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, Summitlake.com 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 Summitlake.com 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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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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Thumbnails and Macs

1. We added thumbnail picture images for our postings of new photos here on the front page, but then we had to back them out. (If you click the link to the Post announcement, not the article itself, you can still see the thumbnails, but it’s easier just to click the article link and view it there directly.  The posts did not break properly on Safari, for PC or Mac. We’ll test another markup solution and try again. The site has also been upgraded to WordPress 2.8.5.

2. In WordPress, choice of OS/platform doesn’t make a great deal of difference. It’s all done on the server with web tools anyway. However, I added a Mac Pro to our stable. I’m delighted with it, and hope to make it a dedicated platform for web development. As time permits, look for an eventual posting in Computers (but not yet). This is my first post on the new machine.

Quad-core Mac Pro, 2.66GZ

Quad-core Mac Pro, 2.66GZ

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Excerpts for Archive Results

We’ve modified the Archive results page, sitewide, to only retrieve article excerpts for each post you are seaching for by Month, Tag or Category. This replaces the full-text “finds” that WordPress usually offers.

You’ve probably tried the popup menus in our sidebar for Archives or Categories . Tags work the same way. All produce listings of articles that match your search selection. These features are discussed in our newly updated page Site Navigation 2009.

The stock page retrieved all of the text for all of the found articles. This often resulted in dumping of huge multipage result listings. Since many site articles are feature-length, we found this awkward when all we are doing is trying to get an overview of articles in a desired category, tag, or publication month and year.

We changed the code so it only lists the “excerpt” for each article, which affords much easier browsing. To read the complete text of any article so listed, just click its title line.

Tech Note: If you run a WordPress installation, locate the page archive.php in your theme folder, assuming your theme supports it [we are using Kubrick – “default”]. In the Loop, locate the tag the_content(). Change it to read the_excerpt(). Upload. That’s all!

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Registering Disabled

Since anyone can submit a comment for moderation, and because this site doesn’t support user-created “New Sites,” there’s no earthly point in enabling the user registration feature. It was disabled 8/13/2011.


(obsolete text below)

You’ll find the “Register” link in our HOME page sidebar under ‘Meta’.  But you can just Register with this link! (The sidebar link is not visible if you’re already signed in).

  • Why Register? This lets you log in and submit Comments.
  • What Do I Have To Do? Submit your preferred login name, and a valid email address. When you get your acknowledgment email,  log in and update your registration with a brief comment that shows you were really there. Any other user data is optional.
  • What Happens with my registration data? Beyond the above, nothing. Others cannot see who’s registered.  No one can “mine” the data.
  • Do I need to register at all? No. You still can view all site content, subscribe to RSS feeds and use the WRITE US contact form.

A new user who clicks the “Register” link gets a short form for their user name and email address. But it’s not automatic. When you submit the form,  you’ll receive an email. You must reply to the email, and must update your user page, in order to become a Subscriber.

The WordPress Codex describes the Subscriber as Somebody who can read comments/comment/receive news letters, etc.

Or, as one forum poster noted, you can read, create and maintain your own profile, subscribe to the RSS feeds, “and that’s about it …”

Registration particulars can change over time with new generations of WordPress releases. To control spamming, we’ll try new techniques from time to time, such as CAPTCHA.  Our basic registration policy is fairly simple and rarely changes.

As of WordPress 3.0 (Multisite, 7/29/2010) you can register in all departments (except La Parola – register separately) all at once. Click Register in the HOME page sidebar. Do read the instructions.

To be perfectly honest, unless you have administrative privileges on a WordPress site, we can’t figure out any motivating advantage to registering, except to submit comments.

Unfortunately, we still get a lot of “bot” registrations with random “names” like fgharpgvh10a and bogus email addresses  If you don’t get a reply email, the registration can’t be completed. We delete registrations that haven’t been updated within a day or two.

Like almost all other content providers, we do have Guidelines for posting any kind of content, including Comments. In a nutshell: like 99% of our guests and contributors since 1995, just keep it clean and civil. 🙂

If you’ve ever explored RSS, it’s a great way to receive summaries of new posts on this site (or any site which activates RSS). Again, you do not need to be registered to subscribe to RSS.


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New “Write Us” Page

We’ve constructed a simple new WordPress page to take over sitewide “Write Us” functionality. This single dedicated page supports all 12 Summitlake departments, whether WordPress or “PhP” driven, and over 500 additional legacy HTML pages. The switchover took place this evening.

