Rough Book

random musings of just another computer nerd

Tag: my website

Comments were broken for a while

Commenting on this blog was disabled for a while… I think it was due to Akismet misbehaving or something. I’m not sure. Either way, you should be able to comment now. I will be slowly adding anti-spam stuff back in.

A new look

I decided to change the theme on my blog. I went for a wider theme this time because on my older theme the real estate for post content was rather narrow. This made the posts excessively long. This new theme has a lot more room for posts and so it doesn’t look like I’m posting a wall of text… well, mostly… I still tend to write a lot sometimes.

vivin.net is back… mostly

So I’m sure you’ve noticed that this website was down for a while. It went down about three weeks ago when one of the (two) hard-drives on my server died due to bad sectors; it was eight years old. I didn’t panic (too much), because my WordPress database was on the main drive, which is still alive. However, my home directory was on the bad drive and I hadn’t backed up in a while (sigh), and so I lost some images that I had uploaded. What baffled me were my WordPress uploads. I was sure that I had installed WordPress on my main drive, but when I went to search for it, I couldn’t find any trace of the install. Due to this, I’ve lost a few images and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to replace them unfortunately. Oh well.

Also, I must bid farewell to a dear and old friend: my webserver enterprise. I set up my webserver almost 10 years ago (running FreeBSD of course), and she has been serving me faithfully for all this time. Over the years I’ve dealt with all kinds of disasters and I’ve been able to keep her running. However, after this latest disaster I’ve realized that I just don’t have the time to maintain and administer a server anymore; it’s hard to do with a full-time job and with a full-load at school (did I mention that I am doing my Masters?). Therefore, I’ve moved my site over to dreamhost. The cool thing is that they also offer shell access too, which in my opinion is absolutely indispensable. It took me a little while to migrate my WordPress installation over (I had to work out a few kinks), but now it looks like everything is running smoothly.

On that note, I’m looking forward to less server-administration and more blogging!

Downtime and System Upgrade

Sorry for the downtime. My webserver had a failing hard-drive and I figured that while I was replacing the hard-drive, I would upgrade the entire machine as well. The box was a Pentium 4 1.4Ghz with 512MB of RAM that I hadn’t upgraded since I first built it in 2002. Now it’s been upgraded to a Pentium 4 2.4Ghz (hyper-threaded) with 1GB of RAM. Building from source will be a lot faster now! The whole upgrade process took a while because I was also in the process of upgrading another one of my machines and that took for EVER (some issues with shorting). Finally I had to install FreeBSD (version 8.0) on the new hard-drive as well as Apache, PHP, MySQL, WordPress etc. After I have everything set up, I’m going to make sure that I image the hard-drive so that I can restore it from backup easily.

Comments issue fixed

The recaptcha plugin had an update which fixed the comments issue. Comments should no longer be marked as spam. I apologize if you commented here and your comment did not show up! It may have been deleted from the spam queue.

About Me and Projects

I finally got around to adding pages to my blog. I’ve added an “About Me” page and a “Projects” page. The “Projects” page is similar to the one I had on the old site. I’ve migrated one project (Sulekha) over. Will be moving the second one (FXCalendar) over soon and I’m also going to try and add another one to the list.

The new vivin.net

Well, I finally did it. I decided to migrate over to WordPress! For a long time I was thinking of rewriting my homegrown blogging-engine (that I initially designed over seven years ago). I never got around to doing it because it was just so much work! I know part of it has to do with the “reinventing the wheel” syndrome. There is a certain pride that a developer has in coming up with his own solution for a problem. But then I realized that the problem has already been solved, but other people, with more resources than I, and in a much nicer way that I could ever do. I also realized that any new design would be a constant work in progress, and frankly, that just gets tiring after a while.

So, I made the decision to use WordPress. This meant that I would have to migrate all my old posts from my old database into WordPress’s database. Thanks to WordPress’s excellent database-schema documentation, this wasn’t hard at all. I wrote a Perl migration-script to move all my posts, comments, and tags into WordPress. I also had to make some changes to my .htaccess file (and write a redirect php page) to ensure that links in the old format would get translated into the new format. Everything seems to be working pretty well so far! I know there are a few rough edges to sand down (basically the old project pages, which aren’t visible now) but I don’t think it should be that difficult.

