Administrivia Geeky Stuff

I’m baaaack..

A few years back, I set up on Ubuntu Linux running on a AWS EC2 instance. It ran just fine there, but to be honest, was kind of a mess. I was dreading the day when I would eventually have to update it or move it somewhere else, because I didn’t document anything that I did while configuring it, and thus, it would take forever to get everything working again.

Last summer, I decided to bite the bullet and redo everything on the site to run in Docker containers. That way, I’d have a repeatable build/deploy process that I could easily move around independently of the underlying support framework, be it ECS, another EC2 instance running Docker, or whatever. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s inching closer to completion. One of the first things I did was to move the MariaDB instance that hosts this blog’s database tables, into a container. This worked mostly OK: the blog still rendered just fine, and I could click around and read all of the posts the same as always. However, when I logged in at /wp-admin, It gave me a permission error, and I could not get to the dashboard. That effectively locked me out of the blog, preventing me from writing new posts, among other things.

About 4 months later, I finally got around to fixing it. Since I planned to move WordPress into a Docker container anyhow, I decided to start over with a fresh database, and just import all of my original blog content into the new instance. The catch was that I needed to somehow get into my old instance one last time to export the data. After some searching around, I found a snippet of PHP that I could add to my theme to bypass the permissions checks. That did the trick: I finally got back in, exported the data, and brought everything back up in a new, shiny Docker container. The blog is now powered by a Nginx front-end that talks to WordPress over a FPM proxy. Fun stuff.

Now that I can post again, I’ll try to write some more as the spirit moves me. As you can imagine, 2020 has been an interesting year with some pretty big changes to my daily routine.


Blog administrivia

OK.. figured out a somewhat better solution for links to blog posts. Use relative URLs, and use named permalinks. Then, I should be able to move the blog in the future without breaking self-referential links (providing that the new blog either runs WordPress or can support WordPress-style permalinks). I still need to go through and update all my old links, which looks to be a tedious process, but with any luck it’ll be the last time I need to do it.

I discovered the other day that it doesn’t work to set up a CNAME pointing to ‘’ I just end up getting sent to the main homepage. Using an HTTP redirect (or meta refresh) seems to work. However it doesn’t appear that I can set up a redirect with my current domain hosting provider, at least not without signing up for web hosting that I don’t want. However, I’m going to be shopping around for a new home for my domain within the next couple months anyhow, so I’ll check into this as I’m evaluating new providers.

Administrivia House

Blogging again…

Hopefully I’ll pick up the blogging pace a bit now that I’ve moved everything over to  In preparation for un-password-protecting the blog, I’m going through all of my old posts, and the only thing I’ve noticed is that all of my links to other blog entries are broken.  Nothing unexpected, but I wonder if there’s anything that can be done to prevent this from happening every time I move the blog (it’s moved 3 times now, and it’ll probably move again).  Probably not, but right now all my links reference posts by number, and it might help to change them to use named permalinks.

My latest pet project at home is preparing us for the impending cutover to digital TV.  We’re far too cheap to pay for cable or satellite TV (although FiOS may be hard to resist), so I’m concentrating on getting a nice setup for receiving over-the-air digital broadcasts.  Following some instructions I found on the Internet (where else), I built two homemade UHF antennas.  The author of this web page uses a single antenna with a rotator.  At our location, though, we’re smack-dab in the middle of the Baltimore and DC TV markets.  So I can set 2 antennas up in the attic, one aimed at Baltimore, and another aimed at Washington, and pick up pretty much every station within 50 miles, without the hassle of a rotator.  The only issue is combining the signals.  The antennas work great separately, but I haven’t tried using a combiner yet (I try to avoid going up in the attic this time of year..).  Using a combiner in this kind of setup is always going to result in some signal loss, so the question is, will the resulting combined signal be acceptable?  I don’t know, but it’s easy enough to try, which I plan on doing soon.  If the combiner setup doesn’t work well, the other option is to run separate antenna feeds to each TV and then use a switch similar to Radio Shack Cat. No. 15-1968 (each TV would need its own switch).  I know this will work, but it obviously involves extra work and expense.  But it’s still preferable to a rotator, IMO.

Sort of on the same topic, I picked up one of those much ballyhooed digital “convertor boxes” awhile back, to use with our old TV.  Total outlay was just over $20, thanks to the $40 coupon from Uncle Sam.  This is an Apex model that is being sold at Best Buy.  It works as expected, and includes all the standard features you would expect from a digital tuner (TV guide, signal strength meter, etc).  However, I kind of wish it had come with a universal remote.  The included remote control works fine, but it’d be a nice touch if I could also turn the TV on/off and adjust the volume with it.  As it is now, I’m stuck with 2 remotes until I can find a cheap universal remote that can also work the convertor box.

More later..


That was easy…

Searching for a new home for my blog (and didn’t want to pay for web hosting, at least not yet), and it came down to vs had the early edge because it works with my existing Google account, and offers free domain name mapping. charges a nominal annual fee for domain name mapping, and requires a separate account.  However, didn’t have an easy way for me to import my existing WordPress blog.  With, it was as simple as exporting the old and importing the new, and everything came in completely intact.  Other than the URL, I can’t even tell the difference between this and my old self-hosted WordPress blog.

