The day before...

Tomorrow is my birthday and for some reason this hasn't inspired me to break forth into uncontrollable displays of happiness. In fact it's barely raised a smile. I didn't want to turn 30 last year (or ever for that matter) and I sure as hell don't want to turn 31 this year! I guess that's called getting older and for the first 20-odd years of your life it's a real buzz to get a year older as each year brings new privileges and opportunities that only come with age. However, once you get past that, nothing happens each year other than a few more wrinkles and a little more wisdom (wisdom - read "scars" heheh). Birthdays become the metronome of life, keeping beat and marking the time.

All is not doom and gloom though, with Emily getting older I am really enjoying watching her grow and develop! She's growing up way too fast for both Nat and I. Just when we've got accustomed to her being a certain age/stage, she goes and changes. Life is great.

Another great birthday present this year has been my return to the air. Although I'm still coming up to speed for parachute operations, the general concepts are falling into place nicely and each flight becomes easier than the last. The hardest part is getting all radio work done, plus manage the tracking to the drop zone and making all the run-in calls to the jumpers (5 minutes, 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile, open door, jump out...). It's a busy 5 minutes then you just point the plane at the ground and make like a brick :)

Well, I'll be back tomorrow with more news and info about my birthday pressie :)

Fixed!

I've finally got around to recreating the missing galleries and making sure the links work again (yay!). Plus I've modified the backup scripts so they verify the backed up data, if the backup is bad is notifies me :) Now I can get back to doing normal website stuff. Stay tuned - I'll be uploading some more recent photo's of us all real soon!

(Edit 2015: Galleries are being rebuilt again...stay tuned)

Referrer Spam....grrr

For some time now (ok for the last 3-4 months) I've been getting HEAPS of referrer spam in my web logs. Unscrupulous websites do this so their referrals appear in statistic pages, then those stats pages get indexed by Google, Yahoo! etc, and thus their crappy websites are elevated in the search results. It sux and it skews my log analysis.... but NO MORE!! Basically, I found this article that describes a way to eliminate these bogus referrals on a domain-by- domain basis. Sweet. I already had a list of bogus referrers and so simply needed to drop these into the list and voila! It wasn't quite as obvious as I thought, so here's my addendum to the article above. The "refererdom.deny" and "url-to-domain.pl" files work fine. In fact you can test the output of the perl script like this:

echo "http://foo.example.com/bar.html" | ./url-to-domain.pl

and you should see "example.com" echoed back. So far so good. Then came the integration into "httpd.conf". Not so straight forward.

  1. Firstly you need to make sure you have included "mod_rewrite" in your apache modules - without this, there's no point going on.
  2. Next, enable the rewrite engine with "RewriteEngine on". Here came the first gotcha; virtual servers DON'T inherit this setting from the global config - you have to enable it for each virtual server.
  3. Last, I needed to add the following code block to every virtual server (bleh!):
# These Apache rules prevent referer spam
RewriteEngine           on
RewriteMap domain       prg:/etc/apache/url-to-domain.pl
RewriteMap referer-deny txt:/etc/apache/refererdom.deny

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !=""
RewriteCond ${referer-deny:${domain:%{HTTP_REFERER}}|NOT-FOUND} !=NOT-FOUND
RewriteRule  ^/.*  -  [F,L]

The only good thing about having this in every virtual host defenition is that my access rules for referrer spam are consistent for all my web sites (about 10 at the moment). I'm guessing you could probably add each of these directives into a .htaccess file in each virtual server's document root but seeing as I have access to the apache config file, I did it there. I'm not a big fan of .htaccess files unless you don't have access to the server config file (obviously).

Well I hope that helps you get the referrer spam problem under control. Feel free to contact me if you want my list of domains I'm currently blocking referrals from (good seed to get your site going!).

Downtime - lots of arcing-sparking goin' on!

