Server Reboot February 9

Our host advises it will be performing a server update and reboot next Monday, sometime after 10PM Pacific Standard Time, lasting about one-half hour.

“This maintenance window will occur on Monday, Feb 9 between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. MST. It is estimated that the maintenance will take no more than 30 minutes.”

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New Page Counters

Today I finished writing and installing new site page counters. For most readers, this may be a curiosity at best. For some, a “why are you bothering us with this?” moment. For me, it’s a convenience. For our HOME page, it’s a more accurate counter.

1.  HOME COUNTER: The old HOME counter has always reflected the actual page hit counts we’ve been tracking since 1995. When we changed servers in May 2013, I had to rewrite the counter. To reduce database calls, I wrote counters to a flat file, which periodically broke. Worse, I believe it inflated the counts. I finally got tired of fixing that data file.

The result is a new routine that writes the count to the database (again), so there is no file to break. The code executes inside a new WordPress PHP Code widget. As far as I can tell, my code increments by exactly one every time the page is loaded, never more or less. Thanks to you, our  readers, the current HOME page count is somewhat over two million.

2. NEW DEPARTMENT COUNTERS. As a result of this effort, I was finally able to port my new code routine over to each of the other 9 departments. In the Sidebar of each department home page, COUNTER appears at the top. Department counts restart at 1. You’ll see counts ranging from 21 to a few hundred, and climbing from there.

I felt I had to drop multiple page counters when I went over to WordPress around ten years ago. I used to keep page counts for Photos, Commentary and so forth, on our old HTML pages, but that’s all ten year old data now. I just started over at zero. It is easier for me to look at the page, than look up server stats on the server, which is why I never did.

~~ Alex


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Something Old and Something New

I’m declaring our site conversion to WestHost 4.0 to be officially over. I’ve pretty much run out of known bugs to fix and enhancements to older programs.

I was looking for a certain photo in my graphics collection and I found this screen shot instead, from 2002:


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Welcome to 4.0 (topic closed)

Monday May 20: We are LIVE on the new server under WestHost 4.0. The conversion happened today while I was on the road. This will be brief because I’m still unpacking.

UPDATES and Bug Fixes

  • Tues 5-21: There are still intermittent outages on our new site as the DNS change propagates through the internet.
  • Tues 5-21PM – fixed WordPress config to allow access to all our departments.
  • Tues 5-21PM – DNS propagation should be done or very close. Haven’t seen a site blackout in several hours. All summitlake mail accounts are operating. Fixed home page counter.
  • Thurs 5-23AM DNS connectivity continuous, site stable, and conversion seems complete. Links on HTML files updated sitewide. I expect minor ongoing site maintenance for some time.
  • HUMOR and RECIPES broken, both fixed. For the curious, php does not support the “php virtual” command when installed as a CGI under Apache. I made a workaround. Arghh!
  • 05-26-2013: Considering the site to be stable and normal. We’ll resume posting new discovery, outages or bug fixes in our Site Status Log as we’ve always done.
  • Comments are closed.

You may find some department level cgi’s that still aren’t working, but WordPress was here to greet me and that’s working. OK, what actually happened is a klunky “under construction” index page was the first thing to greet me. I admit it. Horrors,  I deleted that right away, and our main page is working fine.

Comments are turned on temporarily for this post. There are more of you than me out there. 🙂



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Important Notice (topic closed)

Over the next few weeks, will be moving to a new server within same web host provider. There will be service disruptions.

I will have time to upload our existing files and databases and rough in the new configurations before  the switchover. I’ll concentrate on mail and this WordPress installation first. Most users just viewing this and other linked WordPress site pages probably will not notice many changes or broken links.

Temporary outages can probably be expected in some department-level Perl cgi services. Major apps accessible from the HOME page, like Quotes, Password, and Site Stats will be up and running. Some article, legacy HTML and photo links may have to be changed. Due to the overhead of syncing the new site to the existing site, I will probably not plan many posts during the transition. Some server file changes have dependencies that can’t be tested until the domain switchover to the new site.