HISTORY: The old “Write Us” was a commercial-grade combination of cgi (Perl) and HTML forms. It was a spin-off from a two-person team effort to develop a website for a ski lodge. The owner decided to keep the website and let prospective customers telephone rather than use the advanced “forms” reservation system we developed. My part in this was over 1,000 free coding hours. I adapted it to “Write Us”, salvaging something from the project. Adding a security code to block spambots was its un-doing: impossible to get it working for all browsers, I got more letters of complaint about erratic “security” than I received on all other subjects.

NEW: the new form uses a simple WordPress plug-in for security, in an off-the-shelf WordPress comment form. You can use or preview it by clicking any Write Us button or link on this site. The free software plug-in is SimpleCAPTCHA by Law Eng Soon (zorex), Copyright 2008. (You can also see the form at the bottom of any post page, including this one.)

Users quickly realize they’re no longer sending a note directly to me: in submitting a comment, it goes to a moderation queue. If I approve it, it becomes publicly visible, and may also spool to an RSS feed. I would be happy if WordPress would add a “public/private” checkbox to the submission form. For the time being, the “Write Us” page advises users to include the phrase PRIVATE or DO NOT POST in the comment, and in that case, as moderator, I will not do so.

Registered users do not have to use the CAPTCHA security (the same system used by most of your financial institutions) , but comments should still go into moderation. I will respond via regular email to notes inviting a response that also include a working email address.

To register, or to submit a comment if you are not logged in, requires that you type in your email address. That information is private and WordPress does NOT publish it.

We do not get the volume of mail we used to get with our articles on the “Ford Bronco TFI Ignition” scandal, so this solution should work for “Write Us” until we find a low-maintenance anti-spam security e-mail solution.



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HOME Repaired

There was an 8 minute outage because some idiot forgot to change a table prefix code from ‘ts_’ to ‘wp_’ when we deleted the first new HOME database and reloaded a new one from a test database. I can say ‘idiot’ without fear of appearing small, because it was in my checklist, and I am the only person doing this task.

It’s like losing one engine in a single-engine aircraft. Keep calm. Figure out what to do FAST. At last I am logging heavy jet time with mySQL databases.

This all came about because an excellent plugin utility called Articles went haywire. I realized I had a data integrity issue in the old database – blame it on the old learning curve, not WordPress. You can read more about this in my Computers department post WordPress Conversions.

And now Articles works as designed. Enjoy your new page!

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Posts and Such

We did a site upgrade to WordPress 2.5.1. Miraculously, most “At A Glance” last-mod dates didn’t toggle false latest-post updates. (Without going to the Home Page, you can always also see “At A Glance” in the right hand menu on this page.)

We have a wonderful short article in Writing Notes, Retirement in Oregon – by Dave Norton. Dave and his wife retired recently to start a new life in the beautiful and peaceful Pacific Northwest.

We also have new photos from Swan in Photo Notes, and a new post on Herodotus (yes, the ancient history Herodotus) in Writing Notes.

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More Upgrades, some Posts

We are gradually upgrading all WordPress departments to version 2.5, which is a big new release. Because the file uploads take quite a while, we are only doing one or two departments a week, in alphabetical order. Astronomy and Commentary have been done as of today.

As always, this updates the “last changed” dates in the “At A Glance” index on the front page.  In the case of “Commentary”, the newest article is really Feb. 17th, whereas in Astronomy, we just posted a somewhat tongue in cheek article on microwave mapping of the universe, on April 7.

There’s a major new construction and software article on our latest machine project in Computers, for March 31.

And you will find a new photo or two in PHOTO Notes, and “Week In Review” in My Notes, for March 28th.

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Additions and Updates

Under the hood, we’ve been busy. We’re starting conversion of Computers & Technology. As with other departments, this is an intensely manual process, one page at a time. We’re proceeding more or less alphabetically, and have a nebulous goal of completing even the Writing department by the end of 2008.

Schema: Generally, old HTML web pages of “about a page or so” length get converted into a WordPress “post”, sorted by original publication date. Indexing is done on the department page itself, by “Category”, “most recent”, “Tag clouds”, or the ever-popular Search field.

Old multi-page HTML “books” (framesets linking several related pages in a major or feature article) do not get converted. Instead, links to them are provided within WordPress as “Pages” in the right-hand menu.