Yup - I got hit in those thunderstorms that clobbered southern NSW on Tuesday night. We lost the power for about 30 minutes but the Internet connection was down for a bit longer (in fact, I'm writing this without it - so no idea when it will be back up). Just figured some people might want to know why we went offline... so now you know.

Update: Wednesday February 02, 2005 @1:40PM: Internet connection came back up around 10:30am today, but the web server's cooling fan died and the system did a thermal shutdown (oops). That's fixed now (after 2 trips to the local electronics store...8cm fan nope, take 2, needed a 9cm fan! DOH!). Hopefully this is the end of the downtime for a while! I got a good zap from the earth wire on a device I was unplugging during the thunderstorms but I'm alive. So far everything has come back up with only minor damage to the database server (which was fixed with a restore of the dead tables from this morning's backup). The firewall machine had some big problems with one of it's partitions... really gotta convert it to reiserfs or even ext3 (currently ext2..it's an old box OK?!). The web server was rather well behaved and didn't need any intervention when it came back up :). I've REALLY got to invest in a UPS!

The house and everything that was outside (like the boat) is just wet mainly, but they reckon these storms will persist for a while into the night - sigh.

Christmas Holidays

We're back - and we survived! The epic " Home - Lismore (via Port Macquarie) - Cairns - Lismore - Home " trip is done and dusted. Now that we've had a chance to recover and do the washing, cleaning and sleeping I thought I'd better let people know about our Christmas escape :) We headed north from home on Monday 20th December and planned on going as far as Port Macquarie. This gave us enough time to take the drive at a leisurely pace and catch up with some close friends in Gosford (hi Fay and Ron!!). We stayed at a lovely hotel in Port' that we booked through wotif.com.au and were very happy with the whole booking and payment process. For the record, we stayed at the "HW Boutique Motel" which is 4 star and had lovely rooms (Sony TV and clock radio etc, Bang & Olufsen phone, Daiken computerised aircon - quality equipment that was practically new! Not to mention a shower rose the size of a dinner plate and one of the most comfy beds I've ever had in a hotel). The deal we got included the room and a continental breakfast served in our room (good coffee too).

The next day we drove to Lismore to see Nat's Dad and sister (howdy guys!). The second half of the trip was a little more tedious as we seemed to run into a lot more holiday traffic. Not to worry, we had time on our side so decided to take it easy and enjoy the trip seeing as there was no deadline to meet. Once we arrived in Lismore (a bit after lunch time) we had enough time to catch up with Nat's aunt who lives just down the road from her dad's place.

On Wednesday 22nd December we caught up with Nat's best friend from school and her family (greetings to the Lever clan!). This was the first time Nat had seen Gillian since our wedding day so there was a LOT of catching up to do! We would have loved to stay for longer but Nat's dad and sister were waiting for us back at Evan's Head so we went back for a little afternoon dip in the Evan's River then headed back to Nat's dad's place.

Thursday 23rd December saw us heading further north to Cairns. More family friends (or are they just "family" now - get back to you on that) offered to drive our car back from Brisbane airport, then meet us on our return. We glady accepted as this gave us a couple of extra hours with very good friends, AND meant we didn't have to worry about long-term car parking at the airport! WOOT!! Special thanks to Henry and Gai for running around with our car to drop us off and pick us up :)

Emily's first trip on a plane went reasonably well. Nat simply fed her going up and coming down and she (Emily) slept in between! There was a little crying but not really enough to mention :) Emily was a real trooper compared to the other screaming kids on the same flight! Arrival in Cairns meant my Dad finally got to meet his first grand- daughter! It was a long 5 months for Dad to wait but seeing how happy he was made me as proud as a son could be! It's a little spooky watching your own parents play with your kids - makes me wonder sometimes, if there's a good reason for the way I turned out (heheh - just kidding!).

The next few days were spent just catching up, drinking coffee and hanging out with my parents, brother and his family.

