What This Site’s All About

A friend wrote recently, expressing appreciation for the guest pages I host on the site. That got me to thinking: why do I do this? Here’s how I replied:

Summitlake.com’s site counter says we’ve served 1,641,298 pages since 8/5/99. Three quarters of those would be Google and other web crawlers. Maybe a tenth of the remaining 400,000 would be me (editing) and my friends, checking out the same old pages, year after year. Of the remaining 360,000, the average pages served per visit is 2, so Summitlake.com might have had 180,000 real, live human visitors, direct to our pages over the years — no way of knowing who saw the site on Google instead, but a lot do.

Of those 180,000, only a few hundred ever wrote. Of those, about a third were crank letters. Of the remaining 200 or so, few wrote twice, and only a handful ever wrote regularly. They are the only ones who truly give me credible assurance that people enjoy my site.

That leaves you and me and about three other loyal boosters. That’s what it’s all about.

Thanks,

Alex

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WordPress 1.5 Upgrade

Speaking of upgrades, there’s a new version of WordPress out. What is WordPress? If you read the papers, web or other media, think “blog”. Websites are using weblog engines for many other purposes than weblogs. This page is composed in WordPress online, and its parts are stored in a mySQL database.

The installation outage took under half an hour tonight, ending at about 11:35 PM PST. Our apologies if you encountered the outage during this time span. My Notes (here) is the last department slated for the upgrade.

WordPress 1.5 has been written with stronger firewalls and comment handling against spam. We are cautiously turning on Comments again. The first time you submit a comment, it will be queued for moderation. If approved, you are approved for subsequent comments. Please expect a delay of up to 24 hours before you can see your first posted comment.

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SQL Upgrade Outage

SQL Upgrade Outage — we had a 3 hour outage tonight as I fat-fingered my way through an SQL software upgrade. The upgrade supports WordPress, which became unavailable. Pages affected were Commentary (index), Computers (index), PHOTO Notes, and My Notes. My apologies for any inconvenience. This marks the end of the site upgrades (whew!) — Alex

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Bug in Calendar Calcs program

Few of you would have noticed. But there was a showstopper bug in our calendar program Calendar Calcs. It was reported by reader Greg H., and we had to yank the page for a few days.

The bug is fixed and posted to our Bug List page. For your own amusement only, here is the text of the thank you note I sent on this hard-to-isolate bug. (For me at least) the detective trail is fascinating:

Greg, the bug is fixed and posted. Thanks so much again for finding and reporting it.

It was a challenge to pin down but a lot of fun. The pattern was goofy, a whole block of years 1965-2004 where I could not reproduce the problem.

But in other blocks, starting at 2005 and going forward, the program result was a day behind the correct result, but only for the years after a leap year.

Between 1964 and going backwards at least a century, the program result was a day ahead of the correct result, but only for leap years.

That’s right, it looked like “One of those scenarios where you have to have a blue shoe on your left foot on the TX side of the border pointing south, and a red shoe on the right foot in Oklahoma, pointing east, and singing ‘I want to be a cowboy’ “

It turned out to be a rounding error. C assumes a number is an integer (whole number) unless you declare it otherwise. Perl assumes you know what you’re doing. Once I produced rounding issues in a test version of my C-to-Perl conversion program, I was able to ask, “but wait a minute, number of days is always in integers; why and where are we rounding at all?”

Let me know if you find any other issues. I tested and retested about a hundred dates between 1864 and 2065, “before” and “after” my fix. All of the problem results and good results I recorded “before” are now good results “after”.

I am glad someone else is finding the utility useful and sorry it had a bug!

Cheers,

Alex

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Good-bye, Flapjack

A number of us have been amused by the return address I’ve been using on the “Write Us” button. Because spammers are so admirably efficient at harvesting mailbox addresses, I’ve taken to coding in an alias instead. That way, when they catch on to a new address, I can just change the alias in a few places without physically creating and deleting new and old mailboxes.

We started this with “applecakes” and that lasted a few months before the spam got intrusive. We then changed it to “flapjack” at summitlake.com. This lasted a few more months. Today, I changed it again, to (not sayin’).

The alias is a server alias that points to a real, live physical mailbox behind the scenes, whose name we never publish or use.