The new server is reportedly faster, and should be easier to maintain. When it is live, the URL (address) will be the same; you will know you’re there because the front page site name will then display as 4.0.  Please see progress updates below. Thanks for your support and patience.






  • 04-30-2013: Progress in new setup and configuring server files. Est 40-50% complete.
  • 05-07-2013: Estimating 80% of the way to switchover.
  • 05-10-2013: Over 90% complete. Switchover should be in less than a week. At that time, DNS changes take 24-48 hours to propagate throughout the Internet. We will likely experience some downtime during this period.
  • 05-15-2013: Looks like it will be next  week May 20-24.
  • 05-16-2013: there was a site outage this morning of unknown duration. Dedicated server restarted successfully about 925AM PDT. This was not related to our coming domain switchover, which has not been triggered yet.
  • 05-26-2013: Considering the site to be stable and normal. We’ll resume posting new discovery, outages or bug fixes in our Site Status Log as we’ve always done.

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Tigra Menu removed from top of all pages

We today removed our venerable javascript menu bar from the very top of our pages. Beginning with the new Wordpress release 3.0 “twentyeleven” theme, submenu entries on the Tigra menu would slide UNDER our page-wide banner graphic – not convenient!

I discovered this had also disrupted page rendering of our site on the iPad, and presumably on other mobile devices.

Instead,  I expanded WordPress’s own built-in menu. This eliminates custom javascript, which should allow faster load times anyway:

Under the banner image of each department is a menu starting with the word HOME in the left-most entry. Clicking HOME from anywhere on the site returns you to our home page. Additionally, on any site page, you will see submenu links to each site department when you hover your mouse over the HOME link.

All department top-level links continue to be listed in the righthand page “sidebar,” so you can navigate with whichever system happens to be most convenient at the time.

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Site Upgrades Complete

We’ve completed the changes begun with our July 6 upgrade to WordPress 3.2 and its new ‘twentyeleven’ theme. All departments are on the new theme (except Humor and Recipes, which are rendered in HTML, not WordPress). As noted in the previous post on Tigra menus, you can use the top NAV menu bar to navigate from any department to any other department as before, but the menus are much shorter.

The new theme uses larger 1000×288 pixel header images. To take advantage of the higher resolution of the larger format, most departments have new high-def static header images to show off:

  • Commentary – starlings exchanging information in the community palm fronds
  • Computers – hi-def of a 2006 MSI motherboard upgrade project
  • La Parola – patriotic 1974 Gay Pride photo (print scan)
  • My Notes – hi-def bloom, Mexican Bird of Paradise (Phoenix)
  • Outdoors – reduction of the huge Matterhorn Peak panorama photo
  • Photos –   foliage macro, Honeysuckle (Phoenix)

We upgraded the images in Miscellany and Writing, and added new images to the randomly rotating images used on the HOME page. As always, if you notice any problems with page rendering or navigation, we’d appreciate using the Write Us button to drop us a line. Cheers!


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The Tigra menu is our custom menu Nav bar at the very top of our posts and pages. It is not part of the WordPress publishing package. Starting with WordPress release 3.2, we had to truncate the menu dropdown to a limit of 2 items. This is because the new  page header layout code contains JavaScript functionality which interfered with Tigra functionality. When a chain of Tigra dropdown menu items was long enough to superimpose over the page header area, the linked items were visible, but no longer worked. Since Tigra submenu items duplicated links that are already available in the sidebar on the right side of site pages, the solution for now is short dropdowns.

There are still a total of 11 Summitlake ‘Departments,’ and you can navigate to or from any of them using the black Tigra menu nav bar. The longest dropdown is now two items long (‘HTML’ contains ‘Humor’ and ‘Recipes’). Most departments now have a single dropdown, ‘Articles’, a quick and easy way to see a complete list of each department’s posts at a glance. I reviewed sidebar links in all departments to make sure links to major features are displayed. Remember, as discussed in our Site Nav article, you can always browse for content by Article, Archive (by month), Category, Tag or plain old sidebar links.

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New Look for HOME Page introduces the new WordPress “twentyeleven” (2011) theme for our HOME page. WordPress rolled this out Sunday with their version 3.2 upgrade. I hope you enjoy our new layout. I think its new font and use of white space make pages a little easier to read, and positions content for easier browsing. I’d be very interested in hearing your reaction.