Christmas Day was an absolute hoot! We had it at Dave and Katie's place coz, simply, they have a pool and airconditioned bedrooms in case the kids needed a snooze. Dave and Kate's friends (Billy and Brett - hi guys!) came over too and we all had a good time. It was the first time we (the Grays) had been together on Christmas day since 2002 and back then, there were no kids around - this time there were THREE! We've been busy with the biological growth program for the extended Gray Matter!

While we were in Cairns Nat, Emily and I went over to Dave and Katie's to have dinner. We had a "Fondue" - you know, the deal where you stab chunks of food and cook them at the table in a pot with a metho- burner? Yeh, one of them! Dave and I made the dipping sauces and came to the conclusion the sweet chilli was spot on, the chunky tomato was a winner, but the curry sauce (with mango) was a little too hot for most people (I couldn't really taste the "heat"...but I was the exception). The preparation for the meal was done (mostly) by Dave and I and we had a ball taking over Katie's kitchen and generally being a little crazy, in an organised kinda way. I think we all had a great time though by the time the evening was through.

Nat and I also got a chance to see some more of Cairns and the Atherton tablelands on this trip. Some of it we explored ourselves (like "The Boulders" and Babinda) but most of it we saw in convoy with Mum and Dad in the lead on new year's day. It's truly a beautiful part of the country :)

All too soon we had to leave Cairns on the 2nd of January but that's life I guess. Once again, Emily was only a minor irritation to other passengers (despite her parents accidentally inflicting a nice little "egg" on the back of her head!) Moral of the story - make sure one of us is holding her before we both let go :-/

The rest of the time in Lismore was spent doing little day trips around the place and taking Nat's dad and sister Christmas shopping. It was great to catch up with them and once again, it was too soon, but we needed to head for home. Emily was starting to come down with some sort of cold/flu and I had already got a good dose of it!

On Thursday 6th January, we headed south at a bit after 6:00am, and decided to drive from Lismore to home (approx 850km) in one day. Even though the drive was long and tiring we still had enough time and energy to catch up with Nat's Grandmother and another aunt on our way through Taree. They drove in from Gloster and we met them in Taree for lunch. It was the first time either of them had met Emily and was a special time for Nat and her Grandmother.

We got home at around 8:30pm on Thursday 6th and had enough energy to unpack the car, dump the bags in the lounge room, make sure the cat was still alive, water the plants, put Emily to bed then we crashed too, around 10:00pm! Thankfully Emily decided to give her parents a sleep-in the next day and didn't wake up until about 8:45am so we had a chance to recover a little :)

Now that we've been home a week or so, the house is back to normal (the cat isn't though) and the near-dead madonna lilly has forgiven us and shot out a flower! Life is a grand adventure, and this has been the latest installment from the our little corner of the world. We hope your Christmas and New Year was as fulfilling and rewarding as ours! ( If not, there's always next Christmas! )

Skiing Report - Saturday 27th, Nov. 2004

It was another warm Saturday, with good friends and great skiing! The usual suspects were present along with a few ring-ins. All up a great day with minimal sunburn. Read on for the full details. The plan was to start early, like hit the water around 8:30am. As it turned out, we didn't even leave home until 8:10am, then had a bit over an hour driving to get to the lake. Not to worry, it's meant to be a relaxing day so we just equalled the land speed record for Ford Falcons towing stonking huge boats (as opposed to breaking the record).

Once we arrived at Chris and Nic's place it didn't take long to get both Chris' boat, and my boat "Panic", in the water, loaded up with people and kit. By about 9:45am we had the first skiers out, the beach set up and people covered in sun screen. Not a bad effort really :) The skiing was good, despite a weird wind blowing; it started out NE, then swung around more to the north, then almost died out, then picked up again with vengence (at which point we called it a day).

