Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Attention Bostonites!

A reporter from the Boston Globe is looking for Boston-area bloggers who keep personal journal/diary-type blogs to talk to for a possible upcoming story. If you fit this description, you can contact him directly. Thanks.

Maintenance Heads-Up

I'm going to be taking Blogger offline sometime within the next couple days for a big back-end upgrade. When it happens, we'll probably be down for three or fours hours. I'm not sure when it will be yet (as soon as I get done tweaking and testing things out). I'll let you know. I'm not going to promise any huge performance improvements as the result of the upgrade, because I'm not sure if that will happen (it's possible). I will promise that something will break, because I've modified one hell of a lot of code -- affecting virtually every part of the application -- and it's not likely I've caught all the implications of this. But if you'll be kind and notify me about these inevitable glitches, I'll get them fixed as quickly as I can. If all goes well, you won't notice much (except the potential performance improvement) because the changes are all on the back-end. But I've been dying to make these particular changes for almost a year, so trust me: they're a good thing. And they paint the way toward more significant improvements that you will definitely notice. Stay tuned.

I've flipped the switch.

In case you missed it, I've been implementing a big upgrade for the past, um, 16 hours or so (only 12 of them past the estimate). Here's a sparse log of my progress, which was the Blogger home page up until a few minutes ago. (A lot of drama for what, if all goes well, won't be much noticable change, but it'll be worth it. We've moved all the furniture, ripped up the carpet and laid down a better floor. We've put the old furniture back for now, but that will be worked on next. As well as working on the floor some more. Okay, the metaphor doesn't work so well.)
Anyway, as I write this, things seem to be working. (If I didn't have to leave for a meeting, I'd test more first.) But as I said even before I started the upgrade process: I expect things to go wrong. Please kindly let me know what they are, so I can fix them as quickly as possible (I'm talking new problems here -- not the same old one you've been having ;-).
Thanks, once again, for your patience.
BTW: I broke the Recently Updated list. It isn't going to work until I have time to look at it later (perhaps, after I sleep).
BTW#2: I broke Blogger Pro, so you beta users are stuck using the lowly regular version (that's a joke, folks!) for the time being. I'm sorry. I hope this doesn't screw up anything on your blogs. Mine seem to be working fine. Lemme know, if so.

Sticker stuffing, anyone?

So, I finally received the stickers for the Server Fund contributors who probably by now think the sticker promise was a cheap scam to get their money. (Ya see, we had a few on hand when I said that, but there were way more contributions than expected, so we had to order more. Also, I'm slow.) So, I'm going to make a concerted effort (notice the lack of commitment) to get them out this weekend. For all the people who've sent me very kind emails asking if you can help me out, I have an idea: If you're in SF, don't mind menial labor, and are free Saturday afternoon, you can come help me stuff envelopes and lick stamps. There are about 700 or so to send out, which would be a lot of boring work for me -- but probably a lickety-split laugh riot for three or four people. (Plus, jack already did a bunch of the work.) Interested? Lemme know. First come, first get-to-serve. ;-)

Bye-bye, BotW. Hello, BoN.

I've retired the Blog of the Week feature. At least for now. I've replaced it with something that will hopefully be both easier to maintain (as you may have noticed, "of the week" came to be somewhat of a misnomer) and more useful/interesting. Introducing: Blogs of Note (see the list under Recently Updated). Just a simple, ongoing, irregularly updated list of blogs I've happened to come across and found interesting for one reason or another. This reason need not be substantial. It could be I liked a particular post. It could be the blog seems to have good writing, or good design, or original content or concept, or I just like the name. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is don't read much into the editorial process. Just check 'em out. Or don't.

Rolling Blogger-outs?

If you're seeing the "Blogger too busy" screen a lot lately and wondering what's going on, here's the deal: There are two web servers talking to one database (there are also three other servers doing peripheral stuff, like transferring files, but they're not a problem right now). Prior to getting a new server, there was one main web server, and it was the bottleneck. We added another web server, which we set up to equally share the load. This dramatically sped up that part of the chain. However, the two web servers in combination are now sending so many requests to the one database, it has become the bottleneck. (This is why, among other things, when you load the home page sometimes lately, it will appear as if you don't have any blogs. If this happens, don't panic. Just try reloading.)
We still have a couple more servers sitting here that we can spread some of the load to, but it's a lot more difficult to distribute database requests than web server requests. We know lots of things we can do to distribute the database, as well as make it much more efficient. And I'm working on those, but it hasn't gone smoothly, and some of them require me to rewrite some code, which is just time-consuming to get right. So, while I'm doing that, when the database gets too overwhelmed (which is more and more frequently), I'm switching off one of the web servers for a while. Half the people will still get in, but half will get the "Blogger too busy" screen. I know this is frustrating, but hopefully it will be less frustrating than it being dog-slow and timing out for everyone. It's sort of like the rolling black-outs here in California. When it happens to you, you know it's only going to be for an hour, and you can hold off on your 'lectricity needs until then. Hopefully, I won't have to do this for more than a couple days. We did all the quick-fixes, but there's a medium-fix I should be able to do today. However, Zoso (the db server) isn't the only one who's overwhelmed these days, so with me luck. :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

gardening reminders

If you have limited space, try growing vegetables in containers this spring. Root crops such as carrots will grow long and full in a deep pot if kept watered. Tomatoes also do well in containers. In extremely limited sites such as balcony gardens, grow tomatoes upside down. Poke a hole in the bottom of a clean 5-gallon bucket and put your plant through. Fill the container with soil, and plant some herbs or flowers in the top. Make sure to add calcium in the form of lime to prevent blossom-end rot. Water and fertilize your plant . It should produce plenty for you.
Some annuals need longer than others to get going. Begin sowing them this month. Lobelia, petunias and vinca all fall into this category. Also take cuttings of easy-to-root indoor plants like begonias for use outside this summer.
Trim branches of early-flowering trees and shrubs for forcing indoors. Forsythia, witch hazel, quince and pussy willow work especially well. Make sure you get them in water immediately after cutting.
Despite having the fewest days of the year, February can seem like the longest month to a gardener. Take some time to warm your gardening spirit by looking through catalogs and ordering seeds and plants for the spring. Be bold this year and try some varieties that you haven't before. Also look up some new recipes so you can use your garden produce. Having a few new squash recipes on hand will make sure you are ready for the summer's bumper crop.
A warm, satisfying healthy winter treat is poached fruit. Take about 2 pounds of dried fruit (I like figs, dates, apples and golden raisins), and add 2
1/2 cups of apple cider and 3/4 cup of spiced rum. Throw in a cinnamon stick and some orange zest, then let soak overnight or for 24 hours. Bake in a shallow dish at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the fruit is tender. Serve on its own or with vanilla ice cream.