dmuth's blog

The Cherry Blossom Festival

Last weekend I headed down to Washington, D.C. to visit November and see the Cherry Blossom Festival.

I don't have much else to say about the festival, because it was a bunch of cherry trees, really. Sticking out tongue We walked around for a bit and I took a ton of pictures:

Cherry Blossom Trees The Lincoln Memorial The Washington Monument

Cherry Blossom Trees Cherry Blossom Trees Cherry Blossom Trees

And here's the full slideshow:

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Using Drupal's Advanced Forum and Author Pane modules on blog posts

Earlier today, I performed a major Drupal upgrade on another site that I run. Part of the upgrade involved me installing the Advanced Forum module to bring the forums a little more up to date with other sites that are out there.

Along the way, I learned something interesting: the Author Pane module does NOT display on blog posts.

It looked rather odd when comments on the blog posts had detailed user info, but the post itself did not. So I set out to fix that. I ended up commenting out the line print $picture; in node.tpl.php and instead adding in these lines:

$account = user_load($node->uid);
$template = "advf-author-pane";
$author_pane = theme('author_pane', $account, 
        advanced_forum_path_to_images(), $template);
print $author_pane;

The code is fairly straightforward. It loads user info on the author of the post, and the theme() function loads the author_pane template, passing in the user data.

Enjoy!

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Updated the user pages on anthrocon.org

Wow, it's been awhile since I've written here. Real life has had me very busy lately. I've done some neat things though, and I hope to post more about them soon.

The first neat thing I did recently was to roll out some badly needed updates for the user pages on anthrocon.org.

Before, I merely used the default pages that Drupal provided. The problem was that the pages looked a little... bland. Among other things, there were no icons for the various social networking services, and that just wouldn't do. So I read up on how to customize the user profile layout in Drupal and spent a couple of evenings writing some PHP code and making use of Drupal's theming functions.

Here are the old and the new pages side by side. Click on either to get a full page in a separate window.

Old and busted: New hotness:
Old default Anthrocon user page New Anthrocon user page, with theming

The upside of this effort is that when I'm ready to upgrade the Save Ardmore Coalition site to Drupal 6, I can pretty much just copy over my user templates on a wholesale basis, and save myself from having to redo all that work. Smiling

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The Morning After the Second Snowstorm

It was eerily quiet this morning. Many folks weren't going to work, and the roads were nearly empty. I took these pictures around 9 AM:

Lots of people weren't at the office today, either. I'm still not sure if we'll be back to normal tomorrow.

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How www.anthrocon.org performed under a heavy load

Looking back after this morning's stampede, I thought I'd share with folks how the webserver held up, since I know I am not the only geek out there. And, truth be told, I was a bit nervous myself, since I wasn't quite sure just how much traffic we would get and if the webserver would survive, or turn into a smoking crater.

Well, here's what we got:

Ethernet Traffic

The first hump is a manual backup I did last night. The second is the automatic backup that runs every morning, where the database and files are rsynced to a machine at another data center. The third hump at 9 AM was when we opened hotel reservations. 1.4 Megabits/sec doesn't look too bad, until you look at:

Active Connections

The 336 simultaneous connections a second was far more interesting. That's about 16 times the normal number of connections to the webserver.

So, what were the effects? Let's look at MySQL first:

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Conventions I've Staffed

Fursuit Games Panorama
Fursuiters at Anthrocon 2010

Since folks keep asking me what conventions I work and whether I'm a staff member at such and such convention, I figured it was about time I made a list.

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My positive experience with Ritz Camera

Back in late December, I purchased a brand new D3000 camera from Ritz Camera here in Ardmore. It was my first SLR camera, and I enjoyed taking pictures with it, both at Christmas with the family, and New Years at Wuffmeet.

Unfortunately, shortly after New Years, my camera experienced a case of "infant mortality", as we call it in the tech industry. Upon turning it on, it displayed the dreaded "lens not attached" error, which seems to be the Nikon equivalent of the Blue Screen Of Death. I tried Googling for solutions (are the contacts clean? They looked clean to me!) but came up empty handed.