Where do these names come from? I made “applecakes” up out of whole cloth. “Flapjack”: well now, there’s a real story behind that one, posted in OUTDOORS in our story “Al Jemima”. I guess I just like using nicknames for pancakes.

Where do the spammers find out what aliases will work? When you write us, our server cgi program sends you a “thank you” acknowledgement, from this aliases addess. Spammers try this out more than you and I do, and they always give bogus return addreses and names. Guess we have to turn that acknowledgement off too. So much for common courtesy.

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1,230,000 pages served

I happened to note the pages and visits log (front page). Holy cow, when did we hit a million pages? Wasn’t it precisely on Christmas day 12/25/2003? That means we’re delivering almost 400,000 pages a year now.

Small potatoes for a commercial site. A nice piece of encouraging news for a small free site like ours.

Does that mean we must be doing something right? I prefer to think, “we” in this case means a wonderful circle of friends of Summitlake.com whom I’ve corresponded with or actually met over the years, as well as those of you who check in regularly. Thanks for your support, and …

Cheers

Alex

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Changes at My Notes

Welcome to our new “cms” (content management system). Web software is made by WordPress. Over the next few days we will phase out our older system. As you find the distinctive new WordPress styles on the pages for My Notes (this page), PHOTO Notes, COMMENTARY and/or COMPUTERS: go ahead and re-bookmark them if you like to bookmark. If you don’t bookmark, we’ll be changing the site page links as we go, so it will be seamless for you.

Bookmarks to the old pages will be redirected for a while. Eventually the old directories will disappear. We hope you like the new look!

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Note to Our Readers

This is also being posted in PHOTO Notes, as a follow-up to earlier entries here on this subject. Earlier this week we had to turn off Comments. We were hit by a baffling graffiti-spam two days in a row, where a person or bot (not sure which) posts links to objectionable sites. They are offensive and unwelcome, easily deleted, but otherwise harmless.

We were not sure at first why we were targeted. We discovered the problem is as old as interactive web pages, and the purpose is to raise the Google ranking of the offensive sites. Click “Continue Reading” to find out more about this bottom-feeder phenomenon.

We apologize to our readers for any concern this may have caused. We’ve since taken reasonable additional steps to prevent posting of a known collection of objectionable links. We’ll gradually open up Comments to recent postings, although (author’s message) not enough of you were using them.

Please note that, at this point, we have not installed a cuss words filter here (we do have one). There are many cuss words that have perfectly inoffensive non-slang meanings. At some point, common sense has to prevail. When it does not, those of us with authorship privileges can always delete inappropriate comments with the click of a button.

In the continuation page of this article, you can read what a notable authority, Jay Allen of MT-Blacklist, has to say about this phenomenon.
Continue reading

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Graffiti Spam hits Summitlake

We received notification today that someone posted a comment to one of the PHOTO Notes pages containing links for viagra and devices for the enlargement of the male member.

That means we have to turn off the coding that allows you and me to post comments. If you know me, just ask me to get privileges to post Notes material with links and other html.

Besides being a huge and uninvited invasion of personal space, this has nothing to do with “family friendly”: the ads are just distasteful and offensive, period.

Once aware of it, it’s a small matter for us to delete the entry and take other defensive measures.

It’s too bad it happens, though. Help us put people like this out of business by cleaning up their messes before they can get paid for making them. If you spot this kind of tampering on your favorite reputable websites, help us all out by reporting it to the webmaster right away.

Thanks!

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MOVABLETYPE Experiment

We LIKE the new MovableType technology. We find (after all) that it might lend itself nicely to some of our Department indexes. In the past, department indexes like Commentary and Computers contained two methods of locating content: (a) the autolist menu in the left hand frame panel, and (b) long scrolling lists of notes and short article descriptions, in the right main panel.

You can still access every article and page in the Department with Autolist on the left, (a).

(b) is what we’re changing. We’ll sacrifice some graphics. In exchange, we’ll replace the long scrolling lists with the powerful indexing and archiving features of MovableType. As an experiment, we’ve started with COMPUTERS, which had the longest and oldest index of article short descriptions.

(please see continuation)
Continue reading

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