More ISP issues?

While the latest long site outage was proximately caused by my own foolishness, it ultimately was caused because our internet connection had gone down forcing me to reset the modem and thereby getting a new IP address. Over the last few days, the connection has continued to be flaky, usually solved by releasing and renewing the DHCP lease from the router (something I can’t do if I’m not at home, which explains the long outage yesterday). Over the last couple of days, I’ve had to do this manually about 10 times.

That’s excessive.

Unfortunately, it’s also not enough of a problem for me to want to deal with the hell that is Comcast customer service. I’m being reminded of the issues I had last May, and I’m very hopeful that for a change, this latest problem goes away on its own.

I find it amazing that Comcast is unable to deliver a reliable service. We have more problems in a year than I had in my entire life with wired telephone service — for that matter, I find my cellular service more reliable that Comcast’s internet service.

I’m still waiting impatiently for Minneapolis’ wireless solution to be rolled out in my neighborhood to at least give me a possible choice of broadband ISPs (we had DSL several years ago and never got a better connection than about 256 Kbps). Based on the published pricing, speeds are comparable and it’s certainly cheaper. My questions now revolve around actual speeds and reliability. I’m expecting to sign up for a single month while keeping Comcast as a fallback; if all goes well during that month, it’s so long to cable.



As usual, I’m late to the party.

Years after most people (those who like beer, at least) discovered Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, I’ve finally come around.

It may be the best beer I’ve ever had.

At least, it’s in the top two, the other being Bishops Finger, an absolutely fantastic brew that showed up in a number of Minneapolis bars and liquor stores around 1996 and abruptly disappeared after a few months and is unfindable anywhere. (From Google I learned that the brewery signed a deal with a Michigan importer in 1996, but I can’t find the importer on the web. There’s no other mention of US imports via Google or the brewer’s web site.) As I haven’t had Bishops Finger in over ten years, it’s hard to make a comparison.

So. Two-Hearted Ale is one of my two favorite beers, and since I can’t get the other one without international travel (maybe Canada? Never thought of that) I may as well give it the crown.

It’s good enough in fact, that it may actually get me to start brewing again, something I did frequently for a fairly short period a couple of years ago. I stopped when I had an inventory of about 12 cases backed up; I was brewing far more than I was–or should’ve been–drinking. That inventory consisted of a series of good-but-not-great IPA varieties followed up with a pretty mediocre Scotch Ale. A little disappointed with my beer results, and absolutely out of room to brew any more, I stopped brewing for a while. ‘A while’ has turned into a couple of years.

Now however, I find a beer I absolutely love, with several clone recipes on the Internets, and it just happens to be bottle conditioned, which means that I can harvest and culture yeast right from the bottle (the yeast strain actually being the most important variable in a beer’s taste). I also have about ten cases of empties. Looks like the time might be right.

As a matter of fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I can hardly wait to get started. If I got going right now, I could probably even get an Octoberfest ready before it’s November, then on to a winter ale, then maybe try a bock before adventuring into the land of lagers late-winter in order to be done for spring . . .

If you like beer, keep an eye on this space. In a few months I may be looking for volunteers to help me drink up my inventory.


Idiot breaks website; blames hackers. Film at 11.

So I’ve discovered the root cause of my site problems over the last few days.

As I host the site on my home PC, my IP address changes from time to time. I therefore use IP updating software from my domain registrar, DNSExit. That software worked just fine, and updated the domain IP just as it was configured to do. Unfortunately, a Russian spy sneaked in and mis-configured said software.

Based on my previous post, see if you can figure out what’s wrong with this configuration:

Screenshot of DNS Update configuration

Screenshot of DNS Update configuration

As noted elsewhere, I did my best to fight off the spy, but the damage was already done, and in sneaky, nefarious fashion.

Either that, or I’m an idiot. I like the bit about the Russian spy, myself.

Computers don’t fix themselves, do they?

Over the last few days, something had gone horribly wrong with the site. I feel as if it’s been hacked, but I don’t find any evidence.

For some reason, Apache had stopped responding to the “www” hostname for a few days, which is why you’ve probably been unable to see the site (not that you tried). If you’d tried without the hostname ( you’d have seen the site minus images and style sheets. Then this morning, it suddenly started working again. What gives?

I’d been vaguely looking into the problem since I noticed the site stop responding on Saturday. It wasn’t until this morning that I actually figured out what was wrong. While I was writing a post about the problem, it suddenly went away. Later tonight I’ll try to figure out what went wrong and why.

The research I’ve already done turned up a bit of strange stuff in the access and error logs right before the site went down, but it mostly looks like the usual worms and bot net scans. There’s nothing definitive that looks like an attack succeeded. None of the usual scans of my machine have turned up anything amiss (Spybot, AVG, etc.); Reinstalled ZoneAlarm and I’m not seeing any unusual traffic . . .


I’m uncomfortable with the current state of affairs. The web server is running on my own personal PC (albeit under a dedicated user account with very limited privileges — at least I secured that much) and WordPress seems to have more that its fair share of vulnerabilities. It’s pretty easy to use, but I’m not really in love with it for any other reason.

I may find myself with an extra old PC laying around the house soon and should that come to pass, I think I’ll try installing Linux (DSL or FreeBSD are my likely choices) with Tomcat and move the site over to using Roller. Roller looks pretty full-featured, and has the added bonus of being Java-based (I know Java a lot better than I know PHP — also, PHP code is ugly).

Anyway, have fun out there. I’ll be having fun fighting with PCs on my end . . .

Unshaven and smelling of smoke. That’s a vacation.

Life’s just been absurdly busy lately, and I’m pretty far behind on posting. As an example of what I mean, I present to you my vacation photos. From the camping trip we took over the Fourth of July. Like I said, I’ve been busy.

Here’s the regular old Flickr slide show, and here’s the set in full geotagged glory. The latter should pretty much tell you everything you might want to know about where we went, and the comments in the former will fill in the details of what we did when we there there.

It was a great trip, even if it was pretty cold and rainy for a good portion. It had been five years since we’d been camping, and nine since we’d been to the north shore (Isabella was only about 10 months old back then). I don’t want to let it go that long again. It was the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time, and it’s the first vacation in years that I wasn’t ready to have end. I’ve never camped for two weeks at a stretch before, but I may have to give it a try next year.

Would you like to play a game?

-Love to. How about Global Thermonuclear War.

-Wouldn’t you prefer a nice game of chess? 

As a matter of fact, I would prefer a nice game of chess. How about you?

It’s been far too long since I’ve played chess against anyone who was over nine years old. Through a post over on Metafilter I ended up signing up for an account at Red Hot Pawn, a pretty good correspondence chess site (even if the name seems to suggest something less wholesome). I’ve started a couple of games against anonymous opponents but would love to play against a friend or two.

If you’re interested, head on over, create an account and look me up. My user name, as you might expect, is Ickster. Hope to get a couple of challenges soon!

Safe and Sound

For what it’s worth, everyone in my world is OK today. It was a close thing, though.

Yesterday Amanda dropped the kids off at her mother’s house and then headed back home, taking 35W south. She was right about here when police started streaming past in the other direction and she looked back to realize that the road was completely empty behind her.

Neither of us knew what had happened until her mother called to check on her.

So, we’re all safe and sound. I hope that’s true for all of you and wish that it were for everyone else crossing the river yesterday.