“Tag Clouds” are features that exploit a WordPress  function allowing the author to assign descriptive “tags” to articles. They can be much more specific than “Categories”, functioning more like “keywords” to assist in categorizing and searching for articles in related topics, like “audio”, “disasters”, “dubious spokespersons”, and so forth. Each Department has its own set of Tags and Categories, and functions independently from other departments. Tag collections are called “Clouds” because more frequently used tags are presented in a larger font. Rarely-used Tags are presented in a small font.

Not all departments will use Tags;  Tags don’t make a lot of sense for “What’s New” for example as “Categories” are more than specific enough. We started using Tags in “Photo Notes”. We found it really useful for finding photos by topic – especially since photo postings don’t have a lot of searchable text!

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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 Summitlake.com.

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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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    SQL error – Horrors!

    There was nothing on TV tonight. I turned it off. THAT has to be a first. I read an interesting article in Scientific American, about alternatives to the Big Bang theory. So I went to our Astronomy department to write some NOTES about it. Garbage data! WordPress is stored in a mySQL database, and the database was corrupted. Horrors!

    It has something to do with the new WordPress version 2.3 in conjuction with old plugins and/or old templates or style themes. Well, I don’t use any old plugins or themes, that I know of. What we had here, Bubba, was a Blog Bang Theory.

    The indicated remedy – you’re smart enough to make a complete backup before doing a version upgrade, right? – is to DROP the old database and reload your backup. “Drop” means destroy. I had never done this before, but you can bet I read up on it quickly.

    Now to find out if all those backups I made were really any good for anything.

    They were. Editing, I saw they were simply lousy with funny characters (nope, I don’t want to imbed one here so you can see). That means the garbage was there before my backups. Odd.

    So yes, Virginia, you can edit the backup SQL files in a text editor. Find/Replace got rid of them quickly as far as I can tell.

    I’ve only been through Astronomy and Writing NOTES so far – Astronomy was by far the worst, and wouldn’t even page-load properly. I will have to check them all. The only departments that haven’t received the version 2.3 upgrade are My Notes and this one – What’s New.

    Thank heavens for help blogs on the internet. My “crash” course, if you’ll pardon the expression. I’ll get to the Scientific American article soon enough. Cheers!

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    Within the Week

    We’re performing version updates to some of the departments. This may cause some disruption, usually half an hour’s time or so. We plan to stage them over the next week.

  • Swan has added new photos of St. Louis to Photo Notes.
  • We’ve added a tongue-in-cheek story to My Notes, Story of Red Line Charlie. It’s about an old friend of yours from 1959.
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    New Photo

  • WordPress 2.1 upgrades are complete and seem to check out fine. Please let us know if you see problems!
  • Swan has posted a fun new midwest winter photo in PHOTO Notes!
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    WordPress 2.1 “Ella” Upgrade

    Yep, sharp-eyed observers might have noticed dates changing on AT A GLANCE WordPress Departments, yet there are no new articles bearing yesterday’s date. This upgrade is major, jumping from version 2.07 to 2.1, with 2.2 already promised for April. The change I like best is real-time updates to articles being composed or edited online, so I may never lose a post again.

    If you have ever lost your data while composing it, because the server or your PC crashed, you know that (1) you always resent having to recapture the tone and content of the original masterpiece, and (2) you never quite do.

    The only downside of WordPress is that each department or directory has to have its own installation of WordPress, so I have eight. My installations are moderately customized, so figuring out the best way to port those customizations across a version upgrade somethimes take a while. Last night, I only converted Astronomy, Commentary and Computers.

    One of my old plug-ins that added frills to the “sidebar” (right margin) does not work under 2.1, so I came up with a much simpler workaround that displays essentially the same counter, random quotation and custom boilerplate text. For the technically-minded, it’s a text file that gets read as an “include”. As far as site customization is concerned, future upgrades should be essentially zero maintenance!

    Sharp-eyed types will notice I eliminated the spiffy sidebar calendar and Google Search. I may be able to save Google Search.

    Today I hope to complete the upgrade. The five remaining departments are La Parola, PHOTO, What’s New, WP, and Writing. Please let me know if you find problems using any of these departments!

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    Mid-January posts

    We just finished upgrading to WordPress 2.06 on all Summitlake WP departments. We should see better security and probably shouldn’t notice any other changes.