To my readers (the two or three of you!) if you spot anything out of the ordinary in my old posts (bad formatting, unparsed tags, broken links) please let me know so that I can fix it! Oh and another thing, since WordPress makes it so easy to add new posts, I think I will be writing a whole lot more!

My Clip on NBC Nightly News

A while back, I uploaded clip I made on to my website. It was just a clip of us soldiers being silly. Anyway, after I came back from war, I uploaded that clip to YouTube. My initial comments were something like “lyk yeah whatevr that is so stupied”. I didn’t take those seriously, especially since it came from someone that couldn’t spell “stupid” correctly. I forgot about the clip until I received an email some months later from both NBC, and LMNOTV. NBC asked me if they could use my clip on their NBC Nightly News. I was surprised that my little clip would generate so much interest, and I went ahead and agreed. LMNOTV said that they might air my clip on their “My War Diary” show later this year. I’m going to send them a few more clips and pictures as well.

But anyway, check out NBC Nightly News tonight, and you may see my clip. Oh, and if you’re coming here because you saw my clip on NBC Nightly News, here are links to all my posts dealing with my experiences:

Over Here – Day 99

Hey everyone, this is just a quick update. Nothing much is going on here, things are pretty slow and we’re just waiting to go up north. The only major development is that I’ve been switched out of Headquarters into 2nd platoon. It was pretty sudden, and the reason is that they need someone to do the administrative work there. In the words of my First Sergeant, “You’re smart, and you can take care of yourself”, so that’s where they need me. I’m asking you all not to be worried, because I won’t be doing anything dangerous. The people in 2nd are pretty good soldiers, and I’ve worked with them before. They’re good guys, but I’m going to miss all my friends in Headquarters. Over the last three months, we all got pretty close and now it’s pretty sad that I have to leave them. But that’s how things happen in the Army, and you just have to learn how to deal with the new situation.

Due to this move, my address has also changed. So if you sent anything to my old address, I am hoping they will somehow forward it to me. Here is my new address:

Vivin Suresh Paliath
HHB 1/180th, 49th MP
APO AE 09348

I’ll let you all know if this changes.

That’s about it for now. No new pictures really – hopefully I will have some next time. Until then, take care.

Update: I have finally fixed the “redirection” bug. Like I suspected, it was a caching problem, which is why you had to clear your caches to access the latest entry. I have now updated the code so that it tells your browser not to cache my page. That way, you will always get the latest entry. But before it starts working for you, I need your to clear your browser cache now. After that, try accessing http://vivin.net again. It should take you to the latest entry (it isn’t this one!).

Over Here – Day 12

I’ve changed the title of my blog to “Over Here” – a play on the FOX network show Over There. I hope I don’t get sued or anything. The last few days have been pretty busy. We got in here on Monday morning. Once I walked out of the aircraft, a blast of cold air hit me and I think I finally understood the meaning of the word “refreshing”. We got onto a bus from the flight-line, and they drove us over to Ft. Lewis

Washington seems like a very pretty state. Some parts here remind me of northern Arizona. Actually, anything green looks pretty to me, because I’ve grown up in the desert all my life. The sky looks like the opening scene of The Simpsons and the weather is gorgeous – it feels like a nice Arizona winter. Although the mornings are pretty chilly – they are in the 40’s.

The first day, we didn’t do much. They just sent us over to our barracks. We unloaded a bunch of our stuff. A few words about our barracks. They are falling apart – they look like they were made in the 1930’s. Oh yeah, and they were condemned about two years ago, but then suddenly they were “un-condemned”, and now soldiers on pre-mob live there now. There are fifty soldiers staying in one billet and we all share one washer and dryer. We also have only three showers, and four toilets. But one thing about being in the Army is that you learn to deal and do the best with what you got. The next day we did SRP (Soldier Readiness Processing). SRP involves tons of paperwork and medical work. The Army basically does this to make sure that they can send you off. I was a “Go” (pass) at all stations, except dental – I apparently have to get all four of my wisdom teeth pulled. I’m not really looking forward to that, but oh well. At least, I’m not paying for it.

The next day, we got all of our gear. Doug, this is for you – they are providing us body armor. Although I didn’t get mine, because they are out of Small. I have to wait until next week. The day after that we did a whole bunch of weapons training, including the M60, the M249, and the MK19. They’re pretty amazing weapons – rather destructive (as weapons normally are) and very complicated pieces of machinery.

