90, or 20.44%. That's the second increase this year. The growth in CPI, or Consumer Prices Index, which is what is used to determine inflation, was 2.8% in April. After a gap of three hundred years, it would appear relevant once again to use the words "stagecoach" and "highway robbery" in the same breath!

(I make light of this, but of course there is a serious point here. How can this increase possibly be justified?


I know, I know, ages since I wrote.

In my defence I've had another corrupted hard disk. Nothing to do with any of the computers involved in blogging, but it has been taking up time. Plus, the last couple of weeks I have been out in the garden a lot - starting to clear out the flower beds to make room for some flowers, if you catch the drift...

The weekend just gone was a bank holiday weekend, but apart from Saturday was a complete washout. I got some weeding done, but not much. It was so stormy Sunday that we kept on having power cuts throughout the night, so much so that we were all in bed by 10pm.

Life at the clients is very busy and quite stressful at the moment. Deadlines are looming, although to be honest the beauty about a technical role is that, given enough thought, a solution will present itself. Dealing with people, however, is altogether more complex..... (nuff said!!)

The people who maintain the email server for hurford.me.uk are still blocking my contact page, which is totally useless of them. Best use pete@hurford.me.uk if you want to contact me.

I promise I will write something before long (about what I've been up to, not just a rant about South West Trains!)

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Back to normal ???

Looks like the computers are not in the clear just yet. It looks as though my mail server's IP address has been added to a blacklist.

The contact page is not sending emails, since when it attempts to hit the ISP's mail server, the server responds with a blanket "Spamming not allowed".

So now I've got to try and sort that out. Oh, bugger!

Rail Rant

And another thing. There was trouble (allegedly) with the trains this morning. On the basis of track problems at Waterloo, they turfed us out at Basingstoke only to change us onto a moving sardine tin. So despite the fact that I pay around £700 per month to these people, I end up standing most of the way into London.

The exact same thing happened last week also.

Needless to say there was no sign of any activity, blokes fixing rails etc., at Waterloo.

South West Trains - now there's another company who'll take your money along with a cheery "Screw You" as they do so. Utterly useless.

Back to normal?

Well, I seem to have got away with the hard disk crash, without having to resort to restoring any backups. Having removed the offending disk and chkdsk'd it, during which several severe-looking errors were found and hopefully fixed, I replaced the disk back into the computer which fortunately started up without problem.

That wasn't the end, however. Rather than take the risk with that hard drive, I ordered a replacement. The sizes of hard drives these days are such that they take ages to set up, and it duly took around 48 hours to clone one disk to the other. Still, this was done at the weekend so the new disk is happily up and running now.

This whole episode I think has made me realise the value of a raid array (currently only one server is set up for raid), and I might have to see if I can get an old P3 server from eBay. These corporate cast-offs are unbelievably cheap these days - a not-badly specced server went for just £40 over the weekend.

I got a report from my isp that my mail server had been pushing out spam, threatening to suspend my service if I didn't sort it. So that was an interesting Friday night. In the end, it wasn't the mail server at all, but the web server.

Elsewhere on this site I maintain a simple "contact us" page, which basically just fires an email to one of us. The page that does this is very straightforward, and to be honest an almost-identical page will exist on millions of other web sites. Anyway, it looks like this page was getting hijacked, to send emails to all-and-sundry. I don't know how they did it, but to be honest it doesn't surprise me that a vulnerability like this should exist.

Anyway, a simple change to the code on the page should make it that little bit more difficult to do in the future.

Enough of all this tekky stuff, on to real life.

I think I mentioned that we went over to the Cuckoo Fair in Downton a couple of weeks ago, which was quite pleasant. Same old tat as usual, but Alice enjoyed herself and I did manage to buy something for my mum's birthday. That was the Mayday bank holiday weekend, and the weather was quite good until the Monday, which unfortunately was the day designated for gardening! Even as we were in the garden centre we watched torrential rain falling outside. Also, that weekend, we had a spur-of-the-moment excursion to Bournemouth on Sunday night, to go to Harry Ramsden's. The restaurant was very quiet and for a change the service was prompt. A delicious meal followed by a short stroll along the seafront.

This weekend just gone was rather quiet by comparison. Of course there was all the faffing about with computery bits and bobs, but apart fron that the only other noteworthy event was another spur-of-the-moment trip, this time to Hedge End in order to buy some summer clothes. I ended up with some lovely linen shirts which will be great in the summer. I'm not quite sure what spending £200 on clothes from Marks and Spencer says about me, but there again I never really was a Top Man kinda guy!

Finally a note on Alice's behaviour, which is extremely bad at the moment. Aside from the back-chat, which we're kind of used to but which is nevertheless infuriating, there have been about three examples in the last few days where she has flagrantly disobeyed us, using things of both mine and Jacqueline's that she has been expressly forbidden to use. Then, to cap it all, she snook into the kitchen and helped herself to an enormous portion of apple crumble, after I had expressly said she couldn't have any because of her earlier misdemeanours. I'm really at a loss as to what to do about it - I mean on the face of it these things are trivial but at every opportunity Alice just seems to stick two fingers up at us and say "Fuck You".

People talk about the joys of parenthood, but in truth the cost is unbelievably high.


Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Tales of Woe

Been ages since I wrote any entries, but in fairness that isn't all my fault. About a week ago I noticed that all the web sites were down - not a usual occurrence but nevertheless has happened before and is usually cured by a reboot.

However, on this occasion, the reboot had no effect. Now, most of the work I do on the servers, I do remotely from the comfort of the office. But on this occasion, a personal visit was warranted. Even in person, the web server looked fine.

Now, all the visits to my web sites get logged in a database. Further, things like my blog get written to this database also. So, checking the database was the next step. Unfortunately, the message "Windows could not start because the ntoskrnl.exe file is missing or corrupt" kind of gave the game away.

There was nothing wrong with the web server, it had just got itself into a tizzy trying again and again to talk to the database.

So, the database.... Well, I did all the easy things like running up the Repair console, all to no avail. I did run chkdsk, which found some problems, but I couldn't do anything to actually sort them and get the server running. In desparation I ordered an external drive caddy, which at least allowed me to rip the hard disk out of the machine and to attach it to another (working) system for a closer look.

I kicked off another chkdsk, which took a mammoth 36 hours to complete (the database disk was quite large!). Even then I got various errors such as such-and-such a file could not be fixed.

In parallel to this, I only upgraded the server's hard disk last July, and nothing really new had been placed onto the server - so in the worst case, I could restore this disk and just overcopy the nightly database backup. So, no data loss - but I would be back with a smaller disk for the moment.

At the time of writing, this is still an option. The machine is up and working with the old disk. But having looked further at the new disk following its chkdsk (which for all the messages appeared to be successful) and a defrag, I'm wondering if maybe the drive is fixed enough to work?

Haven't tried yet, am going to do this tonight.

Hopefully, when this is complete, I'll be able to get back to blogging about "real" things such as the Cuckoo Fair, and how Alice has started getting some private tuition.....