Stoners Smoked My Blog

If you were paying attention to this blog when I started it up a little while ago, you noticed that there was a recent “service outage”, as they say in the power industry.  First, they suspended my blog because my account was past due.  Fair enough.  I pay the bill and bring my account current, but for some reason my blog is still disabled.  No problem, I give it a couple days.  My blog was still disabled.  So I email the support staff for the blog system.  They turn my blog back on, but all the content is missing.  Then they inform me that not only is my content missing, but that they accidentally deleted my content and their backup system didn’t actually create a backup.  Oops.

Apparently they didn’t go through a complete and rigorous testing of their blog related procedures.  First there was a procedural screw-up with restoring my blog after it was suspended due to a lack of payment on my account.  (The blog infrastructure is supplied as a feature offered through my ISP.)  Next, there was a procedural screw-up with their backup procedure in that it didn’t actually create any backups.  Finally, there was a procedural screw-up with turning my blog back on, as apparently the operator smoked it in a big corn husk spliff instead of turning it back on.  The only thing in this process that they seemed to get right was disabling my blog when my payment was late.  Hrm.

They extended me some credit for the grief of having lost everything I had configured or written, but honestly this is why I wanted to setup my own blog software on my own web space instead of relying on someone else to provide me the service.  When I enquired as to the preferred choice of blog software, I was told “oh, just wait a little bit we’ve got one we’re creating for customers”.  That was fine and I did a little beta testing on their blog software, which is just a mildly customized version of WordPress and being a software engineer, I could easily have installed that package myself.  When the beta was over, I was presented with a monthly bill for the “blog service”.  Hrm.  No mention of fees was ever made while I was testing it!  The fee was reasonable, but being a software engineer I could have just installed WordPress myself and saved myself the money!  BlogSpot or Town Hall don’t charge me any money for a blog, so I don’t know why they thought I would want to pay just to have a blog on their site.  I got that sorted out and avoided the fees without having to install my own copy of WordPress, but it just didn’t seem very professional to me.

The experience with the Stoners smoking my blog also makes me feel that this is a service at a level of professionalism that is less than what I’m accustomed to from this provider.  So I’m back now, but wondering whether or not this is just an initial bump or a sign of things to come.  The Stoners smoked my stash and I’m left cleaning up the vomit off the floor.

Posted in Legalize Adulthood!. Comments Off on Stoners Smoked My Blog

BitSavers New Documents RSS Feed

BitSavers is a repository of documentation and software for “vintage computers”.  New manuals and documentation are being contributed to BitSavers all the time.  The archive contains lots of documentation on common vintage computers like the PDP-11 as well as obscure items like the AN/FSQ-7, the computer used in the SAGE air defense system.

Unfortunately, the only way to find out when new files were placed on the archive was to periodically browse the What’s New file and check for interesting items.  The what’s new file is just a simple text file with one line per entry for the files that have been added.  There have been a couple times where new things showed up on BitSavers that were of interest to me and I didn’t realize it until much later.  The solution is to create an RSS feed that shows new documents, with links to the documents and a description extracted from the what’s new file.

An RSS feed is just a text file in XML format that is updated periodically.  To generate one for the bitsavers document archive, I wrote a perl script that executes once an hour, gets the What’s New file and parses out the 50 most recent entries.  These entries are used to contruct an RSS XML file with links back to the documents on bitsavers.  The root folder for the documents is the name of the company issuing the document and makes a natural category for each RSS item.  The additional directory structure between the root folder and the document can also tell you information such as which model of computer the document describes.  The document path is used to construct the title of each item.

The perl script that does all this is only 51 lines long and makes use of the LWP::Simple and XML::RSS modules to fetch the what’s new file and create the RSS file, respectively.  Its a nice example of a simple script that leverages other perl modules to do something simply.  This should be no surprise to anyone who is familiar with perl, since it is a scripting language designed for manipulating text files.  Its also a nice example of how a little bit of programming can enhance a resource on a remote web site even without any special access to the web site itself.

BitSavers RSS Feed