There’s also the question of whether I need domain name mapping in the first place.  It’s not like I expect this to be a high-visibility or high-traffic blog.  I think I’ll just set up a CNAME for this under, and be done with it.

In any case, looks like I’ll be setting up shop here for awhile.


More WordPress

Well, as these things always go, the WordPress conversion turned out not to be quite as simple as I had originally thought. Now, I expected that permalinks would be broken, so I went through and fixed all those (as well as some permalinks back into my old Blosxom blog that I never bothered to update when I went to b2evo). What I didn’t expect, was that all of my old 2-part b2evo posts also broke. Back in the day, I made liberal use of these using b2evo’s <!--more--> tag. The export process only extracted the text of the posts up to the <!--more--> tag, ignoring the rest.

WordPress has a completely different method of handling two-part posts using what it calls “post excerpts”. So, for now, just to pull these posts in, I just went through each one and cut-and-pasted the rest of the post from b2evo, separating the two parts with [More:], as b2evo would display them. It was a tedious, manual process, of course, but I only had to do it once.

So now, I think I’m entirely moved over to WordPress with no links to old blogs anywhere. Now I just need to go update my Wiki in a few places where I had permalinks.



Now that I’m using my blog again, I decided to ditch b2evolution for WordPress. B2Evolution has served me well, but I’ve never been crazy about its look-and-feel or its selection of skins. And, most of my geeky-type friends who blog, use WordPress, so I figured I would give it a shot.

Importing was easy thanks to these instructions I found.  Ironically enough, it was the same procedure I used awhile back when I converted from Blosxom to b2evolution:  export the existing stuff into Movable Type format, then import.

I really like the clean look-and-feel of WordPress, and it’s certainly much spiffier than the version of b2evolution I was using, although that’s not really a fair comparison because I hadn’t upgraded b2evolution since I installed it in late 2005.

In other news, I just registered, which I’ll eventually use to house this blog and some other stuff.



Firefox new window links

I’ve always hated when links open in new windows (usually by adding a target="_blank" attribute). Except in a few very rare instances, there’s just no reason to do it. Firefox allows the user to disable this behavior, but the procedure is not very well documented, so it seems like every time I want to do it I need to spend 10 minutes searching the web. So, I’m documenting it here in my somewhat-neglected blog. This procedure is valid for Firefox 2.x:

  1. Point the browser to about:config
  2. Find the property
  3. Right-click on it and select “modify”
  4. Change the value to “1”
  5. Restart the browser

And there we have it. Another victory in the battle to make the web less annoying.

Administrivia Geeky Stuff

FP using new concerto

I’ve got my “new” P3-750 box booted up as This post will hopefully confirm that b2evolution is working right. Things are looking pretty good. My calendar and photo album appear to be working. I set up my Oracle Calendar download stuff and it looks good. The RRBC mailing list is back up and running.

The new box actually has slightly less RAM than the old one: 512M vs 576M. The old box will be going home to replace my old 300mhz P2 server, and I decided that I could use the extra RAM there more than here. So, the home machine gets 640M, and concerto gets 512M.

Next, I need to do some memory, disk and video-card shuffling amongst the machines, so off I go to shut everything down…


Blosxom Import Complete

I just finished importing all my Blosxom entries into b2evolution. The process was more or less painless; I just pulled down all the Blosxom entries in Movable Type format using the flavor I mentioned earlier, then processed the result with a Perl script, then ran b2evolution’s Movable Type import utility to bring the entries in. The Perl script basically catenates lines together in the body area of each entry, which makes the result look more attractive in b2evolution. Once the entries were in, I went through and made minor edits to make things look better.

The only thing I don’t care for about b2evolution is its insistence on sticking <br> tags at the end of every line, even within blocks of markup. This makes it really hard to include code snippets, because I can’t use <pre> blocks; I have to explicitly format everything and use &nbsp; entities to do spacing. There must be a way to make this work right, but I haven’t found it yet.

That aside, it’s nice to have a “real” blogging engine with all the associated bells and whistles. I’m sure I’ll figure out all of b2evolution’s various quirks over time.

Followup — Looks like the <br> tag thing is controlled by the Auto-BR option at the bottom of the page where you edit posts. It seems to be turned on for all the imported entries, and off for the native entries. When Auto-BR is off, it seems to be much better behaved with embedded HTML in entries.


Importing Blosxom data into b2evolution

Made my first attempt at importing my Blosxom data into b2evolution this morning. Looks like it will be doable with just a bit of fussing. The basic strategy is to use this handy Blosxom flavor to convert the Blosxom data to Movable Type export format, then use b2evolution’s MT import utility to bring the data in. I tried this on a couple of entries, and it works, but I’ll need to do a bit of data munging. First off, the Blosxom flavor leaves an <h3> markup tag at the beginning of each post, which the importer doesn’t like. And, the importer seems to insist on sticking <br> tags at the end of every line, which makes for some ugly line breaks in the final product. There may be a way to control this behavior from the importer, but I think it’ll be just as easy to massage the import file with a Perl script. Next step is to do that, and try a few more test imports, before bringing in the whole enchilada.