Even with the wind there were a number of milestones to warrant a congratulatory mention:

  • Nic got up on one ski from a deep water start for the second time in her life - Well done Nic!
  • Andrew got up on two skis for only the third time in his life, then backed it up with dropping a ski to go on one for first time ever . CONGRATS dude! ( BTW - we all hate you too!...heheh )
  • From a driver/observer's point of view, Chris skied better than I've ever seen him ski before. Keep it up!
  • Well done to Nat who got up first go after nearly a year's lay-off from pregnancy etc. Nat had a think about dropping one ski but decided against it on the day - not to worry, we'll be back out again soon!
  • Well done also to Michelle, who despite an injury still had a ball on the biscuit! :)
  • Even though he wasn't there, thanks to Ryan for the tips - made a big difference to the feel of my skiing, not sure I'm actually skiing any better yet, but I'm working on it!

After skiing, we packed up, went back to Chris and Nicole's and enjoyed some of their 5-star hospitality. Thanks for the food, the company and the fun! We'll have to do this again some time soon - well, maybe when all the pain goes away anyway :P

This is just too cool!

OK, so my "inner geek" is coming out, but this is just too cool: A standard truck that runs on hydrogen AND generates it's own fuel via solar panels!! Here's a quote from the article: "Built for less than $10,000, the project has caught the attention of experts in alternative-fuel research.

"Over the past three years of research in hydrogen, I've been more impressed with what they did than anything else I've seen around the world," said Scottsdale inventor Bryan Beaulieu"

Yes I'm a nerd, but this is such a great step away from our dependence on oil. Oil is running out (or can't be produced at a rate to meet demand) and this will only get worse as time drags on. A little more focussed research and lateral thinking and we could could have cleaner, more efficient hydrogen-fuel-based vehicles :)

Emily's 6-week checkup

Emily has been to the paediatrician for her 6 week checkup and everything is fine :) She has put on weight, grown a bit longer and put on a 10/10 cute display. You go girl!! Dr Brereton gave Emily a good going over and he was happy with her progress. She now weighs 4.44kg (9lb 11oz) and is 54cm (21.3in)long. This means she has put on about 1.4kg and grown about 5cm since birth. This is smack in the middle of "normal" which is encouraging.

She didn't complain much and managed a couple big cute smiles for both the doctor and the receptionists :) She's such a cutie. As we were walking out the receptionists were talking to each other about how cute Emily was - made me a very proud dad! This parenting thing isn't so bad afterall.

It's been a bad week :(

Anyone who uses my mail server will know this has been a bad week. Monday the ISP had a bad day - which meant I did too. Anyone who visited my site on Wednesday ( today ) before about 3pm (Aust EST) probably saw the message saying the database server went bang. Everything is back to normal now...but it's been a busy week. Earlier this week our ISP had a denial of service (DoS) attack launched against them which knocked out my connection for the better part of Monday. The equipment was fine, but no-one could reach it.

Then this morning I came into my study (where the servers live) and noticed it was a little warmer than normal. Then I noticed the database+mail server was hot - as in too hot to touch. Hmmm. That's not good sez I. It was running a Distributed.net client which uses any spare CPU cycles and can cause a bit more heat build up than normal....but nothing like this morning. Anyway, while I was trying to figure it out (all of about 2 minutes) the server did a thermal shutdown, meaning the CPU hit 75C!! Not good :(

When I looked into it further I found the cooling fan in the power supply had seized. As in locked up tight. Grrrr!! So off I went to the local electronics supplier, got me a new 8cm 12V ball bearing fan and fitted it to the power supply. The powered it back up whilst holding my breath and crossing fingers, toes, arms...everything. To cut a long story short, I'd fried one of the 64MB memory modules which has taken the useable RAM down to 448MB. Bummer. RAM is cheap, so I'll probably lash out an buy some nice new stuff and go all the way to 1GB or something stupid :)

Well that's the story of my week with these systems. Hopefully things will return to their normal, stable, routine and I wont have to do anything except watch the lights blink occassionally :)