The banner images are random and they’re a little larger. I assembled a large collection of these banners from my own photographic images. The new layout is a little narrower than last year’s “twentyten” theme, so there’s some uncertainty how the occasional oversize image posting is going to “wrap” on its page. So currently, all the other departments remain on the twentyten theme as we get used to the slightly different format.

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Add Link To Facebook

We’ve added a new way for Summitlake readers to share a link to content they like with friends. It uses the familiar Facebook ‘Like’ button. Of course this is only useful to readers who also have Facebook accounts! But today that’s a surprising number of us. Your comments on this new feature are most particularly invited. Continue reading

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New Site Links

Hi, you’re viewing our new installation of WordPress 3.o (multi-site). Multi-site went online Thursday afternoon, July 29, 2010.

Links to the 10 old site departments should automatically be redirected to the new URL addresses. Read more below.
Continue reading

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Found It

I found the cause of the formatting issue sooner than I expected. Without pointing any fingers, the plug-in upgrade of Recent Posts from 1.13 to 1.2 had the unintended consequence described in my earlier post.

We’re running under the new WordPress 3.0 major upgrade, but using an older and highly customized theme. The new default theme Twenty Ten is way cool, but it will take months for us to convert and take advantage of all the new features.

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WordPress Formatting Issue

The blurbs you read on our home page are called excerpts. Something in all the installations has changed since yesterday 7/23, and we don’t know what it is.

We used to put basic HTML markup in the excerpts so you could click a link and go straight to a new post in any Summitlake department. Now, as you can see below, WordPress displays all the markup tags instead of formatting the links and such. Continue reading

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Heads Up – Sunday

Our web host provider has provided a scheduled outage advisory for this Sunday, June 13. During a four hour period, will be completely down and “off the air” for web and e-mail.

As a reminder, the following account is scheduled to be moved between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. MDT on Sunday, June 13. You should expect approximately 4 hours of downtime during that window.

I interpret this to mean a four hour outage can be expected to begin sometime after 700PM Sunday (Pacific time), and end before 500AM Monday (PDT). The purpose of the outage is to move client sites to a larger secure facility. Our provider expects the transition to be seamless.

I expect to monitor Network Status and check data for credibility and currency as soon as it becomes available again. I have current local HTML and SQL backups if needed to jump-start any recovery process. I plan to report here with an update post as soon as the site is up and an initial assessment can be made.


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Server Outage

Our web host provider’s server went down for about two hours today, and we regret any inconvenience. The outage occurred unexpectedly at about 12:30AM PDT. Service was restored at 2:32PM PDT.

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Saturday Server Outage

I was doing online testing last Saturday afternoon on a software enhancement for our site around 3PM PDT when the server connection timed out. My new program enhancements are still in “alpha”, so I suspected I may have introduced a program “loop”. This can indeed put a server offline.

I found I was soon unable to connect to other sites either. At about 4PM, I called my cable provider. Through their fully automated 😯 voice response and touch tone telephone maze, their system reset my cable modem and I was back online. But the site kept timing out for about an additional hour; access went back to normal thereafter.

This morning my web host provider sent mean apologetic message below (excerpted):

Continue reading

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Site Down for 6 Minutes WordPress departments were down momentarily this evening, for site maintenance. This allowed upgrade of a component that drives the WordPress engine. Legacy HTML pages would have still been available. The outage lasted from about 1040PM to 1046PM MST (AZ). WordPress departments are up and running again. Sorry for any alarm or inconvenience.

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Server Upgrade Thursday Feb 7

Summitlake’s website host provider advises us there will be a server platform software upgrade some time in the late evening of Thursday February 7, or early Friday morning. They are estimating a 9 minutes site outage as the software is upgrading.

We’re not expecting any surprises. All your links to our site (and ours) should still work. We’re performing all the prudent backups.

We’ve already reviewed the list of applications scheduled for an upgrade. They’ll include the server software itself, software controlling the Summitlake “Write Us” button, and the databases warehousing all of our WordPress departments.