My first step was to call the store, but that didn't help. They suggested I send the camera into Nikon, which struck both myself and other folks on Facebook as a bit odd since it was within 30 days. So the next thing I did was to send a note to their customer service (customerservice@ritzcamera.com) and ask for help. That resulted in my email being forwarded to Adam, store manager at Ardmore's store, who gave me a call the next day to discuss the issue. We both agreed that the camera was defective, and he kindly offered to swap that one out for a second camera.

I stopped by the following Saturday morning, and we spent about 20 minutes going through our respective boxes (ALWAYS save boxes when you buy electronic items) and only swapping the camera and lens, and exterior box. (it had the serial number on it) Other than the initial communication issues, the whole exchange process went pretty well, and I was rather pleased with how Ritz Camera handled the situation. Yeah, I think I'll keep buying camera-related items from them. Smiling

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Wuffmeet New Years 2010 Report

Last weekend I flew out to the Chicago area to visit Duncan da Husky, Takaza, and the usual bunch of folks I know in the midwest at Wuffmeet.

Like the one I went to 2 years ago, I had a good time. Spent a few days hanging out with people, socializing, and sampling some interesting mixed drinks. I also took a few pictures:

DSC_0305 DSC_0280 DSC_0310

Rockband Takaza makes drinks Closeup of booze

Other than that, most of my shots were of a few dogs that joined us:

Dogs! Dogs! DSC_0302

Malamute closeup!

Don't get me wrong, I don't have any sort of personality trait that gets dogs to pay attention to me. I just made sure to have a cookie in my hand. You'd be amazed at how well that gets the attention of dogs!

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A traffic jam on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

Earlier today, I returned home from my parents' place in Allentown. Normally, I take the train up, and they drive me back.

That turned out to be not such a hot idea today, as evidenced by this picture:

Standing in the MIDDLE of the road at Mile Marker 30

Yes, I was standing in the middle of the road when I took that picture. Seems that there was an accident south of Lansdale which took out both lanes, and traffic could only get by on the shoulder, leading to a 10+ mile traffic jam.

Could have been worse, I suppose. The weather was nice, and we didn't have any road rage to deal with. The total wait was only about an hour.

This was the view looking forward:

Standing in the MIDDLE of the road at Mile Marker 30

The read of the pics are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmuth/sets/72157623081612348/.

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Review: Apple's new flat keyboard

After setting up a new iMac for my mother last weekend, I liked it so much that I went and bought one of my own. You can see it below, next to my old clunky Gigaware keyboard:

Apple's Flat Keyboard

So, what's to like?

For starters, the keyboard takes up less desk space than my old keyboard. Also, there are two low power USB ports on the underside of the keyboard, which let me unplug my mouse from the back of my iMac. (Yes, the Gigaware keyboard really did not have USB ports on it)

If you look closely at the function keys, they have symbols on them for common desks, such as starting/stopping music, firing up Dashboard, etc. I have no idea if these work on a PC (I'll test at the office soon), but it works great on my ancient G5 iMac. And it seems stupid, but I actually find myself making use of these keys because they're so darn convenient.

The keys are very short. Whereas the average keyboard has keys that stick out of the keyboard up to 1/4 of an inch, I measured these keys, and I would say they're closer to 1/16th of an inch. If you're a fast touch typist, this is a big boon because less effort to press each key == faster typing speeds.

The gaps between the keys are almost non-existent. This is awesome if you're like me and eat meals at your desk. No more nasty crumbs that fall between the keys and cause nasty things to come out when you turn the keyboard upside down and shake it. (No, I've never done that to co-workers, why do you ask?)

What's NOT to like?

Something that takes getting used to is the fact that the keyboard is very low to the desk. I'm used to "feeling my way across the keyboard" because it's so high from the desk. With this one, it's much more difficult to do that. However, I found myself adjusting to the height difference even while typing this post.

Apple's Flat Keyboard Apple's Flat Keyboard Apple's Flat Keyboard

The Apple Keyboard currently sells for $49.99 and can be snagged from Apple's online store, or at any of their physical Apple Stores.

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