The days have been pretty long. It was only the first day that we all got to get personal time early. Over the last two days we’ve been going to bed later and later, but that’s because we’ve got so much stuff to do before settling in. I guess once we settle in, things will be much better.

The day after that, we also did some weapons qualification. I qualified on the MK19 (Mark 19), as an expert, and also qualified on the M16 in NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical) firing mode. This is where you wear your gas mask and fire. It really sucks, and is really hard. In addition, I had body armor, and this was the first time I fired with body armor. It’s nor very easy – the collar of the vest pushes down on your neck, so it’s very hard to get a good sight picture. But I managed to get a very tight grouping during sighting. Today is also when we’ve finally got some down-time. Like I mentioned before, the last few days have been pretty hectic, with early mornings and late nights. So we’re really enjoying the time that we’re getting off.

Yesterday, we did more training. We first did a Land Nav (Land Navigation) course, where you have to plot courses to grid co-ordinates on a map, and then find your way to them within a specified time limit. It was a pretty good exercise, because map reading is a very important skill in the Army. The course wasn’t too difficult, but they really made you work for it because the terrain was pretty hilly and you only had your map, compass, and terrain features to rely on. All in all, some pretty good training. After the Land Nav course, we started learning room clearing techniques. These are the techniques you use to clear rooms in buildings where enemies are suspected to be hiding. You enter the rooms in four-man teams, engaging targets as you see them, and eliminating those targets until the room is clear. They taught us some pretty good stuff, and the techniques are very strategic, ensuring fire superiority and the safety of your team members.

Today, we didn’t do that much. We did some more Glass House (room clearing) training, and that was about it. Tomorrow however, is going to be fun. We have the Gas Chamber where we get exposed to CS gas (tear gas), and then get sprayed with OC spray (pepper spray). Fun stuff… I guess!

Oh yeah, and yesterday was my birthday! I turned 24 – it wasn’t a very eventful birthday; we did have some pizza and coke, and that was because a pizza guy just happened to come by our barracks. But I got a really good surprise today when I received an unexpected mail package from Sadhana. There were brownies in it and a birthday card – she had got together with my friends to send that to me. I hadn’t expected it at all, and it was a really nice surprise. It really made my day! Thanks so much, Sadhu! I love you! And thanks to everyone else who was in on it! You guys are awesome! Love you too!

Anyway, it’s funny how quickly you get adjusted to the Army mindset. I haven’t made a bunk in over three years, but the first day I got here, it all came back to me. Then there’s the “hurry up and wait”. In the Army you do a lot of waiting around. Especially in lines. While in basic training or AIT, you simply have to suck it in. You have to stand around getting bored. Here it’s not so bad. I usually carry around some reading material with me. Right now, I’m reading The Confusion, volume two of the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. Then there’s sleeping (although that’s heavily discouraged and you can get in trouble) – it helps pass a lot of time. In some sense, it feels like being in Basic Training all over again, but in other respects, it’s much better. For example, we have a lot more liberties. Also, I know almost all the people I’m with. So it’s not like Basic Training where you have to start building up your relationships with your fellow soldiers from scratch. A sense of belonging exists from the start, and that definitely helps. I think I’ve gotten used to the idea of being a soldier for the next year and a half. I mean, honestly – there’s no use pining over it. I’m a soldier, and this is my job, and I’m going to do it. There were probably many ways I could have gotten out of being mobilized. But I don’t think I could have done that and lived with myself. I am part of a team, and my fellow teammates – my fellow soldiers, they depend on me. Also throw in words like Honor and Loyalty. To some, these may simply seem like words, and that too, overly clicheed. But to me, they mean a whole lot, and I know that some of you out there understand.

I still miss my friends and my family, and I guess I will continue missing them until I get back. It’s hard to think that I won’t be seeing them for the next year and a half. But I know they are proud of me, and I want to live up to that by doing my duty. I know it won’t be easy. However, in the end I think it will all be worth. It will be the experience of a life time, and it will change me and build me up in ways subtle, and not so subtle.

Ah yes, before I forget, here are some pictures:

Our Barracks
Our Barracks

Ancient heater
Ancient heater

Weapons Training
Weapons Training

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