This is just a “heads up” advisory. If there are site interruptions anyway, no action on your part should be required.

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‘Miscellany’ Converting to WordPress

We weren’t going to add a ninth WordPress department, but I’ve been eying several objectionable issues with fancy old HTML features. Finally, it seemed easier to convert Miscellany than fix the old pages.

At this writing (Saturday December 15), all HTML Miscellany pages have been converted to WordPress in the new Miscellany. Links have been converted. If you do find links to the old Miscellany index page, they are being redirected to the new page. The old pages will go away soon as part of normal housekeeping.

Let’s review how you can locate a WordPress page in any department. The Miscellany link above is constructed so that it will open a new browser window. You can read this and practice with the new Miscellany page at the same time. Click the link.

Under Pages (right hand menu), find:

  • Articles
  • Recent Posts

Articles lists all WordPress articles for this department. It is broken out by category. Recent Posts usually shows only the last five of those.

Under Archives, WordPress has compiled listings for posts by month and year. Let’s say you read a wacky article on making a Squirrel Detector. You don’t remember the article name and can’t figure out how one would categorize this one. But you do remember reading it in about May of 2005. You could find Home-Made Squirrel Detector this way.

Under Category, we made WordPress break out listings by how we categorized our posts. Click the link for Puzzles to see all the puzzles we’ve posted to Miscellany. Click the link to Tobaccos to see all the experiments we’ve posted on custom pipe tobacco blends.

Astronomy Department

Astronomy was created anew as a WordPress department some time ago. New posts are all done in WordPress. We are converting the older HTML content to WordPress. Their indexing will start to appear in the WordPress Astronomy page. As this occurs, you will find older pages showing up in WordPress with categories and older Archive dates going back to 2003. Some pages (like the exposure calculation tables) show up as “Pages” links in the menu. When we’re done, there will be no more HTML indexes, and we can finally remove the blue button that lists HTML pages in hybrid HTML/WordPress departments.

Retro-conversion of other departments will probably take years, but the result should be a more consistent and easier to navigate site. The nifty cgi HTML page auto-lists will largely become a thing of the past, but in exchange, you’re getting listings that not only give you file names, but dates and article excerpts to better help browse

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What’s New, What’s Not

  • What’s New: Swan has sent holiday wishes in a nice new Thanksgiving photo in Photos
  • What’s Not: on the home page, “At A Glance” shows Astronomy and Commentary departments as last modified today, but it’s just database updates I did today. No new posts — false alarm!

Note that we also recently added “At A Glance” to the right hand menu on this page!

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Browse Department Listings By Category

We’ve added a plug-in utility called “Articles”, by Alex King, to every WordPress department in the site (Astronomy, Commentary, Computers and so forth). In the right-hand menu, you’ll find a “Browse By” heading with two links under it:

  • Most Recent Posts – this has been around for a few weeks. Lists the 6 most recent posts and (usually) a brief article or entry synopsis
  • Listings By Category or Articles by Category – a complete listing of all entries within the department you are browsing, broken out by Category. This saves having to dig down into the Archives to find older material that might be of interest.

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Coast Is Clear

I cleaned up the WordPress SQL files in all 8 departments. As far as I can determine, everything is OK now. There was a bit of a learning curve involved, and learning is always good, and there’s never anything quite like an emergency to motivate you to learn fast.

  • There was a genuine upgrade conflict, but it only involved one department and was resolved by turning off the out-of-date plug-in.
  • The garbage data characters go back to June, possibly much earlier. I didn’t try to trace back to the point of origin, since I wouldn’t remember what specific event might have caused the text corruption.
  • I completely removed rss feed, as I discovered that huge volumes of comments were being written from other sites into my database files. I suppose reading them all would make them go away, but they’re redundant across 8 databases. If I want to read and subscribe to rss, I’ll use my browser or a dedicated application.
  • I deleted a number of registered user-subscribers who don’t seem to have been active since registering. If you have ever posted a comment on this site, you should be OK.
  • Maybe I’ll finally get to that commentary on the Scientific American article in the next day or two.

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