    New for January (so far):



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    WordPress 2.05 updates

    Well, usually I can get away without this post when I do a WordPress upgrade. But today I “touched” the files that display new activity on AT A GLANCE, so Writing Notes, My Notes and Photo Notes all look like they have a post for today, but they don’t.

    We DO have recent activity for Astronomy, My Notes and Photo Notes, mostly arising out of my glorious week’s vacation in Phoenix last week.



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    Ten years Online

    Hey, we noticed the counter on the Index page shows 1.55 million visits to this site since 1999. I realized I don’t even know exactly how long we’re been online. But after all, our motto right on the front page says, “Articles, stories, community and computer resources – the world of the original written word, on the World Wide Web since 1995.”

    I thought: how would I find out?

    Well, I did find a 1996 archive from our first site on long-defunct ISP Best.com. We had four departments: Computers, La Parola, PAUG and Stories & Fiction. (PAUG was our Mac computer club, itself long defunct).

    The Stories & Fiction department has long since been renamed WRITING. Today, I added a Writing Notes page, not to replace WRITING, but to supplement it, one of our largest and most popular departments – with 267,400 hits since we added a counter. Writing Notes is a WordPress page (like this one), designed for briefer, “on the fly” notes. Please do check it out for additional background on why both WordPress and the traditional HTML pages each have their own value on a site.

    Those you who’ve learned to check our At A Glance listings on the Home Index page know that we’ve been busy all over Summitlake.com. We have new photos from July vacation, and recent postings in My Notes, Computers and Commentary.

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    Widgets and Such

    You won’t notice much difference since Sunday, but we’re much happier with an already excellent product, WordPress, since we did the site and theme upgrades. We’re continuing to standardize the “department” pages, which makes it much easier for us to keep up with the minor version upgrades as they come out. And, you get a Calendar and the new Google Search on the sidebar, too!

    (No, we haven’t done the What’s New page yet – Alex, 6/14)

    Our friend Swan and his wife are on a road tour of the whole United States, a rich new source of photo material for our inventive and frequent contributor. Look for his latest postings in PHOTO Notes.

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    WordPress Themes part II

    We solved the big mystery in yesterday’s site news. One of the January 2006 “Commentary” articles had four extra lines at the bottom of the page. Somehow this forced a problem with the “sidebar” (right margin info) loading. We eliminated the extra lines, the problem went away, and we’re adapting the new “Kubrick” theme you (hopefully) see here.

    We were fond of the old theme, but the new look isn’t just another pretty face. There are actually a number of different kinds of pages to display archive material, comments, supplement pages, and such. Now, all these pages sport a consistent theme and should format properly. They’re easier for us to maintain, too.

    We’re still experimenting with some “widgets” to get back our department page icons, calendars and a few other little gadets and accessories. But mostly, the new look and feel is installed in all (7) WordPress Departments: Astronomy, Commentary, Computers, La Parola, Photo Notes, What’s New, and My Notes. We hope you like the look.

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    WordPress themes

    We use a homebrew adaptation of an obsolete WordPress “theme” that we like very much. This is the theme you usually see; Red header text, clear open text font (Verdana) and a custom sidebar on the right margin. The logo is usually a red ball point pen image, but may be a department icon such as the PC image in “Computers” or the nebula in “Astronomy”.

    In WordPress, the administrator can switch themes at the click of a button. If you have a big collection of theme styles, you can switch themes like Imelda Marcos could switch shoes.

    If you navigate away from the main WordPress index page, say to Archives, you notice right away that the formatting on those pages is not right. The supporting templates don’t work properly with the?latest code releases. So, we’re on the prowl for a new theme.

    If you’ve noticed the theme is different on a page from visit to visit, that’s why. We’re experimenting. And we have a favorite new theme. It works great on every department index except Commentary. And I can’t figure out why.

    I’ve tried a couple of other “new themes” and they work great too – except in Commentary. It’s not my customization, because the stock off-the-shelf themes have this issue as soon as installed. I’ll figure it out eventually. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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    Friday Updates

    WordPress 2.01 upgrades are complete. Miraculously, this didn’t update all the “last modified” dates in AT A GLANCE after all. I had reconfigured those scripts to read the database, and the database didn’t need updating on this minor upgrade, so we squeeked through.

    In AT A GLANCE you’ll see we have really been busy this week, though.

    In PHOTO Notes you’re find a really nice Bougainvillea landscape by Dave Norton, one of his first from years back.

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