Archive for March, 2004

A Wonderful Time Sink

March 21, 2004 in General | Comments (0)

Just tried the virtual world at There. I spent the eighties dreaming of multiplayer arcade games and virtual worlds, and then spent the 90’s and the first part of the 2000’s avoiding them like the plague – they’re such time sinks. There was an article in Technology Review about Social Networking that mentioned this one, so I decided to give it a shot.

It was really quite a bit of fun. They’ve set it up where, when you first come in for your trial period, a mentor immediately approaches you and offers to show you around. The mentor has all kinds of goodies (hoverboards, dune buggies, jet packs, etc.) that they can loan to you so you can learn the ropes (if you want those things for real, you’re going to have to earn enough There Bucks to actually pay for it). My mentor was very nice. She was as sweet as the day is long. Very patient, very helpful.

I already feel the addiction creeping in… must stave it off. Besides, I have a couple of others to go look at.

My dream now is to find a virtual realm where I can gather together friends and family from around the country and around the world and be in touch. It’s easy to get lost in the “gaminess” of these things though. I always try to imagine what my mom would think of software like this. Of course, if you read Neal Stephenson or other cyberpunk authors you know that this is where we’re headed anyway. Might as well get used to it.

I don’t care what you think

in General | Comments (0)

Okay, don’t take that as a bad thing. The idea is that, if I really want to be able to offer anything useful on the web, I can’t afford to worry about what other people think, any more than I can assume any of you really care what I think. If I say something that strikes a chord with you, you’ll read it and be interested. If I don’t, you’ll hit the Back button or click on some link and disappear – you likely won’t linger to post a comment or anything telling me I’m off track, so why worry?

When I think about the way that I read blogs, I see the behavior first hand. I go to a lot of blogs that are nothing but digital diaries or narcissistic whimpering into the virtual void. Some of them are politically charged and leaning so far to one side that it’s a wonder the internet doesn’t fall over. Some of them are vapid and wasteful, not worth the bits they’re transported on – all in my opinion, of course. I glance at them and move along.

For me to imagine that anyone else would read my own blog in a dissimilar way is vain and ridiculous, and causes me to be more careful about what I say. It also causes me to try to be as anonymous as possible, when in truth most anyone who really wanted to know who was behind this blog could easily find out if they tried.

I’m sure that my readership is probably 5 or less, and that’s only because some of my technical articles pull people in from Google searches, so I really need to relax and just start documenting interesting things I see and interesting software discoveries that I make. I might even want to change my account so it shows my real name when I post. 🙂

So I’ll work on that.

By the way, if you’re actually reading this, thanks for taking the time to do so. While I hope you don’t think I’m a dork, it’s okay with me if you do.

The High Price of Refills

March 15, 2004 in General | Comments (0)

I got a neat little 6-ring notebook that takes those 3 3/4 x 6 3/4″ refill pages. I didn’t need for a calendar or anything (I’ve got a Palm and a Sidekick and Outlook and all that crap – why would I need one more calendar?), so I really just wanted to fill it up with note paper.

Bad news – refills are like $3.30 for 30 sheets. That’s 11 cents a sheet.

I took a page out and dropped by a print shop down the street from us. Asked them to take a ream of paper and bust it out to size, then drill it with 6 holes. $10.60 later, I’ve got 1500 pages to work with (got 3 refill pages per 8 1/2 x 11 sheet). That’s only 7 hundreths of a cent apiece. Hell, the ream of paper itself was only 4 bucks to start with.

Day Runner, Day Timer, Franklin – all those guys can take a walk. They’re making a good living off this stuff, to be sure. If you just need blank space to write in your little notebook, drop by the local print shop and tell them to get chopping. There’s no reason to fork over that kind of dough to those guys.

Apache module mod_proxy

March 11, 2004 in Programming | Comments (0)

This is one of the greatest features of Apache that I’ve found yet. We have an application that offers some web services, but runs on a Windows server. We don’t want to put the Windows server on the front lines, so we proxy requests from a Linux Apache server to the Windows server behind the firewall.

To make this work, you have to enable the proxy. Here’s what the proxy directives look like in our httpd.conf file:

<IfModule mod_proxy.c>
    ProxyRequests On
    <Directory proxy:*>
      Order deny,allow
      Deny from all
      Allow from

The nice thing about this configuration is that it will allow anything on our internal network to be proxied through, but external requests get denied (that’s what the Allow from part does). We only consume the web services internally (server processes or wrapper pages that control access), so this lets us make the output from the services available without actually exposing the Windows web server on the wild web.

To make the services description language available, you can add a <files> section and specify the extensions you want to let through from an external source (add this inside the IfModule block):

<Files "*.wsdl">
  Order deny,allow
  Deny from none
  Allow from all

Now we can advertise the services publicly, even though we only satisfy them locally.

You then need to set up the virtual host sections for the proxied web sites. The virtual directory for the web services application should already be set up on the Windows server. In this directive, you specify the name of the directory to watch for, and then the http mapping to remote virtual directory on the Windows box.

<VirtualHost ###.###.###.###:80>
  DocumentRoot /www/services
  ProxyPass /RemoteServiceVirtualDir/ http://windows_server/RemoteServiceVirtualDir/
  <Directory /www/services>
    <Files *.htm*>
      SetHandler perl-script
      PerlHandler Apache::SSI
      PerlSetVar SSIPerlPass_Request no
    Options SymLinksIfOwnerMatch +ExecCGI
    AllowOverride All
    Order allow,deny
    Allow from all

Any requests for will be forwarded to the Windows machine for resolution.